Travelling in a motorhome, it’s often the weather that helps us choose our next destination and for now that is definitely the case. We will explore the North of Portugal later on but for now we’re sticking to the South and heading back East. We have plans to meet friends in Spain in a few weeks and so with that in mind we spent a couple of days travelling in that direction to get a few miles under our belts. But first we had to get there and this involved negotiating our way out through the town of Corte do Pinto having left Minas do Sao Domingo. How hard could it be driving through a small town? Extremely as it turns out leaving Julian muttering that he’d ‘never been so flummoxed’ trying to work out the warren of streets which all seemed to lead to each other but never out the other end! It didn’t exactly help passing the same 3 men sat outside a bar 3 times, each time them looking at us curiouser and curiouser wondering what on earth the right hand drive, Italian plated motorhome going back and forth without a clue was up to. After about 15 minutes of wrong turns we eventually spilled out onto what looked like the main road, only for our relief to come swiftly to an end when the road for no apparent reason suddenly turned into one lane while still being two way! We held our breaths while following the road for the longest ever 5 miles, all the while hoping nothing would come the other way. During all this we noticed we’d clocked up our 10,000th mile in style!
Eventually the HU7400 main road appeared and we joined it on our way to cross into Spain at Paymogo. As we crossed the bridge we exchanged big waves with the motorhome coming in the other direction crossing into Portugal. Once across the border the first person we saw was a man and his mule who gave us a wide toothy grin and happy welcoming wave. We spend one night at the Rio Tinto mine again, having spent a nice night there before and then carried on. Our first stop was at Italica just outside Santiponce, founded in 206 BC, the birthplace of 3 Roman emperors and some of the most extensive Roman ruins in Spain with a 25,000 capacity amphitheatre. Entry is free for EU citizens and it’s a good hour’s visit to look around at the remains of the city with its many impressive, colourful mosaics. You are able to walk around inside the amphitheatre and through the tunnels but not up into the stands. There’s a huge pit in the centre where the gladiator and wild animal battles would take place, and if you’re a Game of Thrones fan you might recognise it as it was featured in Season 7 as the setting for the Dragon Pit.
About a 45 minute drive later we were in Carmona, one of Spain’s National Monument Cities. We’d located parking near to the Puerta de Cordoba on the East side of the town which would have been fine and had lovely views but there were lots of bottles and rubbish around and we got the feeling it would be a night time gathering place for youngsters and didn’t have a good feeling about it. Looking on Google maps we found a large parking area just in front of the Municipal Sports Complex instead. It was clean, flat, quiet and seemed perfectly fine and we had a good night there with no disturbances and just a couple of other motorhomes. We woke to a sunny day and after a few minutes walk arrived at the big old gateway of the Puerta de Seville into the old part of town to take a look around. The Tourist Office is just inside as is the entrance to the Alcazar which costs 2 euros to enter. It’s quite a small site but worth going in for the views over the town. It was also the perfect vantage point for watching the kestrels gliding around back and forth to their nests in the surrounding towers. Just as we got up to the top the clocks struck mid-day and about 6 of them went off, bells chiming, but all out of sync creating a chaotic sound which sent all the goats in the field below scarpering in all directions!
Taking a right turn off a street through an archway we were surprised and happy to find the Plaza del Mercado with its wide open square and appealing arcaded shops and cafes all the way around. It seemed the ideal spot for a coffee and a look at the map so we settled down with a cafe con leche and soaked up a bit of sun at the same time.
Thirst quenched and legs rested we wandered the streets, nooks and crannies of the town. We passed the town barber who seemed to be doing a roaring trade, much to Julian’s despair as he really could have done with going in and getting his overflowing locks dealt with. We decided to come back and check in later, by which time it was closed for the day. There are a lot of interesting buildings in the town with attractive Andalusian balustrades and colourful paintwork. We walked all the way through out the other side of the Cordoba gate, past several churches, a convent where we had a quick look at the cakes on offer, bars which seemed to be full of just men or students and shops piled high with pastries.
Avoiding all other temptations up to that point we managed to complete our visit, arriving back at the other end of town hot and hungry. We couldn’t help but notice a little tapas restaurant with a tasty sounding menu and a few tables outside which we had to walk past to get back to Buzz. We also couldn’t help stopping there and having a small selection of plates and a couple of beers which were very nice indeed and the perfect end to our day in Carmona.
After our peaceful night in Carmona, the next night was the complete opposite. We drove to Marchena, just a 30 minute journey away and straight to the Aire from our ‘All The Aires’ book. Again it was a large parking area this time alongside a recreation area which had a few kids and families in. The thing that wasn’t so good was a group of about 8 youths/young men sitting around on a wall talking. Doesn’t sound so bad but experience and our instincts told us this wasn’t good, but giving them the benefit of the doubt we decided stay and see if they got noisy or left. They did all leave and with sighs of relief we levelled up on the chocks, put the thermal screen on and started to cook dinner. There were a couple of other British vans already there so Julian went over to ask if it had been noisy. Unfortunately they had both only just got there too so they didn’t know. They did warn us about the water tap though. Apparently when they tried to turn it on it shot a 15ft jet of water straight out and is impossible to tame so at least we avoided a soaking.
As we sat with the radio on later we heard the sudden boom of music right behind us and peering out through the window revealed our worst suspicions. They were back. The music got progressively louder, cars screeched in and out and the chatter and laughter drowned out our radio. There was not much laughter going on inside I can tell you! Knowing how these things can go we weren’t sure what to do. Should we wait it out and hope they go soon? Come off the chocks, take off the screen and try to find somewhere else to park? We really couldn’t be bothered with that and besides, they were all parked right behind us so it wasn’t exactly easy to get out. All in all we had one of the worst, noisiest and most disturbed nights ever and it went on well into the early hours. There was one moment of light relief though – at one point Julian looked out the window right at the moment a beat up old car skidded in and ran over his mate’s motorbike – we had to laugh at that!
Our terrible evening and night meant we woke up already disliking Marchena and almost wanting to leave straight away. It seemed a bit pointless though so and it was a bright, clear day so we gave it a chance and walked into the town just as someone else screeched up, sitting in his car with his radio booming all on his own. Maybe there’s just not much else to do around here! Anyway, off we went and actually Marchena did have its attractions.
Our mood probably hadn’t really lifted though and while there were some handsome buildings, appealing streets and plenty to see we just weren’t feeling enthralled. Sometimes we get a bit ‘towned out’ and just long for the countryside. We knew we need to get out, get some fresh air, open views and a complete change of scene again and with that in mind we took to the map and decided on Olvera and the Via Verde …….