My Life as a Traveler

“Basquing” at the Beach

For this trip, I scheduled two jet lag days before we actually started walking. The first one was yesterday, arrival in Bilbao. The second one is today, where we do a little sightseeing, visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, then travel to France to St. Jean de Luz, a town a little closer to the point where we begin walking. Both towns are in the Basque Country, which spans the border of France and Spain.

The plan was to get up around 8am, leave at 9am, have two hours in one of the most interesting modern art museums in the world, then catch the bus at 1pm to St. Jean de Luz, a beach town.

Problem was, nobody got up until almost 9am. Oh well. We had our nice breakfast in the apartment, packed up, and decided that instead of going inside the museum, we would just visit some of the amazing sculptures on the outside, as well as admire the building itself.

On the way, we walked through Bilbao’s Old Town and visited the Bilbao church dedicated to Santiago (St James). It only seemed appropriate that we should start out with Santiago and end with Santiago. In the church, there were three variations of the patron saint of the Camino. First, there was a wood sculpture of the actual guy who came here after Jesus’ death to preach the word. Then, we have St. James the Pilgrim, a Middle Ages version with a staff, a gourd, a hat with the scallop shell on it, and a bible. Then, waaaay up in the middle of the rose window, is St. James the Moor slayer on his white horse, sword flashing. Above the front door of the church were stars, lots of stars (for Compostela, which means “field of stars.”)

I really identified with the pilgrim St. James. Instead of his nice purse-looking bag, I have a big red backpack. Instead of a gourd for water, I have my Platypus. Platypus is a 3 liter clear plastic sack with a hose attached that has a…. um… is nipple the most appropriate word? Ooops, Mary says mouthpiece is a better word. Right. Mouthpiece. The Mouthpiece at the end of the hose that is attached to the bottom of the sack, which I put, bottom-down, into a little sleeve at the back of my pack. The hose comes up through a hole in the pack and the end of it ends up near my face, where I can suck the water up like a straw. This is sooooo much better than a bunch of water bottles hanging off the side of my pack, bumping into me with every step. Also, I’m carrying an iPad instead of a Bible.

Outside of the Guggenheim, there are some marvelous sculptures, including an interactive sculpture of fog. There’s a fog machine under the bridge and it goes off every hour. Depending on how the wind blows, you can walk through it, turn around, and not see anything behind you. Coool!

After the museum, we hiked to the bus stop and hopped on the two and a half hour trip to St. Jean de Luz. We bought our train tickets to the point of departure for our walk tomorrow and walked to our apartment. A trip to the local grocery yielded homemade veal stew, pasta, bread and cheese, and breakfast. Oh, and champagne. Susie, Mary, and I sat on the balcony overlooking the pool and town while Dominic made dinner. This is the life!

After dinner, the boys elected to stay in and Mary, Susie, and I went for a short walk around the town. St. Jean de Luz has a nice beach (a little cold for swimming today) and a very sweet fishing harbor, but is most famous for being the place where Louis XIV and Spain’s Maria-Theresa got married and honeymooned. We also did some window shopping – beautiful fabric local to this area was available for all your linen needs. It was late and cold, but it was clear that his must be a great place to vacation for the summer.

A quick stop in front of the Best Western yielded internet for just a moment. Back to the apartment and getting ready to catch our 7am train to St. Jean Pied de Port and begin our Camino!





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