Spain – diary to 2009-10-23

2009-10-19

We arrived safely in Bilbao at 8:30am. The sun was just making its appearance as we disembarked and navigated our way to the Guggenheim Museum – repeatedly reminding ourselves to drive on the right-hand side of the road. The GPS took a while to get its bearings but eventually got us to our desired destination. The Guggenheim museum is an architectural masterpiece that is easily recognisable. It has a futuristic charm and the sculptures are lifelike but not true to size. We headed east after leaving Bilbao and made our way to Benasque where we were to spend a couple of days exploring the Pyrenees Mountains. En-route we stopped in Pamplona where Mvubu had a taste of what it would be like to be a bull as we slowly drove through the narrow streets of the old town and watched people disperse when they saw him coming. We stopped off for some groceries before heading in the direction where we were to spend our first night. We drove and drove and drove. Again the GPS had some wonderful ideas and decided to take us on the narrowest roads that meandered through little hamlets and the heart of rural Spain. We settled for the evening in Camping Aneto (1400m) where we faced temperatures that neither of us was expecting. It dropped to -3 that evening so we took out our winter gear and wrapped up warmly. We cooked Spaghetti Bolognese for dins in our awesome ‘kitchenette’ and climbed into our abode for a well deserved rest.

2009-10-20

We were hoping to do some trekking in the Pyrenees for the next few days but much to our dismay we woke up to grey clouds and mist. Rain had set in and was there to stay for the next few days. Our plans had to change as trekking was no longer an option – far too dangerous for us non-experienced climbers.
We decided to get in the car and head south to Zaragoza. We found a campsite about 4 kms outside of the city centre. It was brand new and could not be located on the GPS. We were looking rather lost until a very kind Spanish lady offered to drive ahead of us and show us the way. It was pretty isolated so we settled for the evening and made the most of the dry weather. Cooked dinner and went to bed early as we were hoping to get an early start and make further progress to the South.

2009-10-21

We woke up to sogginess again. It had rained all night. Luckily there was a break in the clouds so we got everything organised and were packed up and ready to go in good time. We continued our drive south where we planned to spend a night in Toledo. En-route we stopped off in a small town called Medinaceli. It was something of a ghost town as we did not see a solitary local. The quiet streets were full of ancient mansions that displayed their coat of arms above their doors. Medinaceli is most famous for the triple arched tower – Arco Romana – that stands proudly at the entrance to the old village. We strolled along the streets and found our way to a dilapidated Moorish castle that now houses the Christian cemetery.
We continued our drive south and decided to stop off in Madrid except we couldn’t get into the city! The GPS had a mystical black hole in it and did not seem to contain any of the maps for the city centre. We drove around the outskirts of the city for at least an hour before deciding to pack it in and head for Toledo.
The city of Toledo sits on a rocky mound isolated on three sides by a looping gorge of the Rio Tajo. The Alcazar is one of the first buildings that you see as you head for the city. We navigated our way to the campsite, set up and took a stroll into the city. The rain had not given up but that did not stop us from going forth and exploring the cobblestone streets and seeking out the historic monuments. Toledo is a beautiful city that houses many centuries of history. The rain had dampened our spirits and we needed to get back to camp so that we could cook dinner and get ourselves sorted for another early departure.

2009-10-22

The ghosts of Toledo were definitely trying to communicate with us last night. The wind and rain was quite unsettling during the night but seemed to ease off towards the early hours of the morning. We were all packed up and again hit the road towards Cordoba. We drove for 4 hours and entered the historic city. We headed towards the Medina Azahara, a vast palace complex built on a dream scale by Caliph Abd ar Rahman III. It is nothing but mere ruins today as for many centuries after the revolt of Berber mercenaries it has been pillaged from and looted for building materials. The palace once stood 2000m long (yes…2km!!!) by 900m wide. Very extravagant!
We headed to our campsite where we chilled for the rest of the afternoon. Kirk’s ankle has been playing up…too much driving perhaps. We spend the afternoon doing some washing and general housekeeping. We had bought a whole lot of groceries that needed to be packed away.
We decided to treat ourselves to some traditional Spanish tapas for dinner. We asked the receptionist at the campsite for a local place and she sent us on our way. It was very local…not a tourist in sight (apart from us). Armed with the Spanish phrase book I attempted to ask for a table for 2. The response was a blank stare followed by loads of hand gestures. Kirk and I have decided that in order to make the most of your experiences in a country it is imperative to learn the language. (We will start learning Spanish soon so that we can get the most out of South America). We managed to get by with the phrase book and had a delicious dinner with complementary aperitifs at the end of the evening.

2009-10-23

We had a well deserved lie in this morning and made our way to the city centre of Cordoba. En-route we stopped off for some traditional Churros and hot chocolate. A truly decadent treat but most certainly worth it. We headed for the infamous Mezquita – the grandest and most beautiful mosque ever constructed by the Moors in Spain. We entered through the Patio de los Naranjos and spent some time photographing the water fountains and Calle Herrero. The patio resembles a classic Muslim ablution court which now preserves the orange trees. These fountains are no longer for practical use and are purely decorative. Cordoba is beautiful. The avenues are lined with orange and date trees, a homeless man will never go hungry or get scurvy for that matter. The people seem so much friendlier here and we have actually seen the locals. We head to Granada tomorrow morning for some long awaited trekking in the Sierra Nevada.


8 Responses to “Spain – diary to 2009-10-23”

  • Phillipa Says:

    Love it – sounds as though you are having loads of fun. xxx

  • Dave Says:

    If the GPS isn’t working properly in spain what hope is there for Africa :)

    Sounds like you guys are having a cool time meandering through Spain, enjoy!

  • Patrick Kayton Says:

    I can happily read your updates for hours. Looking forward to seeing a volume of these in future.

    I’m very jealous. I’ve wanted to visit Cordoba ever since I read this poem at varsity:

    Song of the Rider

    Córdoba.
    Far away, and lonely.

    Full moon, black pony,
    olives against my saddle.
    Though I know all the roadways
    I’ll never get to Córdoba.

    Through the breezes, through the valley,
    red moon, black pony.
    Death is looking at me
    from the towers of Córdoba.

    Ay, how long the road is!
    Ay, my brave pony!
    Ay, death is waiting for me,
    before I get to Córdoba.

    Córdoba.
    Far away, and lonely.

  • Bridget Says:

    I love hearing all your news!!! Thanks for updating so often and with such detail! Enjoy! I await more…. Love you lots Bee xxx

  • Craig Alderson Says:

    shame you didn’t do South America first and then Toledo. makes it very clear where the Inca gold came from when you see the amazing cathedral!! When we did SAmerica we came back to London via Madrid and checked out Toledo, Segovia and Aviva(sp??) – famous for aqueduct and city walls.

    Did you check out sucking pig by chance? Remember – buenos dias/noches, menu especial par favour, dos cervas grandes par favour. La cuenta (bill) and muchos gracious senior/seniora/senioratta. You’ll be fine!!!

  • Julie Says:

    Love your updates. Can just picture the two of you already on your adventure. Can completely sympathise with you and a GPS that likes to play up. Thinking of you guys, and wishing you safe travels! xxx

  • Dan Rowett Says:

    So jelous, good to hear things are going well, but you need to spice things up a bit – for example I simply can’t believe that Kirk has not got you guys into trouble yet – in fact I suspect that is why his ankle is sore.

  • Kirk Says:

    So you are all able to tell the diff writing styles.. Dale wrote that diary entry and I don’t have a style!
    Secondly, I failed to load the ‘Madrid’ map on the larger of the 2 gps units hence all the mayhem with freeways abruptly ending.. That was clarification for you Dave!
    We are in Tarife now and saw Africa for the first time at sunset yest. Saw the lights of Tangier last night too.. All very close.

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