So week one in Spain, and it was definitely a long week of traveling. After looking at all our options to travel here, because we wanted to bring our dog with us, we finally settled on a newly inaugurated Brittany ferry service taking us directly from Cork/Ringaskiddy to Santander.
The trip takes approximately 26 hours, and offers people traveling with dogs, dog friendly cabins for the crossing. Once I read this I knew it was the way we would be going. We also opted to take the bikes with us, so the total cost for the car, cabin, bikes outbound and return sailing came in at €1,295.00. Initially it seemed like a lot until I weighed up the costs of sailing to UK, driving across, then the channel tunnel and then the drive through France to Spain. And, with Missy being able to stay with us for the entire trip we were sold. We left on the 2nd sailing between Cork and Santander, and all being said it went mostly smoothly, we did leave a little late as the Ferry arrived from France a little late.
Going through the passport control with Missy had me a little nervous, as I really had no idea what to expect. Basically, Missy received all the shots she needed from when she was a puppy, kept up to date on her passport. Then 24 hours before we left Missy was given the tick and echinococcus treatments needed to go to Spain, her passport was filled in and her chip tested to make sure it was working ok, then finally an over all health check to confirm she was ok to travel, again verified in her passport. When we arrived at passport control, before driving through to the boat, we were asked for all passports, handed a scanner to check Missy’s chip, it read the number and the official checked it against the documents, a sticker was placed on the car window to indicate we were traveling with a dog, and we drove on through to the loading lane we were assigned, it was all really straight forward. No need to worry at all. We also went through passport control in Santander, this time there no need to scan Missy’s chip again, it was just a visual confirmation for all of us.
So back to the Ferry, our lane, with all the dogs, was the last to board the ferry and once parked up we were met by one of the crew who took us through to the designated dog cabin area. At this point in the paper work everyone was told to make sure that their dogs had a muzzle on when out of the car or the cabin, and I can honestly say we were the only ones who actually put a muzzle on our dog, no one else did and nearly everyone complained either that their dog’s didn’t like it or didn’t need it. Eventually everyone did put on the muzzles and we started upstairs towards our cabins, when one of the smaller dogs did snap at Missy. Obviously in an unusual environment the fur babies can get a little frightened.
Cork to Santander on Brittany Ferries
Our cabin was compact, with four bunks and a toilet / shower room, perfect for the night. Missy loved it immediately and settled in straight away with her small overnight bag. If she needed to go to the toilet, we had 24 hour access to the designated dog area just down the corridor from our cabin and Missy was pretty happy to stay there when we went to have some lunch.
The first few hours I did feel a little motion sick, but that quickly passed. Missy did stay close though, she is fierce perceptive that puppy.
Overnight, during the sailing the toilets in some of the rooms stopped working including ours, and even though the crew did work on trying to rectify the issue it was not resolved by the time we were disembarking. There was still plenty of access to toilets in the main area so it was pretty ok.
On a side note though, it a can be a bit of a pain to find out a toilet doesn’t flush after you use it!!!! But then again I’d hardly be flushing it first, mind though I was tempted after our cabin one stopped working.
We did disembark later than anticipated which meant we decided to change our plans to drive to Valladoid and chose a closer campsite.
A few items to take note of on the Ferry, we lost all signal on our phones between Ireland and Spain, and the wifi on the boat was pretty non existent. We did have the option to pay for it in the cabin but it was costly. We had initially thought we would plan some of our trip when we were onboard but luckily I had done some beforehand, otherwise we would have been a bit stuck. We did gain signal back as we came towards Santander and it was then we did some research on a closer campsite for the night.
After checking the weather, we had made the decision to travel South towards Malaga for May. We had previously spent time there and liked it so we made plans to spend a month engaging our limited Spanish by jumping in the deep end. But as it is a longish drive from the North to the South of Spain the plan was to break it up by camping along the way. Had we landed on time we would have headed to Valladoid but since we were quite behind we opted to camp approximately a 30 minute drive from the ferry in Camping Santillana, primarily because it was the closest one that would allow a dog. The campsite itself was nice, very few people staying in it and cost €20.00 for the night, including an electric hook up. The Cantabria landscape is very pretty and green, generally because at this time of year in is not very warm, as we discovered while camping, Alan exclaiming early in the morning, “well that was like camping in Clifden on a goodish day”.
Camping Santillana is a lovely campsite, with a small cafe and shop open on the site, each (parcela) camp pitch has an electric hook up and it is located within walking distance of the small village Santillana del Mar. The village itself was quite busy with Camino walkers, as it is en-route. I would definitely recommend www.campingsantillana.com
Camping Ruta de la Planta, Salamanca
At this point we had to make up for the lost travel time, so we decided to head straight to the 2nd campsite in Salamanca, this time we chose a small campsite just outside the main town, called camping ruta de la plata. A total of 350 km driving and we arrived around 3pm, during the long lunch time, we were directed into the campsite by the owner and told to set up and come back at 5 to check in. This campsite cost a total of €21.00 and again that included the electric hook up. The facilities onsite were great, and after setting up we visited the city of Salamanca briefly taking in the central square.
The only downside, was the noise, in the evening a really loud outdoor concert started, and I mean really loud, and kept going until at least 5am. Lying awake at 4 am to not great cover versions of Bon Jovi and Guns n Roses brought me close to tears, for many reasons. A seasoned campsite traveler imparted some camping wisdom the following morning when he told us he never travels without his ear plugs. Possibly the only person onsite who had a good night’s sleep.
All being said, it was a nice campsite and the noise aspect was really out of their control. www.campingrutadelaplanta.com
The following morning we packed up again and headed for Caceres, in total a 315km drive away from Salamanca. So far the drive between the main cities had all been on motorways. I was really interested in staying in this campsite, it was quite unique as it had individual toilet and showers facilities connected to each camping section and I wanted to see what it was like. I can definitely say I wasn’t disappointed. So far, this was the busiest campsite we had stayed in and also the sunniest. Housed in the site itself was a swimming pool, shop and cafe, we also took the opportunity to visit the city of Caceres, and were lucky enough to stumble on a large market taking place in one of the city parks.
The cost for staying in this campsite was €26.00 again including the electric hook up. Nearby there was a lovely walk by an old estate and olive trees that could take you back into the town and there were also well defined cycle lanes in to the town. Over all so far this was my favourite campsite, one I would definitely like to return to.
On a side note the campsite is actually quiet at night, as the have a strict noise policy and you will need strong tent pegs as the ground is very hard. https://www.campingcaceres.com
Camping El Brillante, Cordoba
The following morning we debated staying on for another night in Caceres, but if we did it would have left us with a much longer drive the following day, so we packed up again and headed to Cordoba. This was our shortest drive at 160km approx. but it was also the drive where we had to do half on a motorway and half on the national road, which made if feel a bit longer, on the other hand it was through some stunning countryside.
Our next campsite was in Cordoba itself, just over 2 km from the centre centre and easy to walk into. It was actually the only one we could leave the car behind at because it was so accessible to the city. The campsite itself was the most expensive costing €32.50 but with its location it was very reasonable. A lovely campsite, again another one I would definitely return to http://www.campingelbrillante.com. Even though we were only there over night we had a lovely walk around the city with Missy.
We left Cordoba heading towards Malaga for the final leg of our journey the following morning arriving in Malaga mid afternoon.
But, can’t wait to get back to camping soon. A few notes if you are thinking of camping in Spain, not all campsites take dogs and sometimes their websites take a bit of browsing before you can find the information, the ground in some campsites can be very hard so good strong tent pegs are needed, at this time of year not all the facilities on each campsite are open such as swimming pools and shops, and in general you can’t book ahead of time, it is no problem in May but I am sure later in the summer they will be much busier.
Some key Spanish words to know when camping:
- Tienda – Tent
- Coche – Car
- Corriente – Electricity hook up
- Parcela – Plot
- Alójate con to Mascota – Staying with your pet
- Se admiten animales de compañia – Animals allowed
- Temporada alta – High season
- Temporada Baja – Low season