Saturday, August 05, 2006

Five hours in Spain

We recently went on a Mini-cruise with the works social club, a trip to Spain and back.
It was on the Pride of Bilbao, a P&O ship that goes from Portsmouth to Bilbao, taking 34 hours or so to get there, but only 28 to return. A trip is three nights on the ship, two there and one back.

Anyone expecting a cruise ship will be in for a shock- it is a car ferry with a few extras (like a swimming pool down in the depths and a dolphin/whale spotting club).

The ship is similar to the ones that go from Hull to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge and I have to say that the North Sea ones are to a better stanard in the fittings and catering. You don't normally see whales off Norfolk though...

We opted for inclusive meals and with hindsight that was a mistake- we were restricted to one particular restaurant in the evenings and it got rather samey. Their indian food selection rotated the meats around the styles and it was inferior to the excellent indonesian curries the North Sea ships lay on. Many of the crew were Spanish, although the blokes on the bridge and in boiler suits (mostly fixing the toilets) were Brits.

The ferry heads along the Channel, then down into the Bay of Biscay. Bay doesn't give you the feel of scale- it isn't like robin Hood's Bay or Whitley Bay, it is more akin to a Gulf, i.e. big where you can't see land...

After dolphin & whale spotting over the deeper bits, it docks at Bilbao, home of the Guggenheim Museum. We wanted to go on a trip to it but they needed 20 to run the coach and couldn't achieve that from the 1,700 or so on board so we had to satisfy ourselves with outside views of this rather stunning building. We were rather surprised that david knew who the architect was- the connection was that he had designed a concert hall for Springfield which was converted into a prison. He particularly liked the floral puppy by the entrance.

We also saw the oldest transporter bridge in the world, although we didn't get a chance to walk over the top like at Middlesborough.

The return journey was much more choppy, although not as bad as my Mum's trip a couple of months beforehand when the ship could have been more aptly titled the Vomiting Venus, a legendary North Sea ferry that plied between Newcastle and Scandinavia, rolling merrily as she went. Pride of Bilbao has stabilisers but they can only reduce the roll, not the occasional lift & slap down that is so disconcerting. (More about stabilisation here).

Getting to Portsmouth is long winded by Coach; it is even more long winded coming back when the door interlock goes wrong & the brakes won't release!

Amusing choice of in-coach movies for the journey:

Going down- Titanic
Coming back- Speed

then after spending two hours at a Services in the northampton area: The Witches (A very wierd & somewhat cak film, we never saw the end of it and don't want to either...

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