On leaving St Jean-de-Luz we decide to travel across the interior of Spain to get to Cadiz on the southern coast. We’re flexible about the route but about 350 kilometres a day is the maximum we want to travel. Using the tried and tested approach of putting your index finger on one bit of the map and your thumb on another, we decide to head for Burgos in Castilla y León for our first stop. That’s the only reason really. It’s about ‘that far.’
OH/MY/GOD, as irritating people say in US sitcoms. What an incredibly beautiful city. At 2,818 feet above sea level, it’s 4°C and there’s a clear blue sky. The banks of the river which run through the centre of the city are a masterpiece of town planning, with plenty of room for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. The planting and landscaping is stunning, and beautifully cared for. There’s a real sense of civic pride about the place. We visit the Museum of Human Evolution and Burgos Cathedral. We roam and stare and eat and stare some more. We love it and decide to stay a couple of days before moving on to our next finger/thumb destination, Plasencia.
Yes. Hmm. Well, it’s a bit different. There’s a rumour that Plascencia has a Roman aqueduct and a medieval walled centre but they keep them well hidden. Try as we might we can’t find anything to gawp at. The Tourist Office is so well concealed that an hour of Google mapping produces nothing. Nada. Finally we find a ‘You are here’ map but it’s so covered with graffiti that it’s unreadable. We do find a souvenir shop though, decked out with bras, plastic flower pots, sacks of potatoes, brooms. Then we strike lucky and stumble onto the Plaza Espana, a teeming, lovely example of Spanish nightlife. Children playing, families eating, lovers strolling, tapas, wine…after a couple of the last, Plasencia doesn’t seem so bad after all.
Next morning we head for Mérida, the capital of Extremadura, completely unaware that it’s home to the most impressive and extensive Roman ruins in Spain. They are sprinkled around the town in unexpected places, like the Temple of Diana, which sits in an unremarkable side street. The Roman bridge which spans the Guadiana river is the longest surviving structure of its kind, both in length and antiquity, in the world. The jewel in the crown though is the Roman Theatre, part of the archaeological site of Mérida, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Every summer the theatre is the venue for the performances of the Mérida Classical Theatre Festival.
So, in just three hops we’ve crossed Spain and arrived in Cadiz, but we’ve fallen in love with the beauty and variety of the interior of this huge country. The exploration will continue…
Notes for campers: In Burgos we stayed at the Fuentes Blancas campsite a short distance from the city centre along a dedicated cycle path. It’s an ACSI campsite with good facilities and an excellent restaurant.
In Plasencia we stayed at La Chopera campsite. It’s a quiet place with shaded pitches under trees. Very pleasant with good facilities. Bike path into Plasencia.
In Mérida we stayed at Parking Teatro Romano, a dedicated motorhome aire in a public car park in the centre of the town. 24 hour security, very helpful attendant. Electric hook up, grey waste, chemical disposal and fresh water available.