Basqueing in Pintxos

Saturday, April 28, 2012

We spent Thursday driving back past Santander to Laredo as a one night stopover on route to Bilbao and San Sebastian. The town was quiet and we couldn’t figure out why all the supermarkets were closed, and they were still closed on Friday. More generally we are completely mystified by the fact most shops in Spain seem to be only rarely open! But we got by with supplies from the campsite shop. The site was situated within a nature reserve and our pitch looked out over a sandy estuary to mountains beyond.

Good Friday was another long driving day. An early start took us on a great coast road in to the Basque Country and Bilbao before lunch. The town won us over with its relaxed and pleasant centre that mixes the old with the new. It helped our impression that the rain of the last few days cleared for our walk through Bilbao. Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim building by the river is bold and striking piece of architecture that is well worth seeing in the flesh. We would have liked to stay longer but we wanted to get settled in San Sebastian for the Easter weekend so we pushed on another 100km along a dramatic curving toll motorway through the mountains.

We had a hairy moment following a google map route to Camping Igueldo just outside of San Sebastian. The road got steeper and steeper until the van lost traction on the concrete road surface. Mark tried to hold us with the breaks but they couldn’t and we slid backwards towards a sharp bend on a sheer drop! As the gradient eased we managed to hold the van and turn to descend the hill. We should have followed the directions in the campsite book which takes you up a more main road that climbs for 5 km up to Igeuldo.

The site is the most expensive of the trip so far (33€ per night) but the facilities are very modern and clean. You’re also paying for the proximity to San Sebastian which seems to be a very popular holiday and weekend break location for Spaniards. The first pitch we were assigned was hemmed in to a car park like row of motorhomes. It was also muddy due to the continual rain of recent days. So we picked a new pitch at the top of the site in what might technically be a tent field and is much more open and pleasant. We were joined later by quite a few smaller, mostly VW, campervans.

We had a lazy start on Saturday, then headed in to town on the bus for a late lunch in the Pintxo bars for which the town is so renowned. Even with the wintry off-season weather San Sebastian is a charming town. The narrow streets of the old town were a great shelter from the drizzle and the standing room only bars were full of visitors enjoying the huge variety of bite-sized bar snacks and drinking wine. We whiled away the whole afternoon and evening in the bars. Later on in a couple of more modern bars David had expertly made Tanquery gin and tonics with very large free poured measures. Which might be why Easter Sunday has been a very quiet day relaxing in the van. Hope you’re all enjoying your Easter breaks too.

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