Day 18 Santander to San Sebastian


Awoke to a brilliant blue sky and sunshine. The short drive the night before from the ferry port to our hotel had been quite stressful – the first time Howard had driven Oscar on the wrong side of the road. We seemed to go in circles for the first ten minutes, but eventually found the right route to our hotel. Once checked in, we decided to do what the Spaniards do, and take an evening ‘promenade’ along the wide sweeping bay of Santander. We then searched out a small Pizzeria just a few blocks from the hotel, which turned out to be a gem. It was frequented by locals, and we were served by a charming young man, who did his best to speak English to us. When we asked for the bill, the waiter gave us complimentary limoncello, and seemed bowled over by his 5 euro tip (a lot, I guess, since the total bill was only 17 euros).
We slept well in our comfortable room, with a small balcony looking out over the bay.
The next morning, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. We took a Sunday morning promenade along the beachfront, and delighted in watching an impromptu football game on the beach, which seemed to accommodate many more than the statutory 11 players per side, maybe nearer forty. We also noted that Spaniards clearly have no regard for rules, since despite the multitude of signs along the whole length of the prom stating ‘no dogs on the beach’ – we observed at least thirty very happy mutts romping around the sands. I was also pleased to see several Golden Retrievers and a couple of English Setters, and concluded that the people of Santander were my kind of people!
We then set off towards Bilbao. A few tense moments ensued as we tried to negotiate our way to the Autoroute, but once on the motorway were able to relax a little. That is, until we came to the toll exit, which necessitated us driving through the narrowest of passageways, as Howard and I winced and sneezed ourselves in, for all the good it would do. Prior to leaving the UK, we had purchased Sanef toll tags for France, Spain and Portugal, and to our complete delight, as we drove through this minuscule concrete channel our tag peeped, and the barrier rose. More through luck than judgement, we had selected the correct lane for tag holders. Lucky, considering our Spanish phrasebook, was unhelpfully packed in the boot.
Arriving in Bilbao, we then were faced with where to park. We followed a ‘P’ sign, which led us to a scary underground car park, the entrance to which made our toll lane channel seem positively spacious. The height of the entrance also made us draw breath, but once in there were fortunately tons of spaces for us to negotiate into. Howard commented that next time, bring spare underpants.

Stepping out into the sunshine, we beheld the most amazing sight – the Guggenheim Museum, Frank Gehry’s masterpiece. Wow! What an amazing building! It’s hard to describe in words the sight in front of us. Gleaming in the sunshine, the irregular curved titanium clad structure seemed to make no sense, but at the same time looked absolutely brilliant. I wondered what sort of a magnificent mind could have dreamt this whole structure up. The builders must have thought Gehry was on drugs when he muted the design, but remarkably it works so incredibly well. We stopped for a coffee in an outdoor cafe and admired the structure. As we started to walk around it’s perimeter, clouds of gaseous CO2 was pumped out over the water of the moat that bounded one side of the building, creating a rather ephemeral effect. Further round, the building reflected in the water, and a giant spider stood astride another walkway. The whole thing was genius.

Time was marching on however, and it was with reluctance that we left Bilbao, and headed towards San Sebastian. We did well until our Garmin

satnav tried to direct us to the campsite. Initially we laughed at our posh lady’s pronunciation of the Spanish road names. But humour turned to irritation as she led us up a very steep windy track, which did, remarkably, end up at our campsite. We were informed, however, on check-in that buses went into San Sebastian every half hour, and no way on earth was a bus getting down the track we had just negotiated!

The camp site is well situated overlooking a wooded valley. The facilities are clean, and the from the camp shop we managed to purchase enough to cook a tea of vegetable pasta and garlic bread, accompanied by Sauvignon Blanc and Bendicks Bittermints (the latter brought from home, of course). Now sitting in Oscar listening to Sandy’s playlist and looking at the family picture that Thomas and Katy gave us for Christmas – hello boys!

Tomorrow we explore the Basque Country.

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