It’s a sunny cloudless sky with a chilly breeze as we leave Pamplona and head off the motorway to find a scenic route through the Rioja wine region. After passing miles of vineyards and olive groves we pull up for lunch in the Sierra Cebollera Natural Park, just north of Madrid amongst some lovely pink sandstone/limestone cliffs. There’s vultures enjoying the thermals overhead swooping down to their nests in the rocks providing Steve with plenty of photo opportunities with his new long lens. Watch the blog for a post with pictures of these amazing raptors.
The road winds high up to the Puerto de Oncala at 1454m where it’s still sunny but only 5 degrees with a sprinkling of snow around. There’s herds of hardy cattle grazing beside the road. Rather than a roadside stopover, we make a short detour up to Medinacelli, a tiny walled town sitting on a hilltop. Dating back to the Roman era, with a 2nd century three-gated arch still standing at the edge of the town, it lay on the border between Moorish and Christian Spain during the Middle Ages. It has an area just outside the town, with magnificent views, set aside for visiting camper vans, free of charge. We ask at a bar if there is a shop and the proprietor says it’s too late but offers us a bottle of milk and loaf of bread. We join him for a beer and retire to the van to make another meal from the store cupboard. Total distance today 177 miles.
We’ve promised to visit Cordoba since our first trip to Spain 20 years ago, so that’s the next stop! We don’t depart until 1100, after a stroll round Medinacelli, and plan another detour through the Alcarria region rather than spending all day on main roads. Another cloudless sky and the van’s system reported it was 23 degrees at lunchtime! We’re now into the sierras around Madrid with the famous Osbourne Bull hoardings – now without their advertising for the sherry since the Spanish government banned any adverts near roads some years ago. At 1700, we clock 1,000 miles from home as we find the first roadsigns to Cordoba. Bev had suggested stopping short of Cordoba at an olive-pressing factory at Ajudar but it looked like it would be very noisy and only another hour to the municipal parking in central Cordoba. Arrived in the dark and Steve negotiated the somewhat challenging route through night time traffic to find the campervan parking site. An ideal spot, it’s walking distance to the historic centre of Cordoba, where we treated ourselves to a meal out after 367 miles driving today.