We have tried the idea of travelling “escaping the weather” around the selected region regularly, and each time with new nuances. This time, for example, we were completely out of luck when it comes to the weather. But we got out 🙂 There were some adventures, of course, but still. The northern regions of Spain are very different from the central and southern, both in political and cultural sense, so Bilbao and San Sebastian will be a discovery for Barcelona regulars .
Our trip began with a visit to Salamanca. It is not like we considered this city particularly remarkable, it’s just that we decided to make a couple of stops on the way from Madrid to Bilbao. This town is small, cozy and not crowded – all we needed to start the trip. We made 2 gastronomic observations in this city: The prices of jamon in local jamoneria is similar to Moscow (if not higher ), and cava in local cafes is usually served in small single serving bottles. The central historical area is quite similar to Madrid – it is square (or rectangular) shape, the houses completely cover the perimeter, and there are cafes with outdoor tables on the sides. The central pedestrian street leads from the square to the central cathedral. That’s all. So we quickly moved to the next place.
Segovia is worth visiting on its own. As stated in Wikipedia, Segovia lies 90 km North-West of Madrid on a rocky hill between the rivers Eresma and Clamores. Along with Toledo and Aileu, it is one of the three cities-museums located in close proximity to the Spanish capital. Since 1985, Segovia has been included in the world heritage list of UNESCO. The main attraction of the city is an ancient Roman aqueduct, towering nearly 30 meters at the entrance to the historical part of the city. The center itself has been perfectly preserved, and given the terrain, it is a multi-level architectural complex that has preserved its historical appearance. Most of the time spent in the city, we ran from one site to another taking photos. This was not a typical activity for us (but we still have this blog lol)), because after years of travelling we even stopped taking a camera with us, and we only took smartphone pictures, but even that only happened in exceptional cases… like Segovia. It is simply beautiful.
While we enjoyed the views, the food and an opportunity to come into contact with the eternal, we somehow missed a disappointing weather forecast, like, there’s a snowfall expected the day after. We chuckled over the “smart algorithms” of modern weather prediction (snow in Spainin May?!) and continued to explore the city. Our hotel was located on a hill, and we had a balcony with a stunning view of the valley with its flowering orchards, so the first thing we did in the morning was opening the curtains and going out to the balcony… AND THERE WAS SNOW!!! It was not just a couple of snow flakes that randomly fell from the sky and then melted, there was actually a layer of snow on the ground, snow caps on the trees, flowers were covered with snow. And it did not look like it was going to melt. Just for fun, we looked up the weather in Moscow and it was +25 and sunny. What an irony 🙂 Friends commented our Facebook posts and made fun of us. So, from this day our trip has acquired the features of a “catch good weather” quest, and every next point of the route had to chosen by determining a place where the weather is slightly better than the current one. The funny thing is that we were going on a trip to Spain in May, we did not pack any warm clothes and local stores very often summer collections without a hint of wool items.
Meanwhile, our friend Alex arrived to Madrid, and we agreed to give him a ride – travelling together in the same car is more fun. In Madrid, we went to a flamenco show in La Taberna de Mister Pinkleton, and it was exciting. Although we are not big connoisseurs of this kind of art, we can make a conclusion about the skills of the performers – everything was very exciting. Without stopping in Madrid for a long time (although there was a Champions League game and we were seriously thinking to go there), we headed to the Basque Country, Bilbao.
Bilbao is a large industrial city (there’s even a subway), an important seaport and a well-known cultural center. The main cultural attraction is Guggenheim Museum, as one of the branches of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The Museum building itself is an art object that embodies the idea of a futuristic spaceship. The interior of the museum amazes the imagination – in addition to the periodic exhibitions, there are also permanent expositions, the central one is The Matter of Time. It is a series of sculptures made from thick sheets of steel, conducting sound and light differently, if you watch from inside of the composition. This museum has provided us with most of the impressions from Bilbao.
Also it is necessary to mention the gastronomic component of this region – “pintxos”. These are a kind of small sandwich on a skewer with local stuffing – from “Russian salad” (Hello, Olivier!), to octopus with a sauce, or anchovies, there are many varieties.Usually they are laid out on a bar, and you can ask the bartender for a plate, take as many as you wish, and after the meal you are billed for the number of skewers (named “pintxos”) left on the plate . At first, we clearly underestimated pintxos, considering them as a side snack. However, in the process of traveling in most cases our meals were limited to them, the question was of course in the amount 😉
Meanwhile, we moved to San Sebastian. The city has two names – Donostia (in Basque) or San Sebastian (in Spanish), and both names are equally used. My personal impression is that the city is more similar in architecture to the Nortern France than to Spain. Houses with complex patterned reliefs and balconies, streets decoration, embankments… I was not able to get a more detailed impression about it, because I was ill all time – cold weather and absence of warm clothes had their effects. Words can not convey the joy caused by a wool sweater that my husband hardly found in the warehouse (!!!) of a shop. In general, according to other participants of our group, this city is definitely worth visiting while being in this region. As the weather was not going to get better, we had to find a place nearby that was at least “not very nasty.” We went to France for a while to warm up a little. If you rent a car, traveling to another country shoud be specifically mentioned in the contract with the rental company. Fortunately, my husband had taken care of it initially, and we did not have to do anything else.
Returning to Spain, we went to Barcelona, where Alex had already moved with friends, and we spent the remainder of our trip in a larger group. As I wrote earlier, Barcelona is a city where every new trip leaves a special impression, representing the city from a new perspective. This time we did not visit cultural sights, and spent more time on bars, cafes and restaurants. Our friends were the ones to choose most of the times, and we were lucky most of the times.
But there was a trick about the terrace. During our last stay in Barca, we had have just a magnificent terrace with a stunning view. So this time we also decided to choose an apartment with a terrace. But the difference was that our last accommodation was an apartment hotel with a separate territory guarded and maintained by its staff. And this time we were just given a flat in an apartment building on the top floor with a terrace. My husband did not see a fundamental difference, but I could not sleep at night, because I constantly thought that our terrace is connected to the roofs of a large number of other houses, and the only obstacle for potential violators of our tranquility is a thin wire (!!!) stretched at the waist level, which lines the visual boundary of our terrace. What if someone is going to come through the roof of another house? Who should I call for help if they enter the apartment through the terrace? How can we leave our things there, going for a walk during the day, knowing there are 2 entrances that lead inside from the terrace, closed by simple balcony doors? The husband was sarcastic about my suspiciousness all the time, until a local resident told us about a real case that happened with a similar apartment of her friend: in the middle of the night, some Arabs began to break into the apartment through the terrace. The residents locked the balcony door, called the police, but it took long to drive, and the Arabs have left before the police arrived. But after a couple of days, they still broke into the apartment in the absence of the owners… In general, my opinion only strengthened – no private sector, only stay in hotels or other fully serviced and protected places.
To choose a location for summer holidays you may visit 1001beach.com, the best beaches in the world on one website.
To explore a new city during your visit with a guide you may through excurzilla.com.