Sunday, 28 June 2015


At last we made our way to Santiago de Compostela, the third most popular focus of pilgrimages after Jerusalem and Rome.  The camp site was a short bus ride from the centre of town and very cramped but it was well worth the effort as we have dreamed of coming here ever since we became aware of it's existence when we visited various towns on the pilgrimage routes.

On Saturday morning we caught the bus to town and when we got off, looking a bit puzzled about which direction to take, a very kind lady also on the bus, took us up some steps, past the market and through some narrow streets to show us the way to the cathedral. We stopped for a coffee first and found ourselves surrounded by pilgrims celebrating their arrival and greeting people they had met along the way.  A bit later we saw a group of musicians setting up ready for a concert so we sat and listened for a while before going into the huge cathedral.

The interior was amazing, lots of gold decorations and little chapels all around the outer edge with a huge completely gold crypt containing the relics of St James in the centre next to the nave.  The seats were filling up with people, many of them obviously pilgrims with their scallop shells hanging from their bags.  There was a censor hanging on a very long chain suspended from the ceiling which is swung during the masses every day, however we didn't get to see it in action as we didn't stop to partake in the service but we heard about from some people we met on the campsite. 

After a delicious tapas lunch in a lively bar we sat on the steps at the back of the cathedral to watch the world go by.  I sat and sketched the view from our seat and listened as people came and went, greeting friends and promising to keep in touch, while Bob chatted to a Frenchman who sat next to us.  I wondered what the crowd of people I had been drawing were doing so we investigated and discovered they were queuing to get their final stamps on their passports for completing the Camino and collect their certificates. 

The atmosphere in Santiago is amazing, full of happiness and camaraderie, so many people have made journeys of a lifetime and found new friends as well as discovering themselves spiritually.
For a little while Bob and I considered doing the Camino and even looked at backpacks and walking boots but common sense soon prevailed as we both have rather creaky knees and a 10 kilometre walk is about the best we can achieve these days.  We met a lovely German girl later at Santillana del Mar who was doing the walk alone, with a 15 kilo pack including a tent and had had to break it into 2 or 3 legs with a rest at home in between.  As an extra challenge she was taking the coastal path which is hillier than the path through the centre crossing the plain.
Next time we're back by the sea so I'll see you again in a few days.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


The second stop on our travels along the north coast of Spain was at Cudillero, a pretty fishing village nestling in the cliffs with it's own tiny port.  On our first sortie to town on our bikes, trying to follow the instructions from the camp, we met an old man who showed us the way to the cemetery from which we had a fantastic view of the port.  From there we realised we would only be able to cycle down if we went down the main road as we were looking at a very steep drop.  The main road was surprisingly long and hilly and we were dreading the return as would have had to push the bikes all the way back!

This is a 'horreo' a traditional granary in the Asturias region.  Almost every house in the countryside has one in the garden, some of which have been converted for storage or even spare bedrooms.  This particular one was a rather older version that I could see as we sipped our coffee in a little bar not far from the cemetery.

When we eventually arrived at the village we had a good look around before deciding where to have our lunch as there were lots of restaurants and cafés around the main port area.  We had a delicious lunch of squid, octopus, fresh fish and paella and this is the view from our table which I was able to sketch between courses.

After lunch we had a rest before tackling the return journey as we had decided to go up the short way through the town straight to the cemetery.  The road was very steep and the locals were sitting outside their doors or leaning over their walls, encouraging us as we sweated and pushed our heavy bikes in the hot sun.  We made it though and were very pleased as it was a lot safer than trying to go up the road, which was a much longer distance.
I've decided to add this photo to give you an idea of the view from the cemetery, zoomed in so you can see what a pretty place it is and how steep the hill is!

The little bar by the cemetery became one of our stopping places each time we visited the town and we tried the local cider there one day.  Asturias is renowned for it's cider and the special way it is poured by the waiter, a little at a time to keep it fresh and cool.

We had another meal at the same restaurant as we had enjoyed the first one so much, but this time the weather was a bit cooler so we sat inside with the locals, some of whom were having a sing song, I only remembered that I could have taken a video on my new camera when it was too late and they were leaving.  The local dish, 'Fabada' is a stew of beans and sausages which was perfect to warm us up before tackling the climb back up the hill, although we had by this time realised it was best to leave the bikes by the bar at the top!

Sunday, 21 June 2015


Ribadesella on the north coast of Spain is a lovely holiday resort with something for everybody.  There is a beautiful curved beach, lined with historic early 20th century villas, a fishing port and a marina as well as an attractive town that's on the Camino de Compostella.  The name of the town comes from the river Sella on which it is situated.

The 2 headlands that face each other enclosing the beach have a beautiful house on the west and a lighthouse and chapel on the East.  We watched a fishing boat come in through this entrance one day and the sea was pretty rough till it turned the corner here, in fact I could describe the boat as surfing in on the crest of a wave.

It didn't take us long to find a café bar we liked for our daily rosé before lunch and I did several sketches as we sat and sipped in the sun.  The lamp posts in Ribadesella are particularly attractive with complicated curlicues holding on the light.

By chance on our first day in town as we sat in a restaurant finishing a delicious lunch, we got chatting to the couple at the next table, who turned out to be an Englishman married to a Spanish lady.  Even more coincidental was the fact that they owned a house less than 5 miles from our old house in England and knew our road.

We soon made friends and arranged to meet again the next day to have our lunch together, after which Ian and Majee invited us to their home for tea and cake.
How amazing to discover that they owned that lovely house overlooking the bay that we had been looking at a couple of days earlier!  We had another lunch together on the Saturday which lasted till 5 pm before we had to say our goodbyes as they were setting off for England on the Monday.

On Sunday, instead of walking into town, we set off for a walk around our campsite area and we discovered a lovely picnic area overlooking the whole bay and town.  We took a couple of glasses of wine in the little bar there while I drew another view across to Ian and Majee's house.
On the return stroll to camp we found another little bar tucked in between a few houses only 3 minutes walk from our base so we stopped for another glass.  In Spain you always get something to nibble with your drink and we were offered little slices of Spanish omelette here and after the pate on toast we had been given at the previous bar we almost didn't need any lunch!

The walk into town here was along footpaths and a country road, all lined with a wonderful variety of wild flowers.  I picked a bunch of at least 16 and took them back to the camper car to put on our table and draw over the next few days.

The 4 in these sketches were the most unusual species I found and I managed to identify 2 of them but I would love to know the names of the other 2 if anybody can help?
Our next stop was at Cudillero a bit further to the west which I'll show you next time.

Thursday, 18 June 2015


We are back at last from our summer trip in the camping car.

We took the ferry from Roscoff to Bilbao in northern Spain to save ourselves a very long drive through France at the beginning of the holiday.  The crossing took 21 hours including a night on board so I made sure to take my sketchbook and crayons with me to keep myself amused as we went along.  As you can see I started on Bob as he sat reasonably still reading his Kindle book.

We eventually arrived at the tip of Brittany and as the sea was a bit rough the captain had decided to pass down the Chenal de Four in the shelter of Ouessant island.  We have been down this route several times on our own boat and we certainly would not have wanted to do it in a small boat this time as the waves were quite high!
As we cruised along we were able to spot several of the lighthouses we knew and we soon started to realise that we had passed some of them more than once and we seemed to be going round in circles. We wondered if the captain had lost his way but when I and several other passengers enquired at the desk we were told that the captain had a pilot on board to show him the more difficult way through the rocks so that in future he could do the route alone.  The lady in the perfume shop, who turned out to be a friend of Stephanie my baker friend, joked that it was 'la route dinatoire' in other words a calm way to go so passengers didn't get seasick!

After a pleasant evening and a good sleep we drove off at 8 the next morning into a very damp drizzly day.  We had thought to stop at a campsite near Bilbao in order to visit the city and the Guggenheim museum but the camp I had found didn't live up to our expectations so we drove on westwards with the promise that we would do the visit on the return journey.  We stopped at Ribadesella and found an almost empty, very friendly campsite, and only a couple of kilometres walk from the town and beach.

The walk into town was downhill all the way along footpaths and roads so on our first walk the next day I collected a lovely bunch of wild flowers from the side of the road to put on the table and to draw of course.  I counted at least 16 species and I hadn't picked everything I saw!

The town was very attractive with lots of interesting buildings in the centre as well as a church.  It's on the 'Camino' to Santiago de Compostela and the paths are marked through the town with painted scallop shells.  We saw quite a few pilgrims with their rucksacks decorated with a hanging shell.

The campsite was carved in terraces out of the hillside with the mountains in the distance looming above us.  I sat one afternoon on the top terrace to draw this as we had decided to camp at the bottom level, being easier for us to access with our big camper car.
Next time I'll take you to see the beach and tell you about a very interesting encounter.