Basque Country | San Sebastián, Gaztelugatxe, Bilbao


April 11th and 12th.

A quick pit stop to the supermarche to pick up some jambon and stacks of water for the trip. This was to be the first of many long drives, leaving St Malo and driving to San Sebastián in Spain, with a detour to Plya Sur Mer near Bordeaux where we went to see the famous sand dunes which we weren't too over awed about though, happy we went, but wouldn't recommend the detour. hen we continued our 860km drive. Already experiencing our first issue with the Mini, the bumper protecting the wheel was flapping in the wind (it would spend the rest of the road trip hiding out in the rear of the car).

We finally arrived in San Sebastián or Donostia as the locals from the Basque country call it, and having already researched parking we were prepared for it to be difficult as it looked quite hard to find cheap spaces, we ended up paying €15 for the time we were there, in a secure underground car park. We made our way to our accommodation for the night, we had booked through Expedia at a place named 'Pension Anne' in the heart of the Old Town. A "Pension" is a type of guest house or boarding house, to us upon entering the block of apartments and being greeted by a joyous Anne, we found there to be several bedrooms with a few shared bathrooms, our room was large, basic, and had a lovely little balcony that looked down of the narrow streets below, which were bustling with people. We paid £46 for the nights stay, and that was one of the cheapest on Expedia.

San Sebastián is famous for its Pintxos (tapas bars) , the truth is, you want to experience things just cause its famous or 'you're meant to' but Shannon wasn't up for standing around in crowded bars so we found a restaurant in the biz of the old town and shared a massive seafood paella, washed down with local cerveza (beer), which all tasted fabulous.

We also took a wander around the 'world famous beach' and a walk down to the harbour, the bustling streets around our accommodation were a hive of activity and we found a lovely church nestled amongst the apartments and bars. We stopped off for another cerveza in Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución), which was happened to be the nerve centre of the Old Town, and famous, the apartments looming over the square had numbers emblazoned on them, we presumed it was house numbers but then we found out and I quote from San Sebastián's travel website- "As soon as you step into the square, the numbers above each one of the windows in the houses facing it will capture your attention. These numbers still mark the bullring boxes that the houses formerly used to be and from which you could watch the bullfight. After the construction of a new and larger bullfighting arena in the city, the Constitution Square was not used as a bullring anymore; however, the numbers remain on each window so as not to forget part of its history."

In the morning we had a 1 hour 40 drive from San Sebastián to Gaztelugatxe which is an islet on the coast of Biscay. It is connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge. On top of the island stands a hermitage/ monastery (named Gaztelugatxeko Doniene in Basque; San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Spanish), dedicated to John the Baptist, which dates from the 10th century. We made the drive there because we are big 'Game Of Thrones' fans and Gaztelugatxe is going to be a location on the up coming season 7. Once parking the car in the free car park we took a steep stroll down to the edge, you can walk all the way onto the islet and up the 237 steps and according to legend, those who arrive at the church must ring the bell at the entrance three times and make a wish. I know we may sound lazy but we were more than content looking at this beautiful place from the view point, and sending our drone over to the action.

Nearby lay Bilbao, so we had a quick fly by visit around the city, it was very built up, with sky scrapers which mixed seamlessly with the old character buildings, we seen the famous Guggenheim museum, yes maybe we could have spent longer seeing this city, but with so much on our list and a long drive ahead this was fufiling enough for us.

Then onwards and downwards to Madrid...

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