Thursday, 8 July 2010

70. Road to Laredo

8th July 2010. Last Monday we decided to make a foray into Spain - aiming for a place called Laredo (Cantabria) situated between Bilbao and Santander along the northern Spanish coast. We took the new motorway (a combination of the E-70 & the A-8) - a spectacular and, no doubt, expensive road that threaded its way left and right through and around the tree-covered crumpled hills and jagged mountains. Cutting its way through contorted layers of stratified rock that were near the vertical in places, the road passed through innumerable cuttings and tunnels and over some impressive bridges and viaducts. The severely folded landscape left precious little room in the valley floors for expansion in an outward direction and therefore the cramped towns and villages had  to resort to making extensive use of apartment tower blocks - which looked slightly incongruous. The road itself was a continuous series of curves and bends and it was hardly possible to take my eyes off the road ahead. I drove at ~100km/h despite the speed limit being 120km/h which, given the twisty nature of the road, seemed a little optimistic.

If ever there is an international competition for the town or city where the planning process has clearly broken down and the result is a complete eyesore, then Bilbao would be an odds-on 'cert' to reach at least the semi-finals. This (below) is the Bilbao Exhibition Centre and the photo doesn't reveal its true awfulness.. It looks rather like one of those regional logistical depots for a major supermarket chain.. but in the middle of town.

Is this a museum or the box it came in..? Joking..! All observers seem to agree that this - the Guggenheim Museum - is a stunning looking building which we still have to visit.. (Edited to add: Madame since been there - but I can't see how we can both get there with the dog).  
To be fair, we only drove through and we didn't get to explore the old town which is clearly alive and well:
Moving swiftly on, we soon left Bilbao behind us and off to our right, we caught glimpes of the lapis lazuli sea. Arriving at Laredo, it's clear that the hotel and apartment building boom of the 70s and 80s in Spain hadn't passed Laredo by. It had obviously once been a delightful old fishing port with a natural harbour but the new part had increased its size perhaps eight-fold.
Lunchtime approached so we found a restaurant with a cool terrace. I felt like declaiming to the waiter in booming Shakespearean tones: Go, get thee in, and fetch me a stoup of liquor*. Instead, we ordered their set 12€ lunch, which included a welcome bottle of chilled rosé, of garlicky gambas followed by an assortment of grilled fish, squid and yet more gambas on skewers.. with ice cream afterwards and coffee. 

* lines from Hamlet I think

This absolute shower (or shar as Terry-Thomas would have pronounced it) - aka ZZ Top - were playing at Les Arenes (the bullring) this evening. Unfortunately we live just a few hundred metres from it and so we had to endure an evening of total carp (sp?) played fortissimo..


Jo said...

I love Cantabria, had 3 memorable holidays there in the early 90's and despite what they say about the weather in that region we had n'er a drop of rain on us. Loved the Asturias too and in those days gloriously devoid of tourists.

Pipérade said...

I agree completely - we'll be returning there before long.