We finished the Camino over a week ago now. I’m going to write a few more entries about the Camino itself over the next little while, depending on time, and, perhaps more crucially, finding free wifi (which I suspect might be a little tricky in London.) For the meantime, this is what we have been doing since we finished.
On Sunday we hired a car and drove to Finisterre, a possible further extension of the Camino. It is where the Celts thought that Europe ended (which must have come as a bit of a shock to the Irish), and the sun, presumably, sank into the sea. Though, having said that, given that the Anicent Greeks knew that the world was round, and approximately how big it was, it seems entirely possible that the Celts also knew. Anyway, it was a beautiful sunny day, the sea glistened, and a brisk ocean breeze blew. It was all very picturesque, and made us sad to say goodbye to the Camino, seeing the few people who go that far trudging up the hill with their scallop shells. Pilgrims had become “them” rather than “us” – while we had become tourists, driving out to look at a thing, take a few pictures, and drive away.
We then thought it might be fun to drive to Bilbao. I will draw a veil over the experience, except to note that Spain is quite a big country, and, even though the road network is admirable, and the view as you drive past the Picos de Europa is impressive, it was not a fun way to spend the day. Also Spanish driving is absolutely terrible – they could pay off the deficit here in about a day if they installed speed cameras on the motorways, though on the other hand having half the population of Spain unable to drive might have other economic knock on effects.
Bilbao, it turns out, is lovely. Steep – it is built in a steep river valley, which makes driving in quite an adventure, especially in the middle of the night. There is quite a nice old town, people in proper city clothes, and, of course, the Guggenheim, which was the reason we came here.
The Guggenheim is far too famous for me to need to say much about it, except to add to the general chatter about what a wonderful space it is. To Melbournians I might add that it kind of reminded me of Fed Square, only made of shiny metal. If it was in Australia – or if, say the Sydney Opera House was made of that sort of material, you wouldn’t be able to look at it
, and it would probably be a threat to navigation, low flying aircraft, and indeed people trying to get into it without a welders mask on. However, in the dimmer light of Europe, it was beautiful.
I don’t feel that I know enough about modern art to have an intelligent opinion about the contents (though I am keen on Rothko), but I can’t help feeling that it is not entirely unlike the experience of downloading a Britney Spears song from the internet: i.e. the engineering which makes it possible is the worthy heir of over three thousand years of literate civilisation, in unfortunate contrast to the use to which it is being put.
Though, again, the level of engineering expertise in a Britney song is itself pretty impressive, which kind of makes the same point.
The other thing about Bilbao is that it is also on a Camino de Santiago – the northern route which climbs up and down the bays along the northern coastline. We passed numerous Camino signs as we drove, and saw pilgrims in the Cathedral square, which was a funny moment. We
were definitely “them” by that point, so Anne and I just observed, and reminisced about the good old days when we were doing the Camino last week.
Having spent a few days soaking up the urban delights, and the last few days of sunshine before we get back to Aus, we hopped on a plane, and were delivered to Manchester, where, unsurprisingly, it was wet. And quite cold.
From Manchester we hired our final car for the trip, and drove past Chester, and then down through almost the whole of Wales (which was also wet, though considerably more scenic), past Bets-y-Coed where we used to go for walking holidays when we lived in the UK, and finally to Pen-y-Groes, about 7 miles from Fishguard, where Anne’s brother Andrew and his partner Becci, and their two children Milo (7) and Alex (5) live.
We spent a pleasant few days doing family stuff, going on s, hort walks, sleeping on the living room floor, and generally hanging out with them, and with Anne’s parents, who came down on the weekend.
Yesterday (Monday) Margaret and Fraser (Anne’s parents) drove us to Haverfordwest, and we took the train for That London, where we currently are, in Earls Court, close to our old stomping ground of Kensington High Street. We had dinner at the Churchill Arms, one of our favourite pubs, went to the Ken High Street Waterstones, marvelled at the prices in the Whole Foods shop, did our actual shopping in Waitroses, and generally re-established a bit of contact with our old life.
On first inspection, not all that much has changed, though the rather cool cafe where I laughed so hard while reading Bill Bryson’s Australia that I snorted coffee out through my nose has now gone.
Today we are going to walk around town, and probably go to the British Museum, and generally behave like tourists, and have dinner with my old school friend Martin, who has been living here for the best part of twenty years now.