Northern Spain by car

P1020307-Segovia-1 After paragliding we headed north

Here is a Map of the main places we visited in Spain
Page 1
like all photos you can click on this map to enlarge it.

We left Piedrahita on Tuesday (11th June) morning and decided our first stop should be Segovia, primarily to see the aqueduct which bisects the town but also to check out the castle or Alcázar which according to the Lonely Planet was the inspiration for the castle in Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Both were very impressive! We ate lunch admiring the town, Cathedral, Castle and city wall all from a nearby hillside. We then drove on north towards the Atlantic coast to be near the national park: Picos de Europa which sounded great. We camped near Panes.

Wednesday was beautifully sunny and we first checked out the fantastic National Park Centre just down the road, then we
headed off to see the park first hand. We decided to do what is supposed to be the most popular walk in Spain, along the Cares Gorge.It was a very long but scenic drive to the top end of the gorge at Cani and we didn't set off until 4pm so we decided we could only go for 2 hours down. The path was cut though the rock with numerous tunnels as the forge often had sheer walls. We could see why it was so popular. We went to get dinner at 8pm when we got back to the little village Cain but dinner was not served until after 8:30pm. We happily waited and used the free wifi. After dinner we drove out of the valley up a quiet pass and found a secluded spot to camp just off the road.

Here is the Map of the walk in Cares Gorge (note extraneous points are due to tunnels)

Thursday started out drizzling and soon turned to rain so we decided to check out one of the examples of early European neolithic art. This was in the form of the 'Museo de Altamira' near to Santillana del Mar. It was an incredible recreation of the cave and amazing paintings as the real cave was closed in 2002 due to damage from over-use. It was the first cave of prehistoric art to be found in Europe and between 1880 and 1900 it caused a lot of controversy and argument as to its age and authenticity. The art was painted between 13,000 and 18,000 years ago!
We then drove east towards the Pyrenees and camped at Lumbier.

Friday we visited the nearby gorge before pressing on across
the back roads close to the Pyrenees. Our destination was Sort (where I had paddled in 1975) and then La Seu d'Urgell (where the 1992 Olympic Canoe Slalom was held). Along the way we passed 'Castillo de Sos' a small village with at least 3 paragliding schools and sure enough there were gliders over the >2000m high snow covered peaks above. We ate dinner on a high pass between Sort and La Seu d'Urgell and then checked out the artificial slalom course before driving towards Andorra. We had though we would find a quiet spot to camp but all too soon we were into Andorra and this is an unusual place, like a mountainous Nevada. Casinos and tax free shopping and every spare space used. We drove through the city and up towards the ski field and finally reached a clearing which was above 2000m and was part of the ski area. We pitched our tent on the bottom of a ski run. (Coll de la Borella)

Saturday in summary: from Andorra, into France for a short time, and back into Spain and on to Barcelona.
We were woken by a car passing right past us before 6 am and when we
got out of the tent the view was very impressive, with snow just metres from our tent and the panoramic alpine scenery. After casinos and tax free shopping then ski resorts would have to be Andorra's main business. There are only two roads into Andorra, the one from Spain which we had come up and the one into France so although we could see France (at the top of the peaks around the ski area) we had to drive back to the hustle and bustle of the built up area to head out to France. Again the scenery was magnificent with glacial cirques and snow capped peaks. About a kilometre before the border to France there was a ski resort and obvious tax free shopping area as it was full of Supermarkets, Liquor outlets and high rise hotels.
We were only in France for a few kilometres before returning to Spain and heading towards Barcelona. We chose the camping area right near the airport, about 12km south of Barcelona. A bonus was it was on the beach and we arrived in the early afternoon to spend a lazy time resting and having a swim in the Med.

Sunday we rode into Barcelona and took a quick look around the city.
The ride in was on an expressway (no bikes) but fortunately in Spain no one seemed to care. It was just when the road became elevated near the
port that there was absolutely no shoulder so luckily it was a quiet Sunday. As soon as we reached the port there was a wide bike and walking area and we watched a harbour swim race and then further along a rowing boat race series. They were 14 person boats including a bow steerer and a sweep. Then there were some popular and well kept beaches with no waves and crowded with people.
We left the beach and rode to La Sagrada Familia (The Church of the Holy Family) an icon of Barcelona. It has been under construction since 1882 and is not expected to be finished for another 30 to 50 years. It is the style that is most unusual being architect Gaudi's masterpiece of "modern" gothic. We did not go inside as it was both expensive (18 euro) and over an hour to queue in the hot sun. Nevertheless it was an impressive and unusual church.
Next we went to see more of Gaudi's work at the Park Guell where Gaudi had lived till his death in 1926 and where he had designed a number of "typical buildings" with few straight lines and unusual roof shapes inspired by nature. The view of the city from here was magnificent.
Back to the city and we luckily happened upon the church of Santa Maria del Mar, touted as the cities most beautiful church and certainly its plain lines and lack of excessive decoration made for a pleasing change. We finished our visit to Barcelona with the Museum of Pablo Picasso. We ended up riding over 60km for a full day of sight seeing.

Here is the map of our ride into and around Barcelona: