Buenos Aires to Madrid. And into the Basque region….

Since watching the musical ‘Evita’ in London as a child, Buenos Aires had always held a fascination for me. Needing to relax for a while after the brutal ride South, I decided to fly from Ushuaia to BA and then take a number of weeks to get to know the city a little. And what a fascinating place it is; very friendly for a big city, and with a delightful charm. Eva Peron still shows herself, whether in conversation, politics, giant murals or those making a pilgrimage to her mausoleum amongst all the others in the amazing cemetery of the upmarket Recoleta district.

Dark parts of the city’s history are also subtly presented, such as these plaques commemorating some of the people that simply ‘disappeared’ under the military dictatorship.

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Much of the city’s great expansion took place around 1900 to 1930, and a lot of these buildings still exist. I became strangely fascinated with the grand doorways, which are kept scrupulously clean and are often tributes to the architecture of the time.

Many of the bars and cafes (of which I sampled a fair few) also had interiors that had been lovingly preserved.

The ‘Porteños’ (as those from BA are called) have a great sense of fun. I witnessed a fair few demonstrations (apparently they’re very common) including ones with a distinct carnival atmosphere and live music, and I was welcomed to join in. The local police, however, didn’t seem to quite get into the groove.

I had decided to return to Europe by flying to Madrid and cycling back to Berlin from there. I figured that this would provide me with a gentle way of easing myself back into a very different culture again, and also allow me to visit various friends en route. Madrid was the ideal European city to visit after BA, sharing many of the same qualities – particularly the warm people, grand architecture, and a culture of food and wine!

Leaving Madrid after ten glorious days I headed north into the Basque region: to Bilbao, up the Atlantic coast to the culinary Mecca of San Sebastian, and then into France.

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I had become quite blasé about hills, thinking that after the Andes everything else would be child’s play. Ok, it wasn’t as hard, but the ups and downs still made for tough riding at times.

As well as the beautiful countryside, the thing that for me made the Basque region a surprisingly awesome place for cycling was the courtesy shown by car drivers. Without fail, they would slow down upon approach, wait until there was no oncoming traffic, and then only overtake once they could pass on the other side of the road. It was impressive. (although I’ll confess to missing the friendly honks of South American drivers). My times on busy roads were few however, as I took smaller roads marked on the map – the ‘caminos’. It was a bit of a magical mystery tour each day, as it was impossible from the maps to tell whether it was a good road surface, a gravel track, or even just a path through grass that could be barely made out. But it was fantastic fun!

The scenery, whilst not as dramatic as South America, was still fabulous. Given that I was now riding towards summer, I was treated to poppies a plenty, as well as fields of rape and corn, and occasional vineyards among the little towns and villages peppered along the way.

Accommodation was good quality and reasonably priced, so it was only on a couple of occasions that I wild camped. One evening it was a bit windy, but I simply couldn’t be bothered to continue to the next town, so pitched the tent. I was then battered by what felt like gales all through the night. Perhaps my decision to camp on top of a hill right next to a wind farm wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made. I learn from my mistakes though – the next camp was tucked in the woods!

Spain was a great welcome back to Europe, and the Basque region a top tip for anyone looking for good places to bike.

Needless to say, my blog is woefully behind and I’m now getting close to the end of my trip. There’ll be a couple more posts though. I’ll just have to pretend I’m still on the road for a while longer!

As ever, much love to everyone,

Stuart

 

 

 

16 thoughts on “Buenos Aires to Madrid. And into the Basque region….

  1. Amazing Stuart, I’ve been waiting for one of these for a while😊 Let is know when you are back in London for a catch up!

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    1. Hi Tania! Sorry, my blogging has definitely been sporadic…… I’ve actually finished the tour now, so hope I will be in London regularly. Would be good to see you. Hope all well for you too, Stuart x

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  2. Stuart

    Glad you are still pedalling.

    It will be a shock to the system returning to Berlin and city life

    Safe travels

    Lots of love

    Lorraine and Emma
    Xx

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    1. Thanks you two! I’ve actually been back 2 weeks now, but it hasn’t really sunk in. Almost all my boxes are still in storage, and even then I’m marveling at how much ‘stuff’ I suddenly have around me. Particularly socks and pants. To go from 4 pairs of each, to having an overflowing drawer-full is a strange thing. Maybe I should just get back on the bike. After seeing you guys of course 😉 Sending lots of love to you both, Stuart X

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  3. Hi Stuart,

    schön, dass Du wieder auf dem europäischen Festland angekommen bist. Was mich ein bisschen nachdenklich macht, dass Du zum Beginn der Tour de France die französische Grenze erreichst. Ich würde es gerne sehen, wenn Du den vollgedopten Radlern mit Deiner in den Anden erworbenen Kondition am Mont Ventoux davon fährst… Viel Spaß noch!

    Gruß, Rainer

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    1. Hi Rainer! Da musst du dir keine Sorgen machen – ich bin immer noch eher langsamer Radler, besonders wenn’s in die Berge geht! Aber ich kann’s wenigstens den ganzen Tag lang aushalten 😉 Inzwischen bin ich vor 2 Wochen in Berlin angekommen, aber momentan wieder im UK. Freue mich sehr auf ein baldiges Treffen mit euch, und natürlich auf das ‘normale’ Leben in meiner lieblings Hauptstadt! Liebe Grüße, Stuart

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  4. Hi Stuart – have you cycled through SW France yet? Specifically the town of Sarlat, in the Dordogne? Let me know, Paul

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    1. Hi Paul, I have indeed gone through France, but didn’t hit the Dordogne. I followed the veloroute up the Atlantic coast to Nantes, then turned right! But I’m planning on some ‘short’ trips this summer still. Will drop you an email – be good to see you. Trust all well, Stuart

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    1. Thanks Denise! I got back to Berlin two weeks ago, so just one bumper edition left to write….. If you want to kick Simon out of the house for a while, tell him I’m always up for a little cycle tour somewhere 😉 Look forward to catching up with you both sometime soon hopefully, Stuart x

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  5. Another amazing insite to life away from this land I call home.
    Beautiful pictures.
    Hope your well and take care.

    Karen and Charles Pavitt xx

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    1. Thanks Karen. Don’t show too much enthusiasm, otherwise I might have to bore you both with an extended slide show when I see you! Hope you’re both well, and look forward to catching up sometime hopefully very soon. I was chatting with someone the other day who is having a knee operation soon. Not sure I helped matters when I showed her your post-op pic 😉 Lots of love and a hug to you and the little fella, Stuart X

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    1. Namaste DY! Thank you, great to have linked up with you again. It’s been a long time since our meet-ups in New Delhi. Maybe I’ll have to come out and catch up with your world?! Warm wishes, Stuart

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  6. Hi Stuart . Loved following your travels but I think I missed a few episodes towards the end. Enjoy ‘normal’ life, hope to catch up soon somewhere.
    Jan x

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