Over the Pyrenees to Elorrio, España!February 14 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C
Ahh, España! We are sitting on a wooden bench just a little way down the hill from Martha, overlooking a grassy bank and the white, salmon and ochre painted apartments of Ellorio. It's a well kept area and the sounds of school children playing waft through the air. A gentle breeze is the only thing stopping us from taking our jumpers off and Vicky is even going so far as to bare her legs in a skirt because the sky is clear and sunny and at 18°C it feels warm!
We are glad to be able to relax as the 150km drive over the Pyrenees wasn't the easiest. With a ferry to catch from Santander in a few days, our time in France had come to an end, so with Will at the wheel and Vicky co-piloting, we left our rural riverside picnic area. Before long we hit the built up environs of industrial looking Bayonne, then seamlessly passed into hectic Biaritz. After this we climbed through the hills to touristy looking Bidart. It was from amongst this white walled resort that we had our first glimpse of the huge Atlantic rollers that attract so many surfers. The Pyranees were still just a distant outline as we left behind the high end surf shacks, signs for Rip Curl and Quicksilver and the boards strapped atop roofracks. Dual language road signs were a good indication we'd entered the Basque region of France, but we concentrated hard on what the sat nav (Aunty Satya) was telling us, not wanting to take the wrong exit at any of the gazillion roundabouts. Will managed to pull over at a roadside boulangerie and pick up our last French stick, returning to the van with the piping hot baguette wrapped in a twist of paper.
Part way through the town of Irun, Satya announced that we were in Spain and sure enough the language on the signs had changed and little red polka dot flamenco dresses were hanging on rails outside shops. There was no noticeable border, not even the EU symbol announcing entry to a new country. The roads were good and the fuel stations busy, as people took advantage of the lower prices in Spain. During the course of the morning, we'd slowly been nudging the van's blower from hot to cold. By now it was as cool as it would get as the outside temperature had reached 21°C!
The Pyrenees had been looming gradually larger on the horizon. We began to snake up hillsides and follow the course of rivers to avoid the worst of the climbs. Our ears popped repeatedly as the green hills ahead made it look like we'd soon be surrounded by countryside, but their interlocking bases disguised the meandering ribbon of development following the valley floor.
As we were overtaken by a motorhome with a hazard plate over their bicycle, it jogged Will's memory and he realised we needed to fit ours in order to comply with Spanish regulations. Luckily we still had it set up from when we'd toured Spain this time last year, so it didn't take too long to get it in place once we'd found somewhere to pull over. It was getting on lunch time so we found a fuel station a bit further on and after topping up with LPG and having the attendent fill our diesel tank, we settled down to a quick van lunch before getting underway again.
The route wasn't straightforward, with rarely as much as 10km between roundabouts, exits and turnings. Finally we dropped down the other side of the mountains into Antzuola where we were greeted with the comfortable sight of clothes drying on lines strung within the integral balconies of multistorey apartment blocks. It just wasn't something we'd seen much of in France. Intermixed with towns were huge industrial units, but also some signs of the countryside like the shepherd sitting on the crash barrier watching his small flock graze a lush field.
Finally, signs guided us to the free motorhome aire in Elorrio. While we sat in the cab, looking out on the open aspect of low rise blocks with a part forested hill behind, we felt relieved and elated that we'd made it. After a cuppa and some choux pastry treats Will had bought for Valentine's Day, we sat out on the bench together, taking in the different language of the occasional person who passed. After a while, Will (who still had energy), went off to explore the town. We've become used to French opening hours but as he wandered past the closed shutters of shops on the quiet, paved streets, he realised it would take more than a few days to adjust to the Spanish siesta! A few bars were open within the ochre hued buildings, but he managed to resist, knowing there was some bubbly chilling in the van fridge for later that evening.Read more