Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

written 23rd December

I have had the best birthday ever!  Will says that's because he's here but as that would make the last eight birthdays also the best ever (although I am sure they were good) so I can only assume he is merely a contributing factor... :)

After a wind buffeted night, we woke up yesterday morning to rain for our continuing journey down the coast - although the tide was in again and there were still three surfers in the rolling waves - mad mad mad!

Following the old N road, we wiggled and weaved our way round the feet of the massive new road which cuts straight through the hills and skies some 100 metres up and found ourselves in Cudillero, a small fishing village.  The helpful tourist office girl gave us a brochure and suggested the lookout points tour so off we went in the rain.

The brochure describes Cudillero as a quaint fishing village built into up the steeply sloping cliffs surrounding the harbour and promises that visitors will get wonderfully lost in the old world charm and stepped and cobbled streets and passage ways. 

It then ensures all visitors do this by giving a map indicating look out points but no road/passageway names either on the map, or the little streets :) but it isn't very big, and it it quite pretty, even in the rain, and the hillside nature of it does mean that the streets are mostly about three feet wide and properly twisty and rabbit warren like with cobles and steps.  We found three of the five look out points and decided that the lighthouse was just too far away.  I also discovered that my lovely fluffy boots leak in the rain so squelched my way back to the car and onwards.

We stopped for lunch at Cabo Vidio, again on suggestion by Laura and Cedric, but it was raining, so we didn't get out because  in order to get the best view (which we then misted up by boiling the kettle) we had to park in a puddle :(

We had planned a bit of mountain route, as suggested by Laura and Cedric but as it was approaching dusk we stopped in Navia and found a nice quite beach where, having not slept terribly well due to the rockingwind on the front in Playa de Salinas, we settled in for an early night, emergency pasta - once again, because it has gone out of date before we have had the requisite emergency! - and watched Closer (Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Julia Roberts) which is a bit odd, and we think, about only wanting what you can't or shouldn't have, and once you have it, you don't want it anymore - or something.

My birthday dawned bright and sunny in our quiet beach spot and I got birthday tea - made for me!  and with a whole teabag!!  in this simple life it is the little things :)  (and we did save the tea bags to reuse later ;) ) - and plumcake for breakfast before we set off up the AS12 into the mountains.

This was properly what mountain driving should be; sunny, warm (well at least +5!), snow dusted heights, green forests sloping down to distant blue rivers and reservoirs and sweeping windy roads - perfect. 

We stopped at a random swimming pool at a recreation ground in the middle of no where (sadly closed) and a fabulous rocky look out point just past St Esteban de Buitres where we saw mountain goats leaping around. 

Absolutely on top of the world and just perfect!  (another one for you Bill!)

Two odd things about the road; 1) the sheer number of overtaking/no overtaking signs - honestly, they must have a whole bottomless budget for the things as they appear alternately about every 5m and some in places where really, you really shouldn't be thinking about overtaking on the seemingly blind corners they say you can, contravening all selfinstincts and common sense - fortunately, there wasn't too much other traffic on the road!, and 2) the number of little old men and women, in the middle of nowhere, hobbling along with a stick by the side of the road, going from who knows where to goodness only knows - I admire their fortitude but have no idea what or where they were going to.

Reaching Pezos, we pointed our noses down again through St Martin de Oscos and Villaneva de Oscos and wound our way back down the AS13 to the perfect flat blue of the coast and set off again along the coast road in search of the northernmost point in Spain.  There were two point to chose from and it was unclear from our atlas, which it would be so we took them in order, going first to Cabos Estaca de Bares which, as luck would have it, was marked as the most northern point.  There is a hotel there, closed of the season, in the old lighthouse keepers house and the least effective lighthouse we have ever seen. 

It is 100m up and 10m tall, but this is negated by the fact that they have built it in a nice sheltered hollow on the inland side of the cliff - well I suppose that having gone to the effort of building the thing, you don't want it being battered by the nasty sea winds and rain...   it is presumably visible from the sides (for 25 miles apparently) but when we walked over the cliff and down to the most northern marked rock in Spain, we were first at the level of the lantern, and then couldn't see it at all - so there will be a whole quadrant directly in front of the trecherous rocks where it is completely invisible -  why would you do this??

Anyway, we found the most northern point of spain and looked out over the blue blue cantabrian sea back to england before more tea and 'licious plum cake.

Snowy mountains, blue sea, green cliffs, sunshine, tea, cake and a cardinal point - how much better does life get??

Next stop A Coruna (I keep having to stop myself saying Ay Carumba! Bart Simpson-stylie :) ), around the coast where, arriving once more in the dark, we had our usual new-place-rush-hour-no-map-bad-traffic-bad-road-signs misery.  And we seem to have temperarily mislaid the satnat adaptor for Will's Thingumy (IPAQ).

The LP says that the main feature of A Coruna is the two beaches which join together in a golden expanse of sand.  Other than that, it says the Lighthouse, El Torro de Hercules, is claimed to be the oldest working lighthouse in the world and the old town is "worth an amble".  We decided to try and park near the lighthouse so as to visit it in the morning first thing (well as first thing as we can manage!) and be on our way for some more coast road.  You would think, that a lighthouse, especially one called Hercules, would be easy to find, it being a tall, high up thing, near the sea, with a big flashing light on it - seemingly not so.  The road signs were intermittent and conflicting and seemed to be leading us round in circles in the traffic chocked roads near the port and after drivin the same bit of road three times, we gave up and parked Jules in a nice free space near a castle which looked good for the night.  After a long day of driving, and not wanting to give up on our lighthouse search just yet, we set of for a walk along the main prom, past the massively tall, twin towered harbour traffic control building and on round.  Not seeing any maps or further signs, we turned up inland to the old town and eventually happened upon a bus stop which indicated that the light house was a mere six stops away, past the cemetary.  So we set off in what we believed to be the direction of the bus route, with a short detour into the old town, which was, as promised, alright for an amble but nothing special.

Another bus stop indicated that we were still 6 stops away but in the other direction, and by following another bus, we found a stop outside the cemetary where every bus went passt the lighthouse - must be nearly there!  Our quest had taken on near mythical proportions - think Darty - when We eventually rounded a corner and finally saw the fabled lighthouse, which wasn't all that tall, or that bright, in fact, the light was totally eclipsed by the nearby floodlit tennis courts and football pitches which presumably hadn't been there in roman times...

Quest over, and with a nice carpark, we went back to the castle and fetched Jules and settled into birthday leftover casserole - yummy.

Happy birthday to me indeed!

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