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Published: February 23rd 2013
An hour from Pamplona lies the capital of the Basque region, Vitoria-Gasteiz. It's a beautiful drive there through mountainous countryside, but we couldn't see a thing as it was extremely foggy! It had just started to clear as we got to the city, found somewhere to park for free and checked into the hotel. We found a great deal at the AC Marriott General Alava
. it's probably the poshest place we've stayed in for a while and we were even allowed to check in nice and early.
The main focal point of Vitoria is its medievel city centre. It sits on top of a small hill and there are lots of tiny streets to explore. It's a bit of a maze and it's easy to lose your bearings but the fantastic murals on some of the buildings help to stop you going around in circles. There was even a gate with a portcullis! The old cathedral in the centre is currently undergoing extensive renovations but, if you are prepared to pay and to wait, you can join a tour to see how it is going. We decided to simply enjoy the ambience of the city centre and then found a nice park to
sit in and have our packed lunch. Amazingly the sun broke through and we basked in the rays for a while!
There is nothing specific to mention about the city but there are so many buildings worthy of a second glance. Part of the old walls have been restored and you can climb down some steps into the old ice house. Not everyone finds it easy walking up the steep streets though and some escalators have been installed. They seemed quite an incongruous sight amongst the ancient buildings! At the base of the hill is a large square surrounded by cafes which was very picturesque. The main square surrounded by collonaded buildings is next door. Evidence of the recent snow was easy to find!
A little farther away was the new cathedral which is quite impressive. At the back are the bizarre sculptures of a rhino and a crocodile. Why they are there, who knows!! Past the parks we found the military museum but we were too late to go in. The beautiful fine art museum was just opposite. After a warming coffee break we strolled along the tram tracks back to our hotel. In the evening we
found a nice bar but it was spoiled somewhat by the amount of kids and pushchairs inside. There seemed to be an awful lot of families out and about and the kids problem was an issue in a few places. It also seems that the folk of Vitoria eat late - very late! We fancied a steak but even at 9pm the restaurants were empty and we ended up in a Chinese! Oh well!!
The next morning we set out to find the Salburua Park. We had heard there were some lakes there and a bird watching centre. When we got there we were amazed by the contemporary architecture on show. The new basketball arena looks impressive and the bank headquarters have a super-modern design! The nature centre was pretty good too with lots of informative displays - all in Spanish though so you might need a dictionary!! The walk around the lakes was nice too and at times it seemed the whole population of Vitoria were making the most of the break in the weather. We saw a lot of birds and quite a few deer. It was just a nice way to spend the morning and see
a bit of Spain's nature.
The drive back to Pamplona revealed everything that we had missed the previous day. It was fantastic! Vitoria had been much more interesting than we had anticipated but we are desperate for a warm weekend sometime soon!!
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