So here we go again, taking to the roads in the van and seas in a small pea green boat, well actually an Irish Ferry to Dublin followed by a larger vessel to Bilbao. An unusual route for folks as travelled as us we know, but it was all for Jigsaws benefit. Her desire to be able to free roam in Europe, unlike humans these days, meant her having her rabies booster in Cork and then obtaining her EU passport, yes she’s now dual nationality for three years at least, if only… Customs Officers in Dublin also found it amusing, well there must have been some reason for pulling us to one side and scanning the vehicle. Anyhow, we had a few days exploring Cork and Wexford as yes, it rained. Wexford had a fab wildfowl wetland with a ton of birds and two Irish hares. We were aided by some very knowledgeable twitters.
The sailing to Bilbao was 36 hours so Jigsaw wiled away the hours penning her sequel play “Cat on a Long Thin Lead”. We’re not sure it’ll have the same box office takings as her first “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” but we can hope. Nick continued to work on his photo’s for his website which may stand us more chance of an earning… I in the meantime Duolingo’d and watched TV 😉 We did some exercise out on the deck too.
Arriving we headed for San Sebastian having only had a day there years ago. We pitched up in Zumaia where there’s a handy train, after we thought the torrential rain, thunder and lightning had stopped we headed out to explore the area, it’s rugged coastline features in Game of Thrones (not that we’ve ever watched it) and is UNESCO protected, the erosion on two planes of the rock are really unusual not that the pictures will tell you much as guess what, it tipped it down. Good to see though, the vastness of the Basque GeoPark coastline and the tiny San Telmo Ermita (a handy shelter)
San Sebatian the following day was a little drier which was kinder. We know most people think it odd travelling with said cat, but check out the pic below, we’ve been trumped in the travelling pet stakes! As we walked along the stunning promenade, we watched the waves crashing on the surfers who’d braved it, it was close to high tide. San Sebastian is known for its waves. There’s a couple of areas where they reach incredible heights, soak unsuspecting tourists taking photo’s (guess who…) and conjure oooh’s and aaaah’s from everyone else. It is pretty mesmerising to be honest, being so close and feeling the power of the water. As the tides roll up the river and crash into the Kursaal Zubia Bridge you are seeing an unusual phenomenon. Generally, it was quiet and off season, Christmas lights prep going on and the ubiquitous ‘Black Friday’ posters up in windows (one we felt, did have the right message though) However, it didn’t detract from the gorgeous architecture, ornate bridges and boulevards and bandstands and of course San Sebastian Cheesecake…. delicious!
Next stop Burgos. A popular and deservedly so, stop on the Camino Santiago de Compostela route. Marked by its medieval architecture and its French Gothic Cathedral of St Mary it was also the birthplace of El Cid, he’s buried at the Cathedral. It’s a World Heritage Site, the Cathedral that is, and very deserving of it, Burgos is also a ‘City of Gastronomy’. As a city it is rich in churches and convents, has 12 medieval gates within the original city walls and lots of cast figurines proudly celebrating elements of the city’s culture. The mural ‘Gallic Monkey Bird’ too is a fabulous modern day mystical play on mythology, a commission to commemorate the Cathedrals 800 years.
The Cathedral itself is Gothic styled with ornate spires and grand facades and super surface decoration. Lots of enclosed chapels and cloisters, amazing ceilings and a painting by Leo Da Vinci and a pal that wasn’t even covered up. Pictures tell the story though!
Segovia is a city we’d not had on our radar but what a place. South of Burgos its famous for three pretty spectacular elements; Its Roman Aqueduct, Its Cathedral and its Alcazar. Parking next to the still in operation Bullring, we set off to explore and it wasn’t long before we were alongside the Aqueduct as unusually, it stretches through the town rather than skirting it. Towards the centre it gets taller and taller, eventually at its maximum it is over 28m. It is 167 arches, was built in 1st Century AD and was in use until 1973, water flowing form the mountainsides into the city. It really is a sight to behold and remarkably, there’s no mortar used between the blocks of stone. From there we wandered the Old Town streets, coming across another unusual shop, selling ‘Ducks’, a mermaid sphynx and lots of lovely ornate touches.
Segovia Cathedral is quite different to Burgos, tall pillars giving to a very open and ornate interior and a spectacularly complicated exterior array of towers built of a warm stone. The Bell Tower is 90m. Internally a magnificent array of chapels, a sumptuous Chapter House, an unusual ‘Chariot’ and a favourite, an allegory of ‘The Tree of Life’. The painting depicts a riotous party in a tree while a skeleton hacks at the trunk, aided by the devil, whilst Jesus stands by ready to ring the bell. On a lighter note, we felt the female headed serpent needed some moisturiser!
The Alcazar is purportedly an inspiration for Disney’s castles. There were some Austrian influences in its building and there is certainly some similarity. Built in the 1100’s with Roman foundations, the Witches Hat towers are gorgeous, piercing the blue sky. Internally the rooms are lovely, not in the league of the Alhambra with hardly any Moorish influence and less carving and tiling but The Kings Room, The Throne Room and The Pinecone Room were ornate, every pinecone being different, not bad at 392 of them. Climbing the 132 stairs took us to the tower with views of the surrounding countryside and back towards the mighty Cathedral. We were glad we didn’t need to get into costume for Mr Disney, the suits looked a bit tricky.
Not far from Segovia is Real Sitio de San Ildefonso where the Royal Palace and Gardens have to be up there as one of the best gardens we’ve ever walked. Known as The Spanish Versailles it was designed in French style in the early 1700’s for Felipe V and reflects the formal designs of the time. It became the summer residence of Kings of Spain from then. An abundance of mountain water, an intricate plumbing system feeds 26 fountains and my word, these are M&S fountains. Made of lead and painted bronze they appear at every turn of the 360 acre garden. All are based on mythological themes, one of the best depicts Andromeda chained as a sacrifice to Poseidon, released by Perseus with Medusas head. Not sure where the Frog Fountain sits with that theme but the Baths of Diana did and reminded us of the Trevi. One of the tallest fountain is Source of Fame, which depicts Fame on a winged horse trampling envy, meanness, evil and ignorance. This was actually one of the prettiest! We spent hours wandering the avenues, taking in the glorious autumnal colours, listening to the birds and marvelling at the beauty of the place. What a lucky find, the ‘Irish’ has come with us.