Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018
Boots And Burgos
By Ren Withnell
Regular readers will know I have one leg shorter than the other. This means I have a wedge of crepe on the bottom of my left boot otherwise I'd only be able to walk in circles to the left. The crepe is coming asunder at the heel, the glue is failing. This is the first time this has happened in what, 16 years.
My boots. The wedge on the left boot is coming asunder.
I want to reattach the heel. More glue is the obvious solution (sic) but I have nothing suitable. We're going into Burgos today, we'll find some there for sure.
But, well, I, I don't really trust glue. The people who glued the boot do lots of shoe and boot gluing so they'll have the right glue. If their glue has failed it's likely to be something about these boots. The materials, the way they flex, the shape, something. I always prefer a more "mechanical" fixture than glue anyway.
I need a screw, about 3cm long. I spy one holding the roof on the toilet block. Hmmm. Despite my yearning I will not disassemble the campsite's toilet roof. Google translate tells me a screw is a "tor-nee-oh" in Spanish.
I can't be saying it right, the lady who owns the campsite looks at me oddly. I make the action of screwing in a screw, now she understands. 5 minutes later her husband comes over to the tent and beckons me. He speaks no English but when he opens the back of the van he doesn't need to. He's a builder! The back of his van has a vast selection of screws, what are the chances!
My boot is fixed. The only problem is the screws I chose are about 3mm too long, 2 sharp tips point out through the tread. My little file makes no impact on them at all, I need a high speed grinder. I can't go back and ask him for a grinder can I?
There...fixed it job done.
Ahhh, best not step into the tent or walk on polished wooden floors.
I have a think then come up another solution. As we ride into Burgos I use the 90kmh tarmac grinder - I drag my heel on the road for a few moments. Perfect, job done.
There...fixed it job done.
Sharon's on the back of my bike. Cities are hard work back home. Here in Spain with confusing and unfamiliar road layouts, crazy traffic and my ability to get lost it's just easier for both of us if we're on one bike. It's not like she's going to miss out on some exciting corners or fast straights is it.
The outskirts of Burgos could just as easily be the outskirts of Bolton or Basingstoke. You can tell you're in Spain because of the style of the houses but everything else is the same. Shops, industrial estates, traffic, roundabouts and white vans trying to kill you. I hope the centre has more character.
There's even graffiti on the trucks.
I admit defeat and as it is not raining I put my phone into navigation mode and head for the Cathedral. As we approach I find a space to park the bike, but it is pay and display. Hmmmm.
Pay and display is a problem for bikes. We can't stick the ticket in the windshield as I don't have one. Wherever we put the ticket it's easy for someone to steal it for their car. I don't know what the rules are for parking motorcycles in Spain so it seems prudent to invest a couple of euros just in case. The machine requires my reg number so at least that reduces the risk of it being stolen.
As I stand by the machine trying to work it out a cheery chap very politely interrupts me. I apologise "Des-cul-pay, soy eeng-lazy, no com-prond-eh" as I notice his white collar. He speaks quite good English. He is a priest and he's here to visit the cathedral. He has not got his glasses with him so he needs me to read the instructions on the machine for him.
In a scene suitable for a television comedy between us we both learn how to use the machine. I read in bad Spanish, he translates into better English, I type in details and he squints at the ticket. This is hilarious, he's so full of life and his joyful face lights up with each chuckle and I am so happy to be with him. We have our respective tickets.
I return to the bike and Sharon and start to fill her in on what's just transpired. As I do the cheery priest returns with an elderly frail priest in tow. He gives us a couple of biscuits each from a packet by means of a thank you. Moments like these are equally comparable to beautiful mountains and thrilling corners. These perfect and humorous interactions with people remind you the world is filled with mostly good folks.
Sweet biscuits from sweet wonderful people.
Sharon needs a pee and a toilet is not to be found. As we wander looking at maps on our phones another local asks us something. I again apologise for being an ignorant tourist but I can explain we are looking for "el ban-yo". This chap is thick set and ruddy, probably a builder. He scratches his stubble chin and thinks for a moment. "Ah! ow-to-bus!" and points. The bus station? "ow-to-bus es-stah-shun?" "Si!"
Hey! I'm practically fluent! I don't actually understand any of his directions but his hand movements are sufficient. "Much-os Grassy Ass"
Ow-to-bus es-stah-shun. Burgos bus station and bogs.
Much of the city is a city like at home. The shop brands aren't familiar but the produce within is. Save for the food shops, there's a lot of bakeries with mouth watering temptations in the windows. I have to drag Sharon away from them before she leaves a pool of drool on the glass.
Shops, banks, people and everything else most cities have.
What does set Burgos apart is the cathedral and a handful of associated older buildings. The cathedral is massive and sprawling. Rather than standing alone within the city in the traditional cross and tower shape it seems to have add-ons, annexes, random towers and courtyards. Where the cathedral stops and the city starts isn't always clear.
The cathedral isn't "typically" shaped.
What is clear is the amount of sheer hard work that went into making it. Stone statues and gargoyles must take a while to carve and it's a big old place. Age has dulled the edges of some of the masonry, there remains enough to see the craftsmanship involved. These things are not built in months or years, but decades and even centuries.
There's a lot of detail and hard work here.
We sit a while around the back of the cathedral. While the mobile internet has it's downsides it also allows Sharon and I to learn a little about the cathedral and what all these walkers are doing and what an "albergue" is.
The walkers are pilgrims, the idea is to walk a long way to Santiago de Compostela. The albergues are cheap hostels for the pilgrims, very cheap if you have some kind of pilgrim passport. You get your passport stamped there and at various other stops and if you have walked (or cycled) far enough you get a certificate. Cor blimey!
Apparently this particular pilgrimage was rejuvenated in the 80s and is proving very popular. In these rather secular times I suspect not everyone on the pilgrim trail is a devout Christian seeking a path to god, rather a bunch of adventurers looking for an affordable jolly. This being so it has oft been suggested pilgrims of old would make the journey as it was as close to a holiday as they could ever hope for.
We return to the bike. Today has not been a wasted day. We agree we are not "into" cities and we have little desire to seek out another. We have been, we have seen, we have learnt a little and we have engaged with a few splendid locals. Before we return to the tent we take on another city thing - another shopping mall.
Shopping huh? Great.
We have food and we have superglue just in case my boot doesn't want to behave. After dining Sharon decides she wants a nap nap so rather than sit there doing nothing I go to the bar come cafe come eatery for a glass of pop.
The lady within who's husband supplied me with the screws is on her own and happy to talk with me. It's not easy with my poor Spanish and her limited English. However I learn she speaks fluent Russian, when the site is closed in winter she teaches literature in Belarus and yearns for Europe to be politically closer to Russia than America. I'm not sure about the connections or reasoning and I don't agree on a couple of points she says but she speaks some solid sense.
She has things to do and my mind is a whirl of Spanish, politics, Brexit and geography by the time I depart. Sharon is awake but it can't be far off bedtime for me now. There's a long ride coming tomorrow for tomorrow we head west. Erm...er...no that's the opposite direction to Russia isn't it?
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Building Up To España
In the prologue to their journey Ren can't help but feel that the forthcoming journey might be a costly disaster. Forever the optimist.
Getting Ready For Spain
Sharon is determined to be ready, organised and prepared for her forthcoming trip to Spain. However life is even more determined to ruin her plans.
Bodging Daaan Saaaf
Ren bears witness to an impossible event. Then there's some last minute bodging to be done.
Motorway Miles And Muses
Sharon's derriere proves more than tough enough for the big ride across England. Can she manage to lose them emotional luggage while securing her physical luggage though?
To The Ferry
What are the chances of Sharon getting out of bed very early twice in the same week. Well she'd better had otherwise the Muppet's will miss the ferry.
Sharon's more excited than nervous but this is the first time the Kwakker has been aboard ship. That's if customs let her on board.
Lost Off The Ferry
The great adventurer and motorcyclist Ren is proving that he is in fact a useless idiot. He can't ride and he can't find a campsite that is open. Oh what will become of the BAT muppets?
Sharon is having way too much fun while Ren is trying to find a place to sleep. Well someone has to be happy when Ren's such a grump.
Discovering The Picos
After a troublesome first day in Spain hopefully Sharon and Ren's luck will improve. Thing is they have a 187km detour to reach their destination. There have been worse detours though.
Putting fear and doubt to bed for a while Sharon enjoys the wondrous ecstasy of nature and the joy of riding a motorcycle through it. Oh and a lot of sharp corners too.
Rain In The Picos
Will the rain bring doom and gloom to the already grumpy Ren? Luckily there's enough scenery and interesting things to keep him going.
The Sound Of Silence
In spite of a dire weather forecast Sharon's day in Spain is filled with the beauty of nature, fond memories and the creation of great new memories.
Riding to Burgos
Is motorcycle touring a non stop stream of excitement, beauty, wonder and exploration? Erm, nope. It's a rather ordinary day on the road to Burgos.
It's both a good and bad day for Sharon as she travels from the delights of the mountains to the grim reality of the city and the rain. At least her hair is looking good.
Higher Than I've Ever Been
In spite of the weather forecasts. In spite of no longer being in The Picos. In spite of Ren being a pessimist. In spite of all this it seems Northern Spain has more delights in store.
Sharon's having another amazing day riding around Northern Spain. She's on a high, metaphorically and literally.
Boots And Burgos
Ren is suffering a footwear malfunction and it's time to go and do that city thing. Can Burgos convert Sharon and Ren into city lovers?
Sharon explores the city of Burgos, Spain. Architecture, stone masonry, pilgrims and tempting food. But can a city really endear itself to this country girl?
Lost In Luxury
How to turn a fortuitous and splendid day into a nightmare. Just follow Ren and he'll sort the rest out. Still, it could be worse.
Fearing the weather Sharon is braced for a drenching. Thing is the weather isn't really the problem.
Gritty Northern El Bierzo
There's time to explore a different part of Northern Spain today. It might not have the beauty of The Picos De Europa it is however a fascinating area.
Blink Of An Eye
Sharon has an interesting day poking around north west Spain. There's a something of a shock in store for the evening.
Back To Beauty, Dodgy Caravan
It's time for the dynamic muppets to saunter their way back towards the ferry and Ren is in reflective mood. Wonderful scenery, weird accommodation.
The Good, The Bad And The Musty
It's a day of confusing emotions for Sharon, but life is for living. Will this evening's accommodation be as luxurious as the previous evening's?
While going to a now familiar town is hardly intrepid at least it means Ren is calm, chilled out and not lost. For once.
Head In The Clouds
Sharon is calmed by the wonders of Northern Spain's wondrous scenery as she returns to the comforts of Potes.
Sun, Sand, Sea And Santander
The weather has improved now it's time for the dynamic muppets to head back to the ferry. Ren is intrigued by stories or walking across Northern Spain, will we see "Walks And Travels" or W.A.T.?
Splish Splash Santander
The beauty and grandeur of the The Picos means Sharon does not want to leave, ever. It's back to the city, ready to sail home. Fear not, there's still pleasures to be found.
The Ferry Home
It's the dynamic muppet's last day in Spain so it's time to catch the ferry. A mixture of sadness and relief for Ren, but what about the other riders in the queue?
Final Thoughts On Spain
Ren crosses the T's and dots the I's on the Spanish trip.
Borsuk said :-
For future reference Ren. Toilets in Spain are usually signed as aseos, or servicios. Never seen a sign saying baño in my area.
6/7/2018 2:45:59 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers Borsuk! Yeah we did notice ASEOS and SERVICIOS in the various services and cafes so I've made the connection. You won't see a sign for "baño" but if you say "el ban-yo" it seems you'll be understood.
Anyhow I don't know how to say Aseos. "Ass-ee-oss"?
7/7/2018 6:34:42 AM UTC
Rod said :-
Great pics. I stayed for one night just outside of Burgos, but did not have time to explore the city.
7/7/2018 5:07:18 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I suspect Sharon's post regarding this day will have better pictures Rod. She has an eye for these things, I'm just a click happy luddite who occasionally strikes lucky.
I have been poking and prodding her to get her posts done but being an artist these things take as long as they take, apparently.
7/7/2018 8:30:30 PM UTC
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Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018