More cycling, this time in Spain, along the Ruta de la Plata, an ancient way from north to south of Spain. It was used by the Romans and is still used by pilgrims making their way north to Santiago de Compostella. MORE
The plan is for me to cycle the route from Bilbao to Seville, with friends Richard and David driving the route, between 80 - 100 miles a day, and meeting each night in a nice Spanish hotel, often lovely Paradores.
After an early morning flight from Bristol to Bilbao we arrived in the city by mid-morning. The official Ruta begins on the north coast at Gijon, a further 250 kms west. Because we have arrived in Bilbao, I will cycle southwest from Bilbao via Burgos and Valladolid to Salamanca where I will connect with the official Ruta, then continue on south to Seville. It should take me 8 days or so to make it to Seville. Then we will go west in to Portugal to Faro for a short week in the sun.
First impressions of Spain and Bilbao. It is beautifully warm and sunny, although this part of Spain can be very wet at some times of the year. Bilbao has refashioned itself over the last 30 years or so, from an industrial, coal, iron, steel and port city to a cultural centre, anchored by the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum. The city itself is beautifully well ordered and kept, with a vibrant and classy street cafe / bar / restaurant lifestyle, and is generally a place that exudes the good life without being tacky and flashy. I like it. The other noticeable thing about Spain is just how relatively inexpensive it is. Three glasses of wine last night on the hotel veranda cost less than 6 Euro. You wouldn't get one glass for that in the UK. Food, which is very much tapas / pinchos / pinxos style and delicious, is also moderately priced. I'm not sure why. Maybe one reason is a relatively low wage economy. Today, at the Guggenheim, the cleaning women were out on strike and undertaking a very colourful and entertaining demonstation outside the museum. The leaflet they handed out says their average wage is 600 Euro a month. I'm not sure for how many hours. Other bits I have picked up suggest many people work for pretty low wages, if they work at all. Maybe behind the facade of everything being nice is another world of low wages, uncertainty, unemployment ? Maybe that's why my glass of wine is so inexpensive ? I'll be on the look out for clues as I travel through Spain.