We’ve visited a lot of the world. Spain was never really a country that we had given much thought to, mostly because the bulk of our travel has been to long haul destinations and not Europe. We knew it was famous for flamenco and sangria, Barcelona and Benidorm, but what we did not know was how magical and breath-taking the country actually is! It has truly surprised us.
Spain is mountainous with a spectacular coastline. Its 5000km long coastline is dramatic and glistening. The snow cap peaks of the Picos De Europa, and it’s desert-like towns in Andalucia have to be seen to be believed. It is rich in culture and history, full of romance and smiles. Spain really does have it all. We know now that 8 weeks clearly isn’t enough time to do this beautiful country justice, but this taste of Spain has given us an appetite for more!
Our 8 weeks through this vast and changeable country began in the ferry port of Santander. After 24 hours of sailing through choppy waters from the UK, we made it to the first test of driving on the other side of the road in a massive motorhome. Venturing out of the ferry port we came up to our first obstacle…a roundabout. Yes may sound strange but driving around the roundabout on the opposite side whilst taking what feels like a truck around it was a fun challenge, suffice to say went without a glitch.
Now, it may sound odd, but we hadn’t actually slept in the motorhome before our first night in Spain. We were novices, juniors, a team of two with not a clue (plus a toddler). We spent two nights at an elephant-inhabited Aire in the middle of nowhere (another rhyme, can I keep this up?), and took some time to learn the basics of our motorhome. It was quite stressful, to say the least. We had to learn how to use a gas hob, remember to take the lid off the water boiler point, get in the bathroom (yes, it’s tiny), and make up the jigsaw puzzle that is the bed. Add in a very active 14-month old into the mix and there’s your challenge. Once we reached the time to leave, we headed over to our first attempt at emptying and filling up our new home. Needless to say, we had to ask another motorhomer for a few tips on what goes where, and Terry got pretty wet in some kind of liquid (hoping the fresh water kind).
So that’s the beginning, and we’ve written many blogs about the middle, and now we have come to the end of this leg of our journey. Our eight weeks in Spain amounted to one of the longest periods of time we have stayed in a single country on a trip. To really get a feel for the sometimes mystical landscape and unique nature you need at least that amount of time! To round off our trip in Spain, we have compiled a map of the places we stayed which we hope will help anyone reading it. We also put together the Travel As They Grow highlights of Spain with a baby and a motorhome (trying to rival the Lonely Planet!).
OUR TOP 8 HIGHLIGHTS OF SPAIN WITH A BABY AND A MOTORHOME
PICOS DE EUROPA
Nothing prepares you for the sheer drama you encounter when you drive through the national park. You weave through a gorge with a semi-motorhome-friendly road cut out at the bottom of imposing cliffs. You are teased with snippets of snow high on the mountains. You are tempted by the end result but are slowed down by the overhanging rock above you that you must swerve to miss as it appears out of nowhere, round a blind corner! And then you see it, the Fuente De mountain with its bright white snow and perfectly angled top. Are we in Spain, I asked Terry with utter delight. In all of our travels through Spain, at that moment, we stopped the motorhome directly at the bottom of the mountain and we were speechless.
We took the cable car to the top of the mountain to see the real scale of what we were presented with. It wasn’t just any cable car ride, ambling up a mountain though, this journey took on 1000 metres in about 3 mintues and was an incredible experience in itself to say the least! Snowcap mountains all around, everywhere you look. Ethan just took it all in. His first experience of snow and what better place to feel the snow than at the top of a mountain. He sure is a lucky boy.
The Picos de Europa is mesmerising. It draws you in and makes you never want to leave. It offers so much exploration. The caves there rank as some of the deepest in the world, and it’s mountain range peaking at some 8,000 feet high. The park is full of engendered species from the Chamois to the European brown bear. And up in the sky falcons and golden eagles spread their wings.
It is a place you go and could stay for years exploring. Perfect for showing your children how wonderful the world looks.
For more, read: http://travelastheygrow.com/a-must-do-in-northern-spain-parador-de-fuente-de/
So this town doesn’t have the drama of the snow cap peaks, but rather it has the genuine charm of Spanish culture. It’s cobbled streets and yellow stone city walls coax you in and make you want to see more. This is a town where you take your time. It’s small enough to see everything in a day and big enough to spend that day immersing yourself into the Zamorans (not sure if I made that term up?) way of life.
The town with a population of just 65,000 lies 62km from Salamanca. The city is crossed by the beautiful Rio Duero and the path by its side saw many mums with strollers and joggers galore. The river housed at its widest point the Puente de Peidra, a majestic sixteen-arched bridge that yearns to be admired. However, it isn’t the best focal point of the town. There’s more.
Its buildings effortlessly take you back to the Middle Ages, with the windy streets and castle walls that protect the town. You can just imagine the gates of the walls closing with the siren of a siege, with the dominance of the castle and cathedral as its saviour.
The yellow sandstone walls that surround the city spellbind you into another era with their grandeur and imposing beauty. The grounds of the castle are filled with flower lined green spaces which are great for a good crawl about whilst you admire the majesty of Zamora. A place rich in culture and charm, and will give your baby a view into the life of another era.
For more, read: http://travelastheygrow.com/little-secret-zamora-wont-stay-secret-long/
THE LAKES OF CADIZ
Climbing through the mountain roads of the province of Cadiz, you could never imagine you would find lakes dotted around the mountain floor. As you drive through on the road which links Arcos de la Frontera with Antequera you are treated to mountains, a castle and a beautiful lake. Add into this the usually charming and ultra clean looking towns named Los Pueblos Blancos due to their white-washed buildings, you could be mistaken for thinking you were on a movie set.
Los Pueblos Blancos are small towns dotted about the Cadiz province. They creep up on you around nearly all of the major twists and turns on the mountains. Steeped in history and local village personality, these little towns are worth a stop and a good explore. Just don’t take you motorhome into them like we did. The roads are far too skinny. At one point, in Bornos a tiny Pueblo Blanco, we had to get police escorted out of town. Not because we had done anything naughty, but because we got stuck in their mousetrap of a one-way system and needed a pointer. The local Police went next level and escorted us out for the next 25 minutes. Eek.
Just driving through the Cadiz mountains, lakes and white washed towns is an epic road trip. You are always in awe of your surroundings and the camera won’t stay in its bag for long.
For more, read: http://travelastheygrow.com/magic-cadiz-worth-exploring/
By just googling Barcelona, you will find tonnes of recommended activities to do. It’s full of them. Full of days and days of strolling around Las Ramblas, taking in the architecture of Gaudi’s masterpieces, shopping on their central high street, and simply picnicking in the parks. Barcelona will never leave you bored.
There is definitely something sweet in the air of Barcelona as we experienced nothing but happy faces. Yes it was sunny and this makes most people smile, but also there was a sense of love for the city, the culture and the life. It truly is a city that has a big impact on you. It’s navigable easily, but is big enough to have all of the facilities of a big city, and even has its own beach. The city seems to have its own cities within it. Each one contrasted against the other. From the medieval quarter to the modernist art galleries, and to the streets full of designer brands. And let’s not forget the sea and the mountains.
It’s perfect for kids, especially babies as the metro system is easy and the streets are pretty flat. We did take one massive hike up to the Parc de Guell, which in some places was so steep it required six street escalators in a row, but the trek could have been made with a pushchair (and someone with incredible calf muscles).
You can scratch the surface of Barcelona in a day, we’d recommend at least 3 days to really get a good feel for the city and what it offers. It’s a tempting place with treats at every turn.
For more, read: http://travelastheygrow.com/exploring-barcelona-baby-motorhome/
PARC NATURAL DEL DELTA DE L’EBRE
So nothing quite prepares you for the flamingos. Flamingos in Spain I hear you say. Well yes, this park is famous for housing around 300 species of wild birds including herons, gulls and the exotic flocks of pink flamingos.
The river Ebro is Spain’s largest river and stretches almost all the way across Spain. The delta itself feels very remote with a strange flat landscape covered in rice fields. You drive for miles without seeing a soul until you reach more flat land with a lake carving its way out of the surrounding vegetation. At some points, this part of Spain reminded me of a lonely western movie. I could just see it as a vast landscape of nothing more than a handful of houses, a few horses, and a couple of grass eating cowboys. The land seems truly desolate and yet supports so much life and nature!
A few lakes in the delta are home to hundreds of flamingos, dipping their heads in and out for food. This land is all about the sky and the lakes. The birds dominate your view and spotting them with a qualifying title becomes your quiz for the day.
A trip to the delta gives you yet another part of Spain you may not have known existed. It’s a place that seems to take you to a totally different country, it certainly surprised us.
How could we forget the city of Ronda. It definitely makes the list. High above the fancy pants hotels of Marbella lies the mountain city of Ronda. Tourists flock here all year and at first, you think what am I missing? It’s just a few industrial looking buildings and roads, but by thinking this you are mistaken. The city draws you in and then holds you tight, you’ll never want to let go. It gives you goose pimples when you peer over the cliff edges of the city and it warms your heart when you become aware of the historic romance that surrounds it. The long cobbled lanes that are the heart of the city and take pride of place in its appeal. It’s a city that you will enjoy exploring with its stunning gorge bridge splitting the two halves.
It gives you goose pimples when you peer over the cliff edges of the city and it warms your heart when you become aware of the historic romance that surrounds it. The long cobbled lanes that are the heart of the city and take pride of place in its appeal. It’s a city that you will enjoy exploring with its stunning gorge bridge splitting the two halves.
Established in the 9th Century, this mountain top city is one of the oldest in Spain. It is surrounded by glistening river valleys and lush green mountain terrain filled with farmland and tiny little houses, it truly is a place that will literally take your breath away.
It rained so hard when we drove up to Las Medulas, we could barely see what was out of the window. We parked up at the Tourist Information and hoped the rain would clear. It didn’t all day, so we decided to sleep there the night in the hope it would be better in the morning. It was quite a trek to get there so would have been a shame to leave so soon.
The sun rose the next morning and gave us a beautiful vista from the motorhome window. Las Medulas in all its glory. The view was of jagged mountains that were stripped down by Roman’s during their years of mining. It was said that around 5 tonnes of gold were ripped from the hillsides here, and what was left was this weird and surreal landscape. It felt like something out of the movies, something you could only believe if you saw it. We were the only ones walking around the eerie landscape, following a trail walked by many, and many Romans as well.
A trip here transports you to another different era, a world of blood, sweat and tears. The world where gold was the prize and the Romans ruled the world.
For more, read: http://travelastheygrow.com/the-eerie-silence-of-la-medulas/
PARC NATURAL DE LA SERRA DE MONSTANT
We stumbled across this national park whilst waiting to start our voluntary project in Aragon. The Monstant mountain range is rocky and colourful, standing tall above the foresty floor occupying a total of 9,242 hectares. With tonnes of possible walks and hikes in the area, this national park offers something for everyone. It is famous for climbing as evident through the hundreds of orange ropes visible when admiring the views.
Suriana is a mountain top village with spectacular views over the mountain range. We attempted it in the motorhome only to decide to give up while we were ahead and head back down. The roads were well paved but extremely steep and not suitable for anything bigger than a small camper. We learnt some lessons there.
We hiked from a beautiful village names Monstant (centre of the park). We chose to do what we thought was an easy 3-hour circular trek up and down the mountain. However, after 2 hours trekking, we were greeted by a sheer drop and a tiny one foot in front of the other type path. As much as the views were mind blowing, I mean insanely puzzling by its dramatic difference in fauna and flora surrounding the mountain, we were stuck. With our only option to turn back, we trekked our path back to the motorhome in time to see the sun go down.
This national park is stunning, with hidden tracks leading to forests, hidden paths leading to cliff tops and hidden areas to stand in awe of the scenery. Truly worth your time finding all of its hidden gems.
For more, read: http://travelastheygrow.com/mountains-v-motorhomes-epic-climb-serra-de-monstant/
RIGHT, ROUND IT UP MUM
So I bet you are wondering when I will stop with the highlights. Well now is that time. I bet you are also wondering why there isn’t a beach highlight considering this is what Spain is well known for. Spain has the most amazing and spectacular coastline, but I thought it was important to point out other places that are aren’t necessarily as well know.
Spain offered us the most incredible camping spots and we woke up to some incredible views, including some truly amazing beaches. Ethan was so excited every morning to see something new, and his current love is to point out the birds. We wild camped our way through Spain, only paying for a handful of nights. It has a great community of motorhomers too, ready to greet you and chat to you when you arrive at a remote part of the country.
It’s magical, colourful and musical. It fills you with excitement, trepidation and contemplation. It takes you to the top of some of Europes highest peaks and shows you the beauty of the ocean through its turquoise colours. Go see it for yourself, you will not be disappointed.
Adios Espana, hasta pronto!