Off to Spain!

posted in: Europe, Home, Spain | 3

We packed the car, double-checked the ‘to-do’ list and set off at the end of another challenging week to Spain. It is going to be a big adventure of c.1100kms and we are both slightly anxious and very excited. The adventure in 2022 had been amazing, even though I caught Covid, and we hoped 2023 would be just as interesting.

Spain 2023 trip

On the Ferry

All the cars were checked, inside and out at Portsmouth and boarding was a very slow process but finally it was completed and we sailed from Portsmouth on a warm Friday evening. After settling into our tiny cabin we braved the restaurant. Sadly the wonderful buffets and excellent dinners of the older Brittany ferries are history but breakfast in the Commodore Lounge the next morning was very good and most enjoyable.

The crossing was flat-calm which was a great relief after the disastrously rough passage last year. People sat and read, or played quiet card games. Only the bar and the groups of people watching the rugby were really animated. My troubles continued, however, with two sleepless nights.

Evening in the Bay of Biscay
Evening in the Bay of Biscay

Arriving in Santander

The ferry docked in Santander at 7.30am on Sunday morning and we were first off at 8.06am! Passport control took less than a minute and we were soon on the motorway and then the N623, heading towards Burgos and onwards to Lerma – one of the ‘dream roads in Spain‘.

This quiet road leads over several passes and rises to c.3,000 feet. There are large trees all along the first part of the N623 and it was very beautiful in the early morning. Then it rises sharply to the first pass. There was hardly any traffic – it was just wonderful!

Motorway around Santander
Motorway around Santander

Breakfast stop

Only 1.5 hours after disembarking we were sitting in the Auberge Conchita on the Ebro Reservoir and I was tucking into sweetish croissants, scrambled eggs and milky coffee – bliss! The water level in the reservoir was very low and the hotelier said it was only 25% full. Clearly the recent heavy rains had not found this part of Spain

On the plateau

The next part of the N623 remains at a high level – 3,000 feet – and in places looks like the veld in South Africa. As we walked a little way from the car the scent of lavender was very strong and there were a lot of small holm oak trees.

On the plateau above the Ebro Gorges in Spain
On the plateau above the Ebro Gorges

A Natural Park and Gorges

The most spectacular part of the road is around the Natural Park of Alto Ebro and the Rudron River Gorges. The road follows a river through narrow valleys surrounded by high cliffs and past some tiny hamlets. It was breath-taking and next year we plan to explore some of the valleys, gorges and hamlets in this area. And yes – next year is already taking shape!


The road leaves the gorges and heads down to the meseta past dozens of hilltop windmills.

Parador of Lerma

Parador of Lerma
Parador of Lerma


After unpacking we went for a walk, and eventually settled down to a celebration drink and a birthday dinner. Then another walk was necessary and we wandered into the Old Market Square to join a joyous celebration of the last day of the local festival. Somehow we were still awake! What an extraordinary first day in Spain!

We set off to Spain on a Friday and finally arrived at our first destination, the Parador of Lerma, on Sunday afternoon. We were tired but quietly pleased and happy that we were able to return to Spain and had somehow come through the tribulations of the past year. I hoped, and prayed, that the nightmare of the past three years was finally behind us and that the weeks ahead would be relaxed and enjoyable – and trouble-free!

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