Sojourn in South Africa

We’ve been having a lovely time in South Africa, initially being spoilt by winter sun but now being subjected to the winter rains for which Cape Town is renowned.  After our marathon 24 hour journey from Zarautz, via Bilbao, Madrid and London Heathrow it’s been wonderful to relax, catch up with friends and wander around the Cape Town city bowl soaking up the atmosphere.  We are pleased to see that the Cape Town coffee scene is flourishing so we’ve been sampling most of the new coffee places and we’ve also been wine tasting in Constantia, Leigh got his fix of Portuguese steak at the Chapman’s Peak Hotel and we’ve enjoyed the Open Design Festival currently on in Cape Town as well as catching up with friends over dinner.

We spent a long weekend away with friends between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, on David Matthews’ beautiful smallholding Bosky Holt (where we had spent the first few nights of our honeymoon).  It brought back lots of memories and we spent days exploring the beaches at Plettenberg Bay, Keurbooms and Buffalo Bay and as well as a lot of time simply taking in the magnificent views from the farm.  Coincidentally Brenda was in Knysna for the weekend with Carol-Anne and David opened his house to them as well and we had lovely meals and all enjoyed relaxed evenings catching up around the fire.

A big thank you to everyone for being so hospitable and generous … and apologies to all of those we don’t manage to see this visit.


The Basque Country – The Basque Coast

We’ve spent another fantastic 10 days in the Basque Country, focussed on  improving our surfing skills in Zarautz, taking advantage of the beginner friendly summer waves.  Zarautz has the longest beach on the Basque Coast, filled with families, surf schools and gorgeous fabric beach huts.  We attended another Surf Film Festival – this one featuring several films on surfing in the Basque Country, with Zarautz heavily featured;  we had fun spotting local surfers on screen (and cheers of course went up in the cinema as people spotted themselves!).

We also spent days getting to know the rest of the wildly beautiful Basque coast.  We visited the most northerly point in the region and the beautiful San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a lovely island connected to the mainland by a bridge and many steps, housing a beautiful 10th century church.  We enjoyed beautiful beaches at Lekeitio, Mundaka and Mutriku and were well looked after by locals at a great bar in Ibarranguelua.

We explored inland, visiting Gernika-Lumo and getting lost in the misty green hills just inland from the coast.  The Basque Country is a mix of rolling green hills, beautiful beaches, colourful fishing villages set on steep slopes, houses which would look more at home in Switzerland than Spain.  We also spent a morning SUPing up one of the rivers and spent some wonderful evenings surfing as the sun set.

We journeyed in to France, to St-Jean-de-Luz and to ultra cool Biarritz but were certainly relieved that we had decided to stay in Spain as France was unbelievably busy.  We weren’t actually able to stop in Biarritz as couldn’t find any parking: there were huge queues for every parking place, queues at petrol stations and general holiday chaos.  We can’t even begin to imagine how crazy the south of France must be!

On that note, we decided to leave France until September and that a holiday from our sabbatical was in order.  We booked tickets to fly out to South Africa, leaving Bambi in the care of the wonderful staff at Camping Gran Zarautz.

Spain – The Basque Country

We had a wonderful week with Sharron and Fraser, based in the laid back surfer town, Zarautz.

We spent days on the beach here and in nearby Getaria, learning to surf and teaching Sharron and Fraser to SUP and improving our skateboarding skills in the campsite, which has a fantastic holiday atmosphere and is filled with kids that can all skateboard far better than any of us!

We took a day trip to Bilbao, to visit the magnificent Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim museum and also to nearby San Sebastian to wander around the old town and sample the award winning Pintxos.

We were really sad to see them leave and are having to get used to just each other’s company again!

PS We’ve also added a couple of photos to the previous post – hopefully our blog will be photo filled once again from now on

Back to Spain

We spent our last few days in Portugal in the remote Montesinho National Park, in the isolated north eastern corner of Portugal, just near the capital city of Tras os Montes province, Braganca. We explored the castle, medieval citadel and art galleries of Braganca and also drove to explore remote villages in the park itself. Literally “behind the mountains” Tras os Montes is remote and empty, the few villages in the park protected from further development and communities living in them still adhering to communal farming – in one, smack bang on the spanish portuguese border, even the bar was run by the villagers as an association with profits ploughed back into the fields. The villages are virtually unchanged since medieval times, many with barns as the downstairs, filled with chickens and cattle and the living quarters upstairs, but sadly many are crumbling and filled by an ageing population, as the young all leave in search of work elsewhere.

We then crossed over in to Spain and in to the Basque Country, where we met Sharron and Fraser in Zarautz. We’ve had a fantastic week with them, surfing, SUPing, skateboarding and enjoying lots of laughs and good times.
The Internet reception here has been terrible – so that’s to blame for the lack of a blog post last week and the lack of photos. We’ll get some up as soon as we can as well as fill you in on all the details of what we’ve been up to here in Zarautz!