We camped for free in Southern Spain’s largest town & saw the sights by bike
As you might have noticed from our map and previous posts we’re finding it hard to tear ourselves away from the beach and have spent most of our travels so far hugging the coast. Being from the UK we’ve definitely got a sense of needing to make the most of the summer while it lasts but we’re slowly realising that it isn’t something we need to worry about here!
We left Portugal and drove in to the South of Spain one month ago. It feels like the time has gone so quickly but at the same time so much has happened. Our first couple of days in Spain were spent, you guessed it, by the beach. We parked up near Huevla, then decided to let go of our need to spend every relatively warm day by the sea and enjoy a few days inland. We headed to Andalucia’s capital, Seville.
Parking the van in Seville was tricky, the roads are busy plus you have to keep your wits about you and look out for the hundreds of tourist carrying horses and carts all over the city.
Thanks to the wild camping ‘points of interest’ on our Satnav (downloaded from furgovw.org) we managed to find a quiet residential street with just one perfect Fiat Ducato sized space which was only a few kilometers walk to the town centre.
We arrived quite late so headed straight out to Cafe Tarifa; a bar/music venue with lots of interesting things to look at decorating the walls and a big mural painted behind the small stage where live music happens, usually on Saturday nights (we think…). From there we followed the crowds to the Alameda de Hércules where we found a row of bars with groups of people sat outside drinking, but not in the usual Friday night rowdy drunk way. The atmosphere was friendly and everyone seemed merry but not ruined to the point of disgracing themselves, and we quickly found a group of locals to sit with who were more than happy to practice their English on us. Here, we went to Fun Club; a club/music venue that has a sort of retro theme and pictures of people like Hendrix and Bowie on the walls. They played indie/alt rock mixed with dancey chart songs which we stayed up enjoying til gone 4am.
After we’d recovered from our night on the town we moved the van to another spot in the city. Even though where we were parked was free and fairly quiet, it was still too busy to have the side door open so not the best place in the heat. We managed to find a huge car park a little further out of town which was also free and much quieter.
Every day we spent in Seville after that we used the segregated cycle path along the river to get in to town. There’s around 75 miles of segregated cycle lane to explore across Seville. It was a really nice ride that took us past a beautiful park and amazing historical architecture.
We loved just walking around and taking in the beautiful surroundings, Seville is definitely one of the best looking cities we’ve been to.
Even though we’re travelling on a budget and generally avoid tourist attractions that charge a fee, we felt the Alcazar was too exciting to miss.
This royal palace was first constructed in the 14th century and incorporates a treasure trove of Mudéjar, Renaissance and Moorish architecture, so extravagant and glorious that Ridley Scott filmed here for his movie Kingdom of Heaven.
It was hard to not get carried away taking pictures with everyone else, there were just so many beautiful things to see. One of the most amazing things was the variety of patterns and details in the tiles used across the palace:
The day after our visit to the Alcazar we saw rain again for the first time in three months! Even though it was a cooler day temperatures were still well in the high twenties so we decided to wait until evening and go for a night-ride around the city.
Seeing cities on your bike late at night is good because the roads are a bit quieter but it’s still bustling with things going on.
We followed the cycle paths around the perimeter of the city and right through the centre, passing diners eating in restaurants and people drinking outside bars. People watching is great from your bike because no one pays any attention to you as you ride past. We love exploring new places by bike, particularly in more urban areas because to a certain extent you feel invincible, you know that if you needed to you could just ride away at a decent speed. For us this often means that we see so much more by bike, as we happily ride through places that we might not have been as comfortable walking through.
Once we’d had enough of the city life we drove just under a couple of hours out towards Grazalema where we found a huge national park with mountains, caves and river swimming spots, a perfect rural retreat.
We’d arrived just in time to catch another free festival – the Pueblos Blancos festival. This was taking place across several of the small towns around Grazalema and featured bands from all over the world, but mostly country bands from Texas. Not being the biggest country music fans we didn’t stick around for the whole festival but free music’s free music and we still can’t believe how much we’ve been able to find this summer!
We ended up staying in this area for a few weeks with a couple we’d met in Portugal – post to come soon…