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Europe 2014 - Along the Costa de la Luz

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Along the Costa de la Luz

The drive towards the coast was quiet being a Sunday morning, and we bypassed the large towns of Bollullos Par del Condado and Almonte to reach the amazing pilgrimage town of El Rocio where the streets of distinctive buildings each belonging to Hermandades (brotherhoods) from many towns and cities throughout Spain especially Andalucia. These are mostly occupied only during the pilgrimage weeks in May or June when pilgrims arrive wearing traditional dress in covered wagons decorated with flowers and drawn by a pair of oxen. It is often called a cowboy town and has the feel of the wild west with the open verandahs lining the sandy streets. It's a popular tourist destination all the year round with many gift shops by the large basilica overlooking the main square and lagoon. The roads approaching the town are crowded around the pilgrimage dates especially through the adjacent Doñana National Park. There is lively partying, singing and dancing during the weekend as well as religious services.

El Rocio verandah lined street
El Rocio verandah lined street
El Rocio madonna statue in the basilica
El Rocio Virgin statue
El Rocio square and basilica
 El Rocio Basilica
From there we drove up to the very busy Seville ring road and back down the east side of the Rio Guadalquivir estuary to the seaside resort of Sanlúcar de Barrameda where motorhomes can park on the large gravel area on the seafront. We came across several colourful murals, wall tiles and art deco style houses just back from the promenade. There was a terrific sunset that evening but we were woken early the next morning by trucks arriving to install massive electricity cables on high wooden poles for the forthcoming feria so we drove along the seafront to the beach for a quiet breakfast.
Sanlucar de Barrameda wall tiles
wall tiles at the ice factory in Sanlúcar

We decided to bypass Jerez de la Frontera and took the autovia towards the large sprawling city of Cadiz then drove along the Costa de la Luz to busy Conil de la Frontera, useful for several supermarkets, but where motorhome parking is banned along the seafront, so we headed for an ACSI campsite at Roche. After lunch we set off for a walk to the beach, which turned out to be somewhat further than it appeared on the map, along lanes with villas behind high walls. We eventually reached a small deserted sandy cove at Playa del Aceite (oil?) and after a short rest walked back along dusty tracks so so it turned out to be a rather boring 9km hike in the hot afternoon sun. At least it was flat most of the way!

The next day was more fruitful as we drove inland to Vejer de la Frontera a delightful hilltop Peublo Blanco (white town) of narrow streets which we somehow ended up negotiating in the van (aagghh sat navs!) to reach the free coach and car park by the  tourist office, where we picked up some helpful leaflets. After a stroll around the streets by the castle, church and some typical tiled house entrances, we reached the colourful fountain in the main square with the ubiquitous group of older men sat around it.

Vejer de la Frontera fountain

Vejer de la Frontera tiled house entrance
Tiles at Vejer de la Frontera

We then drove a few kilometres along the main road to the poorly signposted NMAC sculpture park just as it closed for lunch. It re-opened at 3.30pm and we wandered around the woodland trail to look at a varied mix of modern outdoor pieces including a very large concrete and water Skyspace by the American sculptor James Turrell. As we often find there was just one other group of visitors while we were there but it was worth the €2.50 pensioners entrance fee. We headed back to the coast at the rather run down former fishing port of Barbate and through pine forests of the Brena Natural Park to Camping Pinar San José at Zahora just northwest of Los Canos de Meca, where we stayed for two nights. It was about one kilometre (genuinely this time) from the large sandy beach leading to the low headland of Cabo de Trafalgar with its lighthouse and a plaque giving details of the famous victory by Nelson. We wondered if the English inscription was a true translation of the Spanish?

Cabo de Trafalgar lighthouse
Cabo de Trafalgar lighthouse
Sanlucar de Barrameda sunset     Sanlucar de Barrameda mural on flats    
Sanlúcar de Barrameda  - sunset  and mural
Vejer de la Frontera a Pueblo Blanco

Vejer de la Frontera fountain
Vejer de la Frontera fountain

Vejer de la Frontera church
Vejer de la Frontera church

Vejer de la Frontera gateway
Vejer de la Frontera castle gateway

Skyspace by James Turrell
       Skyspace "Second Wind" by James Turrell

Cabo de Trafalgar
Cabo de Trafalgar beach

We decided to head inland rather than continuing down the coast to Tarifa. We returned to the main road at Vejer and cut across pleasantly hilly farmland to a reservoir noted for birdwatching but couldn't find any access points so continued to the white town of Alcalá de los Gazules and a campsite in a remote valley a few kilometres to the east.