Navarra & The Basque Country (days 5-12)

This is the second part of our trip “A dedo por la Península Ibérica”, our hitch-hiking trip around Spain and Portugal which we are currently undertaking. Read the first trip update – “In the mountains of Aragón”.

Days 5-7 (60km) – Pamplona, Navarra

On 6th July we left Aragón to enter Navarra and participate in the biggest street party in Europe – San Fermín festival, known as the running of the bulls. See the full description of the festival here.

In Sos del Rey Católico we were picked up by our kind CS host Eneko who drove us all the way to Pamplona.

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We had some really good times in Pamplona, although not running with the bulls. It was easy to forget about the difficulties of travelling and soak in the atmosphere of the festivities. At the end of our stay Eneko took us to a traditional northern Spanish cider house (sidrería) where we had the tastiest meat we’ve ever eaten  – almost raw and very bloody chuletón.

After three days of partying in very fine company we had to leave Pamplona and go further north to País Vasco (the Basque Country).

Days 8-9 (83km) – San Sebastián

We’ve been living in Spain for nearly two years and during this time we’ve heard many good things about the supposedly gorgeous San Sebastián. Its landscape and architecture amazed everybody we spoke to and many people told us that we would certainly fall in love with its food and the friendliness of its people.

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We entered San Sebastián with our hopes risen to the top and expected to see one of the most beautiful places human eye has ever seen. Indeed, at the first glance the town looked charming. Its fin-de-sicele architecture and the soaring gothic cathedral drew our attention from the very first minutes after our arrival. However, the longer we spent in San Sebastián, the quicker the first positive impression faded away. To our utter surprise, we realised that under this façade of lovely buildings there was nothing else that could make us wish to stay there for more than two days. We visited the churches and the castle dominating one of the hills, we walked along the beach and finally admitted to ourselves that that was it. There was nothing more to the place than a couple of  pretty streets. Everything else was just very expensive boutiques and restaurants. The prices were so high that we couldn’t even try the famed pinchos. We weren’t the only ones, though. The long and never-ending queue  outside McDonalds suggested that it wasn’t only us who couldn’t afford to eat out in San Sebastián.  Apart from that there were hardly any bars or cafés, so after you’ve done all the sightseeing possible, there was nothing else to do.

San Sebastiàn was extremely posh and maybe if you are one of those people who enjoy spending their time eating out in fancy restaurants and shopping in pricey boutiques, you’d have a different opinion, but from a hitch-hikers’s/budget traveller’s perspective, San Sebastiàn wasn’t the best of choices. We also met other budget travellers who shared the same opinion and advised us to go to Bilbao instead.
We were off the next day.

Day 10 (104km) – Mundaka

On the way to Bilbao we stopped by the quiet Basque sea coast village of Mundaka, famous for its long beach and popular among surfers. The journey to Mundaka took 3 different lifts and around 3,5 hours.

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Mundaka’s natural biosphere reserve has been listed as one of the Natural World Heritage sites. The landscape around the town is truly breathtaking. With its long beach reaching deeply into the land, its charming wooden architecture, tiny fishing boats anchored in the bay and its quiet small town atmosphere. Mundaka was a good destination before the hustle and bustle of Bilbao.

Days 11-12 (37km) – Bilbao

Even though it was only 37 km, the journey to Bilbao took us 5h and we were picked up by three different drivers. It took so long not because we were unlucky but because that’s the nature of hitch-hiking in Spain. People use their cars for everything. Even if they are just going to the next village to buy some milk they’d still go by car. So the majority of drivers you stop are not going further than 10-20km. On top of that, there are too many motorways. Which is good if you are a driver but if you a hitch-hiker it’s a nightmare as very often it takes 2h of waiting on sliproads for less than a 15min journey along a motorway.

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Anyway, we managed to arrive in Bilbao after quite a difficult and tiring hitch-hike and met our CS host Laura. On the day of our arrival the BKK Bilbao Music Festival had also started so we can consider ourselves quite lucky that we managed to find accommodation. We highly regret not joining the festival where two of our good friends were as well. It’s a shame that we didn’t organise it on time but life goes on, I suppose…

We spend the evening and the whole next day on walking around and I must admit that Bilbao was by far more to our liking than San Sebastián. It was slightly grimier, less shiny and expensive than San Sebastián, and there was something I could call an interesting street culture. Basically a place where young people can live and enjoy themselves rather than a posh city filled with fancy shops, hotels and restaurants. Even though there aren’t that many sights (apart from the Guggenheim Museum), the city is charming, especially its old district. We spent hours just walking around, taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere.

On the 12th day of our trip we left the Basque Country and entered Cantabria, our fifth autonomous community in Spain. To be continued, stay tuned…

written by: Ania

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About Hitch-Hikers Handbook

hitch-hiking, backpacking, budget travelling, travel writing, travel photography
This entry was posted in A dedo por la Península Ibérica 2012, Spain, _trips_ and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Navarra & The Basque Country (days 5-12)

  1. Pingback: Cantabria, Asturias & Galicia (days 13 – 22) | Hitch-Hikers' Handbook

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