La Peza (Embalse de Francisco Abellán) to the Puerto de la Ragua

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As we continued the drive via Purunella and Guadix, we took the backroads this time and the rock formations and deep red road cuttings were really impressive. Guadix had a Lidl, and a handy aire for all the usual top-ups and tip-outs, after which we headed to Lanteira, and it felt like we were driving straight at a vast surreal Alpine set. All that snow shimmering in the sunlight was an incredible sight.

After we hit La Calahorra, with its castle, this was where things started to go a little pear-shaped, and our advice would be to avoid the rest of this drive, unless you’re in a Smart car. Quite frankly the A337 is just about wide enough for two cars to pass, and it’s a bit of a seat of your pants sort of drive for very many kilometres.

Once you hit the Puerto de la Ragua, a 2,000 metre mountain pass, all becomes OK again, and the road is fine, by which time you might be just a little fed up of winding mountain roads and ready for a change of scenery. Unfortunately, there’s still some way to go.

*** Just to mention that our blogs tend to be a couple of weeks behind reality, as we’re always in catch-up mode ***

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La Peza (Embalse de Francisco Abellán)

*** For just a taster of our photos, you might like our Facebook Page: @RandomMotorhomeTravels ***

Our Dorling Kindersley’s Back Roads Spain “Granada to Puenta de Tablate” drive was now in play and in my haste to get out the Alhambra carpark in good time I asked the SatNav lady to take me to a Park4night without noticing that she’d decided it would be via the motorway, and not the back roads as prescribed by DK Books.

So I don’t know what we missed, but the drive was pleasant anyway. I’d chosen the Park4night picnic area at La Peza, and it was a cracker. Large circular parking area with great views of the landscape, the snow covered Sierra Nevada mountains, and the dam. We even had some French neighbours for the night, as well as some mountain goat drop-ins.

*** Just to mention that our blogs tend to be a couple of weeks behind reality, as we’re always in catch-up mode ***

La Guardia to Granada (Alhambra)

*** For just a taster of our photos, you might like our Facebook Page: @RandomMotorhomeTravels ***

Wherever possible I try and update the written part of the blog each day, whilst the day’s events are still fresh in my mind. I now find myself catching up after a few days.

At the Park4night at La Guardia we were woken by a truck arriving and dispensing a number of ladies in fluorescent jackets. It was reminiscent of a marshal’s post for a sporting event, but then they started sweeping the side of the road just outside the carpark. When they started mixing the paint we then caught on that they were refreshing the white hazard stripes there. They didn’t seem concerned about us & they weren’t doing anything round the entrance, so all was well.

As this was to be Alhambra day, and given that Granada was forecasting a max of 20C, we decided to take advantage of our wake-up call and get there before the heat of the day. Despite it being motorway all the way, Spain continued to entertain us with its great and varied landscapes.

Parking was straightforward. €3.60 per hour. Simple walk down to the various buildings and gardens. Having made the conscious decision not to join the cattle market that, to us, is the Alhambra paid visit, we enjoyed a stroll down its rear side, which eventually brought us down to the old town. That was very pleasant, and worth the visit.

We then tackled the steep walk up past the Alhambra complex. I’m not that tight with money, but when I noticed that we would be slipping into our 3rd hour of paid parking in around 10 minutes, and we had now finished our visit, I warned Sophie that I was going to hot foot it to the ticket machine, which I achieved with 4 minutes to spare. So these 2 philistines did the outside of the Alhambra plus visited the old town in under 2 hours.

With the benefit of hindsight would we have bothered? After some debate, we thought not, but to be fair we never really got to see the Alhambra itself as we don’t like massive crowds and queuing. Also, most people say that you simply have to see it, so you’ll just have to make your own minds up.

*** Just to mention that our blogs tend to be a couple of weeks behind reality, as we’re always in catch-up mode ***

Ubeda to La Guardia de Jaen

*** For just a taster of our photos, you might like our Facebook Page: @RandomMotorhomeTravels ***

Next objective was to be parked up somewhere sensible to take part in a conference call. Delays at the other end enabled us to get to my planned Park4night at La Guardia de Jaen. Call completed we then took a stroll up to the old castle and then around the small town.

One frustration with Park4night is that photos don’t always give enough information, so we try and add the photos that we would have found really useful. Here at La Guardia is a case in point. The photo looked like a couple of motorhomes might squeeze in next to the road. In fact, there’s a decent sized carpark that could fit quite a number of motorhomes. I’d suggest this an ideal, picturesque and very convenient, overnight spot if you’re travelling on the A44 between Bailen and Granada.

We’re still debating between us about visiting Granada and the Alhambra tomorrow (just an hour’s drive to the South). We’d initially rejected the idea, given our dislike of big towns, and no obvious parking. However, with official parking at €3 an hour, and in a sensible carpark, that doesn’t seem unreasonable given the highly reputed palace, and it being unlikely that we’ll be hanging around all day.

Next decision is do we actually pay to visit the Alhambra. Annoyingly, this has to be decided before we go. Then we need to work out if showing our tickets on our phones is acceptable or not, as we don’t travel with a printer. Fortunately, the full €14+ pp tickets are sold out all week, so that makes the decision easier. We were leaning towards the €7 tickets, but I’m reading that the place has perhaps become a bit of a zoo, with long waits. Added to this, there’s apparently lots that can be see for free. We hate to be boxed into a decision so will happily pay for parking, and view the Alhambra from the outside.

El Tranco to Ubeda

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After driving over the dam, then turning left, we were taken aback, in a good way, with what was next on the agenda. It is a narrow, winding road, but two vehicles can pass without problem, for most of it. We even passed a few herberts towing caravans, so that should give you an idea.

Anyway, the road aside, the scale of the mountains and cliffs was stunning, in what was a relatively narrow valley. At one point we even passed a spectacular waterfall right next to us, which was a double-edged sword for Sophie, who has been on at me for years about seeing such a sight, because there was no where to stop and photograph it properly.

After this great drive, we were soon back on sensible roads. This DK drive was a circuit, which meant that we could take advantage of the facilities at the aire at Udeba, that we’d lunched at onboard a few days earlier. We also topped up our LPG and diesel, so we had a “full-house”, with everything full that needed filling, and everything empty that needed emptying.

*** Just to mention that our blogs tend to be a couple of weeks behind reality, as we’re always in catch-up mode ***

El Tranco

*** For just a taster of our photos, you might like our Facebook Page: @RandomMotorhomeTravels ***

After finishing last night’s blog entry, we experienced a whole range of weathers and lighting effects. We stood in the bright sunlight as a menacing rain storm approached us from across the lake. When that passed, more of the snow-capped mountains were illuminated, then we watched a double-rainbow rise out of the lake. As you might imagine, the tour photographer was up and down constantly, determined not to miss anything.

An incredibly quiet night at the Park4night picnic spot near El Tranco, and a beautifully sunny morning to follow, which gave Sophie the excuse to take advantage of the sunlight from a different aspect. It has to be the stop with the most amazing views we’ve ever had the privilege of overnighting at, and we’ve stayed at plenty, as we move on every day.

We departed late morning and our modest motorhome made easy work of the steep and winding rock-solid track. We’re just short of 6 metres in length, and it was easy, so I think it is a case of driver beware and you’ll need to make your own judgement on arrival. Also, access needs to be from the East, so as we approached from the West, we had a bit of manoeuvring to do in the road, but it is a quiet road fortunately.

Cazorla to El Tranco

*** For just a taster of our photos, you might like our Facebook Page: @RandomMotorhomeTravels ***

We had one neighbour last night, who turned up after dark. Another excellent night followed by a lazy morning of blogging and after a cheese & bread lunch continued with our Dorling Kindersley’s Back Roads Spain drive.

We took a spectacular route over the mountains, then wound down the other side to then follow a river valley until we reached the large reservoir at the North end at Tranco.

A number of potential Park4nights were clearly marked as motorhomes not welcome, but that was fine for us as it wasn’t time to stop.

As we followed the river it grew more swollen until it reached the reservoir, and the views were very much on the large scale, more reminiscent of North American scenery than what we would have necessarily expected from Spain.

I was aiming for a Park4night that boasted views of the reservoir and dam, but the reviewer’s warning of a tight and steep access suggested to me that this was likely more suited to a smaller van. As it happens, and despite the protests from the trip’s photographer in the seat next to me, I could see that the road was concrete based and winding enough to reduce the steepness.

So we are delighted to be in a most spectacular spot (nearest picnic spot before El Tranco), with a good solid footing on a gravel parking area, as well as being comfortably above the water level. The sun came out in our honour and the photographer really enjoyed herself. Not long after, a heavy rain storm came over, but at the time of writing that has passed and the sun had returned.

The bonus for us is that the clocks changed last night (there is a lag in when we write our blogs and when they’re published), so we’ll get an extra hour of light to enjoy the views.

Viso del Marques to Cazarlo

The next day we left Drive 17 – Don Quixote’s La Mancha and headed towards Drive 22 – Andalusian Renaissance and Wooded Mountains. After a Lidl fix in Bailen, we headed for Baeza, where we just did a “drive-by”, checking out their aire behind the bus station, where you are guaranteed an early wake-up call.

Next stop was Ubeda, where we lunched in their decent, busy aire. Although this town is described as “a remarkable assembly of Rennaissance architecture with an Andalusian flavour”, these two Philistines didn’t fancy the walk to see some more old buildings, especially as the light wasn’t marvellous.

So we drove to our spot for the night through endless rolling hills completely covered in olive trees, with brooding snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. We went through the impressive town of Cazarlo, which is literally built on the side of a mountain, and just outside the town at La Iruela there’s an aire with the most amazing views, which we have to ourselves for the night.

*** Just to mention that our blogs tend to be a couple of weeks behind reality, as we’re always in catch-up mode ***

Daimiel to Viso del Marques

We had around half a dozen neighbours last night at the Park4night (Daimiel) in the Parque Nacional de las Tablas de Daimiel. It was very large grassed parking, but solid, with the grass interspersed with bare firm sections.

After a quiet morning we continued South, continuing to be guided by Dorling Kindersley’s Back Roads Spain. We visited the small town of Almagro, where there was good van parking, thanks to Park4Night. The town is described as having “the largest and finest Plaza Major in La Mancha”.

Almagro is worth a visit, but we didn’t venture further than the main square, where we enjoyed an impromtu lunch. No menu del dia in the Bar El Gordo, where we sat in their small restaurant section, so that was more of a challenge for us with our less than basic knowledge of the language. The waiter kindly found an English menu for us, which was a help to us beginners.

We had a selection of dishes, including roast peppers with cod, deep fried calamares, rabbit, and even venison. To be honest we had no idea what to expect, but it was impressive, and tasted excellent. I had the traditional dessert of custard with a soggy biscuit on top – that may not sound great, but is definitely my favourite. With wine and coffee priced at €1.50, we were impressed.

After Almagro, I thought we’d swing by Castillo Calatrava La Nueva, a “brooding castle-monastery perched on a craggy summit”, but visibility was poor, so we gave it a miss.

Final stop was the aire at Viso del Marques. Maybe half a dozen neighbours in this large, utilitarian carpark. It had the usual facilities, and was very quiet as mentioned in the Park4Night reviews.

*** Just to mention that our blogs tend to be a couple of weeks behind reality, as we’re always in catch-up mode ***

Campo de Criptana to Daimiel

*** For a taster of our photos, you might like our Facebook Page: @RandomMotorhomeTravels ***

Great sunset, followed by the illumination of the windmills, and another lovely evening with our new Belgian friends J&J. This time we had my French and Portuguese beers instead of Belgian, and Margot. the Lidl equivalent of Baileys, also made an appearance.

After coffee & biscuits at their’s late next morning, we headed off in search of a meal in Puerto Lapice, a little town with an apparently strong Don Quixote connection. We parked in the town’s aire, with the facilities you’d expect, and a short stroll took us into the town.

The most well known DQ themed restaurant/museum/gift shop didn’t have a good rating on Tripadvisor on the food front. The alleged best restaurant was way out of town, so we opted for number 2 (out of 6).

Meson Cervantes was a great choice for us. We were not looking for some fine-dining high-end experience. We wanted authentic at a reasonable price, which is exactly what we had. Spain being Spain, turning up at 3:45pm for lunch was fine. €10 each for a 3-course meal, including wine or beer, and coffees. €40 for 4 of us – simple. Amazing value. It was quite small, so no fear of a large coach party coming in, which is a risk in this popular town. Admittedly, it had a couple of TVs on, which is usually a no-no for us but we ignored them and had a great time.

We thought we’d then aim to overnight high up with the windmills, and castle, at a Park4night above Consuegra. Right at the top there’s only room for about 6 cars, so finding a space later in the season could be a bit risky, but it was fine for our two vans.

Magnificent views both directions high above the plains, and of course we were nestled in beside the windmills. That night we returned to the very nice amber Belgian beers, just picked up from Lidl that afternoon, this time followed by red Martini, which took us back to our teenage years, although I think that would have been the white variety, or perhaps Cinzano.

In the morning, we were initially woken by a large mobile crane, parked 2 inches behind us, which had come to replace/remove the sails on the adjacent windmill. The police also arrived to assist with the required manoeuvring in this limited parking area. We were expecting to be given our marching orders, but in fact they just asked if J&J would mind moving next to us, and all was very relaxed and pleasant.

During the rest of our time up there, there was a constant stream of large coaches, each in turn mostly dispensing Japanese tourists.

After morning coffee and croissants at J&J’s, we continued to put the world to rights as we put off the time we had to say our goodbyes as they headed West and us South.

So after the necessary 4-person selfies, if that makes sense, we went our separate ways. We now find ourselves at the Park4night (Daimiel) an hour’s drive away in the Parque Nacional de las Tablas de Daimiel, well known for its marshlands and wild birds.

*** Just to mention that our blogs tend to be a couple of weeks behind reality, as we’re always in catch-up mode ***