Bulls, (more) Bridges and Bells

Driving through this part of Spain (Andalucia) brings some ancient advertising hoardings to view.  These towering monuments to commerce were outlawed in 1994 along with all other roadside hoardings but were brought back by public outcry  and now the Osborne Bull and the Tio Pepe guitarist reign supreme in the Andalucian landscape as part of the National Heritage.

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We were heading to Cadiz which was built on a peninsula but the need for easier access to the city necessitated building yet another enormous bridge.  cadizbridge

The bridge has a nickname and is called “la Pepa” perhaps after a popular children’s TV character. It is one of the highest bridges in Europe and I would have loved to have stopped in the middle for a bit of fishing but I would have needed 69 metres of fishing line just to reach the water.

We went to Cadiz knowing that we could stay on a large mixed parking site near the port for just 3 Euro a night.  (See the dot on the map below.)   The port noise was present but not too disturbing – lorries reversing, fork lifts lifting and ships shipping etc.  What we didn’t know, however, was that we were just by a theatre and even closer to a nightclub.  Once the port quietened down after teatime, the local drum and trumpet band turned up (Yes a DRUM and TRUMPET Band) and started practicing outdoors for the upcoming carnival parade.  They marched, drummed and trumpeted within 20 metres of our home until about 10:00 then gradually wandered off.  Time then for the nightclub to open.  They had a DJ whose sole purpose in life was to keep us all awake until 3a.m.

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I had hoped to do some fishing just by the car park but the sea wall was lined by a giants sugar cubes.  These blocks were 3 metres on a side in order to create a barrier to the waves.  They created a more than effective barrier to fishermen, if you fall between the blocks you are crab food.   I did walk out to the end of the “Y” shape on the map and despite joining several other fishermen and women, I caught nothing!

Cadiz old town is a very interesting city and boasts several hundred watchtowers used in ancient sailing times to get the owners in touch with their incoming vessels.  The shot below is a half dozen pictures sewn in to one 360 degree panorama.  It was taken from the top of one of those towers.

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The tower housed a “Camera Obscura”, an arrangement of mirrors and lenses that focussed an image on to a 2 metre wide tabletop screen within a darkened room. (The “camera Obscura” bit.) We were able to get an English language guided tour of the city without moving an inch.

We were able to follow this up with a visit in person as it were to many of the sites of the city.  We visited a busy fish market with the most amazing range of seafood species.  There were whole swordfish with metre long swords, spiny sea urchins, crabs, whelks, and 50 shades of prawns.

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Cadiz old town is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways.  Tiny doorways with interesting door furniture lead to even narrower ways.  So easy to get lost there.

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Luckily there are plenty of landmarks around the centre.  We visited the cathedral where I spent a happy hour listening to my own personal tour guide courtesy of a pre recorded message on a tiny hand held mp3 player.    We were able to climb the bell tower where they had lots of …..you guessed it – bells.

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Unfortunately for my hearing we arrived just before midday and despite a friendly warning from a local (who appeared to have climbed the 40 metre spiral slope just to get a signal on his mobile phone as he talked on it all the time he was in view) we stayed to listen to the 12 chimes.  Standing within a couple of metres of the bells, they were as impressive as the view.

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After another night at the same car park, (Surely – Surely they wouldn’t repeat the same noises as last night?) with an exact encore of the previous evenings performance, we paid up and drove on towards the town of Conil De La Frontera passing a few interesting sites on the way.

The port of Conil is a centre for the tuna fishing boats and is a hive of activity.  There are, however, some very strange sights here including the hundreds of anchors awaiting ships:

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And the graveyard of smaller boats:

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We arrived at our destination; Camping Rosaleda in Conil just about teatime and the view from our window was impressive enough to convince both fo us to stay here for a while.

Bridges, Towers and Bruises

Once again we enter Spain, this time just about as far south as it goes.  We crossed this bridge between Portugal and Spain.  A massive piece of engineering. I wonder which nation had to pay for it – Spain, Portugal or the E.U.? It was free from tolls going to Spain but we did see a toll booth on the other carriageway.

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We headed south from the border towards Isla Cristina because of all the flood plains and saltmarsh we could see on the map.  It turned out to be a depressing landscape of plastic enshrouded industrial agriculture.  Not only did the plastic cover the crops, it covered the adjascent saltmarshes, roads and wherever else the wind decided to take it.  Thousands of tons of plastic waste littered the countryside.  It was ploughed in to the ground, wound around trees, flowing in the streams, scattered across roads and tucked into every conceivable niche.  What are the farmers going to tell their grandchildren when they come to grow crops?

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Not bothering to stay, we headed to Seville and the only bridge to cross the river Guadalquivir.  We had been told of a good cheap place to stay near the city centre but as we were looking for it we stumbled across some other motorhomers in what we have come to term a “Freebie” – a tolerated overnight parking place.

We were in good company:

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The Seville authorities seemed pretty relaxed about parking. Some French Fighter pilot just parked on the side of the road with his most unusual campervan or it may just have been a bit of a Mirage.mirage-f1-sevilla

Seville was not somewhere we were going to remember with any fondness.  We walked in to the city and did what we usually do in these circumstances; we sought the Tourist Information Office.  Once there we waited whilst two sour looking women faffed about with their computers, not even looking up at us although we waited five minutes.  When one deigned to catch our eye we asked for a city map and some information on what we should visit.  Half way through her explanation, her mobile phone rang and she spent another 3 or 4 minutes chatting on it.  Eventually I just took the map and we walked out without letting her finishing her spiel.  As we reached the door, she put down her phone and shouted “The map is one euro!”  I chucked the map down in disgust and offered her a few poignant words of advice on customer relations!

We did find some interesting places despite the aid of the Tourist Office.

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There were some spectacular roofs and towers with matching tiles.

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A pity about the communications mast intruding, I bet the architect didnt have this in mind in 1568 when a former mosque minaret was converted to the bell tower of the second largest cathedral in the world.

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It is amazing what you had to do in 1568 to get a reception on your mobile phone.

 

The trees in the squares and plazas of Seville were full of ring neck parakeets who quite happily took up the role played by pigeons in other cities.

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In fact the two species seemed happy to share the role of “City Watchers” from the same branch.

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There were other very interesting touristy places like the Plaza de Espana but about this time Sheila took a tumble, falling over a step in a dingy passageway and gaining several cuts and bruises in the process.  This just about put the lid on our Seville excursion and we limped our way back to the motorhome and took off towards Cadiz.

 

Last of Algarve for now.

Hate to be too british and talk about the weather but it has had quite an influence on what we have been able to do here in Portugal.  We have had what you might call superb English spring days complete with wild flowers and birds most of the time.

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These Paper White Narcissus growing in a ditch next to our camp site were a delight in January.

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These Brugmansia would do well to flower in a greenhouse back home but grow in gardens and hedgerows here.

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Between the rows of trees in the orange groves spring flowers grow in profusion.

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The fruit and nut trees are all in blossom making any day in January like a March or April day back home.

This month has been a good one for meeting family and friends.  Dave and Jacks came down in their motorhome and were with us for a couple of weeks –  a time for good food and wine and plenty of sightseeing.  Rob and Alison also flew in for 3 days at a luxury villa complete with indoor swimming pool and en suite bathrooms (with a BATH!) Here is Quarteria; a good place to stroll up and down the promenade with my son and his wife, sampling the local food and drink.

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Rob flew in and out of Faro airport where Sheila and I found a vantage point to wave them goodbye as they left.  (They never waved back – probably too busy consuming their free champagne and peanuts!)

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Then on to Albufeira to catch up with some of Sheila’s friends: Mike and Lin who were in the area for the golf (there is a lot of golf about in the Algarve) and met us for some beers and a wonderful lunch on the seafront.  We stayed just a couple of miles north of Albufeira town in  grand campsite with no fewer than 3 outdoor (cold cold cold!) swimming pools but had a great pitch with morning to evening sun.

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Getting in to town was different matter, however. Over to Sheila for a blow by blow description:

How not to catch a bus from Camping Albufeira to Albufeira Old Town

 

Having sent John to the reception to ask about buses, he was told to catch the bus outside the gates of the campsite to the Old Town bus station…..Sounds simple and as we were new to this area and having made arrangements to meet my friends Mike and Lin for Brunch we decided the bus might be quicker and easier than walking. Mike had advised us to make sure we got off at the Old Town bus station and not the new bus station and they would meet us there.

We arrived outside the gates in plenty of time and stood at a bus stop; we observed a few buses passing in both directions old the dual carriageway and decided that as our bus stop was on the wrong side of the road, it was probably only used for the return journey. We braved the traffic and rushed across the road in a gap in the traffic mere seconds before a bus pulled up..Phew! We then asked politely for tickets to the Old town bus station. He then pointed to the bus turning up at the bus stop we had just vacated and said in pretty good English that that was the one we needed and his bus didn’t go direct and would drop us at the new bus station where we could get another bus. While having this conversation the bus we wanted had already pulled off so we made the decision to stay put and get a connecting bus. So we found ourselves in the New Bus Station which was about the same distance from the Old Town as we were when we got on the bus….not a lot of progress in the right direction yet. Ever hopeful or just plain naïve we waited ten minutes for the bus we had been told would take us to the old town. It turned up and we stood patiently by the door as the driver ignored us and obviously did the counting up, tidying away before handing over the bus to another driver, who then chose to check all the tyres and windscreen wiper blades!! We were the first in the queue and being very British thought the local old lady with the walking stick very rude when she pushed in front of us, again being very British we stood back and smiled politely hiding our real feelings. (We later saw signs in a bakery to the effect that old people, the disabled and pregnant women will be served ahead of you in a queue. This is actually very respectful and nice!) We got on the bus, which is a circular bus (the bus is actually “bus” shaped but it is driven on a circular route) but still we were slightly puzzled when we passed the same auditorium 3 times and had still not stopped at the Old Town bus station. John eventually said he thought we were just leaving the Old Town and got out his phone with GPS…it clearly showed that we were heading away from the Old town….I suggested that John pressed his stop button which was located above his head which he did. Nothing flashed above the driver as it had when others had pressed their button so I suggested he press it again a little harder. Still nothing happened and we were now at least 2 kilometres away from where we wanted to be! The bus pulled to a stop and we could see the sea about 500 meters down the road so in a quick flash agreement we got off and decided to head for the beach and walk back! We starting walking along the sand and phoned and spoke to Lin who said she was sat having a coffee with Mike at the Old Town Bus Station! They walked down to the beach and we hurried the 2 kilometres along the sand until we met them. Bruch was put on hold and a few beers and a good catch-up later we all enjoyed a lovely lunch of pan fried sea bass sat looking out over the beach in the sunshine. A few days later when we again visited Alburferia and caught the correct bus into town we walked back as we realised we were so near it would be quicker!

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Once in town, Albuferia presents more than one face.  Of course it is the cheap and easy to get to summer holiday destination full of night clubs and bars for the brits to embarras themselves in but it has other aspects.  The harbour is a thriving fishing port well worth a peek.  There are thousands of the concrete hotel and villa complexes (some of which were half built and then abandoned) overshadowing places like the green tiled hotel from a bygone era.

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Onwards tomorrow and this wiry old knight atop the last roundabout before the bridge over the River Guadiana will be the last thing we see before re-entering Spain.

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