2015 was the year of the Grand European Road Trip taking in 9 countries in 9 weeks. We arrived in Spain following the 24 hour crossing on the Pont Aven, the Brittany Ferries ship from Portsmouth to SANTANDER. Arrival was about 6pm local time so we had researched a local Aire to park up for a couple of nights as we wanted to spend a day in Santander before moving on.


First Spanish Tapas of the holiday


LIERGANES is a small village about 25 miles from the ferry terminal in Santander. The parking area is the car park of the railway station, the end of a branch line from Santander so have no fear of trains thundering by. No facilities were needed as everything was topped up before leaving Portsmouth. Santander is worth a day trip and we enjoyed a really good tapas lunch to begin our extended trip.

Lierganes Free Aire


Roman bridge in Lierganes

Next stop was at the coastal town of LAREDO and 2 nights were spent here over the weekend relaxing and cycling along the impressive esplanade. It was a bit showery which kept us off the beach but it is a superb stretch of sand and would be very busy in the height of the summer. Sunday was busy in the town with a 10k race taking place and a large local market.

Tapas for lunch in Loredo


A great beach but not so good weather


Our next destination along the coast was BILBAO and a sort of Aire with hook ups with spectacular views overlooking the city. A frequent and cheap bus service takes you into the heart of Bilbao and the destination everyone heads for is the GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, an amazing looking building on the transformed riverside. The other attraction worth a walk round is the old town.

View from the Aire at Bilbao


Puppy by Jeff Koons


The Three Graces by Niki de Saint Phalle


Tulips by Jeff Koons


A lovely drive along the coast took us through CASTRO URDIALES, a super looking town that would be worth an extended stay. The Gothic-style parish church of Santa María de la Asunción dominates the harbour and dates from the Middle Ages.

Castro Urdiales


Santa María de la Asunción


San Sebastian was the next stop, again in an Aire in the city, easy to cycle into the centre along the beach esplanade. SAN SEBASTIAN is a gem of a city and has the best old town we encountered in northern Spain. The weather was mixed, again keeping us off the fantastic beach. The Tapas bars in San Sebastian are rated the best in Spain and lived up to its reputation and the showers were actually welcomed to force us into them.

Take a plate and move down the bar…


Pay at the end




Just had to try another bar…

San Sebastian is fairly close to the French border and 2 towns stood out for a future visit, Hondarribia on the Spanish side of the border and St Jean-de-Luz over the border into France where we stopped and had a walk. The town is a very typically elegant French beach resort but the Aire here is right beside the main railway line between Spain and France so the noise would prevent sleep in my view. Biarritz is not much further on and that was our next stop. Details on the French page.

Following a relaxing weekend in Biarritz we doubled back into Spain almost to San Sebastian where we picked up the A15 dual carriageway heading for PAMPLONA where there was a super free Aire with a bus stop nearby to explore the town.

The free Aire at Pamplona


El Monumento al Encierro


Pamplona old town


Pamplona town hall


Next day was spent on the A21 heading south. This whole drive from San Sebastian to Barcelona is one of the best drives you will ever take. The road has no tolls and is very quiet, given that it is one of the main routes between the north of Spain to the Mediterranean coast. The Pyrenees are on your left and you pass within sight of many hill top villages. JACA was worth a stop too stretch the legs after a few hours driving. Jaca is known as the “pearl of the Pyrenees”. It is a small cosmopolitan city, and an important stop along the “Camino de Santiago”, the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela.

After descending from the mountains to the hot, flat plains we headed for the small village of TAMARITE de LITERA, not far off the dual-carriageway where there was a free Aire.

Spectacular driving and views.


Free Aire at Tamarite de Litera


From there the road became the A23 heading for HUESCA and then the A22 towards LLEIDA where it became the A2 towards BARCELONA which we skirted round to the north to stop on the coast at CANET de MAR for the weekend which was extended a few days to get the fridge fixed. This allowed for a train trip into Barcelona on the Saturday and as the visit to the city was only for one day we took the open top bus trip in 35 degree heat! Lunchtime was a fantastic experience and I recommend you try the 4GATS restaurant near the city centre. Great food in a historic setting!

There was one stop left in Spain before crossing into France and it was a real highlight of the entire 9 week trip. The little town was called CALELLA de PALAFRUGELL and it was a superb little resort with a traffic free front and could not have been beaten for a day on the beach and an evening stroll along the esplanade. The campsite, the MOBY DICK, was not the best ever, but it served its purpose, and was within an easy walk to the beach. 


Moby Dick campsite


Calella de Palafrugell


Calella de Palafrugell


Calella de Palafrugell

Spain was a real surprise to me in a very positive way and I can’t wait to go back and explore more.

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