Iggy the Hymer motorhome is bathing in the smell of fresh brewed coffee in a carpark in Salamanca while I cast my mind back to Vitoria Gastiez. Jay is making cappucinos for breakfast to go with the Canas de chocolate, and oranges that I fetched from the nearby store.
It’s a dull morning, but mild, and the sun is working hard to burn away the clouds overhead. Marley and I have been for a walk along the river – minus camera unfortuntely – as groups of herons, egrets and cormorants all burst from the banks around us and took morning flight across the water.
Soon breakfast will be over, and Jay will tidy Iggy and secure everything in the lockers as I try to catch up on the blog before we get back on the road.
Spain or Portugal? Reader’s Choice..
Yesterday we asked everyone on our facebook page should we keep heading South? Or take a West for Portugal? The result has been a pretty emphatic two to one in favour of Portugal! So West we will go young man! Or middle aged man, woman, huge dog and one, very noisy, mouse…
But first? Let me tell you all about Vitoria Gastiez…
Vitoria Gastiez – Historic Basque Capital
As usual when I’m failing miserably to keep up to date with the blog I’m going to have to look back on the calendar to find out when we actually stayed at Vitoria Gastiez! And what day today is for that matter? Not a weekend? Second half of February?
As it happens today is Tuesday 19th Feb. Or so my phone says anyway. And we stayed at Vitoria Gastiez on Friday the 15th. Ah! It’s all starting to come back to me now…
We waved goodbye to Vera and Rita in Donostia, and managed to find our way out of the city with only one wrong turn. Oops! We’d been so pleased not to mess up on our way in. But Donostia had managed to catch us out again just at the last moment!
A handy roundabout had us turned round and headed in the right direction with minimum stress though. Satnav set firmly for Cadiz to keep us pointed in the right general direction we headed South while I had a wee look through maps and park4night to choose an actual destination for the day.
We toyed with the idea of Burgos, but we had visited there on our last trip to Spain. We’d really enjoyed our day there, and it’s definitely worth more than one visit. But the world is so full of places to see, and our time is so short, that we try to avoid returning to places we’ve already visited.
Jay wasn’t feeling much like a long drive after our day out on Thursday and Vitoria Gastiez quickly ticked all the boxes. Short drive. Free Aire. Historic Centre.
Fully armed with that information, and no more, an hour and a half later saw us arriving at the Vitoria Gastiez free Aire at N42.866699, W2.68499.
The Aire is set in a large carpark, in an area of big residential apartment blocks, and opposite a big Mercadona supermarket. First impressions could be a bit off-putting, especially if not used to modern Spanish cities, but we’d seen areas like this before and there were at least 30 other vans in the Aire, mostly Spanish, so we felt totally safe.
It was a 30 minute walk into the centre (there is a tram for those who don’t want to walk) and the beginning, through the towering “villages” of apartment blocks does not give an impression of good things to come. Dog poo is liberally scattered on the many grassy spaces, and graffiti tags seem to be breeding on shutters and low level walls.
In the UK this would be a very dodgy area, but a second glance shows that those grassy areas run all round and between the apartments, and in large central courtyards inside them as well. Beautiful, huge trees, parade in every conceivable space. There may be dog poo, but there is zero other litter. And finally, the bottom floor of each apartment block is made up of shops and cafes, while children’s playgrounds sit in the central courtyards.
Hairdressers, insurance companies, vets, corner shops – every shop you would find in any city centre location. All smart and “proper” looking businesses. Each cafe a central gathering place with smiling faces and a community of people who know each other.
Nobody bothers us as we pass through. Unless you count the fellow dog walkers keen to chat with Marley. Curious to chat with us too. You don’t get many Scottish people with Greek Mountain Dogs wandering the Spanish interior in February it seems!
The apartment blocks soon give way to a park, then a main road to cross. Some more traditional long streets of shops and apartments. We were beginning to think this “historical centre” was going to be a disappointingly tiny arrangement of three streets in the centre of a huge, modern city!
But we were also about to be very wrong! Round the next corner and a huge church appeared before us with a small, attractive park laid out around it. The old gargoyles round it’s roof appeared on closer examination to be modern replcements. Men holding phones and wearing flying goggles laughed down at us from on high. Their workmanship indistinguishable from the ancient stone around them.
In the park a bronze crocodile guarded the waters of the fountains with open jaws, and large, spiky teeth. The meandering paths led us out and into the heart of the old town. A heart that soon revealed itself to be a spreading, wondrous hub for this vibrant, busy city.
Historical building followed historical building. Quaint streets wove cobbled paths past muralled walls, the towering Cathedral, the thought provoking memorial to the 1813 Battle of Vitoria.
Museums abound for those who aren’t accompanied by a dog, children’s playgrounds are everywhere, and the city even provides outdoor, escalator type walkways, to assist the less able, those with bags, or anyone who wants to really, in climbing up and down the central hills.
We sat in a plaza, on a cafe terrace, to catch the last, departing rays of the sun. Cerveza and vino tinto slowly slipped as we watched the night slowly slide across this magnificent Capital city of the Northern Basques.
And then home. Through the pretty, historic streets. Past the apartment buildings. One last turn through the park. And on to Iggy. Waiting patiently, as always, for our return.
My heart full and my brain busy from the sights, thoughts and feelings of the day, I felt the old, familiar urge to give our Iggy a big, big hug.
Him. DM. Marley. And of course Jay. It’s a good life this vanlife. I am on the road. I am travelling. I am home.