‘Hang on then, let’s get our AC/DC cardigans,’ we chorus. So, donning our matching crew “swag” – looking summery dressed in black – we set off via Bilbao Exhibition Centre’s tourist office.
Cookie lingers longer than strictly necessary, feigning interest in the Basque coast, chatting to the young girl in there, while Namibian, Little Dick and I leaf through brochures, and generally browse.
The Basque region, nestling as it does in the Pyrenees, is a pocket of peculiarity: the language is an utter enigma, incomprehensible to both French and Spanish speakers. And just in case you’re interested, the inhabitants are historically a seafaring nation, renowned for whaling in the 17th century. That’s all you’re getting because we’re on to food now.
Finding a restaurant here is, as Cookie describes it, ‘a debacle from the start to the beginning.’ Tapas, or “pintos” as they are called here in the north, are two a penny – on every bar – but sitting down for a serious meal proves more difficult.
We tease Namibian as he beams at the sight of a taxi rank for the way home and notices confectionery shops. Despite losing girth perpetually, he maintains that, for his height, he is now only a stone-and-a-half overweight. Mm, rightho.
Perhaps he’d like to join me in a cycle tomorrow then? No, I thought not.
Mind you, I’m not doing terribly well myself on the cycling front. Directions to Bilbao from Barakaldo involve a motorway, forcing the cyclist to rethink his route. One has either to catch a bus or restrict peddling to Barakaldo’s environs. Add the fact that this bargain bicycle from Munich is crap, and the situation is hopeless.
When battling uphill on this trusty steed, it has a tendency to snarl one’s trouser leg. A quick pedal backwards ought to free it, I hear you cry. Aha, but that applies the brake. So, if one perseveres forwards, in a gear that is nowhere near low enough, one is mangled beyond recognition from the ankle up; if the pedals are spun anti-clockwise, a standstill is reached.
After twenty minutes of this – negotiating spaghetti-like junctions in a vain attempt to find a small road to Bilbao – I look to the left to find myself, out of breath, looking down at the truck from which I’d started. And I’m sporting a frayed trouser leg.
If one is to ride an unfashionable hybrid Toscana – entirely unsuitable for an intrepid reporter, I might add – one may as well tuck trouser into sock and, fashion be damned, sock into sandal..