25.11.2012 - 25.11.2012 15 °C
On the road again, it's good to be on the road again....actually, we have only gone about 300 km today but find ourselves in a new culture and changed surroundings, with a new, melodic language to learn (or butcher, as the case may be). We crossed the border into Spain today -- it was nondescript what with the borderless EU approach, much different than when we made the same crossing twenty years ago -- at that time, we were met with a very somber looking crew of border guards with machine guns. Again, we elected for the toll roads to cut the time by two hours but paid for it (literally); the total cost was 23 euros. Crazy. I think we'll have to take the slow roads to Madrid, either that, or skip a breakfast or two. Mind you, that might help the waistline as well.
We have perched our moose, whom we seemed to have named Maurice / Mo by default for now because we cannot all agree, up on the dashboard of our Kangoo -- a little Canadiana to remind us of our roots. He comes on some of our outings and is included in pics when we remember; continue to look for him in future posts.
On our first freeway rest stop in France several days ago, Ben and I encountered a great bathroom, with a lot of automation. Therefore, when we next stopped along a highway a few days later, I told the kids "You're going to love these bathrooms!" Abby looked in expectedly and said, "Where are the toilets, Mom?" Oops -- it seems not all rest stop bathrooms are created equal: these new ones only had little porcelain feet to stand on but no 'bowls' of any kind. I think it's best that they get used to things like this as it will help prepare them for Turkey, and perhaps some of our accommodation along the way.
On our way to Bilbao, we stopped in the seaside town of San Sebastian. It only took me 12 minutes to get a parking permit (6 minutes to wait and 6 minutes to figure out how to do it) so we only had an hour to spend there. We chose to spend it walking along the beautiful promenade next to the ocean front. We saw resemblances between it and one of the walks that our Brazilian friends showed us in southern Brazil (in Itapema). We notice that the Latin cultures seem to cater to these wide promenades, allowing for a relaxed, comfortable stroll. Many families, often crossing three generations, were out together on the Sunday afternoon. The breakwater here was made of massive stone cubes, tossed together by some giant. Hannah commented that it looked like art because it was so casually beautiful. We are looking forward to the architecture here in Spain: Bilbao and Barcelona are known for their interesting structures.
Arriving in Bilbao, we tried to find a parking venue, knowing that we had no parking on the street in front of our place. That proved very challenging, but after travelling down a few narrow streets we think MAY have been pedestrian walkways, we came upon a parking garage. By that time, we didn't bat an eye at the exorbitant prices, just thankful to be out of our car. We had phoned our host to try to get directions to our place but found his English was only marginally better than my Spanish so we were pretty well on our own. Did you know that the Bilbao streets have two names, one in Spanish and the other, in Basque? No, neither did we. We were armed with the Spanish names, however, it turns out the handy city map app on Ben's cell phone uses Basque names. We told the girls that this is how things are when you're travelling (never a dull moment). We put all our worldly belongings on our backs and proceeded in the direction we recalled from our car GPS. The lodging was about 1 km away but these girls are tough now and we heard no complaints. (It's still a lot easier than the West Coast Trail.) We're now settling down to a quiet evening at 'home,' doing laundry (each load takes about 2 hours in the washing machine) and drinking the Beaujolais Neuveau. Ben got a two for one deal on the wine so will drink one for himself and one for you, Jim.