Spain ranks high on our list of destinations and this was not our first tour to this country. One has been described here but there have been quite a few others. So this time we opted for other destinations, some a bit off the tourist trail, mostly because we had been to the others before. Moreover, we did more but shorter legs than we did on our previous flying vacations – you have to keep it interesting, but it made this write-up a bit lengthy. Sorry!
The route we took was: Mannheim (EDFM) – Mâcon (LFLM) – La Seu d’Urgell (LESU) – Teruel (LETL) – San Javier (LELC) – Córdoba (LEBA) – Jerez de la Frontera (LEJR) – Salamanca (LESA) – Pamplona (LEPP) – Clerment-Ferrand (LFLC) – Mannheim (EDFM). And this is the GPS track of the Spanish part:
The vulture thread, especially the post by @Coolhand here scared me quite a bit. In contrast to most of our other trips, we filed IFR with autorouter.eu for the legs within our destination country. Except for the very short hop form Córdoba to Jerez all were flown at FL120. As can be seen in the chart, Spanish ATC was quite good with directs. The only exception being Jerez to Salamanca, see below.
We left office early on the day of our departure and landed in Mâcon at about 1900 local after a two hour flight.
LFLM is uncontrolled, has no IFR procedure and radio is A/A in French only. There is a long paved runway in good condition. We had inquired beforehand if there was fuel available, it was the time of the shortage due to the strikes, end of May. There was fuel and no restrictions for cross-border flights as at some French airfields at the time. They do have a landing fee here, it was about 15€. Without the Carte Total one needs the help of the guy who runs the „tower“.
We wanted to start early, but while refueling we received the message that our flight was subject to flow management due to industrial action. However, it was only delayed by half an hour, could be worse. The flight to La Seu d’Urgell (LESU) started uneventful. We flew at FL120 and ATC asked us to either climb to 160 or cancel IFR when we came closer to the Pyrenees mountains. Skies were clear and we would have to descend again after a few minutes so we canceled. However, the southerly wind was blowing at almost 50 knots and the highest peaks around us reached almost 10000ft, the passes we had to cross were much lower, though. Nevertheless I was quite vigilant and constantly planned for an escape route in case we encountered violent downdrafts or turbulences but it was a surprisingly smooth ride.
LESU came in sight quickly and we started our descent into the valley. I found it quite hard to spot the windsock but of course common sense dictated 21 considering the winds aloft. I chose to try 03 anyway what meant one more scenic circle in the valley ;-) One more chance to take a picture:
The peaks around the airport are much higher than the airfield, so if you come here in marginal weather, better bring some experience. Otherwise it’s an easy place to fly to, the runway is long and the valley wide enough. A taxi to the town of La Seu is about 15€. There is AVGAS, but we still had plenty. Landing and parking was about 30€ for two nights. On arrival I found a voice message on my cell phone. LESU operations had called to let me know that they required additional information about our “operation”. It is not completely clear to me what that information might be, the field is uncontrolled and there was space for at least 40 more Mooneys on the apron. Anyway, staff appeared to be happy to see us and they were really very friendly and helpful. Radio is aircraft to aircraft only but nobody was flying there when we arrived. When we left there was a microlight, the pilot switched to English when he noticed us.
La Seu is quite compact, not too much to do there. They do have a very cute cathedral, though.
There is an hourly bus that takes you to Andorra la Vella for a few Euros. Despite its major sight, the Casa de la Vall, the city is not too appealing. Anyway, here it is, the Casa:
There are many villages around, up the valleys, where good food can be had. For example, you can try suckling pig, if you’re so inclined:
We left to the south on a nice day. Here is our climb-out:
The north eastern part of Spain is not exactly exiting from the air:
But Teruel (LETL) is about as close as it come to a boneyard in Europe:
Would be interesting to stroll around here for a while, but they won’t let you, of course:
LETL is situated at an elevation of 3367ft AMSL, but the runway is enormous. Landing and parking is cheap, 11€ for two nights all together. Fuel price is at a normal level for Spain, i.e. expensive, but at least there is AVGAS. We called ahead and they told us they needed an email with our details. The field is uncontrolled and radio communication again is aircraft to aircraft only, but there was nobody flying besides us. They are not very used to aircraft actually landing here (the problem of Teruel, see below) and everything took a while. We were serviced by two ramp guys, one airport security man and three Guardia Civil officers, all exceptionally friendly. A taxi to town was about 25€.
Teruel is a hidden gem, at least according to our guide book and indeed it is! Even many Spaniards don’t know about it and therefore the city’s slogan is ¡Teruel existe! (Teruel does exist). Not many tourists find their way to this place. Here is the main square:
There are many nice restaurants in Teruel, but bring a dictionary, no tourists means no English menus. The city is particularly famous for its Mudéjar architecture:
We continued south and circled the city before we asked for IFR pickup:
We came along Costa de Yorkshire (so they called because of the many English living here) on our approach into San Javier:
And here you can see how they all get here:
LELC is an air force base, now jointly used by Ryan and Co. and under AENA administration. Unfortunately all AENA airports we were at (actually all the rest) now charge a parking fee of 15€ per night. So it gets quite pricey. Two nights, landing and whatever small fee sum up to a bit more than 50€. At least no need to contract a handling agent. It’s a bit of a walk to the GA terminal, but it can be survived. We took a taxi to Cartagena, what is quite far, so it was 40€ (Murcia might be a bit closer).
Cartagena is not too popular among tourists and now I know why: it’s not too spectacular! The Roman ruins are nice, but there are much better in other places around the Mediterranean. Anyway, here is the theatre:
The next leg took us to Andalusia and we passed the Sierra Nevada. The highest peak there is Mulhacén. We climbed it the last time we were in Andalusia, this time we watched it from the distance, only:
After about two hours we reached Córdoba:
LEBA is VFR only and radio is aircraft to aircraft again. There was a student and his instructor in the pattern when we arrived, giving position reports in Spanish. However, when we called in they switched to English. Nothing else to say about landing there, it’s very easy. Landing is cheap, but parking was the 15€ again, so two days were a bit more the 40 Euros. Actually the town is quite close, but the „taxistas“ ask an out-of-town fee (they are allowed to) so you pay about 15€ for the taxi.
Córdoba was the only town we visited, we had been before (by rental car from Granada). So, as you may have guessed, we like the town. Knowing all the sites, we could concentrate on sampling local specialities, e.g. Salmorejo (kind of cold tomato soup):
But of course we also went to the world famous Mesquita:
Again we circled the city before IFR pick-up for the short flight to Jerez and here is the Mesquita from above:
LEJR is busy and there was plenty of time for me to proof my love while waiting for the fuel truck.
In retrospect it’s not completely clear why we decided to fly to Jerez. Probably mainly because we had never been there before. This Airport is expensive and everything took ages. It’s mandatory to contract a handling agent. We learned that the most basic handling service is called category five (crew only). We contacted the agents mentioned in the AIP for an offer and the cheapest was 50€ plus tax. We stayed four nights and with the 15€ per night, landing and handling we payed more than 160€. Rather steep. AVGAS was about 2.90€ per liter, ouch!
We took a rental car here and drove down to the coast first to take a look at Africa:
We continued to the Sierra de Grazalema with its white villages. Here is Grazalema itself:
Finally we returned to the city of Jerez. It is not as spectacular as the famous three (Granada, Córdoba and Seville) but there are nice corners and not that many tourists come here:
The ones who do come here do it for one reason, taste some Sherry! And sure enough we did that too:
We could see Seville on the way to Salamanca. From FL120, however, as we really wanted to leave the lower levels to the vultures as long as they have no ADS-B out:
The leg to Salamanca was the only one where ATC was not cooperative with directs. All begging was fruitless. We had to fly a dog leg almost to Madrid followed by an ILS approach with SKC. On arrival in Salamanca we were marshaled by a fire truck. We never had that before but in case of a fire it might come in handy:
LESA has the strange regulation not to allow VFR traffic during weekdays other than local schools and they only open at 1100 local. At the time we visited there was only one scheduled flight per day, but there was some military traffic. Like with all other airports we flew to, everybody was very friendly. Landing and two nights parking was a bit less than 50€ and the taxi to town charged 25€, it’s quite far and there is no public transport.
Salamanca was a highlight again. It’s really a city worth traveling to. It’s famous for its main square which is particularly nice at night:
There is also a monumental cathedral to be seen:
And we had a bottle of wine here which was apparently named for an aviator who lacked situational awareness. Sin Rumbo can be translated to “without heading”:
Actually we had planned to continue to Logroño to have even more wine (capital of La Rioja), but this airport closes at 1100 local, so no chance, not even with a Mooney :-) Therefore we chose Pamplona as our last stop in Spain. Pamplona is nestled in the foot hills of the Pyrenees and here we were granted a visual approach:
As said, LEPP is surrounded by hills, so if you ask for a visual approach, be sure you can maintain VMC. The mountains might be obscured and ATC is apparently not very familiar with the concept. There is a school here with a number of Katanas on the apron, otherwise it’s rather quiet. There are only a few scheduled flights per day. The fees were exactly the same as in Salamanca and I forgot how much the taxi was over the conversation we had with the driver…
The taxi driver who took us to town asked if we were pilgrims intending to walk the Camino de Santiago ( ST James’s Way ). A good friend of ours had just completed it a week before, so we were well aware of it, but no we said, we were just simple tourists. So why don’t you take a rental car, he replied, there is really nothing to see or do in Pamplona itself! This is a bit unfair, however. Pamplona might not be as exiting as other places we visited on this trip, but it is nice to stroll around:
The building to the left is Café Iruña, where Hemingway used to drink and take notes:
As you might have noticed by the literary quality of this write-up, it came into existence in this very café ;-)
On our way to our pitstop in France we were in the clouds soon. Good thing, I’ve never heard of an instrument rated vulture:
The little dent in our route to LFLC is the result of a missing flight plan in French ATC’s system. I had brought it forward by half an hour, maybe that was the reason they couldn’t find it.
Clermont-Ferrand is the capital of Auvergne, a lovely tract of land, as we could see on the approach:
The final to runway 26 is very scenic as well:
LFLC is probably not the best choice for a stop-over. You need ground transportation which is provided by the airport but still at a price. We payed almost 50€ all together with one night parking what is horrendous for France. Decide yourself if the approach is worth this. The City is not bad, however.
During the two weeks in Spain I had almost forgotten what an instrument rating is good for but sure enough I was reminded when we came back to Mannheim:
Hope other members can use this information for a trip to Spain once, it’s a nice country