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Make the return from holiday still a holiday

By Dick Handscombe, Author of the monthly gardening column


There are four ways of visiting Spain for a spring, summer or autumn holiday:

  • Travel by plane for beach holiday without moving away from the new Spain built during the past thirty years.
  • Combine the first by visiting some of the historic cities by train or hire car travelling through some of the regional countryside on route.
  • Travel by car using the now extensive, but sometimes, expensive motorways for speed through France and Spain seeing little of either country.
  • Travel by car as above on the way to Spain but see the wonderful countryside of both countries during the return journey so that it is a true part of the holiday. By  taking a different route each year

one starts to gain an insight into the pre mass tourism and industrialised Spain.
The latter is our preference and with several routes through the Pyrenees numerous routes through Spain are possible between June and October after and before the risks of snow on high passes.


  1. Leave the motorway from Granada at Baeza and drive north via historic towns and quiet roads and sweeping landscapes to Cuenca and Zaragoza. There are then several scenic routes through the Pyrenees.
  2. Take the road from Sagunto just north of Valencia and to Teruel and to Calatayud  and then cruise through the empty landscapes of Soria to Burgos or Pamplona and then North across into France.
  3.  Go up the coastal motorway until Vinarosand then go inland to hill top town of Morella and then go north towards Leridaand then the Val d’Aran route into France. En route fit in Riba Roja – see below.
  4. Head for Lerida from Tortosa AND FOLLOW THE VALLEY OF THE river Ebro aiming to spend a night or two in the historic village of Riba-Roja del Ebro perched up above the river with panoramic views of part of the bird packed Natural Park on the northern bank which was seventy years ago the site of the most important battle of the civil war.

This stop over is one which we have only explored in the past year.  We should have found it before as it has some amazing scenery, the chance to pick up some of the best of Spain’s wines and ecological olive oil en route and catch a lifetime’s best carp or catfish we describe some possibilities in detail. National Geographic are apparently filming their now for a documentary about the catfish fishing. I’m back their in October having caught 27 and 30 pound carp on a previous trip and the dream of beating the 180 pound catfish caught a few weeks ago by a passing visitor fishing from the bank.

If one uses hotels when driving to and from Spain it can become an expensive journey so we have always looked out for bargains with good food. In Riba- Roja we found the recently reopened Ebro Valley Guest House on our last journey north.

Ebro Valley Guest House


Double and triple bedrooms, bar, dining room, large covered terrace and lounge with sky TV.


30 euros a night per person including a full English breakfast which will set you up until dinner time whether driving away or staying to enjoy the area for a day or two..  Packed lunches are 5 euros, substantial home cooked dinner main courses cost 7.5 euros with homemade desserts at 3 euros. Local wines are not expensive.


Mary Edmonds and Mike Smith
Mary and Michael who only took over and reopened the establishment in June 2010 are excellent hosts and will be determined to make a short or longer stay a success.
Already they have a reputation for their food and charm and already Mike’s DIY and Mary’s gardening skills convert the rear courtyard and covered terrace into an enviable planted hideaway.

Address – Carrer Esglesia 6, Riba Roja del Ebre – a stones throw from the old church. Parking is in a square with direct access to the rear of the premises.

Contact via

Telephone number – 638-072-291
Email –



If you plan your journey to arrive before lunch or leave after lunch or even better stay for two or three nights there are many local activities that can be arranged even at short notice.

  • Walking for one or more days along sections of the River Ebro trail, using in some cases the train to get back from or start a day’s walking.
  • Walking through the famous Civil War battlefields. A knowledgeable English guide can be arranged.
  • Walking into the River Ebro bird sanctuary. The bird life can be amazing for the range and populations of varieties of small and large birds.
  • Horse riding with a local stable.
  • Fishing for lifetime best carp, catfish, roach, zander and pike from private and public banks or guided boats. Licences can be arranged at short notice. Carp and catfish rods and tackle are available for hire.

   Carp fishing - The Authors lifetime best

  • Touring to the ancient Moorish villages and wine and olive oil bodegas of the famous Sierras Alta and Priorat areas. Small Bodegas with wine ranges from less than four euros to the internationally famous 400 euros a bottle! Riba Roja village itself has less expensive local ecological wines and olive oil and olives for sale.
  • If you become enchanted with place some impromptu house hunting. Unconverted three storey four bedroomed properties can be purchased for as little as 30 to 40,000 euros, converted at 70,000 and villas with gardens out of the centre for 120.000 euros. Land for mobile homes also being available.

Truly a place to switch off for a day or two.

© Dick Handscombe August 2010.


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