Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, Ozzie is off to Spain and Portugal with a friend, who I shall call Barbarossa.
Sometimes the best thing about a trip is the anticipation. We dream of adventure, great food, interesting sites, and wonderful people. The reality does not always rise to the level of the expectations. Here’s hopin’ and dreamin’.
Planning is the key to victory, Napoleon remarked. But, he also said that once the battle is joined, all plans go out the window. Good advice since better opportunities will inevitably pop up and better choices will become apparent.
My rough plan is to circumnavigate the upper half of the Iberian Peninsula. Our flight arrives in Madrid Wednesday morning. Rent a car, an Opel with automatic transmission, and by pass Madrid for Toledo. Two days in Toledo, never enough, then west to Caceres and possibly Merida. This takes us through Extremadura, Spain’s hilly and rugged western countryside famous for its wooly sheep the Merino. Julius Cesar recruited his famous Tenth Legion from this area.
Portugal, to the west, is the great unknown. Everyone, who goes, says that it is great, but few go and those who do, don’t return. Perhaps, this is due to its remoteness. Perhaps to the greatness of other European sites. Perhaps to the language barrier.
Sad to say, I think we will have to by pass Lisbon and concentrate on central and northern Portugal.
If you follow along with Fodor’s See It Portugal, you will find us on drive 7, the coastal drive from Alcobaca to Fatima (page 244).
North to Figuera da Foz, east to Combria and again east to the mountains near Manteigas.
Maybe Porto, then north into Spain.
Northwest Spain is Galicia.The primary destination is Santiago de Comopostela, the end of the pilgrimage route in the middle ages. Galicia has its own language. It is also mountainous. The coastline has many rias or inlets with small fishing villages. Ozzie went to Oregon this summer and traveled the coast. I imagine that the long stretches of beach seen in Oregon will be missing in Spain and Portugal. But, I imagine the same frosty cold water.
Usually, one drives the northern coast line of Spain, avoiding the mountains which are unspoilt and undeveloped.
The drive from Santiago to Santander is another terra incognito. The weather report today shows a high of 68 degrees and scattered showers. In land along the Camino Santiago is the city of Leon, famous for its cathedral. It also has a young student population, suggesting that, like Barcelona, things happen there.
After Satander, the decision is whether to go on to Basque country. The city of San Sebastian is the jumping off point, but so many Spaniards there do not give you the impression of Basque culture.
How we thread our way back to Madrid is unknown. A way will surely present itself.