After a long cruise from England, we arrived in Santander, Cantabria, Spain.  We enjoyed a good night’s sleep at a local hotel and then headed out towards Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain.  This beautiful coastal drive took us about five hours.  We soon realized that we were driving along the famous Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James that dates back to medieval times.  Before this journey, we had heard about the Camino, but had no idea of the magnitude or popularity across the world.  The Camino is the third most popular religious pilgrimage after Rome and Jerusalem.  There are several routes that all head to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where St. James the Apostle is thought to be buried.  The most popular routes begin in France are as long as 800 km!  That takes an average pilgrim about 3 months to walk.  Tens of thousands of people complete this pilgrimage each year for both religious and other reasons.  About two hours in to the five hour drive, we stopped at Playa de Salinas to stretch our legs, and Mike took the opportunity to enjoy a quick surf session.  Overall this drive took us through gorgeous Spanish provinces including: Cantabria, Asturias and Galacia to finally arrive in Santiago de Compostela where we stayed for a couple of nights.

The Story of the Longest & Toughest Day! (so far)

After our quick visit to Santiago, we jumped back into our rental car to drive back through Galacia, Castilla y León, Palencia and Burgos to our new home  - San Sebastián, Basque Country.  This car ride took us another seven hours and had some interesting adventures along the way!  About halfway into the car ride, we decided to stop in León, which is known to have another beautiful and famous cathedral.  Knowing we had to be in San Sebastián by 5pm that evening, our time in León would have to be quick and efficient.  Using Google Maps, we found the fastest route to the cathedral where we hoped to spend about 10-15 minutes doing a quick tour and snapping some photos.

Driving right past the León Cathedral!

Driving right past the León Cathedral!

Unfortunately, the Google Maps lady (the lady who gives you voice directions via the iPhone app – we’ve named her Sally) led us down a pedestrian-only street, and because we were following a taxi cab who was apparently permitted to enter this zone, we followed unwittingly.  So here we were on a busy Saturday afternoon, driving through a busy pedestrian walkway in León, passing by outdoor cafes and people taking their mid-day strolls, with a car packed with luggage and carrying a large surfboard bag on the roof.  People were staring at us like we were from Mars!  It was very embarrassing, but we had no option to turn around so we continued straight ahead to the cathedral.  Because Google Maps had given us such an efficient and direct route, we ended up passing directly in front of the cathedral, which was breathtaking.  Because there were throngs of people all around admiring the sight and continuing to give us funny looks, we simply snapped one quick photo as we passed by and continued on our way.  Mike and I will never be able to show our faces in León ever again.  We’re thinking that our rental car company is going to send us a traffic ticket any day now, as most of these pedestrian zones have traffic cameras.  We only hope that when the photo evidence arrives at the Europcar office, they don’t decide to give us an additional charge for putting surfboards on the roof, which is also typically against rental car policies.

Speaking of traffic tickets…arriving in San Sebastián was an adventure.  At first sight, we were nostalgic because we were here in this gorgeous town vacationing nearly 4 years ago.  Although trying to get to our new apartment was difficult because we were following Google Maps (again) and trying to maneuver the one-way streets.  We made quick stop to the ATM because we needed to pay for our month’s rent in cash.  After leaving the ATM we got a bit turned around, and found ourselves in a confusing situation where we couldn’t tell exactly which way we were supposed to go.  Within 10 seconds we made three illegal driving errors: we had been driving on yet another pedestrian street; we made an illegal left turn; and we ran a red light.  This time a traffic cop witnessed them all!  When he stopped us, he was fuming.  You could actually see the steam coming out of his ears.  Thank goodness I spoke Spanish and we were obviously tourists trying to find our way.  At first, he was not amused by our excuses and took Mike’s driver’s license and began to write our ticket.  Sitting quietly in the car, Mike and I were shocked.  Then the cop came to the window and explained that he was charging us for the most minor infraction: the illegal left turn.  This would cost us 43 euros, as opposed to the 200+ euro fine for driving in a pedestrian zone.  We were relieved that it was over, so we handed over the cash and drove away.

Then we get to our amazing beachside apartment and began to relax a bit.  We barely had enough to pay our rent due to our traffic ticket and decided to head to the beach.  Mike surfed, while I got to lay out on the beach and take some incredible sunset pictures.  We thought the day’s hiccups were gone, but we were wrong.  As the evening darkened, surfers slowly trickled back to shore.  When Mike began to pack up his things he realized that he had dropped his new iPhone 5 somewhere along the shoreline.  It was no where to be found.  We could not believe it.  In shock, we silently scoured the beach dragging our feet through the pebbles of sand hoping we’d run into a iPhone.  Nothing.  We decided to have dinner and come back first thing in the morning because it was after 9pm at this point.  With only 5 euros to our name, we found Juanito Kojua, an amazing Basque restaurant in our neighborhood, that took credit cards.  We had a great dinner with a lovely bottle of Spanish wine.  It was a day we were willing to put behind us.

We woke up early the following morning to continue searching the beach for an iPhone, and had no luck.  After asking around town for advice, we found that the local police station had a lost-and-found.  Amazingly, when we showed up at the police station, the iPhone was there!  It was hard to believe that some kind soul would return such a valuable gadget, but we are extremely grateful to whoever it was.  Below is the last photo Mike took with the phone before losing it on the beach, which we would have lost forever had the phone not been returned.  You can actually see our apartment in the white apartment building on the far right!

Looking back toward Parte Vieja from Zurriola Beach

Looking back toward Parte Vieja from Zurriola Beach