We left Porto on Friday the 13th and drove east to Spain. We crossed the boarder just as the sun set. The only thing that marked the crossing from Portugal to Spain was a medium size road sign showing the EU flag (blue background with 12 stars in a circle) and the word ESPANA in the center. We stopped and took a quick photo.
Not so long after that we stopped in a town that has no name in my memory. Our only purpose for being there was lodging. That we found. Parking across the street.
Saturday we continued east with the goal of reaching the town of Segovia. In our road atlas it showed Segovia as having great historical importance / attractions. The Lonely Planet highly recommended a stop in Segovia.
Along about noonish we stopped for lunch. Actually we were looking for a bathroom. We couldn’t find a rest stop along the highway and the dry rolling hills of western Spain had sparse tree cover. However there were a few patches of trees scattered on, and between the hills. One such place was on the right side of the road just past a tiny town. A dirt road led up a small hill where there was an old stone church..and plenty of trees around it. The trees became our outdoor rest room and the church became our picnic lunch spot.
Relaxing on the hill in front of the old church, enjoying a sandwich and the view of Spain, was the realization of my perfect vison of driving across Europe. I praised the freedom our car provided us which gave us the chance to live the dream. The church was old and picturesque. The sun was warm on our faces. The air was fresh and silent. At the trunk of our car, Soon Jeong made a fantastic lunch of tomato, salmon and cheese sandwiches. Apples for desert. Now, several months later, I look back at that moment and give it 10 out of 10.
It was nearly sunset when we arrived in Segovia. We got one of the last rooms at a youth hostel in the LP guide. To our surprise, there was a roman aqueduct running thought the city. ( I guess I didn’t read that far in the guide book as I am sure they would have mentioned a roman aqueduct in the middle of the city) It was dinner time, but we instead went out for photos. The aqueduct was incredible. So impressive that it was still standing and a city had flourished around it.
We noticed many people were walking in one direction up one particular street. We decided to follow the crowd. The street curved its way past interesting shops, a small church with a statue of somebody…probably somebody important. The destination of all the strolling people presented itself in an obvious and glorious way at the top of the hill; a grand cathedral all lit up.
When we finally forgot about our cameras and focussed more on our stomaches it was nearly 9:00pm. Most food places were closing so we got a tuna sandwich in a bar, then later munched more in our room.
Sunday UNFORTUNATELY…very unfortunately, we had no time to see more of Segovia. Our couchsurfing host lived in St. Feliu de Guixols on the other side of the country next to the Mediterranean sea. That was about a 10 hr drive away. I drove and kept moving, still we make a few stops along the way.
Mid-morning-ish we stopped at a small town for coffee. The espresso coffee was good and the cups were very nice espresso cups that had nice logo on them. I wanted the cups and figured I had nothing to loose by asking if I could have them (or buy them). I asked, and the guy gave them to me– Free. [The cups did not cost him anything because they were given to him by the coffee company that supplied his coffee]
Another place we stopped at had a nice church with storks nesting in the top.
We reached the house of our host after dark.
In the couchsurfing profile our host described his place as a house he built himself. A house started in 2006. We expected a finished, or nearly finished house. Wrong! Our host opened the door and we walked into a garage. Really, truly, a single car garage that you park a car in. It still had the storage shelves on the side walls. There was stuff stacked all around. One neon light hung from the ceiling. A small table and 3 chairs, one chair did not match. In a corner a stove and sink. It definitely WAS livable. It had all the basic things one needs to live a comfortable existance; stove, sink, refrigerator, pots pans, shelves, toilet, shower (no hot water). But… much was in process and unfinished.
Soon Jeong looked at me and asked, How long are we staying here? Our host gave us a warm welcome and immediately offered us drink and food. A special (and expensive food) that he had received a couple of days ago for his birthday; smoked pork leg. Soon Jeong liked it.
At the back wall of the garage we pulled a blanket aside to reveal the stairs leading to the basement. The circular stairs had been welded together with odd pieces of metal. In the basement… well it was much more finished and it looked quite nice and cozy. There was a small wood stove in the corner for heat. Our beds…. two hammocks stretched across the width of the room tied to hooks anchored into the cement foundation.
If you have slept in a hammock perhaps you will appreciate the balance and technique needed to get into them. Our task was a bit more difficult because we not only had to get into the hammock without flipping over, we had to then get ourselves into our sleeping bags-in the hammock. Our host gave us a couple of tips on how to do this successfully.
Our tip: Hammocks are comfortable to sleep in but it gets cold on your backside because you are suspended above ground and cold air will circulate under you. Place a blanket or towel in the hammock first for added insulation under you.
We selected our host because he was a chef. On Monday, March 16th: my 51st birthday, our host made a fantastic Spanish omelette. This was NOTHING like the Spanish omelette you get at Dennys or some breakfast restaurant. This was a REAL Spanish omelette… more than 2 inches thick and Ohhh so good.
The shower was another sort of adventure. There was no hot water. In fact, our host told us that it was not long ago that he completed the water system. The key item to for completion of the water system was a bathtub. A full size bathtub sits on the roof. An electric pump, pumps water from the well up to the roof and fills the bathtub. (How does he know when the bathtub is full or empty?? When there is no water coming out of the faucet–the tub is empty. Time to turn the pump on. When water is running off the roof, turn the pump off,– the tub is full!)
The bathtub acts as a holding tank and all the water for the sink and toilet are gravity fed. Getting back to the shower… no hot water. Hot water is produced by heating a full pot on the stove. Take the pot of hot water into the shower. While squatting naked in the shower, use a small pan to throw the water on yourself. Soap and shampoo,…then throw more water to rinse, and hope you haven’t run out of hot water before you are done rinsing. In Soon Jeong’s case she had to choose; wash her hair, or wash her body. The hot water pot didn’t hold enough water for her to do both.
The refrigerator worked just fine and he had a good microwave oven but you had to switch some electrical plugs around to use it. The internet worked just great, something we are always grateful for.
Our host also had a great dog that loved to play fetch. The dog was kind of obsessed with fetch. Some times when we eating outside the dog would drop a stick at your feet. Ignore the dog and he would drop the spitty, slimy stick in your lap. The dog was great. Big dog too.
Now here is an interesting conclusion on this. After reading about the state of our host’s house, you might think that our stay there was not enjoyable. Thinking perhaps that the environment required some amount of determination for us to stay in those conditions. Not at all. The counter balance to all this was our host. His sense of hospitality, his genuine kindness and real giving is what erased all those other things. We didn’t mind staying there at all. In fact we really enjoyed it. Our host had humble accommodations but he made a sincere effort to make us feel most welcome and comfortable with all that he had. He is the kind of person who would give you the last piece of his birthday smoked pork leg.
In addition, I personally have great admiration and respect for him because he remains true to himself. He has not sacrificed his happiness and life to fulfil societies perscription of what one should do with their life. He is really happy and enjoys his live and sharing with friends.
We have experienced a bit of the opposite … A host has nice living conditions but no sense of care, concern or hospitality for the guests. We prefer an unfinished garage with a great host over nice surroundings.
We stayed in St. Feliu de Guixols for a week and loved it.