From Vila Nova de Foz Côa to Haro - back into Spain:
Our time on this trip is now rapidly drawing to a close and so it's back into Spain for the last hop across the north to Bilbao to catch the ferry to Portsmouth.
We climbed through mountain ranges and Natural Parks, sometimes over 1000m high. In the distance the tops were brushed with snow but we didn't climb high enough to drive through it. But the trees are in glorious autumn colour: yellow chestnuts and poplars, russet Iberian oaks and others in every hue between. Mountain streams tumble along rocky beds gathering into larger quieter rivers. We passed small villages where all the houses are of the local stone, where the rooves are of hand-hewn slate, where the walls are half timbered. Huge churches of sturdy construction with tall bell-towers dominate these tiny burgs, most of unremarkable construction and looking more like large fortresses.
Driving these back-roads yields some surprises along the way. After one little unremarkable town, a rock outcrop hanging over the road was good enough for us to stop and to take a photo. But on top were some funny little bumps. A closer look showed them to be a large flock (is 'flock' the right term?) of rather large vultures!
Another bend in the road revealed a ruin of sizeable proportions, an old monastery which in its days must have been very impressive. Further along the road skirted a reservoir. It was obvious from the banks that the water level was extremely low. Revealed but covered in a layer of mud and slime is a village that must have been sacrificed to progress. Multi-storey buildings, the church, bridges, roads, fields, dead trees were all clear to see - an eerie sight.
We stopped for one night in a tiny little town called Castrojerez clustered on a hill overlooked by its resident ruined castle. The next night was Haro, the so-called 'wine capital' of the La Rioja region, famous for its wines. Naturally we sampled some and they are excellent! And cheap too, as is all wine in Spain and Portugal. One need pay no more than €2 a bottle for a really nice wine - we haven't bothered to pay much more!
Next stop is Bilbao and the ferry terminal...