Jumping back on the Euskotren, we return to the Basque stronghold of Donostia, or San Sebastián as we call this fabulous city curling around the Bay of Biscay. With the Pyrenees Mountains to the east, tree-covered Mount Urgull and Mount Igueldo hugging either side of the bay, pristine beaches and a plethora of Pintxos, what’s not to love?
Traversing the southwestern region of France and getting to my destination in Spain taught me a new lesson: train travel in Europe is not perfect. I found it convoluted and less than direct to get from Bayonne, France through San Sebastián and on to the Basque city of Bilbao. Distances are not that much but there seems to be no easy, direct public transport. And, add to that an unannounced SNCF strike, cancelled trains and late TVGs, we pretty much have a long, ugly transportation day ahead.
We travel by a TGV train from Bayonne, past Biarritz south to the border at Hendaye. There, a blue Euskotren metro will take us to the Amara station in San Sebastián. Because I would like to proceed on to Bilbao, we connect with another Euskotren to Bilbao’s Zazpikaleak station. Making it more palatable is the scenery of mountains both low and tall, deep ravines, rocky streams, trees beginning to show fall colors, glimpses of blue bays, and countless charming family gardens. More than eight hours and about 110 miles later, we arrive in Bilbao.