The Train Station

We walked to the train station to make a reservation for the train to our next stop, San Sebastián, another Basque city. When we got there, people told us the bus was faster and that we should skip the train as it was a local and stopped every five minutes. We did take their advice and had a very comfortable and very social bus ride. Visually, the train station was far more interesting than the bus station.

Seen from a bridge over the tracks, the exit from the train station was a chaotic mess of wires and tracks, reminiscent of scenes from Japan.

Bilbao

That evening we had a final walk through the city. It was easy to walk everywhere in Bilbao despite it being the third largest city in Spain.

Bilbao

San Sebastián, Tiny Gem

San Sebastián isn’t far from Bilbao, the bus ride was probably an hour. Like Bilbao, it’s Basque, with its own impenetrable language and wonderful food. If there’s one thing people in San Sebastián do, it’s eat. Well that and socialize. And go to the beach. It has its own little bay with an island.

San Sebastián

There’s one more thing San Sebastián has. A funicular. Yes, from not knowing what a funicular was to riding two of them in three days. The one in San Sebastián is old and rickety, wooden with openings where the windows should be. It felt like it could fall apart at any moment going up and down the mountain. But the view is definitely worth it. Unlike Bilbao, the ride to the top wouldn’t be affected much by the weather. The only point of interest at the top other than the view is the odd amusement park, closed because it was a weekday.

San Sebastián

And the food. Everyone seems to spend all their time checking out what’s offered in different bars and restaurants. Much food consumed here consists of pinxtos (pronounced peenchos, more or less), Basque tapas. Almost every bar and restaurant sets them out on the counter where customers ask for them, either by the each or as a group. Although they sit out all day, everything is so fresh it never spoils. It’s easy to walk in, look to see if there’s anything that looks good, and then walk out if you want something different. The most interesting one I saw, and tried, was baby eels topped with quail egg.

San Sebastián

One bar away from the tourist areas featured a barmaid wearing a Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirt. Nice touch, I thought, especially since half her clientele probably had no idea who G’n’R are. The pinxtos here were excellent.

San Sebastián

From Tiny To Huge

Finally, the last leg of our journey. The train ride from San Sebastián to Barcelona was about six hours, but due to the level of comfort, felt like it was over before it began. This is the way to travel. The train station in Barcelona, like the city itself, is immense. It was so large that we walked out the wrong side of the station and it took forty minutes to go the eight blocks to our apartment. Getting lost and taking the wrong route, even when using Google Maps, was a theme of the trip I have tried to avoid mentioning. Once we finally found our way to the apartment and looked around, we saw the flags and signs for Catalonian separation.

Barcelona

We were in a residential neighborhood, as we had been in Porto. No hotels, no tourists. We found a cafe we liked, with excellent espresso and a group of men who were drinking beer every morning when we stopped in for coffee. Just a few blocks from the apartment, we found a neighborhood filled with useful shops not selling t-shirts promoting tourist sites. Maybe just selling things that were more important in the ‘hood.

Barcelona

Barcelona is big and impressive, with its own version of New York’s Fifth Avenue. Like everywhere in Portugal and Spain we went, people lived as much outdoors as indoors, with social life all around. And once again, cathedrals and other reminders of the Catholic roots.

Barcelona

The churches were impressive in size and must have been more so when they were built. So big and so gothic their purposeful intimidation was obvious.

Barcelona