Ian and Linda

Up early this morning and off to town. We are meeting Ian and Linda who are here joining a cruise.  I met Ian on Wrexham walkabout and had mentioned I would be in Buenos Aires from January, as he was joining his ship here I said we should meet up. He failed to Join us at La Viruta, but I was not entirely surprised. His first day and not the easiest place to get to. We arranged to meet in the same place where we met Alex last year as I knew that was where the cruise ship busses dropped off.

Viv had never met Ian and neither of us had met Linda, combine that with my bad facial recognition and memory and there was some doubt we would ever meet.  There was a bit of mutual stalking before we tried “Ian?” “Bob?” well at least we managed to meet. Most people on one day here would not get to do the subte, but we took them along the “C” line to San Telmo where Ian wanted to do the Feria. I think he soon got bored with it though, if you are not in the market to buy antiques or rubbish, there is not a lot of point to it.

We took them then to El Federal, they enjoyed the olde world atmosphere of the place. After that we walked some more towards Plaza de Mayo, but when he said he had been I though there was not much point in going again. So we headed back to the subte. We debated Caminito, but decided that the subte was too far away and I had no colectivo information. The area around Boca is not a place to be wandering lost, so we decided on Gardel.

Here I failed, I’m afraid as a tour guide it was the “C” line we wanted and this was the “A”, I had to ask a policeman, then when we did get on the “C” line again I had to be rescued as I went the wrong way. A very nice policeman let us through the emergency exits onto the right side of the line. At least Ian was impressed that I could ask and understand the answers, and it gave him some entertainment. Now once on home turf, I switched easily to the “B” line and we were at Gardel in no time.

We stopped to admire all the tango statues and take some photos, then Linda wanted to stop for a drink. Too rich here, so we walked a little way down Jean Juares and found a bar with a group of locals outside. Well it seems just a beer was in order, so we went for Quilmes Cristal. A litre only $80, bargain, I do keep finding these cheap places.

Linda was getting nervous about the time so we took them back, showing them Harrods on the way. They had passed it and never noticed. I wanted to show them Galerias Pacificas, but Linda was worrying, I suppose she does not know the city like I do, but there was no sense in getting her upset. We arrived back at the pick up point with 20 minutes to spare. We said our goodbyes and set off again along the subte for home.

We have had a series of late nights and last night did not sleep well. Beer in the afternoon did not help, so by the time we had eaten, we were just too tired for the walk to Fulgor. We did not think we would dance much anyway, so a night off it is then. G&T anyone?

 

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Last days in Bilbao

I’m in heaven here. At the bar where we ate last night, we got a full English this morning, what a change from a bit of pastry and coffee. It was decent bacon as well.

We walked up towards The Guggenheim and passed a fountain with a lady playing a lyre. It had an inner pool and a shallower outer ring with a rounded top wall. Well it was just too tempting. Boots off and we sat there with our feet in the cold water. The Camino South route out of town passes this way and we called to many pilgrims to join us, but non did. They really do not know what they are missing.

We walked later to the Guggenheim. It was closed today apparently, but I had no real desire to go inside. Now the open air café, that was another matter. Time for our new favourite, café con leche con hielo again. It was nice here with just enough shade.

For lunch we again stopped at Eroski. We bought some drinks and pasties. I rather liked the look of the tuna, but Viv wanted the triangular ones, so we ended up with Jamon y Queso again. We explored the big space nearby, that was formally a market but now an arts centre. It was cool inside here without any air conditioning, just the way it was designed. They had a cinema in here as well as galleries and some unusual sculptures that you could sit on and rest.

Time for another beer so we walked over to the old town again. There was a shortage of tables outside and we were joined by a Scottish couple who were touring in their VW campervan. He looked just like Billy Connelly names of Martin and Janice. There were off to Santoña next and like us were finding it hard to find places to stay. We liked it here so we stopped for another café con leche con hielo.

The temperature on the bridge as we crossed was 43degrees glad we are not walking today. So we went for a siesta.

As everyone here says “ocho” when we ask for food, I thought we would try Telepizza again. I could not find it so I went for hope over experience and tried the tourist info. The girl there did not seem happy. Perhaps she was thinking “All the things to see and do here, and I get asked for Telepizza” still she came across and we found it on the other side of the river. We had the place to ourselves at this time. So when we finished we went over to the bar in our street. The temperature on the bridge was still 28degrees at 9:00.

The morning was much cooler the temperature had dropped ten degrees and we went back for our English breakfast again. The Carrefour in the station always has a queue for some reason but it was a handy place to stop for some drinks. We called in the local bar again but they had no Tourino so we left disappointed.

We had stopped in a place called Gallofa in Santander for some pizza slices, but on our return trip we were surprised at the price. There was one here as well so we called in just to check. Well two small pieces for 9.25e, I just can’t believe we paid that much first time. A local panaderia just up the road supplied us with some cheesy sticks and cold coffees that kept us sustained until we caught our taxi to the airport.

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Pobeña to Portugalete and then Bilbao

True to her word, Viv never stirred until 7:30, by then almost everyone had left, Ed Sheeran was playing on the radio and the hospitalerio was brushing up.

As we walked through Pobeña we were met by a German from the albergue. When we had crossed from La Arena the first time it was hard to see the way to the albergue, but easy to see the stairs out. Now from the albergue it was hard to see the stairs. We directed her to the stairs and told her to ignore the no entry signs. I am still not sure if she understood about the closed path though.

Now it was past eight so bars were now open. We stopped for coffee toast and juice, how all days should start. While we were there we saw a guy struggling to get off his bike and ask someone for directions. When I watched he remount his bike, I realised he had only one leg and marvelled at his bravery. To do this is hard for everyone, but on a bike with only one leg. He has my absolute admiration. I just hope that the guy who gave him directions knew a way that avoided the 180 steps the other side of the beach.

I know this route quite well now, but still struggled on the first part. The path off to the right was not in the right direction, but was the way to go. Then there were some big loops to avoid by taking short cuts. This was, after all, a cycle way. At the highest point was a cross roads and we had to wait for pilgrims to see which way to go. I remembered the shortcut through the houses however, but the bench where we had rested was now occupied.

As we got nearer to Ortuella I worried that we would not find the turn off. This was an alternative route where we could find coffee. In the end we stumbled on it quite by accident and enjoyed a good break. Then our troubles started, I tried back following the arrows and ended up behind some garages. A local could not help as he only knew the way in a car. We came into a dead end street that backed onto the autopista. The next one to give us directions, we thought was directing us to Santiago, but he said both ways we need to go that way. After negotiating a coupe of roundabouts we came at the top of the cycleway, where the bridge crosses the autopista. Now we knew where we were.

It was quite straightforward from here into Portugalete, once over the bridge we just followed the road into town. We stopped off at a café once there. I had seen someone drinking coffee with ice in it, so I thought I would give it a try “Dos café con leche co hielo” I tried, and it worked. I got two coffees and two glasses with ice in them.  I have not had sugar in beverages for 39 years but this, I felt, called for it. They were just like the cold coffees we had from the supermarkets.

I had no intention of going through all that industrialised area again or getting tangled up in the road system, so from here it’s the underground. I needed some help, so asked at the ticket office. The lady there just showed us how to use the machine. Then the trip into town was a doddle.

In the town, the tourist info was again as much use as a chocolate fire guard. So we just wandered and found a pension with shared bathroom at 45e.

There was a convenient bar at the end of the street we got two beers and some pork scratching’s, I asked what they were called “Tourino” she said. When I told here what we called them she said “madre mia”. I have no idea why she found it shocking. They were massive and incredibly tasty I am not even certain they were pork.

Around the corner was an Indian restaurant. We sat in the bar opposite for the 19:30opening time. At 25 past seven the shutters went up and we walked over. “Es cerado” the guy said, so I said “Que hora abierto” “half eight” was the reply in English. Back to the bar opposite for a burger then. Good choice actually, the food in here was excellent, so was the beer and it was cheep to boot.

 

 

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Castro Urdiales to Pobeña

The decision was made with difficulty. We would Head for Pobeña tonight and the donativo albergue. 1K short of Arenas but at least we would, hopefully, get a bed.

We had our cold coffee and choc brioche, so we were good to go. It was a pleasant day, we were early and we only had a short walk of about14k. We set off along the shoreline, knowing that at some point we must head inland. Straight away people were telling us we were going the wrong way. As we got further along one guy was quite insistent but we ignored him. Seems he had a point though, because another guy told us that this path “no hay salida” and we could not get through. We turned back a short way and then, using the GPS worked our way through a dormitory estate of flats and houses. Eventually we got back onto the N634.

Soon enough we encountered pilgrims again and had to assure them that they were going the right way. When we got to where the road twisted and turned we met more coming up from a valley. We followed their backtrack and recognised where we were. Lower down we were still following the arrows backward and no longer recognised the path. We came to Playa Mioño. The book has two paths to take here so we were still on course. The beach itself was the filthiest place I have come across. There were a number of vans parked up and litter had been left everywhere. On the path up out of there was further rubbish and human faeces, it was disgusting. Of all the places we have visited, I have no desire to return here.

Back on the N634 we encountered more pilgrims and noticed that they were missing the turn down. I had no desire to put them right. They would be happier on the road. Behind the pilgrims came a bus, the driver slowed right down and gesticulating wildly indicated we should turn around and go the other way.

When we got to the turn off in Onton, the waymarks had been vastly improved. So much so that, when we had come this way we had to ask directions, now we could easily follow the arrows backwards.

We easily found our way onto the old railway casement, but halfway along was a fence with a sign not to pass as it was closed. Unsure of what to do we waited then saw people coming the other way. So we just ignored the signs and carried on.  There were some signs of a rockfall but nothing to worry us, another unnecessary diversion avoided.

It was still early when we arrived at the Albergue and the hospitalerios were just locking up and leaving. A young couple said that we should leave our bag in a queue by the door. Viv was concerned that such a nice day we could have got our clothes dry. I said not to worry follow me. Behind were sinks and lines, so I changed my shirt and we washed our socks and shirts and left them to dry in the sun. We got talking to an Austrian guy who was here on his own, his wife unable to walk with him. Then we went off for some pinchos and cañas in the village. We were right by the bus stop for Bilbao and were tempted, but no telling if we could get a bed.

The young couple who had helped were camping outside and, it appeared were volunteers helping at the albergue. Once we were ensconced in the albergue we walked on to La Arena and had one of their wonderful rice dishes and more beer. It was a little expensive, but worth it. We also got some stocks in the supermarket for the morning. This place is for rich people with apartments so the choice for us was not good, still better than nothing.

Viv said that she was not going to allow the early risers to disturb her in the morning, she would lay in bed until they had all got up and gone.

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Laredo to Castro Urdiales,

The way out of Laredo should have been easy, it was not. We could not find the steps we had come down when we first arrived and we ended up in a steep narrow country lane. There were arrows here though, so we continued to back follow them. Steep rugged and narrow, the roads were not maintained and almost impassable for vehicles. There were a  few abandoned houses and we could see why no one would want to live here, despite the views.

The GPS was now telling us we were going the wrong way, it was time to look at the mapping and make our own route. It was back on ourselves and also with the camino. Then we came across a T junction and again we were going against the arrows.

Then we came to the N263. This was the point where Pat had wanted to follow the camino, but instead had decided to follow us. We could now see this had been a wise decision. At the junction to Liendo the road was closed, I was not intending to go that way anyway. On our way down we had done 33k and now we had done the extra bit on the end, “stick to the road” I thought or this would be a marathon day.

At a roundabout we stopped for Viv to adjust her pack and a group of Italians arrived. They asked if we were lost, we told them we were headed back and they asked “Why” “Well we need to go home some time” I said. As they left we realised we were right by a bar, but it was closed. Just within sight was a garage, we had seen the Italians go toward it then turn away, but we tried anyway. They had coffee, kitkats and even a seat for us.

It was a long day short of stopping places, we left the N263 in Cerdigo, but the bar where we had met Patrick was closed so we just carried on. As we entered the outskirts of Castro Urdiales and passed the Bull Ring and albergue we also passed a line of shops. There was a kebab bar, no alcohol bur two cokes and a sit down for 2e. Shame I cannot persuade Viv to come back later to eat.

Surprisingly again we got a room in Hostal Del Mar and there was availability for tomorrow as well. The only free room was ours, luck was on our side.

There was no outside line and poor internet. I was now getting nervous about accommodation. So I rang a head to Playa de Arenas. There is only the one place to stay there so if it was full we would have to walk on almost to Bilbao. It was full for the whole weekend, the only room they could let us have would be tonight. So I took my option on another night here and considered my options.

We ate salad from Eroski (local supermarket) and had some beers in the bar across the street.

The following day was a beautiful hot day. It would have been totally unsuitable for walking so we just enjoyed it. We ate breakfast in the chino bar by our hostal, even staying for extra coffee. Lunch was a collection from the panaderia, this was the same chain that we had stopped at in Laredo, but with different things for sale. Interestingly we stopped here on our first time through for breakfast.

Seems like all of Spain was stretched out on the slipway here so after exploring the ruins, we joined them. Viv was first to brave the water, but unknown to her, the tide was right on the edge of the actual slipway. I watched her gingerly walking down to the waters edge then suddenly disappear into water.

I was not very brave, unsure of the bottom, so although I went in did not go far or stay in long.

If you want food at a reasonable time, it seems Burgerking is the way to go. Well first of all they had a sign on the door “No hay Ternera” so ok we will have chicken. They were advertising “Menu Barbacoa ” so I asked what it consisted of. It appears young girls with tattoos and piercings are incapable of answering a simple question. No doubt this is advertised on the local TV, but we are tourists after all. Anyway we got the menu but not the Barbacoa and we had two empty cups. No one told us that there was a drink dispenser by the door, I had to work that out by myself. I think we should have waited and gone to the chino instead. I did think of filling our cups with Ice to go, to cool our coffees for the morning, but decided against it.

We finished the evening in our favourite bar with some cañas of San Miguel Selecta.

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Noja to Laredo

We had a good breakfast in Hostal Virginia, but as always that put us late. We did not leave until 9:30 and it was again hammering down.

We took the footpath that passes in front of the Hostal rather than the walk across the wet grass. The beach path however was flooded, there was just no avoiding it in these conditions. We followed the road behind the beach as far as the albergue where the GPS showed a path through to the road.

When we got there the gate was locked and it said something about submarines or submariners. So we were left with no alternative but to take the cliff walk. The rocky parts where we climbed up were treacherous and slippy with narrow parts where people who were going the right way were trying to pass. Over the other side it was mud. My boots got no purchase in the gloop and my poles were all but useless as the rubber ends just skidded across the top.

When we finally got down on the other side there was a downspout on the surf bar and we used it to wash off the mud. We sat outside the bar in the rain because we were made to feel most unwelcome. Whether it was the mud, the rain, or the fact that we were not surfers I don’t know, but we were glad to leave.

It was a long drag into Santoña past the prison and all the appartments. The ferry was almost empty, for our return trip. There were many pilgrims coming our way, but few people returning at this hour. It is another long drag of about 5k into Laredo so we stopped at a frozen yogurt stall. In this weather at least we did not have to queue. (looking on the bright side here, we were cold and wet, but no crowds).

I found our cheap hotel back and again I was wrong. I thought, it looks so bad from the outside that it would never get full. It was.

We found Pension Tucan across the road and it was only 45e. The patron told us it would be sunny tomorrow, but was unable to tell us if we could stay another night. Our missing Santander and the last couple of stops on the Primativo, means we are running ahead of schedule. We do not want to be staying a week in Bilbao so we need to delay.

The launderette was packed out. Many were in just to dry their clothes but we had to wait an hour for a machine. We waited in a bar opposite which was doing great trade on the back of the washing queues.

We found a Telepizza, the first we have come across so we went there later for food. A group of Germans were there obviously for the cheep beer. Unfortunately they had drunk it all and we had to have soft drinks with our pizza.

We finally got agreement we could stay another night so we had a lay in, in the morning. We found a bar under our hostal ( not as obvious as it sounds, as the entrance door is around the corner). It was still pouring down so we stayed for another coffee. There was a book ferria on the front so Viv bought herself a couple of books, in English 7e for two.

We took them back and finally caught our woman and paid for our stay. She said “mañana hace sol” I thought “I’ve heard that before” and we went out looking for frozen yogurt again. It seems in Spain, when the sun comes out, ice cream and frozen yogurt vendors go in. Our search failed.

We found a nice panaderia and bought a pizza thing and some mantxs. We thought it was a type of pasty but it turned out to be quite sweet. It was more like a flapjack than the meat thing we thought it would be.

We had a coffee by the beach and paid a premium for it. Still less than Chester prices though.

The bar where we had breakfast was serving food from seven, so we went back and had some platos combinados. Viv was not for having pizza again but it was nice to be so close and the golden beer, of course.

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Galizano to Noja

We set out early again in slightly damp weather but not full rain. We stopped at the end of the cycle path(we had no intention of following it this time) there are seats there and a designated rest area. We had cold coffee and garlic bread from the supermarket, so we managed a breakfast of sorts.

Shortly after Galizano the route splits, it leaves the CA141 and goes south on the CA443. We are not going to Guemes and not really on the Camino now, so we stuck to the CA141.  I hated that route on the both times we have done it, it just dragged and had nothing of interest apart from the Camping los Molinos. The camping was too close to stop so we had no reason to go that way and we could save ourselves 3.5k.

We were on our final turn towards Noja before we got coffee. Funny bar this it had a small room attached which was a tobacconist. So people were coming in for their cigarettes taking away the lady who was supposed to be serving us. A couple came and sat outside with the cutest dog you have ever seen, it looked to us like it had dreadlocks. We called it a Rastadog.

We saw few pilgrims today but we did get some help just outside Noja when we needed it most. We stopped for a coke on the way in at the place we had eaten last time. Two cokes they charged me 3.60euro, so we would not be going back later.

We started looking for accommodation on the way in but were having little luck. I suspected that Hostal Virginia would be full this far in the season. As it turned out I was wrong, they had one room vacated that day the guy said. It was changeover day so we sat outside with a beer while we waited for the room. I had asked if we could stay two nights, so when the owner arrived (we had spoken to his son) he cancelled the room we had been offered and got us a bigger one. I think he was surprised to see us sitting outside drinking beer just like the last time he had seen us about six weeks ago.

We went into town to find a bar to watch the Grand Prix. I found a bar and we sat there and had a beer. I asked for pinchos as we were hungry. The guy said we don’t have pinchos but you can have some cheese or ham and bread. As Viv does not like uncooked cheese we asked for both. The staff changed while we watched the race and when we asked for the bill it was 41euros. I was annoyed and was not going to pay but Viv did not want a scene. It put a damper on my whole day. When we went across the square for an Ice Cream I could not face one, not like me to deny myself, but I was just too annoyed.

We had breakfast in a local café and it cost  4euro each, but the guy charged me 10 because that was how much the items came to individually. I was not having this and pointed to the menu outside, made him give me 2euro back.

There is a fountain in the square, a paved area with the jets coming out between the flags. The weather is hotter now and the local kids were all playing in the spray. We ate in the square salad and empanadas from the supermarket, had enough of being ripped off .

We walked around the coast towards Ris. Not very friendly here with fences right up to the cliff edge and no admittance signs. We found a large village green with a bar in the middle. It was hot so we had cokes, then an ice cream, before we walked back.

Signs of erosion here and a village lost to the sea. The tide was now in and one of the old buildings had now formed a pool that seemed very popular with local Kids. They had floated a large log inside as a means to get out of the water, as the walls were otherwise too high.

We booked tomorrows breakfast in the Hostal for tomorrow, it is only 4euro. Not a long walk tomorrow so we can start a bit later.

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