Bielsa to Vielha

Tonight will be our last night to stay in a Parador in Spain on this trip. This morning we walked around the Bielsa Parador area a bit and then headed back down the mountain. 

We stopped for coffee in the village of Bielsa which is 12 kilometers from the Parador. A plaque near where we parked told an interesting story. At the end of the Spanish Civil War in the Spring of 1938 the Republicans defending the High Aragon faced ultimate defeat. The shepards of this area knew a way over the mountains. First they guided thousands of women and children and then the retreating army through the snow over a high mountain pass across the mountains to the refugee camps in France. 

During World War II this same route was used both to move fighters and goods into France and to permit the escape of those fleeing Nazi persecution. 

On our last trip I read Kristin Hannah’s book The Nightingale. In the book the Nightingale is the code name for a woman who helps downed British airmen escape to Spain by hiking over the Pyrenees. In the book they cross the border in a totally different place but I still thought of that book when I was looking at those mountains today. 

Bielsa is a beautiful little town. We had coffee in a little bar/restaurant.  The owner led us into s little side kitchen to show us the paella they were starting   

A little farther down the road we stopped at a farmers market. They had some beautiful vegetables!

Bielsa where we are staying tonight is a ski town. Although it is a Spanish town it used to be only accessible from France. Then in 1950s they built a tunnel through the mountains. The tunnel is more than 5 kilometers long!

We explored Vielha a bit. 

Then we had one last great Parador dinner. 

Santiago de Compostela to Fuente Dé

Today was a long day of driving for us, about 300 miles. It rained a lot of the way but it was a beautiful drive. We drove north to the coast and then east along the coast. Tonight we are in the northern mountains of Spain, the Picos de Europa. The first part of the drive was through rolling green hills that reminded me of England. The last hour or so was up a deep canyon beside a rushing river. 

About half way through the drive we got off the freeway and happened upon a wonderful country restaurant/bar. First we just ordered coffee and used the restrooms but then the friendly owner suggested seafood soup. We ordered some and a plate of clams. They were both wonderful. 

The Parador at Fuente Dé is surrounded by mountains. It seems likely that it will snow here overnight but tomorrow is supposed to be clear. We had a good dinner. This my warm salad of artichokes, brocalli, ham and garlic. 

And this is my veal. 

Santillana Gil Blas to Bielsa

Today was our longest driving day of the trip. We drove east about half way across the neck of the Iberian Peninsla. The scenery changed dramatically when we left the coast.

Tonight we are surrounded by the Pyrenees Mountains at Parador Bielsa.

While we were at Santillana Gil Blas I had hoped to visit the Caves of Altamira.  Based on a recommendation from my friend HD I had really wanted to visit the Caves to see recreations of some of Europes earliest rock art. But I had forgotten that almost all museums in Spain are closed on Mondays so it didn’t work out on this trip. I guess we will have to come back again!

As our starters for dinner tonight Duke had pâté and I had soup.

And then we each had the really delicious steak as our main course.

Fuente Dé to Santillana Gil Blas

We woke up this morning to sunny clear skies. Overnight it had snowed on the mountains around us but not down at the Fuente Dé Parador. 

We took the cable car up the mountain, enjoyed the views and walked around in the fresh snow.  The cable car goes up almost 2,500 feet. As you can see the views are fantastic. In our cable car there was a family with a sled. We saw a few families sledding with kids chortling with joy. 

You can rent snowshoes and cross country skis at the top. We saw people using both. There are several trails that started at the top of the cable car. 

It was warm in the sun a truly spectacular spot. We went back down the cable car to our car. Next we went back to the coast out the canyon road we came in on yesterday. We stopped at the Picos de Europa visitor center. 

On the coast we stopped at a beach on our way to our Parador at Santillana Gil Blas. 

I’m not quite sure what this house is but I think it looks cool. 

Santillana Del Mar is a beautiful old town. We  walked around exploring a bit before dinner. 

For dinner I started with roast vegetables. The fan shaped things are mushrooms. 

Duke had a half plate of anchovies and a half plate of croquettes. 

We each had sea bass with spinach as our main course. 

 Vigo to Santiago de Compostela

Tonight we are in Santiago de Compostela the pilgrimage destination. We had a bit of trouble finding the Parador. It is on a square right next to the Cathedral. The only cars that are allowed into the square are the ones going to the hotels and the Parador. The Parador building was built in the early 16th century as a refuge for pilgrims. 

We explored the medieval streets. Duke got a haircut and I sat in a cafe and had a sandwich. 

I thought these different types of lobster were interesting. One is blue and another doesn’t have big claws. We think maybe they explain the different Spanish words we have seen for lobster. 

I also liked this octopus. 

We see a lot of women here wearing beautiful fur coats. 

For dinner we had tapas; squid and jamón. 

And the local almond cake for desert. 

Cambados to Vigo

Duke has been a John Mayall fan since about 1970. He was playing at Yoshi’s in Oakland in November but we had other plans so couldn’t attend. Duke checked Mayall’s tour schedule and realized that he would be touring in Spain while we are here. So he arranged our itinerary so we could go to the John Mayall Concert in Vigo tonight. 

Today was a gorgeous day. Lots of sun and temperatures in the 60s. We explored the coast some before heading to Vigo. We watched some paddlers training and walked along the beach. 

We are not staying at a Parador here in Vigo. We are on the seventh floor of a high rise overlooking the harbor. 

For dinner we had two small beers, bread and cheese, and fish brochettes at a tapas bar near the hotel. It all cost three Euros. 

The concert was great and a lot of fun. It seemed kind of surreal to listening to a British Blues Singer in Spain. The crowd was big and enthusiastic. The venue was comfortable and beautiful and new. And the music was full of energy and some exceptional playing.  John Mayall is 83 but you sure wouldn’t know it. He and his band played for two hours without a break. 

Baiona to Cambados

Today we followed the coast north to Cambados. It is a beautiful day, by far the nicest day of our trip so far. It is the first day that I haven’t needed my winter coat. 

We saw several interesting things during our drive. Soon after we left we saw a couple of guys scraping something off the rocks, perhaps barnacles?

Later we came across a beach with lots of cars parked and what appeared to be more than 200 people digging clams. 

Once we arrived in Cambados we went for a walk. There are the remains of a tower out on the point. The sign says they don’t know if it was originally built by the Romans or the Phoenecians. 

When we walked through town the streets were pretty much deserted. The stores were all closed from about 2:00 until 5:00. 

Cambados is considered the capital of the Albariño wine country. Albariño is a fruity white wine. We tried it as our free drink at our Parador. I liked it a lot. 

For dinner we had a fun chatty waitress which is unusual here. Maybe the fact that we were the only ones in the dining room made a difference. We both had fish. 

For desert Duke had chocolates, a warm butterscotch crepe and cake. 

I had something we have had a few times before on this trip. I had never heard of it before. It is lucious… cheese ice cream.