A Travellerspoint blog

May 2010

A Day in Santiago De Compostela

sunny 25 °C

The next morning we make use of the hotel’s shuttle bus into town and get dropped off close to the old town. Antonio, the driver is very proud of his town, and makes sure that we know all the sights we need to see. We follow his guidance and head up around the eastern side of the old town, past the university (original buildings form the 14th century) and on to the markets. The markets are still held in the same stone halls that have been used for centuries (with mod cons of course) and you can get all your fruit, vegies, deli, meat, fish, fresh herbs and plants. There are even small landholders that come in with there few bits and pieces to sell in town.
Cervantes growing flowers

Cervantes growing flowers


We go through to the Pilgrim’s Gate, where we can see some happy walkers finishing off their pilgrimage. There is an estimate of some 100,000 people doing the various walks each year. There are a steady stream coming in through the town, all sorts of ages, fitness and sizes – well done you!
We are heading out of the old town walls to the Gallacian Museum (Museo de Pobo Galego) in an old convent. We have come here to see a staircase. But before we get in, we get to see some historical aspects of Gallacian life over time. There are some things on the fishing industry, the local crafts and an almost hypnotic old documentary of the life cycle of a sardine tin from the early 20th century – from being printed onto a sheet of metal, having the base stamped, the sides formed and solderd and the whole thing packed into wooden cases to get sent to the cannery. But the staircase – this is an unique triple fluted spiral staircase going up the outer wall of a 4 metre wide cylinder, with access points at different levels for the three different staircase. This means that if you want to go from one level to another, you may have to go down to ground level to switch to another staircase – and be careful to get the right one because it can be along journey back again – good fun and the museum was a very pleasant surprise.
The magnificent triple fluted staircase in the Gallacian history museum

The magnificent triple fluted staircase in the Gallacian history museum


Back into town and to the cathedral (after a tapas lunch) The cathedral is huge, and we haven’t even come through the main entrance. The surprising thing is despite it’s position as one of the three great pilgrimages for Christian, the main hall of the cathedral is quite unadorned. There are a lot of chapels off to the side and the main altar above the remains of St James is very lavish, but most of the rest is bare stone. We then head around to see the remains and give the statue of the apostle a hug, as is the custom. G is quite taken in by the experience.
The ornate altar piece

The ornate altar piece


We then head out to have a look at the outside of the cathedral. It is quite weatherworn, and there are a lot of plants that have taken root in the stonework. The front Facade is HUGE, with the main part of the cathedral being very ornate, but also later additions on either side adding to the bulk, but being at different heights and not really complimentary do take away from it. The cathedral fronts out onto a huge square which also houses the town hall and a Parador (couldn’t get into this one) a very regal site.
The Cathedral of St James

The Cathedral of St James


The rest of the day is wandering around Santiago, enjoying the streets and the sights. We then head back to the hotel for a hit of tennis with some desperately sad racquets.
Gardens in town

Gardens in town


It's not all old in Santiago

It's not all old in Santiago

Posted by lostagain 02:55 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Ribadeo to Santiago

And cathedral Beach

semi-overcast 22 °C

In Ribadeo, we are looking out over the Eo River from our room.
P1020128

P1020128


We have gone half board, so we have a lovely big dinner and roll back to bed. In the morning with dinner still on our stomachs, we don’t have space for too much food before we head off. In Ribadeo, we are trying to find a laundrette, but the only place we can find is industrial. Laundrettes are not to easy to find in Spain. We reckon it won’t be a problem in Santiago de Compostella with all those dirty and sweaty pilgrims needing a clean!!
Head out to the coast line to look along the cliffs and beaches in the area. The coast is quite rocky and known for its formations. We have a pleasant drive along looking for the famous Praia de Catedrais, the cathedral beach. We wander along a broken asphalt road until, where a branch road comes off the coastal further inland, the road suddenly becomes a lot newer, wider and marked – and there is a car park divided up for buses, campervans and cars – I think we have found it.
The local cliffs

The local cliffs


The cathedral beach is known for the rock formations carved out of the cliffs by the wave action on the Bay of Biscay. There are some great arches as well as deep caves and fissures. The cliffs are very layered and flaky in appearance but where the rocks are rattled around in the caves as the waves come in the walls are worn smooth.
Supporting the locals

Supporting the locals

Nature reflected

Nature reflected


The rest of the day is travelling across to Santiago. So far, we can see where the current Spanish deficit has gone. They are building roads hand over fist. And not little roads either, but massive freeways to cut through the mountain passes and do away with the windy ‘A’ roads. We have been on and seen them making some massive bridges and smaller tunnels, by the time it is complete, it will be a fast trip around Spain - but you may lose touch with what you want to see.
We reach Santiago, and book into the hotel. They have a pool but it is only a summer pool, and not open in late May! So - go and do the washing instead. Well, I do the washing while the others go shopping. I get to write post cards for a few minutes before switching to Monty Python on the ipod.
Washing done its into Santiago at night to get a bite to eat. We don’t get into the old city and have a light tapas dinner at a pub.

Posted by lostagain 02:55 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Picos De Europa

And Santillana Del Mar

semi-overcast 18 °C

We found it a lot easier to get out of Bilbao than we had found it getting in (fortunately) and were on our way to a one nighter at Santillana Del Mar. This was an easy and pleasant drive, with a bit of diversion along the coast for a change of pace. This meant we got to see again some of the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella as they took the coast way. We had seen some around Pamplona too.
We dropped into the seaside town of Santona on the way, very picturesque and had some great calamari which L washed down with two strong gin and Kas lemon.
The Santona Bull Ring

The Santona Bull Ring

Santona beach

Santona beach


Got to Santillana del Mar which has had a law put in place to stop any development of the town. This law was put in place in the 16th century, with the result being a very ancient looking place, but in great condition. It is obviously a bit of a showpiece as when we arrived, there was lots of security around – for the visit of the Mexican President, along with Spain’s current holder of the EU presidency.
The town square just after the Mexican president left

The town square just after the Mexican president left


Formalities out the way, we check in and have a wander around. The city is in great shape, helped in no small part by its fame. The place is full of B&Bs, restaurants and souvenir shops. But not completely overwhelmed – there are a few great little places like the man selling glasses of fresh milk with basic cakes, the craftsman carving some fantastic traditional furniture, and the shops operating as they always would have. Really good. There is also the torture museum which is a bit graphic for a 10 year old (and his parents).
In the upper part of town

In the upper part of town

In our Parador

In our Parador


Have another wander around in the morning and another glass of milk.
What a load of...

What a load of...


We are setting off to Ribadeo Parador. It is not too far along the coast, but we are going inland and upwards to the Picos De Europa National Park. We head up to Panes where we decide not to do the low skirt around but to go up for real; it looks so impressive even from a distance. Photos certainly do not do it justice. The early parts above Panes take us through roads along the gorge leading into la Hermida; it is jagged and precipitous country. In some places there is barely space to pass; we were all thinking thin when we had to squeeze past a bus coming the other way! Soon we have to stop and change seats L driving and G in front so they are less likely to chuck; this leaves me in the back. The road is almost claustrophobic at points the valley is so steep and deep.
P1020018

P1020018


The road is easier as we approach Potes, and here we take a wrong turn which takes us into the town. That’s okay as it is very nice in the centre, there is a medieval bridge over the river and a number of similar aged shops around. (Find out later it has been largely rebuilt after the Civil war) There is no doubting what the main industry in the area is; every second shop is a restaurant or souvenir shop. From here there is a great view of part of the Picos, some of the snow covered mountains rise over the town. The road we mistakenly started down leads on to Fuente De: This is higher up in the Picos and is used by walkers, climbers and cavers as a centre to get deeper into the mountains. There is also a cable car leading up even higher, and guess what – there is even a Parador up there too. But that’s a bit far for us to cover today.
View from Potes

View from Potes


We leave Potes behind and drive up higher into the southern parts of the Picos. Obviously the major traffic is straight up to Potes as the road quickly deteriorates, as well as getting steep and windy. Greta views unfold around every corner though as more of the Picos appear. Just below the Puerto Di San Gloria there are some big roadworks and a lookout, giving a magnificent vista over the eastern Picos.
Picos De Europa view

Picos De Europa view


On to the Puerto and we take a quick break to play in the snow!! We head down off the pass, and down to some high mountain pastures.
P1020080

P1020080


From hear the road went around a huge dam, we stopped to get some spring water. The road around the dam goes on long bridges, all part of the preparation for the flooding no doubt. We passed close by the town of Riano and then headed up through the pass to go over to . We stopped off to let G have a last feel of snow, and then on through a few kms of windy road before it straightened out ahead of us. Down in , we could get onto the freeways and o our next Parador at Ribadeo, and into Gallicia.

Posted by lostagain 02:46 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Bilbao and the Goog

and a nasty tram conductor

semi-overcast 17 °C

In the morning we head into Bilbao. We are focussed on the Goog. The good folk at Novotel are Corporate partners of the Guggenheim, so they have free tickets available for us. Ask your hotel, they may too. At the train station we get a 10 Euro credit usable on all transport types. The metro trains run every ten minutes and take only a few minutes to get into town. We hop offand grab breakfast at a bar – more sludgey hot chocolate.
Arrive at the Guggenheim where we descend inside. The interior space is just a huge cathedral of light, stretching five generous storeys up to the ceiling. It really is amazing. But this must be said: compared to the norm there is not much art in the Guggenheim, and to a fair degree the building is the masterpiece, the centre of attraction.
I want one

I want one


BUT having said that and checked out some pretty good stuff from the Guggenheim collection (including one Rothko, my favourite) we then moved on to The Matter of Time by the American Richard Serra. This is a collection of seven or eight pieces arranged in the largest space. These are made up of massive steel plates, all self supported rolled into geometric shapes (sections of cones, spheres , torus, skewed ellipses) creating pieces that you can walk around and through and in, which is like having your reality warped – quite amazing. L was awestruck.
Richard Serra,  The Matter of Time

Richard Serra, The Matter of Time


Inside The Matter of Time

Inside The Matter of Time


We then went into see some modern stuff which didn’t do it for us, ditto Rauschenberg’s GLUTS. Last was Anish Kapoor and his work. This I really liked – he plays very well with light and the tricks that light and shade can play on you – including one piece about pregnancy that I nearly backed into it was so well blended into the wall! Then we went on to his concrete room, which we quickly passed through. He had an installation involving tonnes of red wax being shot through a compressed air cannon into the corner, but our favourite was the mirror room where you could stand and look at your own reflection, and others in a series of different shaped mirrors. It was great to see how people reacted to being in front of the mirrors – some people freaked, others acted like children. That was almost as much fun as looking at yourself.
Anish Kapoor's work

Anish Kapoor's work


That was as much culture as we could take, so we headed up to the Guggenheim Cafeteria to do their menu, as had been recommended to us – and what a hit! The food is fantastic, the servings are good (they do not stint the wine) and there is no rush – a sure fire hit.
Lunch at the Guggenheim

Lunch at the Guggenheim


Cultured out, I took a few photos around the exterior before we got onto the tram for the old town.
Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim Museum


Well that was the plan. We got to the tram which was about to leave, and jumped on and handed our ticket to the conductor, except he was a ticket inspector. He grabbed our ticket and started a steady stream of Basque at us, pointing to a card he had with all this writing in Basque and Castillian. The only thing we could understand was ‘money, money’ We got off at the next stop with him and he showed us the card in Basque and Castillian again and started saying Policia, policia, who we indicated he should call. After a few more minutes of this L called out to the platform across the way to see if any one spoke English (Spaniards have been talking much better English than my spanish), at which point he then turns over his card in Basque and Castillian, and would you believe there it is in English, and it has been all this time! Does not let us read it, but goes over to the validating machine and validates our card – not just three times but five times – he is running out our credit! L grabs the card, which unfortunately rips and he gives a nasty grin of triumph. He heads off muttering and goes over the other side where he is very helpful in showing people how to validate their cards – nasty little man and a blot on our visit to Bilbao.
Around the old town we wandered up and down the streets, dropping in at a few shops here and there, when we found one selling postcards by our favourite, Kukuxumusu. And they had some end of run T shirts going cheap... so I ended up with a couple more, and the lovely girl Gave G a bag of chocolate sardines (don’t worry, they were all chocolate, no fish). We found the metro and headed back to the hotel.

Posted by lostagain 02:07 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

A night in Olite

And then through Pamplona

overcast 17 °C

In Olite, we drive through the town wall to the Parador. It is only to unload, as there is no parking in town. This Parador is in the Castle/Church/Bishop’s manor complex built into the city wall.
Our Parador (Hotel)

Our Parador (Hotel)


Checked in we relax and have a pre dinner drink before dinner. Tonight we are taking advantage of their half board offer for 140Euros for the 3 of us. Dinner is good, but it is huge and we roll up to bed and collapse into sleep.
Because dinner in Spain does not start until 8:30pm, you do not finish until 10 pm earliest. As a result, G cannot get up early and we are often the last down to breakfast, and not leaving until nearly check out time at noon. And breakfast is huge like dinner, so no lunch required. A walk around Olite reveals a very picturesque town with plenty of ancient buildings and narrow alleys etc. By the produce available, it also seems to be an affluent town.
Medieval Soccer Practice

Medieval Soccer Practice


I'm not sure...

I'm not sure...


We head on to Pamplona (Iruna). The bull run is not the only thing happening in Pamplona, it is a very attractive town with lots of great buildings. In fact the Bull Run does not happen until the week of the 7 – 14 July. The bull ring itself is quite an ugly round concrete thing, with a lot better ones seen around. You can trace out the path of the bulls through the town. It is not a long trip, about 1 km, so the bulls are still energetic when they reach the ring. You can see the nasty right hander into Estafeta Kalea and understand why so many people and bulls lose their footing (and other things) at this point.
Ernest Hemmingway

Ernest Hemmingway


Entrance to the bull ring

Entrance to the bull ring


We have found a clothing company based in Pamplona called Kukuxumusu (Kookooshoomoosoo) which design and make T-shirts, clothing, mugs, laptop cases, backpacks, etc. They are a lot of fun and G and I each buy a t-shirt.
On the way out of town we stop at the citadel for the city, a great example of 16th century defensive fortress design. It is easy to see how hard it would be to attack a place with defences like these.
Well preserved Citadel

Well preserved Citadel


Now we head up to Bilbao.
North Basque landscape

North Basque landscape


Thanks to my brilliant directions, we manage to miss the place we are staying at and do a 20 km circuit around the town on the wrong side of the river. My annoyance is not helped by the fact that we do run into the San Mames stadium, but the weekend’s game against Deportivo is sold out. Try again. This time we miss the hotel again and end updoing a 15km circuit out to the west and back into the city centre. Next we read the instructions better and find the Bilbao exhibition centre, and circle round that till we locate the Novotel.The Exhibition Centre

The Exhibition Centre

Posted by lostagain 02:54 Archived in Spain Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

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