Category Archives: Postcards

Northern Spain, Asturian Coast and Ribadesella

Cantabria Coastline Beach

The Beaches of Asturias…

This was the final stage of the long journey and we kept stubbornly to the coast road and took our time as we stopped off regularly at beaches along the way.

The first that we came to was just outside of the town of Llanes and we took the road which swooped down to Playa de Toro which translates as the beach of bulls and although I can find no explanation for this  I assumed that it was on account of the natural sculptures, little pronounced pinnacles – rocky outcroppings leaping up out of the caramel sand, skeletal survivors of the erosion action of the sea on calcareous rock and which, with a little imagination could be said to resemble a herd of black bulls charging into the surf.

At the back of the beach only a few kilometres away the Cantabrian mountains soared into the sky and as they did they collected all of the clouds that were sweeping in from the sea and here their progress was stalled like traffic at a motorway incident and they joined together in a sort of cloud congestion that grew darker and darker and obscured the peaks of the natural barrier between land and sea.

By contrast it was very sunny down on the beach and we wandered along the shoreline and watched the incoming tide before resting a while at a beach side restaurant and sat outside with diners who were tucking into the menu del dia.  We were tempted to join them but our plan was to eat in mid afternoon in preparation for the journey home so we resisted and carried on.

Lets Go Fly A Kite…

As we drove west the beaches on the Cantabrian coast come thick and fast and we stopped to admire the Playa de San Antonin where Atlantic breakers rolled in one after another and where surfers were practising the moves and then came across a beach, the name of which I carelessly forgot to find out where there was a gathering and an event and what looked like a thousand kites being flown in the sky.

We turned into the car park and walked along the sand and the grassy headland and admired the range of kites on display from the simple things that I remember from my boyhood holidays (two bits of wood, some plastic and string) to some very complex exhibits which I assume required great skill to keep up in the air.  I was glad that we had stumbled upon this because it was one of those Spanish festivals/events which includes all of the family and is quite unlike anything in the UK.

Cantabria Kite Flying Beach

All of a sudden time was ticking by quite quickly and it was getting close to our intended lunch stop so we left the hobby kite fliers and continued on to the seaside town of Ribadesella and found a parking spot in a strangely solumbulant Saturday afternoon town where boats rested in the water and the seafood restaurants were serving unhurried food to relaxed diners and there was a lazy ambiance as we strolled along the harbour street looking for a restaurant.

There were a number to select from but as the sun was shining and this might well have been the best weather of the entire week we wanted to find a table in the sun and we had to walk practically the entire length of the harbour to find one.  Tables in the sun are generally free because local diners prefer the shade and this was no exception as we settled ourselves down for lunch.

We choose the four course menu del dia which turned out to be wonderful and we sat and ate and shared the bottle of red wine and reflected on our journey.  It had been an excellent week and we had enjoyed every place that we had visited.  Castilla y León is not the most attractive region in Spain but it is encrusted with the jewels of the cities that stand out like diamonds and more than compensate for the dreary landscape and we had enjoyed our itinerary which took us through most of Spain’s largest Autonomous Community.

After lunch we walked through the streets of the town but our visit had clearly coincided with the afternoon siesta and many places were closed and those that were open were not very enthusiastic about receiving customers so after a walk through the town and a last look at the harbour we returned to the car and headed for the Autovia del Cantabria for the very final stretch of our drive.

The road took us south of the industrial towns of Gijón and Avilés we sped past without stopping, filled the hire car with fuel and then made our way back to the airport and the late evening flight home to London Stansted.

Ribadasella Cantabria SpainAsturias Postcard

 

 

Northern Spain – Cantabrian Coast, Comillas and Gaudi

Comillas Cantabria

Cantabria, Mountains and Coastline…

Although the forecast was poor the weather by contrast was better than expected and there was a clear blue sky with just a few wispy clouds and from the museum car park it was possible to see the sea only a few hundred metres away.  We drove out of the village on a road that climbed quickly and at the top we were overawed by a sight that we were not prepared for.  At a distance of about fifty kilometres we could see the two thousand five hundred metre high peaks of the Picos de Europa which remained snow capped and glistening white in the mid morning sun.

We headed towards the coast road and enjoyed the dramatic contrast of the Atlantic Ocean to our left and the lush green meadows of the hills to the right with the snow drizzled mountains in the near distance.   We were heading for the town of Comillas but stopped several times to admire the power of the sea as great waves rolled in and fizzed onto and through the caramel sand and caressed the random rocks littering the beaches.

I had always thought of Spain as a Mediterranean country but closer inspection of the map shows that a third of the Country’s coastline is along the much more dramatic Atlantic Ocean and the Cantabrian coast is over two hundred kilometres of panoramic beaches, hidden coves tucked into the pleats of the cliffs, green headlands and little towns where fishing boats shelter below harbour cafés.

Comillas, Cantabria…

In the high summer Comillas is a very busy seaside town but it is a lot quieter in May and there was plenty of room in the car park to park the car.  We walked across the pristine blue flag beach washed scrupulously clean by the strong tides and then towards the little harbour with a handful of colourful little fishing boats lying lop-sided as though recovering from a heavy night out on the San Miguel and sheltering behind the strong granite walls.  The tide was coming in quickly and as we watched the harbour began to fill with water and one by one the little boats sprang into life as the sea lifted them off of the mud and they began to dance on the water.

Gaudii Capricho ComillasAntoni Gaudi and me

Comillas is a declared historic/artistic site that in the nineteenth century was once popular with the Spanish nobility who built many fine buildings and mansions here and is picturesque enough to get it hovering near to any top ten list of best small towns in Spain (ok, there are a lot of these lists so it isn’t difficult to pop up now and again in one or another of them).

El Capricho, Gaudi in Cantabria…

Before we left we drove into the old town where there were some fascinating buildings but none better than a rare example of the work of  Antoni Gaudi outside of Barcelona, a mansion called El Capricho complete with a signature tile clad tower, playful ceramic sunflowers and whimsical images of animals playing instruments.

It was built in 1883 for a nobleman who wanted an exotic villa in an oriental style and the really significant fact is that this was Gaudi’s very first commission.  There was a €7 admission charge which was a bit of a shock but having walked all the way through the town to find the place we went through with the transaction and made the visit to the house and the gardens and we were glad that we did.  Kim may have got tired of towers, castles and cathedrals but she remains comfortable with palaces and Gaudi it seems.

So far today the only disappointing thing was the weather which remained rather dreary but as we left El Capricho the sky began to brighten and the temperature leapt a degree or two and we took the opportunity to walk through the historical centre and the flower filled Plaza Mayor and alongside the fish restaurants that were already preparing for lunch time business but being too early for food we moved on and continued our final journey.

San Vicente De La Barquera…

When we reached the motorway we headed promptly west again and in a very short time we were in the fishing town of San Vicente De La Barquera where there was an interesting castle and an old town that stretched from the headland to the church of Santa María de los Ángeles and which enjoyed magnificent views over a busy river estuary to the mountains beyond and a good view too of the Maza Bridge, with its twenty-eight arches, which was built on the orders of the Spanish Catholic Monarchs in the sixteenth century.

Shortly after leaving San Vicente De La Barquera we crossed the Ría de Tina Mayor estuary and crossed out of Cantabria and back into Asturias.

Cantabria 008

More posts about Antoni Gaudi:

Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

Twelve Treasures of Spain, La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Casa Batlló, Barcelona

Park Guell, Barcelona

Northern Spain – The Caves at Altimira

Santillana del Mar in the rain

“I visited the Cave of Altamira while traveling in Europe with two friends in 1968.  Once inside, I was of course in awe, not only of the age of the paintings, but also of the delicacy and skill with which they had been executed. I think we tend to look down on our distant ancestors as primitive and stupid, but cave paintings like those at Altamira remind us that they were not.”                         Susan (Washington) – Blogger

On the final morning of our visit to Santillana del Mar the weather proved to be a disappointment, I could hear rain on the window as I started to stir and when I did the weather check I could only report back that the sky was grey and it was drizzling.

At breakfast our host confirmed the worst and informed us that the forecast was gloomy all day so we decided that it was probably a good day to go and do something undercover and perhaps visit a museum.

After breakfast we settled up and said goodbye and took the road out of Santillana Del Mar and then followed signposts to the Altamira museum on the edge of the town.   I wasn’t expecting a great deal to be honest so was surprised to find a very big car park and a large building built into the hills.  I was about to learn about something else that I was completely unaware of – Cantabria is the richest region in the world in archaeological sites from the Upper Paleolithic period (that’s the Stone Age to you and me).  The most significant cave painting site is the cave of Altamira, dating from about 16,000 to 9000 BC and declared, with another nine Cantabrian caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Well, you learn something new every day it seems!

Altimira cave painting

Around thirteen thousand years ago a rockfall sealed the cave entrance preserving its contents until its eventual discovery which was caused by a nearby tree falling and disturbing the fallen rocks.  The really good bit about the story is that it wasn’t discovered by Howard Carter, Tony Robinson or Indiana Jones but by a nine year old girl who came across them while playing in the hills above the town in 1879.  Her father was an amateur archaeologist called Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola and he was led by his daughter to discover the cave’s drawings. The cave was excavated by Sautuola and archaeologist Juan Vilanova y Piera from the University of Madrid, resulting in a much acclaimed publication in 1880 which interpreted the paintings as Paleolithic in origin.

So well preserved were the paintings however that there ensued an argument about authenticity and some believed the whole thing to be a hoax and it wasn’t until 1902 that they were eventually accepted as genuine.

We paid the modest entrance fee of €2.40 and went into the museum, which turned out to be a real treasure with interesting displays about the Stone Age, or the Paleolithic period if you prefer, with the highlight of the visit being a full size recreation of the original cave and its precious paintings.  Today it is only possible to see this copy because the actual cave is now closed to vistors.  During the 1960s and 1970s, the paintings were being damaged by the damp breath of large numbers of visitors and smoke from Fortuna cigarettes and Altamira was completely closed to the public in 1977, and reopened with only very limited access in 1982.

altamira[1]

Very few visitors are allowed in per day, resulting in a three-year waiting list.  It would be nice to go into the actual cave but actually the replica allows a more comfortable view of the polychrome paintings of the main hall of the cave, as well as a selection of minor works and also includes some sculptures of human faces that cannot be accessed in the real thing.

And, let me tell you, these people were really good painters.  The artists used charcoal and ochre or haematite to create the images, often scratching or diluting these dyes to produce variances in intensity and creating an impression of remarkable and sophisticated contrasts and they also exploited the natural contours in the cave walls to give a three-dimensional effect to their subjects.

The painted ceiling is the most impressive feature showing a herd of bison in different poses, two horses, a large doe and a wild boar.  Other images include horses, goats and hand prints created from the artist placing his hand on the cave wall and spraying paint over it leaving a negative image of his palm.

Numerous other caves in northern Spain contain palaeolithic art but none is as advanced or as famous as Altamira.

The entrance to the real cave is not so impressive however…

Entrance to the cave of Altamira

P&O Mini-Cruise, Delft – Canals, Pottery and Cheese

Delft the Netherlands

A weak winter sun was shining through a veil of high cloud when the transfer coach dropped us off at Rotterdam central station and although I suppose it was rather rude we didn’t spend any time in Holland’s second largest city but made straight for the ticket office because we had plans to visit nearby Delft.

We paid the modest fares and found the correct platform and within minutes we were being efficiently transported to Delft on an appropriate blue and white double-decker train which took about fifteen minutes to reach our destination.  On the way we passed through city suburbs with blocks of flats each with a glass enclosed balcony and used as additional living space which made them curiously like specimen jars that we could peer inside and examine and this seemed quite normal as the people inside went about their lives in a totally ambivalent and unselfconscious way.

We left the train on a bleak platform next to a muddy building site which turns out to be the ‘Spoorzone Delft’ a ten year project that consists of a railway tunnel, a new railway station with municipal offices, around twelve hundred dwellings, a number of office buildings, a city park, water parks, bicycle facilities, car parking and new roads and we had to circumnavigate the building site to make our way into the city centre.

Away from the train and tram station the tiny streets were busy and for pedestrians in a strange place we had to keep our wits about us because, just as in Amsterdam, there are three things to watch out for in Delft – road traffic, trams and bicycles.  We are used to dealing with cars but trams are different because you really don’t want to be smeared out by a twenty-tonne Combino flexi-tram at top speed because that would really spoil the day.

Delft Pottery

What makes crossing the road confusing is that even at the same pedestrian crossing all of these different forms of transport seem to have their own traffic light system and there are multiple sets of lights so you have to pay close attention to avoid the sort of accident that I nearly had when I saw a green light and started to cross but hadn’t noticed a red light in the tram lane and if Jonathan hadn’t been alert and stopped me I nearly put a scarlet streak across the front of the red and cream GVB as it rattled past right in front of me belatedly sounding its distinctive klaxon horn.

Bikes can be hazardous too and everywhere there is the melodious sound of tinkling bells to alert pedestrians because it is all too easy to stray absent-mindedly into a bike lane and this can be dangerous because as far as I could see a lot of bikes didn’t have brakes and how the cyclists must curse the visitors who are unfamiliar with the sort of bike culture that exists in the Netherlands and are forever getting in the way.

Actually there is a sort of well choreographed ballet in the streets, a symphony of movement where Dutch people appear to have a sixth-sense about street flow which allows pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to share the same spaces but without getting in each other’s way.  Bikes weave across junctions and pedestrians instinctively know when to cross roads and cycle paths without being run down.  No one appears to be paying attention or looking where they are going but everything moves smoothly and without incident.  That’s only until visitors come along however because we don’t have the benefit of this same spatial perception as the Dutch which can make life dangerous for locals and tourists alike as we stray into cycle lanes and misinterpret the crossing signals and bring chaos where there was order.

The December sun was low in the sky but was straining to claw its way through the thin cloud and as we walked into the city centre the sky shattered like a broken jigsaw and by the time we had walked along the outer perimeter canals and reached the market square there was a blue sky and a victorious sun rising above the buildings.

After the cramped alleys and the narrow streets the Market Place was in complete contrast – a vast cobbled open space with elegant gabled houses, shops and bars and with the Renaissance town hall with its red shutters at one end and at the other the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) with its almost one hundred and ten metre tall spire (the second largest in the Netherlands after Utrecht) rising majestically into the sky like a needle.

Usually I try and avoid shopping if I possibly can but I was confident that Jonathan wouldn’t get carried away and there were a couple of items that I specifically wanted to take back as gifts so it seemed like a good idea to get this chore out of the way as quickly as possible and we trawled the Delft pottery shops for hand painted houses for Kim and a special present for new grandchild and then spent perhaps longer than we had planned in a cheese shop where we sampled the various different flavours before making our selection.  Decisions made we left the shops with the intention of returning later to make the transactions and we made our way to the Vermeer Museum.

I liked Delft and I was glad that we had decided to come here.

Henri Wellig Cheese Shop Delft the Netherlands

Bodrum, A Lazy Day on a Boat

Bodrum Harbour Turkey

Bodrum Boat Trip…

When we booked the all day boat cruise around Bodrum Bay I suppose that we were hoping to reprise the boat trip day with Captain Ben at Antiparos the previous year because it had been a wonderful day and we rather liked the idea of doing it again.  The full day trip was very reasonably priced at only thirty Turkish Lira so we happily signed up and handed over our cash.

As it was end of season the boat wasn’t overcrowded and we selected our positions for the day on the top deck and waited for the time when the skipper was ready to raise the gang plank, started the engine and carefully manoeuvre the wooden boat out of the crowded harbour.  It slipped past the rows of swanky yachts, beneath the shadow of St. Peter’s castle and into the bay where the sun was dancing like dainty fairies on the water ballroom dance floor.

There were to be a number of stops for swimming and after thirty minutes or do the boat dropped anchor in a secluded bay where the water was crystal clear but so deep I could barely see the seabed.

I was ready for a swim and like Tom Daley from the ten metre Olympic diving platform I dived from the boat and like a kingfisher speared the water as though I was a stiletto dagger splintering the water like glass and sending silver shards splintering like a kaleidoscope.  Well that’s how it seemed to me but I am prepared to accept that for anyone watching it was all rather less elegant than I imagined.  The water was soft and warm and I fell through a shoal of small fish scattering them in all directions and then I stopped falling and started to rise up and surfaced in an explosion of white foam and bubbles.

It was an exhilarating experience so I did it several more times until I had jumped enough and it was time to swim to swim to the deserted shingle beach to look for driftwood.

At the next stop there was an invitation to jump for thrills from a twenty metre high cliff top into a pool of appropriately deep water.  Miles from home and unsure of standards of medical care in a non-EU country or even if my travel insurance would cover me in the event of an accident this would have been a seriously crazy thing to do and nothing would have persuaded me to jump from that ledge.

Some young people on another boat however had no such cares and a couple of them leapt from the top and pierced the water at what looked to me like a terrifying speed and impact.  A third member of the group, a young girl, was not so confident and took several looks over the precipice and was clearly having doubts but cheered on and encouraged by those who had already taken the plunge she stood back and finally ran for the edge and the jump.  At the last moment she had second thoughts and tried to stop but it was far too late and although she decelerated her momentum carried over the edge but was now insufficient for her to clear the cliff face below and she landed heavily on her bottom and slid and bounced into the sea.  Suddenly everything went quiet as everyone feared a serious accident but she returned to the surface and I am willing to wager that she was now minus several layers of skin on her legs and back.  No one else seemed to have the inclination to attempt the jump after that!

After a good lunch which was worth the cost of the trip by itself the next stop was Cleopatra’s cave, so called because the Egyptian Queen is said to have hidden there at some time and had discovered a cave with hot springs and warm copper coloured mud that she used for bathing because she discovered that it had a range of medicinal benefits including keeping her skin soft and youth like.  Some people were trying it for themselves but I thought it all looked a bit messy and there was an entrance fee which put me off.  Actually, I have done this sort of thing before on Santorini in 2003 and I am convinced that you only need to do this thing once to achieve everlasting good looks so I declined to do it again here.

There was still a full afternoon ahead but this trip was clearly not going to be as much fun as Captain Ben’s the previous year because almost all of our travelling companions on the top deck slept throughout most of the voyage and we guessed that they were most likely clubbers sleeping off the previous night’s excesses.  Only Kim, me and Paul from Fort Lauderdale in the USA stayed awake and I even have a suspicion that Kim dropped off for a short while behind her dark glasses.

It had been a good day but after seven hours I was ready for a return to dry land and was pleased when we returned to the harbour and were entertained by a forest fire on the hills above the city that was being tackled by helicopters scooping up water and dropping it on the flames.  Very efficiently as it happened because it was all over very quickly once the water started to drop out of the sky.

This was our last evening and night in Turkey and we had enjoyed it, so much in fact that we thought we might like to return and see some more of the country and after a meal and a walk and some time watching live music on the harbour as part of the annual Bodrum Festival on the walk back to the hotel we debated potential itineraries for next year.

Santorini Mud Bath 2003

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Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal:

Malta Tony-Oki-Koki

Corfu-1984 Georges Boat

Motorboat Ride from Kalami to Corfu Town

Rowing Boat on Lake Bled in Slovenia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Croatia

A Boat Ride with Dolphins in Wales

Gondola Ride in Venice

boat trip day with Captain Ben at Antiparos

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Travels in Spain, Tapas and Bodegas

According to one legend, the tapas tradition in Spain began when the King of Castile, Alfonso the Wise, visited a tavern in the town of Ventorillo del Chato in the province of Cádiz, and ordered a glass of sherry.  On this particular day there was a gusty wind, so the innkeeper served him his glass of sherry covered by a slice of ham supposedly to prevent the sherry from getting dirty but more likely because he didn’t want to have his head cut off!

The King finished the sherry and ate the ham, and when he asked for a second glass, he requested another tapa or ‘cover’ just like the first.  This evolved into the practice of using slices of bread or meat as a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the drink. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst and because of this, bartenders and bodega owners began creating a variety of snacks to serve with sherry but, more importantly, increasing their alcohol sales as a consequence.  There are alternative stories about the origin of tapas but so far this is my favourite.

Spain Bodega Tapas

There was serious temptation to stay longer but there remained lots to see so we left after one drink and returned to the walls and this time our intention was to see them from the top rather than the bottom.  We paid the €4 fee and received long-winded instructions on how to find the four separate entrances to which our tickets entitled us to go and then at the tourist information office climbed the steps to the top of the wall and began a steady walk around the eastern section.

It was still rather cloudy and the grey sky sapped the colour from everything beneath it but from the top we could see that weather to the north seemed to be improving and there were some tiny slithers of blue sky making slow progress south and as we walked these grew larger and got closer and we began to grow optimistic about the afternoon’s weather.  There were good views from the walls looking east towards Segovia and north to Salamanca and from the mountains in the west the pace of improvement in the weather began to gather an increased momentum.

Spain Tapas Bar

When the city wall walk ran out we climbed back down and once again left the protection of the walls and walked around the outside of the western section and as we did so the clouds as if by magic suddenly cleared, there was a blue sky and bright sunshine and the temperature leapt several degrees which led to the hasty removal of jackets and coats.

After about half an hour we re-entered the city at the Puerta de Santa Teresa which led to the Convento de Santa Teresa (Santa Teresa is important in Ávila) and we walked through the twisted narrow streets through the commercial centre and the market place and then deftly bypassed the shops back to the cathedral where we turned down the opportunity to pay and go inside in preference for staying outside in the sunshine.

Not for long however because it was time for alcohol so not being able to find a bar with outside tables we returned to the tiny bodega which was busier now with lunchtime diners but we squeezed into a corner and had local beer and generous plates of tapas.

We liked it here and hit upon an idea for evening meal and arranged with the staff to return later when, to save us the inconvenience of menu selection, for an inclusive price they would choose the food for us and serve us a local traditional meal.  This took some explanation and negotiation but eventually everyone understood and a deal was struck! For Sue and Christine this involved a significant element of risk of course but as we discussed the menu we did take the precaution of stipulating that there should be no fish because we couldn’t really afford to take the risk of something slimy from the bottom of the ocean turning up on the table.

Basque Country, Biscay and San Sebastián

After leaving the tedious coast road journey speeded up now of course and we completed the final thirty kilometres of the journey in less than half an hour.

As we approached the city I was struck by the fact that it was much bigger than I had been expecting and fairly soon it was much busier than I had imagined as well.  As we followed signs to the centre we joined a queue of crawling traffic with snarling engines, red hot clutch plates and frustrated drivers and we made slow progress towards our destination.  This seemed strange, we knew it was Mother’s day and this was making everywhere busier than normal but we couldn’t understand how this could have produced so much congestion.

As we nudged our way slowly through the obstructions the car parks all showed full signs and police were moving cars along and we circled the city centre twice looking for a parking spot.  I was all for giving up and finding somewhere else to go and I was regretting the decision to drive east this morning when perhaps we should have stayed in Cantabria when we finally found an underground car park with a few remaining vacant spaces and after nearly three hours of driving finally stopped the car.

Salamanca Spain

We were unsure of our position and we were ready for refreshment so we walked around the cathedral square looking for somewhere suitable but almost everywhere was crowded and boisterous and I began to detect a lot of Irish accents in the bars.

Eventually we found a bar with some empty seats and went inside.  The bar was a sea of red shirts and I had to jostle myself into position by pushing through the scarlet rugby tops.  Now there were French voices alongside the Irish accents and the penny began to drop – somewhere there must be a sporting event and my enquiries revealed that not only was the place busy because of Mother’s Day this was also Rugby Football Heineken Cup semi-final day and Biarritz from France were taking on Munster from Ireland right here in San Sebastián.  This was not turning out to be a very well planned day at all!

I still wasn’t quite sure why a Biarritz home fixture was being played in San Sebastián in Northern Spain but I learned later that Biarritz consider themselves to be the Rugby Union representatives of the wider Basque community so often play games in Spain especially for important fixtures when they need a bigger stadium than they have available in France. Aha, a commercial consideration as well!

Biarritz Rugby Shirt in Basque Colours

It was quarter to three and the bar remained packed but having established that kick off was at three-fifteen we were confident that it would soon begin to clear out but at three o’clock it remained just as lively and at five past and at ten past and soon we began to realise that a lot of people hadn’t actually got tickets to the match itself at all and had just visited San Sebastián to be close to the event and to savour the atmosphere.

After a drink we abandoned the noisy bar and the throng of scarlet shirts (both sides play in red!) and went outside to see the city.  We made our way to the seafront through streets of tall well maintained buildings with balconies with iron railings and not a washing line or a satellite dish in sight because this is a wealthy resort town with the highest property values in Spain, which is especially popular with holidaymakers from France.  This probably helped when San Sebastián was named European Capital of Culture for 2016!

There weren’t many holidaymakers today because it was grey and cold with a sharp wind ripping in from the Atlantic and I really could have done with a hat and scarf.  We walked along the beach-front board-walk lined with stylish and expensive hotels, street art, gardens and fountains.  The beach was deserted today but it was easy to imagine just how busy this golden crescent of sand might be during the summer because this is the busiest and the most popular of all seaside resorts on the north coast of Spain.

It was too cold to loiter so we walked briskly across the beach and through the old town back to the car and then fearful of getting caught in traffic again at the end of the Rugby match left San Sebastián with the intention of finding somewhere to eat.

We had somewhere in mind but I took the wrong turn and went west instead of east and soon we were too far out of town to think about turning back so we carried on.  Leaving the motorway we headed for the coast and drove through a couple of unremarkable places before we arrived at the charming town of Guetaria where, next to fishing trawlers in the harbour there were some promising looking restaurants.  Sadly they had closed at three o’clock but there were some pinchos on the bar so we choose some of these and then to our surprise the sun put in its first appearance of the day and we were able to sit outside with a final cerveza before leaving and driving back to Bilbao and the airport.