The weather for our entire trip has been grayer, wetter and colder than is normal for this time of year on the Iberian peninsula. It hasn’t stopped us from having a great time but still….
Thursday we headed north to Donastia/San Sebastián. Although it was cold and cloudy for most of the day it was a beautiful drive. We needed to do Duke’s review of the rental car (the fifth of the trip) because we would be returning it in Donastia/San Sebastián. Here is a link if you would like to watch Duke’s Review of the SEAT Ibiza.
We went over Lizarraga pass and stopped at this viewpoint.
In Donastia/San Sebastián we checked into our hotel, then drove to the shopping center where we dropped off the car. We had a coffee while we waited for the rain outside to stop.
Then we walked back to the hotel.
When we went out to find pintxos (tapas) for dinner the wind between the buildings along the waterfront was like we were in a wind tunnel.
On the map today looked like it would be a relatively short drive with not much to see. But it turned out to be a beautiful drive. We saw everything from cave dwellings to dinosaurs! We made six stops on the 68 mile drive.
1. We had barely left Soria when we saw a sign for Numancia archaeological site. Numancia was a Celtiberian hillfort town. Just as we pulled up a school bus of kids pulled up. We took a few pictures but it was cold and windy so we decided not to go in.
2. We headed north and went over a pass The temperature dropped to about 38 Fahrenheit and we were in the clouds. I took a picture of the view.
3. A bit further down the road we saw a sign “Fuentesalvo”. We stopped and discovered dinosaur footprints!
4. Next we came around a corner and spotted this dinosaur on a hill across the valley! Duke said he was friendly.
5. In the village of Yanquas we stopped to look at this wonderful bridge, apparently built in the Middle Ages.
6. Last but certainly not least we started seeing caves in the cliffs along the road. When we saw a Cuevas (caves) sign we stopped and hiked up to investigate. They weren’t open but it was a fun walk.
In Calahorra we checked into the Parador and had our welcome drinks. We raised our glasses and made a toast to Paradors. Calahorra is the last Parador we will stay in on his trip. It is the 81st Parador we have stayed in over the last 6 years. On this trip we have stayed in 17.
Breakfast was earlier than usual this morning. Roger and Gayle wanted to leave for the airport with plenty of time to catch their 11:15 flight. We saw them off then went back to our room to pack. We are headed towards France on the last phase of our trip. At 11 o’clock Duke and I took a cab to the bus station. We took a long distance bus to the town of Soria. Soria is about 140 miles northeast of Madrid.
In Soria our plan was to pick up a rental car. We knew we would have to wait until 4pm when everything including the rental car office would reopen after lunch. So we found a bar and had coffee and Spanish tortilla while we waited. We also walked a bit and saw the local bull ring.
We finally got the car just as it started to rain heavily. We drove to the Parador where we are staying and took naps then enjoyed our welcome drinks. Now that we no longer have travel companions there will probably be no more card playing!
We decided to have dinner at the Parador. Duke had Bacalao and I had Merluza. We always avoid Bacalao because that is the name for salted cod. We’ve tried salted cod many times and you just can’t make it good! But recently we found out that you can also get fresh Bacalao. Duke’s was very good.
Merluza is the fish called hake. The Merluza was served with baby eels and shrimp. It was excellent.
For desert we had what the menu billed as orange desert. It was an orange sponge cake with orange ice cream and sauce. It was perfect to share.
Driving into a city like Madrid to return a rental car is always a bit stressful. The rental car we have been driving for the last week or so is from a new company, OK Rental Cars. When we picked up the car they couldn’t really tell us where to return the car in Madrid. First we drove by their office near the Atocha train station. We saw nowhere to return the car there. Then we went to the place near the train station where we have returned every other car we have returned to Madrid, but OK Rental Car was nowhere to be seen. Then drove back to the office and Duke pulled into a handicapped space while I ran in to ask where to return the car. They gave me a paper with the address of a parking garage a few blocks away. We managed to find the garage, go down three levels in the garage and finally deliver the car. All of this was done through heavy Madrid traffic!! We survived!
We walked to our hotel and left our bags since the rooms wouldn’t be ready for a while. Then we found a lab that was doing Covid test and walked there. Roger and Gayle got there preflight Covid tests. We found a cafe to have beers and toast the fact that we had successfully completed all today’s must do tasks.
We decided to check out the Museum of Money but it wasn’t until we had walked another mile or so to get there and had been told that they were closed that we realized that today is Monday and most museums are closed on Mondays!
We stopped to rest and have coffee and then headed to the hotel because it was after two and the rooms should be ready.
On the way back to the hotel we walked through Retiro Park. Today was the first really nice day we have had for a long time and the park was peaceful and beautiful.
When we got back to the hotel, and got to our rooms, we had walked almost seven miles and we were ready for a rest. We played some cards and then about eight went out to find tapas for dinner. We started out with roasted peppers.
The next place we stopped was just perfect. It had a friendly Madrid tapas feel and our waitress was very friendly and helpful. We had the fried shark and it was fantastic.
Roger and Gail fly home to tomorrow. We have had a wonderful couple of weeks with them.
Toledo tuned out to be a wonderful place to spend two nights. The Parador here is great and Toledo itself is a fantastic place to explore. Sunday at 2am the clocks were turned forward an hour here. That meant we slept a bit later. We had an 8:30 breakfast reservation and had to rush a bit to make it.
Saturday when we walked into Toledo the first part of the walk was on a road with no sidewalks. It seemed a bit dangerous so Sunday we drove down to a vista point below the Parador, parked the car, and walked into Toledo from there.
First we visited the Santa Cruz Museum. They had an excellent exhibit celebrating eight centuries since the birth of King Alfonso X. He reigned from 1252 until 1284 and was known as Alfonso the Wise.
Next we went to the Alcazar which houses the Army Museum. It in the enormous building you can see on the Toledo skyline. The museum gave a interesting overview of Spanish history. It is like the Smithsonian or the British Museum in that it isn’t possible to take it all in in one visit.
When I visit museums in European countries I often get a new perspective on US history. The museum had a series of displays about Spain’s contribution to the American war of independence. They highlighted the battle of Pensacola.
After visiting the museums and getting lost in the labyrinthine streets of Toledo we walked back to the Parador. I think gin and tonic is the national drink of Spain. We had to have some before Roger and Gayle go home!