It was a sunny day when we left Wexford for Rosslare and the ferry to Roscoff,France on the 29th August. The weather deteriorated rapidly by the
time we got to the ferry in Rosslare with strong winds and we had a 2-3metre swell when we got into the Irish sea and then into the Atlantic.
We had a very comfortable cabin on the Irish Ferries “Oscar Wilde” but couldn’t really go out on deck as we were rolling
a bit and pitching a lot and had to take hold of the grab rails to venture anywhere. It was a strange feeling diving into a wave and not knowing how far down the ship would go before it came up again! The couple of gin and tonics I had made for a good night’s sleep
but Maurice kept hearing the alarms and horns of the cars in the decks far below which were disrupted by the movement.
We arrived in Roscoff to 21degrees and for the first few kilometres we drove with large fields of artichokes, some just planted
and some with bright purple bulbs on both sides of the road. We stopped for lunch at one of the nicely appointed “Aires” with picnic tables and large grassed area.
We decided to take the tolled highway which cost us about 13euros for two hours of travel.
It took us about 5hours from Roscoff to La Rochelle where we spent the night in a well maintained campsite near the sea called “Au Petit Pont de L’Houmeau”. We did want to stop and explore La Rochelle with it’s beautiful limestone buildings but again could not find a parking spot. The town was teeming with people and traffic so we decided to go on to the campsite and get up early the next morning and try again.
We were in the centre of town before 9am on the Sunday and the town was practically deserted which made for easy parking and a pleasant walk around for about an hour and a good coffee in a lovely little cafe. By the time we left after 10am the town was waking up. The three and a half hours to Biarritz via Bordeaux went quickly on the highway which was a toll road with little traffic. To get down to Biarritz from La Rochelle was a total of 37.30 euros for about four hours driving.
We passed many field of spent sunflowers and autumn was upon some areas with the trees changing colour from green to yellows and browns.

The further south we went the warmer it became. We found a parking spot very quicly in Biarritz where most people seemed to
be at the beach either surfing, sunbaking or just paddling. It was a very much a seaside resort with many hotels, eateries
and a casino. We had a coffee and a walk around the town for a couple of hours before proceeding down the local winding
coast road and into Spain to Orio seaside campsite about 17kms past San Sebastian. I almost felt like taking a dip in the
ocean as I still had my heavy jeans and fleecy shirt on from the morning and was feeling rather warm – such a pleasant feeling!

We woke to a bit of mist which cleared into a beautiful blue sky and 26 degrees. We left Van Mauriceson at the campsite
we caught the train into the city of Donostia – San Sebastian. What a lovely seaside city and with so much atmosphere. A lot
of historic and older stylish apparment buildings overlooking a beautiful bay. After our obligatory morning coffee we
strolled around the old part of town with it’s many bars laden with Pintxos (snacks or tapas of every kind laid out on the
counters of the various bars and cafes) which looked most appealing.
We had to try some so went to a couple of the bars who also served cider with aplomb pouring it from on high and getting it into a glass. The prices seemed very reasonable with 4 pintxos and 2coffees costing 10 euros.
There were thousands of people at the seaside (but we only saw a couple of real swimmers) and their numbers swelled as the
day wore on. We decided to take to the water ourselves taking our shoes off and walking around the bay to where a few unusual sculptures were set into large boulders.
The funicular up to the top of the hill to overlook the bay and hinterland used old wooden carriages and rattled a bit on
the way up to the top. The views were spectacular and we were surprised that there were very few people there.

We had been walking (with a couple of stops for coffee and pinxtos) for about ten hours so took the bus back to town where
we walked around to the harbour and took the 40minute boat ride to see the city from the water. It was very reasonable at
9 euros and without any commentary it was a very pleasant short trip.
Walking around the bay we were very surprised to see at least eight sets of twins from babies in prams to toddlers.
We thought that there might have been a twins convention as it did seem strange to see so many in the one place.
We were reluctant to leave the city so stayed at the harbour and ate some paella and fresh fish at one of the little restaurants at the fishing harbour.

An early start saw us drive over the mountains where vast roadworks, bridge construction and new tunnels were taking shape.
Some of the trip was on the highway and the only toll we paid was 1.53euros – a pittance compared with the tolls in France and the roads were just as good if not better.

There seemed to be no evidence since we arrived in Spain (at least on this coast) of the poor state of the economy. We saw
no empty shops and the locals were all well dressed and frequenting the bars and restaurants in the area.
On our way around the coast we passed many enormous factories as we travelled through the basque Asturias region.
We drove down to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim museum which is an amazing structure and in a wonderful setting by the river. Bilbao is a vast city and stretches up the hillsides on both sides of the river.

We chose a campsite from our ACSI camping guide and it was as spectacular as it looked in the picture. “Camping La Paz” near
Llanes halfway between Santander and Gijon was high up on a cliff overlooking the ocean and there was also a lovely sandy beach. At 17 euros a night it was a steal!

We set off the next morning towards Santiago de Compostela stopping along the way for our morning coffee in Mondodeno, a lovely little village with a vast cathedaral. The coffee in Spain so far has been much smoother and not as bitter as in a lot of other European countries.
We got supplies from a great little “supermercado” there which was a sort of large pastie with tuna, onions and capsicum – delicious.

The most prolific trees along the north and west coast were Australian blue gums which made us feel right at home.

We left the province of Asturias and made our way into Galicia and down to Santiago de Compostela to where a lot of pilgrims had arrived on foot. We cheated and drove there instead.
The cathedral was undergoing renovations and the town didn’t seem to have a lot more to offer for tourists apart from eating
places and hotels.

We left there and found our campsite near Muros on the Atlantic coast where the family running the place where very friendly.
We ate there that night and had such a huge mixed fresh fish platter that we had to take lots back to the van to finish off the next day.
I felt as though I was getting a cold (God knows where it came from when all we had was fresh sea air??) so we had a a lay day and booked some flights, paid some bills and generally caught up on things. I made a big pot of curried vegetables with chillies so that helped the cold a bit.

We left the next morning to make our way down to Portugal,a
country that we wanted to explore.

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