Mon 22/08/16: After a quiet Sunday night high up in the hills of Bilbao we made our way to another Unesco World heritage site- the Vizcaya Bridge at Portugalete, a transporter bridge and one of the few still operational since it’s construction in 1893. A David thing I hear you say. No actually not, since some time ago whilst chatting to my fellow wine student in our wine appreciation class Jim. Jim and more so his wife Barbara have a ‘thing’ about transporter bridges. So after much merriment at the time over this I now seem to have the same fixation and so with absolute delight we headed off to see this wonder. In fact we did more for the sum of €7 you can take the lift to the top, walk over and then ride in the carriage below across the water and back. Unfortunately it’s only for cars and smaller plus foot passengers so we couldn’t take NiKi on the trip-shame. So now you can all share in the delight of these amazing bridges and it’s another one I can tick of my list. After that heady excitement where to next. Having shared the delights of San Sebastian with friends we opted to head further along the coast to another recommended place right on the coast and the French border- Hondarribia. If Zarautz was busy than this was 10 fold more so and neither of us held out much hope as we drove up to the camp site, and indeed there was no room at the inn. Nor was there any room inthe car parking spaces on the beach, but thanks to the internet we found another camp site not far and headed there. The very nice lady could fit us in but only for one night but the rate wasn’t cheap. However, with the bed sheets and towels crying out to be washed and time getting on we bit the bullet and parked up. The camp fee was off set by a cook in curry night made even cheaper by the fact we were using just vegetables. Not for any real reason just that a good mix of veg does make a lovely jalfrezi and so they did.
Tues 23/08/16: Washing done and dried and the old town of Hondarribia visited (which really should be a bonito town) and the most wonderful pastry I have had certainly here, which was like a pistachio danish we headed off for Pamplona with high expectations from both Mr Rick Stein and Hemmingway. The drive wasn’t far but the temperature was high topping 37 and when we arrived at the site of the Aire we found the road into it closed. We really didn’t want to spend more money again on a campsite at full high season cost and so we parked up in the car park of some flats just where the road had been closed due to re- surfacing and pondered on the situation. A very nice local guy tried to help us to get to the aire, but there was no way just for that moment. He was happy that we would be alright parked where we were, plus the fact it was right next to the bus stop into town and with full tourist info on the fact that there was a very nice bar nearby and also a good panderia for our bread in the morning we followed his advice. Having shopped on the way in and being hungry in the very nice, hot carpark we made our lunch of pre-cooked chicken along with potatoes and salad and then jumped on the bus into main town Pamplona. I took to the place immediately but David took a while to warm to it, probably more because he was actually struggling with the heat and finding it hard to cool down. We found the hotel where Rick had eaten his rabo de torro following in Hemmingway footsteps and we opted to have that the next day for our lunch. We then headed back on the bus to have a drink as per our impromptu tour guy in the very nice bar as recommended. Unfortunately, the guy wasn’t in there for us to buy him a drink as a thanks!
Weds 24/08/16: Back into Pamplona and rabo de torro, very much a favourite of David’s now in Spain. However, we had to kill a bit of time before that and so we had a walk around the lovely parks and green areas that surround central Pamplona, they really our delightful. Pamplona is sunonimus with the running of the bulls each year and its 8 day fiesta San Fermin held in July but thankfully we had missed that and the only bull we wanted was to be on a plate, but sadly that was not to be either. We do not carry the same weight as dear Mr Stein and the restaurant where he had his famed ox tail stew only cook this at weekends, not on a Tuesday and in fact only do a pintxos tasting menu of a lunch time. Not what we wanted, but we then made the mistake of opting for a not very good burger. Unusually for this country as most of the burgers we have had even in ordinary local restaurants have been very good indeed and home-made. These were homemade but somehow just didn’t hit the spot for either of us. With no bull to keep us we decided to move onto another spot again just further down the road and another one of Spain’s bonitos villages – Sos del Rey Catolico which was also edging us nearer to the Pyrenees and that area as part of our travels into Barcelona. This was a delightful Aire right on the grounds of a sports complex with an outdoor swimming pool which with temperatures still at 35 when we arrived at 5pm or so we plunged straight into.
Thurs 25/08/16: After a lovely breakfast of fresh bread we headed off to another man made phenomena -Bardenas Reales. This is the result of humans many many years ago chopping down all the forest in this area, some 410 square kilometres and the then resulting onward destruction turning the area into a complete desiccated landscape of table top hills, gravel plains and gorges. Very strange indeed and of course many a film has been made on this moon like landscape including most recently some of the scenes from Game of Thrones- very much a David thing. It was an interesting drive there and back with us passing through several small villages many of which were preparing for or had just had their own running of the balls festivals- so it would appear that this region all around Pamplona still maintains this tradition. A frugal dinner was had by us of left over chicken made into a tagliateli, but for me like the desert it was a tadge too dry
Fri 26/08/16: And so further into the Pyrenees and spitting distance again with France. In fact quite a lot of spitting as many of the cars on the road were French making their way back from summer vacations at high speed. Lonely Planet recommended 2 small pretty villages to see in the lower mountains and with the help of google we headed to Anso. Anso like Sos is another one of the 35 currently named Pueblos Bonitos de Espana and so we have managed to knock another 2 of our visit list effortlessly. Having said that pretty it is and in my opinion more so than Sos, plus the campsite just minutes from the old town is also delightful. We had our eye on a couple of restaurants for lunch but given that by the time we arrived it was after 3.30 we were turned away and so we resorted to an old standby of keema peas- fairly hot cooking in the van but this is David’s speciality so I just opted
to cook myself in the sun for a bit. No problems eating it as the sun had dropped by then and like all good mountains the temperature had also fallen. Local chocolate from Sos served as pudding and a very nice smooth chocolate it was- Spain does make some very good artisan chocolate
Sat 27/08/16: Time to get back in the saddle, we hadn’t been out on our bikes since early August and although this is really walking territory we decided a cycle up the valley would be good. Up it was as well, but not with jaw dropping drops thankfully just running next to a lovely stream in the valley with mountains all around keeping us cool as well as we did the 40 odd k’s. On route we did spy a few mountain restaurants boasting menu’s tipico and so once we had touched the wall and come back (it not being a circular ride) we belted it back to the last one we had seen and arrived at just before 3 so in good time to get food. The place was packed inside and out and no one was giving an inch on the who’s next for a table including the waitress for the terrace who seemed to be seating other 2’s before us. So with our stomachs firmly set on the menu del dia we stood our ground and made our indignance be known. This seemed to work as they suddenly found us a table inside, out would have been nice but really who cared it was cooler in there anyway.
The menu was a goodie, only the menu of the day and with options for both of us that really suited. David got his beloved migas again and wait of it his …… rabo de torro. So Mr Stein you missed out on this place and in our opinion the oxtail was much better and a steal on the fixed menu price of €18. I had for main course- lamb which for some reason I had been craving and it was yum. So all ended well and the ride home was nearly all downhill to boot
Sun 28/08/16: Traditional dress day in Anso and so we headed up in our traditional dress of shorts and T shirt to see the locals all wrapped up in their woollen outfits of old –babies and children included. This is of course a mountain village and temperatures do get very cold but it all seemed a bit too warm for us with the sun blazing, but very sweet and well supported by locals and tourists, plus not a bull in sight to run from. The small village did also boast a very good local store slightly bigger than our normal Arkwright country ones and we got some good sausages, burgers and kebabs and had a lovely afternoon barbie.
Hoping that the UK bank holiday is warm and dry for you………………