Tuesday 15th October – Aguiler de Campoo to Palencia (71 miles)
Our first night on an Aire, and what a pleasant experience it was. Although we were within walking distance of the small town there was no noise, other than the occasional sound of a passing car on the nearby A67 motorway. In addition to ourselves and the German Motorhome, we were joined late in the evening by a small van conversion which parked up across the road from us and behind the German van. I thought it a little odd where they had parked as it was in a car park outside a nursery and primary school and their were no marked bays for Motorhomes. We had parked opposite the Motorhome services on what can only best be described as a large long lay-by. We may be first timers but our choice was proven to be correct as in the morning when all the parents arrived with their ‘little darlings’, the blue van had to move across to the area where we had parked. The Germans chose to keep their blinds shut and stayed put. It was only when the blue van moved that we noticed that it was British registered. They were an elderly couple, easily into their late 60’s and we had a brief chat with them and they informed us that they were making their way down to Alicante.
It had rained throughout the night and their was still light drizzle in the morning, it was still very mild though and no requirement for any heating. We didn’t stay in bed long and after getting washed and dressed Shazza got the bacon butties on and as I munched away I watched as the school buses arrive and off-load their human cargo’s. Although we could have stayed for another night, there was not a lot to do, we had already walked around the town the previous afternoon and whilst a pleasant little place, there was not a lot more to see or do, the grey sky didn’t look as if it was going to cheer up anytime soon and so we had already selected another ‘Free’ Aire just 46 miles away at a place called ‘Carrion de las Condas’ and this time I made sure that ‘Snoopy’ was programmed for ‘No Motorways’, toll-free or otherwise. We did not want to be moving on everyday and we did not want to do lots of driving so we needed to find somewhere that felt safe enough for us to leave the van whilst we went off to do things. The weather was playing a role in our decisions though, but hopefully our next destination would hopefully meet some of our criteria. The photograph in the Camperstop book showed nice tree lined parking and the map showed it to be overlooking a river and again within walking distance of a small town so we set off to find our next stop, hopefully for a couple of days at least.
The drive along the N611 was truly amazing. This road ran adjacent to the motorway for most of the route but occasionally would veer off and take us through some beautiful scenery and little villages. For anyone who has not driven in Europe before and may be a little apprehensive, all I can say is that English roads are crowded and chaotic compared to most European roads. The road we were on reminded me of what I imagined roads to be like in the American countryside, long roads stretching for miles. We had travelled 41 miles before another vehicle passed us !! I was happy to just sit at a speed between 45-50 mph, nothing behind trying to bully me to go faster and a speed which enabled me to enjoy the countryside I was driving through, this was just so relaxing.
‘Snoopy’ showed that we would need to come off the major road onto a smaller, what we would class as a ‘B’ road, drive through the town, across a bridge and then turn left to get to our chosen Aire. First impressions of the town was that it was deserted ! It was only 11:30am but there were no people and no vehicles, moving or parked !! This proved to be quite handy really as this town was not built for large vehicles or for vehicles to pass easily through their streets. It was a blessing that the town was deserted, otherwise if any cars had been parked on the side of the road we would not have been able to pass, even with no vehicles we both felt the need to sit upright in our seats and ‘suck in’ !! We crossed the bridge and once again ‘Snoopy’ took us straight to where the Motorhome service point was located. The Aire was situated outside of what was the town sports ground, which looked in a good well maintained condition, which is more than I can say for the state of the Motorhome facilities. Fortunately we did not need to use them. We could see where the picture for the guidebook had been taken and in good weather it may well have been quite idyllic. We parked up and Shazza put the kettle on and made us both a mug of coffee. We looked at each other but neither of us had to say a word as we were both thinking exactly the same thing, we did not want to stay in this isolated place. Perhaps if their had been another couple of Motorhomes parked up we may have felt differently but we applied the rule of thumb, if your gut instinct says move on then move on, so we consulted ‘Snoopy’ and it suggested ‘Palencia’, a much larger town only another 25 miles away so we finished our coffee and moved on.
We were soon back onto another ‘N’ road, wide and long, you could see for miles in front, what a relaxing driving experience this was. It had stopped raining some time ago but the sky was still heavy with grey cloud so I kept my lights on but in the distance, in the direction we were heading we could see brighter sky ! The ‘Aire’ was on the other side of the town so we had to drive through part of it, the traffic was busier here but not crowded and ‘Snoopy’ confidently guided us through the streets and once again delivered us right to the front door of ‘Parque Isla Dos Aguas’ (GPS N42d 0m 14.6s W04d 32m 4.1s). I did swallow hard as I turned right into what was a car park ! Oh my god, this does not look large enough for ‘Big Momma’, the car park was full and how the hell am I going to manoeuvre between the cars to turn around and get out !! Oh yea of little faith Eric I thought as I followed the ‘one way’ system around the corner to find Motorhomes already parked up in very large bays clearly designated for Motorhomes. It was only a little after 12:30pm and only about eight of the 30 parking bays were occupied and so we easily found a suitable bay that accommodated us without any problem.
After parking up we decided to have a look at our surroundings. The only problem that we discovered was that during the day, when all the cars were using the car park, we would have had some difficulty manoeuvring ‘Big Momma’ onto the service point. Fortunately as Motorhome parking was restricted to just 48hrs we would not need to empty the Grey Waste or re-fill the fresh water tank. We could easily carry the toilet cassette to the emptying point if required and if we did need to top up with fresh water I had a twenty litre container ready for just such a purpose. There was a large green waste skip for rubbish disposal, the car park was enclosed within an eight-foot fence and their was entry to a beautiful park, the entrance being secured at 22:30 each evening. This felt very safe and secure and it was a pity that there was a limit of just 48hrs stay, however we could see why this would be such a popular Aire, it felt safe, secure, a beautiful park to stroll or cycle around, the town on the doorstep and within walking distance, and other Motorhomers so it felt like a community and safety in numbers !
We returned to the van and polished off Shazza’s home-made Potato & Leek soup for lunch and then decided to explore the town. The one thing that we must get used to again was that here, as in many other Mediterranean countries, there was this thing called ‘Siesta’ where most of the shops closed from between 2pm-5pm. We had forgotten about this tradition and so found ourselves wandering through half empty streets. I say half empty because this was a large town so there were still quite a few people around, lots of Cafe’s and bars still open but the main retail shops doors were firmly closed. We had come prepared with our iPads in the hope that we would find an establishment that provided ‘Free’ WiFi, however unlike the UK where many pubs and cafe’s advertise ‘WiFi Available’, this was not the case here. So, next plan, find a McDonald’s, surely they must have them here ? Well we walked and we walked and eventually we saw a large sign with the McDonald’s Logo advertising that it was a 24hr establishment and an arrow pointing in the general direction. This was obviously a sign intended for motorists but we followed the general direction, we walked and we walked, we asked several people en route for directions, in our best pigeon Spanish of course, they waved us on with bits of guidance, one young lady even going to the trouble of drawing us a map when she realised that we couldn’t understand a bloody word she was saying. Just a pity that she didn’t draw it to scale !! We walked and we walked some more and when we saw the signs telling us that we were not that far from Madrid !! (Not really it just felt as if we had walked that far) we came across that Wonderful signage which also displayed those immortal words ‘WiFi Gratis’, yee hah !! Four coffees and two chocolate donuts later we had checked our Emails and I had published two blog posts and responded to comments on previous posts. Shazza checked her ‘Map My Walk App’ to not only discover that we had walked three miles, but that we could have got here via a shorter route. But of course, how were we to know that as we didn’t have a WiFi connection so couldn’t ‘Google’ it !! We made our way back to the Aire by a more direct route ! When we arrived, the Aire was pretty much full and we were pleased that we followed the advice about arriving by lunchtime to bag a parking spot.
Wednesday 16th October – It’s my Birthday !!
Neither of us had slept well due to a combination of the heat and the dreaded high pitch whine of a mosquito, so for the first time on this trip we did not awaken refreshed and on my Birthday as well !! I got up at seven-thirty and fulfilled the now familiar morning routine. Shazza, who shall now also be known as the ‘Demon mozzie killer’ had dispatched our unwelcome visitor at the first attempt and with quite loud victory chants of ‘Yes, Yes, Yes’ and I had to remind Shazza that Motorhome walls are not as sound-proof as bricks and mortar. When I went outside for my next cigarette I got some knowing wry smiles and a few winks from our nearest neighbours, and I was not about to dispel what they thought was the reason for my beloved’s joyous outburst !!
I know that we shouldn’t but we did, have a ‘plan’ for this mornings activity. The tourist information was closed when we went walkabout yesterday, it being ‘Siesta’ and all that, so we would make that our first port of call so that we would know this time where we were wandering aimlessly ! Whilst Shazza was getting ready I went for a little wander down the line of Motorhomes to the bottom where all the cars would be parked to see how wide the corner was that I would have to manoeuvre ‘Big Momma’ around to get out tomorrow. It looked okay and as I walked back to the van I got speaking with some fellow Dutch Motorhomers. Sharon always complains that I will stop and speak to anybody and that is true, I am a very sociable sort of person. On this occasion, like many others, stopping and chatting to people can reap its dividends. Our trek to find ‘Free’ WiFi yesterday entailed a round trip of just over five miles, the nice Dutch people told me that literally five minutes walk from the ‘Aire’ there was a ‘Burger King’ which did ‘Free’ WiFi !!!
We got our map from the ‘Office de Tourisme’ and started to find our way around some of the ‘Touristy’ bits. Now I have to confess that whilst I can, and do, like to admire some architecture, I have absolutely no interest in their history, when it was built, who built it, who invaded and knocked it down and who rebuilt it and when. I would rather be walking or cycling through nice countryside or kayaking on rivers or lakes or swimming and snorkelling in nice warm coastal waters. But we had none of that to do in our current location so we went and admired the Cathedral, the other churches and town squares. What amazed me as we walked down the maze of alleys that led off from the Main Street was that it was already past nine-thirty and some shops were just opening !! My god, they would be closed again in just over four hours for a four-hour Siesta !! Our wanderings did bring us upon an indoor produce market with stall after stall selling fish, meat, poultry, cheeses, hams and salami’s in dispersed with the odd fruit and veg stall. Now this I enjoyed wandering around, we didn’t buy anything but it was good to look at everything. Back outside and we wandered up and down the maze of streets once more but now I was ready for a coffee so we passed several until we saw one that we liked the look of. Whilst Shazza was making use of the ‘facilities’ I ordered the coffees and engaged in a pigeon Spanish conversation with the young friendly chap who was serving me. The conversation got around to Football and knowing that England had played another World Cup Qualifier match the previous evening, but not having any TV or Internet I did not know the result. Cutting a laborious story short, he got a newspaper and showed me the bit that reflected that England had beaten Poland by 2-0, it was my turn to say emphatically, Yes, Yes, Yes !! everyone in the bar/cafe laughed. We took our coffee’s outside to drink them in the warmth of the morning sunshine and I decided whilst sat there to check for any WiFi connections. Several came up but one name stood out, the name of the cafe we were sat outside. As luck would have it the young chap came outside to clear some other earlier customers empty cups. With my best ‘Perdonne’ he looked across, saw the phone in my hand and said “WiFi” ? He took my phone, entered the pass code and happy days, I now had WiFi !!! Wish I’d brought my iPad though. Coffee drunk, Emails checked, Blog checked, Weather checked it was time to find ‘Burger King’ so that we could return later that evening to do the business and catch up with the outside world.
By the time we returned to ‘Big Momma’ it was twelve-thirty, the sky was blue and the sun was hot and I mean hot ! We had a light lunch and then Shazza changed into shorts and tee-shirt and took a book and walked into the park to read and soak up some of the rays ! I on the other hand had some Spanish culture to get accustomed to so I did some revision on the Spanish art of the ‘Siesta’, I found that I was picking up this side of Spanish culture quite easily.
What we haven’t got accustomed to yet though is the Continental eating times so for us ‘English’ people, although we had forgone ‘afternoon tea and tiffin’, it was now five-thirty and that meant it was time for tea as in the ‘let’s go eat’ variety. Now, it could have been a nice candlelit dinner at some swanky restaurant but to be honest that would have cost a fortune, Shazza could have cooked something just as good, if not better, for half the price but I wanted to give her a break from the domestics as well. I have already celebrated two 21st Birthday’s and am still some years away from celebrating the third so to be honest it was not such a big deal. I had already received my birthday cards from my parents and from Sonia before I left and I got a text this morning from my folks so that was nice. No, there was another more important priority, I needed access to WiFi so that I could update my media library on my blog, to reply to comments that had been made to some of my recently published blog ‘posts’, to check the Spanish and Portuguese weather forecast and to do a final check of my Emails. After this WiFi session we had no way of knowing where or when we would get on-line again, it could be days or perhaps even weeks ! So ‘Burger King’ here we come.
After our marathon session on the Internet, thank you Mr BK, we took an evening stroll around the same maze of streets we had walked around in the morning. It was a pleasant summer evening for us but we were getting strange looks from the locals, could it be because we were wearing short-sleeved shirts whilst they were wearing coats and scarves !! It is quite wonderful how the ambience of a place can be totally transformed simply by dimming the daylight, turning on neon lights and filling the street cafe’s and bars with people. This is the type of environments and the ambience we experienced when we were on our month-long summer touring holidays, it’s no wonder that it still hasn’t registered with me that this isn’t just a short holiday break but is in fact a rather long holiday break.
And so back to the van at the end of another wonderfully relaxing day. Would we have ever discovered ‘Palencia’ if we were not fulltiming, probably not and that would have been our loss for this moderately sized Spanish Town is modern, with bits of history dotted around the side streets, it has a certain ambience and charm that I guess we will find in many other towns on our journey, yet I am pleased to have found it. Anyone else who would normally head South via the Madrid route in their rush to get to the heat of the Winter Sun, take a detour, you will not be disappointed………………….