As we left London early on Sunday morning I had a spring in my step.
It was raining, which meant a strong possibility of an exciting ferry crossing from Plymouth to Santander. This particular route has something of a reputation for bumpy crossings - not everyone's cup of tea I know, but a trip I'd been hoping to take for some time.
In the end the storm in a teacup didn't materialise and we had quite a smooth journey, arriving in Santander the following lunchtime. Sadly with the rain still in tow, but I guess that's what you get for holidaying in Europe in late October.
From Santander we decided to pass on the shorter and cheaper bus journey to Bilbao in favour of the local FEVE train. The train was no speeding bullet, taking almost 3 hours to complete the 100km journey, but it did give us chance to admire the spectacular mountain pine clad mountain valleys of Northern Spain.
Not the most efficient means of transportation, but definitely to be recommended - if not for the scenery then for the spectalcularly bushy beards of the station masters in each village en-route.
In Bilbao the rain continued relentlessly for the duration of our two days, but even so we couldn't help liking the place. Not only was a glass of Rioja only EU1.50, but it was served up with the uniquely Basque version of Tapas - Pintxos - from such treats as deep fried Morcilla (black pudding) balls coated in chopped nuts, to the slightly healthier goats cheese, jamon iberico and apricot jam (and yes, that is all one dish).
Of course what really brings tourists to Bilbao is the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim museum - the titanium cladding made the fish-inspired structure shimmer in midst of that morning's thunderstorm. We left rather more impressed by the building than the art within it, but what a building it is.
I suppose we could complain about our luck with the weather, but then who wants to see a fish out of water anyway?