Posted in Spain

16th October – Heading South Again!

 

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After an uneventful crossing from Portsmouth to Bilbao we disembarked quickly noticing a heavier than usual police presence as they practice for the post Brexit fall out. Out on the open roads the trees glowed bright in autumn colours, fields of ripened sunflowers looking sad and brown with their heads hanging down, and grape vines with red and green leaves stretched in long rows over the countryside. We headed for a free night’s stay Burgos; somewhere we have been before and its certainly worth seeing the fabulous cathedral, historic buildings and large plazas.

The following day we headed south again to Segovia, famous for its two tiered Roman Aquaduct originally built 112 AD. Built from blocks of granite and using no mortar, it carried water from the mountains to the city over 11 miles away; with 167 arches in total, having two tiers in the city itself, it’s highest point stands at 93 feet and 6 inches. A truly impressive feat of engineering that still looks in pristine condition.

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It is straight, but in Panoramic setting it appears curved

 

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We walked around the narrow streets with many colourful shops and small bars , parks and gardens. In Spanish towns there are so many churches, monasteries and convents as well as many museums. In Segovia the cathedral stands on the edge of a large plaza, built of honey coloured stone with arched windows and numerous pinnacles. It was impressive inside too with many colourful stained glass windows, huge columns, intricate ceilings and lots of gold.

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Spectacularly different was the Alcázar de Segovia, a fortress built high on rocks between two rivers, an incredibly strong position with very steep sides. It was also used as a palace, having numerous towers, tall square keep, a deep moat and historically a drawbridge; it’s fairy tale look with pale golden walls and dark conical turrets and roofs make it very picturesque. After our visit, we followed a trail along the river and through wooded areas which gave a great view of the Alcázar.

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Inside was an array of artefacts, from armour, swords and cannons, to tapestries, paintings and two large thrones. The rooms were huge with elaborate ceilings, friezes and tiling, great windows brought in light and gave views over the surrounding countryside, truly spectacular in every sense of the word.

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A cross country route on smaller, less frequented roads, we made our way to Toledo. At the highest point on our journey we ascended to 6,100 feet with a temperature of 3°. It stayed cold for a lot of our trip until we lost height and eventually gained a steady 12 ° with cloudy skies but no wind. The campsite was easy to find and just out of the town, a short walk of only 15 minutes alongside the river. The town itself is perched up on a hill, everywhere was uphill so our legs got a good workout. We avoided all the religious buildings here, only admiring the architecture from the outside, and concentrated our efforts on walks along the River Tejo, (also known as the Tagus when arrives in Portugal). The wide river encircles the town on almost three sides with small cobbled streets leading down to the river in many places. Cormorants, mallard, coots and white famyard geese were the most numerous birds to be seen although we heard Cettis warblers shouting from the reeds and wrens trilling in the bushes. Overhead red kites circled on thermals and we had occasional views of huge, unidentified raptors drifted with the wind on outspread wings. It was peaceful and green, very relaxing and most enjoyable.

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We had heard about an open-topped bus ride that took a route on the far side of the river which gave great views of the town, however, after Googling for information, we found it cost €18 each for a 50 minute ride. So we walked it instead! Through cobbled streets across the town, all the way down to one of the bridges, along the footpaths following the bus route with long up hills to the vantage point. Great views of the town spread out with the river snaking around it, the road showing where we had walked, and where we still had to get back to before we could have a late lunch. In total 9.5 miles for the day, including the walk back to the campsite!

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Over 200 miles south at Córdoba we stayed 3 nights for free on a parking area only 15 minutes walk into the city and spent our first afternoon walking around the Jewish Quarter through a maze of narrow streets and tall buildings. The flower filled courtyards with fountains and coloured pots were really pretty and it must look amazing in the height of summer. The modern cars looked so big and out of place on the cobbled streets, sometimes filling the entire width, no wonder so many cars are scraped up the sides and dented on the corners. Horse drawn vehicles were available for tourists to ride around to city and there were hop on and off busses too, however we walked and enjoyed the sights and smells of the shops we passed by.

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The most famous destination for visiting is the Mezquita/Cathedral which was spectacular; a blend of Islamic and Christian archicture. The lovely red and white arches above pillars too numerous to count, was the initial impression, creating an open space of light and colour. The oldest arches were created using different coloured stone and bricks with more modern additions created using paint, both blended well together and was not immediately noticeable. Various chapels surrounded the inside walls and huge windows with patterns made from the stonework.

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In the centre is the Christian Cathedral with all the familiar altars, columns and religious paintings. Quite different in comparison to the Islamic style but equally impressive with the high vaulted ceilings, ornately carved, dark wooden quire and colourful altar piece. It was a totally impressive building and although there must have been hundreds of tourists there, it never felt crowded and it was so quiet.

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Christian and Islamic styles, side by side

The Royal Stables of Córdoba were founded in 1570 with the wonderful Andalusian horses, and today occupy a location right in the city. We visited the stables and watched the riders practicing their moves in an open air central school and also in a covered school where we saw in-hand training taking place. We didn’t see the main show as it was at night but being able to see the training for a much smaller fee was the next best thing.

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The Alcazar Palace had displayed some elaborate mosaics, originally found in the late 1950s in the centre of the old city. I was pleased that what Spanish I have learned enabled me to read the descriptions and understand most of the text.

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By now the light drizzle had stopped and the sun was trying to come out, and outside was the best part for me; the gardens with colourful flower beds and formal water features with fountains, benches and trees.

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On our last day in Córdoba we had a second breakfast in the Plaza de Corredera.  It is the only Plaza of its kind in Andalusia with three tiers of residential properties above the colonnades that give space for bars, shops and the market.

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Next day we visited the Palacio de Viana with 12 courtyard gardens open for viewing, absolutely free! They were different in style and ranged from small tree shaded areas to gravelled areas with water features, some with flowers and some with mass greenery and ferns, others simply had trees and pots.

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We have had a great first week sightseeing; weather has been mixed and a little cooler than we would have liked, however, on the up-side we have only had to pay for 2 nights out of 8 so far, which we find most acceptable!

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Author:

We retired at last and 2017 is the start of our next chapter. We now have a home on wheels in which to travel around Europe, follow the sun and whatever else takes our fancy.

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