Salou, Pamplona, and Biarritz
We packed up and left Barcelona, Spain heading south approximately 100 miles to the coastal beach town of Salou. We wanted to spend an additional few days in the country, preferably in a calmer place and ideally in a coastal town along the Mediterranean Sea. Salou was a pretty ideal fit. Once again, we got lucky as far as our accommodation with our travels being in the off-season. Our house rental was a condo on the first floor above a restaurant overlooking the beach. It was a pretty amazing find as you can see in the pictures below. We were told at high season in August it rents for close to $2,000 a week. Our four day visit came to less than $150 per night. More money for sangria and paella!
Despite it being a bit cool (in 50’s F), the beach was full of sun-seekers with a fairly large number from Britain. We found out that England has some very cheap package deals to Salou, similar to the US and the deals often found over spring break to Mexico. We spent our time like many of our stops, walking and sight-seeing on foot, not really seeking out anything in particular and always quite surprised with what we seem to discover. The kids and I spent one morning on the beach kicking soccer balls mixed with playing catch / baseball with Wesley. We’ve been doing our best to play a little baseball each day as upon our return Wesley jumps right back into his Minneapolis Miller’s baseball season. After time on the beach, the kids and I walked a few blocks into town and found an Irish Pub that had an outdoor pool table which was a fun surprise. We ordered some french fries “chips” and a few drinks including a Guinness for papa.
Moving on we traveled north for a final Spanish stop in Pamplona. I was interested in taking a few photos and getting a first hand look at the historic city that hosts the annual 8-day Running of the Bulls festival. There are a few other countries including Portugal, France, and Mexico who have similar events of their own, although Pamplona is said to host the most famous. To sum it up, people (young, wild, and much more free spirited than a dad on tour with his family) are chased through the narrow, cobbled streets of Pamplona with crazed bulls on their heels leading into the city’s bullring, a “celebratory” event preceding the afternoon bullfight.
According to Wikipedia: Spanish tradition says the true origin of the run began in northeastern Spain during the early 14th century. While transporting cattle in order to sell them at the market, men would try to speed the process by hurrying their cattle using tactics of fear and excitement. After years of this practice, the transportation and hurrying began to turn into a competition, as young adults would attempt to race in front of the bulls and make it safely to their pens without being overtaken. When the popularity of this practice increased and was noticed more and more by the expanding population of Spanish cities, a tradition was created and stands to this day.
While I like to think I would still partake in such an event, I was happy to simply roam the streets for a short time snapping photos without worry of being chased, maybe by the kids, but surely not a bull. This is a place I’d love to come back to, maybe with my brother or a buddy to get crazy with a herd of bulls on our heels (with a belly full of sangria for certain). Until then, the idea and experience will live near the lower part of my bucket list.
Moving on into southern France we set our GPS bearings to Biarritz, the “surf capital” of Europe located on the Bay of Biscay just 20 miles from the border of Spain. Despite mostly cloudy skies, Biarittz was a welcome stop due to the spectacular views and it’s historic ocean front sights. It felt a bit like the Santa Barbara, California of France. It’s a chic vacation destination for the French, known for it’s beaches and of course fine waves for surfing. We spent a morning on the beach, the kids rolling up their pant legs and jumping waves while Michelle and I took turns strolling a bit on our own. After, we walked as a family along the banks, taking in sights of old boats and seafaring relics from the past. The next morning the sun was out and while Michelle took the kids to a chocolate museum I wandered taking photos from some of the higher vantage points far above the beaches.
Travel across the border from Spain into France gave us our first real glimpse of how recent terrorism issues are affecting France as well as Belgium. While we weren’t stopped, there were a large number of armed soldiers peering into each car that passed through. We were later told that until recently there would not have been a police or military presence at border crossings such as this. Up until this point, travel from country to country has been no different than driving from state to state throughout the United States. In many countries you see remnants of check points; derelict towers and fencing that are no longer in use. Recent terrorist events in Europe have brought many questions from the back seats of our car throughout the numerous hours and countries we’ve driven through. We do our best to explain the reasons why such things occur, despite the difficulty for anyone of any age to truly understand why. The atrocities in Germany were also discussed amid travel through that country. As awful as these historical events are, being in places and not mentioning or discussing seems a missed opportunity to share thoughts, questions, and learn together as a family.
We haven’t been as active as we had planned in terms of time spent delving into homeschooling books and apps. Despite this, there isn’t a day that goes by where we all learn something much more tangible just by being in the places we are.
Onward to Bordeaux and Easter in France!