Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Day 27 - Gernika-Lumo - North-East Spain

My journey out of Les Landes (that flat forresty bit in the bottom left corner of France) was more rapid than I expected it to be. Another leisurely day planned, I headed for a small town a few hours ride away. That seemed pretty dead on arrival so I set my sights on Biarritz, in the hope of some decent leisure time and a bit of life. Biarritz didn´t grab me at all, not helped by the most snotty, unhelpful tourist information employee I have encountered thus far, in my life, so, further still I went and found myself in St Jean De Luz at the end of the day. I also found myself, more noticably, in Basque country. Suddenly there were ´proper´ tapas bars, people speaking Spanish, red and white flags displayed proudly, and hills. Oh yes, hills.

A day off in St Jean followed (thoroughly recommended - much nicer than Biarritz) which allowed me to rid myself of a few kilos of books and maps, courtesy of the French postal service. Then I had only one place to go - Spain.

I had envisaged the border crossing to be a somewhat monumental affair. Ok, maybe not monumental, but a sign at least, that I could photograph and look at with pride, but in reality there was nothing. I crossed the river that acts as the border in the centre of Hendaye and entered Spain without so much of a ´You are now leaving...Welcome to...´

Some might say that I cheated my way around the Pyrenees, by sticking to the coast. To that I would reply ´Have you seen the coast?´ - ´cheating´ is certainly not a word I would use. I also made up for it in some way, and avoided 20km of traffic on the main road, but taking the scenic route - up Mt. Jaizkibel. I did the 6.5 miles, 455 vertical metres, from sea (harbour) to summit, in dead on an hour.

In Donostia-San Sebastian I got my first real taste of Spain and coming out of a sleepy France in March, it was quite a shock. There were people! And life and colour and laughter and chatter and people drinking in the streets outside bars, shouting at their friends from cars. The fact that it was Good Friday obviously added to all this and it also added to my accommodation problem. In this part of Spain they don´t have campsites near town centres, mainly because the town centres generally fill a hole between steep hills. Showing me on the map where the campsite was, and noting my bike, the girl in the tourist information winced at me. ´I´m sorry´ was about all she said.

6km and another 400+ vertical metres later I arrived at what seemed to be a Spanish college Easter Holiday party. The majority of the occupants were 20-somethings already well stuck into numerous cans of lager and large quantities of strong smelling weed (is it legal here? They smoke it everywhere!). They weren´t, however, a particularly friendly lot so I didn´t join them, only took advantage of the onsite facilities (a bar!) and went to bed to rest my hill-weary legs.

I have spent the last three days following the coastal road from Orio to Lekeitio, cutting across this afternoon to here. If you are ever near here - on foot, bike, car, whatever - travel along that road. It is quite magnificent and absolutely beautiful. It is rides like that which remind me why I´m here and put a genuine smile on my face, even going uphill.


  • At 12:09 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I also remember my trip from France into Spain en velo. It was like entering a different universe. Having been in all those dead French towns, some of which have a morbid atmosphere - arriving in a lively Spanish town was such a breath of fresh air. This difference is really noticed when you are on a bike. Viva Espana.

  • At 7:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi, this is Javi. Everything about last night is correct except the dancing part. We spanish do dance, but not in Toledo, that´s the only area were you shouldn´t go to dance. Good luck Percy!!! See you again soon !!!


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