July 1'st to 12'th, 2013
Monday, July 1’st
There been a huge different in ticket prices from Kastrup compared to Billund, and this has been to the advantage of Kastrup. So I start this trip on a train to Copenhagen. I bit unpleasant, but I do save some money. It takes 3½ hour, due to rail work on a bridge. Fortunately I have booked a seat – those who haven’t have to stand up for the whole trip.
I arrive at Kastrup 3 hours before departure. One day I will learn to make this better, and not always arrive hours ahead. After check-in and security, there’s 2½ hour left to kill, and that not so good in the shopping-center they now call Copenhagen Airport. But of course time passes, and at 5 pm I heard of on Brussel Airlines to Brussels. Here, there’s a break for dinner, before the same company takes me to Bilbao. 10.35 is the clock as we land in Bilbao, but things here are efficient, so via a quick taxi to downtown I am able to check in to room 201 at Petit Palace Arana at 11.05. It’s time to go to bed, and tomorrow I’m ready to take a closer look at Euskari – also known as The Basque Country.
Tuesday, July 2’nd
I don’t get much time at Petit Palace Arana. I get up at 8 am, and head for breakfast on the top floor. Then I check out. I will return to Bilbao, but not for this hotel.
The local lightrail has a stop just outside the hotel, and takes me to the bus-station. There I find the bus to Vitoria-Gasteiz, which is the first real stop on this trip. Up there I get off at a bus-stop where everyone else is getting off as well. That’s a smart move, because from there, it’s just a short walk to my hotel – Hotel Dato. Once again I check in to room 201, and take a short nap, before heading into town.
Vitoria-Gasteiz is an old city. It was established in 1181. In 2012 it was claimed as The European Green Capital of the year. Capital? – will someone say. Yes – this is the Capital of the Spanish part of Euskari
The most interesting part of the city is the old medieval part. In this part there are churches, towers, palaces and huge old buildings – and a lot of small streets and an enormous amount of bars. Just a place for me, and I spend my 2 walks today in this area – only interrupted by 1 – or maybe 3 – visits to the local bars. That’s a nice thing when you get a little tired.
The evening is spend in room 201. It’s Pelota-time on the TV – and I have brought a good book by Colum Mc Cann – “Let the great world spin”.
Wednesday, July 3’rd
I start this day by a long walk. It goes to an old church in the suburb of Armentia. The walk is along a wide promenade for pedestrians only. There’s a lot of people out on the route this morning. On the way I pass several fine buildings, including some huge villas - almost like small castles. The Basque Premier Minister is living in one of them. You also pass a very nice park and the home ground of the Alaves football team.
For those who forgot, Alaves was in the UEFA-cup final back in 2001 losing to Liverpool. Now they play in the Spanish second division. I was not even aware that they was from this city. Finally I reach the goal for the walk – Armentia. Here there’s a fine old church from 1181 called San Prudencio.
I take the same route back to the medieval city, to reach a museum before siesta. The museum is called Bibat, and is actually 2 museums. There’s an archeological museum, that I don’t care much about. And then there’s a museum for old playing cards. I like that. There is old machines that produced the cards, but of course a lot of different cards. Some as old as from the 15’th century. In the middle of the 18’th century they started to look like they do today. Unfortunately all text is only in Spanish and Euskari, but the museum is ok anyway.
Then it’s time for Siesta at the hotel. Later this afternoon I make something that I hardly ever do. I go shopping. My travel-bag broke on the way up the stairs at hotel –so I head for a new one. El Corte Inglais has a sail, and I get a new Samsonite with a 40 % discount.
In the evening it’s time for a short walk, a bocadillo at a bar, a beer at another bar and a final visit to Plaza de Espana. This is the central “Plaza” in the city, but in the evening it is taken over by a number of kids and some parents playing football. One of the kids seems to be quite talented – and is making a fool out of some of the parents. Other kids are skateboarding, biking, hunting pigeons and balloons. It’s a nice place for the evening, and is way better than what places like this is often used for in the evening – which would be nothing.
Thursday, July 4’th
I am leaving Vitoria-Gasteiz and Hotel Dato and heads for San Sebastian. I do this by train. It’s slightly slower than the bus, but more comfy and the railway-station is almost just outside my hotel. The train leave at 9.05 and arrives in San Sebastian at 10.45. There’s a half hour walk to my hotel Pension Alameda. My room is not ready yet, so I leave my Samsonite and head out for a closer look at the city.
The hotel is in the cozy Parte Vieja quarter. There are small streets full of bars and cafés. I start with a walk along the bay and around the small hill called Monte Urgali on the northern side of Parte Vieja. It’s a little hazy and overcast, but nice enough anyway. From there I head into Parte Viaja.
At the fine Plaza de la Constitucion, I find a nice café selling a good beer and a fine sandwich. The Plaza is real nice. It’s surrounded by 3-story buildings that all look the same, and all painted in white and yellow. There’s a number on top of each window, and all houses have balconies looking the same. There’s a reason for that. The Plaza now and then doubles as a bullfight-ring, and the balconies are for spectators.
Now there’s a short walk to the hotel, and I check in to room 10. It’s time for my Siesta-nap.
Later there is time for another walk, and now the sun is shining. First I head down to the small harbor at Parte Vieja and continues along the beach called Playa de la Concha. Then back through Centro before I return to Parte Vieja. There are people all over now, and it’s not only tourists. The locals are out for their evening-stroll, as you will see in all Spanish cities. I do a little shopping in my local Lidl, before I fall into a bar for a beer and 3 tapas, that will make it for dinner tonight.
Friday, July 5’th
It’s slightly overcast from the morning. But that makes a nice weather for a decent walk. San Sebastian is located around a bay called Bahia de la Blancha, and with 2 central beaches called Playa de la Concha and Playa de la Ondarreta. This is where today’s walk will take me.
Though it’s not exactly weather for the beach, there is some activity down there from the morning. At the end of Ondarreta there’s a strange iron-sculpture made by local and famous Eduardo Chillida. Before he became famous for his sculptures he was a goalkeeper at the local football-team Real Sociedad.
From out here, there’s also a very old cableway up Monte Igueldo. There’s an old and tired amusement park at the top. It’s a place that looks like they did 30 years ago. There are not many customers and some of the employees have taken the liberty and gone to sleep. But the views from here is great.
Down again – and now the sun is shining. There are loads of people on the beaches. San Sebastian is a tourist destination, and people come for the beaches. I tend to go for a bar and lunch and a cerveza, before my nap at my hotel.
The late walk is almost mountaineering at my local hill Monte Urgull. It’s a pretty hard walk uphill for someone like me, and I find it slightly frustrating when bus no. 39 arrives to the top at the same time as me. Why didn’t I take that?. I head for the impressive Castillo de la Cruz from the 16’th century. At the top there’s a weird figure of Christ, that is not nearly as famous as it’s brother in Rio.
This kind of activity calls for more beer and more food. But that’s no problem down in Pare Vieja. Here bars and restaurants are as close as tourists on the beach. I get in to one of them for a steak and a cerveza.
Saturday, July 6’th
4 days in San Sebastian is a little more than enough when you are not into the beach. Today’s walks are ok, but there are not many sights left.
Walk no. 1 starts in Parte Vieja and a visit to the San Vicente Church from 16’th century. Then I cross the river Urumea and reach the 3’rd city-beach called Playa del Zumiola. It’s packed with people, that finds places like this of interest. I don’t, so I head for the neighborhood called Gros, where I get lost. Finally I find my track and head for the cozy park Cristina Enea. Not far from there I have lunch at a café, where all others are locals 80 years old or older. But a 3 course menu for 7 € seems ok to me. Then I walk back to the hotel via Centro Romantico.
Walk no. 2 takes me to Centro Romantico. It’s a shopping-district, but with many fine buildings. Most of the buildings looks almost the same. They were all built at the same time, and the streets are like the cities in America. This is because the area burnt down 200 years ago, and was re-planned and rebuilt shortly after. Down at the river there’s an exhibition about the event, showing how the area looked before and after the fire. The highlight in Centro Romantico is the church Catedral del Buen Pastor from 1880. I take a look inside here as well.
Tapas for dinner is at a local bar. I’m outside tourist-area now, so local rules apply. You take the Tapas you want on a plate, and then pay when leaving the bar. You just tell the bar-tender what you took. Lying about that is like shoplifting.
It’s time for a late walk around Urgull. There are tourist all over. I end the day with a very nice Gelato from a local shop just outside my hotel.
Sunday, July 7’th
This is going into vacation-mode. It’s 11 am before I head down for breakfast at my local café. And the day is quiet as well. Mostly it takes part around Parte Vieja. First it’s another old church. This one is called Santa Maria del Coro. But when they seems to start a service, I’m out of there. Then I head for a local museum – San Telmo. It’s about the history of the Basque Country, and is a fine surprise to me.
The building of the Museum is very special. It’s an old church with a modern extension. I get an audioguide, which gives you a good tour through the Basque Country’s history and culture. At times it has been pretty dramatic. ETA is mentioned, but not as much as you would expect. The hit of the Museum is the audio-visual show in the church. It’s made out of movie-clips, sound-clips and pictures, and is shown on the church walls. Very special and exiting.
From the Museum I head out onto Plaza de la Constituzion and my favorite Tapas-bar. 4 nice Tapas make it out for a delicious lunch. Then I head for Kursaal, which is the Casino in San Sebastian. I am only dressed to get into the slots, but that’s fine for me. I start at the machines where you game on 21 lines, but only for 0,01 € a line. You win small amounts all the time, but it’s going nowhere, and at the end you will always end up losing. When I’m done there I take my rest amount to spend at the 0,50 € slots. But for some strange reason I win, and can leave the place with a total win of 80 €.
The evening trip is a lazy one. It takes me to the San Sebastian aquarium. There are the usual fish, but also a bit about San Sebastian as a fishing-village. There are some miniature fishing-boats that are pretty awesome. I walk around and practice the difficult job, of taking pictures inside an aquarium.
Dinner is a pizza, that I take back to the hotel. While eating a very talented folk-singer is doing his thing just down from my window. Yes – this is certainly a tourist city.
Monday, July 8’th
Today I’m leaving San Sebastian. A taxi takes me to the bus-terminal in 5 minutes, and a bus takes me to Bilbao in 1 hour, where another taxi takes me to Hotel Zubalburu in 15 minutes. I check in to room 114. The hotel is a little special, with lots of photo’s all over.
I go out into town before it gets too hot. First I head for the old city center Casco Viejo. Then down Calle Esperanza, where I find a lift that only locals and tourists with good guidebooks can find. This takes me to the area called Begona. It takes less than a minute to get up there, but you’re in a total different area when you get there. I walk to take a closer look at the local sight called Basilica de Begona from 1620. Unfortunately the church is closed, but it looks nice from outside as well. Then I head downhill for the center, but get lost during the process. There should be some stairs, but I’m unable to find them, and my lift has suddenly gone as well.
Instead I use the fact that going down will get me closer. And so it does – but certainly not the quickest route. When I reach Casco Viejo I get lost again. I hit a totally wrong bridge crossing Ria de Bilbao, but finally find the street called San Francisco that will take me to my hotel.
The guy at the hotel had told me, that this was bad area. It is – the street is full of drug dealers and other weird people, so I hurry back to the Hotel, where it’s a good time for a nap.
My evening walk is up and down Gran Via. This is like the Bilbao answer to Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Lots of people and lots of shopping. I go right, when I should have gone left and get lost again. This time I have brought a map, and is shortly after back on track. Dinner is inside El Corte Inglais. Then – with the map in my hand – back to my hotel.
Tuesday, July 9’th
Today it’s time for Bilbao’s super sight Guggenheim. The huge museum chain has got a famous one in this city. It’s mainly famous. for the architecture made by Frank O. Gehry. It takes 30 minutes to walk there from my hotel down to the museum at the river. I start by walking around the thing to get the best angles for photos. Then I get inside. 13 € is the fee and then you get an audioguide as well. As usual I can’t concentrate on a full museum, so I pick out 3 things.
The first one is a permanent exhibition by Richard Serra. That is some huge iron-blocks bent into different forms. Some of them like a labyrinth. The second one is an exhibition of French painting during WW2. Picasso is there as well. He wasn’t French, but anyway – he lived in Paris during the war. The third highlight is of course the Museum-café. You have to get out of the exhibition area to find this.
So much for the fine arts. I continue along the river to see La Carola. That is a red-painted crane, that was left as one of the few things when they closed down the commercial harbor. It has got its name from a girl, that used to cross the bridge at the place, where its located.
Just beside they are tearing down San Memes. That is Athletic Bilbao’s football stadium. They are building a new one just beside. Then I head down Gran Via, lunch at El Corte Inglais and finally via Hurtado de Amezaga to a break and some Tour de France at my room.
It is getting very hot now in Bilbao. More than 30 degrees. So tour 2 is rescheduled to 7 pm. First I walk down Hurtado, then cross the river to Casco Viejo. I walk around the locals, the tourists and the bars before I find the lovely Plaza Nueva. Like other places this one is taken over by kids playing football. There are also plenty of bars here, so a beer and a few tapas make it good for me. Then I follow the river to have a look at Guggenheim by night, before heading back to the hotel.
Wednesday, July 10’th
It’s getting really hot in Bilbao. I start my day with a short walk to the bullring Vista Alegra, just beside my hotel. There’s supposed to be a museum, but it is closed. On the other hand, you can walk freely around – even into the arena. Some guys are painting the fence – it’s very much red. Good color in case of accidents.
I continue to Alhondiga. It used to be a warehouse for wine, but now it has been made into a culture house. It’s pretty dark inside, but there are some colorful columns. There’s a pool on the roof, and you can stand underneath it and look up through the water. In the basement there’s a strange exhibition. That is too difficult for me. But the café is nice.
I continue down to the river, crosses the bridge Zubizuri, and head for a cableway that will take me to the top to Artxanda. From here, there’s a great view of Bilbao. It’s midday so there is a sun-haze over the city. It would have been better to go here in the evening. There’s also a Sidraria, where you can get Cider like what I got in Asturias some years ago. It is very refreshing but still taste like vinegar.
Then I head down again, and back to my hotel. Beer and lunch is at my favorite place on the other side of the road.
The evening-walk is a short one, mainly to get some appetite for dinner. Instead of a walk - ordering dinner - eating I should have done it the other way. They are so slow at my restaurant, that I could easily have made the walk between the ordering and the eating. But the food was ok.
Thursday, July 11’th
My final day as a tourist in the Basque Country. And another hot one it is. I start by walking to Plaza Moyua. From there I take the Metro to Areeta – a suburb. Here is one of the most fantastic bridges I have ever seen. It’s called Puente Colgante. It’s very special – you can’t drive across it. You drive onto some kind of gondola, and then the whole thing is pulled to the other side. Then you drive – or walk – off the gondola-thing. It’s made like this, so ships can pass the place without having to wait for a bridge to open. They just pass when the bridge is not there – so to say.
I take the gondola to the other side – called Portulaguete. It costs me 0,35 €. The trip back is 7 € - and there I even have to walk. I have chosen “The Scenic Route”, where you take a lift to the top of the bridge, and then walk across, while the gondola criss-crosses underneath you. That is very spectacular, but not recommended for people afraid of heights.
Back on the Areeta-side you press a button, and someone come up with the lift to take you down. It works fine – or I would have been in trouble. Finally I take a walk around the nice suburb of Areeta, before I take a Metro back to the city for my Siesta.
And now I have to confess. I have made an unusual mistake on this trip. It is 2-3 days to long – there are no more sights, so my last walks is just in to the city center and Plaza Nueva for a beer and some Tapas, before heading back to my tiny room at Hotel Zubalburu.
Friday, July 12’th
I don’t know what idiot planned this trip back, but I’m afraid it was me. I get up at 4.30, to go to the airport. Lufthansa leaves at 6.55. I land in Frankfurt 2 hours later. Then there’s a 5 hour wait. At 2.05 Lufthansa takes me to Copenhagen. That takes 75 minutes. Then I have to wait for my luggage at the baggage-claim, where I stand as the only one without any luggage – before I finally check the one bag that is still circulating. Jesus……
So it’s 4.40 before I board the train to the central station, just in time so see that my train for Aarhus has left. Another hour of waiting, and I arrive back home at 8.40. This could have been done better.