Saturday, June 25, 2011

Spain Part II Cartagena through Bizkaia

Since blogger is giving me a hard time, I will have to do this in 2 posts as well as post it all in reverse so that it posts chronologically so that I can remember exactly what each place is... (part 1 consisting of the rest of the Alicante area will follow in another post)

One of our last days in Alicante we took a short trip to Cartagena. We in NO WAY did this city justice with our 1/2 day visit. It was beautiful (anyway... it was after we managed to get "unlost" and meander out of the less-than-desirable part of town). Below are photos of the garden around the Main castle in Cartagena.

This watchtower was out in the main area in front of the castle.

The castle was surrounded by these trees that grew branches towards the ground that eventually became roots. Jenny and I thought that these were pretty cool.
No trip to Europe could be complete without stopping to eat lunch at a cafe/bar alongside the main pedestrian area of town.
Here we are at the table (which was conveniently cut out by our confident photographer.)
A little drink served European style (small volume. One... never 2 ice cubes. Stirred not
And just like no trip to Europe could ever be complete without stopping at a curbside cafe/bar, no trip to Espana could be complete without the tortilla paisana sandwich (Pamplona chorizo, peas, potatoes, onion, jamon serrano, salt, egg, and... LOTS OF OLIVE OIL). Jenny fell in love.
After lunch and taking a paseo around Cartagena for a little while (and, perhaps getting a little frustrated with the Spanish mediodia with everything closed when we were on a short timetable... but we won't go there... it's a love-hate thing) we headed east to the coast. We found the perfect little route down the cliffs to the shoreline and decided to do some exploring.
We were greeted with the most wonderful sea life like the following jellyfish Then we saw this red-jelly blob thing...
We meandered around and found another nice area. There were crabs (no... not the contagious kind... well... not here anyway... we have already discussed those...) and other abundant sea life here. Here is a hermit crab.

Here is the route that we used to get down the cliff.
We stopped by this mill-house in the outskirts of Santa Pola on the way back to Alicante.
Jenny totally lucked out... in the evening I decided to back off a bit which allowed her to "get a real vacation" and read a couple (yes...2) books.
Our last day in Alicante we stopped here at the Main Market in Alicante. These are her favorite. All of the fresh meat and veggies and other homemade goods made her go crazy. My interest was also piqued when I found out that this building was 1 of 2 areas that Generalisimo Franco allowed Hitler to bomb to allow him to prepare for the bombing of the UK.
So the next day we left Alicante for a few days in Bilbao. I had been excited to get to Spain and we had a great time in the south, but I have had an indescribable longing to return to Basque country in the north where I was a missionary for 2 years about 11 years ago. Not to get all mushy-gushy but there is a part of me that has become irreversibly connected with the area and the people there. I love it. Anyway... upon arrival, I ran Jenny over to the Butron castle. This castle used to have a tour for visitors and was one of the most impressive castles inside and out that I had seen in Spain. Unfortunately, instead of tour guides we were greeted by these sheep and their shepherd and several keep out signs. Apparently there are no longer tours of the castle...
Here it is... the Butron Castle. Big and majestic.
The bridge across the moat was a bit overgrown but still offered a glimpse of life in a different era.
After hitting up the castle, we ran up to the Artxanda Funicular Park overlooking the city of Bilbao, Spain. Just behind Jenny the Guggenheim Museum can be seen.
This stained glass window at the Bilbao train station was one of my favorites in Spain. It goes a long way towards displaying the rich culture and heritage of the Basque people.
Below is the Guggenheim museum and the infamous sculpture of "Puppy." (Pronounced "Poopy" for those who need some educomation)
Our Hotel just outside of Bilbao in Sondika, Spain.
These benches (and the residual stains of puddles beneath them) are the famous benches that my mother and grandmother Ogden were sitting on for 1-2 hours impatiently awaiting my arrival at the end of my 2 year mission in Spain. It is kind of funny how places can bring back those emotions of being re-united after a long time. It really seems just like it was yesterday.

The view off the balcony of our hotel. 1800's and agrarian.
The following morning we started our tour of Basque country. The first place on our list (which should be the first place on everyone's list!!!!!!!) Was San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. (the "tx" is pronounced like "ch"). THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES ON EARTH. NO EXAGGERATION. We were duped into taking the "long route" consisting of a several mile (well... several horizontal miles and a vertical mile) hike. Here was the trail head...

Here she is... isn't she beautiful??? After another 20 minutes of hiking we were here... Jenny and I were alone, the morning sun was slowly working its was up in the eastern sky. The rhythmic pulsing whoosh of the waves on both sides of the peninsular walkway gave way to white mists as the waves crashed into the towering rocks. The cool breeze carried the vapors of the soaring mists onto our faces invigorating us... or something like that... maybe... kinda... sorta...Words really can't describe the serene beauty there... LOVE IT.

After hiking up the ~250 stairs... "Welcome"
A charitable contribution placard for the congregation.
The eastern facade of the chapel.
Had to tell Jenny not to drink this water...
Remember that morning sun bit earlier? Here is a photo of the sun peeking through the clouds over the bay.
"Ring my bell..."
Here I am pulling on the bell rope.
Jenny needed to take a pit stop at the "W.C."
Inside the "W.C." was a hole that went through the floor and out the side of the cliff into the sea. Yes... on the right that is toilet paper tied to the sturdy squatting support bars. I have no idea how Jenny managed to use this but the proof is in the hole... a wad of paper and a surprise... I'm just kidding about that whole Jenny story but really this is the bathroom and it really drops off the cliff into the sea... nice...
This must be San Juan's footprint... It says so in the concrete anyway...
Remember that waves crashing against the rocks thing... there you go...
The hike back down the 250 stairs off the peninsula.
Beautiful vineyard near the San Juan trailhead. Too bad Mr all thumbs decided to fingerprint-up the camera lens...
There's the better half who was "walking for 2" getting some refreshment after our strenuous hike. She was really a sport.
Has anybody ever felt like this before? Does anyone else have children? We were in a small Basque pueblo and saw this guy using this ass to pull a large tire. It refused. He whipped it a few times. It backed up a bit. He whipped in again. It backed up again. Finally things got moving again. Jenny and I thought the whole encounter was rather enjoyable.
Jenny might very well photoshop my face on this picture and post it in a separate post before you finish reading this post... (This was another donkey in a small Basque pueblo. Again, agrarian. 1800's. Beautiful.
This monument is in Gernika, Spain. The tree contained in the monument is what was left after Gernika was bombed by Hitler (like Alicante) with Generalisimo Franco's permission to practice for the UK bombing campaign.
Provincial office seal in Gernika, Bizkaia, Spain.
This is for the Chambers. While cruising from pueblo to pueblo we happened on a bicycle race. It must have been the "tour de something or other." Traffic was frequently stopped and we got stuck behind riders (with police and team vehicles and the Red Cross) in many areas during the day.
The harbor at Leikito, Spain.
Pretty pink building in Leikito.
Signage in the Basque language. Rustic.
Our travels took us over to San Sebastian, or as the locals call it Donostia. Below is one of the lighthouses that marks the entrance to the bay.
Cool sculpture at the point of entrance to the bay.
Below is part of the Castle overlooking San Sebastian. The flag that is flying proudly is the Basque flag.
While traveling with a pregnant female, you become adept at finding prompt bathroom access. Usually this involves finding a bathroom in a bar which hopefully has toilet paper or can flush. In San Sebastian we lucked out. These babies are free and seal themselves and steam clean after each use. They also dry themselves. They are 100% stainless steel and come with an optional entertainment system (maybe not the entertainment system...) They are perfect for the pregnant peanut bladder.
The old part of San Sebastian was very enjoyable. It was like taking a step back in time. Clean, beautiful, and ornate.
This is "La Concha," the main beach in San Sebastian. We couldn't zoom in too close or the images might become offensive... It was a beautiful beach.

On Sunday I really gave in to a guilty pleasure... We took off for Logrono to see some familiar faces and places. I lived here for 4.5 months during that 2 year stretch. We loved seeing friends in Logrono and seeing the city. With time comes a tendency to picture things in a static state. How they changed. How the people had changed. Mostly for the better too. The old part of town was and still is a jewel. Family friendly, busy, & serene. Even on a Sunday afternoon.

Plaza in Logrono.
Yes... she is threatening me... She even delivered a punch or 2. 100% unprovoked. Nobody in their right mind would ever consider a loving "good game" or 12 in public with a spectator or 2 around grounds for a punch. I'm the victim here... Truth be told... I love the fight in her and I enjoy provoking it sometimes... ok... often.
Of course Logrono is in La Rioja which is famous for its vineyards and wine. We were driving through these vineyards when a violent storm ran through. The contrasting colors were beautiful.
On our last day in Spain we were a little worse for the wear but we were determined to make the most of things. We headed back to the coast to Armintza, Spain.
There were abundant tide pools with beautiful green vegetation and abundant crustacean life.
The outer walls of the harbor give way to the cliffs above.
A 1-clawed crab that we found scurrying sideways along the way near the tide pools. There were thousands of crabs each clicking their claws as they ran around.
My boatE.
Jenny's Hair Salon Franchise. Thanks for being a sport and posing dear...
Got lost while looking for a lighthouse and found this stable.
This picture of a solitary elderly man sitting on a bench in the park is one of the many images that I carry in my minds eye of Spain.
A quaint gate to a patio in a small pueblo.
A little Basque separatist bit for the rebel in all of us...
Modern pedestrian bridge in Plentzia.
Mmmmm.... chorizo de Pamplona sandwich with manchego cheese
A fronton where the men play handball, a traditional basque game.
No trip to Spain would ever be complete without pastries. Here is a chocolate-covered palmier (palmera) for Jenny.
Here is a rice pudding pastry for me. This is a traditional Basque pastry.
A lighthouse in Getxo.
Old mansions along the bay in Getxo. (One of dozens...)
The Puente Colgante (hanging bridge) connecting Getxo to Las Arenas (I think). This is where Jenny almost lost her lunch. She started getting sick around the lighthouse 2 photos ago (and 30 minutes ago by this time). Belly pain and nausea. No vomiting. The rest of the day was a long one for her. She was a trooper, however, and kept up with her demanding, slave-driver husband.

The following morning we began the long trip back to reality. We were both ready to leave. Oddly enough, however, I will still miss the place. Hasta entonces, agur.


Kourtni said...

How cool is that?! Looks like you guys had a fantastic time!

Mom said...

Thanks for sharing your trip it brings back great memories!You can make fun of me and your Grandma forever! The benches brought a huge smile on my face and you told me there was a puddle under it!