02/07/2015 - San Sebastian, Spain to Lourdes, Fance
Sadly it is time to leave San Sebastian - but we are looking forward to seeing Karleigh and Luke in Barcelona.
From San Sebastian we drive to Lourdes (yep back in France).
Lourdes is know for the Sanctuaries Notre-Dame de Lourdes, or the Domain. The Grotto Massabielle is where in 1858, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. In total 18 apparitions appeared. It was extremely peaceful to visit.
After visiting the Grotto we headed over to our accommodation, we had booked a Gites, which is a farmhouse that has been converted. The Gite was a little bit out of Lourdes, and unfortunately for us with our little French we found it difficult to converse with the owners, we were lucky that their son could translate for us. They did invite me for a wine and even though I knew that my charades were not going to help me out this time, I just couldn't resist a free wine, luckily their son came out and at least we could have a little conversation. We had a lovely stay and when we are in France we will certainly look at staying at more of these Gites.
03/07/2015 - Lourdes, France to Barcelona, Spain
We had a beautiful drive across the Pyrenees the scenery was stunning.
On to Barcelona, we have been lucky with our accommodation so far, and at the time of making the booking the average temperature for Spain in July was 29, I hadn't worried too much about air conditioning - bad mistake during our stay in Barcelona we had temperatures over 45 degrees - yep bloody hot - and no air-conditioning. Also the bed that Dave and I had, sagged extremely badly in the middle and our first nights sleep we both slept (well tried to) in about a 45cm width of space, I felt like there was an elephant in bed with us - funnily I seemed to lose out on trying to get more space.
04/07/2015 - Well Dave and I both woke up excited, it was time to go and pick up Luke and Karls from the airport. Dave appeared to have ants in his pants, he couldn't stand still. It was great to see them both.
So after settling in our hot house we decided to go out and explore La Rambla which is a popular street for tourists to go and visit. We decided to get a feed in one of the restaurants in the middle of the mall - I know they are normally a lot more expensive and yes geared to tourists, but hey we had to do it. So after settling into our seats we all ordered a drink 2 x beers and 2 x wines. Well the beers that the Big Fella and Luke had had to be at least a litre of beer and Karls and I both ordered a glass of wine and somehow managed to end up with a 3/4 bottle each. As Karls still hadn't quite recovered from her little session in Berlin, there was no way she could drink even half of hers, well as you may know I don't like to see wine go to waste, yep so I had to drink it.
05/07/2015 - Today we did the hop on hop off bus, and went to visit Sagrada Familia.
Karls is really get the hang of being a tourista.
I did know that you needed to line up for tickets to see the Cathedral, which we did, but then we were given a time slot two hours later - mmm what to do now, in this sweltering heat, find a park with some shade and have a wee nap.
Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi - it is still unfinished, and due for completion in 2026. Whilst the outside of the church was unimpressive, to me, in fact in some parts I found it quite ugly, just my taste though, the inside of the church well that was a different matter - very stunning.
When we got home Luke and Karls gave the Big Fella his birthday presents - see below, he was a happy chappy - they had already shouted us lunch down on the beach, very nice.
06/07/2015 - Barcelona to Zaragoza.
I must admit I wasn't sad to leave Barcelona for us it didn't have a good vibe, we were glad we visited though.
Luke got to drive to Zaragoza and Dave (being Dave) was asking Luke how he was going. Luke (in a little condescending way was saying to Dave that he had it all under control and basically had the hang of it, but whilst he was saying this the windscreen wipers were scratching across the wind screen and we were changing lanes, whilst Luke was trying to turn the windscreen wipers off and the indicators on.
07/07/2015 - Zaragoza to Pamplona
We were really happy with our stop over in Zaragoza but now its time to head onto Pamplona. After the usual troubles with finding our accommodation - we have realised that our navigation system is not up to date - so I really need to do some planning on finding our accommodation. We get settled in and head on out to buy our outfits for the next few days. It was so cheap to kit us all out - and you know how much I hate to dress up.
Later on we went into Pamplona for some dinner and a look around. Luke has been doing a great job of picking out our dinner locations. This time he has chosen a restaurant named Rodero. It was expensive but is supposedly the best restaurant in Pamplona so we decided to shout ourselves to a nice meal - thats what Dave's expectations were...
Lets just say it didn't go to plan for the Big Fella. We were all enjoying a beverage and discussing our selections when I said to Dave that I might order the Cod, he says 'oh this must be cattle country I'm going to order a Steak - you don't see the sea from here, so can't imagine the seafood being any good', so now I'm second guessing my selection. The waitress comes over and I ask here what her recommendation would be she said that if you wanted to try their local specialty dish then go for the Cod - mmm good one Dave - so I order the Cod. Dave had said he was ordering a steak so I really didn't take much notice to his ordering. Well the waitress comes out with the correct knives of our corresponding meal, Dave just looks at his, he hasn't been given a steak knife, its just a butter knife and a spoon - so he just thinks she has our cutlery around the wrong way. He then says I ordered the Steak.....tartare, then the penny drops and I let him know that Steak tartare is raw beef - he asks me if I'm joking and I just shake my head and cross my legs, we are all in stitches. So all our meals arrive including Dave's Steak tartare and he just looks at it and then discovers that not only is the beef raw, but he also has a raw egg - well with Luke and Karls here the jokes and one liners just kept going, I was very lucky to get out of there without wetting my pants, I did have many a tear rolling down my face....
So after a few hours sleep and all decked out in our gear we head for the bus. Luke has been psyching himself up, he has decided to run with the bulls, I must admit if I was a bit younger and I didn't have Dave in my ear telling me I would be stupid to do it, I think I would of joined him.
So we all gave Luke a hug and wished him the best, whilst we headed to the Arena. We had about an 1 1/2 wait. Which did go pretty quickly, it was obvious that a lot of the people hadn't gone home at all so they kept us entertained. There was also a marching band and music going on. They serve alcohol here 24/7 whilst the festival is on. Later on, Luke did say that one of the guys that was running, ran the day before, hadn't gone home and was pretty drunk.
I must admit as it got closer to 8:00am Dave and I were getting pretty anxious to see Luke.
The actual running of the bulls happens every morning at 8:00am. The bulls run from the holding yard up to the bull ring. The distance is just over 832 meters and it is all uphill. The street has two right hand turns in it with the second turn very, very tight. (This turn is appropriately named DEAD MANS CORNER.) They open the gates at 8:00am and the bulls are in the ring by 8:03am.
DO THE MATHS. CAN YOU RUN 832 METERS UP HILL ON AN UNEVEN COBBLE STONE ROAD WITH A DOZEN ANIMALS WITH AN AVERAGE WEIGHT OF 600kg CHASING YOU IN LESS THAN 3 MINUTES??
At 8:00 o'clock we heard the first rocket to say the bulls had been let loose, then not much later the 2nd rocket to say the last bull had left the corral. It was great to watch it all unfold in front of us on the big screen in the stadium and then to see the people and the bulls tearing into the stadium. But it was hard to really enjoy it until we could spot Luke in the crowd and know that he was safe. He did admit to us after that it was the scariest thing he had done, he said the 1 1/2 hour waiting was probably the worst. He also said he would never do it again.
After the bulls have run through the Arena, the Arena gates are closed. And the runners that want to stay in the arena do so and those that don't get out. Luke was at least smart enough to get out of this part of the festival. Well this was something worth watching. They let a small bull into the arena, and at first he just goes around head butting anything in his way, his horns have rubber stoppers on them, so there won't be any gouging, but plenty of knocking people over, some people do get thrown into the air pretty high and the odd one gets knocked out. After about 5 minutes, there is an announcement made (in spanish) and some type of music playing, then another larger Steer, also with rubber stoppers on his horns, makes his way into the Arena, you can see the people who don't speak Spanish, they are still standing in the middle of the Arena, whilst those that do speak Spanish are running for cover. This Steer is fantastic to watch, he has only one thing on his mind to find the smaller Bull and get him out of the Arena. The Steer doesn't care who or what is in his way and it is fantastic to see the looks on the runners faces as they get flung into the air, even better is when they don't realise this Steer has been let loose and get one heck of a fright when they turn around and find him running at them. Once the Steer finds his bull he leads him out of the Arena. There are about five of these small bulls that each have their turn. Most people do wake up to the fact that when they here the announcement and the music the Big Steer is coming out, but for some people it doesn't click.
We have had a fantastic morning, so now its time to leave the Arena and find Luke and hear about the running. We had arranged a place to meet, so we head on over there and find Luke having a well earned beer.
Back at the apartments we all settled in to watch the State of Origin on our devices, I was very very slack and couldn't keep my eyes open and actually fell asleep. Luke and Karls have decided to try the specialty drink for the running of the bulls, red wine and coke. After the game and when the others have had there little nap, its time to head back into the town and wander the streets and watch the festivities. Well they sure know how to have a good time. With a litre of beer about $4.50AUD, 2 litre cask of wine about the same and a glass of ice $3.50 go figure - we all had a good night.
For entertainment there is a lot of bands playing in the streets, some great marching type bands. Everyone gets into the swing of things, the bands are just fantastic and its great to walk / run behind them whilst having a wee beverage.
After a small about of sleep, we catch the bus into the city. This time watching the running of the bulls, was a lot more fun, not having to worry about Luke. Dave and I really had a great time and have decided that we could stay for the whole week of entertainment.
We head onto San Sebastian to show Luke and Karls around, we loved this city the first time we visited and it still has the same effect on us. Unfortunately, we have all run out of puff and decided to head to our hotel in Bilbao for a rest before heading out to an earlish dinner. We need to be early in the morning as Luke and Karls have a flight at 6:50am to Ireland.
Well our navigation system, which Luke has named Tracey, hasn't been our greatest friend lately, and we have found out, after being lost many times, that she hasn't got the most recent maps. So this time I ask the concierge for a recommendation for dinner, he provides us with a map, which surely will help. Well we found the restaurant alright, but as many do in Spain - it was shut, with a sign on the door they were on vacation.
We drove around for a little bit trying to find another restaurant but to no avail. So we ended up heading into Bilbao, something we weren't keen on doing, driving into another small city when we were all tired. The restaurant we picked in the old town was one were you could order a kilo of meat, which came out on a hot stone, cooked to about rare, so if you wanted it cooked a bit more, you just left it on the plate a bit longer, which would of been dangerous with the four of sharing, so must of us settled for rare, Dave did put a few pieces to the side, saying they were his. Well you would of thought a kilo of meat, chips and salad and we would be all happy - but oh know we are still hungry, so this time we order 1/2 kilo and extra fries.
10/07/2015 - 12/07/2015 Bilbao to Ceret
Unfortunately it was time to say goodbye to Karls and Luke and make our way back to Ceret, France - yes we have been travelling back and forth across the border.
Ross and Liz had kindly invited us back to Ceret for the Ceret festival, which includes the running of the bulls and the bull fights. When we got to the Halyday's happy hotel, Liz had made us a beautiful home cooked roast chicken and vegetables, oh it was fantastic to have a home cooked meal. The running of the bulls is at 3:00pm and Ross and Liz had secured a balcony for us to watch the activities - we certainly had a great vantage point. It was great to see the kids getting involved as well - these are the only bulls that I would like to run with. The bulls here are a lot younger and are kept under control by the horses and their riders. The runners would try and catch the bull (rather than running out the way) and try to bring him to the ground. The atmosphere around Ceret is exciting and the alcohol and music is flowing.
The bull fight wasn't something that I wanted to see, but Ross and Liz had bought us tickets so I decided to go and experience it. Well all I can say is that I hated it, as soon as I saw blood on the Bull, my head was down and I couldn't watch anymore, the fight went on for about 20 minutes. To me it was the most barbaric thing I have ever watched, the tears were flowing and I just couldn't stop. So needless to say at the end of the first fight - Liz and I got up and left and headed to the bar. Dave and Ross lasted one more fight and I don't think they were impressed either, I believe there is 6 fights in all.
So after the Bull fight, we headed to a bar and waited for some friends before dinner, there may have been a bit of wine consumed.
Yet again we had a wonderful few days with Ross and Liz, we really did appreciate their wonderful hospitality.
13/07/2015 - 14/07/2015 Ceret to Tarbes
We said our farewells to Ross and Liz and headed onto Tarbes to see the start of the mountain stage of the Tour de France - something on our bucket list. We arrived the night before the start of the race and were very happy with the location of our hotel, we were about 100 meters from the start. We awoke in the morning and went for a walk and you could see the excitement start to build. First of all a huge group of vehicles (which they call the caravan) drives the route and throws out freebies, all the kids went crazy, I might of knocked one or two over trying to getting to the freebies, well that rubber bic keyring was very important to me at the time, and hey the kids need to learn early that you don't always get what you want. It was great to watch the build-up and to see the riders and their support cars go past, we really enjoyed our time in Tarbes.
Lisa sporting the The King Of The Mountain Jersey......
14/07/2015 - 16/07/2015 Tarbes to Biscarrosse Plage
We were going to spend two nights in Bordeaux, but decided to spend it at the beach near Bordeaux instead and just have a drive around Bordeaux. It is unbelievable how many field of sunflowers there is and not to mention vineyards.
16/07/2015 - 20/07/2015 Biscarrosse Plage, France to Blanes, Spain
From Biscarrosse Plage we head over to Blanes - yep its on the other side of Spain. We have decided to stop in one place for a week and catch up on a few things, one of which is sleep. We are still getting used to the culture here. From what we have experienced no one goes to bed before midnight. They do have a late start to the day and a siesta in the middle of the day.
Our accommodation in Blanes is on the Costa Brava, overlooking the beach - just perfect. The water is absolutely beautiful and crystal clear and with a temperature of around 25 degrees - How fantastic. There is a huge bar downstairs, which has had good entertainment on most nights.
And about 50 metres from our hotel is a Texas Steak Restaurant - Dave has finally had a really good piece of steak - he says it is even better then the ones they serve at the Morrison. Not sure if this is true or just the fact that he hasn't had a good steak since we left home.
I have been to the hairdressers again. Not sure if I mentioned it or not before but I did get a colour and cut in Ceret, France the cut was great but lets just say that I now have a yellow stripe down the middle of my head instead of a black and grey. And know that my hair has grown a bit more I now have a black and grey stripe, followed by a yellow, then my normal white/blonde colour. Dave did mention that when I got back from the hairdressers, my hair seemed whiter, didn't think that was possible.
. If you would like to see more photos click here.