Northern Spain

Trip Start May 24, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2010

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Flag of Spain  , Basque,
Thursday, May 27, 2010

From Portugal I crossed the border into Spain. My destination was Santiago de Compostela. I was inspired to go there because of pictures that I had seen of the city and the Cathedral. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is the end point of The Way of St James, a pilgrimage where people walk for days and days across the North of Spain. Not keen for the big walk, I took the train. It actually took three trains and most of the day to get from Braga.

Up to this point I had seen a lot of churches in Europe so I was suffering from some serious church fatigue. So a church at this point has to be pretty special to grab my attention, and the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela was definitely that. The Cathedral is a huge, massively gothic and dark, and really imposing. The stone has weathered through the years and is covered with a moss that at times makes it look orange and there's also grass and plants growing from the roof giving the Cathedral a charming feel without looking too neglected. It was fantastic to see in the fading light of the late afternoon from both down in the streets and from the park on a nearby hill.

Not one to spend long in one place, I stayed just the night and moved on in the morning, taking a bus to Oviedo, another to Cangas de Onis, and then another to Covodonga. Covodonga is a tiny little tourist town which acts as a gateway to the Picos De Europa National Park. The town has a disproportionately massive, but beautiful church that along with its alpine location, makes the place feel more like Switzerland rather than Spain.

I arrived in Covodonga without a reservation, it was early summer so in most places that I had been, it wasn't necessary. But here, there was nothing available. I had two options, return to Cangas de Onis and come back tomorrow or continue on into the National Park. I was going to lose a day if I went back and there was still at least three hours of light so I decided, perhaps foolishly, to take a chance and start the hike into the National Park. Reducing my luggage to one pack, I made the two and a half hour hike to the visitors centre. The walk was steep in parts but amazing. It started by gradually climbing up the valley from Covodonga, crossed a crater-like plateau and then wound through the hills up to the lakes. It got noticeably colder the higher I went and by the time I got there the light was so poor there was nothing more to do but eat and find somewhere to sleep for the night.

The night was cold. Even wearing all of my clothes inside my sleeping bag I found it difficult to sleep. But none of that mattered when the sun started to come up, as the sight of sunrise on the mountains and lakes was fantastic, and I had the place all to myself. I spent a couple of hours hiking around a fairly small area that included Lagos Ercina and Lagos Enol, then made the hike back down to Covodonga. Once back down I was sore and exhausted, spent a little time exploring the town and then jumped on the bus back to Oviedo.

I was in Bilbao by that night and had a chance to spend some time in the city the following day. It was a Sunday so the city was very quiet and most things were closed. The highlight of my day, and possibly one of the most interesting buildings that I have seen on my whole trip was The Guggenheim Museum. I spent over an hour just walking around the outside taking pictures from different angles. Architecturally the building is just stunning and despite the day not being overly sunny it was just so shiny. I made the effort to go inside the museum which only confirmed for me that the outside was much more interesting.

That night, I took an overnight bus to Barcelona. This was the first of many overnight buses that I would take over the coming months. I had gotten much more used to it now than when I had first come to Europe. Averaging four or five hours sleep. Never pleasant but sometimes a necessity.

I had been to Barcelona before and had already done plenty of sightseeing. So this time I just wanted to have fun. I was there for four nights and spent most of my time either on the beach or out enjoying Barelona's famed nightlife. It was a fantastic time. I met some great people and had a good break from the traveling. I did spend some time seeing some things that I missed last time like Casa Mila and Casa Batllo. Although, I didn't get a chance to see the inside because the entry ticket was horrendously overpriced. What an amazing city.
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