Crossing from the long straight, empty roads of France in to Spain, where they were suddenly a tangled mess of twists and turns, was a bit of a wakeup call as we headed to Camping Iqueldo near San Sebastian. The sat nav had more in store for us though: as we passed through the town, it directed us off the main road and into the hills. The roads became narrower and steeper and it was clear that the three of us were lost (that’s Steve, I and the sat nav!). Steve persevered, as there was nowhere to turn around anyway, and negotiated Petit Van Blanc around hairpin bends and along skinny tracks with a sheer drop to one side! We eventually found the main road again but took one last wrong turn from which a local fella helped see us out of.
I’ve really noticed how much difference it makes to receive a smile and a warm (well, tepid even?) welcome when you arrive on a campsite. If you’re in a foreign country, even more so. Well, we got neither at Camping Igueldo, however, the bar was open and the sun was out, so after the hair raising journey I bought us two large beers!
The bus to San Sebastian stops just outside the campsite so we took advantage of this for the next couple of days and explored the town. San Sebastian was a fishing village until the 19th
century, when it was made fashionable by the Spanish royalty as it was cooler in temperature in the summer months than the south. There are some very elaborate buildings along the beach front, dating from this time and they’re now some of the most expensive properties in Spain! Each of the buildings has its own style and I’m not sure if there’s a planning law that ensures the new buildings are not too tall but there is definitely a high-rise embargo. There are two separate beaches making up the bay, both were fairly empty as it was not quite hot enough for sunbathing (although we both managed to get sunburned during a walk), various seafood restaurants and an aquarium at one end, the aquarium is really interesting, it portrays a history of the fishing trade in the town and also has some awesome glass tanks and a tunnel, where you can watch sharks swim overhead!!
We climbed up Monte Igueldo, which gives some amazing views of the town, coastline and mountains, there is also a funfair at the top of the hill but unfortunately it’s really dated and run down and to be honest, I felt it just spoiled what would have been a lovely green spot for picnicking and enjoying the scenery. After heading back down the mountain, we walked along the beach to the old town around the other side of the bay. The old town (Parte Vieja) is made up of little narrow crisscrossing streets, stuffed full of ‘Pintxos’ bars and restaurants. Pintxos is the Basque version of Tapas and apparently San Sebastian is famous for offering some of the best in Spain, so naturally we had to try out a few! Each bar has its own unique atmosphere, we visited four in total, sampling a couple of different pintxos in each (this is not at all because we are pigs but because it’s how you are supposed to eat them!!) and the style varied from a chic bar with staff who help you with pronunciation and serve smooth red wine in elegant glasses…. to something akin to a greasy spoon, with a fat bloke in a football shirt behind the bar who sloshes out wine in to hefty glass tumblers whilst carrying on his phone conversation. The prices reflect this though, with a few pintxos and a couple of drinks costing as little as 5 Euros to many more, I imagine.
The following day, with a bit of a pintxos hangover, we headed off to drive along the coast road a little, before setting course for an aire in Miranda de Ebro (south of Vitoria), where we planned to stay the night. The coastal drive was beautiful, though very, very slow so by the time we reached the aire it was around 5pm. The aire was totally different from the couple we’d been lucky enough to stay on in France, it was overlooked by a tatty hotel, an even tattier industrial estate and some other run-down looking buildings, so we consulted the campsite book and decided to move on to a nearby campsite instead. Two hours later, unable to find said campsite, feeling hungry, tired and frustrated with a day full of driving, we eventually arrived, in the pouring rain, at yet another campsite choice. It’s great to have the wheels to be able to go where ever you want to go but the day had taught us it’s well worth having a backup plan, if your original one doesn’t work out!
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