Sunday, 23 September 2012
Pinxtos And Pedestrians: Carfree In The Basque Country
Santander, Bilbao, San Sebastian – three fine cities on the coast of Northern Spain. Two of which are in the Basque Country (Santander is in Cantabria). But whatever it's called, it's a great place for a carfree holiday. The food is great (especially those pinxtos, the Basque variant of tapas), there’s lots to see and do and the people are friendly, even if the Basque language is a bit of a challenge (some Spanish will get you by). Best of all, the three cities have gone a long way to being pedestrian and bike friendly, with carfree streets and cheap and efficient public transport. Not only is it easy to get around the cities on foot or using public transport, the region is very accessible, with lots of opportunities for side trips by bus and train – incredibly, you can go to the beaches near Bilbao using the Metro. Overall, here’s what we did and how we did it: taxi and train to Portsmouth, taxi to ferry port; overnight ferry to Santander, walk from ferry port to city centre accommodation, stay in Santander; train from Santander to Bilbao, walk to accommodation, stay in Bilbao; tram to station, train to San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque), taxi to accommodation, stay in San Sebastian; taxi to station, train to Hendaye (France) TGV to Paris, taxi to hotel, stay in Paris; metro to Gare du Nord, Eurostar to London, train and taxi home. Trains and boats were nearly all punctual (except for the 20 minute delays on the high speed trains - both TGV and Eurostar). But best of all, no jams, no hassles with parking, no motorway tolls, no getting lost, no driving on the “wrong” side of the road, no breakdowns, and plenty of time to enjoy the views rather than stare at the tarmac. More to come on the carfree delights of The Basque Country....and Cantabria.