The Boat that Rocked

Trip Start Jun 28, 2009
Trip End Aug 02, 2009

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  , Cantabria,
Monday, June 29, 2009

We're off round the blog again....
Less ambitious than the last trip, more complex than a Jet2 flight to
Malaga and slightly longer than the usual holiday, we'll go from from
Leeds to the lap of Virg's family via Santander, Lisbon and Seville.
Not sure the blogathon will continue in the same vein as previously,
as we're not “travelling” we're “holidaying” - the
difference? Hopefully fewer mosquito bites as a result of
sub-standard accommodation, fewer long walks in the midday sun
looking for cheap accommodation, no more sleep-sheets to avoid
catching strange diseases from suspiciously stained beds and
unfortunately (for anyone reading this) fewer bloggable disasters and
mis-adventures. Shunning the staycationers, laughing in the face
(not literally) of Australian backpackers and trying to avoid school
trips, anywhere described as family-friendly or anywhere that large
numbers of under-12s congregate. In short, we are travelling in a
bit more style, and as a result the blog is likely to be more akin to
a long-winded postcard rather than jolly japes experienced on a big trip...

In direct contradiction to this edict,
and perhaps trying to make things exciting from the off, or perhaps
not thinking things thorough, we booked an advance train ticket (the
pre-requisite 'ages ago') from Leeds to Plymouth leaving an
optimistic 2 hours for any National Rail-oh-it's-Sunday-we-really
can't be-bothered-related-slippage. We needn't have worried. A mere
6 hours, mercifully free of unruly toddlers, tepid coffee or undue
delay and with one of those toilets with the electric sliding doors
that actually worked, we arrived in Plymouth. A 10 minute
walk across the city was slightly more then enough to convince us
we'd had a lucky escape, and we were soon taking our place amongst a
group of Costa-del-crime-a-like, trolley-wielding pensioners
,clutching our boarding passes and waiting to board the ferry.
Notorious for its choppy seas and 'mal
de mer', the Bay of Biscay ferry crossing has a reputation that
precedes it. One that Brittany Ferries has tried to gloss over,
offering 'mini-cruises' where you can take the 20 hour crossing,
over-indulge in food and wine before throwing it back up, spend half
a day in Santander and then return for a 'repeat' experience. All
this, sold off the back of an opportunity to see whales and dolphins.
Indeed the assortment of tripods, lenses, binoculars and
multi-pocketed jackets amongst our travelling companions must have
warmed the cockles of the Brittany Ferries Marketing department.
We board the ferry to be confronted by
a poster advertising the evening's cinema schedule with,The Boat that
Rocked, top of the bill. (It's all non-stop marketing genius here).
Other scheduled evening entertainment includes a singing duo –
Foreign Affair, and Urban Myth, an aspiring illusionist with a dry
ice-fetish (the latter isn't the marketing department but my own
post-performance observation). The crossing was certainly a little
uncomfortable at times but compared to a previous North Sea
experience it was plain sailing so to speak. Having slept for a full
3 or so hours we awoke to calm waters and sunshine and eating
breakfast watched as the hazy mountains of Northern Spain came slowly
into view.

From the deck, we watched Santander
come into view (Plymouth it isn't), long fingers of sand forming
miles of beautiful beach reflected the early morning sunlight, a
backdrop of green hills, themselves backed by craggy mountains.
Never having been here before and anticipating, correctly as it
turned out, that we may not have the best night's sleep aboard the
Port Aven, we booked a couple of nights in a hotel and set about
discovering the art of the Pincho. Pinchos are a sort of tapas but
this part of Spain have turned them into an art form. Touring bars
and sampling is probably not best from a healthy diet point of view
but we're on holiday and so at this stage don't care (maybe in a few
weeks when I can't get my arms round Virg we'll reconsider this.
Never one to miss out on an opportunity to try my ever improving
Spanish and full of the confidence that a hard shove towards the bar
from Virg brings, I managed to enquire to the ingredients of each
Pincho, promptly forget them and then just order a random sample,
safe in the knowledge that I could always go back for more. And
indeed we did. Santander keeps you entertained for longer than the
dolphin-spotters and caravaners would have you think as they stay for
a few hours and head off / back. It's not well-blessed in terms of
spectacular landmarks and buildings (Santander Bank has a lovely
building). The pinchos and bar crawl atmosphere makes up for it
though and a bit of Spanish food, language and culture helps you feel
like you're on holiday (or paradoxically home in Virg's case).
Virg make much of the way she feels
detached from her culture living in the UK and I was pleased that
spending a few hours in the presence of Spanish television is still
enough to make her remember what she's missing. Daytime telly is the
same in any language that could be “mierda” or whatever Spanish
is for “lowest common denominator” , but the diary magazine
programmes they have in Spain are from another era to say the least.
Take for example the coverage of the “Tractores y Chocolate
Festival” in a nearby village. The premise is this (I kid you
not). Young bikini-clad women climb on tractors with a vague nod
towards tractor welfare and cleanliness, reinforced when some nearby
farmers (they have to be, surely), spray them with hoses (that's the
tractors and the women both). All this makes for a tiring start to
proceedings and so whilst the “hosers” are resting, the women
(there's no rest for the women in Spain) are for some reason
compelled to wrestle each other in a children's paddling pool filled
with liquid chocolate. No really! Now, it's easy to think that this
is simply some rant about what goes down as a fun weekend in deep
Spain but the real surprise is that when back in the studio the
conversation between the panellists focusses on the disingenuous
nature of the advert (picture enclosed) which sports a, shall we say
porno-lookalike leading to disappointment amongst the fee-paying
public when they happen upon women with slightly less in the
pneumatic chest department. This really is the 21st
Century you know! At least I think that by employing the marketeers
from Brittany Ferries they would maybe have called the festival
Tractores y Chocolate y Tetas or some such giving some clue to the
actual content, I mean anyone hoping for a bar of chocolate or a ride
on a tractor would be sadly disappointed.
Anyhow, things ridiculous aren't
confined to Spain as I've just heard that United have replaced the
world's best player with a combination of Michael Owen and a fella
from Wigan (well Equador really, but via Wigan), rollout the hoses
that's what I say.

Train Leeds to Plymouth direct (26
Ferry Cabin to Santander Brittany
Ferries (189)

Silken Coliseum (65 Euros per night
for 4 *)

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