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Spain

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)

Into Siguenza

overcast 15 °C

One of the first things I noticed on getting in the car is that the new Peugeots do not have a steering wheel – oh, there it is on the passenger’s side. Takes a little while to get used to driving on the opposite side, and a side effect is that I now call left and right on the wrong sideas we are driving along.
Our first drive is pretty short, only up to Siguenza about 110 kms out of Madrid. It is easy to find our hotel, it is the castle at the top of the town. This is a Parador, one of a chain of state run hotels right across Spain which are often in old monasteries, castles, palaces etc. Thanks to Andrew & Annie for putting us onto this, they have great deals for fixed price rooms and no charge for children’s beds, an absolute pearler as everyone else whacks on 30 Euro a pop. The Siguenza Parador is in a restored 14th Century castle, and it is fantastic. It is in a honey coloured stone sitting over the old town of Siguenza, which is little changed over the years.
Our humble abode

Our humble abode


Sigüenza street

Sigüenza street


We head out to explore the town and end up in the Siguenza Cathedral, which is pockmarked with bullet holes up the towers. These are from the Civil War, when the Republicans held the Cathedral and Franco’s nationalists held the Castle. Have a look inside, where there are some very good alabaster tombs, including a couple unusually mounted on the walls. When we come out it is raining so we head across to a bar for hot chocolates. Not Aussie hot chocolates but proper Spanish hot thick gooey chocolate sludge which you can feel coating you tonsils on the way down, yummo.
Now that's a hot chocolate

Now that's a hot chocolate


The rain has eased up so we wander about for a bit. Siguenza has a great old city centre, but it is on a hill, and by now we were at the bottom, and we didn’t want to go back up. So we went to the Almeda bar opposite the tourism office, and slowly went up and down the tapas selection and red wine list. The tapas were fantastic flavours and combinations, just brilliant. The wines were damn good too.
Tapas!

Tapas!


But all good things must come to an end and G helped us back up the hill to the Parador.
The next morning we gradually got going and out of the Parador to do some shopping before we head off. Pick up some very nice jamon, sallsichion and cheese in a carneceria on Calle Villaviciosa. Also elsewhere for bread tomatoes and a cream doughnut. G also found some other vital shopping.
A few necessities...

A few necessities...


Made ourselves a great breakfast before departing to the next Parador at Olite.
Looking on the map, we have picked the route that Michelin recommend as scenic. We head up to Soria, skirt around there and head off sort of NE. We go through some very nice villages including Yanguas with its old church and stone bridge over Rio Cidacos, and Arnedo where there are dramatic cliffs over the village that the ancients have carved into.
Stone Bridge, still used

Stone Bridge, still used


Weird rocks

Weird rocks


This is pretty hilly country, and the Spaniards have managed to get wind farms on every available ridgeline. At one point we could see at least 100 windmills into the distance in every direction.
As we get to Rincon de Soto we see we mistimed our visit – a few days later and we would have seen the running of the bulls there.
Get close to Olite and as we come over the ridge, we see that they also get into solar power around here too.
Not only Wind Power, but Solar too

Not only Wind Power, but Solar too

Posted by lostagain 15:21 Archived in Spain Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

Into Madrid

Not for long enough...

overcast 15 °C

Well, after the jiggling of our flights, we got to our apartment at 5pm. We had already sorted the dirty clothes to do some loads of washing. Imagine our surprise when we saw the space where the washing machine wasn’t!
Went for a wander to Plaza Major and the tourist info. Found out where the laundrette was supposed to be, but could not find it, but it may have been boarded up, this being Sunday. Wandered around a bit more, then had some tapas in a bar for dinner. Nothing special.
Headless man, Plaza Major

Headless man, Plaza Major


In the morning we were slow getting going, and abandoned the washing. We headed back to Plaza Major for a small walking tour group, which was informative, but not too thrilling. At the end we headed off for a salt cod paella for lunch.
The Ayuntamiento

The Ayuntamiento


Palacio Real

Palacio Real


Broke up at this time – G and I head up to Bernabau for a look about whilst L peruses the shops. We have a walk about and get a glance of the turf through an open gate. As soon as I raise the camera, someone closes it...
The Real deal

The Real deal


We walk around to the shop, and glance through everything. No pictures allowed in the Real Madrid shop either. We are going to do the tour at Camp Nou, not here. A few more photos and then we head off again to meet up with L at the apartment. Here we gather our strength and our washing and pack it off to the laundrette (which we have found) and start washing. We would go over time, but the owner is working late and lets us keep drying. At 8:45 we pack up and haul it all home, and spread all the not quite dry stuff everywhere in the apartment – makes the place a lot prettier!
Next morning the clothes are mostly dry thanks to the heater – but so are we – thirsty as ten men. For the first time in a long time we have cereal for breakfast – nice to do something normal for a change.
At the Prado

At the Prado


We are off and going in an attempt to get to the Prado early – well attempt, anyway. There at 10:30, and there is no queue to buy tickets. In we go and start to get overwhelmed by the immensity of it all. Velaquez, Goya, Ruebens, Bosch, Makita, Durer, El Greco – there are all there in abundance. Like any art, you like what you like, and while some of the lesser known pieces were knockouts. All in all, we were there for over four hours including statutory breaks. It was a very rewarding time.
What happened when the first elephant in space landed

What happened when the first elephant in space landed


Next we headed off for Reine Sophia Museum. Got there to find I can’t read English, and the museum is shut today. Bollocks! So G gets to choose – Museum of Science and Technology. Okay, walk 2 kms down to find it does not open for another 90 minutes – closed for Spanish lunch. Have a few pastries to fill in time, and then in to have a look around. It is a newish museum, and small. There is a history of typewriters as the main exhibit, but there are some cars and motorbikes to keep us interested.
Next head back to Puerta Del Sol, pick up a guide book to Spain, then grab some fresh cooked meat for dinner at a street market. Finish it off on the way to the movies.
My dinner (well, not all of it)

My dinner (well, not all of it)


Here we see ”Iron Man 2” which keeps G entertained and happy all the way back to the apartment. Pack up ready to pick up the car tomorrow.
After a quick breakfast, chat with our talkative key master, then onto the train out to the airport. The arrangement is we ring up, and they shuttle us out to pick up our new car. Once we are at the airport, we call up for 45 minutes, the tourist information people call up, none of our calls are answered. Give up and take a taxi there – and the driver adds to the frustration by stopping on the freeway for directions. Get around there and about to give them a serve when they let us know they have no power, no phones and they will pay for the taxi. Any aggro quickly dissolves as we can see the day he has had.
Into the new car – a Peugeot 308 SW with my name on the ownership papers. For the length of time we are here, the price of the lease is the same as a hire car, but we get insurance and assistance thrown in – another $900 worth. Well worth it.
Head out onto the road and away – free! Then we stop and look at the map so we know where we are going.

Posted by lostagain 14:48 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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