Sussing the Course, Evening on the Boardwalk

960932CB-23B4-45ED-9A30-9ACA986F1AE1We needed a map and schedule for the race tomorrow so headed towards Hernani to get some groceries and try to find a map.  We passed a van with guys putting up the yellow arrows for the route so stopped and asked them if they had a map, but they didn’t so we continued on.

Hernani is larger than we thought it would be, and is full of narrow one-way streets with weird sharp turns.  We managed to find a parking space in front of a fairly rough-looking taverna, and walked up the hill a bit to a bank.  I saw a sign for a tourist info place so while Colin was in the bank I took Mo up to see what they had.

I walked into the large building that had the info sign on it and didn’t know which way to turn – it looked like it had some offices, and a large hall of some sort but no info desk that I could see.  I went into one of the small offices that had its door open and as soon as I asked the lady at the desk if she spoke English she indicated to follow her. She took me out the front door and pointed across the square to a small booth – that was where I was meant to go.

The girl at the booth was extremely helpful – I told her I needed a detailed map of northern Spain, as well as info on the race.  She was super happy to help – she had a really good map of the local area – not all of Spain, but it covers Pai Vasco which is just what we need right now.  Then she said she would check something on the computer about the race – Colin arrived just before she said she was printing something for us and would be right back.  She went inside the big building and came out shortly with a paper for us – it had the list of places, including the road numbers that the race was passing through, the estimated time of arrival at each place, and the elevation chart.  It was exactly what we were looking for.

1C4800D7-BD9E-4F07-A8D0-482603EEC2CCWe had a look at what she’d given us, and decided to drive along the last part of the route, as it had a couple of good climbs and the riders actually go around it twice so we’d get to see them two times.  We navigated to the road we had chosen and drove in the opposite direction that the race would be taking. We came upon a church that had some parking so pulled in to have lunch in a small park across the road.  There are fantastic views of Irun and Hondarribia and part of the ocean below.

CFD0F546-495D-41F6-BE0E-E1E3778995C8Once again it’s right on the Camino trail – there are scallop shells (not clam shells – ha ha) on the church itself, as well as on route markers for the hikers.  There’s a much larger parking lot beyond the church and we considered if that might be a good place to plant ourselves tomorrow.

9352D93B-A2B9-411F-BB03-6372B43263E2As we drove down towards San Sebastian we saw several more possible places to watch from, and figured that if we arrived early enough in the morning we could likely have our choice of spots.

We took a very circuitous route back to Zarautz, but eventually got there.  We relaxed and read outside the tents for a couple of hours, then headed down into the town to have another look around.

06093768-6C52-4300-AAB3-0B6C15939DA3We found some underground parking at the far end of the beach then started walking along the nice wide boardwalk.  The beach is great, and along the boardwalk are lots and lots of cafes and tavernas. There are hundreds of sunbathers, swimmers and surfers and the general atmosphere is just great.

483C3906-0773-463E-83C3-5918947FA966We stopped at a cafe on the boardwalk and had a drink, then decided to stay there and have dinner.  It was very nice – we stayed until the sun was starting to go down – most of the beach-goers had left by then but the boardwalk was still busy.  We walked down it almost the end other end, then back – there are art displays/sculptures here and there.

2D51820E-3203-479E-8CE8-D5F96EC34033As we drove back thru the town we saw that the main street and all of the side streets were packed with people – cafes and bars all had tables outside and it was bustling.20BD5309-CF20-4219-A214-13C45B09D2A2


Evening in Getaria

After a very hazy morning the sky cleared and it got hot again.  We spent most of the day reading in the shade at the camp – took Mo for a little walk at one point but mostly did very little.

F33F5BDC-88F3-4FF1-8A0E-A1C31AC08C28Early in the evening we went out to the little town just west of here – Getaria.  It also has a very popular beach, and a small but thriving-looking fishing fleet.

7125E816-6FDA-4B79-9C7A-A66179284E48The parking meter was a bit challenging, but once that was mastered we headed past the beach and harbour and towards the town.  

E15B8C32-ED91-4DF1-A64B-891002F9C7D4In the harbour was a replica of an old sailing ship.  There were folks on it that seemed to be cleaning it up and getting it ready for something.  It smelled quite bad – like tar or oil.

09CCBA57-B303-450B-ADA4-6C975E18AE14We stopped first at a cafe/bar overlooking the water – it was a lovely spot but was marred by the motorcycles that drove right past between the tables where the pedestrians walk over to the next bar or two – it was a dead end and they all ended up coming back sooner or later – very unfortunate.  When I went inside the cafe/bar I saw that they also sold things – wine, cheese, dried meat (pork?) and jellies.

To get to the town you had to walk thru a small pedestrian tunnel, which was full of young black men selling shoes – the shoes were set up all over the stone path on both sides, but at least the young guys selling them weren’t aggressive.

1EE33EA8-A7C7-4B13-8CC6-53A88FD0333EThe town is very pretty, but seems quite touristy – it’s on the Camino trail, and obviously attracts lots of other tourists.  We went up what seemed to be the main street, and down the next, cutting back over to the first one to try a tapas bar we’d passed.  Luckily these streets are car-free and there were lots of people strolling around – it was very pleasant.

C9976094-AE68-4C90-8A94-56A803CAC302The bar we went into had cycling on tv – European indoor track championships, I believe.  They had many different tapas out on trays, and when you ordered they gave you a little plate – you just went along the bar and picked what you wanted, and they counted the wooden skewers after to see what you owed.  The things I tried were delicious, and Colin said he really liked what he’d chosen as well.

At one point a little girl came in – she couldn’t have been more than two and her parents were at a table outside – and held up a coin.  I thought she said she wanted a donut, so picked her up and let her ask the bartender. She actually wanted some olives so he gave her a small bowl of them and she was so happy!  I gingerly put her down so she wouldn’t spill them and she toddled off with her prize. She was just adorable – she came back in a bit later with her father and walked over to me – I crouched down to her level and she touched my earings and white shirt saying they were pretty.  She made up for all of the screaming brats so far!AB5F9142-0A71-4B41-AAB5-7CE215A22DCD


Surfer’s Beach

It had rained off and on during the night, and the morning was completely overcast and bordering on cool.  Had a good shower – the water only stays on for about 5 seconds with one push, but it got nice and hot and you just had to keep hitting the button until you’re done.

After a nice breakfast – mine was leftover pork filets – at the tent we read for a bit before picking a town to go to for groceries.  We wanted to make sure we were there before they closed for the the entire afternoon for lunch. On the way back from shopping we tried to get to the beach from main road that goes thru Zarautz, but there’s no parking anywhere near it so we just went back to the campground instead.

12DC7BCF-8235-492E-A2C1-8755E3C400DAThe clouds were eventually replaced by blue sky, and after lunch I took Mo for a walk partway down the path towards the beach.  The views are spectacular, and the beach below looks fantastic.

3D8DF9C7-B0B8-410F-A6FA-52E093E49580It’s a really popular surfing beach in the area – there are signs in the washrooms at the campground that you can’t bring your surfboards inside – a lot of the campground’s visitors have come for the surfing.  There are also signs that you shouldn’t dump your campervan’s chemical toilet into the washbasins – are some people really that stupid?

606FF901-3B03-4962-A4E9-2E490C29EDEEI met a fellow from Manchester along the trail – he had what I call a ‘real’ camera also – and we chatted for a bit.  The trail is very good – the first part was sloped pavement, and the next part was very well-made stairs.

F84628A0-CB07-4C4B-BB75-AF9B7A82F42AMo and I stopped about halfway down and turned around – the walk back up wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.  The trail down to Wreck Beach in Vancouver is much tougher.

3566CC5D-8324-41C5-B8E2-AEC2D4C379E48A67E753-3D9E-497F-BBE7-F744118310EBAfter a leisurely afternoon we went to the same bar/restaurant as last night to get dinner but it was closed so we went to the other restaurant.  The outdoor area was full so we had to go inside – again taking Mo in wasn’t a problem. This time I opted for croquettes, which were delicious – ham and nice creamy cheese.  I topped it up with some of Colin’s fries and we each had two glasses of really nice red wine.

Once again the campground quieted down nice and early – read for a bit then fell quickly asleep.


From Sinballa to Zarautz

Had a leisurely breakfast, then packed all our stuff up, followed by a nice cappuccino at the restaurant.  Got on the way north by about 11:30.

2F2C98A5-1DF3-4BED-923C-A96170F8C70DIt wasn’t far to Irun, where we turned west along the coast thru San Sebastian – which is also known as Donostia, its Basque name I believe.  The GPS led us on a very picturesque route all along the coast heading west.

0371D22C-BE01-4A2F-9AB6-5C90FA56867BOnce again we’re near one of the Camino trails – we’ve seen a couple of signs and some of the hikers have large (fake) clam shells hanging from their backpacks.  

E5C645EE-3023-4A5B-BC15-E7E82ED16E3BThe campground is just outside the town of Zarautz and high up on a hill overlooking the Atlantic.  It’s fairly large and completely different from the last two places we’ve stayed. When you arrive there’s a young lady that intercepts you and tells you where to park before you go in to register.  Once you come out she tells you where to wait for another staff member on a scooter to come and lead you to your little plot. The area we’re in is very crowded – we’re squished in like sardines in a can, but it’s alright since our neighbours on both sides are really nice.  Despite the number of people it’s pretty quiet – no traffic noises and lots of trees and birds. There’s a path down to the beach that we’ll have to investigate at some point.

3E5F30D9-5A9B-42A9-8317-2C6293DEF93CWe setup camp, then drove down to the town to look for a store – no luck finding one open.  Again – the extremely annoying 4 or 5 hour lunch! We stopped for a quick drink at a bar – and I was once again bothered by screaming kids.  There was a group at the next bar to us that had several small children at one table and the adults at another, and no matter how much the kids screamed they were generally ignored by the parents, who were relaxing with drinks and chatting with their friends.

I’m not advocating stuffing a socks in the kids’ mouths or hitting them with a stick to get them to be quiet – but the parents could at least not just ignore them.  Patience with screaming kids is a virtue that I’m still working on, I guess.

Back at camp we read for a bit – discovered that we could actually get electricity, and are very fortunately right near the wi-fi tower.  A little later we went down to the restaurant/bar to eat – we picked a table outside, as we had Mo with us, but the waitress said that we would have to go around the corner to another outside area.  It was a large, rather dismal place of concrete and not much else.

I ordered the pork filets – presented much like the chicken I had the other night – three very thin pieces pounded down and lightly breaded, with a bunch of fries.  It wasn’t bad, but not exactly what I think of as ‘local specialities’.

Partway thru our meal we were invaded by – guess what? – screaming kids.  Several families had arrived together and were all sitting in the area we had originally been in and told to move from.  All of their kids swarmed around the corner to our area and were running, jumping and screaming at the top of their lungs – we moved inside, telling the young waitress that it was because of the kids – she didn’t stop us even with Mo.

I was actually surprised later that it went quiet so early at the area where our tents are – no loud music or late, loud conversations – or even screaming children!  Everything basically shut down and was peaceful at a very reasonable time.


Caterpillar Hell

After a decent sleep and nice hot shower I did a bit of yoga, followed by fried egg and bacon on a baguette for breakfast.  Before it got too hot I headed out for a bike ride – there’s a small paved road that goes up, and one that goes down just beyond the end of the campground.

20F61842-ADF3-4FF4-9F98-233584DB850FI first followed the one that goes up, although I must admit that I pushed the bike as much as I rode it.  It was what I can only describe it as – caterpillar hell. They were coming down from the trees by the hundreds – at times there were so many ‘lines’ dropping that it looked like a web or cocoon – it was just gross.  I met a couple of Spanish guys that were walking down the road and they said it turned to dirt in about 1 km, and that the caterpillars didn’t end.

I rode up to almost where it turned to dirt, then gave up and headed back down the hill – trying to dodge the hanging caterpillars the whole way, in addition to watching the road ahead for the frequent ‘water drains/troughs’ that cross it.

When I got to the fork that goes down from the campground I took it – it actually only went about 1 km, then ended up right across from the town of Sunbilla.

85C6D8BC-D7E3-43F2-BF5F-88E2173BFE05I turned around again and went back up to the campground – totally sweaty and probably covered with caterpillars.  As I coasted the bike to where the tent was I saw a caterpillar right in front of my nose – it must have landed on my helmet and was spinning a web down from the front.  I found at least three more on my shirt – various sizes from about an inch long down to around a quarter inch.

After my second shower of the day Colin and I went for a little drive.  We went back to Santesteban looking for a supermarket, but nothing was open – they are worse here than Italy or France – lunchtime closing is until 5:00!  We gave up and went back to Sunbilla, where we parked and walked around for a bit.

B86F6923-F41B-44D5-BB0F-B1FB96B08327It’s a very lovely village, right on the river and very hilly.  At one small farm there were a bunch of sheep and they were all tucked up against the stone wall where there was a tiny bit of shade – they looked like rocks, only with heads.

6C0EE0EC-2921-4BF0-9F00-8E6455E144B9They’re some sort of log-cutting thing around here – there’s a statue of a guy cutting a log that he’s standing on, and a poster on a building of a bunch of other guys that are apparently champions/former champions or something.

Back at the campground we sat around and read for a bit, then went for dinner at the restaurant.  We both got the ‘menu of the day’ – I had a mixed salad for a starter (it was really nice to have fresh greens for the first time in days) and Colin had the mushroom omelette.  Then for the main course I had chicken filets and Colin had the veal, both came with fries.

After our meal we talked for awhile with the folks at the next table – they were an older couple from England on their way to southern Spain to see one of their daughters who lives there.

4A305831-B351-46B8-9D2B-B0F4114CD52FI had enough of the chicken left over to do me for breakfast tomorrow.  Back at the tents we didn’t stay up too long, except that the campers above us were talking loudly until very late – they weren’t drunk or belligerent or anything – just very loud.

Down into Spain and Sunbilla

D3E5707F-DB5B-460B-9DE8-CA64AC43AA77Had another good sleep followed by another wonderful outdoor shower.  Ate a leisurely breakfast while drying out the tent, fly and ground-cover as they were soaked with dew.

Just before we were ready to leave the frenchman next door came over and gave us both a gift – I got a bookmark that was white cardboard on red, and the white was cut thru in the shape of a flower, with a kind of 3-D effect.

Colin got a small black card that unfolded with a cut-out white cat on a table.  They were so cute, and he had just made them while he was at his table next door – it was very sweet.

We left the campground and went south, crossing the border into Spain just the other side of Ainhoa.  That town makes a lot of its money, apparently, with car-parks. Folks park there and walk into Spain, with the town on the Spanish side of the ‘border’ full of stores and casinos.  Many things are much cheaper in Spain, and I guess it makes for a profitable day-trip for french people looking for a deal.

As soon as we were descending on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees the weather and the vegetation changed.  It was almost immediately sunnier and warmer. We headed southwest, going on a smaller road and thru several small towns – nothing open, as it was noon on a Sunday.  We are on, or at least have crossed one of the Camino de Santiago routes – we have passed several markers.

3C1A0049-78F4-4757-82B6-6C8431E2548AWe pulled over at one point and decided to check out campgrounds in one of the books Colin has – ended up back-tracking a bit to Santesteban, then north to the village of Sunbilla.  Just outside the village there was a marker for the campground, which seems to have a very popular restaurant/bar. They also have four very cute donkeys, that have a moveable fence/coral.

026839DC-E1AE-41EA-AF39-B61C3F04D561We chose our own camping spot, in a fairly secluded area ringed by six large oak trees.  After we setup we went and sat at an outside table at the restaurant and had a late lunch of battered and fried calamari rings, breaded calamari fingers and fries – all very tasty.

Music, other campers, and screaming children kept me from going to sleep very early, although I really didn’t mind sipping a bit of red wine and reading a book for awhile.  Children here seem to be up much later at night than I ever was at their age, and I’m sure if I ever shreaked the way some of them do I’d have been told to tone it down in no uncertain terms.


Tour ITT

It rained almost all night long and my tent got a bit wet inside because I hadn’t pegged the vestibules down completely.  After a quick shower we left the campsite for our ITT watching spot a little after 7 – they close the roads off at 9 and we didn’t want to risk getting stuck on the wrong side of a barricade.

D90D8B8B-08CB-4EB5-99D5-FE6115FA402CA bus came along and discharged two gendarmes and they set up a barricade along the small side road that we’re across from – the cows in a nearby field were unimpressed.  Only official cars were allowed on the ‘main’ road after that, and even cyclists were told to get off and walk their bikes.49E8639E-A7D0-4E8C-B1DE-18F0534286B8Many of the team cars drove by – scouting out the route, I guess – and some of the racers did a trial run.  More and more people arrived, many without chairs – we thought ‘boy, are they going to be standing for a long time’, but….

The cavalcade came by about 1 or 1 ½ hours after the gendarmes arrived.  It is so much more impressive that the Giro’s – it took over ½ hour for the whole thing to go past and I collected a pile of goodies, part of which I gave to the mother of some little girls.  We found out soon enough why so many people hadn’t brought chairs – they left as soon as the cavalcade had passed – they were only there for the loot!


The ITT is only 32 km today, but it’s almost non-stop up and down and there are some very sharp corners.  It had rained lightly most of the night, and continued for part of the morning so the roads, in places, could be challenging.  We could see several different parts of the course from where we were, so we always knew ahead of time when someone was coming – and especially if the rider was French, as the crowds before us would go nuts.

We knew the start order so had a good idea when certain riders would be coming by – everyone was waiting for Sagan, of course.  I got seven photos of the top of his helmet as he was looking down almost the whole time, but one shot isn’t too bad.

B5847F8C-6C25-407B-9973-012B06F3D496There was a group of three men and two boys that had been patiently watching and waiting for hours – one of the boys had a ‘king of the mountains polka dot jersey on, just like his hero – and it was quite funny because as soon as Alaphillipe passed they left!  Didn’t even wait for the top 10 to come by.


Froome got booed as he passed – he’s not getting a very good reception here in France, and others on the team aren’t being that well received either.  Dumoulin did well – he won the day, but still only placed second overall to Gerrant Thomas, Froome’s team mate on team Sky.


B154A8C5-49B3-48D7-9F8C-10732EED2629We headed back to the campground, then decided to go out for dinner.  The road into Souraide was still closed from the race so we went north instead to Ustaritz, and was the going ever slow.  Many people were leaving, although a surprising number stayed where they were – they were having parties on the side of the road here and there almost the whole way to the town.  

51607FAA-BF79-464E-A5B6-5A7DA184F96FWe had a wonderful seafood-of-the-day dinner at Restaurant Du Labourd in Ustaritz.  It was a lovely place – we arrived just after 7:00 and were told that dinner service didn’t start until 7:30 so we sat outside and had a drink first.  The chef and some of the staff were at another table having their dinner before they got to work.593C6D66-A193-4730-A693-F81405CE1754