Hi there! Today is my birthday so BF and I are off to the beach for some R&R. In the meanwhile, enjoy our bike trip recap through Northern Spain!
Last time I published a first update about the French leg of our two months motorcycle trip, today we continue with Northern Spain on our way to Portugal. This is what the itinerary looked like roughly.
As I talked about last week, once we crossed the now inexistent border to Spain, it was a whole different world. The French countryside may be beautiful but it is really boring too. The small villages are dying, the shops closing one by one, if you get there around midday there is no one in the streets and most shops are closed, same things from Saturday afternoon to Tuesday. You mainly see old people around and the few young ones look like they are counting the days until they move to a bigger city. Spain is lively. In any village the town square will be full of people going for a stroll, for ice cream, for a chat, saying hi to neighbors or looking after their kids. There are plenty of small shops that still stand strong in front of the supermarkets.
The Northern coast is beautiful. I didn’t know it much, we first stopped in San Sebastian that has a lovely harbor and is known for its lively night life (tapaaaaaas!), then made our way to Bilbao, the largest town of the region.
Bilbao is famous for its Guggenheim Museum, that was built 15 or so years ago. The place is amazing. It is built by the river and gives a whole new breath to the city. Along the river, a few other modern buildings and a nice promenade with beautiful bridges (one of them from the famous architect Calatrava) are the perfect place for a stroll at any time. We liked it so much we were there around 10pm then I went back for a run early morning and BF just sat admiring the Guggenheim for an hour.
Useless piece of information we needed to do laundry and were able to find a laundromat easily, whereas during our US trip it was almost impossible, once we even had to sneak inside a nicer hotel than the one we were staying at to do laundry there (for a fee, we didn’t steal!) but in Europe people live in such small quarters that it is pretty common that you don’t have a washing machine at home, hence the abundance of laundromats.
Leaving Bilbao we drove along the Northern coast of Spain, which was amazingly beautiful. I had never been to that region of Asturias and was in awe with the houses and the super cute little cellars that people build about two meters above ground, probably to prevent the rats from eating their harvests. They are made in wood and in some you could see the corn or green peas drying, getting ready for the winter.
We liked the coast so much we decided we would camp there and found a small village with a remote beach to pitch our tent. By then we had reached a popular part of El Camino, the hiking trail to Compostela, and were passing by dozens of pilgrims every day. I was expecting a few to stop on the beach overnight as well but we were on our own. There was a very bright moon and a couple of fishing boats with huge spotlights about a mile from the shore that made it seem like 8pm when it was the middle of the night.
We didn’t sleep very well and were anxious to get a good night sleep the next day, so we reached Lugo, an hour before Compostela, and found a nice place to stay.
I had booked it online but it was just a booking, I hadn’t paid. The lady said I could pay the next day. And as used as we were to prepay or pay on arrival, the next day after breakfast, we just said goodbye and left! it wasn’t until the afternoon that I realized we left without paying the bill! I emailed the owner immediately and managed to deposit into their account the next day. Anyway, Lugo was a lovely city, it is a UNESCO Heritage site with one of the best preserved roman walls, you can go up the walls and go all around town walking (or running like I did at dawn), that is about two miles and a lovely stroll.
That part of Spain is also known for its gastronomy, we loved the fabada asturiana which is a white beans stew with chorizo, sausage and black pudding, and had seafood copiously washed with local wine.
Our next stop was Santiago de Compostela, the end of El Camino for all the hikers, some coming from as far as Eastern Europe, walking for months, for religious purposes or not. The last few miles were impressive, you would see pilgrims everywhere. They walk around with a small passport that they get stamped in churches on the way to prove they made the walk. BF had his Guatemalan passport stamped, the church lady was pretty concerned about putting a fake stamp on a real passport, and I thought we were not to be considered pilgrims as we didn’t walk a mile but the man was really proud of his stamp.
The church of Compostela was impressive, we arrived for the pilgrims’ mass and then the ritual is that you can go hug Santiago, the saint patron of the town, and visit his tomb. It was one of those big expectations moments, when you think about a special place for a while and get disappointed when it is not all you had imagined. I hope the pilgrims who walked six months for it had a better time. It started raining and we left pretty quickly, South to Vigo.
Vigo is quite a nice city, an old port that has been turned into a dynamic city center, they breed oysters but we didn’t try them, you can see all the oyster parks floating around the bay. There is a beautiful castle overlooking the town, and it was sunny again which lifted up our moods.
Once I get back home I will dive through my receipts and figure out the exact cost of the trip, for now I estimate that we spend about 100 euros ($130) a day for two. I am trying to cover it all with online income, as BF paid for last year’s trip around Europe, it is my turn to treat him.
My bike has a UK plate and I got a cheap $100 a year insurance policy that covers us for up to 90 days in Europe. If you are going to go on holidays overseas, make sure your bike or vehicle is properly insured!
In Spain the cost of housing was pretty similar to France, we used mainly booking.com to find hotels, and spent around 30 euros per night. On the beach we camped for free but one night we splurged and spent about 50 euros so I think we stuck with the 1/3 of the budget for housing, 1/3 to eat, 1/3 for transportation and activities.
You can find really cheap meals of the day at lunch time, they are called menú del día, between 5 and 10 euros generally, you have a first, a main, dessert, bread and wine. In small towns if two or more of you ask for wine they tend to leave the whole bottle on the table. It was hard to get back to riding the bike after such feasts haha. We would buy a few fruits and snacks for dinner, and generally breakfast was included with the hotel night.
Gas is a bit cheaper in Spain than it is in France, but we paid quite a lot for tolls so that evens out. At around $7 a gallon, it would still give most of you US readers a heart attack.
The Guggenheim costs 13 euros, and it is closed on Mondays. The church of Santiago de Compostela is free, they have other parts and a museum that is not.
As we are traveling for such a long time, we visit very few museums and paid attractions, it really has to be unique to get our attention.
That’s it, next, Portugal!
This post was featured on the Money Bulldog, Lifestyle Carnival, thank you!
DC @ Young Adult Money says
The UNESCO Heritage site looks awesome! It’s interesting how different cultures work. You’d be hard-pressed to find a home in the United States without a washing machine/dryer, and there really is pretty limited number of laundromats.
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies says
I think it depends where you live. My last apartment before moving in with mr pop had tons of laundromats all around. It was a very Latin American neighborhood, which I think had something to do with it. Suburbs have fewer.
John S @ Frugal Rules says
Those pics look awesome Pauline! I’ve not made it to Spain or Portugal yet, but I really want to on our next trip over there. Happy birthday!
Matt Becker says
Beautiful pictures Pauline! The Guggenheim is really awe-inspiring. Sounds like you guys are having a really awesome experience. Hope your birthday is a fun one!
Thank you Matt!
I was in Asturias last year. I´m from Portugal, maybe i´ll see you passing by :p
Hey Bruno, thank you for saying hi! We have already crossed Portugal, I am a bit behind on the blog… takes time to get some decent internet and upload the pictures! Next time maybe 🙂
Well Heeled Blog says
Amazing. I love old buildings and churches – Santiago de Compostela is definitely on my bucket list. I just came back from a trip to London and would have loved to hop on over to Spain had I had the time…
I hope you had the same gorgeous end of summer weather. Make sure you have plenty of time next time, Portugal is next door and pretty amazing too.
Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says
Wow, beautiful photos and descriptions. My friend and her husband were in Spain for about a month, and also started in San Sebastien. They loved it. I love architecture and history.
Then you would be in for a treat in Spain. It is overwhelming at times.
Jon @ Increase Credit Limit says
Great pictures! Looks like an amazing trip… have always wanted to go over to Spain, so love to see your descriptions, recaps, and pictures… really helps to visualize the whole experience! Hope you continue to have a great time!
Thank you Jon!
Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says
Our cruise this summer originated in Barcelona so we flew in a bit early so we could stay and explore the city a bit. Your pictures make me want to go back and explore more of the country. Our small glimpse was great but obviously there is a lot more to see and experience!
Barcelona is one of my favorite cities, I lived there for a year so it has a special place in my heart, however Northern Spain was a really pleasant surprise too.
Deacon Hayes says
Happy Birthday Pauline! That is awesome that you are able to spend it in Spain, looks like a great time!
Happy Birthday! I hope you’re having a lot of fun and are able to get some relaxation in at the beach. The pictures are amazing as I’ve never been overseas before. I would love to go to Europe for a bit. It looks beautiful and so full of culture.
Done by Forty says
Oh, I’m so jealous. We’re planning a trip like this to Europe next year and would love to recreate some of it (maybe on a scooter instead of a motorcycle though). 🙂
Traveling across Europe is a bucket list of mine. Our conversion rate though counts against us, so it might be a bit more expensive. Happy birthday Pauline.
Thank you! I was impressed with the low price of hotels and basic restaurants in the US, compared to Europe. With a bike it was easier for us to stay in the suburbs and even in big cities we rarely paid more than $60 a night, we had $10 all you can eat buffets with sushi, salads and other healthy options where in France we would rarely eat for under $15. But a picnic with baguette, nice cheese and ham and a bottle of wine is super cheap. You just have to adjust a bit.
Todd @ Fearless Dollar says
Absolutely incredible. I’m so glad you’ve seen so much water!!! Love it
Love the photos! I recently missed out on a Europe tripe due to illness so I’m itching to travel again. I’ve never been to Spain or Portugal… one day!!
Anne @ Unique Gifter says
It looks like your trip is awesome! Spain is on the radar for the next few years; I haven’t been to Bilbao and the museum is a huge draw for me! Hopefully soon…!
Budget and the Beach says
Wow great pics and what an adventure Pauline. I loved Spain too but never got to the northern coast. Adding it to my list of places to visit!
Beautiful photos, Pauline! I’ve always wanted to visit Spain
We have tons of laundromats here, so I have never thought about not finding one when you need it. That sounds like a fabulous trip. At $ 7 a gallon, I see why you drive a motorcycle. The tiny cars in Europe kind of made us laugh when we were there, but I get the necessity. Americans are certainly spoiled in many ways.
Laudromats are also often small businesses who can’t afford prime real estate on the main roads so unless we really look for them we don’t see them at first. Parking is complicated too with a big car. Parisians are well known for their ability to park in a whole that is half the size of their car.
Not bad on the budget! I can’t say we’ve noticed a lack of laundromats in the States as compared to Europe, but maybe it’s just the particular cities we’ve been to.
Big cities have them, especially neighborhoods with a great proportion of students or migrants, in between the coasts and in suburbia (where we would sleep because it is easier to park the bike and as we have a bike we don’t mind driving to the center instead of a 2 hours train commute) they are rare.
My Wealth Desire says
Happy Natal Day! I dream to visit Spain, especially Madrid and Barcelona area. The church of Compostela is still well preserved. No wonder it will not only attract tourist but also religious group. Your photo of Vigo’s port is like a piece of art (painting).
Thank you Walt! Compostela is very impressive, there are thousands of pilgrims all the time coming to worship Santiago.
Skint in the City says
Happy birthday Pauline! Your trip looks fabulous. I spent a week in San Sebastian and Bilbao about ten years ago and loved it. The northern coast is so different from the south, much wilder and wetter – it chimes more with my Scottish heart!
Just noticed you lived in Barcelona – me too, for two years. I wonder if we overlapped???
Thank you! I was in BCN for most of 2007, then I moved to Guildford, Surrey. Quite the change!
Skint inthe City says
Ah, I came back in 1998 so we didn’t overlap at all. It was cheap too back then but I believe things got a lot dearer when the euro cam in. Yep, changed days – moving back to Glasgow was quite a shock to the system too!
Thank you for sharing such beauty with us, Pauline! Glad you are having a swell time and hoe it continues on and on. It seems Asturias is as gorgeous as Albeniz made it sound!
Tammy R says
I love how you and BF live life! It sounds like everything is beautiful, and I love how you find time to run, tent, and enjoy your days without filling them with all the paid attractions. And, yes, $7 a gallon gives me heart palpitations!
Julie @TrulyInsurance says
That’s sad to hear about France, and how the little towns are dying! Happy that you got to spend a great birthday! I’ve been to some European countries, hoping to go back soon!
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