It’s not raining and only has once or twice in Spain….just had to use that title! Actually we saw our first snow of the year in Burgos on January 16. It was beautiful…..but only lasted a few minutes.
We just wanted to mention how much we love traveling by train. It’s wonderful! You arrive 15 minutes before your departure, no worries about security or liquids, lots of room for your luggage in the overhead, plenty of leg room, and work space. We just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. Sometimes they serve beverages and/or have a cafeteria car. Fantastic! We just ordered our second Eurail pass for France.
Joe did an awesome job authoring the first four days of this posting; I just threw in an odd comment here and there. Love that we both work on this now!
Tuesday, Jan 13 – Ponferrada, Spain
Had a relaxing 3 hour train ride from Santiago into Ponferrada today. This is our first of three cities in northern Spain we are going through on our way into France. Ponferrada is a surprisingly big city that is also steeped in history and unbeknown to us, is a major stop on the Camino de Compostela we spoke of last blog. Found some Tapas close by for lunch – then a rare treat of Pizza for dinner and a quiet night. Hotel is about 10 minute walk from the old city and guess what – another castle!
This is guy was creepy after awhile.
Wednesday, Jan 14
Decided to check out the old town today and walked around the plazas until we came to a huge old castle. Turns out this is the Castillo de los Templarios – a castle of the Templar Knights of history and legend. The castle was donated to the Knights Templar in 1178 for protecting the pilgrims who were making the journey to Santiago.
The old foundation of the original castle is still standing and it was pretty cool to see where the Knights actually lived. The Castle is amazing and we have many great pics to share.
View of Ponferrada from the castle:
We saw several of the Scallop design signs for the pilgrims to follow to Santiago.
Followed the castle tour with a visit to a local street market where vendors were selling mostly clothes…too bad our luggage has no room for add ons..there were some good bargains. (All those little tents):
Had a great beer and tapas at a restaurant nearby. Dinner was at another tapas bar in the old town….can’t get enough of the great food in Spain.
This Manger Scene was in a bakery window – background is all bread!
Thursday, Jan 15 – Burgos, Spain
After a very pleasant 3 hour train ride to Burgos we arrived at our hotel and discover another old town and an unbelievable Cathedral.
LOVE this beautiful hotel. It is our third AC Hotel (no frills Marriott) and this one is gorgeous inside. The chain has a couple of weird things like golf ball soap and fogged glass bathroom doors that provide no privacy whatsoever, but they are around $80 with breakfast included so they are a bargain. (PT)
This is our view:
Did a walk about the old town:
Saw the outside of Cathedral D Burgos which is massive and decided to wait a day to tour it.
I have a thing for the cool statues in these towns:
Many restaurants in the old town. Had beer, wine, 2 tapas for a total bill of 4€. Good deals on meals.
Friday, Jan 16
Today we saw SNOW for the first time on our trip. It was a cold windy day, probably felt worse than it was because we have been spoiled with good weather most of the way. Old town walk:
Burgos is the home town of Rodrigo de Vivar. – also known as El Cid! You may recall the 1961 movie El Cid with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. EL Cid was a famous military leader and general who had many conquests – he is famous in Spain. In the movie -after he died in battle – his men secured him to his horse – and he rides into battle again. The enemy thinks they are dealing with a ghost and flee. This is a Hollywood treatment of a legend – probably created from how El Cid’s widow rode into Burgos with his body. His tomb is in the Cathedral and a major statue of him is in the square. Great history!
Toured the incredible Burgos Cathedral today…awesome and magnificent come to mind. Built in 884 – it very ancient and very impressive. Too many details to talk about – but enjoy some of the pictures.
Interestingly Burgos is also on the Camino to Santiago. We saw several of the Scallop design signs giving direction.
Lunch was paella at a cool little place on the plaza. Dinner was at a packed Tapas Bar Casa Pancho where all the locals come to eat and enjoy food and drinks and good times. We had a blast at the stand up bar and sampled many new delicacies. A great night.
Saturday, Jan 17 – Burgos to Bilbao, Spain (back to Paula for awhile)
The Spanish countryside was so beautiful on the train from Burgos to Bilbao:
The train station had this amazing, massive stained glass wall in Bilbao:
We had a hotel in Bilbao that is directly across from the Guggenheim Museum. Our room was beautiful with some unique artsy features:
And a bathroom porntoon:
Explored the neighborhood and had a nice lunch:
This evening the dining out scene was nothing like we had experienced. There were 100′s of people everywhere – the restaurants were so busy, no tables inside or out nor was there room at the tapas bars. I found it a little overwhelming. Saturday is a big night out here for sure.
Sunday, Jan 18
The Breakfast room at this hotel is in the 7th floor and overlooks the museum – fantastic view!
We tried to get some future transportation in order so walked our asses off to the train station, bus station and then back to train station. Some communication issues so we are pretty much winging the next leg of our trip. Fingers crossed.
Nothing is open on Sunday here! We were hard pressed to find a lunch spot. Walked through a lovely park on the way home:
The rain convinced us to dine at the hotel tonight and then we enjoyed a glass of wine in the funky bar:
Monday, Jan 19
We decided to hike up the bridge and hillside that has been calling us from the window. It’s been a long time since our last hike and we loved it. There were some pretty serious rain clouds but lucky we only got hit with a little hail.
It was cool to be up where we could see the storm moving through the city:
We could only walk around the Museum grounds today, as it was closed:
We had been having a little back and forth communication with the hotel about the Expedia Gold Member perks we didn’t receive at check in but they corrected it nicely today. Room service knocked on the door with bottle of champagne and macaroons, and an apology letter with an offer to move us to a room with view of museum!! Since we are master packers, we decided to move and it was cool!
But about the bathroom…first it has a different porntoon
and a huge tub with a shower on a wooden platform; so the water drains through the floor. But it’s the bathroom window…the blinds were closed in the last room; this one they are open. From the bedroom area, you can see clear through….to the toilet. So the only place we normally have a tiny bit of privacy, you can see and hear each other quite clearly. Remember, we have been married almost 35 years but when you spend 24/7 together for 5 months, the bathroom is normally a retreat…
Tuesday, Jan 20
We decided to Hike again this morning and then took in the Guggenheim Museum. We saw some interesting pieces but seriously, even with open minds, there were many WTF moments here. Art critics, we are not.
I was amazed to see this Spider statue here as had seen the same one during a visit to see our friends the Yandon’s in Ottawa many years ago. It is called Maman and there are 5 or 6 of them in the world.
Tonight we said goodbye to Spain. We truly enjoyed it here – loved the food, people and beautiful scenery. Amazing time!!!
Wednesday, Jan 21 – Spain to France
Took the bus to Bayonne, France then train into Toulouse. Total traveling time about 7.5 hours.
Boarded the 1st class car of the train and found it empty except for this fellow.
Few others later joined us but it was pretty much empty and quiet.
However, it was an eerie feeling when, after one stop on the route, four French Policemen, in civilian clothes with ‘Police’ armbands, joined our train car. One officer was clearly displaying his bullet proof vest and gun. And they selected the seats directly in front of US. We think they may have walked the length of the train to show the new heightened security is real in France? Not sure though. Next stop, they were gone. Interesting….
Such beautiful, snowcapped mountains. Joe thinks they are the Pyrenees. Hard to get good window shots today:
Prebooked France trips :
Toulouse to Marseille
Marseille to Lyon
We are thinking of going from Lyon into Geneve, Switzerland but haven’t decided 100% on that as is very expensive. However, if we ask oursleves if we will regret not going over a few extra 100€, the answer would be yes. Not sure if we will be back that way in the last quarter so have a few days to ponder…..
The language switches are very confusing. We went from Spanish to Portuguese back to Spanish and now French. Not sure what to say anymore !
Hope you are well and thanks again for following along with us – we enjoy your company!!
Paula and Joe