Day 20: Noja. Rest day.

Day 20: Noja. Rest day.

Photograph of a plastic flower in the reception area of the Hotel Pelayo, Noja, Spain.

We’re staying in the one star Hotel Pelayo where even the plastic flowers are dying (sellotape). The WiFi only works on Reception when sat in a chair which smells of dog. Other than that, it’s clean, friendly, helpful and near the fabulous beach.

Breakfast on a bench in the middle of town followed by coffee in a cafe where I managed to order three cups of coffee for the two of us. Spanish not really improving.

Photograph of Keith sitting on a bench with orange juice, yogurts and cakes next to him.

 

We mutually confessed that when cycling we have each had a particular song that comes into our heads. Mine is ‘Love is a Battlefield’ by Pat Benatar (mostly for the ‘we are strong’ affirmation as I pile up yet another hill). Keith’s is ‘On the Road Again’ by Whitesnake. These choices age us perfectly but are no reflection on our general musical taste. Keith also owned up to Queen’s ‘I Want to Ride my Bicycle’ but as long as that doesn’t get lodged in my head for our final ride tomorrow, I’ll forgive him.

We walked along the coast for a few km up to another fabulous beach. Today the weather was unusually stable and hot all day.

Photograph of Northern Spanish coastline with rocks and crystal clear blue sea.

Photograph of sea and distant rocky headlands at Cantabria, Spain.

 

This Cantabrian coast has been a revelation for its stunning scenery and crystal clear sea. It rivals anywhere in the Mediterranean, but don’t come here expecting anyone to speak English, because they don’t. This is a Spanish resort full of Spanish families.

Photograph of a crowded beach and blue sea beyond at Noja, Spain.

Photograph of rocky bay, sandy beach and blue sea at Noja, Spain.

Photograph of Keith and Sarah on the beach at Noja with the sea and coastline behind them.

The tide goes out to reveal lots of shallow pools full of fish which nibble your legs, crabs and safe water for kids.

Photograph of wide sandy beach, turquoise sea and green covered cliffs in the distance at Noja, Cantabria.

 

Following in from our Best Ice Cream in the World experience in Biarritz, we came across Michelin star frozen yogurt in Noja. Not sure entirely about the credentials of this, but it tasted alright.

Photograph of two tubs of frozen yogurt on some grass, Noja, Spain.

Mostly today we have been thinking we should spend Keith’s redundancy money on a camper, wondering how the hell we are going to cope with going home and not have double nap days on beaches. We have spent this money several times over.

We had yet another chicken picnic overlooking the beach with wine so bad it needed diluting with orange juice. The orange juice cost more than the wine.

Last day of cycling tomorrow which makes us both sad. The pace of life without a car, job or home is so slow, stress-free and frankly joyful. Not entirely sustainable perhaps, but if we accept that it’s not, then we have no hope of striving to live differently. The challenge is how to keep hold of pieces of these experiences when we return home to a world where people would rather write emails than have a double nap day. A life on the fringes of the norm is not a surprising, or unusual, concept for us autistics, who find the physical and social elements of typical existence both overwhelming and partly pointless.

Day 18: Bilbao – Castro-Urdiales. 38km.

Day 18: Bilbao – Castro-Urdiales. 38km.

Today we met a man on a 5000km, 3 month trip from Portugal, through Spain, France and on his way back to Portugal. I wish I had taken his photo. He had an ancient mountain bike with a pull along shopping trolley tied behind it. He was wearing plimsolls and a high vis jacket. He said that the bit where he had cycled to Andorra through the Pyrenees had been a ‘bit hard’. He had slept on beaches and along the roadside probably spending hardly any money. We felt somewhat inadequate and soft. He was a good 10 years younger than us and we are not very brave: this was the only justification we could muster.

Photograph of Sarah lying on the bed in hotel room in Bilbao.

We’re following the route of the Camino de Santiago still and passing increasing numbers of pilgrims both on foot and by bike. The walking stuff looks really hard and I’m ashamed to admit that it makes me pleased that there are bikers walking up more hills than I am. Perhaps a pilgrimage wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Photograph of an empty Spanish coast road snaking through the hillsides.

We are still on the N-634 that took us out of San Sebastian. It is a cyclists dream of a road; some good climbs, some great downs (56.8km/hr is our record) and stunning scenery. Still a lot of local road cyclists about – as with pretty much everywhere, they are overwhelmingly male. It is a rare sight indeed to see a woman. I guess they couldn’t handle her beating them up the hills.

Photograph of people along harbourside drinking and eating.

We arrive in Castro-Urdiales to find more crazy shit going on, the nature of which at first is not possible to determine. After investigation (Google), it transpires that we have happened once again on festivities in Northern Spain. Today is the Marmita; a competition to see which group can cook the best stew of tuna, potatoes and peppers in a pot under a gazebo in the main square. Each group has its own t-shirts printed and their own plastic dustbin full of sangria (yup) to help the culinary process along.

In preparation for this cook-off, the town had a massive party last night, so everyone is already hungover. Once the cooking (and eating) has finished, there is some singing, team canoe racing, a climb a greasy pole and fall in the sea competition and in the evening, an outdoor gig with that famous Beatles tribute band, Los Cheatles. I wish I had the imagination to make this shit up, but I don’t.

In contrast to France, which always seems to us to be empty of people in the streets, Spain appears to always be full. And they are always talking and bumping into people they know. Obviously, making sweeping statements about entire race’s personality traits is verging on racism, but the Spanish do seem a sociable bunch. Maybe they’re all related to each other as they have historically had large families. Is that racist? Not sure.

Photograph of small rowing boats in Castro Urdiales harbour.

Photograph of professional racing canoes at Castro Urdiales harbour.

The weather, as usual, is changeable from hour to hour from teeming rain to clear blue skies. No one seems to let it bother them; they just carry a brolly and carry on with their day. The temperature is warm regardless so being wet doesn’t seem so much of a problem.

Castro itself is a delight. The town with its oversized church overlooking the harbour surrounded by golden sandy beaches and green mountains is idyllic.

Photograph across the harbour at Castro Urdiales.

 

These photographs are all taken on the same afternoon despite the variation in sky colour.

Photograph of church in Castro Urdiales.

 

 

Photograph of lots of sailing boats sitting in Castro Urdiales harbour.

We had tapas in a little bar, being able to determine whether each one was meat or fish from the barmaid was the limit of our mutual language overlap. That was good enough. The ones with the wiggly legs sticking out are fish (squid), so we avoid those for Keith’s sake; he can do tinned salmon and a bit of battered cod, but fish legs are not open to negotiation.

Photograph from behind of a couple on a bench on promenade at Castro Urdiales. He is sitting up and she is laying across her lap.

We see this couple; her with her head on his lap, and it makes us laugh as this is how we sit on benches. I fall asleep and Keith ‘protects’ (his word) me. After almost 3 weeks in each other’s company 24/7, we are as happy and utterly in love as ever, perhaps even more so. I hope these two feel the same.

Photograph of empty promenade at Castro Urdiales, except for a chocolate and churros van.

Our day ends with churros and chocolate from this churreria on the seafront. We discuss buying a caravan and converting it into a churreria and selling churros and chocolate at festivals around the UK. We then realise we would hate it for the following reasons: cleaning up oil, being very hot cooking hot oil, being in a caravan all day, working really hard. We conclude that we just like the idea of churros and chocolate. This has been a very fruitful analysis and saved us spending Keith’s redundancy money on a churreria. A lucky escape.