Travel Diary: South of France and Northern Spain (part 2)

Contrary to previous years, this year at the end of June we opted for an all-European itinerary for our holidays: we traveled from the French Riviera to the French Atlantic coast, and from there to Spain until the most extreme point, Finisterre. After, we followed an inland route through the Pyrenees to return to Provence and also visited Andorra along the way.

This was our complete itinerary:  viaggio

Read about the first part of our trip here.

During the trip, our loyal companion has always been Booking.com, the hotel reservation site (if you are not registered yet and wish to do so, using this Booking link you will be credited 15 euros the first time you make a reservation).

Booking offers many advantages:

  • a wide range of different facilities (not only hotels, but also apartments, B&Bs, villas, hostels, etc.)
  • Almost always the best prices for a given facility
  • an excellent rating service, which makes it easy to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every hotel
  • the possibility, in many cases, to cancel the reservation until the last moment without any cost
  • frequent offers and promotions

For many years, we have been using Booking almost exclusively for our reservations all over the world, especially for itinerant trips.

DAY 4 – BAYONNE – SAN SEBASTIAN

 

On the fourth day of our trip we finally cross the border between France and Spain, stopping in San Sebastian. Along the way we stop in two beautiful villages, Saint-Jean-De-Luz, France, and Hondarribia, Spain, where we enjoy a tapas lungh in one of the many local restaurants along the main street.

In Hondarribia we also visit the upper part of the town, which is very beautiful and offers a magnificent view and some beautiful historical buildings, including a beautiful Parador, where I would have liked to stay for the night!

The world-famous espadrillas, a local speciality: they come in a wide range of different colors!

Chili peppers used as a decoration

Beach in Hondarribia, Spain

In the afternoon we finally arrive in a San Sebastian, which immediately seduces us with its charms of a beautiful coastal and seaside town, its beautiful beaches and its elegant riverside. Although it is also a famous tourist resort, it also looks like a busy but nonetheless relaxed city.

After storing our luggage at the hotel, we spend the rest of the afternoon and the evening strolling through the Old Town, the historic center of San Sebastian, crowded with people. Since in Spaine you dine very late, we stop in one of the many tapas bars (tapas are also called pinxtos in basque) for a great aperitif. Don’t miss this experience!

One of the many squares in San Sebastian…

    Riverside

DAY 5 AND 6: BILBAO

Riverside in Bilbao

After dedicating the whole morning to pay a second visit to San Sebastian and its beautiful churches, the nostalgic beach promenade with its many surfers we take the car to go to Bilbao, where we plan to stay for two days.

Last pictures from San Sebastian…

Bilbao 

Bilbao is the only big city we visit throughout the trip, so we decide to immediately enjoy the city life, visiting the old town (called Casco Viejo), the shopping area (where we indulge in the sales for an hour or so) and the many characteristic squares enjoying the atmosphere of this city.

The Casco Viejo, the Old Town of Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in and outside

Bilbao also offers a subway that allows you to easily move from one point to another in the city.

We dedicate our second day largely to the visit of the Guggenheim Museum, probably the main attraction of di Bilbao.  The whole structure is certainly spectacular, seen from the outside, and fun and interesting to visit inside. For a quick lunch, close by you will also find the Bilbao food market with its many pinxtos bars and an endless selection of local wines by the glass. It’s definitely worth a visit!

DAY 7 AND 8: BILBAO – COMILLAS – OVIEDO

Visiting the town of Oviedo

We spend the next two days driving along the coastal road, with many detours to visit the beaches, the villages and the most interesting viewpoints. Leaving Santander, which does not strike us particularly (perhaps also because of bad weather), the landscape begins to change, becoming more rugged and wild.

The beaches are smaller, sometimes with high stacks: one of the most spectacular stretches of our journey begins.

The hinterland also changes as we enter the Asturias: at times it looks almost alpine, with green pastures with grazing livestock and many forests, rivers and lakes. It’s so beautiful!

For those who have more time, we recommend a trip to the nearby Picos de Europa National Park, which offers many hiking possibilities and where a good number of brown bears still survive today.

We spend the first night in Comillas, a touristy but delightful small town,  which also offers us a magnificent view of the beach by night … In Comillas it was a bit difficult to find a hotel, but in the end thanks to Booking we find two nice comfortable rooms at the Hotel Mar .

After visiting the world-famous prehistoric cave of Altamira (the original cave cannot be visited any more, but the museum is very interesting and you can still visit a 1:1 reconstruction of the original cave) in Oviedo, where we stop for the night in a  very nice, centrally located hotel .

A university town, Oviedo has a very pleasant atmosphere and it’s perfect to visit on foot, discovering even the most hidden corners. It has numerous medieval churches, above all the famous cathedral, and some valuable baroque buildings.

 

Oviedo: beautiful medieval churches, gread baroque buildings, and some modern artpieces 😉 … 

DAY 9 AND 10: OVIEDO – SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA – FISTERRA

The next day we leave for Santiago de Compostela, following (by car) one of the two paths also traveled by the Way of Saint James pilgrims who come to this place every year, covering over 700 km on foot.

On the way we leave the main road in Rinlo to visit its beaches, following small country roads that run along the sea and the high stacks. We stop to take some pictures and enjoy the magnificent ocean landscape: rugged coastlines, lighthouses,  beaches, dramatic colors. It is one of the absolute highlights of our trip!

The surroundings of Rinlo offer an incredibly beautiful landscape….

Finally, we stop to take a walk and have lunch in the delightful village of Rinlo (we recommend the Porto de Rinlo for lunch !)

We finally arrive in Santiago de Compostela in the afternoon and  find two rooms in a  small and delightful hotel ,, right in the historic center, just a few meters from the cathedral (travel advice: do not care too much about the numer of stars of your accommodation when you book a hotel in northern Spain: quite often, the most charming places have only 2 or 3 stars, but they are the most charming accomodations you can find!).

At 6 p. m. we decide to visit the famous cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, right at the time of mass: every day many people , from all over the world come to this place, either alone or in big or small groups: they are the pilgrims who have traveled all or part of the famous Way.

The atmosphere, is not only very spiritual, but also full of energy and euphoria, brought by the pilgrims themselves who made it to get there.

The mass is enlivened by the clear, angelic voice of an elderly nun with an incredible voice, by the presence of an incredible number of people who came to this place from all over the world and by the culminating moment of the mass, in which a huge censer is swung across the cathedral.

In addition to visiting the baroque cathedral, my advice is to simply enjoy the atmosphere in the streets, maybe sipping a glass of wine in one of the many cafés.

The baroque cathedral of Santiago with its rich ornaments

Santiago de Compostela

What’s that? You find them only here, come and discover …

The next day we leave to reach the extreme western point of Spain, known since ancient times as Fisterra. This is another of the most scenic stages of our journey with its lighthouses, rocky peaks overlooking the sea, breathtaking views and beaches that, if it were not for the cold water of the Atlantic Ocean, could well be in the Caribbean!!

Between Santiago and Fisterra you’ll find delicious little towns, beautiful beaches like this one and rocky peaks overlooking the sea …

Along the way from Santiago to Fisterra, there are many must-see detours: such as the Mirador Ezaro waterfalls, for example, which fall directly into the sea, and the many small towns in the area for some fish or seafood.

In this area there are also some of the most beautiful and inviting beaches I’ve seen during the trip.

For the night we decide to stop in a small village located only a few kilometers from Fisterra,Corcubiòn. This time we opt for a small penthouse apartment, still booked with Booking, where we are welcomed by the very kind owner. This is the view we saw from our livingroom:

Ve pay a short visit to the really beautiful beach and to swim in the sea. It’s still warm and sunny at 6 p.m.!

At about 8 p.m. (days are long in this part of the world, especially in June) we finally leave for Fisterra, just in time to enjoy a sunset among the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. The ideal solution is to try to find a sea-view table at the nearby hotel, so that you can enjoy the sun going down sipping a glass of wine or cider.

To be continued… (find the first part of our trip here )

 

 

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