Wednesday, August 18, 2004


The plan on this trip was actually to fly into Bilbao, and to go west along the Galician coast, eventually ending up in Porto in Portugal. As it happens, none of the discount airlines fly out of anywhere between Bilbao and Faro along the coast, so the options were either to buy a ridiculously expensive one way fare on British Airways or to come back to Bilbao. Thus I have a return flight out of Bilbao in two weeks time.

Also, as I was planning the trip, I found myself slightly annoyed by a failing of mine last year. On that occasion, I saw lots of road signs leading pointing to Iruña, but did not realise that that is the Basque name for the city that is known in Spanish and to the world as Pamplona. Added to the fact that Pamplona is in Navarra, which (besides being famous for its wines) is traditionally Basque speaking but has a quite different history the country a little to the west (and is thus not part of the semi-autonomous Basque region today) and I could find a few good reasons for making a little detour east before going west.

On top of all that, the plane flew over San Sebastian on the way into Bilbao, and the beaches and islands and steep hills of that city looked so beautiful that I got an odd urge to go there. Therefore I spent yesterday afternoon in San Sebastian, the evening in the bars and restaurants of the city, and this morning came to Pamplona. San Sebastian is a gorgeous and glorious beach town, but in August that makes it something of a circus. Pamplona received an enormous influx of tourists in July for the running of the bulls, but is slightly saner in August. So I have been wandering around the city this morning. It looks culturally different, too. Whereas the Spanish national flag is not to be seen in Bilbao or San Sebastian, it is more visible in Pamplona. Here it is more a case of the Navarra, Spanish, and EU flags side by side. And I haven't seen the ikurriña, the Basque nationalist flag, although they are everywhere in the other two cities. One feels that although Navarra is certainly part of the larger territory that Basque nationalists feel should form a greater Basqueland, the Navarrans themselves are a little more ambivalent about it.

And I forgot to pack my power adaptor to allow me to charge my iPod, phone, and camera using European mains sockets. I put it on my pile of things to pack, but it seems it didn't go in my backpack. A helpful woman at the tourist office this morning suggested I try one shop. They didn't have adaptors, but they suggested another shop that did. So all is well.

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