12- 18 November 2019
We had intended heading further north through Portugal to the Douro valley but there is only so much rain we can take if we don’t have to. The 10-day forecast showed that the best weather realistically in range for us was around Seville so we drove through Lisbon and over the Vaso de Gama bridge (longest in Europe at 17km) and kept heading across Portugal to the Spanish border.
Mid-afternoon we crossed into Extremadura and carried on down into Andalucia through the lovely countryside of rolling hills cloaked in dehesa. It took a while for us to realise that on coming into Spain the time had jumped forward an hour, but when we did we started looking for a suitable spot for the night.
We ended up down a dusty, bumpy track at a lovely spot just outside the small hill-town of Cumbres Mayores with a great view of it and its 9-turreted castle, just as the sun was going down.
Our neighbours were a herd of Iberian black pigs and a flock of merino sheep, neither of which were inclined towards silence but we really liked them. Kate felt a little guilty cooking bacon within a few feet of them!
The castle, part of a line of fortresses built in the 13thC during the Spain-Portugal conflicts, looks was much grander than the small town that surrounds it. There are a couple of historic churches and, attached to the castle, a bull-fighting arena.
But Cumbres Mayores main work is based around Iberian black-pigs and signs for Jamon Iberico production were everywhere, We tried to buy some but could only get it by the haunch so gave up.
We were, as usual, successful in finding a characterful little bar for a drink where we raised a glass to our new great-nephew, Ollie. With another 3 in the making we should be in double digits by next May!
We stayed a couple of nights and would have stayed longer if the batteries hadn’t been playing up so much that we had to run the engine for an hour before bed and again first thing in the morning. We needed to move on to find a hook-up.
We headed further south through the hills of the Sierra Morena, evergreen oaks and stone pines mixing with the bright autumn colours of their deciduous cousins, and our British eyes marvelled at the sight of new-born lambs and calves in November.
Eventually we saw from the hillside the city of Cordoba spreading out where the Sierra Morena ended on the plains of the Guadalquivir River valley. We avoided the city and headed up the Guadalquivir to our campsite at Villafranca de Cordoba.
We liked the nice but nondescript small town with its warren of narrow streets and nothing remarkable about it at all. We chilled out in the van and walked into town every day, dandering the backstreets. We visited the Saturday market so like the one in our home-town but with better weather. We experienced our first overnight frost and a day of torrential rain that managed to block both TV & Wifi.
We turned up at Villafranca expecting to spend one night and ended up staying five. Seville would have to wait.