San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian is just as good today as I remember it from 2006. I tend to think of it as a small Barcelona, without the football enthusiasts. It has an old town full of small alleys with terrific Tapas bars, historic buildings, albeit many have been rebuilt following a major fire (probably some Nordic holiday makers or it may have had something to do with Portuguese and British troops sacking the town after giving Napoleons men a slap), museums and cultural events. It is very popular and hotel rooms are over-subscribed during August. It is to be the European City of Culture in 2016 and will have to seriously address the shortage of accommodation before then.

Overlooking the city is a figure of Christ atop of Mount Urgull on which were the fortified ramparts that Napoleon captured during the Peninsula War of 1808-14. There is even a British cemetery in the grounds for the soldiers that fell during the taking of the city.

I decided to give Bridget another five day rest and went to the beach.

One of my favourite restaurants, The Bull at Bisham, is a family run business and for years Andreas, the head of the family and from North West Spain, has been telling me I should visit that part of the country. Now was my opportunity and rather than driving south to Salamanca and crossing into Portugal I decided to drive along the Spanish Coast before turning south. He’s right you know. The drive along the coast starts pleasantly and gets better the further you go.

I thought I would stop for the night around the town of Gijon, but as I drove into the town immediately changed my mind and decided to stay for two nights. The sun was blazing, but apart from that I was struck with the similarities of the town to Weymouth, in Dorset, where I spent my childhood. Gijon has a long sweeping bay with soft golden sand, getting quite poetic now, and on a peninsula at one end of the bay there is a late nineteenth/early twentieth century fort almost identical to the Nothe Fort in Weymouth. Gijon is certainly far larger than Weymouth with a population of over 280,000.

Bridget and I left Gijon on the Thursday and as I was checking out the receptionist told me I would miss their Cider Celebrations. A strong ‘scrumpy’ style cider is a local speciality and every year they have a drunken weekend, sorry celebration for the years’ crop. Weymouth Town Council should look to twinning with Gijon.

From Gijon we took the E70 highway along to the furthest corner of the North West coast to A. Coruña before turning south to the town of Vigo. I am not the first Brit to have walked upon the streets of this town. In both 1585 and 1589 Sir Francis Drake attacked the town even occupying it for a short while whilst in 1719, because a Spanish fleet which departed from Vigo attempted to invade Scotland in support of the Jacobites, the city was occupied for ten days by a British force. Isn’t it a good thing that the English have stopped bullying countries we disagree with…..well with some exceptional cases!

Although people here are trying hard to cover it up, this part of Spain is certainly feeling the effects of the economic climate. Many businesses have closed and even four star hotels are charging half the price of those in San Sebastian.

Before closing I should say that the lack of news about Bridget is because she is running well with no cause for concern, which is a bit worrying.

Tomorrow, Saturday, we leave for Portugal and the town of Porto.

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