Wednesday 8th December – Chantanada – Lugo – A Pontenova – Northern Spanish Coast (95 miles)
We awoke once again to it raining ‘cats and dogs’, or the Spanish equivalent ‘gatos & perros’. This had been the third consecutive ‘restless’ night and I was still tired so even today’s planned short drive of only 36 miles was not one that I was looking forward to, however, I did not want to remain here for another night, the nocturnal happenings had unnerved me a little, the first time on this trip that I actually didn’t feel comfortable ! The internal temperature showed 14.2 degrees(c) so it was not cold but the rain made it feel miserable. We pulled away and the external temperature reflected another dismal 10 degrees !
Our next destination was ‘Lugo‘, the guide-book reflected that the ‘Aire’ had full ‘Motorhome Facilities’ so at least we could do ‘the necessary’ services there. We had no idea what to expect as whilst Shazza had thought ahead to getting a ‘travel bible’ for ‘Portugal’ she hadn’t got one for ‘Spain’ !! One hour after departing ‘Chantanada’ we were pulling onto the ‘Aire’ in Lugo, it was quite easy to find with no ‘Snoopy Brain Farts’ today, it was still a bit ‘drizzly’ but the external temperature had risen to 13 degrees(c) so it wasn’t cold just damp ! The ‘Aire’ was no more than a large car park, but there was a distinct lack of cars ! although there were two ‘Spanish’ vehicles already parked up, a Motorhome and a Van Conversion although their was no sign of the occupants of either vehicle.
The ‘car park’ was in an elevated position which looked down and across a wide river, the residential suburbs and across to hills and fields as far as the eye could see. But it was also surrounded by derelict or empty buildings, all of which were heavily adorned with Graffiti and there was quite a lot of general litter and beer bottles just laying on the ground !! Behind was a park which was even higher than the car park and we climbed up the very many steps to explore what we thought was the right direction for the town centre, which we soon discovered was a ‘City’ centre, and a very nice one at that.
The very modern ‘city‘ of ‘Lugo‘ has been built within the circular walls of the old Roman fortress. This is a large walled city and the old and the modern have been combined exceptionally well.
Do not be fooled into thinking that this is a small place for there are several entry/exit points carved into it’s very high defensive walls. There are large open spaces, green park like areas, a massive sprawling modern shopping area with streets leading off in all directions. Amongst all of this there is a Cathedral and numerous ‘old’ stone buildings and monuments as well as residential properties and in parts of this there is an open ‘Public WiFi Zone’. We wandered around pretty aimlessly really, I am a ‘history heathen’ but even I was in awe at this place. Anyone who has visited the old roman walled city in ‘Caceres’ and thought that was impressive would be mightily impressed here !
I think it was actually in ‘Caceres‘ where Shazza and I first went to a ‘Tapas Bar‘ for lunch and I commented in that related ‘post’ that it wasn’t what I had expected. Well we decided that we would stop our wanderings and have a coffee, we saw a place that simply said ‘Cafeteria’ and went inside. What a pleasant surprise, we found ourselves in a ‘real’ typically Spanish ‘Tapas Bar’ and it was bustling with people who were obviously taking lunch. All of the seating was already occupied except for one stool at the oval-shaped bar, being the ‘Gentleman’ that I am I let Shazza sit down. I ordered two Coffee’s and was taken aback when one of the staff offered us to take a portion of ‘Tapas’ from a selection on a tray, which we of course we did. Can’t think why we were surprised, it was a Tapas bar !! Once we had eaten that we were then presented with another tray with a different selection and so we each took another one. These Tapas were being made in a kitchen to the side of where I was stood, it was a hive of activity with just one lady preparing them all. When she next brought a tray out I asked if I could take a photograph of her with the tray of Tapas, she didn’t completely understand but eventually I got her to stand still long enough to get one quick photograph of her. I was totally mesmerised with the whole atmosphere in this place, it was very busy, there was lots of chatter and the smells emanating from the variety of food constantly being wheeled out was amazing. I had just suggested to Shazza that we should order some, this after all was part of the gastronomic experience of this adventure, it wasn’t just about visiting different places and viewing the scenery. Shazza agreed but before we could order, the lady (cook) whom I had taken a photograph of, presented us each with a small plate of warm mixed tapas. When we had finished and came to pay the waitress just charged for the Coffee’s, we pointed to our empty plates and the variety of Tapas on the platters but she waved her hand in the gesture of ‘No Charge’ !! We both said hearty ‘Gracias’ and as we went to leave we turned and said ‘Gracias and Adios’ to the ‘cook’ who gave a great big smile and said ‘De Nada’ (Your Welcome), how great an experience was that ?
We walked back to the walled entry/exit point we had entered through and made our way back to ‘Big Momma’. Although our original plan was to stay the night, neither of us felt very comfortable with spending a night in our current surroundings. Perhaps it was the lack of a decent full night’s sleep for a few days, perhaps it was being unnerved at the previous night’s nocturnal events, or perhaps it was just an unease with the state of our current surroundings, whatever the reason, it was still relatively early so we decided to move on ! Whilst I ’emptied’ the necessary waste tanks, Shazza looked for another potential night stop and found what looked a good one at a place called ‘A Pontenova‘ just 36 miles away, which was on our route North. We had to drive through some of the outer suburbs to get onto the right road but after the ‘Portimao Experience‘ nothing fazes me now !! Amazingly, just fifteen minutes on the road North out of ‘Lugo’ and the sun came out and the temperature rose to a very nice 15 degrees(c). The drive was amazing, here we were with the warmth of the sun shining through the windows, driving on some lovely smooth surfaced roads, through some wonderful mountain scenery that got better around every hairpin bend, and there were quite a lot of them ! and then watching the external temperature gauge read 16, 17, 18 and then 19 degrees(c) !! Surely not ! Is ‘Big Momma’s’ instrument gauges now having a ‘Brain Fart’ ? We were following a tanker truck and boy was he in a hurry ! I was cruising at a steady 60mph, on the straight bits and not the hairpins I hasten to add ! and the truck was speeding away from me. The tanker bit was swaying from side to side and I just mentioned to Shazza that I hoped that he didn’t ‘spill his load’, she replied “it’s okay he’s only carrying milk” to which I replied “But with all that milk, if he spilt it, it would be Past Your Eyes” !! It was like a joke but obviously from her groan, just not funny !!
We arrived in the small town of ‘A Pontenova’, there was a lovely river running right through it and it looked as if it would have made a beautiful place to park up for the night, unfortunately I saw the ‘right turn over the narrow bridge’ before ‘Snoopy’ instructed me to ‘Turn right’ ! Not only was there a weight limit on the bridge of just 3.5 tonnes, we were officially 5 tonnes, but with all Shazza’s stock of ‘Vino Tinto’ we were probably nearer 7 tonnes !! But apart from that the bridge was far too narrow for us to cross, even if we both ‘sucked in’ !! We decided to carry on, the N640 that we were driving on would eventually take us all the way to the Northern Coast but between here and there was this wonderful forested mountain with a river flowing by the side of it all the way to the Sea, surely we could find somewhere to pull over and ‘Wild Camp’ for the night ? The smooth and wide winding roads took us up into the mountainous wooded areas with just so many breathtaking views. Then we descended and the road twisted and turned following the contours of the mountain and the wide river that cut through it. All we needed was a forest track that left the main road and would settle us on the bank of this wonderful flowing river, screened just sufficiently from any passing vehicles so as not to be noticed. Why is it, when you are looking for something you just cannot find it, yes there were plenty of places where we could have pulled off, right on the side of the road, but we didn’t want to be that close to the main road, both for safety considerations as well as the noise of passing traffic. The next thing we knew we were just 20 miles from the Northern Coastline of Spain, where we would soon need to turn to the East. We decided to just keep going North until we ran out of road and would hopefully find somewhere to Wildcamp before we fell into the ‘Bay of Biscay’.
We entered a very small village, we followed ‘Snoopy’s’ guidance until we got to the point where we had to turn ‘left’ into a very narrow street ! I wasn’t sure that with ‘Big Momma’s’ length that we would could even make the turn, especially as their was a car parked right on the corner. There was also the small matter of not being able to see around the next corner, I think we have been here a few times before, I felt another reversing moment coming on !! Shazza went to take a look and returned with her hands upturned and a shrug of the shoulders ! “I’m not sure if you can make it” she said, “And there’s a narrow bridge to cross”. Now, had we have found ourselves in this position in a small UK village, some local would have been shouting at me and telling me what an idiot I was for bringing such a vehicle down there in the first place ! So, here comes the ‘Spanish’ local, who then surprisingly smiles and explains that we will be able to get around the corner and that they will move the car to allow me more space to manoeuvre ! As I then start my slow and tight turn, another local arrives on the scene and watches to make sure that ‘Big Momma’s’ rear end clears the corner unscathed !! Now am I being unfair, or even too biased against my fellow British ‘stiff upper lipped’ countrymen, surely it cannot be just me that has been unfortunate enough to have come across the unhelpful, miserable lot ?
Do you know the feeling when you get into some really awkward and nervous situations, the muscles in your ‘bum cheeks’ tighten uncontrollably and it then makes those strange little squeaky embarrassing noises ? We managed to round the corner, we drove across the ‘not so narrow’ bridge, my ‘bum cheeks’ relaxed and we drove to the most wonderful cliff side location, with forested mountains to one side and an unobstructed view of the Ocean on the other, the sun was shining, it was warm, it really was 19 degrees(c) !!
After settling in and having a well-earned coffee we decided not to waste this wonderful warm late afternoon sunshine and so went for a walk. We headed back towards the village that we had recently passed through, it was only a relatively small place but it had three restaurants, although only one was open for business, well only for serving alcohol really. We had walked in to find a table full of people who were eating a rather nice looking ‘Paella’ which was sat in a large pan in the centre of the table. We said ‘Hola’ and the whole table of occupants responded with their own ‘Hola’ or ‘Buenos Dias’. Only when one young man moved his chair from the table, stood up and then came to the bar to serve us did we realise that it was the ‘family’ eating their meal together. It was only a relatively small Bar/Restaurant, there was another couple, not part of the family group, sat in a corner of the room, so after purchasing two glasses of beer we chose a table in the middle of the room. The family, having finished their meal, started to clear up and the young man who had served us with our drinks brought us over a large bowl of potato crisps. Whilst sat drinking our beer and eating our crisps several people entered the bar, each were greeted with a pat on the back and a shake of the hand, this place had a community feel to it. We finished our drink, returned our now empty glasses to the bar and we said ‘Adios’ to the young barman, the rest of the occupants of the bar all said ‘Adios’ to us as well as we left. We strolled through the narrow streets just feeling totally at ease, relaxed and very peaceful. The few people we met along the way all spoke to us and we returned said pleasantries, we actually felt welcome here, it was a lovely feeling. We strolled back towards ‘Big Momma’ but decided to keep walking in the opposite direction away from the village and along the cliff top. We came to a derelict building, it appeared to be some sort of former fortress, not a castle as such. It’s foundations were actually built into the sea but protected behind a rock face, it was strange, we could not work out what it may have been, perhaps the top was some sort of large stone house and the underneath a hidden passage to and from the sea used by smugglers, we let our imaginations run away with us. The sun was beginning to set so we decided to return to ‘Big Momma’ and have our own evening meal now that we had worked up an appetite. Just as we got to the van a ‘Police Locale’ car passed and I waved, the car stopped and reversed up to us. Shazza feared the worst, we had heard that the Spanish Authorities were stopping people ‘Wildcamping’ on the Mediterranean Coast, perhaps it may extend up here as well and we would be asked to leave. Their were two Officers in the car, a male and a female, they wound down the window, smiled and said ‘Hola’, I said ‘Hola’ back and asked if it was okay to sleep here, they both said “Yes, of course”, I thanked them, they gave a cheery wave and drove off.
Once night fell we closed all the blinds, more to keep the heat in than anything else, for there were no street lights so it was completely dark, we were all alone in this little piece of heaven and the only sound that could be heard was that of the sea crashing against the rocks just metres away from where we were parked, absolute bliss. I heard a vehicle on the deserted Coastal road and looked out of the window, it was another Police vehicle, it did not slow down or stop it just drove past, there was a certain re-assurance knowing that this area was patrolled by the ‘Police Locale‘, although we did not feel unsafe at all.
Although we were both tired we lay awake for a short while, comforted by the sound of the sea. It was a warm night, the internal temperature gauge reflected that it was 19 degrees(c), a slight wind had picked up and occasionally we could feel ‘Big Momma’ give a gentle sway but this just added to the relaxed feeling, we decided that as long as the ‘Police Locale‘ did not object, we would stay for another day and night.
Thursday 9th January
We both awoke at the same time, how good it was to have had an unbroken full night’s sleep then waking up feeling totally refreshed. With the blinds closed, internally ‘Big Momma’ was still in darkness so we could not see the clock. I got up to conduct the morning rituals, the internal gauge showed a rather pleasant 15.2 degrees(c) but I was surprised when I saw that it was 10:15am !! There was no rush to do anything or go anywhere so we remained in bed drinking our coffee, the blinds fully open so that we could enjoy the view of the open sea, this is what part of our fulltiming adventure was all about ! Especially when you are sat looking out of the window and watch a Fishing Boat pass by so close that you could see two fishermen on the boat ‘hand-working’ their nets !
It was a cloudy day and the external temperature had certainly dropped from yesterday’s high, but it was dry ! We put on our walking boots and rain jackets and just followed the Coast road. We were not heading for anywhere in particular, we had no plan whatsoever other than to enjoy the fresh air on our faces and admire the views. We ended up doing a circular route which brought us back into the small Coastal village close to where we were parked. We chose one of the other Cafe/Bars today in which to take our well deserved Coffee break. We entered, around the bar were several men, sat with their glasses of Wine, Beer and Cognac, all said ‘Buenos dias’ and then continued doing whatever it was they were doing before we walked in. There was a TV screen perched high in one corner showing some sort of pre-World Cup review, although nobody appeared to be watching it. The elderly proprietor, who had been chatting to some of his ‘customers’, came across and we ordered two Coffees, he motioned to me to take a seat and that he would bring them across. Shazza had looked at the menu card on the table and they advertised meals as well as the ‘Bocadillos‘ (Sandwiches), so when he brought our coffee we ordered two ‘Bocadillos‘ both with ‘Fried Pork Slices with Paprika‘. We saw him leave the Bar/Cafe and go outside, shortly afterwards he returned and settled back into his domain, behind the bar, and continued to engage in conversation. Shortly after a woman entered, it appeared to be from next door ! She greeted us with a cheery smile and the now accustomed ‘Buenos Dias’, she was armed with a large ‘Baguette’ and a plastic bag and she disappeared into the small kitchen area to the side of the bar’ she was obviously our ‘Bocadillo’ chef !! We were served with our very large ‘Bocadillos’, piping hot pork, which filled the Baguette and tasted delicious.
We strolled back through the village, across the ‘not so narrow bridge‘ that we had crossed yesterday and returned to Big Momma. We spent a little bit of time preparing our stopover route between here and Bilbao, we only had seven nights left and we both wished it were longer. I do often say that things happen for a reason, had we not been returning to the UK we would never have contemplated returning to this part of Spain, had we have been able to have had the overnight stop at ‘A Pontenono‘, remember, that was the one with the ‘really narrow bridge and weight restriction’, then we would have not arrived here, things happen for a reason !! Whilst Shazza prepared our Beef Casserole for this evenings meal, I caught up with the blog post and occasionally found myself day dreaming as I stared out of the window into the vast expanse of Ocean, this place is so utterly peaceful !!
We had a lazy evening not doing anything in particular. I started looking for our first night stop location in UK when we disembarked the ferry and found a small ‘Certified Site’ that was part of a hotel just outside of ‘Oxford’, it would only be about a two-hour drive, UK Friday rush hour traffic permitting ! It had all the usual amenities for Motorhomes plus Hardstanding with Electric and also Showers, Toilets and ‘free’ WiFi. I will telephone them over the next couple of days to reserve one of the limited ‘pitches’. Shazza busied herself with changing the sheets on the bed, looking out at passing ships through the binoculars and then playing ‘Candy Crush’ on her iPad !! It’s a hard life this retirement lark !!