Bret and I started our adventure in Santander, Spain. We had a great hotel near the beach, but we spent much of the first day navigating the public transportation system to pick up our rental car. Beware of renting cars in Spain… it turned out to be a little more expensive than we were expecting, but in the end it was worth it. Bret had a rough night the evening before we were reunited at the his conference’s last hurrah gala, so we took it easy that night. We had a nice evening walk followed by a delicious seafood dinner overlooking the ocean.
The next morning we made our way through Bilbao to Gaztelugatxe. It is a little islet that is just barely connected to the mainland at low tide. The church up at the top dates back to the 10th century, but its current form was rebuilt in the early 1980s after a fire. All along the bridge to the mainland there are plaques dedicated to people who have survive ship wrecks. It was a bit a of hike to get down there and the stairs to the church were closed for renovations, but it was really lovely.
Next we stopped in a small town call Mutriku. We had planned to stay the night there, but it turned out the hotel I booked us into was actually located about 20 miles further down the coast. oops. The town looked really lovely from high above and we saw the craziest water surfing device… the guy is on a platform (attached to boots on his feet) that shoots water out the bottom. He got up in the air about 15 feet and could dive down into the water and come shooting back up. It looked pretty fun.
We had wanted to get down to the waterfront, but we were thwarted at every turn by dead ends and one way streets, so we finally decided to abandon our mission and head on to Getaria, where we stayed the night in a beautiful little hotel and got to eat breakfast overlooking the ocean. After breakfast, we were off to San Sebastian. We splurged for a beachfront hotel in San Sebastian and it was worth it. We had a long walk along the lovely beach and we hiked up a hill to get a spectacular vista of the whole town.
We also spent some time eating pintxos in the main square. I made friends with a poor, little, crippled albino pigeon, but Bret wasn’t as taken with him.
We also had some rain while we were there. Bret already posted his great pictures.
Next up was Haro. Haro is a city in the northern part of the Rioja country and there many wineries there. My sister and I went to Haro in 2007 when we did a trip across northern Spain. Kim and I had no luck finding any winery tours or tasting rooms, however. Back then you really needed to have appointments if you wanted to visit wineries. I was not going to make that mistake twice. We got up early the following morning, so we could get to Haro for a 10am winery tour appointment at Roda. The ride up had only a couple of wrong turns and some pretty incredible vistas. We had planned to catch a bite for breakfast on the road and had no luck, so we toured Roda on an empty stomach and were already a little giddy by the end of our wine tasting.
We went straight to lunch after the tour and found the same restaurant that Kim and I had eaten lunch at seven years ago. The specialty of the house is slow cooked lamb, but if you want a special treat, you can order a sheep skull… brain and tongue included!
We finished out the day with a few more wine tastings. Haro has definitely embraced wine tourism since I was last here. Tasting rooms rivaled some of our favorites in Oregon wine country. The wine was pretty delicious too!
The next day we were off once again. We drove through the high plains back to the coast mountains in Basque country. The scenery was AMAZING!! We stopped for a quick walk in the woods.
We spent our last night at a really lovely hotel in the middle of nowhere, Aire de Ruesga. It had quite a view and plenty of nice country roads to wander.
For our last day in Spain, we drove up through the Parque Natural Collados del Asón to the Mirador del Gándara, which is a platform that is suspended high above the source of the Gandara River. The park is well maintained by a flock of sheep.
The drive back down to Santander had some dramatic views too!
We got one more walk in at the beach after lunch, then hitched a plane back home to Cork. What an incredible place to visit… hope to get back there someday.