Tag Archives: Camino de Santiago

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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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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Santillana del Mar to Galizano

I thought that we should leave Santillana by going down through the village,  the GPS had other ideas. For once the GPS was actually taking us along the Camino route, so we were  ok with it. We looped under and over the main road, unable to join because of the way the junctions worked. Eventually joining it by a roundabout. We were now on the route that the Spanish guy had tried to get us to follow. There was an incredible amount of places to stay along here, mainly Posadas. We eventually found coffee at a place called Oruña. A busy bar full of game machines and TVs. There was also an albergue here as well, funny that again there is no mention of this place in the book.

Not much further on is Barreda. We had intended to walk to Requejada less than 2k further on, but there was a big station here so we decided to get the train from here. The walk from Requejada to Santander is boring and mostly industrial and as we have done this twice before I thought we would take the train. It cost us 5.4euro for basically a days walking, so why not?

While we were at the station we did see a pilgrim get off the train from Santander. Not really the done thing if you are going for a Compostella. While we were on the train the rain came in and it was hammering down by the time we got to Santander. I had blown any chance of using the albergue in town and again the tourist information was useless. So we wandered around with the map, by the third complet we were ready to give up. Some guy helped us and took us to another pension, trouble was, that too was complet.

In the rain we took the ferry to Somo. There we stopped for an egg bacon and cheese butty. We may have left puddles everywhere but that butty was great. There were a few places in Somo but the prices were just too high for us so we moved on. We followed the road for a while, then headed towards the coast, following signs for a camp site, but the campsite had no chalets and we moved on. We got a bit lost here, neither on the coastal path or the main road. Fortunately this was not a long day so I was not too bothered.

Viv would not go to the albergue at Guemes so we stopped again at Galizano. The room did not seem as bad as last time, whether that was because our expectations were lower or it was just a better room, I don’t know. Unusually the price here had not gone up with the season but we still had no shower curtain.

We sat in La Biela 43 drinking beers and watching the formula one quali  but not food until ocho again. The burger La Biela was a meal in itself but I would have enjoyed it more if I had it earlier.

There had been an article in the papers about a woman complaining about too many Spaniards in Benidorm. By the time we had our burgers I knew exactly how she felt, the place was full of children running around and their noisy parents. It is as well we go to bed early when we are walking, but we could still hear them from our room.


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Comillas to Santillana del Mar

No breakfast this morning, but we followed the road down to the coast, where we joined the main road. There is a barrier here to stop you crossing the road and the camino is off to the right somewhere. I am pretty sure that the road is easier and shorter so not too bothered. There was no sign of coffee at Cobreces but at a shop where there were tables and chairs outside they told us no coffee. We took the lower road this time and missed Cobreces altogether.

Still no coffee until we reached the split at Oreña, we walked through to the bar where we had stopped twice. We met up with a father and daughter from London who were heading for Oviedo. We advised them to follow the road from Colloto to Oviedo, as the arrows will lead them astray. I forgot to mention about the lovely route from Comillas to San Vicente though.

As we were returning we found the correct route out of Santillana this time. Now going in, it looked much more obvious, strange, as it is usually easier to follow the arrows in the right direction. We passed a few places to stop on the way in but thought we would stick to what we know, if it is available. It was, but now much fuller we ended up on the third floor without a balcony.

We sat for a while in the main square where a lady was playing a harp. I think she was something to do with the Parador and the only place we could sit was on the diagonal opposite corner. We could listen well enough, but I am not sure that our applause reached her. Later we sat at the bar in front of the Cathedral. There is a junk shop opposite and they had a dog. There is a hole in the wall so that the dog could still run into the square whenever he wanted. He had a bell on his neck and every time someone came with a dog he would run out jangling. Sometimes he was greeted by the visiting dogs and sometimes they would see him off. The fact that he was so small and always came off worse did not deter him, he just kept coming.

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San Vicente to Comillas

The bar by the launderette was advertising breakfast, and so we had another good start. It seems to be, the shorter the day, the better the start. We have had so many long days where we have had nothing  for hours and then we have days like this sub 20k and a breakfast before we leave.

The way out was obvious, we just had to cross that lovely bridge. On the other side however was a roundabout and I could not remember how we had approached it. My GPS was telling me to go to the right, and I suspect that this was the way we had come. However we saw pilgrims coming from a more straight on direction. A look in my book now confirms I was right, however we chose to follow the pilgrims.

This road was the CN236 a lovely coastal road  favoured by many. There were a large number of sites with vans parked and the occupants out surfing, the early morning chill not putting them off. We were passed by innumerable pilgrims all curious as to why we were going the wrong way.

Eventually we came down to a beach that had a beach café but we had trouble finding our way in. There was a decking area to sit and the entrance was opposite with a serve yourself bar. The problem was that there was a delivery van parked in between and we could not see the decking area. Eventually some one showed us and as it all became clear the van left as well.

The road carried on along the coast and we came upon a loop in the road. We sat on a bench with a view of the salt flats where there was an inlet. This area had been formally covered in trees but European money was being spent in restoring it to its wilderness status. We sat and ate some bread we had and nuts marvelling at how our money was being spent.

As we came into Comillas we arrived the same way we had left, but could see no sign of the route we had taken last time. Still we found the tourist information easily. They are still useless, being the busy time now it would be so much easier for them to phone around for us. Instead we got a map and “sorry but we are not allowed to recommend anywhere”. We tried three places including where we stayed first time but all where complet.

We decided to head for Esmarelda even though it would be expensive, but then we tried the pension opposite. It turned out, not only to be cheaper, but better in every way, even having a line outside the window for our washing.

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La Franca to San Vicente

We left the campsite and to my surprise the reception was already manned. I had left the key to my non working door the night before thinking that it would delay me in the morning.

A few other pilgrims followed us up the hill and also back along the main road. I felt I should tell them that there was no need to go back, as the camino path only joined the road a little further along, but Viv told me not to interfere. As we passed the turn off we lost sight of our companions and crossed over the road to the truckstop. We knew, of course, that this was here, so we had no need to worry about breakfast this morning.

As we got near to the main road there were pilgrims coming the other way, so we had no trouble finding the footpath. The dirt track into Columbres we missed altogether and as we entered Columbres itself we elected this time to take the high footpath and miss the road. It was early and we were expecting an easy day. The path was as I remember it from two years ago, well maintained cut stone paving, but boring.

When we crossed the bridge into Unquera they were setting up for market day.  We sat and ate a palmera watching them work and I was tempted to stay here again. For some reason Viv was not so keen, so we moved on.

I struggled finding the route out, even though we had done this twice, it was not obvious. After a while walking along the road we saw pilgrims on the path, about 400 yards to our right, and over a river and railway. We were always going to find it difficult to follow the camino backwards but we knew by the road signs we were headed in the right direction. I suspect it was also shorter and easier this way, if a little less scenic.

At a big roundabout we saw signs that we were, in fact, a lot closer to our destination than we should have been, according to the guide book. (In fact this day we covered 18k, the guidebook distance was just over 21k). The other side of the roundabout was a big café, truckstop, shop. So we stopped for a coffee and pastry. The girl served me my coffee and turned away, when we had finished I had real difficulties getting her to tell me how much and take my money. Meanwhile Viv was busy enjoying the shop, funny the things that they sell out on the road, toys, paints, make up, as various food stuffs.

As we started to descend into San Vicente we stopped in a layby for a drink and a blow. A French motorcyclist passed through on a Triumph. Five minutes later he passed through again in the opposite direction. Then after another five minutes he came again and stopped. He parked his bike and wandered off into the bushes with his phone glued to his ear. We think he possibly wanted a comfort break, but we were surprised that a French man would be this coy. After a few minutes he re-emerged and rode off.

The tourist information in San Vicente was, for the first time, very useful. They gave us a map and marked on a launderette and directed us to a great pension.

We found a bar that sold a caña for only 1euro and also had cheap food (though again not until ocho). As we were here early we had a good look around, but as my phone is dead I could get no new pictures. A reconstructed ship The Nao Victoria arrived and we had a good look from the harbour wall, but, as is our way, we could not go aboard. I would not open until tomorrow, when we would be away.

The bridge at San Vicente


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Llanes to La Franca

We found our way out of Llanes quite easily, the advantage of previous knowledge. Then on to Cue, and passed the bar where I was short changed. It was all going too well then, we missed Andrin completely. We skirted around Andrin and ended up on the N263 again. We soon arrived at the campsite at Puertas and realised I had again missed the Bufones. I am destined never to see this amazing natural feature. We stopped here for a coffee and asked about rates for bringing the motorhome here. 35euros a night, at that rate it is cheaper to use the car, use less fuel and stay in a hotel.

Soon we passed the nice albergue we had intended to stop at, but missing the Bufones meant we were now early so we carried on. It was just road bashing from here until Pendueles where we turned off the road through the village. We stopped for another coffee then we passed a shop and there was an area for ball games with seating at the end. We bought some bread and drinks and sat with our empanadas and had a relaxing lunch.

As we left Viv realised she had left her sticks. They were not where she had left them outside the shop and she panicked, she need not have worried however someone had put them safe inside the shop. We left Pendueles on the G8 route and passed the bar where we had stopped with Henry two years ago. Following the arrows backward we ended up back on the N263 again. We met more youngsters at Buena who were worried they were not going the right way but we assured them that they were ok.

On the way into La Franca we found Camping La Franca. The camino route goes off the road here so we had missed this both times. This time though we missed the camino route because we were going backwards.

For 30euro we got an un-serviced shed, use of the amenities and best of all the pool.

The food was good at the bar, but there were no shops apart from the camp shop. We walked down to the beach where there were more bars. It was lovely here until it started raining again and we had to rush back to get our boots and clothes under cover. The door lock did not work on our shed, not that I was worried about security but sometimes I would come back and the door had swung open.

The campsite was like a transit site when we arrived back, they seem to have no rules about where you can pitch up. On our second day it was a little better, I think many had gone home after the weekend. That night we handed our key back and retrieved the deposit. There was little point in keeping it as we could not lock the door and it meant we could get a quick get away in the morning.

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