Getxo, Basque Spain

If anyone is interested in seeing more of the lovely town of Getxo in Spain’s Basque country – hop over to A Son of the Rock here as Jack has been posting a lot of photos of our visit in various blogposts, including a transporter bridge, there are very few of them in the world apparently.

Ferrol, Galicia, Spain

Back to the cruise, and we had about five hours in the port of Ferrol in Spain, sometimes called El Ferrol. The town is a short walk from the docks and I think we were the last people back on board as we ‘did’ the town in two chunks, going back to the ship for lunch. We did have coffee and churos in a cafe in Ferrol, as we hadn’t tried churos before, we weren’t that impressed with them.

Anyway, we realised that the time had come for the Black Watch to set sail, but we were still in the port.

Bing bong The captain was speaking and the upshot was that they hadn’t been able to get the fuel ‘bunkered’ fast enough hence the delay.

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The good news was that an impromptu deck party was going to take place at the stern! The weather was gorgeous so we made our way to the blunt end of the ship where Jess Belleza and the Black Watch Band were in full swing.

impromptu deck party

Honestly it was like something out of a Cliff Richard film, I had the weirdest sensation of unreality. A couple of the dancers were jigging away in the shallow end of one of the pools and having a great time too by the look of it. Of course being an absolute cynic a large part of me was thinking that the extra time docked in Ferrol meant more money being paid out by the Fred Olsen cruise line. I’m fairly sure that the whole thing was got up to push the sales of sangria and help to pay the extra port charges – but heigh-ho it was good fun. The music must have been blasting all over the town of Ferrol, a rude awakening for some still having a siesta maybe.

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All too soon the ship was ready to sail, we found it interesting that despite the fact that they use oil for the fuel they still use the term ‘bunkering’ for the storing of it, as it was when they used coal for the fuel.

The jet skiers were dancing around in the bay, all adding to the sense of celebration.

Then we sailed past ancient fortifications. It’s a very historic area and of course England and Spain were at daggers drawn during Tudor times, so they put on a bit of a show for us, pretending we were the old enemy and seeing us off!

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There’s a chap in this photo somewhere, done up in medieval uniform and shooting at us – several times, he was thoroughly enjoying himself, boys will be boys!

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The ship visiting seemed to be a big occasion for the locals and some of them had been lining the harbour as we left, taking videos of the Black Watch and the nutters on it all madly waving. We were sad to leave Ferrol, the weather was fab, much hotter than usual for mid October and we hadn’t had a drop of rain, quite unusual apparently, and I can believe that as the place is very green.

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On we sailed down Spain’s Atlantic coast with the water still disappointingly calm and on to Porto’s port Leixoes.

Ferrol in Galicia, Spain

Back to the cruise and after sailing across the Bay of Biscay from Aviles we reached Ferrol in Galicia, north-western Spain. It’s quite a large city, a centre of naval shipbuilding and was the birthplace of the dictator General Franco.

The photo below is of palm trees just on the edge of the docks, so exotic looking to me anyway.

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There are some lovely buildings, it all seems prosperous here anyway.
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The town is set out in a grid pattern and seems to be mainly pedestrianised and each long street led to separate large squares, often with an ornate building, town hall or some such thing, all very stylish.

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There seemed to be a never ending supply of streets and shops and I was impressed that most of the town squares were beautifully planted, and a lot of them had play areas for children, swings and such. What a great idea, for city dwelling children and for any kids being taken into the town, something they often dread, at least the parents will be able to promise some fun at the play area after being dragged around the shops.

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I think tree-lined avenues are a feature of Spain and they do make lovely dappled shade, just what you need in their sunny climate, this one was just a short walk from the city centre.

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Ferrol was a very vibrant place, lots of locals were carrying multiple carrier bags from stores and boutiques, the place was fairly crowded but suddenly the background hum that probably every city has just disappeared, the streets seemed to have emptied somehow – it was 2 pm – siesta time! Most of the shops shut, apart from eateries. It’s very bizarre this siesta malarkey and I heard Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics mention that the siesta had a bad effect on the Spanish economy, if so it’s about time they gave it up and dragged themselves into the 21st century.

asiesta time

Aviles in Asturias, Spain part 2

I took quite a lot of photos while we were in Aviles, it’s such a lovely and historic place and when you keep walking to the top of the town you reach a very well used set of botanic gardens.

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It’s quite a steep uphill walk to the park and gardens and I was amazed to see that the roads and pavements are made of polished marble – how posh is that? I suppose marble quarries in this region might be as common as slate and sandstone quarries in the UK, so they aren’t precious about it. The marble is scored every three inches or so, I imagine so that is isn’t slippy in damp or icy weather, not that they get much in the way of freezing weather in Aviles. The marble makes the place look very smart and opulent even although the buildings are obviously old and some in need of a bit of buffing up.

Marble Paving in Aviles

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Sadly the marble doesn’t look nearly as nice in the photos as it does in reality.

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These trees were at the bottom of the marble-paved street.

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The next Aviles post will feature the park.

Aviles, Asturias in Spain

The next port of call on our recent cruise was Aviles in the region of Asturias, I must admit I had never heard of Aviles before, but it turned out to be a lovely place with very friendly people, keen to practice their English – phew!

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Above is the oldest stone building in Aviles, an ancient church, Los Franciscanos.
It’s also very historical with some really old buildings. Like many towns it has had a tough time over the years economically and in the past just about all of the young men had to leave the place to go South America to find work. There’s nothing new under the sun is there?! Thankfully for them it seems to be a thriving place now.

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The wooden building on stilts is very unusual and ancient, and a kind local directed us to it, just in case we missed seeing it, it reminds me of those medieval store houses you sometimes see in old English towns.

I loved the drinking fountains in the photo below, they’re situated outside the church, presumably they were for pilgrims to refresh themelves, I wouldn’t chance the water now though.

stone fountain

This part of northern Spain apparently gets a lot of rain so most of the balconies have windows behind them but I think they can be opened back like shutters.

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Tiles are a feature of a lot of the buildings in Spain, they look very smart, I wonder if the have to be cleaned or the rain washes them?! As you can see the dress shop below this block of flats is shut – siesta time.
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I particularly liked the building above, very pretty.
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I took such a lot of photos of Aviles that I’ll be doing it in two or three blogposts – more tomorrow.

Getxo, Spain

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Getxo, pronounced Getcho, in northern Spain (Basque country) is the port for Bilbao and it’s a lovely place. It’s easy to see that the town was incredibly wealthy in the past, and it’s not at all shabby nowadays.

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There’s an esplanade which is over a mile long and I must admit that it’s a lot more scenic than Kirkcaldy’s mile long esplanade. The rich people in times past built huge mansions, all in different styles on the edge of the esplanade, obviously taking advantage of the sea views, and vying with each other as to who could have the grandest house.

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After our morning and early afternoon in Bilbao we went back to the ship for lunch and then walked into Getxo and had a drink in one of the bars. We dodged the tapas which was all very fishy (I’m not a fan of fish) but more importantly it was a very hot day and the tapas dishes were just lying out, not chilled. I can imagine that if you’re a local and are used to eating it then it would be fine but I reckon it would have just about killed us if we had chanced it.
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The photo above is ofour ship Black Watch and her sister ship Boudicca is moored just behind.

People in Spain seem to live a sort of split shift life. The shops don’t open until 11 am then close at 2 pm. Then it’s lunch and siesta time and everything opens up again at 5 pm until 8 pm. THEN they open again at 11 pm until 2 am. I was particularly amazed to see that even a shop selling candles and fancy soaps as well as things for kiddies was open from 11 pm until 2 am. Presumably people must actually go into the shops at those times otherwise they wouldn’t open up, but I was left wondering if it was errant husbands who had been out on a longer than expected drinking binge who were the customers. Maybe they feel the need to go home with peace offerings for their wives.

So again, we didn’t contribute anything to the town’s economy. except for the amazingly cheap drinks, 3.60 euros – because it was only the bars that were open!
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We in the UK take it for granted that shops open from 9 am until 5.30 pm but I know that Peggy was surprised that our shops closed at 5.30 apparently they open until 8 pm in the US.

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It was another gorgeous hot day, about 27 centigrade, very unusual for the time of the year and the locals said we were very lucky as it rains all the time there! That must account for it looking so green and verdant.

The Guggenheim, Bilbao, Spain

After Lorient in Brittany we set sail for Getxo which is the port for Bilbao in Spain, a first visit to that country for me, so for the first time in my life I was in the Bay of Biscay, somewhere notorious for having heavy and rough seas. What a disappointment, it was a flat calm, even the Black Watch’s captain said he had never seen it so smooth.

Anyway, Getxo is a lovely small town but Bilbao is some 15 miles or so away from there and Jack was worried that we might somehow miss the Guggenheim Museum if we took the trip there on our own. So we took one of the tours straight from the ship, scenic Bilbao and the Guggenheim.

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The actual Guggenheim building (above) is lovely, it’s definitely the star of the show as there isn’t really a huge amount of artworks inside it. What there is though is quite eclectic so there should be something to suit just about anyone, from small amazingly intricate drawings by Goya to a large exhibition of paintings by Francis Bacon, someone that I can see had artistic talent, but I definitely wouldn’t want anything by him hanging on my wall.
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There were a lot of paintings by Picasso too, from all of his periods. You aren’t allowed to take any photos of artworks in the Guggenheim, although they don’t mind you taking photos of the actual building. The architect, Frank Gehry was inspired by fish and you can see not only the fish shapes but also the metal internal cladding meant to depict the fish scales.

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Luckily for the locals there are lots of exhibits outside the building that they can enjoy without ever having to go into the museum. I loved the rolling mist that appeared and disappeared from time to time, depending on the atmospherics.

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The spider in the photo above has eggs inside it and it isn’t supposed to be frightening but is a tribute to motherhood as she is protecting them apparently.

After seeing the museum and buying a few things in the shop, which seemed to be a lot cheaper than such places in the UK, we made our way back to the bus and were taken on a tour up to the hills surrounding Bilbao. It really is in a lovely setting and you can look down on the whole city from there.

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The only downside of taking the bus trip was that we really missed out on soaking up the atmosphere of Bilbao which looked very vibrant and has a reputation as a great place for entertainment. It seems to be the Spanish (Basque) equivalent of Glasgow, artistic and fun-loving. It felt quite like parts of Scotland with the surrounding hills here.

Bilbao panorama

They were very happy to hear that we came from Scotland as the Basque country is of course Celtic and has a strong independent culture of its own, completely different from the rest of Spain.

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We intend to go back there again sometime, maybe for a short city break, four days or so. The local people we spoke to were so friendly and they all spoke English. But we were very interested when Maria our tour guide mentioned that the place was well known for very fine rain that soaked you – how like home we thought! We were chuffed to discover that the Basque word for the rain is shirrimirry, very similar to the Scots word smirry for the same type of rain. We’re definitely their cousins and whenever there’s a gathering of Scottish independence folks on TV there’s nearly always someone waving a Basque flag in amongst the Saltires.

It was a very hot day when we were there, around 27 C about 81 F hotter than normal for early October.

You can see more images of the Guggenheim here and Bilbao here.