Saturday, October 21

Highlights of the tour of Northern Spain 15 – 21 June 2017

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Our trip included staying and viewing areas of the north between San Sebastian, Pamplona, Bilbao, Picos de Europa, Burgos and Toledo.

After an early and punctual start and a few comfort stops we spent a couple of hours in Teruel near the Plaza and market, enjoying lunch.

Our driver Paco, was very helpful and must have been pleased to finish the day at Andia Hotel, just a few minutes from Pamplona Central.  Our evening meal was later than planned but we had all been in the coach for ten and a half hours so retired early.

The first morning, bags re-packed, we proceeded to Pamplona, its cathedral and the street famous for bull running, before heading for the beautiful city of San Sebastian with its famous beaches and elegant architecture.  Our free time allowed for lunch and even shopping.  In the afternoon we were driven to the Gran Hotel, Bilbao, for a two night stay with half board.  The second day we had with Christina as our guide who explained to us special places of interest in Bilbao and we learned about Basque history and language, originating from different groups in the Central Pyrenees.  Each with different dialects.  Now Bilbao has re-invented itself from the days of storage for sea trade in factories adjacent to the river, to modern industrial success with little unemployment.  Our guide explained that the successful bid for the prestigious Guggenheim Museum accelerated business in the city.  We toured by coach by coach and on foot the new waterfront, old town, churches and palaces.

Late afternoon we arrived at our hotel in the village of Panes close to the Picos mountains, El Tilo.  This is a family run hotel and a contrast to the city hotels.

In the morning we set off on narrow winding roads with overhanging rocks to the Picos de Europa.  Most of us went on the cable car to the high points where we had truly spectacular views, experiencing unusually hot weather with no clouds, then via the small village of San Vicente de la barquera on the coast with free time, before returning to the hotel and dinner.

On day six, bags re-packed, we were driven to Burgos, with its famous cathedral.  This has an excellent reputation as the jewel of the Spanish cathedrals and most took the opportunity to listen to the commentary explaining its vast treasures.  On the journey afterwards, we encountered three accidents in Madrid, one in the tunnel, which delayed our arrival in Toledo, and Hotel Europa.  There we enjoyed the modern and comfortable  accommodation.

Our final morning the coach to the base of the escalators of the old town of Toledo, plenty of time for exploration and lunch before heading home.  Our adventure was not complete before Paco had to renew a broken drive belt at the rear of the coach.  An unplanned bit of excitement !

Penny and Ellen were thanked for an excellent trip, most of us seeing for the first time that area of Northern Spain.

We all agreed that the Travel Group Leaders had organised and arranged everything perfectly, our driver, Paco, had been exemplary, and our experiences will remain within our memories.

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