U is for Urdaibai district, El Pais Vasco / Euskadi Spain

A really quiet spot within reach of drop-dead gorgeous beaches, and of course Bilbao.

We loved:  The beaches, the Guggenheim at Bilbao, discovering the Basque language, the pool and house at Ea Astei. 

Downsides:  It’s densely wooded and is the wettest part of Spain, so be prepared with coats and umbrellas!  

An easy drive from the Picos took us to the densely wooded hills of the Urdaibai area in the Pays Basque (or Euskadi in Basque).

Rabbits play while a Basque thunderstorms brews

We’d booked a self catering apartment via the fantastic i-escape at Ea Astei which turned out be a generous, old-fashioned pad in a gorgeously peaceful hilltop setting. Even after just 4 nights in the campervan it was lovely to have a fridge, furniture and walls!

Inflatable frenzy in the pool at Ea Astei

The kids made up all sorts of games in the pool (we particularly enjoyed their mimed pool performance of The Princess and the Pea), bounced balls, rode ride-ons in the massive barn and counted the tame-ish rabbits in the gardens. All in all, a peaceful interlude and a great base for visiting Bilbao and the local beaches.

1.  First, Bilbao

Puppy love

We took the train and tram to the Guggenheim which was all we really had time for in Bilbao. It was enough, though, and we all admired Gehry’s famous building: rugged, random and futuristically clad in titanium.

Exploring time and space (apparently) at the Guggenheim …


Our favourites were the Warhol Shadows exhibition (102 screens taken from seven very similar digital pictures and displayed in a huge room) and, top of the bill for all of us, Richard Serra’s A Matter of Time — 8 huge structures you walk along / into / between. For us, this really worked, even if we didn’t really get the concept of exploring time through our experience of the structures!

This massive spider is called, bizarrely, Maman

We also appreciated the huge sculptures outside: Koons’ Puppy oozes cute kitsch and we loved his Tulips on the other side of the building. Not so sure about Maman, the massive twisted spider!

2.  A day at the beach

Drop dead gorgeous Playa Laida

We had the choice of 2 gorgeous beaches nearby – Laida and Larga. After lunch at the bigger one, Laida, we drove back to the quieter Larga for a long lazy afternoon of swimming, paddling, climbing and frisbee. As it was a Sunday both were full of Spanish families relaxing together and the vibe was friendly and laid-back.


3.  Next stop, France, and a quick trip to San Sebastián

Today was a bank holiday (turns out we were in full-on Festival season in the Basque Country – today marked the Feast of Saint James) and San Sebastián was FULL so we parked along the Paseo Noveo and walked back into the old town for the famous Pintxos. We had mixed success here — although we did find lots of bars showing off their amazing speciality Pintxos, and some of us even ate some, our picky smallest two basically ate chips and bread, it was slightly confusing and just a leetle bit stressful so we bade farewell to the Spanish party-goers and got back on the road for Biarritz.

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