Poor Pleasure Pilgrims
We drive the well-paved, mountain roads through Basque Country, en route to the fabulous city of San Sebastian, along the northern Spanish coastline. Cool wind and winding roads lead us to city central. We check the price at a hotel overlooking the ocean, and learn that we simply cannot afford to stay here. Even the cost of parking is out of our range.
So, we head to Hondarribia, a nearby, small town that borders on an estuary across from France. What a joy to have a vehicle, and travel independently. We marvel at the dramatic coastline views. In search of a camping spot, we find ourselves totally lost. Driving up a narrow, twisting mountain road, I look for a place to turn around. Finally, at the top of the hill, I start to turn around and we see an archway, by a lighthouse, that reads…”Camping Faro de Higuer.”
Delighted, as well as shocked, we even spot the one and only bar in town, next to the empty campsite area. Of course, as soon as we enter the bar, the bartender takes away the “Pintxo’s,” a Basque word for “tapas.” We drink, and hear the same story about how the kitchen is closed, but this time, is does not open until breakfast. Good thing we have bread, wine, cheese and chorizo in our four-wheeled apartment. An unexpected trailer park hugs the hillside outside of the bar.
The entrance to the campsite area has no attendant, so we drive the dirt road behind the operating lighthouse, and park in the woods. We look across the estuary at France, while drinking wine and eating cheese. Once we lay back the front seats, we sleep to the sound of the ocean, looking up occasionally at the lights of France, as well as the oscillating beam from our personal lighthouse. (For free)
Brushing teeth with beer in the morning is not as bad as it sounds. Then, we head out to ride the rolling hills of Spain’s northern coastline, after getting some coffee at a gas station, espresso of course. Again, we are blown away by the drastic mountain and bay views. Everything looks so very clean, and we still savor a new appreciation of cleanliness. We pass through the Cantabria region, into Asturias, where we stop for lunch at a fishing village, Ribadesella, for some seafood soup and anchovies.
We pass through the Picos de Europa, and then get lost in the large city of Oviedo. Eventually, we land in a smaller town, Luarca, another charming place, where we cop a room with a shower for about fifty bucks. We dine on raw oysters and calamari. I can’t seem to quit taking showers when in a clean room.
“How many showers are you going to take?” Mare asks.
“As many as necessary,” I respond.
We sleep so well in Spain. Each time we get lost, we seem to find a lighthouse. We are now on another, narrow, dirt mountain road, wondering how to turn around…and then there it is…a lighthouse overlooking Cabo Ortegal, a cape where the Atlantic meets the Bay of Biscay.
We eat the last of our bread and wine, at the lighthouse, before moving on. The downpour of rain paints a different light on the landscape towards the small hamlet of San Andreas De Teixido, where people seek out the famous spring water, from the Fonte do Santo, in honor of St. Andrew.
I light a candle, (small light bulb) in the stone church, before moving on to the town of Cederia – not the most picturesque town, but finally, a place where we feast on the famous Galician Octopus. We sleep well, in a budget hotel.
A short drive in the rainy morning brings us to Santiago De Compostella, the final destination for pilgrims. People walk sixty miles from Sarria, along the famous Camino de Santiago to the tomb of James the Greater, re-creating a medieval journey. Religious preference does not matter, as everyone from the faithful to vagabonds receive an open door. They all walk for different reasons, which range from physical exercise to wine and food enjoyment, to regeneration of the spirit.
It rains most days in Santiago De Compostella, but the food here is arguably the best in the world…for seafood. This area of Galicia offers gooseneck barnacles, octopus, clams, cockles, mussels, fishes, sausages, specialty cheeses, and all people do here is drift from café to café, drinking and tasting different tapas – our kind of folks.
This gastronomic delight makes us wish that our friends back in the States, Stacy and Eric, could appreciate this with us.
We spend two nights, with a special rate at Hotel Herredurra, (about seventy-five bucks) and gain about ten pounds. I think that I’m growing “man-breasts” from eating and no exercise. Perhaps I should take the famous walk, and do some push-ups along the way.
We need to wake at five in the morning and hit the road, in a race to get the rental car back to Madrid, in time to avoid getting charged for an extra day. We make it, after a full week of driving, with fifteen minutes to spare. Then, we take the subway in Madrid, and three stops later, hop a train to the city of Seville. Rewarded by a long day of travel, we cop a room at a special off-season rate, (sixty bucks) and prepare to return to the Dark Continent.