Friday, June 23, 2023

Donostia - San Sebastián/Bilbao

Our final stop on our tour of the Basque Country was in San Sebastián - a beautiful city with a brilliant Old Town to explore. The city has a well-earned reputation as one of the must-visit food destinations in Spain. We certainly tried as many different Pinchos as we could, and we also went on a food tour led by Amaia of the Devour Touring company. The tour involved visits to six different restaurants with a Pinchos and a glass of wine at each. This was great fun and Amaia was brilliant. Be warned, this is not a cheap tour and you will spend most of the time standing up. 

The Devour Food Tour is great fun!

Enjoying the Pinchos Tour.

I visited the San Telmo Museum in the Old Town. It has lots of interesting features on Basque history and culture. The museum was free to access, an English audio guide was €2. This was essential as all displays had only Spanish and Basque language text. On our last day we went to the Aquarium, not expecting much. But it is an incredible place with fantastic displays of marine animals on show. The centre piece was a huge tank that you can walk under and see sharks and all sorts of fish of all sizes. I’m sure they do eat each other, but all seemed happy to swim about and be stared at. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!

On our way to the ferry from Bilbao to Rosslare, we stopped at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao for a few hours. The building itself is incredible and has a fantastic display out front of a puppy sculpture covered in flowers, mostly bedding type plants. It would have taken a large nursery to grow these plants - a nice contract for a grower to have!

Inside the museum there were exhibitions of art that were hard for me to interpret. I just don’t get some of the work - it must be brilliant if it is on display in the Guggenheim, otherwise it wouldn’t be there.

Getting ready for the Guggenheim Museum.

Roma admiring the sculptures in the Guggenheim Museum.


Modern art at the Guggenheim with a secret message: Mayo for Sam!


Monday, June 19, 2023


Next stop on my tour of the Basque Country was Bayonne on the coast of France. No particular reason for staying here other than it seemed like a nice place to stop. Sadly, I was on my own on this leg of the trip as Roma was back in Ireland at her Uncle Aodhan’s funeral. I stayed on a river boat called the Peniche Djebelle. This was a really unusual place to stay, but very comfortable and in a good location right in the city centre. It was a bit claustrophobic in that the hosts also lived on the boat - I had to cross between their couch and TV as I went to my room. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant stay - I really liked the gentle waves from other boats rocking the Djebelle as they passed by.

On the Pont Saint-Esprit, Bayonne

Looking for something to do I decided to take a trip on the bike to see the Sare Grotto and Caves which is close to the  border with Spain. This was a fantastic experience. First there was a great ride though the French countryside and mountains. The caves are definitely worth a visit for anyone who is nearby. Our pre-historic ancestors set up home here thousands of years ago. It was also a home for bears, which must have made for tough neighbourhood relations! Our tour guide warned me at the beginning that the commentary would be in French, he gave me a short leaflet that helped in explaining the features of the caves. Despite this, I was happy to be able to understand much of what the tour guide said - he often checked with me in English if I had any questions.

At the entrance to the Sare Grotto.

Both evenings that I stayed in Bayonne were subject to the most fantastic thunder and lightening that I have seen. The rain was monsoon heavy, though I watched it from the comfort of Bodega Gilles with some grilled sardines and grilled mackerel for dinner. I have a new wine to watch out for when I get back to Ireland - Irouleguy is very tasty and worth checking out. Pity I’m travelling by motorbike, otherwise I’d stock up on this stuff!

On to San Sebastián for our last stop! 

Friday, June 16, 2023

St Jean Pied de Port

We arrived in France yesterday after crossing the beautiful Pyrenees mountains via the Ibañeta Pass. Lots of twisty roads and thrilling hairpin corners to ride. St Jean de Pied de Port was our destination, it is the official start location for the Camino in France to Santiago de Compostela. There are a lot of people in hiking gear about, especially in the morning.

At the Ibañeta Pass.

St Jean de Pied de Port is listed as one of France’s most beautiful villages, and it is easy to see why. Narrow hilly streets feature loads of small shops and plenty of bars and restaurants. The Nive river flows through the village which still has medieval walls and buildings. It was one of the main routes for pilgrimages and armies for centuries - you get a real feeling for history here. There are a lot of tourists here, with a traffic problem to go with it. It is very popular with motor homes and motorcyclists - a strange  comparison with the city of Logroño where there was hardly any traffic.

At the official start of the Camino France.

Sadly, Roma’s Uncle Aodhan Bourke died yesterday and we made the decision that she would go back to Ireland for the funeral on Sunday. She will come back to Spain on Monday to finish the holiday for the last few days. So, I have a few days to myself with my motorbike. Tomorrow I am heading to Bayonne, so looking forward to a few kilometres on the road.

Here we go on the Camino.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


Today we took the short trip by bus from Logrono to Laguardia, which is described as one of Spain’s loveliest villages rising high above the Rioja region to provide panoramic views all around. It seems that vines are pretty much the only crops grown around here with every available space cultivated. I did see some olive trees, but nothing else. Wine is big business here and Laguardia is right at the centre of it. 

On top of the Abacial Tower.

The streets of Laguardia are narrow with no traffic allowed. It was very quiet while we were there, so strolling around was very enjoyable. We went up the Abacial Tower for the best views - it was €2 each to climb the 115 steps, but worth it. Nearby was the magnificent Church of Santa Maria do Los Reyes - this, and many other churches in Spain are lavishly decorated inside with scenes of Christ and his mother Mary’s life at the entrance and above the altar. One small bug about the tour here is that a presentation about the entrance was given in French (because most of the group we were in were from France.) Outside the church in the plaza there was an interesting sculpture by Koko Rico dedicated to travellers.

The door to Santa Maria de Los Reyes.

Koko Rico sculpture - boots and bags.

We had some wine and pinchos on the Plaza Mayor and watched the world go by. This village is definitely worth visiting, though I’d imagine it would not be as pleasant at peak tourist times and in hot weather (we had lovely cool rain while we were there.) 

Just one of the lovely narrow streets.

Cheers from Laguardia!

Tuesday, June 13, 2023


Today I am in Spain with Roma for a few days of motor cycling, plus of course wine and tapas. We sailed on board Brittany Ferries Salamanca from Rosslare to Bilbao, 30+ hours of relaxed comfort - I’d certainly recommend this as a way of getting to Spain.

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the road from Bilbao to Logrono. This is the fourth time Roma came on a motorcycle holiday with me, but it was her first time getting rained on. We had our onesie suits which we bought for our Route 66 ride in 2019, but had never used. They work well, and the bike is performing great so far.

Getting ready to board the Salamanca.

Logrono is a lovely city - we picked it for 4 nights purely on the basis that it is in the Rioja region. There was a brilliant Medieval Festival on which we did not know about. Plenty of brass bands and people parading in medieval dress - the place was hopping and we loved it. We had wine and tapas in Laurel Street where we had front row seats to the parade. We also did the Tapas Crawl where we moved about from place to place. Fantastic pinchos made eating out cheap and tasty.

Not in Temple Bar!

Because it was Festival time, most shops were closed. Travelling by bike means that we will not be shopping much, which is a pity because there was a brilliant street market all around the centre of Logrono. 

We finished the day by visiting the Bordon Franco-Espagnoles wine cellars just at the edge of the River Ebro. This was a very good tour and I learned a lot more about making wine than I did in other wine tours in other countries - definitely recommended. There is a huge cellar with impressive amounts of oak barrels aging the wine to perfection. Some Bordon wines are expensive, but we got to taste a glass of one red wine that cost €25 a bottle here - what would the price be in Ireland!

Getting ready to drink this lot!


Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Going Solar

We  have had solar panels installed on the roof of our house and are turning into complete nerds to see how much power we are generating, how much we are earning from surplus, and how green we are. We got 15 panels installed that are capable of generating up to five Kilowatts/hour when the sun is shining. The supplier estimates that we will generate between four and five thousand Kilowatts in a year. This will be a substantial part of our estimated seven thousand Kilowatts used in a year (this figure is very high, but about a third is from charging my car.)

Installation was very efficient and the system worked straight away. I have switched charging my car from night time to day time when it is sunny. I haven't worked out what the savings are from doing this. The screen shot below is taken at a time when it was sunny and most of what was being generated was being uploaded to the electricity grid. On a sunny day like this we should get about 5€ to 6€ per day - the recent good weather has been kind to us!

The next chart shows one day's overall output and consumption. Obviously nothing is happening when it is dark. The green line tells us what we were generating from the panels throughout the day. For the red line you can see at first that about 8 kw/h were being consumed when I plugged in my car. There's another red peak as we have now set out immersion heater to heat the water during the day. Charts like this are interesting as you can really see the difference solar power is already making. We estimate that it will have paid for itself in about 5 to 6 years.