Parador de Santo Estevo to Monforte de Lemos

I think the orange juice machines in Spain are cool. This is the one in our Parador this morning. There is nothing like fresh squeezed orange juice.

The Monastery of Santo Estevo Parador where we stayed Thursday night has numbered panels on the walls that allow you to take a self guided tour. So that is what we did after breakfast.

We also took a walk through the gardens behind the monastery.

Around noon we left the Santo Estevo Parador and took the back roads to our Friday night stop the Parador de Monforte de Lemos which is situated in the former Monastery of San Vicente del Pino. For much of the drive the views of the Sil River Canyon were expansive and beautiful.

We stopped at the ruin of the Monastery Santa Cristina.

We had a picnic lunch by the bridge where our route crossed the Sil River.

As we climbed out of the river canyon we passed terraced wine grape vines that seemed impossibly steep.

Of course we had to stop at the Duke lookout. Even though it was under construction the view was still good.

For dinner Duke had octopus I had chicken cannelloni.

Villafranca del Bierzo to Parador de Santo Estevo

Our first stop this morning was the lookout over Las Médulas. Las Médulas was the largest hydraulic gold mine in the Roman Empire. The miners dug extensive tunnels and long canals to funnel water into the tunnels and wash away the gold bearing ground. This hydraulic mining washed away a massive amount of the mountain. You can see what was left of the mountain they mined in the terrain we saw from the lookout.Above you can see the outlet of one of the tunnel complexes. This tunnel is now called Galerias de Orelián. We went down into it until we came to the outlet in the picture above.When we came out of the tunnel we drove down into the valley to the museum. They had an excellent video that helped me to appreciate how much earth was moved by this massive mining operation almost 2000 years ago. There was also a model that showed the terrain left by the mines.We took the back roads to where we are staying tonight. Along the way we stopped at a gas station and bought fresh bread for our picnic lunch.After the picnic it started raining. The route to the Parador was green and lush. .The Parador de Santo Estevo where we are staying is in an old monastery. The rooms are big and beautiful with great views. They are situated around the cloisters.

The dining room where we are dinner is in the old stables.

Leon to Villafranca del Bierzo

Today was cool, rainy and very windy. So It was not a great day for being outside. We took the mountainous scenic route from Leon to Villafranca del Bierzo. But first we found some coffee and pastries in Leon.


Then we took a walk in Leon along the river to the Convent of San Marcos and back to our hotel.

We also bought some bread and cheese for lunch. The cheese vendor gave us samples and offered us wine from a boat bag to go with our samples! We bought some cheese but passed on the wine.

As I said the road through the mountains was beautiful and scenic.

In Villafranca del Bierzo we walked around a bit and discovered that we are on the Camino de Santiago.

We also discover a lovely quilt shop.

And a castle ruin.

Madrid to León

This morning we saw Butch and Myra off for home, did laundry, and picked up a new rental car. Coincidentally it is the same car which we had for the last ten days but it has been washed and we didn’t have to pay for parking in Madrid.

Around 1:30 we headed out of Madrid northwest towards León. We stopped for groceries about half way through the drive. Spanish grocery store fish departments are always interesting.

We arrived in Leon in time to visit the cathedral. I think it has the most beautiful stained glass in Spain.

For dinner we ate tapas in three different spots and then walked back to our hotel which is located on the Plaza Mayor.

Avila to Madrid

Our plan for Monday was to drive to our hotel in Madrid, check in, Leave the luggage, drive to the rental car office and return our car, then take the Metro to the airport to meet our friends Roger and Gayle who will be traveling with us for the next two weeks. Everything went pretty much according to plan although maneuvering the narrow streets of Madrid and the traffic did prove to be a bit of a challenge.

This afternoon we walked and checked out some of the sites of Madrid with stops for drinks and tapas.

We ate dinner at Botín. It was founded in 1725 and according to the Guinness Book of Records is the oldest continually operated restaurant in the world. I had roast suckling pig

We’ve had a great time with Butch and Myra who will be flying home on Tuesday.

Salamanca to Avila

Sunday morning we walked across the Roman bridge from our Parador into Salamanca. When we were in the old town Saturday night the place was packed with people. Sunday morning it was almost empty which allowed us to appreciate the buildings.

About half way through our back roads drive to Avila we came upon Ermita de las Fuentes, a wonderful old church near the ridge top a long way from the nearest habitation. They had picnic tables so we had a wonderful picnic.

We found our Parador in Avila fairly easily. After our welcome drinks and the obligatory Duke vs Butch cribbage game we went out to walk the wall surrounding Avila. The wall is quite amazing. It is more than three kilometers long and very tall and formidable.

Casa de Insua, Portugal to Salamanca, Spain

Saturday morning we went through the museum at Casa de Insua before starting our travels for the day. Luis de Albuquerque built the Casa de Insua estate using his earnings from when he was Governor General of northern Brazil in the latter 1700s. His maps and artifacts are fascinating. All the tools and wine and olive oil making equipment were also fun to see. His electrical plant was one of the first in Portugal.

We did get off the main road and drive a few backroads on our way to Salamanca. I finally got some pictures of pigs grazing under the oak trees on their way to becoming Spain’s iconic Jamon Iberico.

In Salamanca we walked into the old town from our Parador and explored a bit.