Sunday, 26 November 2017

A bit of a marathon.

Yesterday we were a few minutes early for the bus outside the gates of Camping Igueldo. So what to  do? Read the signs on the bus shelter even when they happen to be in Basque. My Basque may be less than fluent, but I did get the gist of the message taped to the glass. 'Tomorrow is the San Sebastian marathon. The service will be curtailed, only serving stops as far as Onderetta'.

I remembered seeing signs to Ondarreta when we drove here, I looked it up on my phone. It turned out to be the area near the funicular, between Igueldo and the city centre. The question this posed was - if the bus was not running, did this mean the city centre streets would be closed for the race, and if that was so, were we trapped in the campsite until the event finished? We decided to ask at reception when we returned from the city. We did; it proved wise to have enquired. Access from the site to the city and the motorway beyond would be unavailable from 8.30am. If we were going to stick to our plan to head across the border for a shopping trip in France we would need to be out of the site by eightish, and out of bed an hour before then.

There may be unfortunate readers of the blog still cursed by that deeply regrettable human condition - work. Maybe you find rising at 7am. an annoyance rather than a major challenge. However, these days we become irritatingly self-congratulatory if we exit a site before 11.00am, astonished at our vigour and perkiness. Imagine then our amazement and pride as we drove under the neon striped barrier of Camping Igueldo at 7.57am, convinced we would be the only ones abroad at such an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning, especially as the intermittent overnight showers had joined together to form a steady downpour. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Every bus stop contained a multicoloured gaggle of Lycra clad athletes, all waiting for the specially laid on coaches to whisk them to the marathon mustering station. Policemen with luminous sticks waved us past junctions as men in hi-res hoiked barriers about. We had beaten the deadline. Time for jubilation, we can shop 'til we drop in St Jean de Luz Carrefour, we will overfill our trolley with discount Lavazza and Vin Rouge, we shall consume a second breakfast of croissants and pain chocolat...

Shopping - our antidote to rain
We reached the hypermarket about 20 minutes after it opened. Maisy was one of the few vehicles in the car park. Apart from visits to the local boulangerie to buy cakes, Sunday morning shopping is not a big thing in France, in fact, to find a Carrefour open was something of a coup. What this meant was that  the main store was operating but none of the other shops in the mall were open, nor was the in-store bakery working (au revoir croissants). In fact, the entire trip was not quite the resounding success that we had anticipated - there were no wine deals, most of the Cote de Rhone and Sud-oest wines were pricier than usual - I do think prices are rising in France, and the weak pound exacerbates the effect. Still, we bought about twenty bottles, agreeing that we may supplement that with Spanish wine tomorrow.

It was fun being back in France, it always surprises us how French France is, the ghastly modern design, cute advertising, the mile-long yogurt counter, football pitch sized fruit and veg counter..we love it all.

Love France - slightly ghastly modern design.
needlessly cute adverts
Madonna of the fruit counter

The semi-autonomous Principality of Yoghurt
The cheese aisle is seeking independence and has approached the EU to be recognised as a nation state.

Better still, as we drove out of the car-park we came across an artisan boulangerie - we could have our croissants after all. Not only that, they were much better than the supermarket ones and we got to queue behind a portly chap in a beret buying patisserie for his family, which appeared judging by dimensions of the box he carried out to be the size of a small clan.

Back to Spain - the sun comes out.
Just after eleven we were back in Spain, by 12:30 installed in the campsite at Zumaia, a small port about 20kms. west of San Sebastian. The reviews of the site on the ACSI app were mixed: The access road is so steep longer vans might ground (true); the pitches are not level and can be muddy in wet weather (true); the path from the site to the town is through an industrial area where some of the factories are disused (true); the sanitary facilities are modern and high quality (true).

What all of this shows is the limited use of reviews because they fail to mention the most interesting things. These include Zumaia itself which is a thriving little port with a functioning small shipyard, the likes of which are long gone in the UK - think Whitehaven in its heyday.

Then there is the estuary itself, a protected area of dunes and sand flats which even in late November were covered in wildflowers. The view from the river mouth back up the valley to the mountains beyond is spectacular. We have not even had time yet to explore the town itself.

Yesterday I was whingeing about 'endishness'; it's true, travelling day after day can be exhausting. However, how do you replace a day like today with all its different realities? Nothing about today was truly extraordinary, but the juxtaposition of the mundane somehow contrived to be exhilarating and thought provoking. Home is not like that, it's simply home. Tomorrow we drive to Bilbao, sleep on the dockside then sail to Portsmouth, home by Wednesday afternoon. What then?

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