October 6, 2018 Pamplona SP

Today was an almost day.  We were both very much looking forward to Pamplona.  It had a great reputation.  Ron is a huge fan of Hemingway who loved Pamplona, and Ton had read a lot of good things about the town, we were both excited.

It’s not that there was anything wrong with Pamplona, it is a very beautiful and interesting city, but our expectations were very high.  Yesterday St. Sebastian wowed us because we had no expectations and it was a great city.  I think today was the opposite.

The day started with a quick drive over the mountains to Pamplona.  We crossed the highest pass we have seen yet in Europe at a little over 2000 ft.  The road was good and we were in Pamplona before we knew it.  That was the first problem as we had planned to stop at a grocery on the way into town, and we were in town before we knew it, so we missed the grocery stop.  It should have been no problem because the aire was supposed to have a grocery next to it.  It turned out the grocery was a Carrefour Express which is like a 7-11.  The cupboards were bare so we needed a real grocery.  Google told us there was another grocery about 1/2 mile a way.  Ton is a little under the weather so Ron went on a reconnaissance and it was indeed a real grocery and closer than a 1/2 mile.  So the groceries are taken care of for a couple of days.

A cute cartoon showing the highlights of Pamplona.
One of the streets the bulls run down.

We then headed into town to see the Citadel, Cathedral, and the old town.  The citadel was another fort and quite a large one.  It is quite well preserved and we took a quick walk thru, but decided to move on.  

The Citadel, impressive and well preserved. Except for the modern apartment building.

We walked thru the old town near the end of Siesta so it was pretty quiet, and while it is the old street layout, it was for us a weird combination of grimy and modern.  The streets are quite wide to allow for the running of the bulls which is what Pamplona is known for.  The Cathedral was again ok, but we did not see the inside as they wanted €3 to get in. We ended the day with a visit to the Bull Ring to see the statue of Hemingway next to it.  We almost visited the ring but they wanted €6 to walk thru.

Ron trying to look like Hemingway.
Outside the bull fighting arena.  Did not want to pay the entrance fee as there was no bull fighting, and we would not want to see that either.

We finally decided to have a dinner as the food is supposed to be good.  Again the food was ok, the service was ok, and the location was good, with an amateur Basque band playing local music with some interesting wind instruments.  All in all not awful, but not a memorable meal or visit.

Some Basque musicians waiting outside a church.

October 5, 2018 Donostia-San Sebastian SP

While François did not move today, we did.  Today we did the trip to San Sebastian-Donostia that we had planned for yesterday.  After a late start to the day we walked down to the train station in Orio and took the 30 minute ride into downtown San Sebastian.  San Sebastian is the Spanish name and Donostia is the Basque name for the town.  In the city Donostia is used much more prevalently than San Sebastian.

Donostia is not an old city, everything but a couple of churches dates from no earlier than the mid-1850’s.  There are a couple of reasons for this, the first is the British pretty much burned the city to the ground in 1813 after they captured it from the French.  The second reason is that the Spanish seem so far, to be a little less enamored with old buildings, and have less of a problem knocking down old buildings and replacing them with new buildings.  Our sample size is small on this, but that is our observation so far.

A statue of Jesus overlooking the town from the top of the old fort.

 The city has a very prosperous air to it with lots of upscale shops, and very nice pedestrian promenades thru town.  It is an easy town to move around on foot.  Eventually we made it to the old town, which was the original footprint of the town dating back to the 1200’s and corresponds to the area within the old fort. We climbed the hill above the old town to the remnants of the fort, where we had a very nice view over the town.  The climb was probably a couple of hundred feet in elevation gain, but was worth it when we got to the top.  From the top of the old fort you have a great panorama of the two harbors that make up San Sebastian-Donostia.  

The Urumea River entering the Bay of Biscayne, the beach past the river is the surfing beach.
Part of the old fort.

At one time San Sebastian was a major port and ship building site. Today its main industry is tourism, and it excels at that.  We climbed back down to the old town to look for a tapas lunch.  We wandered into a tavern where lunch is laid out on the bar, and consists of different miniature sandwiches and tapas.  You grab a plate and wander up and down the bar picking the food you want, when you have your plate full you grab a  beer from the bartender, and head to a table.  At the end you tell the bartender how many pieces you took (they pay attention), and how many beer you had, we had 8 pieces, and 3 beers.  Ron was a little dehydrated from the climb.

The food is laid out across the bar, and you wander up there and help yourself.
Close up of a couple of the options at the bar.

After lunch we strolled around town for a while people watching, and having another stop at a local coffee shop.  On the way back we stopped at the Cathedral, though we are getting a little jaded with Cathedrals.  It was another fun day.

The surf beach up close.  It is the same beach as the one above.
When we got back to Orio these guys were practicing, Orio is famous for it’s boat racing.

October 4, 2018 Orio SP

Plans change, sometimes by accident.  We had planned to go to the nearby city of San Sebastian to do some sight seeing.  Before we left we thought we could knock out a load of clothes.  Well that did not work out the way we thought it would.  The washer we used was the slowest washer we have run into in 3 continents, with nothing going wrong it took over an hour and half to complete it’s cycle.  Then we put the clothes in the only dryer, and inserted our coin expecting it to tell us it would take 40 or 50 minutes to dry the clothes,  it said 120 minutes, we thought how nice of them as no dryer could take 2 hours to dry a medium sized load of clothes, we were very wrong.  It ran the full 2 hours, and then we hung the clothes out to finish drying.  By the time the clothes washing was done it was too late to go to San Sebastian so we just relaxed for the rest of the day.   It was a little frustrating, but at the end of the day we probably needed the rest, as we have been on the move constantly for 18 days.  

In the early evening we walked into town to get some groceries (i.e. wine).  It was a nice evening and we noticed that most of the town was out moving around, groups of children, adults, old men, and old women in groups conversing and enjoying themselves.  It was the same last night, and is a nice cultural difference that we envied a little.

This guy was out the last two nights with these two bulls pulling a sled, not sure what the significance of the red mask is.

We came back to a nice conversation with our English neighbors.  Ton made dinner and we drank some of our groceries before settling in to watch some Netflix Ron downloaded today in between washing and drying.

Yesterday was the fishing fleet of Orio, today it is the pleasure fleet.

October 3, 2018 Orio SP

After 16 days in France we finally reached Spain.  We could have spent the entire trip in France, and enjoyed ourselves, but this trip was supposed to be about Spain.  So we finally decided to head south. 

Tree lined road found frequently in France, the leaves are starting to turn.

Except for one pit stop to put in just enough fuel to make it safely to Spain, we powered thru about 280km’s of driving.  We only put in enough fuel to make it to Spain because France is now the holder of the record for the most expensive fuel in the EU.  We have been paying €1.45 per liter, that is around $6.80 per gallon give or take.  The first fuel station we saw in Spain had diesel at €1.15 per liter so we had a little celebration.

We had planned a photo op at the border between France and Spain, but it did not happen.  The border was invisible, we did not know we had crossed into Spain until Ron noticed the road signs were suddenly in Spanish, and Basque.  There was not even a sign welcoming us to Spain.

Ron sitting down at the kitchen table/drivers seat.

We had a nice drive down the coast to a small fishing village called Orio.  We are parked a couple hundred yards from a very nice beach, surrounded by very tall hills on both sides.  In fact guys parajump from the hills above the beach and circle around for 10 or 15 minutes before landing next to the RV park.

Parachutist coming in for a landing next to the beach.

In the evening we walked into the town proper, and kept looking for the old town, all we saw were modern condo’s and wide new streets.  This area has been having a second home boom in the last decade or so, and the construction is very modern, quite different than France.  After wandering down to the old fishing port we finally caught a glimpse of the old town, but it is tiny compared to the modern town.

The fishing fleet at Orio.

October 6, 2018 Pamplona SP

Today was an almost day.  We were both very much looking forward to Pamplona.  It had a great reputation.  Ron is a huge fan of Hemingway who loved Pamplona, and Ton had read a lot of good things about the town, we were both excited.

It’s not that there was anything wrong with Pamplona, it is a very beautiful and interesting city, but our expectations were very high.  Yesterday St. Sebastian wowed us because we had no expectations and it was a great city.  I think today was the opposite.

The day started with a quick drive over the mountains to Pamplona.  We crossed the highest pass we have seen yet in Europe at a little over 2000 ft.  The road was good and we were in Pamplona before we knew it.  That was the first problem as we had planned to stop at a grocery on the way into town, and we were in town before we knew it, so we missed the grocery stop.  It should have been no problem because the aire was supposed to have a grocery next to it.  It turned out the grocery was a Carrefour Express which is like a 7-11.  The cupboards were bare so we needed a real grocery.  Google told us there was another grocery about 1/2 mile a way.  Ton is a little under the weather so Ron went on a reconnaissance and it was indeed a real grocery and closer than a 1/2 mile.  So the groceries are taken care of for a couple of days.

A cute cartoon showing the highlites of Pamplona.
One of the streets the bulls run down.

We then headed into town to see the Citadel, Cathedral, and the old town.  The citadel was another fort and quite a large one.  It is quite well preserved and we took a quick walk thru, but decided to move on.  

The Citadel, impressive and well preserved. Except for the modern apartment building.

We walked thru the old town near the end of Siesta so it was pretty quiet, and while it is the old street layout, it was for us a weird combination of grimy and modern.  The streets are quite wide to allow for the running of the bulls which is what Pamplona is known for.  The Cathedral was again ok, but we did not see the inside as they wanted €3 to get in. We ended the day with a visit to the Bull Ring to see the statue of Hemingway next to it.  We almost visited the ring but they wanted €6 to walk thru.

Ron trying to look like Hemingway.
Outside the bull fighting arena.  Did not want to pay the entrance fee as there was no bull fighting, and we would not want to see that either.

We finally decided to have a dinner as the food is supposed to be good.  Again the food was ok, the service was ok, and the location was good, with an amateur Basque band playing local music with some interesting wind instruments.  All in all not awful, but not a memorable meal or visit.

Some Basque musicians waiting outside a church.

October 5, 2018 San Sebastian-Donostia SP

While François did not move today, we did.  Today we did the trip to San Sebastian-Donostia that we had planned for yesterday.  After a late start to the day we walked down to the train station in Orio and took the 30 minute ride into downtown San Sebastian.  San Sebastian is the Spanish name and Donostia is the Basque name for the town.  In the city Donostia is used much more prevalently than San Sebastian.

Donostia is not an old city, everything but a couple of churches dates from no earlier than the mid-1850’s.  There are a couple of reasons for this, the first is the British pretty much burned the city to the ground in 1813 after they captured it from the French.  The second reason is that the Spanish seem so far, to be a little less enamored with old buildings, and have less of a problem knocking down old buildings and replacing them with new buildings.  Our sample size is small on this, but that is our observation so far.

A statue of Jesus overlooking the town from the top of the old fort.  

The city has a very prosperous air to it with lots of upscale shops, and very nice pedestrian promenades thru town.  It is an easy town to move around on foot.  Eventually we made it to the old town, which was the original footprint of the town dating back to the 1200’s and corresponds to the area within the old fort. We climbed the hill above the old town to the remnants of the fort, where we had a very nice view over the town.  The climb was probably a couple of hundred feet in elevation gain, but was worth it when we got to the top.  From the top of the old fort you have a great panorama of the two harbors that make up San Sebastian-Donostia.  

The Urumea River entering the Bay of Biscayne, the beach past the river is the surfing beach.
Part of the old fort.

At one time San Sebastian was a major port and ship building site. Today its main industry is tourism, and it excels at that.  We climbed back down to the old town to look for a tapas lunch.  We wandered into a tavern where lunch is laid out on the bar, and consists of different miniature sandwiches and tapas.  You grab a plate and move up and down the bar picking the food you want, when you have your plate full you grab a  beer from the bartender, and head to a table.  At the end you tell the bartender how many pieces you took (they pay attention), and how many beer you had, we had 8 pieces, and 3 beers.  Ron was a little dehydrated from the climb.

The food is laid out across the bar, and you wander up there and help yourself.
Close up of a couple of the options at the bar.

After lunch we strolled around town for a while people watching, and having another stop at a local coffee shop.  On the way back we stopped at the Cathedral, though we are getting a little jaded with Cathedrals.  It was another fun day.

The surf beach up close.  It is the same beach as the one above.
When we got back to Orio these guys were practicing, Orio is famous for it’s boat racing.

October 4, 2018 Orio SP

Plans change, sometimes by accident.  We had planned to go to the nearby city of San Sebastian to do some sight seeing.  Before we left we thought we could knock out a load of clothes.  Well that did not work out the way we thought it would.  The washer we used was the slowest washer we have run into in 3 continents, with nothing going wrong it took over an hour and half to complete it’s cycle.  Then we put the clothes in the only dryer, and inserted our coin expecting it to tell us it would take 40 or 50 minutes to dry the clothes,  it said 120 minutes, we thought how nice of them as no dryer could take 2 hours to dry a medium sized load of clothes, we were very wrong.  It ran the full 2 hours, and then we hung the clothes out to finish drying.  By the time the clothes washing was done it was too late to go to San Sebastian so we just relaxed for the rest of the day.   It was a little frustrating, but at the end of the day we probably needed the rest, as we have been on the move constantly for 18 days.  

In the early evening we walked into town to get some groceries (i.e. wine).  It was a nice evening and we noticed that most of the town was out moving around, groups of children, adults, old men, and old women in groups conversing and enjoying themselves.  It was the same last night, and is a nice cultural difference that we envied a little.

This guy was out the last two nights with these two bulls pulling a sled, not sure what the significance of the red mask is.

We came back to a nice conversation with our English neighbors.  Ton made dinner and we drank some of our groceries before settling in to watch some Netflix Ron downloaded today in between washing and drying.

Yesterday was the fishing fleet of Orio, today it is the pleasure fleet.

October 3, 2018 Orio SP

After 16 days in France we finally reached Spain.  We could have spent the entire trip in France, and enjoyed ourselves, but this trip was supposed to be about Spain.  So we finally decided to head south. 

Tree lined road found frequently in France, the leaves are starting to turn.

Except for one pit stop to put in just enough fuel to make it safely to Spain, we powered thru about 280km’s of driving.  We only put in enough fuel to make it to Spain because France is now the holder of the record for the most expensive fuel in the EU.  We have been paying €1.45 per liter, that is around $6.80 per gallon give or take.  The first fuel station we saw in Spain had diesel at €1.15 per liter so we had a little celebration.

We had planned a photo op at the border between France and Spain, but it did not happen.  The border was invisible, we did not know we had crossed into Spain until Ron noticed the road signs were suddenly in Spanish, and Basque.  There was not even a sign welcoming us to Spain.

Ron sitting down at the kitchen table/drivers seat.

We had a nice drive down the coast to a small fishing village called Orio.  We are parked a couple hundred yards from a very nice beach, surrounded by very tall hills on both sides.  In fact guys parajump from the hills above the beach and circle around for 10 or 15 minutes before landing next to the RV park.

Parachutist coming in for a landing next to the beach.

In the evening we walked into the town proper, and kept looking for the old town, all we saw were modern condo’s and wide new streets.  This area has been having a second home boom in the last decade or so, and the construction is very modern, quite different than France.  After wandering down to the old fishing port we finally caught a glimpse of the old town, but it is tiny compared to the modern town.

The fishing fleet at Orio.