Sun 15/05/16: After an exciting night of taking the van apart to retrieve the mobile phone a morning of adventure began when David decided to blow up his bicycle tyre. How I hear you ask, well David does actually quite like blowing things up but that as they say is another story. To be fair to him he was just doing some maintenance on the bikes before we did a ride and unfortunately the gauge on the pump had developed a fault which caused David to put too much air in the tyre. All was well until there was a mighty bang and a very big hiss which caused me to jump very quickly and many of the neighbours the same. Everybody expecting the worse we were all glad it was only a tyre so out came the good old fashioned puncture kit and a plaster stuck on which lasted to the exit of the camp and with no spare tyre to hand we had to abandon our cycle into the park. Oh well we had thankfully seen a cycle shop on the way into the camp site so we knew to head there tomorrow. In the meantime with leftover sausage casserole cooked and just needing heating we decided on a walk down a nearby path which was lovely, the sun was hot and marvellous to have back again. Upon our return we padded out the casserole with some fried courgettes and pasta, sitting outside the van enjoying the late evening sun- lovely!
Mon 16/05/16: Up, bike on board to get the spokes done and a new tyre, plus a spare as well. Thankfully the situation didn’t need too much explaining as we limped it into the shop. A coffee was called for while we waited and to our delight a small tapa was offered of our choice oddly as well. As it was early in the morning we opted for the sausage and it was delightfully presented with some small roasties and bread, an absolute steal at the price of the 2 coffees €2.40. Bike mended we re-parked back at site and took the bikes for a spin in the park. It was a beautiful run in about 14k’s and hardly any traffic at all and just when you thought the scenery couldn’t get any more spectacular it did as we cycled further into the park. We had a guided bird tour booked at 5 so lunch was to be had as the tour wouldn’t finish until 9pm, so too late for us to start cooking. The small village in the park- Villarreal de San Carlos was indeed small and essentially would have become desolate but for the rise in tourism, mainly birdwatching and walking in park Monfrague, but it was still small and offered only about 2 or 3 options on the food front- more than enough to be honest. None offered any menu del dia’s as most people aren’t actually stopping there for that long. Just long enough to grab a cold drink, bocadillo and a visit the tourist centre. We made our choice and as we had ridden 14k’s in the heat we deserved a small liquid refreshment and I had my favourite of tinto de verano- wine of the summer. This comes like many drinks and/or food in a variety of ways depending on who is making it and in fact it is such a popular drink here it also comes in a bottle and on draught – sometimes. This one despite its rural location was an absolutely delightful one- a tall glass, ice and the mixture of lemonade and red wine just mingling together, so refreshing and of course far less alcoholic than just a glass of red! Lunch was a bit of a mix but very enjoyable all the same- chips, our version, croquettes and chicken wings. Not haute cuisine but did just the job before the cycle back and the bird spotting tour.
Tuesday 17/05/16: A revisit to the bike shop was required and as we were revisiting there we also revisited thecoffee shop for a repeat ‘tapa’ breakfast of the same. Afterwards we rode into Plasencia itself as Tuesday was market day in the plaza. Chaining our bikes up as close as we could to the busy market we had a walk around and again wondered at the marvellous choice of fruit and veg to be had in these local markets. We didn’t actually need anything too much but brought some wonderful country eggs from a lovely characterful lady who sold just 4 things- eggs, onions, potatoes and tomato plants. She was a typical market trader full of chat and the actually buying was a long process as she interacted with each customer including us. We’re not entirely sure we answered and managed all the right statements but we all ended the transaction happily and the eggs were indeed up there as some of the best. Moving onto egg…. the Plaza in Plasencia is known for its sitting, drinking, watching and tapas and of course in the interest of research we had to take part. We had 3 different little tapa’s, one being tiny quail’s eggs on a pork pate. A delight to look at and for me no problem, but still for David a soft egg is touch and go. I nearly had him on board with it until I decided that the tapa had to be eaten in one go,
getting the full mix of bread, pate and soft egg. Unfortunately it was a bit too much and the sight of runny
egg flowing out of my mouth was enough to put David off the egg. Not sure it did much for the locals either as it dribbled everywhere but never mind, obviously not the way to eat that tapa. One of the other tapas was a tuna mix with what can only be described as tiny, tiny eels. They are very small but exceedingly fishy and quite off putting in look, not everyone’s taste and we did indeed see them on the fish section just the other day but I forgot to take down the actual name of them, so for now they will remain a mystery and just be known as mini eels. Dinner for us was the ever popular keema no peas curry and again it was an absolute delight to sit outside NiKi with a country view until gone 9pm.
Wed 18/05/16: Now knowing what and where to look for birds we cycled back into the park and again spotted the very rare nesting black stork and also the many vultures that nest in the park. These are not the cartoon like ones you might think off but much smaller, looking more like small eagles and there are about 4 main types that have made their home within this national park. The park is protected, meaning that you cannot hunt or shoot them or any birds nor can you destroy any of the natural habitat within that area given sanctuary
to these and many other amazing birds including the rare imperial eagle which we were unfortunate not to have spotted. We did however spot many of the other spotters who spend hour’s day and night just waiting to catch a glimpse of these eagles. Given our birding skills even after many years with family experts in South Africa as well as our recent outing here, David and I wouldn’t actually in all reality know if one of these rare birds had come down and shared our picnic that day with us, plus David would have shooed them away should they have taken more than their fair share of the bread! After a quick tinto at my favourite tinto park stop we headed home on our bikes and a bit later on got the barbie ready. On our big shop when entering the park we had seen 2 lovely looking rib eye steaks in Lidl and that was how we cooked them, over the barbie. However, looking nice was all they actually were, the taste and quality was not that good, unlike other steaks we have had from butchers here and/or in restaurants. Still not too worry they were edible and it was nice to just get the bbq going again rather than cooking in the heat of the van.
Thurs 19/05/16: Time to leave Monfrague and head for the valleys. The valleys are 3 around Plasencia but 2 that we are interested in mainly. The first we headed for being La Vera which is renowned for its production of pimento (paprika) plus a lot of soft fruit and as we found out later also tobacco. The campsite was rustic in facilities but stunning in location the site nestling in amongst the mountains the tops of a couple still topped with snow. After parking up we were made welcome by the owner with some lovely meatballs, pork stew and black pudding with our drinks and with that refreshment we headed into the nearby town. The town that the site is actually in is not the prettiest of the chain that run through this valley, much more of a locals working town but still had kept some of its charm and had its fair share of the half-timbered houses that again this valley is known for. Unfortunately like so many of them they are in dis-repair as we can only imagine the costs involved in restoring and maintaining these lovely houses. The town at mid-afternoon was hot and sleepy with us in reality the only ones out and about and so we headed back to sit in the sun and read letting the temperature drop before we cooked chorizo risotto, finishing the day with a night cap in the bar and a chat to the owner. Fortunately football talk seems to span all languages and as he was a huge fan of Atletico Madrid we managed a bit of a chat.
Fri 20/05/16: A cycle to the pimento ‘capital’ of the region Jaraiz where they also have a museum dedicated to the spice and the process. It was a very lovely little museum quite explanatory even though all in Spanish and its location in the little plaza set it off nicely. A tour around the small town and a purchase of a few of the pretty little tins of this wonderful spice and we headed off to lunch in a restaurant/hotel as recommended by Lonely Planet. One of the specialities of this area is kid stew and this is what David had here, whilst I had hake in a lovely light sauce. The kid was lovely, really tender but for David again probably like for most meats he preferred the roasted goat he had on other occasions. It was slightly fattier as well then the roasted goat but not sure whether that was the cut or age of the meat, being very young. It wasn’t fatty in a horrible way sort of like the way lamb shanks have a bit of fat on them I felt. As it was a Friday we treated ourselves to a pre-dinner G&T which wasn’t met with too much disgust when we ordered it before our dinner. Even with full bellies we managed the cycle back making a short detour to one of the natural piscinas or lakes and we both had a quick knee high paddle in the cold, clear water.
Sat 21//5/16: A short hop down the valley, in fact one of our shortest moves all of about 10k’s to another campsite just outside the very pretty town of Jarandilla. We moved more so that we could do another cycle down the valley, plus spend some time in this more touristy town. The village is very well kept and has a lovely parador in the old castle overlooking the town-and again the half-timbered houses and plaza’s all so common but still stunning that we have come to expect from Spain. After a short moment of panic when D couldn’t find his wallet we had a stunning tapa off fried mushroom and another of mashed paprika potato which we had also had as a shared starter yesterday. Potato is boiled and then mashed to a shred load of sweet and hot paprika, with pieces of belly pork run through it and also roasted peppers. It’s a filling dish even as a tapa but a real delight. Dinner for us was vegetarian curry which David didn’t object to for some reason- potato, onion, courgette and aubergine. Very tasty and used up a few of the last vegetables we had in the fridge.
Valley of the cherries to come……or not as they are running late due to the bad weather but I’m sure we’ll track some down.