We drove about three hours from Monsanto in Portugal over to
near Salamanca to spend the night before driving into Salamanca
to pick up our friends Helen and Francoise on the 14th September and who had arrived a couple of days beforehand from Paris and San Sebastian.
We passed more cork tree plantations, many with their barks stripped showing their very red trunks. We also saw a truck laden with cork bark headed obviously to a factory where they make everything from bags to shoes and knick knacks for tourists.
The small villages that we saw from the road were whitewashed and
with red terracotta tiled roofs.
We headed for Avila (St Teresa of Avila, my namesake) which was a beautiful walled town. We had a good look around the old quarter before moving on to the campsite “Arco Iris” about forty minutes from Madrid. We spent two nights there and caught the bus in the morning to Madrid to explore the city. We walked for a number of hours taking in the palace, food markets and beautiful gardens. Being a Monday the Prado museum was closed but I had been to it many years before. I did remember the very wide avenues lined with trees in the city.

On the 16th September we left Madrid and went first to Toledo which only took about an hour.
It was about thirty years since I had been there but I did remember the town gates and bridge over to the old part of town. We went into the cathedral where an exhibition of El Greco’s paintings were on display. The techniques he adopted for his paintings had left many with still vibrant colours.
We opted for a small train that made it’s way in and around the town as the streets were cobbled, steep and it was quite a distance to see all of the main sights.
From Toledo we travelled about 4hours down towards Cordoba passing scores of kilometres of olive groves alond the way. It had reacheed 30degrees as we arrived at “Albufeira” campsite outside the city. On the way to Cordoba we passed the “Man of La Mancha” country with it’s castle and many windmills on the hills around it.
The town below was quite large but was like a ghost town. There was no one on the streets and only a few men in a couple of bars in town.

The next day when drove into the city but could find no parking for the van close to town so we parked a little way out, had a good coffee at a local bar and caught a local bus into the centre of the old town. It started to rain and that kept up for the whole day which made it not so pleasant to walk around but we persevered and were determined to see the “Mesquite cathedral/mosque” which looked spectacular. Once we had done that we caught a taxi back to the van and found our way to “Villsom” camping for three nights.
We had a lay day the following day the 18th September which was also Maurice’s birthday and after a recommendation from our hosts at the camping/hotel site we caught a taxi to “Bar Jaula” in the nearest town of “Dos Hermanas”. The taxi driver warned us in Spanish (most of what I got) that the bar would not open for dinner before 8 o’clock so we had a couple of drinks at a bar next door.
We had been told that the Spanish eat dinner late (10pm onwards) and the near empty outdoor tables and chairs were starting to fill by the time we had finished our excellent tapas dinner. It was at least a lovely warm night and we could sit outside. We had also been warned thank goodness that their tapas portions were large (they served four of us amply) so we adjusted our ordering.
The food was delicious – very fresh and we tried a good range of food from prawn salad, potato salad, two beef dishes and fried cod.

The next day promised to be more or less fine so we took the bus into Seville to see the sights of the city. We were disappointed as it started to rain as we got off the bus and on to the “hop on hop off bus” and continued to rain much harder for the rest of the day. The “Plaza D’Espagna” was the hightlight of the day with it’s beautiful tiled railings and murals in an enormous square which houses municipal buildings for the city.

We enjoyed the meal the previous night so much we went back for more but the bar was much busier being a Friday night. We enjoyed our meal and the gin and tonics and walked the 1/2 hour back to the campsite.

We headed south over the mountains the next day to Ronda a lovely town bustling with people and then on to Marbella to see what the seaside resort was like on the Costa del Sol. It was very neat and tidy with hundreds of appartment blocks and a long promenade at the beach front.
A bit too commercialised for our liking but was good to sea. We continued on past Malaga to our campsite for the night before going back into Malaga the next day. Unfortunately the bungalow accommodation for the girls was full so they had to go to a hostel
down the road. We were surprised that all the cabins in the campsite were full as we hadn’t encountered that this year even in
the high season and they had had a storm the day before we got there and it rained again the day after we got there.
We picked up some supplies from an enormous “Carrefour” Supermarket in every sense of the word. An enormous place selling everything imaginable. The selection of fresh food was amazing and there was a special section for entire “Jamon”.

We spent the morning in Malaga on Sunday 21st September and while Maurice rested his ankle (arthritis) in the van we found markets by the harbour and bought a few small things. Francoise and I made it to the magnificent cathedral and former mosque which was an interesting building in front of a nice little square. There were crowds of people walking around as it was a Sunday and at least it didn’t rain. From there we drove over the Sierra Nevada mountains to near Granada to a very atmospheric campsite called “Reina Isobel where the two girls stayed in a very Spanish looking bungalow.
Although not raining it was very cloudy, warm and humid.