Time flies when you’re seeing so many beautiful places! From Santiago in the North of Spain, the roadtrip has taken us all the way to Normandy, France! So time to tell you exactly which road we have taken to get here…
In Santiago de Compostela we found a very nice and cozy hotel (Hostal Alfonso), where we got a room with view of the Cathedral, the famous destination for many pilgrims who do the Road to Santiago by foot (and not by car like we did…). After a good night’s sleep we had a great amazing wonderful breakfast. No, we’re not exaggerating… It really was delicious: A perfectly fried egg (without any black edges), orange juice, freshly baked bread, great coffee. A wonderful start to the day! Before we checked out, we took the time to quickly have another glance at the cathedral by daylight and took some more photos. Then we picked up our car at the parking garage and drove to the hotel, where we picked up our stuff and left.
We drove via a beautiful coastal route to La Coruña. Along the coast we visited the Celtic ruins of Castro de Baroña at Porto do Son. The ruins of the fort are 2000 years old and were very interesting to see. Because of this sightseeing route, we only arrived in La Coruña at around 18.00h, without a place to stay. Well, let’s have some dinner in the car first then, with a view of the lighthouse. As we opened up the package of the potato-tortilla, the car immediately smelt worse than the sewers of Delhi… Okay… Guess that means that the tortilla is not good anymore… Brad wanted to leave it on a park bench for a stray dog or a homeless guy to eat, but Maaike decided we didn’t want to feel guilty for giving somebody food poisoning or worse! So it ended up in the bin. Left for our dinner was only some cereal and nuts. And still no place to sleep… We decided to give our navi a try and went for the nearest hotel, which really was just around the corner. Brad went into the four-star hotel and got a great deal! Only €50 for a 4 star hotel, that’s not bad! As we walked into the room, we were amazed by the space! Our room in Santiago could fit 3 times in this one! (but that one was very nice and cozy, no doubt about it!) And it had a hydro-jet bath! Maaike couldn’t resist, and after a great night’s sleep in the mega-bed, she had breakfast in the bath, with the hydro-jets on… How great is that!
We drove out of La Coruña after seeing the Hercules Tower and the old town. The Tower is from the 2nd century and named like that, because apparently Hercules had placed it there himself. Strong guy we think. It is also the oldest still working lighthouse in the world. Via the coast we drove to Playa Las Cathedrals, pancake-stacked-like rock formations carved out by the ocean, which we saw just in time before the sunset. The tide was coming in again and the waves crashed against the rocks causing a mist, which made for some great photos. Maaike liked it a lot! From the playa we drove a little back inland and found a nice cheap hotel, which was only 2 stars, but still very nice. Can’t live in 4 stars all the way!
The following day we arrived in Bilbao, where we spent two nights to see the old town and the Guggenheim museum. After checking some more information about the current exhibitions, we decided not to go inside the museum, but just to enjoy the outside, a 100 million dollar work of art. There were a few sculptures outside we got to see anyway, like a giant dog made out of flowers and plants and a huge spider, like the one from Lord of the Rings.
From Bilbao we went to San Sebastian, where we walked around the city and beach. It’s a lovely place with beautiful buildings and an interesting bay where the surfers enjoy the waves that come via the side walls of the bay. Next to San Sebastian is Hondaribbia, where the houses are so colourful and decorated, that it looks like we stepped into a painting. From this town we left Spain and drove into France.
We stopped off in Biarritz, where we watched the surfers catching huge waves and saw lots of very expensive buildings. A chateau here, a palace there, yes this was the place where the royals loved to ‘summer’. It is also called ‘La reine des plages et la plage des rois’ (the queen of the beaches and beach of the kings). Another stop that day was at Dune du Pyla, the highest sanddune in Europe, namely 110 meters above sealevel. We climbed to the top, and even saw somebody paragliding in the sea-breeze there! In December! Great! After running down the dune, we had to empty our shoes from all the sand we got in them, and even though they say that nature (wind and so) is moving the dune further inland, we think it’s because everybody is emptying their shoes behind the dune. Our last stop and sleeping place for that day was Bordeaux. The next day we went to see the cathedral and the funny gargoyles on it. One looked like it had something stuck in his throat, the other had tooth ache and a third one looked like he was a bit upset with the pigeon on his head.
We drove the next day first to Saintes, where we visited a Roman amphitheater from the first century. They started building it 40AD, and is one of the best surviving examples in France. Standing in the middle of the arena it is easy to imagine the gladiators fighting to the death in front of 20 000 spectators. That evening we went to La Rochelle, where we were drawn by the cheap prices of an F1 motel and stayed the night there. Never again we’re going to stay at an F1! We were grossed out by the shared toilets and showers and also the room wasn’t too great to stay in. The following morning we were happy to leave again. We wanted to see La Rochelle the following morning, ‘the most beautiful beach place of the Atlantic’, but the weather wasn’t playing along. It was pouring with rain and that didn’t work well with the beach-place image. We did get to see the towers of the harbor and the entrance gate of the old town, but we didn’t want to get out of the car and get soaked just to get a grey and rainy picture. This was actually the first time that the weather wasn’t on the same page as us. We have been very lucky with the weather on this entire trip! Hmm, it was probably because we left way earlier than we usually do, because our hotels are usually much nicer… From La Rochelle we drove to Carnac, where we saw menhirs (huge stones in upright position) and dolmen (tomb-like placed huge stones). No one knows who put them all there, or how, or why… We also got to find the largest menhir, one of 6 meters high, so that made for some funny Obelix-photos!
After spending the night at Saint Malo, on the north side of the Brittany coast, we went to see Mont Saint-Michel, the magical little tidal island off the coast of Normandy. A beautiful place, that everybody must see. It has a bit of a feeling of Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings, with its narrow winding streets, going up and up. The huge cathedral was built on the island in 709 AD. The tides have a vertical difference of an incredible 12 to 15 meters! Nowhere else on the planet has water that rises and falls that much. When the tide comes in it does so at an incredible pace and despite all warnings and precautions people drown every year. We went to see the maritime museum of the island and saw how the tides influenced the island and its surroundings. We had lunch on the island and of course the restaurants make sure you pay the full price for anything, since there’s not much choice if you want to eat there. Brad had a nice savory pancake and Maaike went for the famous Mére Poulard omelette. The omelette was indeed deliciously fluffy, but still very overpriced. Ah well, gotta try it at least once! And now try to make that exact same omelette ourselves at home rather… After the wonderful Mont Saint-Michel we still had some daylight left, so we went to see Saint Malo and Dinard as well. In Saint Malo we wanted to go for a cup of coffee and were drawn by some delicious cakes in a Salon de Thé’s (tea-house) shopwindow… Huge cakes and especially the chocolate-caramel one seemed to call out our names. ‘Eat me, eat me’! After that, a walk on the deep beach (since it was low tide it was a long walk to the water) of Dinard helped us to get maybe one tenth of the calories of that piece of cake off…
So that’s the story of how we ended up from Santiago to here in Normandy. At this moment we’re in Bayeux, where we’re visiting the beaches that were used for the landings of Operation Overlord on the 6th of June 1944, better known as the D-Day beaches. More about that in the next blog!
Lots of love,
Maaike and Brad
PS haven’t you seen the photos of Euroadtrip Part 4 yet? Click here!