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Travelling the Basque Country, Asturias and Galicia

Bilbao, Oviedo and Santiago de Compestela. No, I wasn't doing the Camino...

all seasons in one day

Should probably write more often but... *shrugs*

After having a great time in Bordeaux, it was time to say 'au revoir' to France, at least for the time being, and head into country number two of this epic trip, Spain. I'd read a number of good things about Bilbao prior to arriving so wondered if not hoped expectations would meet reality. I hit my first minor problem upon entering Spain when my signal dropped out completely. Stupid old me didn't think about just restarting my phone until day two...

Anyway, my Airbnb was in a suburb of Bilbao called Sondika. A nice place though with no Wi-Fi! First time I've had that happen. My own fault, I obviously didn't check prior to booking, but it wasn't a major problem as I was only there to sleep. Sondika was only a short ten minute train trip into the centre itself, the only problem being I was in Bilbao during Easter Weekend, so for all three days I was there, it was a weekend timetable, meaning a train only ever half hour.

My first impressions of Bilbao, and of the Basque people, is one of a fiercely independent people, more than aware of the history between the Basque and central Spanish government over the decades. I had arrived not only over Easter but during an event called Basque Fest, basically a celebration of their culture, history and basically their nation. And there was not a Spanish flag in sight. Plus everything is in Basque first, then Spanish, and even English in the touristy parts. And that makes you think 'Some of these people would speak at the very least three languages!'

What do I remember most about my time in Bilbao? Two things. One, the Guggenheim Museum. Great building, full of interesting things. But I just don't get modern or contemporary art. Probably too stupid to understand it! Two, pintxos! (Tapas to the rest of Spain.) Any tavern, cafe or bar I walked into, the bar was lined with little snacks ready to be eaten. I didn't eat a meal the entire time I was in Bilbao, I survived on pintxos. And my Airbnb host, Gerard, informed me of a local drink called kalimotxo, which is a mix of red wine and cola. Tastes good and drank plenty of that too.

My first day, I walked 24km. My second day, not as much. I spent a lot of time in Casco Viejo, the old part of the city, in addition to wandering the banks of the estuary and basically checking out as much as I could. I thought Sunday would be a damp squib being Easter Sunday, but many things were still open. I did head to the main cathedral to watch the procession regarding the resurrection and I think there were more tourists there watching than natives. I also had the chance to ride my first funicular of the trip. If your city has one, I will find out about it, I will travel there, and I will ride it. Gave some stunning views of Bilbao, particularly as it was a bright sunny day.

I left Bilbao on Easter Monday, ready to head further east. My next port of call was a small city by the name of Oviedo, in Asturias. I'll be honest, there are only two reasons I picked Oviedo as a place to stay. One, it was about halfway between Bilbao and Santiago de Compestela, so a good place to take a break. And, two, I knew Fernando Alonso was from nearby.

I only spent two nights in Oviedo, so had treated myself to a bit of luxury in a four star hotel. It was a nice place, though I embarrassed myself upon arriving by forgetting everything is on the opposite side to my driving position, so missed the intercom and was stuck trying to enter the garage until someone arrived behind me to open the doors!

Oviedo is tiny so I didn't need more than a day anyway. The cathedral is definitely worth checking out, though as usual, the audioguide could drag on a bit at times. There were some other nice buildings around definitely worth checking out, but I'm delaying what I really want to talk about.

Sidra!

It's not just the sidra itself, which is an utter joy to drink. No, it's the way they pour it. Never seen anything so entertaining, but apparently there is a good reason for the way they do it, as it releases all the flavour. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but I enjoyed a few bottles while I was there. And it was cheap! A 700ml bottle never cost me more then €3. In fact, Spain in general has proven much cheaper than France. Expected, of course, but not to the difference I've noticed so far. I had lunch during my only full day there, including a local dish, Fabada Asturiana, which is a bean soup with some pork and chorizo, some tapas and a beer for only €12!

I'm glad I did stay in Oviedo, though didn't need more than a day. However, while I was there, I signed up on an app called blablacar. Basically I place an ad saying I'm driving from place to place and if anyone wants a lift, they can send me a message. From Oviedo to Santiago, I had a passenger, Portuguese guy named Rui. We must have talked nearly the entire way and it certainly helped pass the time. I won't do it all the time, particularly as I'm aware it's not popular all over Europe, but it's something I'll definitely offer from time to time.

Anyway, next stop was four nights in Santiago de Compostela. After dropping Rui at the bus station, my Airbnb was literally a two minute drive away. But I noticed immediately that parking would be difficult. No chance of finding a spot outside the apartment. Eventually found one a couple of streets away, and I knew then and there that I wouldn't be using my car again until I left. The host's contact, Esther, was very friendly and helpful, and we managed to communicate through my lack of any real Spanish. It had been a long old grind since leaving Calais so, I'll admit, that night, I grabbed some Domino's from a shop barely a few metres away and took it easy.

I had three full days to fill. The first day was Santiago itself. Unfortunately, though I've had a few overcast or cold days, this was the first day where it rained. And it pretty much drizzled all day. The tourist office was helpful as always, giving me plenty of tips on what to see and do. Despite being small, I found myself doing quite a lot of walking. The cathedral was my first real disappointment as it was undergoing a lot of refurbishment, so nearly everything was covered up. But I found a couple of other churches that more than made up for it. But the one thing any visitor would notice would be all the pilgrims completing the Camino. Dozens and dozens of people enter the centre of the city with their backpacks and walking sticks. I talked with a few people who'd done it and they gave me plenty of advice if I ever thought of doing it myself. With all the walking I'm currently doing, I could see myself doing it in a few years... maybe...

Anyway, my second day was my first organised, or guided tour of my holiday. I don't plan on doing many of them, but my original plan was to drive to Fisterra. I'm glad I didn't, as the tour I participated in was fantastic. I'd met an Italian guy, Andrea, in a pub the previous evening, and he was on the same tour, finding myself chatting away with a few South Africans too, who had also completed the Camino. The tour took in some of the major sights of Galicia. We visited a Sanctuary in Muxia, St. Mary of the Boats, and the church was right on the shores of the Atlantic. Next was Fisterra, and I'm glad I didn't do it alone, otherwise I'd have just driven there, taken a few photos', grabbed a magnet, and headed back to Santiago. After that was a waterfall in Dumbria, though we couldn't get too close due to construction. before stopping for lunch in Muros. Andrea and I shared a massive portion of monkfish and clams. Never had either before, and it was clear the food was fresh. Very tasty. Last stop was Ponte Maceira, a stones throw away from Santiago, where we took a few photos and walked across a 12th century bridge. It was quite an enjoyable day and well worth the price.

My third day was a bus trip to Lugo. I paid less than €15 for a return ticket, though it did require me rising bloody early. At least the bus trip to and from was uneventful, though I wouldn't call it scenic, as the bus mostly followed the motorways, though we did go through A Coruna. The Roman walls surrounding Lugo old town were nearly as good as I expected. I'll admit, I was expecting a bit more sandstone or something, but I walked along their entire length, getting some nice shots of the walls and the old town. I then spent a couple of hours walking along nearly every street within the walls, having a spot of lunch in the early afternoon, before enjoying a couple of beers in the afternoon sun waiting for my bus. I had my first instance of being served by someone who didn't know any English at all. Thank Odin for Google translate!

And as quickly as it began, my trip in Spain was over, albeit only temporarily. Next stop, country number three, Portugal!

Posted by benjamin2981 11:53 Archived in Spain Tagged road_trip walking history driving cathedral tour galicia pilgrims oviedo bilbao camino asturias basque_country santiago_de_compestela bilbao_fest guided_tour bus_trip

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