Thursday, 31 March 2011

NATIONAL PARKS AND RIP-OFF TOURISM

THURSDAY 31st.MARCH

A pleasant Saturday at HORCAJO, apart from having to listen to England being ejected from the One-Day World Cup quarter final by Sri Lanka, and a nice stroll down to the village to explore its charms....which were few as it was shut and in the usual state of being unfinished. It boasts a hotel and is the gateway to the National Park and once tried to smarten itself up but gave up halfway through.
Left on Sunday for TOLEDO and drove across the Park with low cloud obscuring the hills and despite the deteriorating road were rewarded with the sight of a magnificent golden eagle swooping across in front of us to land in a field of cows...obviously looking for a nice calf for lunch.
TOLEDO campsite by lunch time and immediately caught bus to town 10mins away and looking great on hilltop. We agreed that TOLEDO is Top Town and cathedral is Top Cathedral. The GF rates it as the best Church ever but I still like the Mezquita as Top Church. The cathedral is Awesome and has a definite WOW factor everywhere you look...the stained glass is magnifcent, the carved choir stalls are the best ever, the altar blows your mind as it soars to the ceiling with its gothic artistry,the Treasury with its El GReco collection ( not to mention Rubens,Rafael et al) and there are over 20 chapels round the walls some of which are bigger than other churches.
After the cathedral, the tourist office map lists another 27 churches and buildings worth a visit, of which we did 2............BECAUSE TOLEDO IS ALSO
RIP-OFF TOURIST TOWN.......where to begin
Firstly, our intention was to spend 4 nights in Toledo in order to have plenty of time to see the sights but the first problem was the El Greco campsite.Maybe we have been spoilt by ACSI to expect €15 a night so to find them asking €28.70 was a blow to the pursestrings....and unsurprisingly only 3 other units were in residence. We decided to stay only 2 nights at that price and went into town.
Ok, we know that some (not all)cathedrals charge admission but this was €7 each and the audio guide (with headphones that could only be used by one person at a time)was €10........Evora town audio guide was €2 each and is a very representative price.
And then the 27 other minor churches ALL charged a minimum of €2.30 each admission...and nowhere offered an over-65 discount unlike anywhere else.
Nowhere else has charged admission to minor churches. To spend 2 days and see the lot would cost over €150 for 2 people.
And lastly, the Rough Guide's rating of a 'disappointment' due to the 'extraordinary number of day-trippers' taking 'the edge' off the experience was spot on, especially on the Sunday we were there.
So when we got back to the van we decided to move on the following day and did a quick internet search on the weather for likely destinations.
The plan A was to slowly move up to towards Biaritz to follow the same route home as we had taken last year but the forecast for Mon-Thurs was for heavy rain in that region. Plan B was to go over to Valencia where the weather was good, call in to see Terry & Jackie at last, then go up the coast near Figueres before heading home more or less on the plan A route but by a more roundabout way......
So we left TOLEDO on Monday morning but over breakfast I spotted another campsite that looked interesting in another National Park on the way to Valencia but still left room to then drive up to Pamplona-St.Jean de Luz-Biaritz and save a few hundred miles whilst also avoiding Barcelona.
And that's how we came to be at KikoPark (sister site of the one down on the med where the GF nearly came to blows with a surly swiss gnome) at VILLARGORDO DEL CABRIEL......forget the town, it was closed and might reopen next century if the one horse returns....The campsite was ace, out in the wilds on a headland overlooking a huge flooded-valleys reservoir with magnificent scenery. Campsite facilities excellent; even got the bikes out for a ride around. THe only noise was birdsong and the occasional whoosh of the Madrid-Valencia High Speed bullet train as it passed 500m away....the line apparently going straight through the national park 'Hoces de Cabriel'.
Fortunately it is electric,continuous rail,only ran between 7.25-22.30 scarcely hourly and only made a noise like a sudden gust of wind...otherwise it was very pleasant-if isolated-spot.
Like the site at Horcajo, it had lots of bungalows and I suspect that these would,like there, be busy at the weekend. However, on Monday and Tuesday we only there with 2 other vans and by wednesday the Gf had had enough isolation so we set off for PAMPLONA.
We had stayed at a pretty poor site there on the way down so decided to try the site 25kms south.
A terrific drive up there with some great scenery between UTIEL and TERUEL where we crossed great gorges-a mini grand canyon- and passed through an area of Aragon called Rincon de Ademuz, famous for being unheard of. It's the only part of Spain where deaths outnumber births and it has the hardest winters in the country. Teruel looked v.interesting but we couldn't stop and I would like to go back to spend some time among the best Mudejar architecture in Spain.
Finally arrived MENDIGORRIA, which turns out to be a splendid campsite on the Rio Arga nestling beneath a hilltop village with a splendid church of San Pedro and wonderful views across the surrounding hills and valleys,which we explored the following day (the village,not the surroundings).
Plan C now is to go to St.Jean De Luz and stay at the Aire in the town for 2 nights, then find a campsite for another 2 nights to stock up for 3 nights of Aires across France.
nb.....Mendigorria was site of a battle in the Carlist wars

nb2.....have seen Hoopoe on 3 occasions

1 comment:

  1. "Rincon de Ademuz, famous for being unheard of." - brilliant! :)

    nb if the Liberals had pressed harder in the aftermath of the Battle of Mendigorria, would Barak Obama have an easier life today...?

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