Setting off for Spain

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We are finally able to have a real holiday and so we are setting off for a delayed return to Spain. The Covid years were tough, with lots of health challenges, but we survived. I even managed to publish a book which is available on Amazon and through Waterstones and other online sites. Now we are leaving worries behind us and looking forward to relaxing, new discoveries, and just enjoying the moment.

The ferry to Santander

The car is loaded and the cameras are packed and the journey begins with almost 48 hours of relaxation on the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander, starting with a very good dinner. Or so we thought. However, we were treated to rocking and rolling and pitching, I felt sick most of the time, and the Brittany Ferries’ new boat Galicia is not as spacious or comfortable as the older ferries. All meals were self-service cafeteria style, limited in choice, and ‘hot’ was more like ‘luke warm’. We endured the crossing, somehow.

A deceptive scene from the cabin window as we left Portsmouth

Santander to the N623

Contrary to expectations we were off the boat, through passport control and on the motorway out of Santander in 15 minutes. There was a quick glance at our passports and all the documents we had been advised to assemble were not necessary. Setting off for Spain had an auspicious beginning!

Leaving Santander at 8.15 am

The original road from Santander to Burgos was the N623. The 153kms have been described as a ‘dream road’, crossing the Cantabrian mountains, passing river canyons and always with beautiful views. My back is in a bad state but the magical JB had done his best in the time available. So I strapped myself into a belt support, crossed my fingers, and we set off. Fortunately it was a smooth road.

Motorway outside Santander in Spain
The turnoff on the N623

Up into the mountains

N623 road in northern Spain
Down and then up into the mountains

The Puerto del Escudo is at 1,011m above sea level and while the road has been described as dangerous we found it a smooth and easy drive and quite quiet as well. It was signposted as ‘open’ so obviously it is closed by snow in the winter. The air smelt good and the views were heartening.

View from the Puerto del Escudo
View from the Puerto del Escudo

The Ebro Reservoir and Gorges

The Ebro reservoir was built in 1952 and it is apparently one of the largest in Spain but the level of the water was clearly quite low. We turned off the main road and stopped for a coffee at the spotless Hostal Restaurant Conceita in Corconte.

Ebro reservoir
Ebro Reservoir

The Ebro river and the Rubron river have created great gorges in this area and the country here looks spectacular. Sadly we couldn’t explore because we were trying to protect my back from jolting, i.e. poor roads. Next time!

Gorges around the Ebro
Looking over the gorges
Wide open spaces

Monuments along the road

The Pyramid of the Italians was the site of a battle during the Civil War between the Republican and Italian forces. The pyramid tomb is in memory of the Italians but it is not accessible from the road as far as we could see and so could not stop.

Antonio Sagardia Ramos was an army officer who fought for the Nationalists in the Civil War. The Sagardia Column was his group of FAlangists who participated in the Battle of Santander and committed murders against civilians at Pallars Sober.

The Sagardia Column: By Aaleexsousa – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

El Cid

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar or El Cid Campeador was a bit of a pirate, I am told, who was born in Vivar del Cid in c.mid-11th century. The village is just 10kms from Burgos and on our road so we stopped briefly. He was a military leader who started his career in the service of the kings of Castile. He died in Valencia but his remains were eventually taken to the Monastery of Cardena, just outside Burgos. Sadly we would not be able to visit because I could not afford extra car journeys.

El Cid’s statue in Vivar del Cid
The house in which El Cid was born
The church in the village


Finally we arrived in Burgos, found the car park in the Plaza Mayor quite easily, parked equally easily and offloaded luggage into the AirBnB just a 5-minute walk away. Then we looked out of the window…

Burgos Cathedral

Wow! We were no longer setting off for Spain – we had arrived.

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