Week 181 September 16, 2017

After resting up and looking around a bit in Santiago this week, Loren and I were on the move again in Spain. Somehow, we booked a flight to Bilbao, through Barcelona… In retrospect we flew clear across the country, and, nearly all the way back in the process. What a lesson in planning we have learned. However, the kicker was that my backpack did not show up in Bilbao. It was my turn, given that Loren had had the same experience on arriving in Marrakech, Morocco last July. So, we filed the necessary paperwork and received their apologies in a letter in English. As we left I kept my fingers crossed…
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As is often the case but usually left unsaid we need to express our thanks to family and friends who contribute ideas of where to go and what to see. This week especially, family and friends come to mind in that we briefly visited Bilbao – only long enough to see the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum that was recommended. It is unique, extremely different from my 30+ memories of the New York City site. Guggenheim architecture brought a bizarre, quaint redesign to a former unattractive part of this town. For some reason, I could not stop thinking of Bilbo in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit while we were there…
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From Bilbao we went to the amazing Picos de Europa mountains, again recommended to us. As I drove the meandering then winding landscape, it elicited such remarks from Loren as “charming,” “picturesque,” “scenic,” and “spectacular,” for the beaches, valleys and mountains we passed. As dusk turned dark, he added several “Wow!” exclamations for the discernible outlines of pyramidal peaks and narrow canyons. We are so glad that we chose to visit this area for a few days to see more of it during daylight.
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I had written recently on this blog of how, when we were in Portugal’s Duoro region, I could not shift out of second gear for the curves in the roads. This week I must report that I could barely shift out of first gear for some of the mountainous turns in the Picos! One day we drove high up in the area, and, after a picnic lunch we took a leisurely hike in the vast mountains.
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We found ourselves among cows, mules and donkeys, not far from herds of sheep and some goats. We visited a refugio – pronounced re-few–hee-oh, for a refreshing drink, where we learned the name of one young donkey is Pepa, and that she is a señorita. After checking out the interior of the refugio, she decidedly checked us out! Loren and I had first encountered a refugio in Italy with our friends near Verona, where it is pronounced re-few-gee-oh. As Pepa trotted off again, it was entertaining to see her kick up her hind heels. By that evening we had heard nothing from the airline about my backpack. They said it could take 48 hours…
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The next day we started out early in the morning by foot for a strenuous hike. We had a time limit – to meet up with a tour company at the far end of the canyon for a 4 wheel drive excursion through farm roads in the area. Loren and I pushed ourselves about halfway through to the end to make our commitment, only to find that the tour had been rescheduled for a 45 minute later departure.
We appreciated the frequently heard Spanish advice, tranquillo – relax, and indulged in a beer with our hiking boots off while we waited. That evening there was still no word from the airline at our hostal, and we were all set to get help with calling them after dinner since it was now more than 48 hours, but, to my delight, during dinner we had the good news that my bag would arrive by 10pm. Bueno! Good! Thankfully just as in Morocco we had stayed in the same area long enough for it to be found and delivered.
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Our last full day in the Picos was spent driving around the area, which included seeing a cave chapel and taking a short hike.
Today on leaving, we took take the return long beautiful drive towards Bilbao, mainly in rain or heavy clouds, to spend the night closer to the airport for an early morning flight to southern Spain. We took photos at the lovely beach of Orinon, then, after stopping in Castro Urdiales to see if we could have a massage but found the place closed for a holiday, we drove on to San Sebastian. We still had too little time there to walk the promenade or take a boat ride to Santa Clara island to hike, which is right in the harbor, so this is yet another place that I hope we might return to someday…
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