Wednesday was a beautiful day- warm sunshine and crystal clear, blue skies. Unfortunately it was followed by a night that was so cold it felt like we were back in Iceland. The sun did not come up until after 8 30, so we hid under the duvet until our bladders could no longer stand it.
Once the sun came up, it was again delightful and, after a leisurely breakfast we tried cycling along the river the other way, away from Salamanca. It was much more a path for mountain bikes than our little Bromptons, so we gave up and tried the road in the same direction to see if we could find the village I had seen on Google maps. It all got a bit scary, with cars zooming past us at high speeds, so we came back and strolled into the local village, Cabrerizos, to see what we could see.
It has a lot of new build, surrounding a fine old church and other original buildings and it was very hard to find any centre.
We eventually found a general store, a bank, a school, a rather perplexing car sales place (just how did they get the cars in?)
and a bar. We bought beer and tapas and had a chat with a friendly local with my stilted Spanish and decided that this is just what we want most on this trip. Seeing little places and meeting locals.
I have seen an awful lot of graffiti on my travels around Spain and a a lot of it is ugly, dull and inappropriately on some really beautiful buildings. There have been some good bits, however.
It looks like the locals feel neglected.
On Friday we headed towards Madrid and the road became more interesting and beautiful as we went
We decided to stop at Avila for some fuel for both us and Camel. It was a lovely surprise when we drove towards the most perfect looking walled city. We managed to park for free by the attractive conference centre (sneakily using the loos for free) and climbed up feeling excited to see what was inside. I hate to quote Forrest Gump, but sometimes life IS like a box of chocolates, much prettier on the outside than the inside. It was just an ordinary town. Oh well, the walls were very pretty and , we think, original and Tim tells me there are 81(ish) towers.
The campsite is just off one of the many motorways that come straight out from Madrid, but it is very pleasant and (more importantly) open. The camping part of it was so empty that we would not have been surprised to see tumbleweeds rolling through.
I did have to herd this visitor out of the campsite before we could pitch the tent
There were a lot of long term caravans with huge amounts of kitsch.
There is a lovely, friendly bar and restaurant that does that free tapas thing. We thought the place was pretty well perfect.
It was perfect until the music started up. Someone nearby started playing VERY LOUD, rubbish “house’ (?) or ‘garage’ (?) music at about midnight and kept it going till 8 (yes 8!) in the morning. If I could have tracked the devils down I would have gone round today and played some very loud Verdi to get my own back. The lucky Dutch lady in the caravan along the way slept through the lot, apparently.
On saturday we caught a bus into the centre of Madrid. It says a lot about Spain that you can stay in a campsite within 45 minutes bus journey of the capital for only £15 a night and the bus only costs £5 return. I was not sure about Madrid to start off with, as it felt cold and not particularly welcoming.
We then had a wander around the palace gardens, found the main tourist areas, listened to a a couple of blokes singing their hearts out, and then a sweet couple of pensioners who seemed to be trying to augment their pensions on accordion and tambourine, followed by a very competent string ensemble.
It grew on me big time and then it occurred to me that Madrid is much like London, you can make what you want of it. We eventually found a nice little bar, off the main drag and stopped for a snack. I met a nice young woman called Gail in Salamanca, who is travelling around Europe with her husband for a couple of years and she told me about the joys of Madrid bars. It was true! They give you free tapas with each drink and the tapas get better each time (even if you stay sober). I won’t go into details, but I will just say that the nice young barman apologised because they had given us every variety of tapas available. We had a great lunch, all for about £13. I can’t imagine that happening in London!