George Johnston: May 17th

I left Biarritz as planned and headed for Hendaya, France and Irun, Spain.  I stopped in the previous town in France and mailed some maps from England home, that I wanted to keep but didn’t want to carry. It was early in it was just lunch time and the bus of which I was aware didn’t come until late in the afternoon, so I decided to bike a little farther.  I saw a Burger King and stopped in.  When I saw the menu I realized I’d crossed the border and not noticed it.  I decided to continue to  San Sebastian, about 25 km farther.  I found a great bike trail that ran along the railroad and avoid most of the hills.  I found it to be a very attractive city with : good directions to the train and bus stations.  I checked at the train station and found there were no trains directed to Bilbo, but the agent directed me to the nearby bus station.   I found a bus leaving in a half hour for less than half of what the French bus cost.  I packed the bike and got to Bilbao quickly with no stops in route.  I thought there would be several and when everyone started getting off I had to ask where we were to be sure we had arrived.  It was a short ride to the hostel and they had beautiful new dorms.  I got a six bed room with bath and no roommates for the two days. I biked around Bilbao on the layover day and found it very interesting and attractive.  I bought a train ticket to Santiago de Compotela, as it looked like a convenient spot to start biking toward Portugal.  

The next morning I had breakfast and got to the train early.  There was only one car from Bilbao, but after a couple of stops it was joined by two more cars coming from Irun and San Sebastion.  I figured out I  could have stayed in one of the and gotten the same train, but it was nice to see Bilbao.  The train was about an hour late and I had to call the hostel to wait for me a bit past their 9:00 pm registration deadline.  The train made up a little time and I quickly got the bike set up and loaded.  I called him at nine that I was less than minutes away so he waited and was very nice.

After breakfast I went to a laundramat.  They had three machines : a small on for three euros, a mid size one for seven, and a large for nine.  The  small one was in use so I took the middle size one to save 10 minutes.  The dryer was then two euros.  It was a bit expensive for my very small load, but everything is clean to start toward Portugal tomorrow. I needed a few things so I walked over to a big mall with a Carrefour store.  I found everything closed in the mall except the movie theaters and the food court.  Everything is closed on May 17 each year for Galician Literature Day. They have a festival with traditional music and honor their writers.  I ate a Turkish style meal at the food court and walked to the city center. The whole city center is of the same architectural style of the middle ages with a huge cathedral.  It was fascinating.  I saw a man with a VT on his hat and spoke.  He asked if I knew Va Tech, and I notice he was with a man and wife I had met on the train yesterday that had worked at Tech for many years and overlapped with some that I was there. We spoke again briefly and went our ways.  I then walked around a large park on a hill that had a great view of the cathedral.  Several ladies from Belgium asked me to take a picture of them with the cathedral as a background.  They then took one for me, as as we chatted I discovered that one of them and her husband had worked in Romania for many years and we could communicate in Romanian better than Flemish or English, though her friends couldn’t follow that.  

I returned to the hostel, pleasantly surprised with a city I didn’t know: Bordeaux, Bilboa, and San Sebastion.  The weather forecast is good for tomorrow and I should get close to the Portuguese border.  The ride to Porto should be shorter the next day.  I planned my route before leaving the hostel this morning and then discovered in the city that it is a popular pilgrimage hiking and biking route, so I bought a T-shirt which has the main cities on the route shown.

I’ve having a hard time keeping up with my Facebook photo album and have gotten it to Reading, but not to Bath yet.  I think I need to find a nice spot in Porto and speed several days catching up, but I always seem to be adding more than I am getting posted.

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