Cantabria and Asturias

Our first stop in Cantabria was a fantastic one, at the Parque de la Naturaleza de Cabárceno, just South of Santander. We got a great spot by a lake with egrets…. 

We didn’t go round the park (we hadn’t planned on it and it would’ve been €50, so something you’d need to do properly) which seemed to be a cross between a safari park and a zoo – from what we could see the idea was to drive from enclosure to enclosure, then park and look at the animals. Luckily for us, the elephant enclosure was right by our free car park (with free water and waste facilities) so we could see them for nothing.

The elephant enclosure was huuuuuge; Mark reckoned about 50 acres. This meant there was a lot more natural elephant behaviour than you see at zoos like Chester; they had plenty of grass to eat, a lake and mud to mess about in, and a variety of areas to wander round.  

I’m sure we’ll go round the park next time we’re passing….. We stayed two nights in the end as on arrival we were told (on the camper grapevine) that a new baby elephant had been born early that morning. We did manage to see it with Mark’s binoculars, but didn’t get any photos as it was so far away, with mum in a small compound by the elephant house at the far end of the enclosure. Needless to say, it was very cute….

We visited the El Castillo caves during our stay. We turned our noses up at the nearby famous Altamira caves as these are closed to the public and you just get to see reproductions of the cave art in the museum at the site. Not for us – we want to see the real thing! We had to go online to reserve places on a guided tour of the caves. We managed it for the day after, but I can imagine you may have to book well in advance in summer.

There was a display area to occupy us at the entrance whilst waiting for our tour (after the ticket booth where we had to pay a whopping €3 each). Mark found an interactive computer thingie that was in Spanish and English, and came to tell me that apparently there were drawings of cabellos in the cave. He meant caballos. Hair and horses again – it hadn’t previously occurred to me that this was a multilingual issue……

The scaffolding left in the first bit was to aid the guide in explaining about the discovery of the cave in 1903, the original floor level, and the subsequent excavations revealing 26 layers and 150,000 years of occupation of the cave. 
We saw the usual drawings – bisons, horses etc, together with some symbols that apparently must’ve been important as they’ve also been found in caves in the Dordogne, hands, and (ta-daaaaa) the oldest dated cave paintings in the World (so we were told), dated to 40,800 years old. Yes, they’re the red dots….

We next headed to the Picos de Europa. The town we stayed at overnight (Cangas de Onis) was a bit disappointing (overly touristy), so we moved on the next day. We had a couple of things we wanted to visit on the way West that turned out to be closed 😦   Oh well……

We cut inland from the coast through Asturias, with some amazing scenery and a great overnight stop all on our own in the middle of nowhere.

We would’ve stayed an extra night for Mark to get his bike out on the winding mountain roads, but unfortunately the next day dawned damp and misty….

Today we entered Galicia. We arrived at Santiago de Compostela and managed our first ever visit to an AlCampo supermarket (the Spanish equivalent of Auchan). We’ve seen them a couple of times from Spanish motorways, but hadn’t ever managed to find our way into one until today. They didn’t make it easy. This seemed to be in a residential area of Santiago, a shopping centre with a supermarket and a car park underneath.  Somewhat unhelpfully they had a a 3.5m height barrier into the tunnel for the underground carpark, then 2.2m for the carpark itself. Luckily we were allowed to stop in the (extensive) loading bay they presumably use for deliveries.

AlCampo came up trumps! My next task is (of course) to try the wine I found lurking in the extensive wine aisle today in order to come up with our requirements in terms of purchase quantity to bring home (one tanker or two???). It comes highly recommended by our favourite wine critics in East Preston, so hopes are riding high for this one….. (note Mark washing up in the background – he’s very well trained!)

We’re now on a campsite in Santiago (our first expenditure on an overnight stop since crossing the channel; useful though as we can walk into the centre tomorrow from here so Kampington can stay safely put; it also gives us a chance to get our washing done).

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