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Posts from the ‘Spain's Northern Coast’ Category

Poor Pleasure Pilgrims

San Sebastian

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.”

The Lighthouse

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)

A "room" with a view

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.

San Andres de Teixido

 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. 

Catedral de Santiago de Compostela

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.

Goose Barnacles

 This gastronomic delight makes us wish that our friends back in the States, Stacy and Eric, could appreciate this with us.

Octopus, mussels, cockles and seafood soup

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.

The Cost of Freedom

In Western Africa when we order food, we watch the workers run to the market and purchase items. We learn to nurse our drinks…because they will take hours to pound-out Fu Fu, slaughter a goat, or pluck a sewer-running chicken, but it is certainly fresh…no preservatives.  

Final Fu-Fu

On our flight from Ghana, to changing planes in London, the airline attendants walk through the crowded aisles and spray canisters into the air.

 A voice of authority blares through the speakers, “We are currently freshening up the air, a normal practice of British Airways.”

Mare and I wonder if they only do this on the flight from Ghana to London, because…maybe, we all stink? I’ve never seen an airplane spray passengers before. Are we being de-loused or something? The streaming air from the canisters burns our nose. Is it insecticide? Who knows?

Changing planes in London, we enjoy the personal space we’re accustomed to, for an hour or two. When we land back in Madrid, Spain, it’s time to splurge…on a rental car…an apartment on wheels, something we North Americans savor. Ahh…how we enjoy the individual freedom of rolling up and down the picturesque hills and mountains, with fresh, cool air blowing through the windows. Stopping when we want to, we get lost, but eventually find our way. When we get lost we see things we would never see, if on an organized tour. We look forward to the drinks and tapas of Spain’s northern coast.

Life is GOOD!

At our first stop, in the city of Burgos, an imposing, gothic Cathedral provides a land mark for driving in this walking-friendly town. Still in splurge mode, we cop a one-hundred dollar hotel, where you have to pay fifteen dollars for parking and ten for breakfast (US currency). We bask in a shower, with a hard stream of water offering the option of hot. We even enjoy perfumed soap, and plenty of room to move about, with free Wi-Fi to boot.

Gothic Cathedral of Burgos

As we walk to our first “tapas” bar, we order two beers, but receive no tapas. Plates of tapas, (luscious appetizers) sit under a glass counter, like an old cake in a diner on Route 66, but the owner ignores us. Now, we enjoy being anonymous for a change, but really want some food. The owner sits at a table, and eats a full plate of shrimp with his wife, and we get the message. So, we head out for another establishment in this medieval town, walking around in Oz, as if in a dream. We venture into a different bar, where even more enticing tapas sit on display, and after ordering a beer, we get ignored again. The staff sit at a table and gossip, while we wonder what we need to do to order food. Finally, I approach them, and we order tapas…mussels, tuna, eel, blood sausage, all combined in a mushroom and fresh pepper sauce. Oh yeah, babe.

Please Feed Us

The waitress tells us that the place closed twenty minutes ago. We learn that the bars and restaurants close at five o’clock, and re-open at eight in the evening. Yes, Mare and I are on a totally different schedule. So, we go to a grocery store, and purchase wine, cheese, Spanish Chorizo, bread, water, jars of asparagus and strange seafoods, and of course, beer. What a great evening, sleeping with the cool, fresh air flowing through the windows. We hear the clicks of European heels, pounding the cobblestone pavement outside.

The next morning, after we pay the hotel bill, we realize that we cannot afford this type of living – $100 room, $15.00 parking, and $10.00 breakfast; $70.00 per day rental car; $20.00 road tolls, and $50.00 daily in gasoline. We ponder going back to Ghana. No, not really, we are not ready for that yet, so we decide to sleep in the car this coming evening…our apartment on wheels.