Bilbao — on the beach at Gexto

The River Nervion, riverside landscaping and the EuskiTram line, Bilbao.

Bilbao is a wonderful city: the redeveopment of the old industrial areas bordering the River Nervion, focussing on the Guggenheim Museum, but also providing a wealth of gardens and contemporary landscaping for residents and visitors to enjoy, is fabulous — but if it's hot and sunny you may want to hit the beach. The two nearest options to the city are easily reached on the Bilbao Metro Line 1: Plenzia at the far end of the line [currently only accessible via a bus replacement service] and Gexto situated on the eastern bank of the River Nervion as it enters the Bay of Biscay. Gexto has four beaches but the most accessible is Ereaga — a broad expanse of fine sand regularly cleared of driftwood and other debris from the river and backed by a wooded escarpment, behind which are apartments and houses defining the edge of the town and offering [no doubt expensive] views of the Nervion estuary and out to sea.

There are three Metro stations in the urban area of Gexto and on the map Algorta looks nearest to Ereaga Beach. But how do you get to the beach from the Metro Line 1 station — and back again?  The Tourism and Visitor centre would offer advice but — it's on the beach — no help when you exit the Metro station onto a busy pedestrian plaza and children"s playground. There's a map on the Gexto tourism web site, but if you're making a snap decision on the day, there's a lot of detail to absorb on the hoof.

We headed off in approximately the right direction and eventually found our way to the very convenient Funicular Maria Kristina down to the beach, but this was out of operation on our return, so we could not retrace our steps, so had to find an alternative route back to the Algorta Metro station. From this experience we offer our own map with two routes from the Metro Station down to the beach.

How to get to the Ereaga Beach at Gexto on the estuary of the River Nervion and the Bay of Biscay.

Having reached the edge of town near the Txpos public park we espied some attractively located bars and restaurants before finding our way by intuition rather than intent to the Funicular Maria Kristina that for 0.80 euros transports you down through the woods to beach level. Further along [going inland] are two hotels and restaurants and the El Abra marina with attendant bars restauarants and a multi-plex cinema. Trundling onwards we stopped off at the marina for a beer and a glass of wine and checked out the restaurant offers for lunch enroute. Needless to say the restaurant we noted first, right by the lower entrance to the Funicular has the best offer and we had a great lazy lunch on the terrace at Restaurante La Ola. A very plain whietwashed exterior belied the recently refurbished bar and restaurant facilities. The covered terrace offered fine views of the incoming Brittany Ferries link to the UK and various other commercial and private craft in the estuary.

Entrance to La Ola Restaurant, Ereaga Beach, Gexto. Nice logo!

On a previous occasion we have walked out onto the headland at Punto Galea where there are more remote beaches without facilities, but allowing nude sunbathingand we also traversed the famous transporter bridge across the River Nervion that has one end in the Las Arenas district of Gexto.

After our long and delicious lunch, having noted that the Funicular Maria Kristina had stopped half way down with a workman [presumably] attempting to remedy whatever problem ailed it — and now armed with a sketch map from the Gexto Tourismo[s] we headed for the Old Harbour and a route back to the Algorta Metro. Unfortunately the map provided was a little short on detail, so after progressing up the stepped pedestrian lane through the little old town and past some very appealling bars and restaurants we got lost and had to ask our way only about 200 metres away from the Metro Station. We were then whisked back to central Bilbao and our base for our visit: the 10th floor of the rusty red rendered Melia Bilbao hotel. We really enjoyed our three nights here and made full use of the pool, the copious [albeit expensive] breakfasts and our 10 euros per day tab at the bar.

Hotel Palacete, Plaza de Gipuzkoa, Hondarribia

Hondarribia

We also spent a night at the Hotel Palacete in Hondarribia. This town is situated on the River Bidasoa opposite Hendaye in France. The Old Town is crowned by a gaunt fortress now repurposed as a Parador hotel. Far more modest, the Palacete is an ancient house recently revamped as a small hotel with charming staff and well appointed small bedrooms. The evening was a wonderful tour of the bars and restaurants on the main drag with excellent pinxtos and a friendly atmosphere.

Prize winning Pinxtos: Cod 3 ways — roasted, salted and cod mousse between silvered crispy cod skin. Delicious as it is attractive, Arkelana Bar, Hondarribia.

Scallop and pumpkin mousse pinxtos, Hondarribia. 

Unusual burger presentation at the Restaurante Foki Eder, San Sebastian.

San Sebastian

The focus of our trip was however a return to the Concha Del Oro and the sophisticated offers at the bars and restaurants. We has a great week here, good weather and discovered our new favourite place — the upstairs bar at the 1930's Real Club Náutico de San Sebastian. Great environment, views and cocktails! Details on the architects and dates in our previous reports.

Great cocktails: Classic Martini and an Aperol Spritz and a wonderful view across the bay at the Real Club Náutico de San Sebastian.

Name the typeface time! Handpainted or cut-vinyl? Esoteric typography at KOK bar/cafe/restaurant in San Sebastian.