Friday, June 26, 2009

vacation planning

It's that time of the year again. Sometimes I think I enjoy vacation planning as much as actually the vacation itself. Any suggestions are welcome, we're spending a few days in St. Petersburg first and then do a small tour of the Baltic countries in early September.

Sorry about the non crafty content on this blog lately, but time for sewing and knitting hasn't been that much. Summer has arrived in full swing and I've been spending more time outdoors .. hiking and especially cycling (I love these long, long days when I can still cycle for an hour or two after work). And I've restarted yoga, which I've really missed and forgotten how good it makes me feel.

I *have* started sewing clothes again, especially summer dresses, but it's been slow going and I need another few days before I have any finished items. Knitting has also been slow, mainly because cotton doesn't give me half the pleasure I get from wool. I've knitted the back of a Somerset cardigan and maybe this weekend I can get started with the front.

We are going to spend the weekend here, probably do some more hiking and try to get ourselves lost in those woods :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Circo de Gredos

The next day was sunny and somewhat cold, therefore perfect for the hike we had planned. Originally we had planned 2 hiking days in the Sierra de Gredos: the Circo/Laguna Grande and the 5 Lagunas hike (from Navalperal de Tormes) as well. Because of the bad weather the day before we could only do one of them, so we chose to maintain the first hike and leave the 5 Lagunas for our next trip here.

So we drove to the Plataforma again and took the marked trail. It's supposed to take about 2.5 hours to get to the Laguna Grande, and another 2.5 hours to come back. I would say that's about right because that's approximately the time we took, but plan for a bit more time if you're not used to hiking.

About an hour and a half later we got the first glimpse of the Circo, and the Laguna below ...

Halfway down there's a junction, and you can either take the path down all the way to the shores of the Laguna, or actually hike towards the 5 Lagunas from here as well. This is a different path from the one we had planned to do - it involves hiking the steep mountain in front which didn't look that easy, but it would give us the best view of the 5 lagunas. Since we had time we had actually decided to try it, but we couldn't find any easy way to cross the river without getting wet (and it had rained the day before so I guess it wasn't the best day to attempt this anyway). Definitely we'll try it next time ...

A bit frustrated we settled down for a bit and had our picnic while savouring the views. I have to say this was probably one of the best days to come here. The weather was perfect and we barely met any other hikers (although our guide book states that there are hundreds of people hiking here in the summer and the path gets really crowded, but this day it was so peaceful I found that hard to believe).

Later, we hiked down to the Laguna. It seemed so small from the top, but up close it's actually quite big. There were wild deer (or maybe mountain goats ? we saw a lot of those too) grazing on the other side so we just sat and watched.

Some practical notes: there are 2 mountain refuges on this trail, there's one about 20 minutes after the start of the trail and the other one (refugio Elola) by the shore of the Laguna Grande at the end. Also, there's one fountain along the way where you can replenish your water supply, it's called "la fuente de los Cavadores", halfway the climb up the mountain.

Being relatively close to Lisbon and with so many trails available I have to say we will definitely come back here a few more times. The setting is incredibly beautiful and the park seems to be very well maintained.

For next time: definitely this one and if I have the courage then maybe this one


On Monday last week the day was absolutely dreary outside. We drove towards the Sierra de Gredos all the way up to the Plataforma parking place (in Hoyos del Espino). It's from here that you can hike the trail to the Circo de Gredos and the Laguna Grande. Well, we did try ... but the wind and rain were so bad we walked about 500 m before turning back.

So instead we looked for a nice place to have lunch and found the amazing El Yantar de Gredos restaurant. Delicious food and good service, definitely an experience to try again.

After lunch we drove to Burgohondo, an unremarkable village but where our hotel for that night was located. A nice hotel with a very sociable host (and we had the hotel all to ourselves), and the views of Gredos were not bad ...


The Monfrague National Park is the most recent of all Spanish parks and is quite popular among birdwatchers. You can easily spot eagles and vultures flying by, especially at the top of the castle or near the Salto del Gitano area.

There are 3 trails in this park, and we had planned to take the Red trail (itinerario rojo) which is the longest and most complete (about 4/5 hours). It gives you a good overview of the park, going all the way up to the castle and the main sights.

It starts at the Vilareal de San Carlos village (the only village located inside the Park) but we actually parked near the Cardinal bridge (Puente del Cardinal) and started the hike from the Fuente del Frances picnic area.

The first hour and a half the trail goes through the forest, up the mountain and towards the castle. It's a relatively easy trail, with some steep parts once in a while. We got to see some wild deer passing by as well ...

The views from the castillo are amazing (be sure to get inside the tower and up the stairs to the top) and it's the best stop for spotting the big birds.

The red trail then goes down the mountain on the other side and follows the road until reaching the Salto del Gitano. Here we took the trail that follows the river bend (Senda del rio Tajo) until finally reaching the bridge again.

That night we stayed at this lovely place called El mirlo blanco, located near the village of Candeleda, halfway between Monfrague and the Sierra de Gredos. It was so peaceful and relaxing there, and I'm hoping next time the weather will be nice enough to try that pool.


On our way to Monfrague we spent the night in Trujillo, an historical town just about 3 hours from Lisbon. We weren't planning on doing any hiking that day, the weather was rainy and impredictable, so we just strolled around and explored the sights.

Stumbling upon a beautiful old church (Santa Maria de la Mayor), we decided to go in and see the magnificent retablo. Later, we also went up the tower to look at these amazing views.

Trujillo is also where Pizarro's house is located (there's a huge statue of him in the main square)

And just before it started to rain more heavily we went up to the castle and enjoyed the views once again ...

We took shelter in the courtyards at the main square (where we were disappointed to find out that the Pizarro restaurant was closed for dinner) and waited for the rain to pass ...

We spent the night here. A really nice hotel, which is located right outside the historical center (a 5 minute walk, really).