Welcome to my Puerto Duquesa blog

I've been visiting Puerto Duquesa three or four times a year for the past 20 years and have seen the area change enormously in that time. Where once there were dirt tracks and open countryside, there are now two lane motorways and apartment complexes. And whilst the area has changed and grown dramatically, it has still retained its small town, or should that be 'small marina' feel, which keeps me, and thousands others, coming back year after year.

Since I am currently in the USA it is a slightly odd time to start a blog about Puerto Duquesa, but the reason for doing so is simple - I may actually have some time to write some stuff! Most of the things I'm going to write about are things I like doing in the area or places I like going. Clearly I am not going to be able to cover everything, but hopefully I can give you a taste of what makes this such a special place and give you some ideas for your next trip.

If you can't immediately find what you are looking for, please scroll down and look in the blog archive (click the triangles to expand the list of articles). You might also want to start with these articles: Puerto Duquesa: the basics, Favourite (best?) restaurants in Puerto Duquesa, Puerto Duquesa beaches and Holiday accommodation in Puerto Duquesa. Want to get to know the area? Try A walking tour of Puerto Duquesa.

I welcome contributions, comments, criticisms and...well...praise.

If you want to link to me or you want me to link to you, that'll work too. If I think you're a good local company and you're prepared to part with a few euros, you might be lucky enough to advertise on the blog (which, fyi, is page rank 3 on Google - just type in puerto duquesa at google.com).

Thanks / Gracias

Chris (chris@cdgsmith.com) (March 2007)


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Driving to Puerto Duquesa

Driving to Puerto Duquesa is becoming an increasingly popular option for some people – you just have to look at the number of ‘Brit plate’ cars on the roads – and in the following article I set out some of my experiences of the continent-crossing drive.

Where should I start?

The first thing to consider when you are planning to drive to Puerto Duquesa is whether you are going to get the ferry to Northern Spain (Santandar) and start your journey from there, or start from Calais. I’ve done both and I suppose it depends on how long you’ve got to do the journey, what you want to see and what your budget is. While the crossing to France can be relatively cheap (either via Eurotunnel or ferry), the ferry to Spain (via Brittany Ferries), assuming you want a cabin to sleep in during the 24 hour journey, is going to set you back at least £500. Timing wise, there probably isn’t that much in it, although with the ferry option, you can hit Santandar fresh and drive the length of Spain in a day and a half (maybe even quicker).

What’s the drive like?

The roads are excellent – wide, dual-carriageways with smooth surfaces. And provided you avoid the European holiday rush (at the beginning and end of August), the roads are, for the most part, relatively quiet too.

Since you’ll be driving on the wrong side of the road, and by that I mean the right hand side of the road is a right hand drive car, you need to be prepared for this and take it easy to start with. Most importantly, when changing lanes and manouevering, ensure that you get a good look over your shoulder and check all your blind spots (there will be new ones). Having a passenger is a massive help when it comes to overtaking on single carriageways, but if you don’t have one, be patient and do not take any risks – your aim is to arrive in Puerto Duquesa in one piece without any dents!

The French and the Spanish drive differently from the British. Avoiding any unnecessary stereotypes and generalisations (you’ll come to your own conclusions when you do the trip!), the French don’t tend to be particularly aware of cars behind them and have a habit of pulling out in front of you just as the road opens up and you put your foot down. Not good. The Spanish are, in my experience, slightly more aware, but you should still be cautious and drive defensively. Remember that you are abroad and be polite too…it costs nothing and I think you’ll agree that we want to have a good reputation abroad.

Finally, a couple of pointers: (i) have your car checked over/serviced before you do the drive (especially if you don’t have Europe-wide breakdown cover); (ii) inform your insurance company and make sure you are covered; (iii) make sure that you have the necessary ‘beam benders’ to put on your lights so as to not to startle oncoming traffic; and (iv) always carry with you a good supply of water and food and a (fully charged) mobile phone.

Place to stay

For me, one of the great attractions of driving down to Puerto Duquesa is that you get to spend a couple of nights in places that you wouldn’t otherwise visit. In just two trips, I’ve been to Santandar, Burgos, Madrid, Chinchon, Salamanca and Segovia, to name a few.

When trying to find a good place to stay, Alistair Sawday's excellent range of guidebooks have been very useful (especially in France). In Spain, we have relied almost solely on The Paradors. These are government owned hotels which are usually situated in buildings of historical interest (convents, monasteries, churches, etc.). Whilst not the cheapest option, they represent good value for 3-4* style accommodation. Of course, the choice is virtually endless, from camping to 5* hotels, and I’m sure you can find something to suit on the internet.

In terms of pacing yourselves, if you opt to drive through both France and Spain, you should be looking to stop in Southern France on your first night (say Bordeaux), around Madrid on your second night, and in Puerto Duquesa on your final night! If you are just driving through Spain, you should aim to get south of Madrid in your first day in order to arrive in Puerto Duquesa at the end of your second day driving.

Favourite places:

Chinchon

This is a beautiful small town 45km from Madrid. If you stay in the Parador here, you will be right in the heart of the place, next to the main square, which is turned into a bull ring during the summer months. Of particular note is the local liquor, which goes by the name Chinchon, and the excellent steaks you can get in one of the many restaurants surrounding the main square. For more information about Chinchon, click here.

Salamanca

The plaza mayor in Salamanca is truly stunning, especially during the summer months when it is filled with thousands of Spaniards having their paseos, eating tapas or just chatting to their friends. For architect buffs, the cobbled streets and buildings that line them are well worth a few hours of your time. For more information about Salamanca, click here.

Santillana del Mar

In Northern Spain, not that far from Santandar, Santillana del Mar is a beautiful, picturesque little town which is the perfect spot for an overnight before boarding the ferry back to England early the following morning. For more information about Santillana del Mar, click here.

!buen viaje!

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