Sunday, June 28, 2009


Thursday, July 1st, 2004 Santillana del Mar

We’re here in Santillana del Mar on the coast of Spain. We’ve spent six hours today driving along the Atlantic Ocean heading east. A beautiful day; about half of it was on two lane highway with an occasional passing lane and the last half on divided highway of two lanes in each direction. The scenery varied from coastal views to open plains to steep mountains. The bridges that they build here to span the valleys are breathtakingly beautiful; especially when you are driving on top of them.

We arrived at Parador de Santillana our home for the night and found it to located in a very old, small village near the ocean about twenty four km a3way from the large city of Santander. After checking out the village we found a Cafeteria run by an English family that could muster up hot soup for Jim and a mixed salad with meat and tuna for me; and, all before 6 pm. Good thing we enjoy eating light meals in the evening. Our breakfast at the hotel each morning is definitely our big meal. She said most of her business comes from Americans and English tourists who are looking for an early evening meal. She was a pleasure to chat with while we enjoyed our food. We were her only customers at the time so we heard the family history of how they arrived in this small town in Spain.

Friday, July 2nd: Bilbao and Argomaniz, Spain

On the road early towards Argomaniz, a hamlet just east of the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Its claim to fame is that Napoleon rested here in the Palace (now a Parador Hotel) on his way to fight a battle. On the way we passed through Bilbao and made a stop to see the famous new Guggenheim Museum designed by the American Architect Frank Gehry who also designed the new Disney Philharmonic Music Hall in Los Angeles. It is a huge titanium tile-clad building, looking like a huge silvery Cubist fish per our travel book guru Rick Steves. Whatever, it was truly amazing and well worth the trip into the city and time it took to find the site. We knew that it was near the port area and kept heading that way until we found it! Housing only modern art we elected to view the outside and leave.

Back on the road towards our hotel where we registered and then hit the highway again to find the Camino de Santiago trail that we had not done. Last week we started at Logrono on our way west to Santo Domingo. This time we drove south to Logrono and headed east towards Pamplona using the old road. In Los Arcos we actually drove the trail for about a mile….rather dusty but fun. It was just wide enough for our car. The topography of this area is amazing when you think that people regularly walk or ride bicycles in this terrain for days at a time. I’m talking mountain after mountain that they go over. This is definitely not for the weak of heart! Saw one very interesting couple, they were walking; he was pulling a wheeled cart (similar to a golf cart caddy) behind him using a harness. She was leisurely walking behind him without any type of backpack; probably part of her agreement was that he would carry all the gear!

Several hours later we arrived in Pamplona, another very large city. Our quest was to find the bullring and surrounding area. We knew it was near the old part of the city and kept heading in that direction. Finally spotted it, found parking across the street and had fun walking the area and taking photos. Lots of memorabilia and statutes of Hemingway dot the area. Offered to take a photo for a couple and found they were from Texas. Shared travel tales for a few minutes before heading down the street where the bulls run! The barriers are being set up, as this event is only a week away. Many of the stores have boarded up their windows and doors in preparation for the event. We had a light dinner (one of the ham and cheese or cheese and ham sandwiches at a bar) before heading back towards the hotel. We took the fast way home! I think we’re going to just relax tomorrow. We have two nights at this hotel before heading north into France.

On the way home tonight we went into the large nearby city of Vitoria-Gasteiz and looked around. Just another large city but we will probably go back tomorrow to find a church with a Saturday night Mass. Also want to get the car washed before going north to France. The final soccer game will be on Sunday between Greece and Portugal; but then the Tour de France is starting on Sunday so we’re never without something to watch on the television at night!

Saturday, July 3rd: A day of rest!

We enjoyed a leisurely morning around the hotel. Glad we were not driving this morning as the fog was very thick until after 10 am. We’ve decided to take a day off and had fun watching the preparations for a large wedding reception here at our hotel. They set up a special private dining room for us to have our lunch as the main dining room was being used for the wedding reception. It started out on the lawn about 2 pm and continued until nearly 9 pm.

We’d planned to go into Vitoria-Gasteiz about 6 pm to find the church and hopefully a Mass at 8 pm. But, Jim found that they were televising the first day of the Tour de France live starting about 4 pm. Needless to say, we didn’t leave for town until after the last rider came in. Lance Armstrong was the last one off the blocks and he placed second by two seconds. This was a six-kilometer time trial so it was rather short.

We left the hotel about 7:15 pm. We’d gone into town last night to find a church but hadn’t found one that had the Mass times posted. This is a rather large town, we did have a map, but we were following the vague directions that we were given at the Information Center yesterday. She assured us that there were three churches in the old center of the city. She wasn’t sure about Mass times but we’ve found an 8 pm Mass every Saturday night since we’ve been here. They always have a Rosary prior to the Mass. We arrived in town, found the City Centre, parked in the same garage as last night and headed for the nearest church steeple. God was watching out for us as we opened the door and they were just finishing the Rosary.

We’re back at the hotel; Jim is watching reruns of the time trials that were held in Belgium this morning. The Tour de France race will be in Belgium for the first three day before heading into the northeast corner of France. I’m sitting in the open window with my feet up watching the sun getting ready to set as I type on my computer. It’s now 9:40 pm and the sun will probably set about 10 pm. The flies fly in and out…no window screens in Europe. We have the afternoon sun and with no air conditioning there is no question as to whether or not we have the windows open. So far no mosquitoes; but we expect them in France. The view is mostly of fields in various stages; a large lake in the distance, mountain ranges surrounding the whole area; the large town of Vitoria-Gasteiz to the southwest and twenty or so small villages that each surround a church. The churches are only buildings as they only have Mass at the large ones in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Tomorrow we head north and enter France just south of Biarritz. Plan to stop to see the famous beaches before continuing north for a night in St. Emillon in the Bordeaux Region where we enjoyed several days during a previous trip in 2002.

For those who’d like to learn more about the 2004 Tour de France you can check the following website for more information:

That will get you in the mood for the 2009 race that starts this year on July 4th in Monaco!


Mary said...

Oh so enjoyed reading the blog.
A young man, Joseph who plays the violin at our church, is doing the Camino de Santiago walk this summer.
check your July 1st where Jim orders a bowl of hot soap !!!.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to reading your blog.. it reminded me to set up our DVR to record the race next weekend. Also found that they are having a special at 2 today on Lance doing the race in 2001. This is all on the VS network.