Bidart, Biarritz then onto San Sebastian in Spain

The weather is rainy so I drive into Biarritz. The surf is of a reasonable size but very messy. I park up near the Plage de la Cote Des Basques, which has a great view of the classic Biarritz winding paths down to the sea front. I walk into town, with my laptop to try and find WiFi access.

I walk around the town, which is as I expect it I suppose. It is a nice place.

The weather is rainy so I drive into Biarritz. The surf is of a reasonable size but very messy. I park up near the Plage de la Cote Des Basques, which has a great view of the classic Biarritz winding paths down to the sea front. I walk into town, with my laptop to try and find WiFi access.

I walk around the town, which is as I expect it I suppose. It is a nice place. I cannot find a bar with WiFi access. I see several good looking shops, and find the Casino, which is one of the few landmarks I have read about. It is not much to look at, but does overlook the Plage Grande, which is very nice. There are several surfers in the water, catching the best of the waves in the area. There are 2 lifeguards on patrol. I later notice them remove bathers. I think it is too dangerous for swimming.

A café outside the Casio has WiFi access, and the prices are not too bad. I go in and order a coffee.

I walk back through the town, from the Grande Plage, around the classic Biarritz coastal streets and back to the van. I stop at the supermarket for supplies.

I don’t know what to do next. The weather is grey, but the forecast is better for tomorrow, and for several days after. But the surf is worse tomorrow, but great after, a full 4 stars on magicseaweed.com. I would like to stay out of the sun as this may be a problem for my neck.

I have read that a local beach, Hendaye, has sheltered waves, which would be good for the big swell that is coming, but this is 2 days away. I would like to stay in Biarritz, but what will I do without any good surf? I drive to Hendaye.

My satellite navigation unit takes me on a Peage, even though it is set to avoid pay roads. I stop at a massive shopping centre, on the lookout for a new sleeping bag, as the zip has gone on mine. I don’t find one though. I get to Hendaye. It is a nice place, and the surf is almost rideable. But tomorrow will be smaller, and that means another day of nothing to do.

After lots of indecision I decide to drive to San Sebastian. I am keen to get into Spain, to experience a new country, but also to keen costs down and to keep moving south for the weather. Parking in the city is a big problem apparently, so I set a course for the only campsite. Although there are lots of cheap hotels (Pensiones) I hate trying to find somewhere to park, and have gone off the idea of leaving the van. My satellite navigation unit takes me via another toll road. It only costs €0.55. The road is massively congested and it makes me tense, which hurts my neck greatly. I get a lot of funny looks from the many lorry drivers, many of which are from Slovakia and other far off countries. Somewhere along the journey I cross into Spain. I did not see a sign, perhaps there was not one? There is a massive series of large apartment blocks being built. I think of home, and how different my life in Cubert was from what living here must be like. Although Newquay and around isn’t heaven I appreciate that I had/have. I think of the German guys from Lancau-Ocean, with their 20 hour drive to go surfing!

As I near closer to San Sebastian my satellite navigation unit takes me down a lane. At first I thought it did not exist as it looked like a building site. But I found the lane, which was ridiculous to drive down. Luckily I did not meet any other vehicles. At the bottom it turns back into a regular street. Shortly after it takes me down an equally stupid narrow lane. The lane gets worse and worse. It goes up the side of the mountain, and I nearly have to use first gear. This is not the sort of conditions the van needs. When changing gear I feel the clutch slip at one point. I am trying to avoid having the clutch changed on this trip. The ridiculous lane continues. The sat nav unit declares the destination is on the right. I see a closed down old chateaux type house, and it looks like the end of the road, perched high up on the mountain top, on San Sebastian’s worst road. If I’d have to turn around and go back I would scream.
But then I notice the road hairpins around to the left. This is plain stupid now. I continue and the concrete becomes tarmac and wider. I turn off the lane and notice a nasty looking bit of land, which makes me wonder how safe the area is. I notice the campsite and pull in. I’m feeling fed up at this point, and suspicious of the area. I want the sea and rolling dunes again. As I drive into the campsite things look a lot better. This is apparently the only campsite in San Sebastian, and 5km from the centre. The campsite has lovely wooded areas and buildings. I go to reception, and then I realise I don’t know what to say. Although this is Spain, it is Euskal Herria, Basque country. Do they speak Castilian (Spanish) or just Basque? During Franco’s dictatorship of Spain he made it illegal for people to speak Basque, and the libraries where destroyed. Today many speakers of Basque cannot read or write it. But it is making a big comeback in modern Basque Spain. The friendly receptionist greets me with Ola! A big refreshing welcome. I check it, but it costs €20. The hostel in town is €10. The van with all of its luxuries is a big pain in the ass when it comes to cities. Paris was amazing, but no other towns have captured my attention, only the beach resorts. I could see the promise in Biarritz, but I think the weather is paramount for it to work.

I check my guidebook, which says there is a parking area in the park on the edge of San Sebastian, which is ok for vans. There is a bus into San Sebastian from the campsite, but I don’t want to go spending another €20 here. Tomorrow I will drive into the city, and see the city in one day, then drive down the coast. If it does capture my attention I will think about leaving the van in the park overnight, and try the youth hostel. I really don’t want to leave the van though. A break-in or any damage would really put a downer on my trip. I’m looking for some better weather, surf and a healthy neck, not smashed glass and missing things.

Posted by Darren

I'm a huge campervan enthusiast, and the maker of CampervanLife.com. I believe everyone can convert their own campervan, and enjoy a great lifestyle with it.

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