It’s winter in the Dordogne and time to head south for a tiny bit of winter sun. A few years ago Gerry decided that we should escape the cold and the grey and head to Portugal; we do love Portugal but this year decided that we would wander elsewhere and try Estepona in the south of Spain.
We left home in the rain and drove down to the Spanish border under a very grey sky. As we crossed the border at Irun we had sleet that stayed with us as we drove on towards Burgos; which didn’t make for a pleasant drive. I sent the Gazelles a photo as we passed Belorado and my thoughts wandered back to the warm sunny days 10 months ago when me, Jaqui and Sarah had giggled our way across that path. However, my navigation duties forced me back to the motorway, the sleet and today’s destination.
Our plan was to head south on the road to Madrid. We had booked a room in a hotel in a little village called Lerma, which sits beside the motorway but just inside the province of Burgos. This little village could have been any camino stop but sadly there were no arrows. There was though a ducal palace which is these days a very nice Parador. This stunning building looks out over the plains and from our room we could see for miles and miles; I double checked to ensure there was no camino here. There wasn’t but maybe there should be.
We wandered around the village but it’s freezing and none of the restaurants were open and dinner wasn’t being served until 9:00 pm so we headed back to the Parador. We partook of our free Parador Amigo glass of wine and opted for dinner in the hotel restaurant (which was OK but not the same as eating in one of the local bars).
Sleep came quickly as did the sunrise and we skipped breakfast and headed back to the motorway and onwards to Madrid and the Mediterranean beyond. Today the sky was bright blue, the air was bitterly cold and as we drove closer to Madrid we could see snow. First only on top of the distant hills but later it was also beside the roads. First it was only a light dusting but later, as we drove higher, it became heavier. We’d read that the motorways had been closed a few days ago but today the roads were clear and we drove on enjoying he wintery views. On we drove, south through Madrid. The snow disappeared and the landscape changed. This is camino country and to one side we had the Levante and to the other we had the Mozarabe and above us of course the Madrid. Oh it’s a beautiful drive. That same familiar ache returned; pulling me back. “Come walk” it called but we had miles and miles to go so I simply looked and longed and the landscape changed. Onwards past Granada and the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Today was a magnificent drive.
It was 7 hours before we hit the coast and we passed the last hour with me reading Gerry his twitter feed Exeter Chiefs, Notts County and Exeter FC. It wasn’t the best of days for his teams but it did help pass the final leg of the journey.
We spent a couple of days by the coast before heading off again to Seville. We’d agreed to meet some friends there; they are also escaping the winter in Portugal.
Oh the bittersweet memories as we drove in along the same route that my bus had taken from the airport. We parked under the very grand Alfonso Hotel but we weren’t staying there… we had an apartment in the old town already sorted and waiting for us. I carried our overnight things in my rucksack. More bittersweet memories, walking towards the cathedral with a pack on my back searching for old friends.
What a wonderful day we had. Revisiting the Alcazar, with plenty of time to see it all. Wandering the city with Gerry, trying to remember where we visited so long ago on our honeymoon; the old town, the parks, the most magnificent Plaza de Espagna… oh what a lovely day we had.
We wandered back to the cathedral and I pointed out the plaque which designates the start of the Via and the first arrows on the wall… aaah more memories. Paulette had booked tickets for a flamenco show so we had an early dinner before heading off to find the little theatre. It was a great show and fitting end to a perfect day.
On a whim this morning over breakfast I suggested we visit Italica; a last minute choice but a great idea. More bitterweet though… Triana bridge where we met the Bordeaux guys and the dutch couple… The industrial units; I think we stopped there for a boots off? The old monastry in Santiponca where we spent an hour in the cool and of course Italica. Inevitably someone mentioned Monty Python… oh again the memories of those other jokes on that other visit.
As with the Alcazar, we had the morning to wander at leisure around this huge and amazing site. When we seen our fill we stopped for lunch in the bar opposite before bidding a found farewell to our friends and heading back to Estapona.
Driving away we followed the arrows… I remember crossing there… I remember those trees… that’s where the brollies came out. I sent Maggie a photo… oh Maggie the memories… what adventures we had!
I never visited the cathedral… I know I’ll be back in Seville so I’ll do it then.