We rose early the next morning to make our way back towards Bilbao, first stop La Hermina. It was a sleepy village in the shady depths of the canyon, built on the edge of the river cutting its way along the base. It was only 7:30 and no one was around. Carrying our packs, we made our slow way up a road on the western side of the canyon, hoping to reach the sun - a decision Sabine later regretted because she didn't have the opportunity to capture the image of the sun creeping down the canyon walls. I was more than happy, loving the chill morning air and the view of the first rays bouncing down to light up the village. Echoing through the canyon came the sound of sheep bells, or goats as we soon found out. We stopped at a lookout point, near an old run down shack and watched as an old man putted up the hill on a motor scooter. He stopped when he reached us and came over to talk, but his accent was heavy and he obviously preferred Basque. We managed to catch a few words that were either 'I don't understand a thing they're saying,' or, 'they don't understand a thing I'm saying.' Either way, he was right. The only other word we caught in the 5-minute exchange was 'goats.' "He's a shepherd!," Sabine realised. "He's looking for his goats!" She offered him some of the Madeira cake we were eating for breakfast, and said something else he didn't understand. Looking at the sheer rock walls around us, I wondered what he was going to do when he found them. Eventually he got back on his scooter

By |June 13th, 2003|Categories: Spain|0 Comments


We caught the bus to Potes on Monday morning, Sabine once again noting features of towns we passed through and where they were on the map, while I just gazed at the mountains. We determined to get back to La Hermina and San Vicente de Barquere, two of the more spectacular towns. San Vicente was surrounded by water and had a gorgeous castle on the hill in the centre of town, while La Hermina was in a long canyon. I spent the last half hour of the trip craning my neck to look up the steep walls of the canyon to the sliver of blue above. We arrived in Potes in the early afternoon and on seeing the crowds, including many foreigners, decided to rush to get a room. The place recommended by the Lonely Planet, Fogon de la Cuz, was just around the corner from the town centre and on the main road. Luckily, we thought, they had a room spare. We battled through the check-in process with the amiable owner who was preparing lunch. Whenever we didn't understand something he'd try to explain it a different way, eventually pointing us up the stairs and saying 'cinco,' five. The room was bright and airy, an overlooked the courtyard. It seemed a good place to base ourselves for a few days. It was market day, so we wandered through, not finding much of note except cages full of live chickens and a goat chained to a tree in the centre of the market. Lunch, the only meal we timed correctly in the whole of our stay, was greasy eggs, chips and slices of veal. While we waited for the food, Sabine showed me the options

By |June 9th, 2003|Categories: Spain|0 Comments


Sabine was waiting for me at the tiny Bilbao international airport after spending six hours exploring the two shops and a restaurant in the facility. She'd also obtained a map from the tourist information centre and done some research. Since she'd made the decision to go to Spain and invited me I fully expected her to lead the way. "So, what do you want to do?" she asked, handing me the Lonely Planet. "I don't even know where we are." I turned to the large map of Spain at the front and Sabine pointed out the Cantabria region on the north coast, just west of the Pyrenees. We discussed the options while waiting for the bus, but decided to check out the tourist information centre in town first. On the way into Bilbao proper, we chatted caught up on all the gossip of our lives and mutual friends. Sabine had started at P&G in Japan just a few months before me, and left a year earlier. Now she was living in London and I'd stayed with her a few times on business trips there. The bus let us off at a large roundabout in the city centre. On each of the six corners stood a beautiful old stone building, but the rest of city was uninspiring, filled with ramshackle grey buildings that could have been in Sydney or Chicago. The tourist centre was next door to the Guggenheim, and we just made it before they closed for lunch at 3pm. I quickly realised that Sabine's Spanish surpassed mine when she chatted away with the guy behind the counter. She made a couple of mistakes that I picked up, and she had to ask him to

By |June 6th, 2003|Categories: Spain|0 Comments