Having a nice holiday?
I am sitting in a beach bar on a sunny terrace in Lekeitio, drinking a strong morning coffee and eating tortilla. Below me on the beach the holidaymakers are already settled with their sunshades and beach blankets, many of them having a dip in the sea despite its chilly temperature. As usual there is a crowd around our bikes, pointing out milometer, altimeter and mirror and examining the kiddie cranks and buggies. A baby grabs at the multi-coloured kite tails that flap behind the trailer and another child beeps the horn.
“Are you having a nice holiday?” I ask my daughter, who is watching two Spanish toddlers try to master a diabolo between them. Pink sunglasses on, dolly in her lap, Hannah shakes her head.
This is not a nice holiday
“No, Mummy, this is not nice holiday,” she replies politely. “My have nice holiday soon.” She grabs dolly’s dummy, stuffs it into her own mouth and runs off to chase the pigeons.
Wherever Hannah thinks Spain is, she is sure she hasn’t found it yet. But this is definitely Spain; in fact it’s the very heart of it; Basque country, where slow progress has been slowed further by the alien dialect, unfathomable street signs, and steep mountainous terrain. But in many ways I share my daughter’s view. It’s another world which we view through a lens.
From under my shady umbrella I enjoy this enduring vista of old men gathering to pace up and down in the shade while supping wine and sharing stories; of tourists trying to stay ahead of melting ice creams, and of barely dressed teenagers batting volleyballs over nets. I share their sun and their sunny leisure time. I dip my feet into their waves and bury my toes into their warm sand.
But then we move on. To another place; of smoking hot rims and tyres, of pumping pedals gradually up 300 metres of climb; pushing over a scorched mountain and dropping down into yet another paradise.
But strangely, I like it this way..
And I like it this way; entering and leaving this world, sometimes two and three times in a day. Hannah is right; this isn’t just a nice holiday. It can be punishingly hard work, an endurance test and sometimes a slog. But it is undoubtedly Spain, in all its sunny glory.
The sky is blue, the tortilla is warm and the bikes wait patiently for the start of another day’s riding. Meanwhile three Scandanavian tourists arrive at the next table and order a round of drinks.
“My God, touring bikes,” one exclaims.
“On these hills?” says another.
They shake their heads and laugh.