Villada – Zamora – Miranda do Douro (116 miles)
We had another decent nights sleep, we heard our first ‘howlers’ since arriving in Spain, no not the ladies of the night but the other local hounds, oh how I have ‘not’ missed them but know that as we head further South over the days and weeks to come that these unwelcome night intrusions will become common place. Again there was no rush to depart and with our first potential ‘Wildcamping’ experience of this trip ahead of us I thought it a good idea to just ‘Fill and Empty’ the essentials again as we had a very nice ‘Service Point’ quite literally on the doorstep. The sky was blue and the sun was beginning its ascent but it was a bit chilly this morning, we had become accustomed to the weather pattern again, a mild (or even chilly) start to the days but by mid-afternoon, when the sun was high, the temperatures climbed into the mid-twenties, and so it would be beautiful. If all went well, for the first time since leaving ‘Cabarceno’ we may get an opportunity to get the sun chairs out and enjoy some outside space. That is the thing with a lot of these ‘Aires’, they are great places to hold up for a night or two and to do the necessary with the on-board facilities, but ‘Camping’ is prohibited, that means no ‘Awnings’ out, no chairs out, no tables or BBQ’s.
Well it didn’t go well, we were heading for a small lagoon about 83 miles South, we elected to stay off ‘Toll’ motorways this trip, as we had last year, and use if necessary just the ‘Toll Free’ ones but primarily the ‘N’ and ‘C’ roads, or as my Navigator referred to them, the ‘Red’ and ‘Yellow’ ones and occasionally the ‘White’ ones, but only if they didn’t have too many ‘Wiggles’ in them !! The roads were quiet, as usual, and we were making good time, however, the Spanish were having a whale of a time re-surfacing many of the ‘N’ roads, I have no complaints about that but they have a habit of removing ’roundabouts’ and forgetting to re-sign where you need to go to get on to the road that you really need to be on. ‘Snoopy’ threw the first ‘hissy fit’ of this trip and by the time we had sorted it out our turning had long since passed. Another thing about these ‘Spanish’ roads, they are, as stated, well surfaced and extremely long, however, there is a distinct lack of lay-bys or turning points. So there was nothing for it, we were headed in the direction of ‘Zamora‘, our next scheduled stop so ‘Snoopy’ was quickly re-programmed. Instead of a couple of days ‘Wildcamping’ we were now headed for an ‘Aire’, with no services, in a city !!
Zamora is one of Spain’s smallest cities, according to our ‘Rough Guide – Spain‘. It was very easy finding our way to the ‘Aire’ and with only three other Motorhomes parked up we found an appropriate place to settle ‘Big Momma’. After a quick-lunch we secured the van and went for a Shazza mini-excursion. The ‘Aire’ was actually well located for access to the ‘Walled City’, just a ten-minute stroll, and as far as walled towns or cities go, it was actually quite nice. There was the usual old bit with lots of inter-connecting narrow cobbled streets and the derelict ruins of the castle, a rather nice restored cathedral, lots of old churches and far too many Museums for my taste. I did think about Lyssa (Adventures of Big Bird), with her love of History and Architecture she would love this place. However, and still within the walled part of this small city was the ‘pedestrianised’ modern shopping area, so we had a stroll around that, stopped for a coffee at a bar that didn’t have WiFi, but the nice waiter gave me the password for the Cafe’s WiFi next door. It was far too slow to enable me to download my Photographs and put them into my ‘WordPress’ blog media library so my ‘pre-drafted posts’ will have to remain ‘unpublished’ for a little while longer !! I did get chance to check my Blog Admin page though and respond to some, if not all, of the numerous comments left by my readers. There was little else left to see or do for a history heathen like myself so we took a gentle stroll back to ‘Big Momma’, after taking a few obligatory Photo’s along the way that is.
We had fully intended to stay the night but it was still only 3:30pm, the sun was shining and the external temperature gauge reflected a blistering 26 degrees(c). We briefly discussed our options, the choice was the inevitable noises of a city at night, traffic and passers-by and so potentially a less than refreshing nights sleep, or, another location at a potentially quieter spot. The second choice was put through yet another ‘democratic’ process and the ‘Move On’ option was declared a unanimous victory. Now all we had to do was to find somewhere !! This is where all of Shazza’s hard work came to the fore, she had painstakingly colour coded our road map of Spain & Portugal whilst we were up in Scotland. Those places highlighted in ‘Flourescent Yellow‘ were ‘Aires’ with full services and those in ‘Orange‘ were ‘Aires’ with no services. As we had no need to use ‘facilities’ we could use either and Shazza pointed out a prospective ‘Aire’ with ‘Parking Only’, it just happened to be over the border into Portugal but that was only 33 miles away. It also had one distinct advantage, we would put our clocks ‘back’ by one hour as Portugal is on the same time zone as UK.
We left Spain at 16:38pm and crossed into Portugal at 15:38pm !! Not long afterwards, after negotiating a long uphill ascent, with two or three hairpins, but easily manageable even for a Nine Metre long and 5 tonne vehicle like ‘Big Momma’, we came to the town of ‘Miranda do Doura‘, another walled town, the ‘Motorhome Parking’ was quite literally just outside the walls with absolutely amazing views over the mountain landscape and the valley below. There were already several Motorhomes, of all shapes and sizes, parked up, but even so we still found a nice level parking spot that would accommodate us. It was still very hot, the regulator monitoring the input from the Solar Panels had already ‘shut down’ as the battery levels were at their maximum, however, we still could not do the ‘Camping’ stuff but it didn’t matter, we were content to open the habitation door and the ‘Heki’s’.
We were both quite conscious that we had only been on the road for Four days (Five nights) but had already put a lot of miles on the clock. We really needed to find a place like ‘Cabarceno’ where we could remain stationary for a few days and be able to spend some time outside relaxing in the sunshine. We knew that once we reached the ‘Algarve’ that there were ‘Aires’ where we could do this, and have the luxury of things like EHU, WiFi, Laundry Facilities and full Motorhome Services but as last year, we didn’t want to race down there. The main advantage of this lifestyle is that absolutely nothing is written in stone, we can amend our plans as we wished, by the hour if need be, like today !! However, it was time to relax a little and so we needed to once again re-arrange our travel itinerary. We had planned to travel North to the town of Bracanca (Bracanza ?), a decent looking ‘Aire’ with ‘full’ facilities and even individual pitches were ‘Camping’ was permitted, and then move back ‘South’ to an ‘Aire’ with no facilities on a ‘Baragem’ with a man-made sandy beach, although there were ‘Motorhome’ services a stones throw away, decisions, decisions !!
Whilst having one of my many forays outside the van I had got to chatting with another Motorhomer, a German lady who spoke excellent English, although I did, I think, impress her with my smattering of Deutsch ! During our very pleasant conversation I mentioned that we were thinking about visiting Bracanca, a place she had already visited and she stated that it was very nice and the Motorhome Aire, although busy, was also very nice.
Shazza conjured up another tasty evening meal, this time Chicken Korma with Naan bread, washed down with a rather nice chilled bottle of Carlsberg Citrus, she hadn’t brewed the lager herself though !! Suitably fed and watered we decided to take an evening stroll inside the ramparts of this very beautiful walled town. Just as we were locking up ‘Big Momma’, including the new ‘security lock’ on the habitation door, the husband of the German lady I had spoken to earlier, came out and beckoned for us to wait. When he got over to us he produced a street plan of Bracanca, with the location of the ‘Motorhome Aire’ highlighted on it, and he gave it to us along with a recommendation of a Restaurant they had used. He made a point of stating that although they had been ‘on the road’ for a month they normally ate in their van and this Restaurant meal had been the first meal they had eaten out. However, he explained the four courses they had eaten, including a bottle of good quality wine and coffees all for €10 each and then produced a card with the name and address of the establishment and gave this to us as well. You meet such nice people ‘on the road’, everyone willing to help or share travel information, it is this, and not just the travelling, that makes this lifestyle so special. It would be so easy to just keep yourself to yourself but then you would miss out on what this lifestyle is all about, not just the freedom of the open road, the visiting of different Countries and places, the pleasures of trying different food and drink, but also the inter-action with others of all Nationalities and all that is required is a simple ‘Hello‘ or ‘What a lovely evening it is’.
It was one of those evenings were it was warm but without the humidity and it made for a pleasant walk. There were a lot of cobbled streets with residential properties inter-mingled with the variety of retail outlets, restaurants and Bars/Cafés. I mentally noted the Cafés that advertised the availability of ‘free’ WiFi and decided that in the morning I would get up and go and sit and have a coffee or three whilst spending some time getting my blog photo’s downloaded and perhaps even ‘publishing’ my ‘pre-drafted’ posts. In the meantime Shazza would have a longer lay in than usual and then locate a shop where she could replenish some of the fruit and vegetables we had used up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t include the odd bottle or six of ‘Vino Calapso’. After completing her own retail therapy, she would then come to find me and drag me away from my ‘WiFi’ fix having already decided whether we were staying another night or packing up and ‘hitting the road’ once more.