Monday, April 13, 2009

Bordeaux to San Sebastian Donostia

It's not raining! Hooray, we get to pack up without being rained on; the ground is still all muddy so it's not that easy but at least the rain has stopped. Today we head for sunny spain, at least we hope it is sunny. We had to stop and take a photo of mellman in the vineyards of bordeaux for posterity, not that posterity would care at all.

It was great to have had a break from long distance driving but it is time to get down to spain. We decided to take a break along the way and see the highest dunes in europe at pilat just next to archachon which will have some meaning for those neal stephenson fans out there.

I, of course, had to climb to the top which is more difficult than it sounds even though it is only 100m high and there is quite a nice view out to sea but other than that; it's a dune. Coming back down I joined Caron for a cup of coffee and a picnic lunch. There were lots of families around and life seems very care free here.

The south west of france seems to be pine tree territory, literally hundreds of kilometres of pine plantations and driving past them there were often trees which have been blown of or sometimes snapped off halfway up their trunks. I vaguely remember something about wind storms in europe and I assume that this must be a result of that, if it as it was some storm!

We took the toll road south which was a little unusual for us but the scenery is so uniform that there was no point in taking the scenic route and the toll road charges weren't so bad, 2 or 3 EUR but in the space of a couple of hundred of kilometres there were 4 tolls so it starts to add up.

Crossing the border was a non-event, there was even a sign telling motorists not to stop; that all borders were like this!.

The sun came out to greet us at the dunes and continued to shine for the rest of the day; Caron the sun baby was lapping it up and even I, the sun monk, really enjoyed the feel of warm sun on the skin.

Arriving in San Sebastian was totally confusing, what they have done to the roads makes them next to undriveable. There are one way streets and two way streets all mixed up, sometimes with signs indicating this and sometimes not. Intersections may have robots, yields or nothing at all and trying to work out if you have the right of way is impossible as far as I can see. Add to this roadworks and bus lanes and kamakazi mopeds and maybe a little tiredness was a little stressful. The information wasn't where the GPS said it was but we eventually found a hotel, Pension Alemana, which was a bit more expensive than we were looking for but frustration was setting in so we took it. At 79EUR what you get and what one gets for a hotel in south africa is pretty much on a par so it's not really that expensive, just for us.

Once we had settled in we went for a walk along the promenade which is spectacular, the bay has two beaches and is shaped like a lagoon with two bluffs and an island between the bluffs. The small harbour is on one side and it seems like the whole town turns out for an evening stroll. There were old people in wheel chairs, children, dogs, cyclists and runners all mixed up together. The cyclists and the runners have a reserved lane along the promenade which is sensible one wouldn't want someone in a wheelchair being run over by an overenthusiastic cyclist! There were also lots of people walking their dogs and in one instance their ferret but there wasn't any dog turds to avoid. Not sure what they do with them but they're nowhere to be seen.

Returning to the hotel we found the lavautomitique to do some washing but it looks decidedly closed or failing that, dodgy so caron vetoed the wash and we head for pamplona first thing tomorrow morning.

Being in Spain, we just *had* to have tapas for supper and went to two different bars and I must say that I really enjoyed it. The bars have plates of tapas on the bar tops and you get a plate and load it up and get a small glass of 'vino' and then stand around and munch and drink. It's very sociable and there were whole families in th bar, along with groups of girls and boys having a night out, along with some less salubrious looking individuals. All mixed up, it was great! Each tapas is 1 to 2 EUR but generally a 2 plates plus the two drinks is about 15 EUR which isn't too bad. We went out later at night and walked, had some more tapas and finished the evening off having coffee and watching some unfortunate's audi being towed away.

San Sebastian by night, it was very picturesque.

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