Vigo and beyond

6th August 2013

Looking back over my emails from this time I see this is the point I started looking around for a tour to join. I still hadn’t recovered well from my bouts of sickness that started in Paris and I think home-sickness was playing a large part in my feeling a bit lost.

The train journey from San Sebastián to Vigo passed through fields of what may have been wheat or barley and looked just like home at times, then I spotted the towers, so not Australia, lol. It’s fascinating to wonder why the train lines run where they do, sometimes almost on the beach, or running along a river and other times through small hills instead of around them. This trip was particularly interesting, farmland, mountains, a river with pretty garden plots, and a dam with its gates open.

Perfect weather in Vigo Spain

Perfect weather in Vigo Spain

I wandered aimlessly around Vigo for a day or so while trying to decide where to go and what to do next.All the same, it’s a pretty city and I was never lost for new and unusual things to keep me interested.I stayed near the waterfront quite close to the old part of the city, the cruise liner docks and even a shopping centre – the first one I’ve seen for weeks!

Jules Verne riding an octopus in Vigo Spain

Jules Verne riding an octopus in Vigo Spain

Did you know that Jules Verne set a part of his book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in the Bay of Vigo and he visited the city in 1878 on his yacht? Neither did I, but there’s a fantastic statue commemorating this on the waterfront!

The architecture is a mix, with huge ornate gothic looking buildings along side plain square block of offices and apartments. I saw several  unusual building details too, they looked like closed in Juliette balconies or window seats. I just love all the little quirky things you see, like a derelict building with a few of its outside wooden blinds still hanging as if new, or an old building finding a new purpose in life and still retaining its original gorgeous and unique features.

Loving this building in Vigo

Loving this building in Vigo

I sat and sketched in the gardens, watched a guy in the plaza entertaining kids with a bubble blowing contraption made from two sticks with a piece of rope tied to each end and a bucket of water and soap suds, and googled tours endlessly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My gateway to Spain – Donostia San Sebastian

4th August 2013

Decided to spoil myself with a first class ticket on the TGV to San Sebastian as a few of the trains I’ve been on lately have been really crowded and noisy but not in a nice way.

Ahha, I'm in Spain!

Ahha, I’m in Spain!

Somewhere along the line a nice young Irish guy made his way into the almost empty carriage and was in for a good old chat. We were having a lovely time until the ticket person came along and evicted him for lack of the correct class of ticket! Poor guy, he had to go  back to the pleb carriages!!

The stop at  Irun was  a matter of follow everyone else and hope for the best. I didn’t realize but it was the border crossing because I was herded to what I thought was a ticket office, made to produce my passport and get waved on after a really perfunctory glance.

La Zurriola Beach in the late afternoon glow

La Zurriola Beach in the late afternoon glow

Parts of the journey took me along the coast which was easy to take and left me wishing I could stop for a while.  I also found it amazing how the architecture changed quite dramatically as soon as we were in Spain, the overall style of buildings was very different within just a few kilometers. My hotel was just a few streets away from the train station (getting clever!) so I had no trouble finding Pension Ondarra which was rather chic,  modern and in a great spot.

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

I thoroughly enjoyed my couple of days in San Sebastian, explored the beach close by, Zurriola, which is massive and full of people, young and old, playing games, surfing and generally hardly sitting still for a minute. Walked across the bridge to the old town centre and the more famous ones at La Concha Bay and marveled at finding such beautiful beaches only steps from the city and it’s grand old buildings. It surely must have the best in-city beaches anywhere in the world.

There was a great little bar just across from my hotel so pintxo and mojitos were my new favourites although I heard a gin-tonic is a San Sebastian specialty  – maybe I’ll have to go back again to try them!

 

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Winery tour from Bordeaux

3rd August 2013

Up early today for my winery tour, I’m pretty excited to be spending the day seeing around the countryside and villages, wine tasting, and of course spending time with people! The town is very quiet early, streets nearly devoid of people and shops all closed and shuttered, a totally different feel to yesterday.

Early morning Bordeaux, not a town of early risers!

Early morning Bordeaux, not a town of early risers!

There was only about a dozen people on the bus, different nationalities and all pretty quiet for the first half of the day. We made stops at a few different wineries and had lunch outdoors at one of the most picturesque. The buildings and furnishings were gorgeous, the owners were so very generous with their time and opening parts of their homes to these tourist buses. The people seem friendlier and more open here than anywhere else I’ve been in France, maybe it’s being in the countryside.

Chateau Siaurac, Bordeaux region of France

Chateau Siaurac, Bordeaux region of France

We had a little hiccup after lunch when the bus wouldn’t start, it really broke the ice, everyone began talking after that! It was funny to watch, all the guys hunkering around the engine and making suggestions, quite a bit of gesturing going on as well.

I didn’t realize until half way through the day that we’d be going to St Emilion where Stephane from My French Heaven lives, I did message him but was too late to organize a catch up. It was great though to see his area, a very beautiful part of the world.

Chateau Siaurac, Bordeaux region of France

Chateau Siaurac, Bordeaux region of France

It really was a lovely day and to top it off I even had dinner with someone for a change! One of the guys on the tour, a nice American guy, David, asked if I’d like to share a meal afterwards. We went to one of the outdoor restaurants just around the corner from my hotel and had the worst service you could imagine! It was laughable how up himself our waiter was and that’s exactly what we did, just laughed about it. David’s young teenage daughter has a friend at school in America whose mother lives in France; she had been asked to spend a week there during the holidays so David brought her over and was spending the week in France himself and his wife was home with their son. All I could think when he told me he was a lawyer was how they have such a bad reputation in American TV shows. Just goes to show how absurd those preconceived ideas are, he was a really nice guy.

Next day I was off on the train again, this time to San Sebastion in Spain

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Bordeaux – home of the flashest Macca’s building ever!

Apparently it’s almost 6 months since I added a post – even worse, it’s just over 2 years since my big trip ended and here I am still trying to add it to my blog!

1st August 2013

Hotel Ariane, Pontorson, France

Hotel Ariane, Pontorson, France

I spent a couple of hours sketching in Pontorson before heading south for Bordeaux on the trusty trains again. Well, actually I had to go north first to Caen then south, it was a long day but thankfully still plenty of light when I arrived that evening about 6:30.

 

And………… I didn’t get lost on the way to Acanthe Hotel, Bordeaux on rue Saint-Rémi.

Talk about a good pick, great price, place and so very cute. I was just behind the Place de la Bourse with it’s Miroir d’Eau and the riverfront with lots of cafes, shops and restaurants all round, wonderful spot to spend a few days.

Place de Bourse, Bordeaux, France

Place de Bourse, Bordeaux, France

Another day, another city and another Hop-on-Hop-off bus – they really are a great way to get your bearings and scope out where you might want to spend more time. I also booked a winery tour for the next day, a tad expensive but I haven’t spent much on that sort of thing; and honestly, you can’t go to Bordeaux and not do a winery tour can you?

I loved the architecture in this city, so many grand buildings and so much history in quite a small area really. It’s not just the museums and theatres that are housed in beautiful surrounds but shops and places like the ubiquitous McDonalds.

Sketch of front of McDonalds building Bordeaux France

Sketch of front of McDonalds building Bordeaux France

Once again I walked my feet off during the first day; visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, envying those dipping their feet in the water of the fountain at the Monument de Girondins, marvelling at the Pont de Pierre and its light fittings, shaking my head at the Porte Cailhau (it was built around 1494!) and the Grosse Cloche and just generally loving wandering the streets of the city.

 

 

 

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