Sun 22/05/16: Hopped on our bikes first thing or rather what is first thing in motorhome life after boiling kettles, juicing oranges and then doing ones ablutions which usually brings us to 11 before we actually get out and start whatever we are doing for the day. Which is no real problem as we have no schedule to meet. We wanted just to see a bit further down the valley before we left and jumped over to cherry valley tomorrow, it was a lovely downhill cycle before we hit upon a lovely hilltop town called Robles de la Vera and it had the usual Plaza Mayor with picquesque church and the photo perfect scene of locals sitting outside the bar drinking, chatting and eating in the early afternoon sun. So of course we ‘tethered’ the bikes and joined them- a small cana for David and a tinto de verano for me. Lovely tapas arrived with the drinks of a very tender beef stew and also a stew like pork dish both of which David was allowed to pick. Afterwards we cycled back into a very strong headwind to our own nearby town of Jarandilla where we had seen suckling pig on the menu which David was keen to try. The price for the suckling pig was cheap at €8 whereas normally it’s about €12 and you have to order it in advance, so we were a bit curious. I opted for trout which is local from the rivers. My trout arrived exactly as that, a fried trout on the plate with a small garnish- no problem for me as that was all I really did want. For David the pig was not crispy baby pig as hoped but lovely stewed pork pieces, wonderfully tender and very tasty, but once again we had been caught out by one slight change in a word or additional word in this case. No worries we were both happy with our dinners and headed back to NiKi to have half a pineapple we had brought in the supermarket along with a mini magnum and mini cornetto as the ice cream for our puddings, then sitting in the sun outside the van.
Mon 23/05/16: Off to the Valle de Jerte, this valley produces half of the cherries grown and exported in Spain. We had already seen quite a few trees where we were so we weren’t sure what to expect there, but with the drive across so the number of trees increased and increased along with the fruit on the trees and the ripeness of them. After parking on a lovely aire situated in between the 2 main towns and also at the back of a wonderful park we walked into the ‘capital’ itself Jerte, what a picturesque place it was as well. Again so many of the half-timbered houses many of which were in lovely condition and of course along the way so many many cherry trees and all the shops selling everything that they could associated with cherries. Unfortunately by the time we had parked up and done the walk the shops selling the cherries were closed for siesta so I was not going to get any that day much to my disappointment but we did stumble upon a lovely bar. As ever the intention was to eat in that evening, but I was not really inclined to and when I saw what looked like a wonderful soup served on the next table I insisted that David go and find out what food was on offer. There was no menu just the waitress and menu del dia- 5 choices for the starter and main course. Amazingly we more or less understood the offerings thankfully for all parties involved and I made the choice of what I had seen being served which was actually arroz mariscos. A wonderful soup like dish of seafood flavoured rice with a couple of small prawns and clams more for decoration than anything the full flavour being in the sauce and the rice. David chose Russian salad and I think we were both in full agreement that even though the salad was a good one my arroz was stunning. Again as ever the starters seem to be the star turns and I really could have eaten just that. Oddly and there are many out there who might say I am an old trout anyway but I opted for trucha again even though I had it just yesterday. Again wonderful, sweet tender pink flesh, just the deal served again just as. Puddings were the usual Spanish options and we both opted for ice cream but unusually they had a coffee option which I had and it was really good, but there again although I’m not a real coffee fiend I do love coffee and walnut cake and this reminded me just of that. I do find that after fish you need something sweet for some reason. Again as we walked back we marvelled at the amazing number of cherry trees there were and the amount of fruit on them at various stages and Yes we did manage to ‘scrump’ a few.
Tues 24/05/16: Up and on a mission, a day could no longer go by without me having some of the new season crop of cherries and so we headed to the other town of Cabezuelos stopping on our walking route in a small hotel for a coffee. The bar was packed with locals that in my world were either the cherry workers or managers having a café con leche and putting the cherry world to rights. With our coffee 2 slices of tortilla was also plonked down unceremoniously but thankfully received as ever by us. In the small town as we walked along there was a good number of shops, small fronts offering cherries for sale all in 2 kilo boxes. We had already decided on our strategy, not to be taken in too early no matter how tempted, but to find out the full range of price and quality. The first box was at €7, a very good deal indeed but the next lady had them on offer at two prices and qualities apparently. €6 for the smaller sized cherries and €10 for larger sweeter ones and as a good salesperson does she offered us both the better ones to try. We did resist buying there and then but after a small stroll further we headed back and brought the better quality cherries. The day was not the best weather wise and unfortunately the cherry museum was shut that day so we headed back with me munching on the said cherries as we went, a happy bunny as they say. Cherries are pretty, sweet lovely little nodules stones and all- tripe on the other hand is none of that all. Tripe is downright ugly, uninviting, chewy and in our world quite revolting. Before you say have you ever tried it I can answer yes. It was forced down our throats more than once when we were children. It was a much loved dish of my fathers who was also of the ‘don’t say you don’t like till you have tried it’ school so I have indeed eaten the stuff and here in Spain it is much loved as well and on menu’s we have learnt the word so that we can manage to avoid it. However, on this day in question in a lovely little restaurant where we were partaking in a small liquid refreshment David opted to pick what he thought was either patatas or pork, flavoured with pimenton with a light salsa topping. Taking his usual big bite he face changed quite rapidly and for once his mouth stopped moving whilst his cheeks bulged just staring at me eyes bulging by now as well. ‘Tripe’ was my only response as he quickly picked up his beer and took a huge swallow washing the offending substance down his throat. Unfortunately even served this way for us it was unpalatable, but what to do with what was a fair sized portion for a tapa. The restaurant was small and a lot of eyes were bar facing so just wrapping it in a serviette wasn’t really an option. I did manage to do so with one chunk of the blubbering rubbery substance but even then it felt like it had taken on another life form and was trying to escape from my hand. I, in the meantime had chosen a lovely soft cheese on a small round of bread which had been warmed through and was topped with a lovely onion relish- absolutely delightful!! To be fair to David he did the decent thing when we realised there was no way of getting rid of the blubber and owned up to the bar tender that he didn’t like it and couldn’t eat it. I think the guy had realised we had made a wrong choice and so with a gentle smile he took away the offending substance and gave David some of the lovely cheese on toast. Tapa world restored, bellies recovering from the shock but very happy with a couple of slices of the cheese on toast to dull the memory.
Wed 25/05/16: With the box of cherries finished that morning I thought it would be best not to head back and buy another box on our route out of Valle de Jerte but to leave it for another few days and get some later as obviously the cherries are now being distributed all around Spain and apparently you can have too much of a good thing. As a note here, David doesn’t like cherries at all after cracking one of his teeth on the stone. He thought they all came like cocktail cherries without stones and has never eaten one since! We were heading over to the next and last valley of the 3 in this region and our onwards route towards Salamanca and then Madrid. There was a choice in routes, the longer 100k or so one out of the valley and back, or 33k’s over the valley on a single track road. I was more in favour of the longer route as I could see how high the mountains were that the road weaved its way through, but it was a long way round. So with me driving we took the mountain pass. All I can say is that it was an experience, not a particuarly pleasurable one for me not liking heights or sheer drops, but David seemed to think it was spectacular. We made it to the other side and to a campsite just outside a lovely town called Hervas, famed for neither cherries nor pimento. However, it did have an amazingly lovely Jewish quarter and an equally amazing motor/motorcycle museum which both David and I were completely astonished and impressed by- well worth a visit should you ever be in the area. The town was lively and fun with a good choice of restaurants, bars and again with not much choice of food in house and the local Superdia shutting for its 3 hour siesta we opted for a €9.90 menu. With just a one day break and it being a local speciality in this area with all the river and streams I had trucha again!! and for David migas and pork.
Thurs 26/05/16: Today was to be bath day, a good scrub for us both in the local roman thermal spa baths. We headed off on our 5k walk, only for David to realise that it wasn’t actually 5k but 10k so a round trip of 20k. We would need another bath by the time we got back. But it was a pleasant walk and once again we were on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path and so we weren’t alone along the route, but us only encumbered by our swimming clothes, towels etc not rucksacks and tents. As ever we were caught out by Spain again and upon reaching the baths, which is a full complex set in an old roman building that has health treatments, massages etc at just gone 1pm the reception lady told us that like the shops they shut at 2pm and there was no point in going in at all. Well having walked 10k already and with 10k to go back we certainly weren’t coming back for the 5 o’clock session. Even though we have been here 5 months and we have sort of got use to the 2-5 close session we didn’t really think a complex such as this would operate in the same way, so we headed back into Hervas, bodies still dirty but swimmers and towels clean!. Having had a few tapas in town after our hike we just had a simple dinner of ready-made pasta with pesto and bacon bits which again not wonderfully exciting but did the job and offset the few days of eating out we just had.
Fri 26/05/16: The plan of the day being to leave Hervas and drive to the baths which are on our route towards Salamanca. However, overnight the idea of the bath, spa had worn off or rather the price had seemed to be not so very good value so with the moment lost we just had coffee and breakfast there with my new focus in the town being lovely little jewellers I had seen more or less opposite the baths. After all only dirty people wash and you can never have enough earrings even in a motorhome- they take up the tiniest of space. Calea is a lovely modern jewellery shop all made on the premises by the owner, really worth a visit again should you be in the area having a spa treatment! Before heading to Salamanca we were doing a slight detour to a small pueblo called Alberca which again as per Lonely Plant has some of the best kept half-timbered houses in the region and some lovely walks nearby as well. There is also an aire on the edge of the town and so we headed full steam there. The drive was stunning, mountainous but not death defying like the other day, a 2 way tar road all the way there- heaven. As we drove on the edge of the town both David and I were already stunned, the place was beautiful or so it seemed. The aire at the back of a large car park was also very good and well maintained. So after choosing our spot we walked the short distance into town and its centre. Lonely Planet was absolutely spot on the town has a preservation order on it and so all the houses, shops etc are in wonderful condition and at each turn just more and more lovely example of wood buildings. It’s almost too pretty to be true and it’s also a big jamon producing area of note here as well. We were told by a guide we got talking to that the reason why is that the original houses have no chimneys and so they would hang all the hams in the attic and so each house would more or less be a smokery for the hams, all hanging up there drying and curing over time. The main plaza as ever had many eating establishments and we opted for one that wasn’t the busiest working on the principle that people like sheep only follow each other and therefore the busiest restaurant might not be the best. Plus again the one we choose had suckling pig on the menu as well. After a drink we asked about the cochinillo but No they didn’t have any that day but would tomorrow. They did however have parradilla, David’s favourite meat feast plata and as it would be rude just to get up and go he had that. Disappointed he was not. For myself having replenished my cherry stock and stomach on route I wasn’t overly hungry and went for lasagne, a firm favourite of mine. Again not disappointed, it was divine with oddly or perhaps not given the amount of jamon they have in the town was layered with jamon and again unlike at home made with pork mince. What was unfortunate was the fact that the weather was turning again, Alberca is quite high up and they do get a fair amount of rain and this was what we had early that afternoon and stopped us from having a walk in the lovely surrounding countryside and would in fact for the duration of our stay here with heavy rain forecast for the next 2 days.
Sat 28/05/16: With rain falling heavily we ran across the road to Hotel Antigvas to have coffee with Jose and his sisters who run this lovely establishment. The town is very popular at weekends such is its beauty with a lot of people from Madrid heading down and as we walked into town not even the heavy rain stopped the flow of people in and out of the shops, restaurants etc. We don’t often eat twice in the same place on our travels but with the offer of suckling pig on the table and some with David’s name reserved on it we did. So David eventually got his crunchy skinned slowly cooked baby pig and from the little piece I tasted it was very good, a bit of apple sauce would have worked well for me but as wasn’t eating it no worries. Again trucha was on the menu but I opted for soup castelleno which was just glorious, a more or less clear soup flavoured with jamon, tons of garlic and served with bread already soaked in it and an egg poached in the liquid. Although lasagne was actually a first course option I had it again as my second course- it really was such a lovely lasagne even second time around. A very good restaurant offering very good value. The local wine from this region is also good, not very heavy but with a lovely depth to it unlike the local Pitarra that we had in Hervas and matched all our dishes well. Back to the van to ‘weather’ the rain and watch some old movies, plus for David to catch up on game of Thrones.
Now where did those cherries go…………..