Vuelta a Euskadi.

One of my goals during my mom’s visit to Spain was to show her as many places I lived as possible. It wasn’t going to be possible to see Linares or Toledo, and I am on a permanent boycott of Madrid now, but I did have to take her to Bilbao, Capital of the World. Uno de mis retos durante la visita de mi madre a España era enseñarle tantos sitios donde he vivido como posible. No iba a ser posible ver Linares o Toledo, y ahora estoy haciendo un boicot permanente de Madrid, pero tenía que llevarle a Bilbao, la capital del mundo. 

Travelling to the north of Spain any time of year is a huge gamble with the weather, and even more so in November. The drought the entire peninsula is suffering (albeit less in the north) helped us out in these sense, as it was 20s C (68-70 F) and bright sun. The rain arrived the day we left. Viajar al norte de España en cualquier época del año es un riesgo con el tiempo, y aún más en noviembre. La sequía de que España está sufriendo (aunque menos en el norte) nos ayudó en este sentido, como hizo sol y temperatura sobre 20º. La lluvia llegó el día después de irnos. 

Tuesday we slept in a bit before heading toward some of my favourite places, the natural biosphere of Urdaibai and the village of Mundaka. My mom was impressed with the coast, and when I took her to San Juan de Gaztelugatze, an amazing ermita built on an island with 220ish steps, she was more than impressed. Martes, dormimos más tarde que normal antes de ir a unos de mis sitios preferidos, como la biosfera de Urdaibai y el pueblo de Mundaka. Le impresionaron mucho las vistas del mar a mi madre, y cuando le llevé a San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, una ermita increíble construida en una isla con unas 220 escaleras, era más que impresionada. 

I stopped at a restaurant near Gernika for lunch before heading back to San Sebastián-Donostia. I dropped my mom off at the hotel, and I went for a sunset walk around the Nuevo Paseo, one of my favourite places in one of my favourite cities. In fact, the header of SetMeravelles was taken there. I tried to recreate it. Paré en un restaurante cerca de Gernika para comer antes de volver a San Sebastián-Donostia. Le dejé a mi madre en el hotel y di un paseo por el Nuevo Paseo a la hora de atardecer. Es uno de mis sitios preferidos en una de mis ciudades preferidas. De hecho, hice la foto de cabecera de Setmeravelles allí, y intenté re-crearla. 

On Wednesday, we went to Bilbao, la capital del mundo and my home between 2013 and 2016. Along the way, we stopped at Urkiola where I walked around the stupid meteorite 13 times backwards in hopes that I’ll get married in the next six months. Urkiola is a nature park with a sanctuary. Miércoles, fuimos a Bilbao, la capital del mundo y mi hogar entre 2013 y 2016. Por el camino, paremos en Urkiola donde caminé al revés en un círculo alrededor el meteorito con la esperanza de casarme dentro de los próximos seis meses. Urikiola es una parque natural con un santurario. 

We then went to Castro-Urdiales in Cantabria before going to the hotel in central Bilbao. My mom was impressed with the beautiful coastal towns of the Cantabrian Sea. Después, fuimos a Castro-Urdiales en Cantabria antes de ir al hotel en el centro de Bilbao. Mi madre era impresionada con las costas bonitas del Mar Cantábrica. 

I went to all my favourite places and tried to see a few friends along the way. Fui a mis sitios preferidos y intenté ver algunos amigos durante la tarde.

I’ve already written about all the places I’ve seen a few times, but I will leave you with the photos from this three-day adventure in Euskadi.  Ya he escrito bastante sobre todos los sitios, pero os dejo con las fotos de esta aventura de tres días en Euskadi. 

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The following morning we took off once again…la mañana siguiente, nos marchamos una vez mas…

A continuación…

Road Trip Día 2! La Seu d’Urgell-Andorra-Donostia.

After a night in a nice, comfortable Parador, I awoke early to explore the village where it was located, La Seu d’Urgell. The village of 12,366 is located in the northern part of the Catalán province of Lleida near Andorra in the heart of the Pyrenees. The town is 691 metres above sea level (2267 feet for the Yanks). Después de una noche en un Parador bonito y cómodo, me desperté con ganas de explorar el pueblo donde estaba ubicado, La Seu d’Urgell. El pueblo de 12.366 personas está situado en el norte de la provincia catalana de Lleida cerca de Andorra, puro Pirineo. El pueblo está a 691 metros de altura sobre el mar. 

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It was cold in the quaint town, and my tour was all too brief. I would love to make it a base for hiking some day, as there are a lot of mountains nearby. The town is located on two rivers. Alas, we had to get on the road early, so no hiking for me. Hizo mucho frío en el pueblo pintoresco, y mi tiempo allí fue demasiado corto. Me encantaría estar allí unos días para hacer rutas de senderismo algun día, como tiene muchos montes a lado. Hay dos ríos en el pueblo. Una pena que tuvimos que salir pronto, y no pude hacer senderismo. 

The first stop was the small country of Andorra, population 77,281. The country is situated between Spain and France in the Pyrenees and has been a principality since 1278 headed by the Bishop of Urgell in Spain and the President of France. It’s known for skiing and being a tax haven. The official language is Catalán. La primera parada era el país pequeño de Andorra, población 77.281. El país está situado entre España y Francia en el Pirineo y ha sido un principalidad desde 1278. Reconoce el Obispo de Urgell en España y el Presidente de Francia como su jefes del estado. Es conocido por sus pistas de esquí y ser un paraíso fiscal. El idioma oficial es catalán. 

My mom wanted to just say she stepped foot in the country. I would have liked time to explore the country more, as I’ve only been to the capital city. We drove to Sant Julià de Lòria and stopped for a few minutes. She was still having walking problems, so it wasn’t a long trip. Mi madre solo quería poder decir que ha pisado el país. Me gustaría haber tenido más tiempo para explorar el país más, como solo conozco la capital, Andorra la Vela. Fuimos a Sant Julià de Lòria y paramos un rato. Mi madre todavía tenía problemas de caminar. Entonces, no era un viaje muy largo. 

We were still stopped and questioned by the Spanish Guardia Civil (police) at the border. They wanted to know how much money we had on us, look at the trunk and ask where we were going. It was a bit unnerving thanks to the size of the gun. Of course, they let us through without any problems, and we were off on a long day. After the adventure of the day prior, I was not wanting to drive at night. En la frontera entre Andorra y España, la Guardia Civil española nos detuvo para hacernos preguntas. Querían saber cuanto dinero en efectivo tuvimos, mirar la maletero y preguntarnos donde íbamos. Me puse nervioso dado a las armas que tenían. Claro, nos dejaron pasar sin problemas, y empezamos el viaje largo. Después de la aventura del día anterior, no quería conducir después de atardecer. 

I made it to Lleida without fighting with the car’s navigation, and from Lleida we caught the motorway that went to Huesca, A22. We stopped for gas/petrol in Monzón. Later, because there were toll roads, and I still hadn’t figured out how to reprogram the car’s navigation system, we were taken through the backroads of Huesca and Zaragoza provinces. Llegué a Lleida sin discutir con el sistema de navegación del coche, y desde Lleida cogemos el autovía que va a Huesca, la A22. Paremos para gasolina en Monzón. Después, dado a peajes, y dado que no sabía progamar el sistema de navegación, fuimos por las carreteras secundarias de las provincias de Huesca y Zaragoza. 

I pulled off at a hostal-restaurant near the road next to some beautiful mountains in Murillo de Gállego. I was just in Huesca for the first time in March, and I already got my opportunity to go back. Honestly, can’t I just have a job where I get paid to go hiking these beautiful natural areas? Comemos en un hostal-restaurante a lado de la carretera con vistas de montes preciosas en Murillo de Gállego. Fui a Huesca por la primera vez en marzo, y ya era mi oportunidad de volver. ¿Por qué no puedo tener un trabajo donde me pagan hacer senderismo en estas zonas de naturaleza preciosas? 

The road continued through beautiful landscapes, so I wasn’t complaining about not being on the motorway/highway. If it hadn’t already been approaching 4:00 in the afternoon, I would’ve stopped in Sos del Rey Católico. La carretera seguía por paisajes preciosas, y no me quejé de no estar en el autovía. Si ya no fuera casí las 16, habría parido en Sos del Rey Catolico. 

At a coffee stop in Navarra, I double checked with Google Maps and the car’s navigation system. I went with Google Maps as it was much shorter. I’ll apologise now, as I was driving, I wasn’t able to take a lot of pictures, and my mom’s camera wasn’t working and she’s not the best with her iPad, so the pictures do not do the landscapes justice. Durante una parada para café en Navarra, miré Google Maps para comprararlo con el sistema de navegación del coche. Fui con Google Maps porque tenía una ruta más corta. Ya pido perdón ahora. Como estaba conduciendo, no podía hacer muchas fotos, y la camera de mi madre no estaba funcionando y no sabe bien como funciona su iPad, entonces, las fotos no hacen justicia a los paisajes. 

We later arrived in Donostia-San Sebastián just before sunset and made our way to the Pensión San Martín. I got my mom settled in and her wifi and went off to visit the capital of the Basque province Gipuzkoa, population 186,095. It’s my favourite city in Spain if not the world…and once again, I’ve only seen the sun shine and refuse to believe it rains there. Everything is lies from their neighbours in Bilbao, capital of the world! Después, llegamos en Donostia-San Sebastián justo antes de atardecer y fuimos a nuestra pensión, la Pensión San Martín. Le ayudé a mi madre estar cómoda y le conecté al wifi y fui a ver la capital de la provincia de Gipuzkoa, que tiene una población de 186.095. Es mi ciudad preferida de España si no el mundo, y otra vez, solo vi el sol y no creo que llueva tanto allí. ¡Todo es una mentira de sus vecinos de Bilbao, la capital del mundo!

Our Basque adventure was just beginning…Nuestra aventura vasca estaba empezando…

A continuación.

Agur Donostia and a visit to Tolosa.

DSCN2625  In 2010, I visited Donostia (San Sebastián) for the first time and fell in love with it. It’s a beautiful city located between the mountains and has three beaches within the city limits, a quaint Casco Viejo (Parte Vieja/Old Town), unique sculptures, and a statue of Jesus overlooking everything. It was a bit of paradise. En 2010 visité Donostia (San Sebastián) por la primera vez, y me enamoré de ella. Es una ciudad preciosa situado entre la montaña y el mar. Hay tres playas dentro de los limites de la ciudad, un Casco Viejo (Parte Vieja) pintoresco, esculpturas únicas e una estatua de Cristo vigilando todo. Era paraíso. 

I’ve returned to Donosti several times over the years, and each time has been a special visit. I always seem to go when it’s 22ºC (71.6ºF) degrees and sunny. When I came to Euskadi, I asked to live in Bilbao because I wanted to keep Donosti as a special place for me. I thought I would travel there more often than I have with it being an hour away. With my departure date for Bilbao coming soon, I knew I had to say goodbye. It was hard to do. He vuelto a Donosti varias veces durante los años, y cada visita ha sido especial. Suelo ir cuando hace 22º y sol. Cuando vine a Euskadi, pedí Bilbao porque quería guardar Donosti como un sitio especial para mí. Pensaba que iba a ir allí más que lo he ido como solo está a una hora de Bilbao. Con mi fecha de despedida a Bilbao acercando rápidamente, sabía que tenía que ir para despedirme. Me costó. 

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Tolosa

Donosti is a small city of 186,409 people. It’s famous for its film festival, La Concha beach and pintxos. A new bus station finally opened earlier this year underneath the Renfe train station, three bridges away from the Parte Vieja. Donostia es una ciudad pequeña de 186.409 habitantes. Es conocido para su festival de cine, la playa de La Concha y pintxos. Por fin hay una nueva estación de autobuses abajo del estación de Renfe, a tres puentes de la Parte Vieja. 

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Tolosa

I arrived about 10 in the morning, and after having a small breakfast, I took a bus to Tolosa, a small city with nearly 19,000 residents about 25 kilometres from Donostia. I was really impressed with the medieval town. I walked through the streets, enjoying the atmosphere and imagining what their famous Carnival must be like. The Oria River and nearby mountains (most famous Uzturre) add to its beauty. I am definitely glad I took the time to visit it before leaving the area. Llegué a las 10 de la mañana, y después de un pequeño desayuno, cogí el autobus a Tolosa (Línea T5), una ciudad pequeña de casí 19.000 habitantes a 25 kilometros de Donostia. Me impresión el pueblo medieval. Caminé por las calles, disfrutando del ambiente y imaginado su Carnival famoso. El río Oria y montañas cercanas (el monte más famoso es Uzturre) lo hace aún más bonito. Me alegré mucho haber visitado antes de marcharme de Euskadi. 

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Tolosa

It was back to Donostia for lunch, and I went to my usual cheap restaurant, Txakoli, near the Euskotren station. I wasn’t too impressed this time around, but the older clientele were friendly and joked with me about Bilbao. (Bilbao and Donostia have a famous rivalry). Volví a Donostia para comer, y fui al restaurante barato de siempre, Txakoli, cerca de la estación de Euskotren. Me decepcionó un poco esta vez, pero los clientes mayores eran amistosos y hicieron bromas sobre Bilbao. 

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I then had one last café con leche at my fave bar in Donostia, Pokhara, which I always get lost trying to find. It’s near the beautiful Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) Cathedral, before heading off for my walk to El Peine del Viento, the famous sculpture by Eduardo Chillida. Me tomé un último café con leche en mi bar preferido de Donostia, Pokhara, y como siempre, me perdí buscándolo. Está cerca de la Catedral de Buen Pastor, una catedral bonita. Después, fui a pasear por la playa hasta El Peine del Viento, la escultura famosa de Eduardo Chillida. 

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The walk along the Concha is supposedly about 40 minutes, but I swear it didn’t take that long. Unfortunately, El Peine del Viento is undergoing repairs. I played with a friendly dalmatian, so the walk out there wasn’t a waste of time at all. I do question the timing of it, as San Sebastián is the 2016 European Cultural Capital, and it is summer, but it might have been an emergency restoration. (I checked. It was.) Se dice que el camino por la Concha  tarda unos 40 minutos, pero no creo que dure tanto tiempo. El Peine del Viento está en obras. Jugué con un dálmata amistoso. Por eso, no era una perdida del tiempo. Es una pena que está en obras como San Sebastián es la Capital de Cultura Europeo este año, y es verano, pero es una restauración de emergencia. 

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I walked back along the beach, which was pretty crowded, and I meandered the streets of the Old Town after walking along the Paseo Nuevo (New Path) along the bay. I was hoping to see some waves at the River Urumea, but the sea was pretty calm for once. I watched the sunset and said a quiet goodbye. I know I will be back in Donostia, probably sooner than I will be back in Bilbao. I just don’t know when. And I hope for a romantic getaway with someone at the same time. Volví por la playa, donde estaba mucha gente tomando el sol, y caminé por las calles de la Parte Vieja después de pasear por El Paseo Nuevo por la bahía. Estaba esperando ver las olas por La Ría Urumea, pero el mar estaba tranquilo. Vi la puesta del sol y di un adiós silente. Sé que volveré a Donostia, probablemente antes de volver a Bilbao, pero no sé cuando. A la misma vez, espero que sea un viaje romántico.

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Donostia will always have a part of my heart. It is my favourite city I have ever visited. I just don’t want to live there so it can stay perfect in my mind. Donostía siempre tendrá un parte del corazón. Es mi ciudad favorita que he visitado, aunque no quiero vivir allí para que pueda quedarse perfecta en mi mente.

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Perfection doesn’t exist, of course, but if it did, it just might be Donosti with 22ºC and a sunny day. La perfección no existe, claro, pero si la perfección existiera, podría ser Donostia con 22º y sol. 

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Gipuzkoa. Home of the most beautiful city I’ve seen.

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The very first time I stepped off the train in San Sebastián-Donostia (Donosti) in March 2010, I knew I was stepping into an incredibly special place. Each subsequent trip has solidified that gut feeling I had. As one of the tour books I read before going said, Donostia is not a place with a lot to see but instead a place that is must-see. What other city has a beach as part of their downtown? From their annual film festival to three beaches in town to stunning architecture to world-renowned gastronomy, the capital of Gipuzkoa has something for everyone. I have been there several times now, and each time I love the city just a little bit more. And coincidentally enough, it has always been 22ºC and sunny every time I have gone. So much for that Basque rain, right? (I see on my Apple Weather app it does rain there even more than Bilbao. I’m just lucky. And now I use that app to know when it’ll rain and when it’ll be cold.)

Gipuzkoa is one of the three Basque provinces located on Spain’s north coast, or, to listen to most Basques, the part of the world located between Spain and France on the Cantabrian Sea. While it seems that Gipuzkoa is in a bitter rivalry with neighbouring Basque province Vizcaya (Bizkaia) , there is no reason as both places are amazingly beautiful with many unique places to visit and a fascinating history. Gipuzkoa is also the smallest province in both the Basque Country and Spain. It’s small size just means there is a lot of beauty in a small area.

As I’ve been to Donosti, as the locals and lovers of the city alike call it, several times, I sort of have a routine going on now that includes a walk along the picturesque beach of La Concha (Kontxa in Basque), sitting on the walls close to Plaza de 31 de Agosto (my mom’s birthday, so I love this part of the Old Town!) and watching the waves crash where the Bay of Biscay meets the River of Urumea, a pintxo or two in the Parte Vieja, and a “relaxing café con leche” at Pokhara near the Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) Cathedral. If I have time, I walk out past the Palacio Miramar to see el Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind) sculpture by Chillida and a hike up  Mount Urgull to see (a statue of) Jesus. This hike provides some of the best views of the city, although I have to admit my days on the Camino de Santiago coming into the city from Pasaia last summer and this summer leaving the city on Mount Igledo also offer amazing views on what I think might just be the most beautiful city in the world.

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There are three major downfalls about “the posh neighbourhood of Bilbao”, as the people of Bilbao refer to it. One is the weather. The Atlantic Ocean can get rather mad and drops a LOT of rain on the North Coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Number two is despite being a city of less than 200,000 people, it is one of the most expensive cities in the peninsula. Bilbao is a lot cheaper for being a lot bigger. The third is the surprising bad conditions of the bus station, which is more accurately called “parada de autobuses” in Spanish, or bus stop. I don’t know why the three province capitals in the Basque Country have such horrible bus stations when everything else related to transport is top-notch. Also, my friends who visited Donostia a little bit okay mentioned that they think the Kursaal Palace, which is lit up for different festivals and where the film festival is housed, was an eyesore. I don’t mind it, but I do understand why someone would feel that way.

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By the way, the photo that serves as the heading of this blog is from the Paseo Maritimo. And although I have already seen seven wonders here, I know whenever I get to see the flysch beaches near Zumaia, the medieval town of Tolosa and the small village Getaria, these wonders may have to change. But for now…

Set Meravelles: 

1. Donostia y La Kontxa

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One of the most incredible beaches I’ve been to in one of the most incredible cities I’ve visited.

2. Peine del viento

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The steel sculpture by Eduardo Chillida is one of the most famous symbols of the city, although they were just finished in 1976. Located at the edge of the Kontxa Bay, these sculptures are where the wind and water meet. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see some waves crash upon them. Just be careful not to stand on those grates too long or you will get wet!

3. Hondarribia

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Hondarribia (formerly known as Fuenterrabia) is a quaint village of around 16,000 habitants on the Bidasoa River that separates Spain from France (or South Basque Country from North Basque Country). It has a fantastic medieval part, complete with a castle that is now a Parador (the chain of Spanish hotels made from old castles). However, the most famous pictures all include the brightly painted houses that look something out of a Swiss village. Hondarribia also has extensive beaches.

4. Orio

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Orio is a small fishing village of 5000 people along the Camino de Santiago. I first found out about this incredible place when I was on a bus to Zarautz in 2012. I took note of the name and went back my birthday weekend last year, and I also revisited it on day two of the Camino. I like how the church is built with a bridge across to the building nearby. Anything to make the churches of the peninsula stand out from each other! It also has ton of natural beauty and a great beach, of course.

5. Pasaia

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Pasaia is a very short day trip from Donostia five kilometres from the Gipuzkoan capital, just on the other side of Mount Ulia. It’s a stop on the Camino de Santiago and houses an albergue. My favourite feature of this town that sets it apart is the water taxi. For the price of 75 cents, you can make the passage (guess what Pasaia is Basque for) between two of the town’s neighbourhoods. San Juan is the prettiest part.

6. Bergara

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A medieval town of 15,000 habitants located in the mountains of Gipuzkoa, Bergara is a nice getaway and super “Euskaldun” or Basque. It’s a nice getaway from it all and well communicated between the three Basque capital cities.

7. Zarautz

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Zarautz is world-famous for surfing. The population nearly triples in size from its normal 22,000 habitants every summer because of its 2,8 kilometre-long beach. Even Queen Isabella II of Spain and Queen Fabiola spent their summers here. It has a nice city centre, but the beaches are the main attraction. It’s also a stop on the Camino de Santiago, and most guide books for the Camino suggest Zarautz as the end of the second day.