A Travellerspoint blog

June 2018

Itxapse, Basque Country

last night in Spain

overcast 20 °C

We have made it through to Itxapse, just near to San Sebastian and Bilbao. It is just the best way to complete our time in Spain. The weather continues to be a pain, and although we drove around the coast with just breathtaking scenery, it hasn't done it justice unfortunately. However if you like endless golden beaches, fantastic surf, usually golden weather, you can shop till you drop, amazing food, great bike tracks - then this is a place I would recommend. Our trip today took Sal through Bilbao and also another city Elbar. It is really quite stressful to drive through such huge cities and I think it is because we set the sat nav to avoid motorways. Today we have been more clever with our navigation and studiously followed the N634 highway, which is a national road. Quite often it is running along side the motorway. We are working the various options we have to tailor our trip to our specific likes and dislikes which has come with experience now. By the time we compare the routes on the sat nav, the map, the via michelin app, the acsi app and google maps we have a pretty good idea of where and how we will make our way to the next destination!

I have some regrets about not spending time in Bilbao as it looked really great. However the logistics of it all seem abit much. I am not that interested in seeing inside the Guggenheim, but would love to see the building. Oh well cant have it all. No other regrets except the impracticality of getting to the south of Spain. I can leave that for another trip and do it at leisure. My enduring memory of Spanish roads will be about speed bumps and roundabouts - 53 today negotiated. There are lots of pilgrims on the road first thing and this morning was heavy fog. One man had a flashing headlight on, which was good as they seem to prefer wearing dark colours.

The campsite that we have chosen for tonight is really in a very steep area overlooking the sea. Signposts are not a strong point here and I have lost count of the sites that we approach thinking that we really must be in the wrong place before getting there, only to find that a site emerges at the end of a seemingly deserted road. As I said we are in Basque country, so a different language. There is a strong political awareness here and banners and flags etc proclaiming that 'this is not Spain-but Basque country'. But the young men at the camp are just lovely. We complimented him on his English and said our Spanish was poor, he replied that 'we were guests' so gracious.

Once we had settled in and had a siesta after the drive, we decided on exploring. Absolutley not able to ride bikes here, so walking the only option. We were given instructions how to make our way out to the peninsular to see a spectacular cliff. It was quite some trek, despite being just 5 km, as steep and slippery. Still pleased we have done it and was worth the effort.

Tomorrow we are going to cross the border again, into France. Our intention is to stay at a camp for a few days and rest. On the 7th we will make our way to Pau. Feels like a turning point in the trip, and now casting our eyes towards home and the various hurdles to be crossed on that journey.

Posted by Sallyj66 12:26 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

Saint Jean De Luz


sunny 26 °C

We had a relatively short drive back into France yesterday, mostly along the coast.We have lost rack of the days with the travel and it took some time for us to realise why it was so insanely busy.

For one thing the sun was shining, so I’m sure everyone was just seizing the day, but also Saturday and people able do do the leisure thing by the sea.It is just endless beauty as you travel the coast, the beaches are sublime and the road so nice. This time we had to contend with a zillion bicycles - mostly racing. We think there may have been a triathlon as we also saw swimmers in the sea. But the roads are winding and that was something difficult to contend with. Also huge group (not sure what that is) of motorcyclists on the road .You are spoilt for choice, but we really thought Zarauz looked a particularly gorgeous town.

The only indication you have that you have crossed borders again is the language on the billboards.In fact in the shops yesterday I notice they are still referring this to Basque country.

We chose this campsite because it was near the beach, had an indoor pool, was Acsi, and a bike track nearby. So mostly it is good however the indoor pool is not what we thought and the bike tracks are not up to Spain standards (getting fussy now). Once settled in, unloaded bikes and off exploring. Do get nice fresh baguette daily which we’ve come to love.DSCF5697.JPG

The promenade is so busy we would hate to see it at the height of summer. Quite a few people on the beaches and the life guards were out. There were nice shops, funny how each area has its own themes and range of tourist wares. This place lots of shops with striped linens in various forms and off course maritime bits and bobs. Got quite lost coming home, trying to avoid biking on the very busy road. Bought our veggies at a stall near the camp but need to locate the supermarket today.

It had got hot, so the beach beckoned. Sal got in her togs. We were disappointed to see how much debris is on the high tide mark, plastics mainly. She went for a swim and said that there was alot of rubbish in the water - nice temperature however. After the evening meal we wandered back to the beach and sat on a wall overlooking the setting sun and watching all the people out enjoying themselves. There is a bar at the end of the beach, just as we walk out of the camp ground. It is hugely crowded, only trouble is it plays loud music till the small hours!.

Today is another quiet day. There is rain forecast but so far looks fine.

Posted by Sallyj66 23:24 Archived in France Comments (1)

Saint Jean De Luz

Holiday mode...


A wise friend pointed out to me that there is a big difference between travelling and holidaying, and it is a difference I had not appreciated until recently. Yesterday we took the opportunity to be in ‘holiday mode’ only.

Despite a forecast of rain, the day started sunny and pleasant. Our first task of the day was finding an open supermarket. Sundays and most of them are shut. So biking around (on very busy roads already) asking directions and struggling with language issues. Anyway we found a small one and that was fine. I thought that a swim in the indoor pool would be a nice idea. So we went down there and it is a great set up with a roof that can fold back on itself. The temperature was 28 degrees ( pleasant) and we sat outside after our swim, relaxing just sitting and watching the young families enjoying themselves. For lunch we decided to make our baguettes and sit on the beach.

By now we could hear thunder in the hills just behind us and the sky was looking very threatening and dark .We returned to the van to prepare it for the expected down pour. That never came, other than some really good rolls of thunder. I was just chilling enjoying finishing a Dawn French book. Sal needed fresh air and went off on her bike. She returned full of enthusiasm for tomorrows’ adventure. While on her escapade she watched paragliders jumping off cliffs (as you do!).

When booking into the camp we were extended an invitation to attend complementary drinks and nibbles at a function on Sunday evening. We took up that offer last night. There was a really good turn-out of campers. Even though I couldn’t understand a word of what the man was saying, I guessed it was a bout Baqsue hospitality as he finished with a powerful and tuneful song. Took a small time and we had connected up with 2 other english speaking campers. So we had a great night chatting and swapping stories. This area at the beach (Erromardie) includes several different camps but one couple are practically our neighbours. They have a big A Class Hymer, so when we walked back with them had a look through it. What a set up!

This morning we have woken up to yet more rain, and worse than that-wind. So not sure what the day holds. We will need to take the awning in if we leave for any length of time.

Posted by Sallyj66 23:09 Archived in France Comments (1)

Saint Jean De Luz

Bread and butter pudding...

rain 19 °C

We had plans to bike to Biarritz, however there was rain and wind in the night, so we procrastinated over the morning to see if the rain would clear and we could still go ahead with our plans.

We seized the moment eventually and took off on the road Sal had seen yesterday. There is no way I could have done this without the extra power of the batteries on the bike. It is very steep, both up and down. We passed so many different campgrounds along the coast, this place must heave in summer. Even in this bleak weather we still saw a couple out surfing. As I said our intention was to reach Biarritz just 13km away. Normally that would be very easy for us, but the weather was deteriorating and the clincher was that we had rejoined up with a major busy road, and cycling on there feels unsafe.

Thus 7km into our trip we turned back. The option is for us to stop in Biarritz on the way through tomorrow if we find a parking space that will accommodate us. To date we have clocked up over 500km on our bikes, they are serving us so well. What we did see was beautiful even in the dismal weather that we travelled. A very distinctive neo basque architecture in the village of Guethary, we are ages away from Switzerland but it felt we were in a mini Swiss enclave.

Sal used up our left over pieces of bread and made a bread and butter pudding this afternoon. There will need to be extra biking to work that off!!Unfortunately the weather forecast for the next 10 days is the same as we had today, so we will make the most of any sunny periods we have and just grin and bear it. In Paris it is currently 30 degrees, damn it.

Posted by Sallyj66 22:46 Archived in France Comments (2)


The Bastioned City

rain 19 °C

This morning we woke up to even more rain than usual, it was pelting down, and we were getting cabin fever. So the first chance that the rain eased off we packed up quickly and left the camp. Driving was difficult with such heavy rain and heavy traffic. We passed an accident that had just occurred on the way out. We noticed that the river was extremely high also. The road signs are in two languages, French and Basque.

Once we left the towns and got into the countryside we both felt a sense of relief. We were in lovely rolling hill farm country, with many paddocks of sweet corn growing. Big pivot irrigators also and as mainly cropping - very few fences. I think the cattle that we did see are limousin. It was a two hour drive to this site, and in this time the weather had lifted slightly, enough for us to feel some optimism about our choice to abandon the previous place and plans.

The villages that we passed through were as usual, just pretty. Took one photo in a village called La Bastide. However finding this site proved a challenge. The sat nav took us down a dead end street again, and the rain had come in again. all somewhat nerve wracking. We could see the camp but couldn’t see how to get in. A group of four men walked past, and to cut a long story short, one of the men got into the van and through hand signs and my struggling attempts at french, he guided us back through the walled city into the camp ground. When we told the reception people they weren’t surprised at all, as they had attempted for years to get google maps to alter their information ( however we were using a Garmin).

We were given very good information on places and things to do while here. despite the rain we needed to get out and do something. As the camp is beside a walled medieval town, we thought a walk around town to see the important landmarks would be a good way to orient ourselves.This village has the distinction of being “the Most Beautiful Village in France”, and it really is. It has a history going back 700 years and was the first fortified town in France. So we visited the town gate, with its sentry looking over the Oloron River. Off course we visited the Church, previously been a Calvinist Church but then Louis x111 gave it back to the Catholic Church. There is a statue of a Ompostella pilgrim in there, as this is on the camino (several pilgrims walking through town). We found an interesting connection with Marlborough in that there was a model of the Astrolabe in a museum, that D’Urville had sailed. This is also the home of the Three Musketeers.

We have a plan for a bike ride tomorrow, hopefully a fine day, as there seems to be lots to discover round here.

Posted by Sallyj66 11:53 Archived in France Comments (0)

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