Monday, August 5, 2013

Our (first) month in Spain

Where in the world are we?
(short answer - Portugal)

It's been a while hasn't it? Our laptop and iPod both died early in the trip and finding a replacement was less than trivial. Once this was sorted (Nokia 820 for those interested) the combination of a backlog of blog posts and having too much fun has worsened the situation. Compounding the problem is we don't have access to the photos from the first month of travel in Spain. NOTE: all the photos before Bilbao are from Google Images (that's why they're better than the ones we normally take)

So here's what we're going to do. Provide a summary of what we've been up to, throw some recent photos in and try and do better from now on.

1. Barcelona
Our first experience of both Europe and Spain & we loved it. We stayed a week (couch surfing through airbnb) in a inner suburb where we got to observe the local way of life as well as the plethora of tourist attractions. Highlights were meeting friendly locals, learning & practicing Spanish & Catalonian (very important to distinguish the two), the novelty of wandering the streets and also discovering the joy of picnicking in beautiful parks. An important task carried out was kitting ourselves out with camping gear for the travels ahead.

2. Calella de Palafrugell (Costa Brava)
This was our first camping adventure in Spain and was a great way to start. The tiny town boasts 3 or so small beaches with crystal clear (and freezing cold) water nestled in between rocky cliffs - think postcard perfect scenery. When we weren't lazing down by the beach we were roughing it back at the camp site either at the pool or at the pool table.

3. Girona
Miriam mistook this town for the fabled city of Verona of Romeo and Juliet fame, and I can understand why. Romance was in the air, most likely inspired by the gorgeous old buildings and rambling alleyways. We started getting adventurous in the culinary stakes, trying snails & rabbit (you can probably guess our preferred dish). We stayed with a lovely couple who made us feel very welcome and helped us understand more about Catalan & Spain in general.

4. Figueres
We did a day trip to here to see the surreal Salvador Dali museum. It certainly got you thinking, with some of the weirdest art you'll ever see. This trip was finished off with a delicious 3 course meal at a local restaurant and our first cider tasting experience.

5. Zaragoza
We only spent 1 night here as a stopover before Pamplona. It was quite nice, with beautiful buildings, canals and bridges. Our first real taste of delicious tapas was here, in a bustling group of ancient alleyways.

6. Pamplona
It's kind of difficult to summarise our time here. We were here for the famous San Fermin festival (Running of the Bulls). It was exhilarating, exhausting and entertaining. We were crushed in crowds, squeezed out of viewing spots and both fascinated and horrified by the craziness and brutality of it all. We were camping about an hour away from the action (to keep costs down) and the constant late night partying, early morning festivities and lack of sleep during the day (too hot) wore us down. We could only cope with 4 days before wearily heading off.

7. San Sebastian
Even now, 3 weeks on, this place makes me smile. Throw in equal parts relaxation, a beautiful city & beaches, the best tapas in the world and you have 2 very happy campers. We spent 5 days recuperating here. The highlight was the food - tapas, tapas & more glorious tapas. Everything from duck, pig's ears, calf cheeks, mussels, octopus, foie, scallops, chorizo, frittata, salads, risotto, gazpacho and the list goes on. This place would be a must-go destination of Spain for sure.

8. Bilbao

This was more of an administrative stop to purchase our new phone but when in Bilbao a visit to the Guggenheim is necessary. A mixture of styles, artists and historical exhibitions made 3 hours whiz by very quickly indeed. Miriam's foot started to give her some trouble - a sign of worse to come.

9. Santander
Our plan here was to use this spot as a hub for a couple of day trips. We had the good fortune to arrive at the beginning of a local tapas festival where each restaurant vies for the title of "Best Tapas". Naturally we booked a few years extra days which would satisfy our insatiable appetite for tapas and give Miriam's foot a chance to rest as it had blown up considerably and was jeapordising our entire trip!

10. Puente Viesgo
Whilst in Santander we
did 2 day trips to the "El Castillo" caves where there are ancient cave paintings of bison, horse and deer along with hand prints that are very similar to our own aboriginal art. It was a steep climb to the caves and while we were waiting for admission, we climbed further to the peak of the mountain where we had a spectacular view of the surrounding area. It was this climb that did Miriam's foot in and that night it balooned up and was very painful.

11. Santillana del Mar
This historic little town is kept in it's original form, with most cars banned and the outside of buildings unadorned with modern lights, signs and fittings. It was interesting to wander around the cobbled streets and imagine what it was like here yesteryear. We also visited the torture museum which, whilst light-hearted upon entering it, we were both soon saddened & disgusted by the pain that humans can inflict on one another. Most of the equipment was authentic which only served to worsen our horror of the place.

12. Oviedo
Because of changed plans due to Miriam's foot injury. We stayed one night in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, a province famous for cider. Being a bit of an afficianado, Miriam was keen to try out the local brew. This is traditionally poured from a great height to produce the "fizz" as it does not contain gas. Because of the skill required, the waiters are always busy, circulating amongst the tables, pouring from above their heads to around their knees - a rather impressive feat.

13. Santiago de Composte
A very historic city, famous for hundreds of years as St James (Santiago) supposedly spent time here and is also (again supposedly) laid to rest in the magnificent cathedral. Pilgrims flock to this city, some having walked thousands of kilometres with most choosing to arrive on the 24th July to coincide with the "Feast of Saint James" day on the 25th. Tragically, not more than 30 minutes before the commencement of festivities a train entering the city derailed, killing 79 people and injuring 140. All the weeks festivities were cancelled and we therefore decided to head to.

Foot update: After resting it, it has come good again - woohoo!


  1. Praying that the foot keeps going AOK Miriam. Great to hear of all your happenings!

  2. A great read!
    Glad the foots alright Miriam. On the other side of the world Adelaide has been cold, a little rainy and leaves us all thinking we would much rather be where you are.

  3. Wow sounds amazing. Did you really eat pigs ears?!? Not sure I could stomach it - especially with so many other tasty things on offer. Have you had paella? Have always wanted to try it. You are making me want to travel... Love the updates!!!

  4. Great to hear what you two have been up to! Hope you continue to enjoy your adventures (and we can continue to live vicariously through you!)

  5. Very interesting post. Eventful and largely fun time by the sounds of it. I just managed, after nearly a month, to break through the Great Firewall of China and see your blog. Look forward to the next instalment. Regards from Shanghai.