Thursday, 3 September 2009

SEPT 2nd

Sept. 2. It's my daughter's birthday today. Happy birthday, Lucy.I bet I was up before Lucy. 6am Barcelona. That's 5am to you sleepy UK readers! I wanted to get out of Barcelona before the traffic. Surprising how busy the streets are at 6am with folk getting to business - and the Barcelona street parties didn't calm down until 3am. Me and Roisie make our escape in the morning twighlight. Sat Nav is invaluable with a new instruction every 500 yards. We join a motorway and leave it to join another and another... Sat Nav's in control and so is Rosie, and so am I. Rosie and me are joined not by a sacrament but by a satelite navigator. It's hand eye coordination. I look at the screen and then lay hands on Rosie and my confidence flows through her onto the road. I am a horse whisperer. I tell her that at the next roundabout we're going straight on. And we do - up into the cold damp cloudy sky. The humid twighlight has become a cold morning and that massive treeless wall on my right must be the Pyrenees. It looks awful. There's a bonus to leaving so early. We might just manage the 12 hours to Bilbao and get there today. And now we're in a landscape that looks unfinished. Hillocks that look like they've been raised by a JCB, flattened, and planted with fruit trees. There's fertiliser in the air and the landscape smells like a slaughterhouse - dried blood. The soil looks pink. This is where Picasso's 'rose period' was born. I thought I might visit the village high in the Pyrenees where Picasso and Fernande lived - but my mind is set on Bilbao. And then, abruptly, there is a new landscape. The hills are covered in trees and it looks like Perthshire. And we keep climbing and emerge into the most extraordiary geology. Huge fingers of stone several hundred feet high.

This is the landscape of Clint Eastwood - 'go ahead make my day'. But my day is already made and it gets better round every corner. Now the soil is white with Christmas trees growing on cement! And the Pyrenees are still there on my right with a ripple of an echo of hills to my left and we drive through a broad valley with a hilltop village in the middle.

And now the road descends through an alpine landscape _ green with running water and birdsong and we're driving down to Bilbao and I wonder if we haven't really driven from sea to shining sea - from New York to San Francisco - Atlantic to Pacific - instead of Mediterranean to Atlantic.

Bilbao is not Barcelona - it goes to sleep at 10 pm. But it is very pretty and very clean. I try to take a picture of a street sweeping machine - Bilbao's nightlife - because I want to try and please you but it is driven by Michael Schumaker's other brother and the photo is a blur. And now I'll join in with the rest of Bilbao and put out my light. Hasta La Vista!

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