Discovering Asturias

Zarautz

We spent three nights on a busy campsite in North West Spain at the start of the Easter holidays. The sun was shining, the campsite was full and there was the happy buzzing sound of children playing together, managing to communicate whether or not they shared a common language. It was amazing how quickly we forget the cold nights and chilly dog walks of just a few days before and just accepted the warmth and the holiday atmosphere.

Everyone was packed in tight in a way that would cause a Caravan Club warden to have a panic attack. We were just a couple of metres from our neighbours and we could hear their voices as they sat chatting inside their caravan. We didn’t mind it at all, after all we had been more or less isolating since we left home, being concerned that whatever our coughing bug was we didn’t want to pass it on to anyone else. We hadn’t been to a bar or a coffee shop, only using shops whilst wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance. We’ve done more covid tests and it clearly isn’t that but it’s a horrible bug and we’re glad to report that we’re coming to the end of it now.

We met some lovely people during our stay at Gran Camping Zarautz and saw some spectacular sunsets. What we didn’t do was walk down the almost 500 steps to the beach because our bug has caused a bit of breathlessness and we’ve also lost fitness because we’ve been unusually sedentary. We went down half way every morning with Poppy and were gasping like old smokers by the time we reached the top so that was one delight we didn’t manage. I should say that we did do that walk the last time we were there about five years ago and it really isn’t for the faint hearted. We had wobbly legs for hours afterwards.

A long way down

Booze – who needs it?

At the beginning of January we finally made the decision to give up alcohol completely. We’d been more or less teetotal for several months and only had a drink when socialising so it wasn’t a big moment when we finally stopped altogether. Our reasons were mixed. I wanted to keep my one remaining kidney in the best possible health and Shirley decided that it would be a good health move for her too. It’s also true that wine contains a lot of empty calories and frankly we prefer chocolate. We weren’t missing our occasional drinks at all but once we arrived in France we began to really miss our nightly ritual, when on tour in Europe, of one glass in the evening with olives or other nibbles. It’s the strangest thing. That drink at the end of the day had a holiday feel to it and we missed that far more than the alcohol itself. So we set ourselves the task of finding another way, and another tipple, to mark that all important end of the day moment of relaxation. I’m guessing that for some followers of this blog there might be astonishment that we could voluntarily tour the home of beautiful wines and not drink them. We’re a bit astonished too. There’s some strange notion that we’ve come this far and we don’t want to give up – hard to understand I know – and who knows, we might just buy a bottle at some point but for now it’s chilled zero alcohol lager served in wine glasses with a bowl of olives and we’re happy. 

The power of the weather

I once read a review of a motorhome stopover that said something like, “The weather was awful, I’m never going there again” and gave it one star. We laughed at the time, thinking the writer was either being facetious or was just plain stupid. On this trip we have discovered that the weather does indeed make or break a trip. Motorhoming is an idyllic lifestyle as long as you don’t have to sit for hours in a small space with the heating going full pelt and then drive through snow looking for LPG and trying to boost your batteries. Walking Poppy is a delight except when the rain is torrential and you know you’re going to spend the next few hours surrounded by the smell of wet dog. However, quite miraculously, when the sun comes out the pain of the bad weather disappears like the snow and everyone’s mood rises. 

We parked up last night on a free motorhome parking beside a big animal sanctuary where a short walk takes you to a spectacular view of the rescued elephants. There is a lake and grass where we can sit outside and watch the world go by and we’ve just been out for a walk and found an ice cream shop. There is literally nothing to dislike about this place, although a couple of miserable so and sos gave it a score of one star. Reviews eh? Don’t believe them all. Paying visitors to the animal park can get a gondola ride where they view the wild animals from above in many hundred hectares of wide open land. This is  a place that was built to shelter rescued and endangered big game and for us it was also a place to shelter motorhomers half way through a long drive to the Picos National Park… more on that later.

When we first arrived it was very quiet in the motorhome parking and we could stroll by the lake, sit outside with our books and take a few photographs. By the middle of the evening the place was full with at least forty motorhomes of all different sizes and nationalities. Children were playing and parents chatting to one another outside in the cooling evening air. It had been an unexpectedly hot day and when we went for our final evening walk with Poppy we were relieved to breathe the fresh cool air. It’s amazing that less than a week ago we were wishing we’d brought our hats and gloves with us from home. 

Elephant sanctuary

Parking Spanish style

A few years ago we were parked in a supermarket car park when a man parked his car so close to our van that he hit it. I shot out to remonstrate with him and check for serious damage and he looked a bit shame faced. At the time I assumed it was a mistake, although one that was hard to justify.

Today we were parked in another supermarket carpark and we had the side door open to allow some air into the place before we left Poppy and went into the shop. Beside us was a car parked neatly in his box. Suddenly, in full view of our side door, another car appeared at speed and was obviously going to park nose to nose with the first one. He shot in and kept going until he hit the other car, nodded to himself in a self satisfied way and went to get out of his car. I must have been standing watching with my mouth open because he looked and me and grinned, shrugging his shoulders in a “so what” kind of way. If you look closely, many Spanish cars have random dents in them – now you know why. 

Mebbies Aye, Mebbies Naw (Scots)

We always travel with the understanding that we can change our minds on a whim or in response to a feeling of discomfort. Today was one of those days. Our plan was to travel into the Picos National Park and explore this unknown to us area. We had the sat nav set ready for the route and we were all ready to go when two things troubled me to the extent that I didn’t want to go. First was our view of the Picos mountains clearly visible from the road – huge, high, snow capped and terrifying. The second was the fact that the sat nav told us that our 35 mile journey would take two and a half hours. Experience has shown us that the time estimation is usually overly optimistic so we knew it was going to be a very difficult drive. Heidi the Hymer is a very big girl and she’s no longer young. As the two bits of information filtered into my head I had a sudden sense of foreboding so we did what we always do when one of us feels uncomfortable, we changed our minds. We stopped for breakfast in a service area and did a quick check for places we might go instead. This wasn’t difficult because the Picos route had been a detour from our initial intended route so we just needed to dig out our original route plan and see what came next. 

Near enough to the Picos for us

This is probably a good time to talk about route planning. Several weeks before we left I spent a long time working out potential routes and places to stop. I love planning so it wasn’t a hardship, which is just as well because we’ve only stayed in two of the long list of stop overs so far. Circumstances, the weather and our inner compasses are all at play on a journey like this so we’ve learned to relax and literally take it easy. We listen to one another and our inner sense and go with it. It’s a method that has worked amazingly well over the years we’ve been doing this and we like it. So all that is to say that not going to the Picos is fine by us – at the moment the route is set for Galicia.

Today we moved to a private camper park in Cobreces. It was a short drive once we left our original route and we travelled through some beautiful scenery. This is a rural area with many fincas (farms or small holdings) and it is rich in the brightest of bright greenery with all the new growth of spring. We found our little corner owned and run by a friendly and feisty little woman who spoke only about three words of English, which is pretty much the same as our Spanish. Somehow, with a lot of laughter and sign language, we got our spot and settled in. She thoughtfully presented us with a map that showed us how to get to the beach, the few small shops and a couple of restaurants and before long we were off on the walk to see the sea and enjoy a drink and a bowl of olives beside the beach. So, within the space of less than an hour we had changed our minds, redesigned our route and found ourselves in beautiful sunshine beside a pleasant little beach. This really is the life. 

Our spot in Cobraces

Adios amigos, until the next time. 

This little one made us smile.

12 thoughts on “Discovering Asturias

  1. It was Zarautz where you gave us the last of your gin!! I’m full of admiration for your non alcoholic campervanning!I don’t think that would enter our minds! I can remember the drive to the Picos! It was quite spectacular but terrifying at the same time as there were a lot of overhanging rock and hairpin bends!! Sounds to me that you made a good decision. We did go up the mountain in the cable car and the views were amazing! X

    1. We thought of you both when we were back in Zarautz. Happy memories. We also remembered that you had been into the Picos and thought it was very brave. Honestly the lack of alcohol isn’t bothering us at all although, as you know, a wee G&T is lovely on a warm evening. x x

  2. Love, love, love that you are both back on the road and I can live your journeys vicariously!! I am hoping to head to Lanzarote in May after 3 long years of working at the coal face. 🤞🏻

  3. Yes, the beauty of Motorhoming is the ability to change your mind. We visited the Picos in spring of 2019 and it is very beautiful but there are some very windy roads. at one time my beautiful navigator said “oh look down there” to which she charged it to “no don’t look, keep your eyes on the road”. It seems there was a few hundred meters drop my side of the road.

    1. It sounds a bit scary – one day, if we ever change to a much smaller van we might try it. This big Hymer is wonderfully comfortable but she has a huge turning circle and isn’ much fun on tight bends when other vehicles come the other way at speed. It sounds like an exciting trip though.

      1. Yes we’re sure we made the right decision. We’re aiming for as little stress as possible. Thinking of you both x x

  4. We are now at Vilanova de Prades in the spectacular hills west of Tarragona. Driving mountain roads I remembered when we drove in the Picos in our little AS Symphony and worried about the overhanging rocks. Interested to hear about your giving up alcohol
    I regularly have a rest from it and just drink tonic which I enjoy v. much. Give it a try. Before that I drank Liptons lemon tea! We have had great difficulty finding a pitch as it’s Easter and the sites are rammed which is why we headed for the hills. Hopefully it will calm down soon and we can return to our Itinerary!! Lovely to hear from you as usual. Xx

    1. The motorhomers are out in force for the Easter break. We are at Atalaia Camper Park in Foz, Galicia. We got here before lunch yesterday and booked in for the weekend because we had seen how full everywhere is for Easter. Hopefully it will all go quiet soon. Hope you are both feeling better now. x x

    1. Thank you. It’s good to know you enjoy our tales and it’s especially good to be encouraged to keep writing. Thanks again.

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