9-11 May 2018
Disclaimer: the picture above is not of the Spanish Basque coast; neither are we in the Basque Country. We are already in La Belle France, and there is a good reason for this, mere hours after docking at Bilbao this afternoon.
Let me explain. I love Wales dearly. Some of my best sons are half-Welsh (all three of them), and my beloved brother- and sister-in-law have made their home in Porthcawl. The thing about Wales is it’s green, mainly cos it rains there from time to time. And has industrialised valleys loomed over by towering mountains. And a language that no-one has any chance of understanding, packed with strange consonants. And every time you cross the border into Wales, it rains.Okay, that’s several things about Wales. So now let me tell you that the soul-mate of Cymru, the Welsh astral twin, the doppelgänger of the Valleys…is the Basque Country of northern Spain. Green, tick. Mountains, tick. Valleys full of industrial might, tick. A language with more “x”s, “z”s and “k”s, all consonants, than is possible. And it didn’t take long after docking at Bilbao this morning for the rain to start.
The Pillion had dressed sensibly to begin with, but being fooled by the fleeting sunshine, took off one layer of the seven she was wearing. That’s right, the waterproof layer. There soon ensued a rapid unscheduled stop, layer seven went back on, and off we rode into the rain, heading north.
With the outliers of the snow-capped Pyrenees to our right, we dashed over the border into the French Pays Basque. Clearly a lesser version of Basque-dom, overwhelmed by French hegemony, for the rain instantly stopped, and the damp industrial valleys disappeared to be replaced by a magnificent coastline of breakers and wide golden beaches. Not to mention Biarritz, our destination for the night.
The Rider was yawning already, worn out after a whole two hours in the saddle. With six weeks of hard riding ahead of us still. But Biarritz was doing sun, beach and sharp rollers in unabashed style. The wonderful Belle Époque buildings, so much white meringue piled up into fantastic towers and roofs, dominated even the wide golden seashore and its massive breakers. The town was busy, full of designer shops holidaying from Paris for the season, together with matching slim elegant women. Turns out biker chic is very in this year. I was in my element at last, as I swanked my real biker-chick jacket along the promenade before a glass or two of rose, and a very decent dinner.
All this more than makes up for the less happy evening the Pillion spent aboard Brittany Ferries last night, crossing the Bay of Biscay in a heavy swell after leaving it rather too late to take her sea-sick pills. I shall draw a veil over that; suffice to say the Rider was suddenly left in front of both our rather nice meals in the shipboard restaurant.
Still, all that is behind me. We’re back on the Tigger, with a heatwave forecast for tomorrow – Allez les gars, as they say in these parts!
From the Front Seat