International Stumblings of a Moneyless Idle

Lazily making his way through the world



Towns and villages of the Basque Coast

Plentzia is only a short drive north of Bilbao. The town is a pleasant mound of buildings at the mouth of the river Plentziako Itsasadarra. It has plenty of bars and restaurants for wining and dining for locals and tourists alike.
It is a beach town, but unlike many others in Spain, it has some history and character. With its tradition and typical Basque style streets, Plentzia is not just a modern town built for beach goers.
The beach itself, Playa de Plentzia, is beautiful. A long deep beach snuggled between the cliffs of the Bay. A boardwalk pathway cuts through the sand dunes just inland with steep green hills beyond.
Recommended as a day trip if visiting Bilbao.

Bakio is a typical beach town. Just a simple village of buildings built for summertime beach goers.
Playa de Bakio is a surfers beach, so the town does have a surf school and some surf themed cafés.
Just west of Bakio you have a scenic road that leads to Gaztelugatxeko Doniene. A little island with a rugged, picturesque rock hoping bridge roping it to the land. Looks like a cool place to visit.

Like many Basque coastal towns. Mundaka is known for its location as a surf spot. Mundaka however, is more famous than most. For seven years Mundaka was on the ASP World Tour in the form of Billabong Pro Mundaka. This was because the town had perfect swells during the winter, known as the Mundaka wave. Due to construction work and dredging, the wave has all but gone.
Mundaka still has surf shops and cafes which seem to contrast enormously with what is otherwise just a pretty little Basque village and port of expensive boats.

Lekeitio is a little bigger than most of the urban areas along the coast. It is a town with character in abundance. A tall, spiky basilica, the squat rocky island just out to sea, and a weathered causeway reaching across to it. The streets, along with some of the strange gothic designs on its water fountains, are dark and mysterious. Even the festival is dark: Once a year the town celebrates its version of San Antolines. A man on a boat sails under a greased up goose suspended on a rope. The man jumps trying to behead said goose ….. truly.

A town of two parts is Ondarroa. Its southeastern side has a French styled row of houses with colourful facades. These buildings follow the Atitillar Ibala river which is hopped over by several old stone bridges. Cafes and restaurants are frequent and the scene is generally very elegant.
The north-western side of Ondarroa is of mid-century high-rises looking out onto a square port and garish modern bridge.
The town does have a beach, hidden around the corner, but it also has a seaside pathway. 10 minutes down the path is the much bigger, and more picturesque Saturraran Playa.

The best way to describe Mutriku is as a film set. Twisting, steep streets cut into a hillside dropping down towards a port protected by a long sea wall.
It’s a small town with a Greek style church at its centre and roads going every which way.

Zumaia is a wealthy looking place. Graceful, light, open. Sitting on the wide Urola Ibaia, it is city to stop and dine and shop.
Its beach is a strange one. Enclosed in a cliff of jagged rocks, it contrasts hugely with the light open town.
The town sits on the edge on the Deba – Zumaia National Park. A coast line with some amazing views and interesting rock formations.

Just a short drive from San Sebastian, Zarautz is another typical beach town. Surfers out to sea, buildings made not to be permanent homes but rather summer getaways. Lots of touristy restaurants and cafes. Zarautz, more than any other of the foretold towns, has a family atmosphere.

Towns and villages I did not spend long enough in to write about.
Getaria – Built on the neck of a peninsular.
Deba – Looked like your average Basque town.
Elantxobe – Pictures of which look beautiful.
Gurnica – Has some interesting architecture.
Bermeo – Nice Pizza slice place here.
Armintiza – Think this is just a tiny village.


San Sebastián

To enter San Sebastian by boat, you would pass between two steep cliffs with a stout, strong island between them. It would be like entering a natural port, perfect for defending, from many a fantasy. Beyond the cliffs and island, the first thing you would notice is a large curving beach in front of you. Perfectly lining the city with golden sand. From the sand inland, the shallow, pleasant city grows. San Sebastian is a special city, the only problem is that it knows it.
San Sebastian has long been a playground for the rich. Now, like most places in the world, it is not solely a place enjoyed by the wealthy, but more than any other city in Spain, it holds a sense of prestige.
The old town, made up of tight, pedestrianized streets of detailed facades often ending in a grand church or government building, is extremely well preserved. In fact, everything in the city seems well kept. Some of its 18th and 19th century churches, which sit in clean, open plazas, look like they were built only yesterday. It isn’t only the plazas which are clean, the whole city is spotless. Street cleaners constantly patrol the streets, the streets have regular trash and recycling bins.

There is a sense of order to everything in the city. From the layout to the flowerbeds, colourful, vibrant and in-line. San Sebastian is beautiful. Its streets, beach, architecture and location are all wonderful. If your idea of a city getaway is sitting outside a café, with a glass of wine, after an expensive days shopping, the city is for you.
That however, is not everyone. In all its commendable cleanliness and order, San Sebastian looses some character that Bilbao for example, 100 miles west, has in abundance. The character given by cheap, quirky shops, twisting streets, the odd imperfection or architectural risk. The people in San Sebastian are very pleasant but none speak to you like they do in Bilbao.
San Sebastian is a city everyone should visit if they get the chance. Some will like it a lot more than others.


If you’ve never lived in Spain you might not know how divided it is. To what extent each region differs from its neighbors. The historical, cultural and blood differences between these regions. One of the regions with a unique first language, different ancestral background and a political system bordering on and craving for autonomy, is the Basque country. Its uniqueness from the rest of Spain is all on display in its biggest city: Bilbao.
The people, the architecture and even, to some extent, the football team are all rebellious in Bilbao. If you enter Bilbao from the south, you will have to climb up and over mountains to reach it. It’s fortified on three sides by steep hills, only open to the north where the Nervión river cuts its path to the ocean. If you glance at a map you may think Bilbao is a seaside city but it’s not. Several towns lay between it and the Bay of Biscay. The steep hills are an immediate eye catcher. The houses steadily climb the southern and eastern hills whilst a modern, expensive highway clings to its western face.
The highway, sometimes concealed in tunnels, sometimes open and painted, hovers above the western slope of the city. Just above it’s pretty, colorful buildings and glass high-rises. The buildings are more bulky than in most of Spain, relating more with French architecture than Spanish. Although most of the city is quite modern and gridded, the old town, across the river in the district of Casco Viejo, is made of tightly packed, twisted, cobbled roads. Above all the shops and bars are their signs written in the Basque language, all full of K’s and X’s. All made in the same expressive, toony type face which has been adopted as the official type for the entire language.

The people who speak it add to the cities atheistic. You see many adorning black t-shirts with band logos and ripped jeans. No two people have the same haircut and the city as a whole seems to shun fashion trends. If you talk to many Spanish people they will say that Basque people are very upfront and rude. If you understand Spanish they do speak unforgivingly but they are not vulgar. I find the people of Bilbao to be very friendly and warm in a down to earth kind of way.
This is how I see Bilbao but it can easily be viewed completely differently through others eyes. The French style architecture and the curving facades of the houses along the river. The shopping streets along wide avenues and, of course, the shining silver Guggenheim museum attracts a completely different eye. However, next to the museum, up on the humongous La Salve bridge, the Red Bull extreme diving championships are regularly held. Hidden down those same avenues are many gig venues, and you are never too far from the sound of rock music.
Bilbao is a radical, fortified city. It’s not the prettiest or the politest but it most definitely is unique.



Valencia is a city without many superlatives. It is the 3rd biggest city in Spain by population, 2nd biggest on the Mediterranean. It is 3rd in Spain by square meters. It is not the hottest, coldest, driest or wettest. It has one of but not the biggest public parks in the country, the same can be said for its beach. It is neither the wealthiest or the poorest and has arguably the 4/5th biggest football team.

Valencia is not a city which tops many fact based lists but it is one that sits at the top of many an opinionated one. Ask anybody that has spent time in the city and they will speak highly of it. This is because it has a little something for everyone. The sunbathers go to the beach, the partiers go to the clubs, the foodies go to the paella restaurants and the shoppers head to the center.

Valencia is an amazing holiday destination but it’s an even better place to live. While Madrid and Barcelona are big and fat enough to swallow you up, Valencia is just right. (The city has nearly half the population of Barcelona.) It’s a big city, 800,000 people, but them people are spread across a large area. Its 6 miles from city center to the furthest end of the massive Malverrosa beach. This means you’re never too far from a gap in the urban sprawl. The biggest of which is the 9 kilometer long public park which sits in the old river bed, cutting through the city. El Jardines del Turia is a beautiful park of many different habitats, playgrounds, sports fields and ponds. The unmortised highway, I called it. There are not many cities where you can go from one end to the other without even crossing a road. Most Spanish cities are not the most bike friendly. They try to be but cycle lanes are often ignored or neglected. In Valencia that isn’t the case. The city is flat and bike lanes can take you to any part of it, obviously the park helps out here too. This is why the city has one of the most popular city bike facilities.

If you travel to the far end of the park you reach the City of Arts and Sciences. A project stooped in controversy because of its high maintenance and building coasts. It is truly a unique, futuristic and oddly relaxing place though. A garden above the project and an underground car park built into its side transform into serial, fantastical and undoubtedly cool nightclubs of an evening. Umbracle and Mya are just two of many you can find throughout the city, creating a constantly buzzing nightlife.

If you are one for a party, Valencia also has one of the biggest and craziest fiestas in a country full of big and crazy fiestas. Las Fallas, the festival of fire; where mascletas deafen your ears in the daytime sun, grand, skillfully crafted monuments pop-up in every crossroad and plaza just to be set alight in a blazing fire in the night of the last day, all while the city descends into a chaotic party.

Many people leave the city for Las Fallas. Too loud, too much. Many quieter people may also not enjoy the lively nights. On the other hand, if you are a big city person, Valencia might not feel like enough and only Madrid or Barcelona can satisfy your needs. If you are anywhere in the middle, you’ll enjoy Valencia.

#pontdelmar #bridgeofthesea #Valencia crossing the old river turned park. #jardinesdelturia

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#Cycling across the bridge into #Nàquera #Valencia #Spain

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Nàquera is a small and, in many ways, insignificant town on the edge of the La Calderona natural park. It’s only around 20 miles north of Valencia and can be easily reached by bike, car or if you really wish you can go half the way on the tram and half walking.  The town/ village/ pueblo in itself is very simple with few shops or tourist attractions but it does serve as a gateway into the natural park. From Nàquera there are several paths leading up into and through the surrounding mountains, the paths around La Calderona interlink creating paths between the villages. The mountains themselves are unlike those I have visited before in northern Spain, France and northern Europe as they are dry, almost desert like environments with only shrewd strong plants dominating the higher reaches. Lower down you have more pine trees and floral plants that in the summer are alive with the deafening buzz of crickets. Despite not being very touristy there are restaurants, cafes and bars to relax and recuperate.

La Calderona is home to more celebrated villages and higher, more intriguing wildlife than that of and in the immediate vicinity of Nàquera but if you are living in or spending a reasonable amount of time in the city of Valencia it is a northbound target to reach by bike or foot. I recommend it as a destination if you are a cyclist in the city. Cycling south along the sea and around Albufera is popular and I would advocate it more than cycling North. You will not be blown away but you will be intrigued. When you enter the valley it sits in you will see a different, in some ways more traditional Valencian life.

The #View back towards #Valencia from #Nàquera #Spain

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#Madrid from the top of #PalaciodeComunicaciones near #Ratiro

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Madrid is the undisputed capital of Spain. I do not say that using a historic or political agenda but because its geography, aesthetics and culture all say so.

Madrid sits right in the centre of Spain and dominates travel throughout the county. If you want to go from North to South, East to West or even between destinations that do not have Madrid directly in-between them, you more often than not have to go through Madrid.

Aesthetically most Spanish cites are unique, Andalusian cities have many Arabic influences, Barcelona has architecture unique to Catalonia and the cities immediately east of Madrid look like well-preserved, medieval, outdoor museums. Madrid’s architecture, apart from being very Spanish is not that striking. It’s difficult for me to fully explain my reasoning for this because if you got to know Madrid and someone showed you a picture of a typical street within its centre you would be able to recognise it as Madrid. Decorated balconies protruding either side of two lane streets on five to six storey buildings. However being typically Spanish and being unique is something different. Its architecture doesn’t tell a story like in the other Spanish cities. Instead it has a style you see around many big European cities that went through refurbishments or growth in the early 20th century. Tall, fairly grand buildings on open streets with varying adaptions to this foundation in each district. I think that if all the bars and restaurants were abondoned and left empty, it would be difficult to identify the city as being truly Spanish.

One thing that solidifies Madrid as the undisputed capital of Spain is its cultural centres. It is the grand cultural hub of the country. Spain is obviously a major tourist destination, so it contains many, many museums, theatres, parks and various centres for music but Madrid has the most and the biggest.  The Reina Sofia, the Museo del Prado, Theatro Real and Retiro Park all have a home in Madrid and are all arguable the best of their category in Spain.

Its status as capital of Spain is undisputed, it is the biggest, most populated, most central and most European of all the country’s major cities but is it the best? No. If you heard some negative connotations about the cities architecture that is because I am far from believing that the city is Spains most beautiful. Nor, in my opinion is the city the most culturally colourful, despite the many cultural hubs. Many people who visit or who have lived in the city love it but I don’t. It is missing a little character that other Spanish cities have in abundance. That is not say I don’t like it, I just don’t love it.

Visit plaza mayor in Madrid and check out the beautiful buildings.

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