South in 15 days, North in 2!

We left Seville Tuesday morning and headed north, using the excellent, and toll free, route 66 through eastern Spain. We had a stop at the fascinating city of Merida, which was once a hugely important Roman city. This is evident from the extensive buildings which remain interspersed with more modern buildings. We could only visit the amphitheatre, classic theatre, temple of Diana and casa del Mitrio, however  you can buy an inclusive ticket to all the monuments. and the museum.

In addition, the 9th century moorish castle contains a fascinating well. It is housed in a building and reached by a divided descending stairway so that donkeys could be brought down to collect water and go up the other side.

After Merida we pressed on Northwards to a city I have always wanted to visit, Salamanca.

We arrived at 8pm and found the free parking under the bridge. We walked into town because we had heard it was wonderful at night.  We were immediately bowled over by the network of historic syreets and beautiful sandstone buildings, all illuminated. The Plaza Major is a jewel. We ate delicious tapas at the Vegetarian Cafe Atelier and wandered back to Boris.

Salamanca is full of history, and home to one of the oldest universities in the world. The next morning we explored the city again, climbing the Bell Tower and visiting the Old and New Cathedrals, which are woven into one. They contained some of the best mediaeval wall painting and altar paintings that we have ever seen.

Our time was limited so we did not visit inside the Old University buildings or the architectually lovely Art Deco museum ..  we are saving that for next time!

We did find a super restaurant, En La Parra, for a final special lunch… a delicious and creative tasting menu for 37 euros. A great end to the Iberian part of our holiday. Luckily we have done lots of walking so we havent put any weight on! The food has been marvellous everywhere.

LThen a long drive north almost to the Spanish border with France. Another free night opposite Orio before some Spanish supermarket shopping to buy ‘essentials’ like my favourite Salmorejo soup!Crossing into France we stopped at a bird reserve and with the help of a Grey wagtail, a Greylag goose and a humble blue tit took our bird list total over 100 for the trip. 

Finally our drive north continued to Pons for 2 days with friends before sailing home from Cherbourg on Saturday. What a great trip!

We will have driven nearly 3000 miles.. this map shows our route.

Portugal’s Venice, Romans and the edge of Europe!

Sunday night we had arrived at our camping spot in Vila Nova in the dark! Monday we awoke to find we were nearly on the beach! The Atlantic coast here is spectacular. In Vila Nova nearly all the seaside houses are candy striped… very jolly!

We spent the day exploring Alveiro, known as the Venice of Portugal, and walking in the Reserva de San Jacinto on a neighbouring false island that you reach by ferry.

We also discovered Ovos moles de Alveiro… fake soft eggs made with a yellow patisserie filling. Rather yummy!

We then drove south to spend the night on the carpark of Portugal’s most intact roman town. It was in a lovely spot, seemingly miles from anywhere, and it felt as though ghostly roman soldiers might march past at any moment.

Visiting Conimbriga this morning was a revelation. Excavation is ongoing, but it was very extensive, with layouts for baths, shops houses and a huge forum. Many mosaic floors were in very good repair. Admission was just €4.50! Chris (alias Indiana Jones) was rather sad that there wasn’t much left of the tavern!

We then drove south to the lagoon at Foz do Arelho for a picnic lunch, followed by a quick shopping trip at E Leclerc… where you can do your laundry in the carpark!

 Then a visit to Obidos, a hilltop fotified town with walls intact. Not sure what happened to EU regulations, but there were no handrails and sheer drops, so I didn’t venture far up there. The  town was charming, and it’s most remarkable feature was the 600 year old, 3km aqueduct running to it.

Finally another drive south to Cabo San Roca… the most western point of continental Europe, where we parked up for the night and enjoyed the sunset.

Finally, I have tried to create a map showing our route so far for anyone interested in such things! Ignore the last line driving into the sea!☺