THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Bilbao baby
All at sea

Onward to the voyage home

Breakfast in Bilbao was a noisy affair. Out on the hotel terrace, enjoying the cool air and views of the river, my ears were assailed by the horns of cars driving up and down the opposite bank with red and white balloons. I know those are the colours of Atletico Bilbao but their last match was the day I set out last month. Whether it was a political protest or a wedding I have no idea. It didn’t seem to attract any policing and passers-by on the street paid it no attention, so I suspect it’s just some tradition I don’t know about. 

Bilbao from my breakfast terrace

I thoroughly enjoyed the short drive to Santander. The Spanish motorways I've experienced have lower speed limits, but are well-surfaced and more curvy than those of the other countries on the tour. My roof was down the whole way. The sunshine was pleasant and the temperature was perfect. The drive inside the city to find the hotel however, was unpleasant down narrow teeming streets. A key one was closed for road works and my sat nav kept bringing me back to the amused chaps working there, who may have learned quite a bit of less polite English vocabulary as a result. Eventually I found a place to pull in and work out a different route, targeting the public car park, which the Santander hotel informed me at the last moment was where I should park. 

I’m not really sure why I booked an hotel in Santander anyway. My ferry doesn’t leave until 4pm tomorrow and the port is a short enough drive from Bilbao. I checked and I could have extended my stay in the very nice hotel there, but I would be charged for the Santander hotel anyway so decided it was too late to change.

I wished I'd let them keep their money when I finally reached the place. I might have guessed from the tone of the imperfectly informative last minute (after it was too late to cancel without 100% penalty) email, which finally confessed that the hotel has no parking of its own. The sneery words "should you have chosen to come to Santander by car" should have warned me I wouldn't feel at home. Do they think their guests have teleports?

Santander Hotel Information
I fixed their info for them

I am scrupulous about secure parking on my road trips. It's not that I care more about Speranza's safety than my own, but I don't care very much less. The grim public car park they'd suggested had one space free. When I neatly slotted Speranza into it, there was no way for me to get out – even if I were Hollywood-slender. This was a place for SEATs their owners care less about than their least favourite T-shirts. I had no choice but to reverse out and circle again. I got lucky and another car pulled out. By reversing in and parking millimetres from the passenger side of the neighbouring LHD car, I managed to leave just enough room to open Speranza's long door and squeeze out. The LHD car on my driver's side had gone in forward, so whatever problems he will have getting in are of his own making.

The hotel's snooty email had warned me there were two entrances. It hadn't told me that only one of them had a sign on it. Actually, that's not quite true. The entrance I arrived at did have a sign on it - for a completely different business. After wandering up and down the square for a while, asking nice Spaniards for directions (none of them had heard of it), I called the hotel and someone emerged to lead me in. I rubbed her up the wrong way by pointing out the misleading signage. She told me that there was "no problem" and that they'd sent me a helpful email, which I clearly hadn't read. Judgemental commentary on the intelligence, or diligence, of a paying customer is pretty poor marketing, even in these less polite times. 

It's an hotel with ideas above its station, run strictly by stern ladies of a certain age. No checking if the room was ready– just a curt "check in is at 3pm, can we hold your bag for you?" Babička would have gone to town on them, but I elected for peace and quiet. Even I was tempted to go babistic when, after lunch at a nearby restaurant, I was finally admitted to my room. It has a view of other rooms with no views. The curtains were drawn to prevent heat from the atrium making it even more unpleasant and it took a while for turning on the air-conditioning to make a difference. rates it as "fabulous" and among the "top picks for solo travellers". The room is clean, the bathroom is excellent, the wifi works and I don't have to deal with the harridan until I check out tomorrow so I'll forgive myself the error. Gentle reader if you like public transport or your mum was a bit fierce with you when you were growing up, you might like the Soho Boutique Palacio de Pombo. As for me, I hate public transport and my mum is lovely. 

My Track my Tour map is updated here


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"go babistic"... love it!


That’s falls into the same category as my mum being nasty — not applicable. The breakfast was good though.


... but the hotel would have accepted your dog too.

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