Wednesday, September 5, 2012

MLG Travel Update: Day 113 — Monbazillac to Burgos, and Beyond ...

On the N1 (Spain), en route to Burgos
(click image to enlarge)
Photos/Text © 2012 Sean M. Madden. All Rights Reserved.

DAY 113 (Wed 5 Sep '12):  Where does the time go?

It seems only a few days since I wrote my last update, just before leaving Monbazillac to head to Burgos, Spain. Even our host there had remarked, when I was writing the Day 107 update, that she could scarcely believe five days had passed since the Day 102 post. But, now, yet six more days have passed — in a flash.

Let me let you in on a not so secret secret ...

Traveling is hard work, even prior to trying to document one's travels on an ongoing basis. Even, in fact, when one knows this from previous travel experiences, and ahead of time had warned one's partner of the incessant challenges of being on the road.

Traveling consumes huge quantities of time and energy as one is continuously transitioning between places, between situations, and grappling all the while with what most needs doing in any given moment, or in considering how long one should stay on somewhere, or where one should be heading next. And how you're going to get there, whether you'll have enough funds to cover the petrol, and any tolls along the way, not to mention such niceties as food.

Young farmer on the D13, Monbazillac

Mufidah on the same stretch of road,
to the west of the
Château de Monbazillac

Anyway, we left Monbazillac at 8.30 sharp this past Saturday morning, and had already filled up the car with petrol, cleaned and otherwise prepared the trusty ol' Punto for the next stage of her journey. And we arrived in Burgos at exactly 9.00 that night, having stopped for a total of about two hours to refill the car with petrol, to top up the tires, go to the loo, pull off the road to stretch or eat a sandwich, etc.

But we also managed to stop in Biarritz — the surf capital of Europe — for two hours to go for a good, long afternoon swim in the Bay of Biscay, my first time in the Atlantic since 2004.

It was just after 1 o'clock when we realized just how close to the ocean we were, and I began having regrets that we hadn't managed to find a CouchSurfing host in San Sebastián (who didn't already have someone staying with them). And then I spotted a rather inconspicuously lettered Biarritz on a road sign when we were just ten minutes from the famous resort town. We decided on the spot to veer off our intended course (and our intended 2 o'clock at the latest border crossing between France and Spain) to go for a swim.

We pulled off the side of a tree-lined residential road, before having to deal with coastal parking issues, quickly got our bathing suits and beach towels from the car — one of the great advantages of traveling with virtually everything you own — and started walking apace to the beach near the center of town.

We landed a few minutes later on the Grande Plage, just by the likewise grand Hotel du Palais, built in 1854 by Napoleon III's wife, Empress Eugenie. This, by the way, is the same Napoleon who's responsible for the grand architectural transformation of Vichy.

Hotel du Palais, Biarritz

We loved diving into the waves, body surfing and generally playing in the water, particularly as it had been a week and a half since we'd left our Vichy campsite where we'd been swimming laps pretty much every day. The water was glorious, and the weather ideal.

Here's a couple pictures which Mufidah took of me just after we'd been swimming, the latter below the overhang at the rear of the Hotel du Palais, under which we changed (into and) out of our bathing suits, before walking back to our car and carrying on towards the Spanish border, just 11 miles outside of Biarritz. As you can see, I was in high spirits for the remainder of the drive ahead!

We're now getting settled in Burgos, staying in the flat of a friend of Mufidah's. It's smack dab in the middle of this city in north-central Spain, through which the Camino de Santiago runs.

We were amazed at just how completely Burgos shuts down on Sundays, and had a bit of a tricky time sourcing food to keep us going 'til Monday. But we began to familiarize ourselves with the lay of the land here, and continued this on Monday during which we hunted for a free wifi source, finally finding the place from which I presently write, Vara Café.

Fortunately, it's just up the road from us, and is a most welcoming place with coffee to rival the best flat white in Brighton. The only downside is the cigarette smoke which comes in through the open windows and never seems to leave; that, and the music being distractingly loud and repetitive. Other than that, it's a brilliant place with a lively and diverse clientele, and incredibly friendly staff.

So that sussed, both Mufidah and I are busy catching up on correspondence, reconnecting with our respective daughters — both of whom are in the U.S., though on opposite coasts — and writing up blog posts, editing and uploading photographs, etc.

We've also visited the tourist information center a couple times already, inquiring about all sorts of things, including the whereabouts of the public library (which, unfortunately for us right now, is just undergoing a month-long move from their previous location to another, purpose-built one), other prospective wifi access points, and the names and locations of the various English language schools in Burgos, as possible places to find work here. That said, we're not sure how long we're going to stay, and are simultaneously considering other options — possibly continuing west to Portugal, or, if we can pull off the seemingly impossible, attending this travel blogger and writer conference in Girona, Spain, held on 21 and 22 of September. The cost of the conference is $107, so $214 for both Mufidah and me to attend, not including travel costs.

If you'd like to help fund our way there, here's a link to my PayPal account.

Or, if you live in the UK, shoot me a brief email and I can send you my bank details as a means to help us avoid incurring unnecessary PayPal fees.

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