Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Sunday 24th March 2013 - Tuesday 26th March 2013

Time to move toward Portugal, via Santiago de Compestela.

For those interested in distances, we have, so far, come just over 1000 miles since leaving home.

We (well, I), decide to take the toll motorway, because it takes us around Donastasia - San Sebastion, the first big town in Spain. I have unpleasant memories of being hopelessly lost in that place on a previous trip along that way. We ended up in a the bus station if memeory serves me correctly.

So 14Euro to take us along the spectacular toll road all the way to Bilbao seems like a bargain to me.

We make our first stop in Spain at Ribadedeva, Camping Colombres (N43 22' 31" W33 33' 51"), from the trusty ACSI book (16 Euro). There is free wifi, which I am able to connect to from my phone, while waiting for Kathleen to "check-in" in reception.

According to the book, it is a wifi point, but, I am able to get a signal at our pitch, and since it is an unsecured signal, I can hook up the phones, the iPad and the PC all at once. Yes, I know, I can only use one thing at a time, but it is interesting isn't it?, I just love the technology!
The write up says, from the site, you have views of the lofty snow covered peaks of the Picos de Europas, well, you might have, on a clear day.

But today is a "Lake District" day, the clouds are low and obscuring the mountains.

But, not to complain, we have had several days of sunshine, and as we understand it, the weather back in the UK is appalling.
It is clearly "out of season" in this area, there are only ourselves, plus two caravans, one of which does not seem to be occupied.

As we arrive, the hardy Dutch occupants of the other caravan are sitting "sun bathing", that does not last long, since it begins to rain.

But, Kathleen, optimistic as ever tells me it is "brightening up over there", and sure enough, by 4 o'clock, the rain has stopped and the sun is peeping through the clouds.

The site although almost empty, is beautifully kept.

Monday 25th March 2013

We are all packed and ready to leave, but, it has rained so much during the night, the van will not move!

The rear wheels have sunk into the soft ground and the front wheels are simply spinning, when we attempt to move forward or back.

I first try putting the clip together rubber pads we use as a doormat, under the front wheels, but, it makes no difference. A trip to reception to explain the problem and the owner comes along with his four wheel drive Suzuki and tows us off the pitch.
What a start to the day!, we do not know it yet, but this is not the end!

It is still raining as we leave, and it continues to rain all day as we drive west.

This is the third time we have ventured into this part of Spain, and each time it has been wet and cold, perhaps we need to learn a lesson!

We arrive at our next planned stop, (Barreires, Gaivota Camping, N43 33’44” W7 12’28”, from the ACSI book) still in the rain. The site looks good, well as good as anything can look in pouring rain. The bad news is, all of the pitches are grass, and are absolutely saturated. We are unable even to drive onto the pitch, without the wheels spinning and sinking in. Cautious after this morning’s experience, we decide to move on.
There is another site along the road a short way, but, it is closed.

Kathleen is all for just parking on the sea front, and staying there. There are several empty rain swept car parks to choose from!

Instead we opt to head for an “official” aire. Burela, N43 39.171’ W7 21.498’, from the Spain and Portugal Aires book.
The aires book describes the Aire as being “at the Hospital”, and “some parking has distant sea views”.

That is a fair description I suppose, the aire is right in the town, in front of the Hospital, and behind a small holding with chickens, and a horse.

When we arrive there are two Spanish vans already there.
We actually get a pitch with a sea view, if you disregard the abandoned partly built building in our line of sight!

The best view is probably on the other side of the road, looking over the rather nicely kept hospital grounds.

On the positive side, we are parked on tarmac, so no being bogged down, there is free fresh water, a bin to put your rubbish in, and waste emptying points, and it is quiet!

Tuesday 26th March 2013

Unbelievable, but, it still raining!

Today, we are going to Santiago de Compestella.

This is my idea, it is one of those places I have always wanted to go to. I do not know why, it has Religious connections, being a pilgrimage destination, but, I am not religious.

The story of it’s becoming a Pilgrimage site, is, I think rather instructive. The story goes, that around the time when the Moors were sweeping north and taking over much of Spain, a shepherd discovered some (human) remains, which, for some reason, he thought may be the remains of the Apostle St James. At that time, Santiago de Compestela was not a particularly significant place. The local Bishop was however mindful of the need to defend his lands from the invading Moors. So, he duly confirmed the shepherd’s find as indeed being the remains of St James. Presumably, he did this on the basis of the then state of the art DNA testing (ie Do Not Argue, with me, otherwise you will be declared a heretic and burned at the stake). The site was duly declared a Shrine. Rich “nobles” (hoping to have their slate cleared, with an absolution or two) came forward to donate cash to build a cathedral and all the necessary trappings. Of course, having declared the site a Christian Shrine, it now had  to be defended from the Muslim invaders, so, again various nobles and crusaders, duly obliged. The Bishop was pleased. In addition, thousands of Medieval Pilgrims trudged hundreds of miles to visit the site and spend some cash there. In short, it is a sort of medieval “weapons of mass destruction” story.

Yes, I am a cynic, I admit it freely.

Back to the present.

When looking it up on the internet, someone had posted information on an Aire “right beside the Cathedral” and given the Satnav coordinates for it (N 42.89555   W -8.53163, but, as you will see, do not use them).

The coordinates turned out to be a large car park, clearly signed, “No Campervans or Caravans”, in Spanish, English and German, plus, it was nowhere near the Cathedral.

We made the mistake of continuing on toward the Cathedral in the hope of finding a place to park the campervan. Big mistake, all of the parking facilities appear to be underground with 2 metre height restrictions.

There is no Aire in the Aires Book for Santiago, nor is there a Campsite in the ASCI book, but, I did recall there was a campsite, near the centre in the Caravan Club Europe Sites book.
Kathleen searched through the book, as I tried to work my way through the traffic.
There were no Satnav coordinates given, and the instructions to find the place assumed you were approaching from a particular road, not that you were snarled up in the city centre traffic.
All of the time, it was pouring with rain.
Things were getting a bit, how can I say, electric, heated, you know.....

Eventually, I find an unoccupied bus stop, pull into it. Only one thing for it. iPhone and Google. Turn on data roaming (hang the expense) a quick google search and we have the coordinates. Google really does have the answer to absolutely everything.

We find the site, it is a big disappointment. The Caravan Club book describes it in glowing terms, but, I do not know when they visited, it is not like that now. Grumpy staff, substandard facilities, and 26Euro per night. But, looking on the bright side, we are here, it is only 15 minutes walk to town (or 1Euro on the bus), there is a shopping mall right next to the site, with Carrefour, Primark, C&A etc etc, that really cheered Kathleen up.

The rain continues, we decide to go and see the sights regardless. I am not sure how I am going to actually type this bit, but... yes, I will have to do it... I actually suggested we call at the next door shopping mall and buy a decent umbrella.

We catch the bus into town.

The cathedral is very impressive, the interior is suitably grand with lots of gold leaf and statues.

The exterior is, if anything even more imposing, but, it has a certain neglected air however, especially from the front.

After visiting the cathedral, we wander the narrow streets of the old town. We chance upon a very attractive garden within the university.

A guide is giving a talk, in English, to a group of tourists (not Americans, they were too quiet, I assume English was just the common language).....

The story goes that Francis Drake “the English Pirate” (English hero you mean, remember the Amada?), was plundering the coast nearby. Rumour had it, that he intended to make a raid inland to Santiago de Compestella and steal the remains of St James.
The Bishop, being concerned at this, moved the remains and hid them. But, The Bishop was an old man, and died before he told anyone where he had hidden the remains.
The loss of the holy relics, meant the supply of pilgrims dried up, and for 300 years, no pilgrims came to Santiago de Compestella. Fortunately, the University of Santiago de Compestella managed to relocate the remains at some point, and have them restored to their rightful place, thus opening the supply of pilgrims (and cash) once more.

Not sure why, but, I rather enjoyed that story, made me proud to be English.

A wander in the park, with some more distant (but perhaps more impressive) views of the Cathedral, then catch the bus back to the campsite.


  1. Ken I'm loving this blog. Just can't stop laughing

  2. Glad you are enjoying it Les, we aim to please!