Quimper (Bretagne), France September 2021

We were heading for Quimper and actually parked up in the municipal campsite near the town centre but, because the reception was closed for lunch and on a total whim, we decided to move on a few kilometres to the Chateau de Lanniron. Anyway, I’ve seen Quimper.

In 1969, for financial reasons, the owners of the Chateau de Lanniron decided to turn their 38 hectare estate into a leisure complex. A luxury campsite complete with restaurant, swimming pools, waterpark, various playgrounds, a golf course and driving range, etc were built around the 17th century chateau (and it’s garden terraces which drop down to the River Odet) and some of the outlying buildings on the estate were converted to gites. We booked in for the one night but stayed on for a second and were sorely tempted to stay for a third. Leaving aside all the facilities it is a great place to rest up. The pitches are huge and set in some lovely grounds. It is probably one of the best 5 star campsites in France (or anywhere for that matter).

Originally owned and used as a residence by the Bishops of Quimper the 15th century chateau was extended in the 17th century to resemble something like the existing property although; it was plundered and fell into considerable disrepair during the French Revolution and had to be restored. The property is quite beautiful and full of interesting history.

And all for 20 euros a night! September is out of the high season

Vannes (Bretagne), France September 2021

What a place! A sizeable town of 52,000 people, near the Gulf of Morbihan on the southern coast of Brittany, Vannes is one of the most charming towns we have visited during this tour. We only had the one day in Vannes and it would take considerably more than a single day to do this town justice but, we’ll be back.

We parked up close to the town centre and walked northwards down the long ‘finger like’ harbour (plenty of boats moored along both sides) towards the old town.

We passed into the mostly walled off, pedestrianised old town through the 16th century baroque gate of Porte St Vincent (which is named after the Spanish Dominican friar, Vincent Ferrer, who died here in 1419 and subsequently became Vannes’ patron saint) and entered a wholly enchanting world of cobbled streets and pastel coloured half timbered 16th century buildings

I read that there are no less than 170 listed half timbered buildings in the old town centre and although the ground floors of many have been converted into modern shops, boutiques and cafe bars it was easy to imagine we had been transported back into the 16th century.

The Porte Saint Vincent gate took us directly on to the Rue St Vincent which in turn brought us to the Place des Lices. There used to be jousting tournaments on the Place des Lices but, that was a long time ago and as we arrived, a street market was in full swing.

It was a most complete market with the widest range of goods and produce, full of colour and wonderful aromas not just from the many local fruit & vegetable stalls but from traders selling spices, flowers and various differently scented handmade soaps. The market stretched across numerous streets and seemed to have almost everything. There were carpets & furniture, craft ornaments and jewellry and food & drink stalls. There’s also a fish market on the Place de la Poissonnerie.

Of course the street market is surrounded by plenty of cafes and bars and it wasn’t long before we were seated at a table outside of one of them while I tucked into some really delicious local oysters and a glass of muscadet. It was almost noon and it was either that or we would have to visit one of the many Michelin Star restaurants in the town. Next time?

There is so much to see in Vannes. We could have carried on to the Jardin des Remparts with it’s geometric lawns and flowerbeds and topiaries and it’s views of the Garenne Bastion and three towers but Vanya was looking for something to eat (she doesn’t do oysters) and so we turned back to the harbour where she had seen a menu she liked.

On the way we paused at the granite Cathedrale St Pierre. This cathedral took some 700 years to complete and is a real mix of styles (romanesque, gothic, Italian renaissance, etc) with the oldest original feature being the 13th century bell tower. I went inside the cathedral but a service was underway and while that was on I was never going to feel comfortable looking for the tomb of St Vincent which is housed in in one of the Cathedral Chapels. Anyway, there was a pretty good harpist busking outside the cathedral and Vanya wouldn’t mind me listening to just one song.

From the cathedral we left the old town via it’s north west corner; walking past the impressive Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) on our way to the harbour for Vanya’s brunch and for me to finish my lunch. Vanya’s chosen restaurant was right on the harbour – a great place to eat, drink, people watch and admire some of the boats in the harbour. A couple of the boats have some stories to tell too.

Except for the harbour we didn’t really get to see much outside of the town walls; which is a pity because heading south from the harbour (just beyond where we had parked the Van) is the large Parc du Golfe where there’s the Jardin aux Papillons (a glass dome housing hundreds of butterflies) and an aquarium with a huge collection, more than 50 tanks, of mostly tropical fish. Again, maybe next time.

Conleau (Bretagne), France August 2021

We parked up at Flower Camping Conleau just outside of Vannes for a couple of days. Flower is not a bad campsite chain and staying in Conleau allowed us to both take advantage of the Region’s good weather and visit Vannes.

Conleau on the Gulf of Morbihan (Gulfe du Morbihan) is one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, most beautiful bays. ‘Mor bihan’ is Breton for ‘little sea’. It is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a one kilometre wide bottleneck and yet covers an area of about 100 square kilometres (between Vannes and Auray to the north and Arzon and Sarzeau to the south). In different circumstances we would have stayed longer and taken a boat trip around the forty or so islands and islets which fill the bay. The Gulf is a listed Regional Nature Park and the whole area is beautiful.

After checking out the small peninsula next to the campsite for a suitable bar or restaurant for the evening (easy – there are only two and one had shut down because of Covid), I paused to watch a game of Palet Breton that four local guys were playing. The game is played with contestants taking turns to throw cast iron palets (discs), from a distance of 5 metres, at a maitre or jack which sits on a poplar board (measuring 70 cms x 70 cms). The individual or team getting closest to the maitre wins the round and receives one point for every palet which is closer to the maitre than their opponent(s). First to 12 points wins the match. This is not an easy game to play but these guys were seriously good, hardly ever missing the board. Could be a great lockdown game.

Having been suitably impressed by the Palet Breton players I decided to work up a thirst with a long walk. The area is full of walks and the one I chose took me through some beautiful marshland along the banks of the River Vincin almost all the way into Vannes (and back). This is an area of incredible natural beauty full of assorted plant and animal life, especially birds.

That evening we enjoyed a couple of drinks at the restaurant I found earlier in the day but we didn’t eat there – they had run out of oysters! No matter, we drank and reserved a table for the next evening, leaving specific instructions with the “Maitre D” to keep some of the local oysters back for me.

I take Van in the Van to Vannes tomorrow…

Coulon (Nouvelle Aquitaine), France August 2021

Today was about going north (we want to get back to the UK to attend Dave’s funeral) and we decided to drive 3 hours or so to a place called Chauvigny. Then, some time well into the journey, it dawned on us that we had stopped overnight at Chauvigny when going south just a few weeks ago. Ordinarily, Chauvigny would be well worth revisiting but it was too fresh in our minds and we therefore sought an alternative. Vanya found a place just west of Niort called Coulon, on the edge of the Poitevin Marsh (National Park), which looked worth a visit. It was a few miles back the way we had come but, she had also found a half decent looking camp site just a couple of miles short of Coulon in the small town of Magne and; to cap it all, she discovered Magne has a supermarket. Back we went, passing through Niort on the way (Niort could be worth a visit next year).

Having established ourselves at Camping Kingfisher (aka Camping Martin Le Pecheur) I went off to explore the area. It didn’t take me too long to walk the length and breadth of Magne and, yes, there is a Super U store (and there is just about every other type of shop you might need) BUT there is only one bar restaurant (the crepery looks to have shut down long ago) and it shuts early on Mondays! Indeed it was shut by the time I got there.

So off I walked to Coulon to seeif it would be worth a drive there in the evening.

This little village of some 2,000 people is situated on the banks of the River Sevre in the Marais Poitevin (Poitevin Marsh) National Park and is designated one of France’s ‘plus beaux villages’. The riverbank is full of boat rentals (canoes and flat bottom boats that can be rowed, paddled or punted) and for such a small village it has a surprising number of souvenir shops, boutiques, restaurants etc. Unfortunately, it also has a tourist train.

The train did it! I took myself away fron the water to the main square (where there is a nice looking church – the Church of Saint Trinity) and found myself a small bar restaurant that was serving half a dozen local oysters and a glass of wine for 10 euros. Costs really have risen in France during the last 3 years.

Then it was time to walk back to Magne. Coulon is not a bad place to visit but the menus I looked at would not impress Vanya.

Blaye (Aquitaine), France August 2021

If Blaye is worth visiting it is for it’s amazingly well preserved citadel and the municipal campsite inside the Citadel. Great find Vanya!

The Citadelle de Blaye is the largest of three fortifications (the Citadel itself, Fort Pate on an island and Fort Medoc on the far bank) protecting the Gironde Estuary and the city of Bordeaux. It was designed by Vauban and built on the site of an already established castle (the Chateau des Rudel ) during the period 1685 and 1689 at the behest of Louis XIV. It has two entrances the Porte Dauphine to the south and the Porte Royale to the east. We drove into the campsite via Porte Royale.

With it being lunchtime and a municipal site we were unable to check in until after 4pm (Vive la France) so; we went for a good wander around the citadel. As mentioned before, the citadel is in excellent condition. The only exception is the 12th century ruin, Chateau des Rudel, which featured in Vauban’s original design and was used as the governor’s residence to start with. It had it’s towers removed much later (in the early 19th century when it was thought they would interfere with artillery fields of fire) and then fell into ruin.

The Duchess of Berry was incarcerated in the citadel for a while. I need to be more precise; Maria Carolina, Duchess of Berry (born in 1798) was held prisoner here; not Louise Elisabeth, Duchess of Berry (born in 1695). Louise Elisabeth’s story is a real tragedy and perhaps of greater interest but for all the wrong reasons. Maria Carolina’s story is of more historical interest. Maria Carolina gave birth to a son, Henri, very shortly after her husband (the fourth son of the then king of France) was assassinated in 1820. Various other deaths followed and Henri should have become King Henri V after Maria Carolina’s’s father (King Charles X of France) was forced to abdicate but; Louis Philippe allowed himself to be crowned king of France instead. The Duchess considered Louis Philippe a usurper and claimed her son was the legitimate heir to the throne. It didn’t happen – she was exiled by Louis Philippe. She returned to France in 1832 to organise a rebellion but was discovered and imprisoned in the Citadel of Blaye. Whilst there she gave birth to another son (fathered by an Italian Count Lucchesi-Palli whom she had secretly married) and her credibility with the “legitimists” was thus destroyed. She was labelled a fallen woman and removed to Sicily, no longer being considered a threat to Louis Philippe.

Moving on, that evening, we found ourselves a table at one of the restaurants inside the Citadel. We believe it was the old officer’s mess where we actually ate and it was quite surreal sitting eating a good galette and drinking wine in a room where more than 200 years before there would have been Napoleonic soldiers standing at the fireplace doing exactly the same. The galette wasn’t the best we have ever had but the wine, Le Bastion (made using the Citadel’s own grapes) was fine.

I took the dogs for another brief walk around the fortress before retiring for the night (as much to take some more photos as anything). What an unusual place!

And the town of Blaye? Not really worth the time I spent walking round. It is very plain and very tired…

Ascain (Aquitaine), France August 2021

Ascain is a very pretty small town (or is it a large village?) besides the River Nivelle on the French side of the Pyrenees. It sits under the 905m Pyrenean summit of Rhune, just a few kilometres from the Atlantic coast, in the former Basque Region of Labourd, now referred to as the Pyrenees Atlantique Department of Nouveau Aquitaine. I prefer Labourd.

If you are so inclined, there’s an easy walk up to the summit of the Rhune or there is a 35 minute train ride up. I’m told that at the top you can sit outside a cafe and take in splendid views over Bayonne and Hendaye. Anyone who knows me will also know that I wasn’t going to waste my time with such a trip. I don’t care how good the views are; I cannot stand trains and cafes on hills. It is probably the one thing I hate more than bloody wind farms.

No, I spent the afternoon at something approaching sea level exploring the wonderfully picturesque ‘village’ and checking if my newly acquired Covid Sanitaire QR Code Pass would be accepted in the local bars. Dealing with those points in reverse order, two bars were quite happy to serve me alcohol after checking my pass. As for the village, it is lovely. Almost all of the houses are typical low roofed, half timbered properties with stone lintels and almost all are painted in the Basque colours of white, red and green. They are very proud of their Basque heritage here.

In villages such as this the main square is more often than not dominated by the local church but in Ascain the honours are shared between the church and a Basque Pelota Court. More about Pelota later. The Church of our Lady of Assumption doesn’t look particularly impressive from the outside but inside it is a wholly different matter and the place has some history. Parts of it date back to the Middle ages (and in 1609 the local priest was degraded and burned as a sorcerer by order of the infamous Pierre Lancre who despised anything Basque) but, the church received significant makeovers during the 16th and 17th centuries and was inaugurated in 1626 by no less a personage than Louis XIII. Leaving all that aside, I like to see wooden galleries in a church (they are quite common in this part of the world) and this particular church has three levels of galleries. It is beautiful inside.

Another place I visited in between testing my Covid Sanitaire Pass was the Roman Bridge. It’s not really a Roman bridge although there may well have been one on this site back in Roman times. No, the so called Roman Bridge was erected in the 15th century in the Roman style and then totally rebuilt (in the same Roman style) in the 1990’s after being destroyed by a flood. I think the bridge needs renaming.

What really excited me about this bridge (the 15th century one) is that it was of strategic importance during the French retreat from Spain during the Peninsula War. I’ve long been interested in Napoleonic history and the Battle of Nivelle took place here on 10 November 1813 with the Duke of Wellington decisively beating Marshall Soult. Ascain was, at the start of the battle, the centre of the French defensive line and Taupin’s Division held the village until the British Light Division routed them. You wouldn’t believe it to look at the place now. It is so quiet and peaceful.

Covid Sanitaire Pass working and with me having gained a good lay of the land, it was time to collect Vanya and the dogs and find somewhere to eat.

We timed our arrival back into the town centre perfectly. Indeed, we arrived as the village youth started dancing to traditional basque music in the town square. There was a real carnival atmosphere about the place which continued on into the next day with the annual Pelota Tournament also taking place on the town square.

For the uninitiated (and I had to look this up) Basque Pelota involves players hitting a heavy tennis sized ball against a wall, the frontis, with an open hand (although I understand the game can also be played over a net using different types of rackets) such that his opponent is unable to return the ball. It is the forefather of most racket sports and is played fast and hard. Some aspects of the game are like squash but Basque Pelota is played on a court which is 30 metres long and 10 metres wide and with the winner being the first player or team to score 22 points. I watched the final of the seniors doubles (they were playing first to 30 points) and it looked to be great fun but physically demanding.

So what else is there to say about Ascain. We love the place. So too did Winston Churchill who came here to paint.

Sad thing is, early the next day we learned one of our best mates has died. RIP Dave. Missed but never forgotten. 27 August 2021

Comillas (Cantabria), Spain August 2021

Comillas is a small town on the coast which has been hailed as one of the most beautiful towns in Cantabria. We decided to stop there for a couple of days.

The town is split into two quite distinct parts being, (a) the old town and (b) the port & beaches (and the area immediately overlooking the beaches). I decided to start with the port and leave the old town for the next day (but, if you wanted to, the place is small enough to do both in the one day).

We were parked at one end of the large golden sandy beach of Playa de Comillas and within twenty minutes or so I had walked the length of this beach to the small fishing port at the other end. There are a few cafe bars on the beach but they were all plastic chairs and tables and very busy and so I sought out a small quiet more traditional bar at the back of the port with picture postcard views out to sea and back over the harbour and beach. I don’t know the name of the bar but it was a great place to take a cold beer and watch the world do it’s thing.

After a beer I set off to find a suitable restaurant for the evening (that was easy – there are two or three with outside seating alongside the harbour) and then I continued up behind the town to a very imposing building on La Cardosa Hill which I subsequently learned is the Old Pontificial University of Comillas. This university was commissioned by the first Marques De Comillas (more about him later) with a view to training and educating young priests from poor families.

I didn’t dwell at the university but made my way back down to a couple of other interesting features which overlook the beaches and which I had seen on my way up the La Cardosa. The first of these features was the Gothic looking San Cristobal Cemetery which is built on the ruins of an old 15th century church. I don’t make a habit of wandering around cemeteries but some are worth a visit and this one certainly is. It’s a small but quite spectacular cemetery, almost entirely enclosed within the ruined walls of the old church and accessed through large, forbidding wrought iron gates. There’s a huge marble statue of what I think is supposed to be a Guardian Angel perched on one corner of the ruin but it looks really eerie and could pass as an Angel of Death. Not sure I would want to be in that cemetery on my own at night.

The second of the sites on the grassy hills overlooking the beach is the Monument to the Marques de Commilas. The Marques was born Antonio Lopez y Lopez in 1817 in Comillas. He was of humble origin with limited prospects and at the age of 14 he emigrated to Cuba. When he returned some years later it was as one of the richest men in all of Spain. It is thought he made his fortune in the slave trade but, whatever, he used some of that fortune to support King Alfonso XII’s ventures in Cuba and in return was appointed Marques de Comillas.

That first night, I took Vanya and the dogs back along the beach to the Restaurante Cantabrico and we sat on their terrace overlooking the harbour and beach and enjoyed a long meal of spider crab and scallops and a couple of bottles of Albarino.

Sorry, I was talking about Antonio Lopez y Lopez. The newly appointed Marques immediately set about creating a legacy in his birthplace. He commissioned numerous significant building projects by some of Europe’s finest architects and builders including but not limited to the aforementioned University, the Sobralleno Palace (together with it’s imposing Chapel-Musem) and a particularly impressive summerhouse, now known as the Capricho da Gaudi (because it was designed by Anton Gaudi who later worked Barcelona’s cathedral, the Sagrada Familia).

On our second day, late in the afternoon, we set off into the old town of Comillas to track down some of the projects which the Marques had commissioned. We’d left it too late and and arrived at the Capricho da Gaudi just as it was closing to visitors. They wouldn’t even let us walk the gardens. To be fair, I believe the building is now an upmarket restaurant and they were probably making ready for their evening covers. No matter, we took a couple of photos through the fence.

Neither Vanya nor I were prepared for the old town and were pleasantly surprised. It is a wonderful mix of new and old; narrow cobbled streets and squares combined with cafes, souvenir shops and, most unusual, a surprising number of ladies clothes shops. Some of the merchandise we saw was fantastic. We had a good walk around (with Vanya showing particular interest in a dress shop on the Plaza de la Constitucion) and then settled ourselves down on the Plaza del Corro (by the church) for beer and doughnuts.

I was pleased we stopped at Comillas. Back to France now.

Santillana del Mar (Cantabria), Spain August 2021

Today was about our going to the beautiful and very unusual village (or is it a town now) of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. What is unusual about the place? Well for a start, the whole village is a registered national monument. That is unusual. Of course, that also means lots of tourists (especially during the holiday month of August) and with the nearby Altamira Caves also attracting tourists (this area is the most visited tourist destination across the whole of Cantabria) we decided to have a good wander but move on after lunch. Mine was an absolutely delicious Chorizo in Cider.

It is a very attractive village and quite unlike any other that we have seen (so far) in northern Spain. Jean Paul Sartre that well known travel writer and part time literary existentialist described Santillana del Mar as the most beautiful village in Spain. I’m joking about Sartre being a travel writer but not about the other bits.

The village (or old town) is largely pedestrianised (with only the locals being allowed to drive in the centre). It probably hasn’t changed much in the last 200 years and is, in effect, a ‘living museum’. Many of the town houses have large chocolate coloured wrought iron balconies on at least two floors and these are invariably brimming with flowers. Those houses which don’t have balconies use window boxes and these too are overflowing with flowers. The whole place is a riot of colour.

The Calle de San Domingo leads to the town’s main square (the Plaza Mayor de Ramon y Pelayo) where there is a stunning little 12th century church complete with cloisters. This is the collegiate church of Saint Juliana (Colegiata de Santa Juliana) and her remains are held in the church. There is a small entry fee but it provides access to both the inside of the church and the magnificent cloisters and it is worth every cent.

During my visit, one whole side of the cloisters had been given over to a magnificent diorama reflecting events leading from Christ’s journey into Jerusalem, through his arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection.

Like I said, too many tourists for us to want to stay around and we decided over lunch to move on to the coast towards lovely Comillas. A few more photos to reflect on…

Oviedo (Asturias), Spain August 2021

I’ve long wanted to visit elegant Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. According to legend, modern Spanish history began here when a certain Don Pelayo saw the Virgin Mary and was inspired to fight the Moors who then occupied most of the Iberian Peninsula. Don Pelayo bacame the first King of Asturias and Oviedo the starting point for the reconquest of Spain.

As in so many Spanish cities, the old town forms the centre of Oviedo and it is the old town that attracts Vanya and I. We parked the Van and headed towards the old town; the spire of the Catedral de San Salvador de Oviedo showing the way.

I’ve often written in this website about the different ‘Camino’s which wend their way across Spain and Portugal to Santiago de Compostela. Two such ‘Ways’ are to be found in Oviedo. The first is the Camino Primitivo which stretches 199 miles from Oviedo’s cathedral to Santiago. The second is the Camino del Norte which travels 512 miles from St Jean de Luz in France to Santiago (crossing the Pyrenees and then travelling along Spain’s north coast to Oviedo before turning west south west into Galicia). I’m beginning to think I would like to travel the Camino del Norte.

There are a number of impressive churches in Oviedo. The first such church we encountered was the San Isidoro el Real on the Plaza de la Constitucion. This church was previously the 16th century Jesuit Church of San Matias which had it’s name changed following the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain. Then there is the Catedral de San Salvador de Oviedo (sometimes referred to as the Sancta Ovetensis) which was built on the site of an earlier church in the 14th century but, with an 82 foot tower being added in 16th century; hence it being a mixture of Gothic and Baroque architecture. Inside the Cathedral there is a small chapel containing a very special cloth (the Santo Sudario) which is said to have been placed around Jesus’ head after his death. The third most impressive church (in my view) is the San Juan el Real which was built between 1912 and 1915. This has since been elevated to Minor Basilica status and it’s inside is supposed to be absolutely fabulous (we couldn’t get in) but General Franco was married in this church.

Just around the corner from the Cathedral is the central indoor food market, the Mercado El Fontan. We didn’t go in. We were getting hungry and wanted to eat food not shop for it. Moreover, I was keen to get along to the Calle Gascona (also known as the Cider Boulevard) to find a sidreria. We found one in La Manzana Sidreria Restaurante.

While not keen on British cider (it is usually too sweet and/or fizzy), I have enjoyed all but one of the Asturian ciders (sidra) I have sampled. There are no additives (not even sugar and yeast) in the sidra and it is never carbonated. The escanciar serves small amounts from on high so as to properly aerate the dry flat cider and it is then knocked back by the drinker before the cider goes flat in the glass. Needless to say the bottles do not last long with the small amounts being poured frequently and drank quickly. Cider is more popular than wine in Asturias and I fully understand why. I had a bottle with probably the best garlic prawns I have ever eaten and I can say in all honesty that I barely missed Vanya while she went shopping in a local branch of the El Corte Ingles.

Oviedo is one of those cities I could just wander around for hours.

Aviles (Asturias), Spain August 2021

It was time to spoil ourselves; time to chill in a hotel for a couple of days; a hotel with a large bath, a real bed and a good breakfast. Our approach when looking for such a place is to simply log into Booking.com and apply our search parameters – must take dogs (and not insist upon charging ridiculously high cleaning surcharges) and must have parking sufficient to accommodate the Van (or be close to suitable parking). Thereafter we seek something quite luxurious at a reasonable price. It doesn’t really matter where the hotel is provided it is within striking distance. We found a number of options but the one we chose was the Zen Balagares Hotel on the outskirts of Avila and close to the Trasona Reservoir Park.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Zen Balagares. It was perfect for us and I would highly recommend the hotel but, the surroundings? I kid you not, the approach to the hotel is through an area which resembles a film set for an episode of that post apocalyptic horror television series ‘The Walking Dead’.

Our drive up to the hotel took us first through a fairly scruffy, almost industrial, part of Aviles and then up towards what looked like a quiet upmarket residential area. Then, suddenly, our surroundings changed. We were driving along a series of wide empty roads. There were roundabouts, zebra crossings, street lights and parking places on these roads but neither houses nor shops and absolutely no people nor traffic. This went on for what seemed like miles. We passed an overgrown 18 hole golf course and driving range which, clearly, had been left unattended for years. There was a club house & cafe bar with chains on the doors and a large car park, with parking bays marked for the president and club captain, cracked and covered in weeds. Through the dirty windows of the club house we could see tables and chairs and display cabinets with cups, shields and medals but still no people. Further round the golf course was another run down, glass fronted building – an empty showroom. Through the diry cracked windows we could see scale models and artistic impressions of… This wasn’t a setting for the Walking Dead – a local developer had gone bust.

We carried on towards the hotel and again our surroundings changed. The hotel is surrounded by that quiet upmarket residential area we had seen from the foot of the hill. We had arrived at the Zen Balagares but, having said that… the estate is reminiscent of another film plot. Yes, it’s a perfect setting for another remake of the Stepford Wives. The houses… Enough already!

We spent two great nights at the Zen Balagares. The room was comfortable (and it had a wonderful hot bath), the breakfast was good, the bar was open whenever we needed it and the food wasn’t bad. Oh, and they kept a decent Albarino. The best part however was a very reasonably priced 90 minute hot and cold stone massage. We loved that.