What a summer we are having, if you ignore our month in Northern Spain in May/June. The weather has been hot and sunny ever since our return and we have not had rain for 6 weeks. Yesterday was no exception with temperatures climbing to 31C. Butterflies have been plentiful in the garden this year, especially whites: large, green veined and small. We have also had regular holly blues and speckled wood and, yesterday, a comma. To view large, please click on an image
Not a lot to report today, except that Heather thrashed me at cribbage 3 games to 0!! We had a smooth crossing with only a bit of swell as we rounded the Brittany peninsular. First thing this morning we were in fog but it soon cleared to leave a beautiful day much of which we spent relaxing on the sun deck. We docked on time and are now settled with a cup of tea in the Premier Inn. Now do I need to pop next door for a pint??
All that remains is the drive home tomorrow - oh, and to dry the tent out!!
Despite the less than perfect weather we have had an amazing trip, seen some wonderful scenery, wildlife, art and culture. We have fallen in love with Northern Spain and it's spectacular mountains and coast. We shall be back, perhaps not in May/June and certainly not camping. In fact I may have been cured of camping for life!!!
Good evening dear blog, almost my final entry for this trip as I write in the middle of the Bay of Biscay en route to Portsmouth. And what an excellent penultimate day it has been. We awoke to rain yet again at the hotel but by the time we had breakfast it had cleared up allowing us to load the car in the dry
El Colonial is a superb family run hotel; great food, clean and comfortable room and very friendly and helpful owners.
Once packed we set out for El Castillo cave, just 10 miles away. We soon found that Altamira yesterday was an excellent preparatory lesson for the genuine article. We arrived nicely in time for our prebooked tour at 11.20. Like Altamira the huge cave entrance would have been lived in as a cave shelter by palaeolithic hunter gatherers. This entrance today is covered by a massive canopy which serves as reception and ticket office. Our tour was in Spanish and we even understood some of it aided by a fellow American visitor who spoke better Spanish than us and translated. The cave itself was well worth the visit with huge cathedral-like galleries and staggering stalactite and stalagmite formations. The stars of the show though were the paintings, particularly the hand stencils for which the cave is famous. There are also bison and deer and abstract symbolic markings. Some of these are 50,000 years old and as fresh as if they were done yesterday. I find this absolutely mind blowing and incredibly moving. But is also fascinating to realise that these people were so similar to us: intelligent artistic and with a well-developed social organisation. An absolutely fabulous visit.
Afterwards we enjoyed coffee and cake in the village before an easy drive back to Bilbao on the motorway. We arrived in perfect timing and sailed on time at 5.15. It was, of course, beer o'clock. A good night's sleep now. In the morning We should pass close to Brittany.
Another amazing day despite the poor start weather wise: rain and wind, but amazingly still warm. As it was a museum visit this morning the weather was immaterial and surprisingly it cleared and was sunny by the time we came out. The museum in question was the Cuevas de Altamira which is renowned for its cave paintings of mainly bison but also deer on the low roof of the cave. Palaeolithic people lived in the large mouth of the cave and the paintings were done in deeper chambers. The original cave has been more or less closed to the public for conservation reasons for about 20 years. The museum though, complete with replica cave and paintings, is excellent. We thoroughly enjoyed it and spent a good 2 hours there. Tomorrow though, on the way back to Bilbao for the ferry, we have booked to visit El Castillo cave, famous for its hand print stencils made by blowing paint onto hands pressed to the cave wall. These are thought to be the oldest cave paintings in Europe, perhaps the world. Many years ago we visited Font de Gaume caves in France and this remains one of my most moving experiences so it is with great anticipation that we await tomorrow's visit.
After our museum visit we repaired to the seafood restaurant at Playa de Luaña for Gambas a la plancha and grilled sardines; excellent and with superb views out over the sea. The wind has really blown up today and so it was great fun trying to photograph the big surf. However we do hope it calms down by tomorrow evening ready for sailing across the Bay of Biscay.
We next drove back to San Vicente de Barquera where we walked up to visit the church which stands majestically high above the harbour. It was beautiful and peaceful inside and outside nestled another hostel for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. A coffee and ice cream were called for in a harbourside bar and then before heading back we popped around to the local surfing beach for some more wave photos. The dunes here are magnificent; gleaming white sand with a superb dune flora including such treasures as hare' s tail grass, Sea holly and a pink and white striped bind weed.
It is almost time for our last dinner in the hotel and I plan on having cocido montañas, a local speciality comprising a stew of beans, meat and cabbage preceded by a grande cerveza grande and washed down with a bottle of rioja. Magic!