Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Iberian Adventures: Basque Country

Wednesday, July 1
After (finally) successfully departing Zaragoza, our party stopped in Pamplona, where the running of the bulls happens every year. Setup was in progress as the festival was the following week. We had jamon iberico and walked the bull running route.

Jamon iberico



Town hall



I fell asleep in the car while Johnny drove through mountains, and then we arrived on the coast! We found Getaria, the village where our hotel rooms had wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Morning view

We had dinner at Giroa, a restaurant near the hotel. The menú del dia was an excellent value, and very tasty. Dan tried the local cider, and I tried txakoli, sparkling wine of the area. We also saw a beagle during dinner!

Thursday, July 2
Overcast day. Picked up some water and fruit at a little market, then breakfast at a bakery. Johnny drove us to Bilbao, about an hour away. We saw Jeff Koons' Puppy, the giant topiary Westie covered in thousands of flowers. I like it.


We followed the audio tour of the Guggenheim, which seems to be mostly devoted to Jeff Koons. Also walked through the Richard Serra installation of huge steel shapes. An exhibit was being installed on the top floor, so it was closed.


Guggenheim Bilbao

Guggenheim Bilbao

Dan and the kiddos

Hunger led us in search of food, and we went a restaurant near the museum. I didn't want to sit in the back because it was hot and stuffy, but apparently they didn't serve the menu in the front, just pintxos. I became hangry, so Dan and I went in search of another meal while Johnny and Tina went to find pastries. Dan ordered a salad for his starter at the second lunch (a rare occurence). Then we wandered around town, and eventually saw two beagles! They were laboratory rescue beagles. And Johnny and Tina got some yummy pastries for us!

From Bilbao we went to Guernica, a village that for centuries was the meeting place of the Basque leaders, and was bombed by Franco and the Nazis in 1937 and inspired Picasso's painting. We searched for the oak tree, a symbol of peace, and found the Basque assembly house right before closing time. The guards kindly let us inside to take a quick peek.

Oak tree in Guernica

Meeting house in Guernica

We took the scenic drive back to Getaria, which was super twisty-turny. I enjoyed the views, and Dan liked seeing the sheep and pastoral scenes, but unfortunately Tina didn't feel so well. After resting up at the hotel, we had tasty seafood for dinner at Mayflower.

Friday, July 3
Sunny day! Dan and I had breakfast at the other bakery in town, where we saw our server from the previous evening (Getaria is a small town). Then we hiked up Mount San Antón, the peninsula across from Getaria. Apparently locals call it the mouse. The views were great, and we saw some rock carvings and the lighthouse.

Window view



Johnny and Tina picked us up and we had lunch in Zarautz, the next town. Another tasty menú del dia. Dan ordered cider, and they brought an entire bottle!

Lunch in Zarautz

We went to the beach after lunch, which was super crowded. Dan and I went swimming, it was fun floating in the waves...we attempted to catch and ride them too. Meanwhile, Johnny and Tina had a surfing lesson where they really caught the waves! We watched them surf and took some photos.

Beach tents

Johnny surfing

Tina surfing

Dan and I walked back to Getaria, passing a diving spot with lots of young people jumping into the water (where Johnny and Tina had jumped in too). After a nap, we had an amazing seafood dinner at Astillero, including yummy grilled crayfish and a humongous fish. We had eaten very well in Getaria!


Eating langoustines

Saturday, July 4
The next morning we packed up our luggage and took the escalators up the hill to the Balenciaga Museum. It is huge! Especially for such a small village. I enjoyed seeing the dresses, although I wish more of them were on display. Lots of empty spaces in the museum. 

Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum

Polka dots

Cafe is closed

We met up with Johnny and Tina, and drove to San Sebastián, where we dropped off the rental car (in a mall, oddly enough). Took a taxi to the train station, only to learn there were no storage lockers. In fact, the train station was tiny, seems odd for such a popular tourist destination. So we rolled our luggage across the bridge over the river into town to a hotel, but they did not offer luggage storage for non-guests. So we rolled our luggage along the promenade, admiring the view of the beach.

San Sebastián

San Sebastián

Dan and I had pintxos for lunch, then pastries for an afternoon snack. We rolled along and eventually found a luggage storage place, hooray! We wandered around unencumbered, did some shopping, walked along the pier, where we saw another diving spot for young people. We stopped in a toy store filled with puzzles, sampled more jamón ibérico, and cooled off with gelato.


Dan checking out puzzles

Numbered windows


Then we picked up our luggage and took a taxi to the train station, where we boarded the Sud Express overnight train for Portugal. After settling into our 4-bed sleeper, I went to the bar car for a drink  and watched the scenery pass by. Dan joined me, and we watched the other diners enjoying their meals. Our neighbors offered us a taste of their rosé, so nice of them! We decided to order dinner, which ended up being a very humorous transaction due to the language barrier and lack of inventory. The server would take items out of the icebox to show us what was available. I had salmon, and Dan had steak, and they were both quite tasty! But they had run out of chocolate pudding, so we had pineapple and oranges for dessert. 

Dinner on Sud Express

It was not the best night of sleep, with all the bumps on the tracks, but it was an adventure! Next stop, Porto...

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