San Sebastian/Donostia

 

It wasn’t the first, nor the longest stop on our holiday but it just might have been our favourite. I didn’t know a lot about it when I chose it as a stop off, and it doesn’t have masses of “must see” sights*, it’s simply a lovely place to be. It was quite astoundingly beautiful, surrounded by mountains, full of attractive buildings and fringed by golden beaches.

city and mountains

It might have been the gorgeous weather, or relief at having parked the car after a fairly relentless  drive. You might equate Biarritz with Belle-Epoque splendour and surfer hip but to me it’s a mass of giant lorries hurtling their cargo  to Spain and Portugal. Obviously we didn’t actually visit Biarritz, or Bayonne,  or straddling the border Irun; but their names flashed past as I gripped the wheel and followed the SatNav. Then when we reached San Sebastian a road close  to our hotel was closed forcing us to navigate old school style.  I was so pleased to have arrived that I didn’t even baulk at driving into the underground garage. Well not that much.

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after a quick wash and brush up at our hotel this was our lunchtime view

The previous few days in France MrS had been recovering from a lurgy so it was lovely to sit,  soak up the sun, relax  and enjoy lunch.

 

san sebastian starters

our starters at   La Perla

Two important lessons from that first lunch: one,  Spanish restaurants are not generally dog friendly,  and two, some “menu del dia” include a bottle rather than a glass of wine*.* Actually the last one could be a northern thing as I’ve never come across it on other visits.

We did find one dog friendly*** restaurant in San Sebastian, Kaxilda was a few blocks inland from our hotel and a little hard to find but very friendly and with some  nice vegetarian options.

With all that eating we had  lots of calories to walk off,  luckily San Sebastian is perfect for that, we walked along the paseo de la concha, headed east through the fringes of the old town and were amazed by the waves on the Rio Urumea,  surfers rode even bigger ones on Playa de Zurriola.

Next day we had a slightly more strenuous walk up to Monte Urgull

looking down from the top

beer with a view

and a little light refreshment

 

sun puddling

while DogS did some serious sun puddling

You can see from the pictures that there’s something for everyone, gorgeous sandy beaches, including one for surfers, grand shopping streets, the old town crowded around the port and delicious food. We didn’t get to try out any of San Sebastian’s Michelin stars and with DogS it was hard to fully experience the  pinxtos bars but we ate very well.

 

 

this little dog taking advantage of the spillages

tired B snoozing

meanwhile it’s all zzz from Dog S,  must have been a good walk

 

At the western continuation of Playa de la Concha, (Playa de Ondaretta)  you can board the  funicular which climbs up Monte Igueldo

from funicular

view from the funicular 

There’s a small funfair at the top, which was closed for the season. As well as the roundabouts and dodgems there was  a wooden roller which on first glance seemed  very tame, but then I looked at how closely it hugged the cliff and decided I was glad it was shut. There’s not a lot else up at the top but the views are gorgeous and it’s a popular spot in the early evening.

We took the beach  back into town, in the evening dogs are allowed to run free.

“it’s my ball”

And after that, it was time for a sundowner.

Salud! Osasun!

 

Until next time

Marina x

*there are good museums and cultural centres, just not as well known as the Guggenheim, Bilbao.

**we actually started to avoid “drinks included” menus

***by dog friendly I mean places where dogs can join their owners indoors, most places allowed dogs on the terrace.

Exploring

Two quite different short trips.

First off to Glasgow for an urban adventure (though we’ve been there lots before).

on the train

We took plenty of provisions and entertainment for the journey 

Our bed for the night was new, both to us and Glasgow at the brand new Motel One ; they even had photos from the West Highland line to make us feel at home. It’s close to Central station and the shops and is very, very dog friendly.

B at motelone Glasgow

“What’s next?  I’ve finished my tea”

If you don’t know the Motel One brand they are well worth checking out. We’ve stayed at their Princes Street branch and they’re also in Newcastle and Manchester.

I couldn’t go to Glasgow without visiting the shops but  it’s not quite as dog friendly as Edinburgh, possibly because a lot of my favourites  (eg. Whistles, Space NK ) which are dog friendly there are inside malls in Glasgow. The massive Waterstones branch on Sauchiehall Street is dog friendly though,  as is Anta and lots of lovely independents on and around Great Western Road. Luckily it was mostly sunny and MrS was happy to wait outside on Buchanan Street while I shopped, and of course Dog S loved all the attention from passers by.

It wasn’t all consumerism though, nor sitting about for DogS.  We had a pretty extensive walkies, in fact I covered more steps than I do at home. I’ve walked all over Edinburgh and explored many overseas cities on foot but apart from shopping trips Glasgow on foot has been a path less travelled.

 

Glasgow is full of impressive buildings, also some haunting ruins.  The city centre is full of memories of Glasgow’s time as “second city of empire” and those Victorians  didn’t limit their exuberance to building for  commerce;  on a hill behind the Cathedral is the Necropolis.

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It’s a good place for a walk with views over the whole city  – and on a clear day up to the highlands.

birthsmarriages deaths

  Births, Marriages and Deaths though not necessarily in that order*

I thought back to our visit when I read this post today**.

And our second trip? Quite different, over the sea to ….. Tiree, the most westerly of the Inner Hebrides. Because of its westerly position it’s much sunnier and drier than many of the islands and also much windier!  So windy in fact that it’s a hub for surfing and windsurfing, the Tiree Wave Classic had been held the weekend before our visit.

We stayed at The Old Thatch in Scarinish,  small and cosy just perfect for two people and one dog. A traditional two roomed cottage it would have housed a large family well into the 20th century.

 

through the bathroom window

view from the bath 

Now Tiree’s built environment might be a tad less grandiose than Glasgow’s (though very attractive) but its beaches would be hard to beat.

And it was even warm and sunny enough for a picnic

Our lunch spot was close to the Ringing Stone an “Erratic” which landed on Tiree  after a volcanic eruption. Don’t worry about getting hit on the head by flying rocks though, it happened millennia ago.  Nearby basking seals jumped into the sea and swam close to get a good look at us.

the Ringing Stone

seals

watching us watching them

 

It wasn’t all gorgeous natural beauty though, once again all too much plastic waste washed in by the tide.     When the shells are sand the plastic will still be around.

two wrecks

the wreck of the schooner Mary Stewart at Scarininsh

 

old me boat

and another old lady retired ashore

 

 

Two short but sweet breaks, each lovely in their own way.

Marina xx

PS. I’m just back from a shorter trip, just one night in Perth.  A shout out to Gringos a lovely, lively bar, dog friendly of course with great food and friendly staff. Not the place for a quiet romantic  night perhaps but well worth a visit. Another plus for Perth(shire), a selection of libraries  have introduced dog friendly Fridays .  No accommodation report because I like to post positive reviews, the only plus point being DogS could come too.

*The Necropolis, Glasgow Cathedral and Infirmary (in the background right).

** I was a bit delayed completing and posting this.

Islay

We’ve had another short break, this time to the slightly less balmy climes of Islay. Storm Callum had been raging, flooding our local shopping centre, cancelling ferries and generally causing mayhem (and very sadly loss of life) but luckily had subsided by the time we needed to travel. Still we stopped off to fortify and warm ourselves up with a hobbity second breakfast at the lovely Smiddy Bistro

spicy beans

Spicy beans and egg on toast

Then it was back on the road to Kennacraig to join the Finlaggan

We’ve travelled to Islay before but always as a means of visiting Jura and though we did make a quick trip over,  this time it was all about Islay.

It’s probably best known as a distillery island and while we popped into the newest* one Kilchoman for some lunch (and picked up a bottle to take home) we were more interested in exploring some of Islay’s spectacular beaches.

And of course DogS approved of this option.

Even thought sun was shining I was not tempted to paddle, these beaches Machir and Saligo bays face out into the Atlantic and have dangerous rip tides and fierce waves.  I didn’t want to risk DogS following me and getting swept away.

I found a piece of slate and made my mark

Marina slate

But was very aware of leaving no trace…

notrace

Unfortunately even on these wild and fairly remote beaches that wasn’t always the case

blue plastic

We couldn’t manage to take away this plastic but removed a few “poo bags” worth of sweetie wrappers, plastic bottles and cable ties. And then because I was looking for obvious litter I began to see the tiny ground up pieces of plastic which we’d have had to sieve the sand to remove.

trying to leave only footprints

trying to leave only footprints

rubbish face

Bleurgh!

MrS didn’t miss out on his history fix, as well as the distillery and gorgeous beaches Kilchoman is home to this ancient carved cross and a poignant military cemetery marking the loss of the Otranto in 1918.

kilchoman cross

 

And true to form good food and drink was enjoyed, though we couldn’t take advantage of the bar at the Bowmore hotel. (We were driving)

DogS didn’t miss out

A walk through Bridgend woods gave DogS some good sniffs

Bridgend woods

 

And she could sniff but didn’t see this fine guy at Islay Woollen Mill

Sam

Who’s that sitting in My mill?

And we got the shivers listening to the seal song at Portnahaven

portnahaven

Portnahaven, the seals were sitting out on the island. Singing. 

A very short visit but great fun and still lots to return and explore

across to Jura

The Paps of Jura across Loch Indaal from the Bowmore – Bridgend road

And a few treats to take home.

goodies

sitting on an Islay wollen mill blanket

Until next time

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*Kilchoman is the newest until Ardnahoe opens later this year.

We stayed at the very comfortable, dog (and people) friendly Bridgend Hotel and must give a special mention to the dog friendliness and sausages  at our lunch stop The Bowmore Hotel

Sevilla

Or as you may know it, Seville.  Fourth largest city in Spain, known (according to MrS) as El Sarten – the frying pan, due to its hot climate. Summer runs from May to October so we enjoyed a change from the wet and wind of home. Mmmmm, temperatures of 30 degrees, bright sunshine and warm nights, sandals, summer dresses and restaurants gently misting their outside terraces.

MrS even sat out on our terrace in shorts!

legs

they don’t come out very often!

It really was a short break but a predawn flight from Edinburgh helped  maximise our time. Mind you we didn’t feel so chirpy about that getting up at 4am.

It had been a while since we’d been to such a major tourist city so the queue for the Cathedral and the crowds inside were a bit disconcerting. Especially when you consider that it’s the biggest Gothic Cathedral in the world.  It was only after we’d visited that we read the guide book recommendation to avoid the worst of the queues outside by buying the joint visit ticket from St Salvador church, oops!

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Cathedral with a tiny bit of the Giralda tower peeking out

 

So, magnificent though it is,  it wasn’t my favourite visit and we ended up giving the other “must see” site a miss; when we  arrived at the Real Alcazar we couldn’t face the queue winding around the block.

But we found some absolutely wonderful places to visit which were all but empty.

The Ceramics Museum in the Triana district, across the river from the Cathedral and Palace was once home to the ceramics industry and one former factory is now a beautiful museum.

 

The industry may have gone but tiles are still all around.

Another quieter but definitely worth visiting place was the Museum of Popular Arts and Culture it’s free to EU citizens  so our timing was good for that one.

Of course food and drink featured prominently

Seville was the home of the artist Murillo , we were able to have a close up view of two of his masterpieces* at the Caridad Hospital

the patio of the Caridad Hospital

On our last morning we admired more of Murillo and his great inspiration  Zurbaran at the Fine Arts Museum

 

Then we continued our “tradition”** of a last day long lunch at Taberna de la Albardero

 

…..followed by a visit to the church of St Salvador where we should have started out.

Three busy days and nights and plenty more to go back for.

nightscape

Marina X

 

*Murillo Close up – “The miracle of the loaves and fishes” and “Moses drawing water from the rock”

**we’ve done it once, maybe twice before

 

We stayed at the Hotel Inglaterra which has a great central position on Plaza Nueva, and our room had a fabulous terrace with views (breakfast pic)

We loved our first lunch at El Pinton in the Santa Cruz district and I would recommend the amazing tempura egg. (next to breakfast pic)

…walks with a little brown dog

I may have written this before but there are few things that can’t be brightened up by a little brown dog. Recently two much loved local dogs have died;  I’ll miss seeing them about, though nowhere near as much as their people will and it’s made me specially glad to have B around.

Part of the joy of walking with a dog is the pleasure they seem to get from their surroundings. B meanders from side to side, on “zombie pawtrol” as it’s known by her Twitter pals. I think she mostly “sees” through her nose but mine is a little further from the sniffs so I decided to look in the more conventional way.

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It was a grey, drizzly morning which may accentuate the smells,  it can bring sparkle to things you might overlook.

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raindrops on spiderwebs

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and on whiskers of kittens (well caterpillars)

There was an advertising campaign last year or so with the strapline “Be more dog”. I can’t remember what the product was but it’s not a bad way to be.

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from little burns mighty oak trees grow (hmm, maybe that’s not the saying)

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and here’s one which grew earlier

Autumn leaves fall, all things pass;  sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I fret. But sometimes I can find my inner dog.

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And who could resist that smile?

 

Marina x