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Published: October 1st 2018
Perhaps this morning I should wish you an Ogni Ibili - a good journey as we set off from our night stop in the tiny french town of Oleron St Marie , over or should I say through the Pyranees on the Somport Tunnel. A different route for us . Most travellers set off further north or further south . It is a first. The day breaks grey and misty and we see little sign of the high mountains that we will pass through shortly. The french side seems - well - very french woith a few alpine chalets clinging to the steep hillsides. Winter must come early to this part of the world. It is a harsh environment of isolated farms and the Tour de France passing through each year. The Somport is an easy free tunnel which brings us out on the Spanish side which is - more Spanish. There are signs of winter activity with ski runs and alpine stations. The temperament here is slightly anti European Union as we see comments painted on the walls. We see signs painted over . The EU are not content to let folks keep their national road names but try to
impose E numbers on them. We all know what E numbers do to children so they are not welcome on signs either. Our N10 road is an E road according to the masters from Brussels. You can travel on an E Road with the number E45 I think all the way from the border with Norway to Sicily at the foot of Italy. They drive Silly Sat Nag mad when she has to tell us to drive on the A1, N1 E 42 or something equally confusing.
We stop to fill up with diesel 1 euro 50 a litre which is considerably less than back home and in France. Something is not quite right when I check my bill. The young lady either deliberately or accidently overcharged me. Our diesel on the pump said a little over 115 euros. She gave me two receipts - one for slightly less around 114 euros and the other for 5 euros 70 cents more. Around an overcharge of 5 euros which may or may not have ended up in her back pocket . Welcome to Spain.
Glenn then started the long downhill drive to Loarre Castle in Navarre. As we drove
we discussed his cold which seemed to be getting better, the quiz results of last night where I came out winner 29 points to 22. He was tired from driving and his cold had not helped . I dont think for one minute my overall general knowledge was that much better than his. Gabby struggled a little with the winding roads and the full tank of juice. Suzy would have given up. The valley floor stretched for miles ahead of us. It seemed to be taking forever to get there. When we finally descended we were treated to sunshine and that rare beauty of spanish soils. From rust to crimson earth and from yellow to mustard , every colour in between was there. The Griffon Vultures circled overhead. Paragliders landed on flat areas of land. We could see for miles and miles as we started the climb from Loarre town to the castle.
The car park was large and extremely empty. Plenty of room for Gabby. The castle which we could see through the almond trees was enchanting. Something from a fairytale . Open 7 days a week almost all year round it was a real visitor attraction. Warnings
abounded about steep paths and walkways, steep and dangerous steps. Be sensible where you go they said. Health and Safety was never at the top of anyones list here in Spain.
The castle was built in the 11th century and it looked like a Crusader castle in design. The blurb we picked up from the ticket office stated it was an outstanding example of a Peninsular fortification and a Romanesque building. We paid our 4 euros each jubilados rate - yes we are pensioners and yes much as we dont like it we are over 65. We walked down after drinking a leisurely coffee to the castle gateway. Slithering and sliding down the stoney pathway. The blurb continued - best example of military and civil architecture in Europe. Not going to disagree with them there. Roman coins had been found here suggesting that the castle was built on the earlier site of Calagums Fibularensis. King Carlo Sanchez III el Mayor of Navarre ( we come across him rather a lot of this trip) built his castle in 1020. We entered the castle via a huge gateway puncturing the walls that surrounded the castle and started our climb up over
slippery rocks.Oddly the castle fell into decline by the 12th century.
It still is one of those wow castles. A wow as we walk up the stairs to the upper castle. We have passed through the outer 13th century walls and are now into the 10.000 acre site. The walls were studded with towers protecting who and what was within. Anyone trying to get into the castle would be shattered before they even got to the walls, would have to rest before trying to breach them and then face another long walk up the hill to the front door of the castle. We seem to be standing in a place of big sky and even bigger land as the Plains of La Hoya de Huesca lie below us. Once through the gate if they were lucky soldiers would have to fight their way up the dark and narrow stairway being attacked from the small guardhouse above. At the top of the stairway we popped our heads into the St Quiterias Crypt once used for worship and burial. The placy e wheg wre the church treasures were held.
Climbing ever upward the views got better. It was a lovely place to walk around . We are beginning to wind down and enjoy our holiday. There is much still to see but for the time being we climbed up to the keep and then down again. Along the pebbled path and back to Gabby where we ate dinner surrounded by nothing but silence and the fluttering wings of tiny yellow butterflies.
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