I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Spain (7)




A couple of things which didn’t fit/weren’t terribly relevant but which I thought I would share.




Maybe you’re already familiar with this book, The Little Prince?




I thought that you might be as intrigued as I was by a random page in Basque.




I wondered too, what you thought of this contemporary artwork in one of the niches outside the Basilica of St Mary of the Chorus?  Though I noted the artist at the time (I think he’s Irish) I can’t seem to track that information down right now.  Sorry!

Finally – finally – how about this nativity tableau in a San Sebastian park?  It seems as though we didn’t follow the story in order but hopefully, you know it well enough to work it out Winking smile












I was worried about two aspects of this scene – firstly, there seemed to be no baby.  Secondly, that angel, hanging in the tree?




Good to see someone thought to put on some food.








How interesting that here, the Virgin Mary is wearing pink.




I’ll leave you with the scent of springtime and an armful of Mimosa.


Last day




Booked on an early evening flight home, we wanted to maximise our last day here and saved a trip to San Sebastian until now.  Known as Donostia in Basque, it could get pretty confusing – well, as much as Swansea/Abertawe I guess.




We set off from Bilbao along the motorway, intrigued by the landscape we passed through.




A kind of industrial countryside for most of the way.




We’d see a wide open landscape and then, suddenly, there would be a steaming great factory on one side, or serried ranks of apartment blocks.




But the wider picture was one of rather lovely hillsides, small farms and green fields.




It was all rather intriguing and none of us would have been able to identify where in Europe such a photograph could be taken until now.




An hour or so from Bilbao and we were driving into San Sebastian, through a canyon of apartment blocks, towards the centre of the city.




We parked in a large underground car park and came up for air in a central plaza, outside what appeared to be a theatre.




Aha, San Sebastian, European City of Culture 2016!




We wandered over towards the river, thinking we’d explore the smaller eastern half of the city before returning to the more promising old town on this side.  We’d booked lunch at a restaurant recommended by a colleague of Edward’s and thought it might be a good idea to build up an appetite with a walk along the seafront!

But Edward spotted something interesting.  Waves.  Now he’d drawn our attention to it, we noticed the river itself was full of waves washing up from the seafront a short distance away.




Every so often, a huge wave would come crashing up the river and smash against the walls on both sides, occasionally splashing up against the bridge over which we were walking.




We spotted a crowd of people standing watching over there on the opposite bank and thought that it’d be a good place to stand and watch, too.




The light was quite interesting – dark and yet quite bright too.  There was clearly some weather coming our way.




We realised that part the promenade and seafront road on both sides of the river had been taped off for safety reasons.




It’s surprising how fascinating – and invigorating – it is to stand and watch waves such as these and yes, of course, I took a thousand photographs.  (Slight exaggeration, possibly)




All the time the waves were crashing down there, to the side of us, a small tractor was cleaning the beach, away from the drama.




We decided it was time to move on and enjoyed our walk along the prom for a short while before turning around and returning to the bridge.




There were blue flashing lights and a couple of police cars.  What could be afoot? 

Well, it seemed as though there was someone down there in the river, on a paddleboard, riding the waves but in what appeared to be a rather precarious situation.  We watched a while, until a large wave came in and knocked him off his board into the water – hopefully not against those huge granite breakwater blocks which line both sides of the river.




Only now, when reviewing my photographs did I realise that it’s not a “him” at all.  Seems like young men don’t have the monopoly on foolhardiness.




Wandering about the streets on the west side of the river, we noticed a distinct similarity between the architecture here and that in Bilbao.  Lovely details give an air of grandeur and have so much character.




We walked towards the City Hall and to the promenade high above the western bay where the powerful waves were providing some fun for a bunch of surfers.




Seeing this second wide, sandy beach, it’s clear why this is such a popular resort.




As we walked, though, that weather which we’d seen from the bridge arrived and a large downpour made the next half hour rather tricky.




We dived into the market to begin with and had a look around.  These are cakes for Epiphany – or maybe they are also going to celebrate Edward’s birthday with us?




One market stall sold only Bacalao – something we’ve tasted here and enjoyed but which I suspect needs skill and careful handling to be so delicious.




This little Basque figure sat upon several of the stalls and having identified him, we began to see his counterparts in real life, here and there!




Of course, there’s alternative shelter from the weather in places such as this, where all kinds of temptation abounds.




Walk along the street and look in any doorway…






Bars piled high with pintxos, awfully difficult to resist as lunchtime approached.




Thankfully, we didn’t have long to wait.




Lunch at Bodegon Alejandro was worth the wait!  Traditional Basque food, cooked simply but beautifully presented in comfortable and unpretentious surroundings.  Just what we were after!




At the conclusion of our meal, this little chest of drawers was brought to the table.  What might be inside?  The bill?




No – actually a selection of tiny morsels – madeleines, macarons and small shortbread biscuits.  The bill was presented in a basket later.

What a great way to celebrate a birthday.  What a great conclusion to the trip!


Later that evening




Mary, the lights did indeed all illuminate when darkness fell and as we walked the short distance from our hotel to the pintxo bar we’d identified earlier I took a few photos.  Needless to say, once back in the comfort of our room, they don’t seem to give a very good impression, but I’ll wager that taking a night time photograph of lights on a wet evening is just about on the edge of my ability and the limitations of my camera too.




It’s easier to take photographs in a bar Winking smile


We could live like this


but I’m not sure for how long.

We started our day late.  We went for breakfast an hour later than we have been doing and found that this was the busy time.  Things were picked over.  Not good.  But we’d slept well, we didn’t feel in need to hurry and so we went with the flow.




We planned to potter a little more about the city today.  We’d had a couple of places in mind but both were closed on a Monday (including the art museum above) – bad planning on our part.  But no matter, there’s still plenty to see.




Mary, I thought of the light installation in LA as we walked part this collection of street lights.  I wonder if they are all illuminated when darkness falls?  We’ll see later, I suppose.




Wandering about the city we’ve noted so many rather charming architectural features.  We don’t think any of them are particularly old or historic, but they’re certainly attractive and they give a grand air to the place.  This is a wonderful city to explore.




Crossing broad avenues at this time of day is interesting, enabling us to get a feel for the wider picture.




The striking angles of the Guggenheim museum are instantly recognisable from whichever direction we spot them and as the city is fairly compact, nowhere is very far.




We really enjoyed our walk this morning and remembered to look up.




Though I had to wait until we returned to the hotel to be reminded of the name for these subway entrances: Fosteritos




Outside the bank, there stood a woman playing some kind of bagpipe.  Gaita is the closest I can get, though someone here may know different?  (I know you’re a clever bunch!) 




And as the traffic built up, we made our way towards the old town.




We’d been in this area on Saturday but found it mostly closed and rather quiet.  Today, there was a distinct bustle and in spite of the odd spot of rain, people were out and about, enjoying the fresh air.




Did you spot the Basque Father Christmas, Olentzero climbing into the building there?  We’ve seen him in several guises but always recognisable in his blue clothes and beret.




Here he is in another shop window.




Along the way, I popped into the occasional shop to take a look around. Here, I picked up a couple of packs of Christmas decorations, took a photo and then put them back.  Naughty but hey, what’s my Silhouette digital cutter for if not for things like that?




We dropped into the turron shop too.  Adelia Ivanez is a quaint little place selling traditional almond turron and sad to say, I just can’t resist!




A couple of freebies were thrown into the bag, though sadly, not turron but a kind of dry, almond shortbread which Edward described as “concentrated powdered sweet cream crackers”.   Perhaps it’s as well we stuck to what we know and didn’t succumb to a huge bag of those as well.




These streets in the old town are known collectively as “the Seven Streets” and are really attractive.  The dark reds, ochres and forest green of the buildings above make it all feel quite contemporary though clearly, the streets have been here for centuries.




We stopped to take note of a cut stone sign in the now-familiar Basque lettering style.




As we did, we noted a queue of people opposite, waiting for what?  We had no idea, but it seemed as though they were waiting to buy lottery tickets.  Interesting!




Our next stop then was inside the Santiago Cathedral, where all was calm and surprisingly modern, thanks to fairly recent renovations.




I always enjoy the shadows as much as the artefacts which create them.




Bright new stained glass windows allow plenty of light into the space here, so there’s a really airy feel to the interior, which feels anything but fusty.




But we were beginning to feel a little thirsty and could use a sit down, so headed for the market by the river.  Again, we’d been here on Saturday when all was closed, so we hoped for better this time round.




Oh yes.  There’s a variety of food stalls and bars with appetising offerings as is the norm here.  But we exercised a little restraint, since we had a table booked for a 2pm lunch and didn’t want to spoil that.  So, a couple of small beers and a half hour sit down was the order of the day for us.  Though, every time the chef brought out another plate of delicious-looking pintxos, it became harder to resist.




After a short wander around the fresh food stalls, we made our way back across the bridge, noting the Town Hall there on the riverside.




We were aiming for Colmado Iberico where our table and hopefully, a delicious lunch awaited us.




It soon filled with hungry people looking for, as our guidebook put it “a little piggy goodness” and sure enough, that’s exactly what it delivered. 




Washed down with a bottle of Temperanillo, what’s not to love?!




Three courses each, a bottle of wine and the usual bottle of water, the extraordinarily reasonable bill was delivered in style!




We staggered back to the hotel in the late afternoon feeling utterly stuffed and ready for a siesta.  We’ll struggle out again this evening, I expect, in search of a tasty pintxo or two and a glass of something good, just to keep the wolf from the door.

I’m not sure it’s a healthy way of life but for a couple of days right now, it’s rather good.


The Basque Coast


We decided to take the advice of the young woman in the information office and explore a bit of the Basque Coast, known locally as Bizkaia.  The day dawned showery and a little cooler than yesterday so we took along coats and hats “in case”.

At our first stop, we were glad we did.




We wanted to see the Vizcaya Bridge which crosses the river at Getxo, close to the estuary.  Familiar with the similar transporter bridge in Newport, we thought it’d be interesting to see how this one differs.




Well, not much really.  But the bridge here is in far more regular use and in the short time we stood there watching, it made two journeys across the river, laden with vehicles and foot passengers alike.




We considered making the return trip ourselves but it was blowing a gale and the gondola was wobbling a fair bit!  Instead, we watched as the oarsmen (?and women?) did their training runs beneath it.  It looked like hard work to me.




We scurried back to the car, pleased of the shelter after being blown about and set off around the corner, towards Galea, where a view was promised.  By the time we arrived, it was spotting with rain and the view was of industrial port buildings so I watched as the other three leapt out, ran a short way to say “Brrrr!” and wave before returning to the car!  Whilst they were gone, the car rocked about in the wind rather, having lost most of the ballast Winking smile




The next place on our list was Sopelana, reputedly a surfer’s paradise but today, there was no sign of any such activity.  The views of the coastline were magnificent though and we wandered about taking photographs and making observations for quite some time.




The cliffs reminded us of the irish West Coast where we’d been last Summer.




We loved the strata of the rock, so clearly seen on that outcrop




Very sharp, not the kind of place any of us wanted get too close.




A bit further on in Plentzia, there was a wide stretch of sandy beach and two of us thought it’d be fun to go down there and get the sand on the soles.  We two olds stayed on the promenade and watched…




A family who’d been in the car parked next to ours was now ready to go surfing and I hoped that they’d not waste too much time in getting going.




Whilst they followed their instructor and did warming up exercises on the beach, the other instructor went straight into the water and waded out to catch a wave.  I was watching him through my zoom lens the whole time, so when he decided to go for it, i was ready.




Quite the poser, eh?  Or am I being unfair?!




We were all feeling a bit peckish after the sea air and followed the promenade around, feeling sure that somewhere soon there might be some tasty snack on offer.




Hehe – a choice of small friendly cafe-bars to sit for a while with a glass and a couple of pinxtos.  Perfect!  What better answer to a slight peckish feeling than to walk inside and see a range of tasty snacks beautifully laid out on the bar, just ready for the choosing?




Suitable refreshed, it was time to set the satnav again and head for one of the main attractions along this coast.  The young woman in the tourist office had highlighted San Juan de Gaztelugatxe as a must see




When we saw it for ourselves we were inclined to agree with her, if not tempted to walk the 231 steps to the hermitage.




Some hardy souls were happy to make the climb though.




From here, the road was broken and had fallen into the sea in places, so we did a hasty u turn and found an alternative route into Bermeo and Mundaka, taking a quick picture through the windscreen of this rather lovely advert as we went.




Our final goal for the day was Gernika, the city which inspired Picasso to paint the work of the same name.




The two young government professionals were keen to see the Basque Assembly which opens daily at 4pm.  It being just 3.30pm when we arrived, we had time for a little light refreshment, then.




Down in the square, I voiced an observation I’d had during the last 24 hours or so – that there appeared to be a kind of Basque font, including those rather elaborate As. Of course, once I’d drawn everyone’s attention to it, we spotted it everywhere.




Anyway, meandering back to the Assembly building through the town square we came across this bronze of a local musician: Jose Maria Iparragirre, the “Basque Bard”.




He was standing outside a rather fine building with some beautiful wall decorations high up above the street.




We are never lost for something to see, to notice and of course, to admire and take a photograph of!




It was time to go inside the Assembly Building however.  Free entry, too, just like all other parliament buildings we’ve visited.




Our first inclination was to look up, to see the huge stained glass ceiling which was “born” the same year as Edward.




It’s huge – well, of course it’s the size of the room….so hard to photograph effectively.  Still, you can get an idea.




In the room of the stained glass window, there were displayed a few treasures, including this goblet containing the hollow silver ballot sheets used for voting at meetings in the 17th century.




There was also J M Iparragirre’s guitar and some of his music, featuring more of that Basque lettering we’d just identified.




And everywhere we looked, there was the Tree of Gernika, the symbol of the Basque people.




The “real” tree is now a stump outside in the garden




and a cutting grows outside the general assembly – though I think it’s one in a long line of cuttings from the original tree.




Of course, we couldn’t leave without visiting the assembly room itself, adding it to the increasingly long list of parliaments we’ve seen around the world and admiring the traditional, solid format of the historical assembly still in use today.




And that was that.  As we left we marvelled once again at the Basque language – you’d recognise that as a police car, wouldn’t you?




Sadly, we had a deadline to meet and our destination was Bilbao airport.  Government work waits for no-one and unfortunately Amy has responsibilities and needs to be in her office tomorrow morning.  So, her short break was a little shorter than ours and we said our goodbyes and saw her onto her flight for Heathrow this evening.

So now, we are three, but oh, what fun we’ve had as four Winking smile