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Volterra, Tuscany, Italy 12/13

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Heading south out of the enchanting town of San Gimignano, we couldn’t resist a quick stop in Volterra to visit its Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, with thousands of funeral urns dating back to the Hellenistic and Archaic periods. Main attractions are the bronze statuette “Shadow of the Night” and the sculpted effigy of an Etruscan couple in terracotta. The town was…

San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy 12/13

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Christmas 2013
We’re playing catch up again. In case you wondered where we were and what we did for Christmas, here’s a brief report. Leaving Pisa behind us we followed secondary roads through beautiful Tuscany of Italy. The scenery was truly everything we could have expected from this famous region, even in wintertime.
Chief navigator Monika was searching the map…

Pisa, Tuscany, Italy 12/13

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With our water leak fixed and the assurance we would have a warm Christmas with hot water, we headed east and crossed into Italy. Our first stop was the famous town Pisa, which much to Monika’s annoyance I continued to call it Pizza.
Certainly on the short list of things we had to see in Italy was the famous leaning…

Nice Caravanes, France 12/13

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It had been an interesting morning. We had spent several hours wandering through the Pont de Gau Bird Park near the town of Stes Maries-de-la-Mer, photographing thousands of pink flamingos who flock there every day to gobble up the rice that the Park provides for them. Returning to the truck, we decided to have a bowl of hot soup for…

The Camargue #2, Rhône Delta, France 12/13

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A must-stop on the way to Arles is the Pont de Grau Bird Park founded in 1949 by the passionate Camarguais ornithologist André Lamoroux. In 1974, his son, René Lamoroux, took charge. He envisioned a large sanctuary for local and migrating birds. Today, the park has grown to 60 hectares where thousands of birds can feel safe and their migratory stop-over, feeding…

The Camargue #1, Rhône Delta, France 12/13

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The Camargue – It has a mystical ring for any European. Beautiful wild white horses and Gypsies gathering in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer once a year. The Camargue, the Rhône River Delta, is the largest delta in Western Europe, but it is much more than that: Fighting Camargue bulls, straw thatched white farm houses, dykes, brine lagoons, lakes and reed covered mashes, rice…

Carcassonne, Languedoc Roussillon Region, France, 12/13

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Driving through the Southwestern part of France, many people had insisted we visit Carcassonne, the largest fortified city in Europe. What struck us first were the impenetrable walls high up on the hill, yet people were driving their cars into the fully walled cité where they clattered by us over the cobblestones. Cars in a fortress? It felt strange.…

Vinça, Languedoc Roussillon Region, France, 12/13

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Being members of the Silk Road Motor Caravan Club, fellow travelers British/Scottish Chris and Jack Kane, invited us to stop by at their home in Vinça, France. Having just returned from a six-year journey through Central and North America, they were keenly aware of our needs to get off the road for a few days. It seems that things like emails,…

Besalú, Cataluña, Spain 11/13

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It was in Figueres that we met up with our old friend Chema Huete, past editor of Solo Auto 4×4. The readers of this magazine followed our travels through South America in the late 80’s and our Siberian trip in 1996. Chema now owns 4×4 Pasion.com, an online magazine.
We spent a couple of fun evenings with him, his lovely wife…

Salvador Dalí Museum, Figueres, Cataluña, Spain 11/13

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Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), the famous and colorful Catalan artist and writer, had very clear visions when he insisted that “his” museum should be in Figueres, the town of his birth. On the site of the former municipal theater, the Dalí Theatre-Museo was born. He had his creative hand in every detail of this venue. It is the largest surrealistic…

Camping Riudarenes, Cataluña, Spain

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Leaving Barcelona, we headed east. It was getting late and we really needed to take a couple of days to reorganize, sort slides, answer emails, etc., so when we spotted an off the beaten track campground, we turned left. Soon we arrived at Camping Riudarenes, a quiet RV park in the woods. There were many stationary campers whose owners live in…

Barcelona, Cataluña, Spain

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Arriving in Barcelona, we had three goals: Finding a safe parking place for The Turtle V, and revisiting both the Mercat (Market) de la Boqueria and the Basilica La Sagrada Familia.
Carefully following our GPS instructions, we spent a good half-hour wandering around in circles following one-way streets through the chaotic traffic until we finally found a parking lot that…

Colónia Güell, Cataluña, Spain 10/13

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During our visit to St Cirq Lapopie, France, we met Pablo and Cris, a nice couple from Santa Coloma de Cervelló near Barcelona who invited us to stop by on our way east. They kept insisting the nearby Colónia Güell was a very special place we absolutely had to see.
We found safe parking right in front of their condominium.…

Pre-Christmas in the South of France 2013

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Note: We are in the South of France near the Italian border. We’ll bring you up to speed with a new segment of blogs soon -  after Christmas.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Today, when Swiss light the fourth candle on their Advent wreaths and Nevada City has the last of its famous Victorian Christmas markets, we too brought a little…

Costa Blanca #3, Spain 11/13

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Escaping from the flock of Snowbirds and the super resort city of Benidorm, we arrived in Jávea (Xabia) by evening and rather than search for a campground—that turned out to be closed for the winter—we found safe parking on the rocky coast. Just about to prepare dinner, the young Brit Oliver we had met earlier stopped by with his girlfriend…

Costa Blanca #2, Spain, 11/13

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With our grey water tank nearly full and our freshwater tank almost empty, we headed north to Aguilas to resupply. Leaving Cabo de Gata and the Costa Almería, we drove north on good highways towards the super resort city of Benidorm on Spain’s famous Costa Blanca.
We stopped for the night at a beach recommended by fellow travelers, Playa del…

Costa Blanca #1, Spain 11/13

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Cabo de Gata Coast is dotted with numerous deserted coves and beaches, but not all allow camping with self-contained motorhomes. Following a tortuous third-gear highway with numerous hairpins, we climbed over a coastal mountain ridge and descended again to the sea leaving the Nature Park behind us and entering the Costa Blanca region.
We had the coordinates for La Higuerica,…

Cabo de Gata #2, Almería, Spain 10/13

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Moving up the coast a bit, we came to the town of Agua Amarga with a huge parking lot right on the beach, open to RV travelers. It was one of the nicer swimming beaches we had seen with sandy bottom and water that was still not icy. Just up the beach were rinse-off showers. We found a little supermarket…

Cabo de Gata #1, Almería, Spain 10/13

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Getting an early start from Granada and the incomparable La Alhambra, we wanted to be ahead of the other 6998 tourists who had presumably visited the complex with us the day before. Too many churches, too many palaces and castles. All wonderful and interesting but it was time to head for a beach and some fresh air, and perhaps wishful…

Granada & La Alhambra, Andalucía, Spain 10/13

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We are in Granada now, a city that always had sort of a magical ring. “Welcome to the Monumental Complex of the Alhambra and the Generalife”. That’s what the brochure reads we picked up at the gate. Certainly “monumental” and “complex” are accurate terms to describe this maze of towers, palaces, windows, arches, fountains, intricate water channels and gardens.
From…

Córdoba #2, Andalucía, Spain 10/13

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Having seen the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos fortress and the Cathedral of Córdoba, we realized that there was much more to see in Córdova than we had time for in one day. Abandoning the dusty, noisy overpriced campground, (€32), El Brillante Municipal RV Park, we moved to a safe parking area with other travelers for only €11 for 24…

Córdoba #1, Andalucía, Spain 10/13

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Arriving in the City of Córdoba, we basically had two goals. First was to take a quick look at the famous Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos fortress and take a peak inside the Cathedrál de Cordoba, and then, what was actually supposed to be part of Monika’s birthday celebration, we were planning to go to the famous Baños Árabes de Córdoba to…

Miura Ranch, Andalucia, Spain 10/13

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As a young boy living near Guadalajara, Mexico, bullfighting was one of those things kids played, like cowboys and Indians. Having been to several bullfights over the years, I’ve always been intrigued about where these specially bred bulls come from. Since Seville was one of the more important centers for bullfighting in Spain, a little research showed that some of…

Monesterio, Extremadura, Spain 10/13

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As we mentioned in our first blog about Seville, we were fortunate to watch a professional ham-cutting contest. We had tasted this amazing ham during our previous travels in Spain and we always wondered how and where it was produced, since its flavor is so completely different from any other we had ever eaten. Here’s a little more about the…

Sevilla #2, Andalucía, Spain 10/13

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One of the interesting things we could clearly see in Seville was the influence of the Arabic culture that dominated here for centuries before Christianity finally won out. Among the many amazing sites to visit in the city, the Alcázar Palace with its gardens, intricately carved arches, ceilings and beautiful Azulejo tiles leaves little doubt to its status as a…

Sevilla #1, Andalucía, Spain 10/13

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Heading east, we could not miss the magical city of Seville (Sevilla in Spanish). It had a feeling of a walk-around town, though one could easily get lost in the meandering pedestrian alleys and narrow side streets. We did a few times. The Jewish quarter was designed as a maze for protection of its residents who knew their way around.…

Doñana RV Park, Andalucía, Spain, 10/13

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After a very busy time in Portugal, we needed to stop for a couple of days and catch up on some everyday chores. Not really to our surprise, all of the little things that need to be done at home still need to be done on the road and quite often they take a little longer. Cleaning house hasn’t changed…

Mourão, Portugal, 10/13

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Our final stop in Portugal was really more of a surprise. We were just looking for a place to stop for lunch when saw the fortress and church of Mourão on top of the hill inviting us. Turned out the route we chose was a little too narrow to be comfortable so we parked and walked.
On the way up…

Monsaraz, Portugal 10/13

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Following our difficult decision to bypass some of the more beautiful places in southern Portugal and head towards Spain, we were making better time now. There were still a couple locations on our route towards the Spanish border that our friend Soares insisted we must stop and see. The first was Monsaraz.
Due to its geographic location, the hilltop of…

Azaruja, Portugal 10/13

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There was a time when good wine came in a gallon jug with a screw cap. Perhaps we can all remember Carlo Rossi, “No wine is sold before its time”, or good old Red Mountain Burgundy. As our tastes and perhaps our budget improved, we graduated to better wines that were preserved with these little things called corks. I had…