…actually in Hernani, just out of the town. I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep because I am a week late updating the blog…not that I haven’t been working, but I had planned to describe the trip so readers can share in TB’s great adventure.
We arrived very tired on Wednesday, March 3rd having lost a day traveling. Several things stood out: first, coming from freezing weather in Minneapolis, it has been in the mid to high 60’s here and the last rain was the earlier on the day we arrived. We had expected to be able to navigate easily in San Sebastian and Bilbao but they are good sized cities that are built with narrow streets. It seems there are more cars than people and they are all parked, leaving no spaces for anyone else. You have to park in an underground garage and that can cost 20 Euros a day (originally we found a nice place in the old town but it had no parking and so that 20E’s added up quickly so we found a wonderful (and cheaper) place in Hernani, just 3 miles out of town. It is the perfect base for us as it is on the way to Pamplona, La Rioja, Bilbao, and the French Basque Country (the Spanish Basques consider themselves superior because they have refused to adopt the Spanish language and still fight for independence), and the owners are wonderful as is our ‘uber-modern’ apartment with a deck.
After resting a bit we ventured into Hernani and found a tapas bar for our dinner. They are excellent and you choose from them sitting on the bar and they are very reasonable (drinks and six tapas cost just 10€).
We spent most of Thursday in San Sebastian and then drove down the awe-inspiring coast to Bilbao where we ate in another tapas bar (the etiquette is that you throw your napkins on the floor while you are eating thus keeping the bar clean and clear). We will return to Bilbao for the Guggenheim and other sights.
On Friday, we returned to San Sebastian and took a great double deck bus tour for orientation and had a wonderful lunch in a beachside restaurant.
Saturday, we were told about a wine festival in Durango, on the way to Bilbao. It featured 44 wineries from all over Spain and local food. That meant a total of over 120 different wines some for casual drinking priced from 4 to 15€ a bottle, but there were also fifty priced above that with fifteen priced from 25 to as high has 76€ (a wonderful brandy from one of the very best sherry producers, Ximénez-Spínola, but my favorites were their two aged sherries…and I spoke at length with the winemaker; since they are produced in Jerez in the south, we wouldn’t have had that experience). There were Riojas, Albariño’s, wonderful Cava’s, Ribero del Duero’s, and even some Basque wines, like Txakoli (Chocoli), a white. It was a fascinating experience.
On Sunday, we drove into the French Basque country and up to Bayonne, France, where I ended up speaking to an American who tried to help us talk to the owner of a shop. It turned out that he is an ex-Pat, who not only lived in San Francisco and New York before moving to France but was also in the investment business – he had worked for Bank of America when I was buying bonds from them and although we had never met we knew each other and reminisced about mutual friends – it truly is a small, small world! We then drove down the coast to Biarritz and St. Jean de Luz before returning home. It was refreshing spending a day where English was understood.
Today, Monday, we returned to the French Basque Country and drove to St-Jean-de-Pied-a-Port, where the Campostela begins (a nearly 500 mile pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, made famous by the Martin Sheen movie, The Way). Hopefully, TB won’t go to hell for getting a passport for the pilgrimage with no intention of making the endurance test. I got the first stamp and will hopefully pick up some more during our travels. I rationalized it that since we only have two more weeks in Spain I couldn’t have completed the journey anyway.
More to follow tomorrow…
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