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Published: September 25th 2016
The wind blows, calms, ceases. The birds sing. In the deep mountain valley a flower falls. The mountain is more peaceful still. Keizan Kenji
Days 18/19 and 20. The days are all merging into each other. I no longer know what day of the week it is. Nor do I know where I have been and to where I am going. All I know is that I feel I have been away from home a long time and now I am heading back. Heading North. North means home. North means cooler weather. North means leaving Spain and heading for the Pyrrenees and France.
We are currently in the province of Navarre. A green and very pleasant land in the heart of Rioja country with vines full of plump purple grapes as far as the eye can see. It is pretty land with green everywhere and a ski-ing area. We are betwixt and between seasons. The summer season is coming to an end and with it the campsites are closing . The winter season has not yet begun. We are the last of the summer visitors. We feel a little like those birds thinking we need to be
somewhere else . The winter visitors have yet to arrive. We have to be careful with campsites. France is closed. Spain is heading that way. Many have short seasons beginning only in April and closing by mid or end of September. Their facilities advertised in the ACSI bible led us to believe that there are facilities open but most of the time it is just the campground. The shop if there is one is firmly locked up. The cafes and bars are locked up like kippers. Without a fridge turning up at one of these sites is our worse nightmare.
We pick Camping Riaza for the night. A nice site within sight of those mountains. The temperature has dropped a few degrees and it is no longer 30 at night . More a cooler 25. The site is as dead and quiet as a church mouse. A handful of tents, a few statics and the odd travelling motorhome. If we were home despite our inclement weather our campsites open until at least the end of the half term holidays in November and many stay open all year. They realise we might get an Indian summer and make
the most of it. We pay our 17 euros and are told that WiFi is a couple more. We can park anywhere. There is no supermarket nor café open. We pick our plot on our own. Get out the chairs, sit in the afternoon sun and read. I have finished my last Game of Thrones and not brought the next one with me . Too weighty a tome it is to carry and I had not expected to get through one and half this holiday. It is back to my trusted and well loved Winston Graham Poldark series . Ross is home from the war, everything has changed and it is a damn good book.
Suzy is no longer clean. She is streaked with muck and dust and the all over wash she had before we left seems a dim and distant waste of money. Our peace is shattered as a Dutch van arrives and with all the campsite to pick from they park up right next to us. They pull their seats out and plonk them right beneath our windows and talk and laugh as they listen to some inane comedy programme. All that room and they chose
right next to us . Bah humbug I say . I want to alone with me and the mountains for company.
Overall though the site was good, fairly quiet when they finally shut up. Sanitaires excellent, clean and well looked after. We would come again on another trip.
We left early and set off for the tiny town of Olite. Sometimes you hear of these little gems when you talk to fellow travellers along the way. Occaisionally a blog leads you to them. I think this one we found in a motorhome magazine we read over the winter months. We found the parking easily. Hemmed in by the busy road and the huge monumental church which looked too big for such a small unassuming place. We walked to the royal palace a yellow sandstone edifice which was too pretty for words. It is described as one of the most historic sites in Navarre and it is easy to see why as we walked round its walls and through its archways.
The palace is divided into three parts. The Old Palace now a state run parador which means unless you are a hotel guest you can
only view it from the outside. The ruins of the chapel of San Jorge and the New Palace which we were on the point of visiting. The palace had been restored in 1937 and the work had taken 30 years to complete. OK there were bits that looked too fanciful. A sort of Carcasson but on a smaller scale Generally the work had been very symphatically done. We paid our reduced entry fee – Ok I lied I was 65 but then I only have six months to go and found our way in to an empty courtyard. There was only one tat shop open and the place was deserted. It was constructed sometime between 1402 and 1424. Built by Charles III the Noble . He did not want a military fortress more a luxurious palace he could live in. From 1512 the palace fell into disrepair and in 1813 it was burned down. Castle ruined and all the furniture and fittings with it. We entered the old garden which once featured exotic plants. To one side part of the old church of St Maria and the bell tower. We walked into the excavation room which was opened up in
1996. This was the foundations for the palace. On the ground floor was the most special room the Arched Chamber. Its large arching supported the roof garden of the queen. Up the spiral staircase with its 34 steps we reach the Queens or Angel Chamber. A large chimney dominates the room making it a warm room in winter. Coloured tiles and tapestries hung from the walls. From this room we walked to the Kings Room or the Bow room . Sadly we could not see the bows carved in to the ceiling as they were all covered up. Gothic windows and gothic tracery were everywhere. From the windows was a view of a 300 year old mulberry tree. Legend has it that it was planted 300 years earlier. The Queens gallery overlooks oranges. On the first floor were towers – many towers. Towers at every corner. The Fenaro tower, the Watchtower or Joysa Guardia tower, the tower of the four winds, the cistern tower, the tower of the three crowns the most picturesque of the lot. As we left the tourists arrived and the town to a certain sense came to life although there still were no cafes open. It
was a delightful castle and one we enjoyed visiting.
We headed for our overnight stop at Navarette another little Spanish town that was betwixt one season and the next. The campsite was huge but totally empty. There was no shop and Navarette was too far away to walk back to. The small bar was friendly and we laughed at the waiters who kept sending Alejandro on errands and tasks. There was a small strip of grass for motorhomes but the bulk of the site was devoted to statics. A few new ones with venetian blinds but the bulk around a couple of hundred were not fit to be on the road. They were on their last legs taped up and tied up with string. A piece of board around the bottoms to keep the vermin out. The sanitaires were top class and the company brilliant . Our neighbours an ex- teacher born in Cardiff who had taken early retirement and her husband who worked for IBM at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing at Swansea were travelling with their two dogs in their Globemaster panel van. I was invited in along with the wine we shared. We were interested in
the inside as the van is a little shorter than Suzy and possibly more manoeverable. There is a fixed bed which is a bonus and darkened windows although these made the back rather gloomy. The kitchen was well equipped and I preferred the fittings to our van. It felt odd being in a smaller van but there was room for a toilet and shower and two captains seats with a dining table . We talked about bikes and biking trips , about their family and spent a lovely evening over a glass or two of bubbly.
Tomorrow we move on to the Basque country
So it is Ogni erorri – welcome – Welcome in the language of Euskadi. It was cold as we set off down the winding roads. The mist hung to the peaks and we could barely see across the valleys with their farms and Swiss style chalets. We are heading for the border near to San Sebastian or Donastia as the Basques prefer to call it. We have passed by this way before and will head for Irun a boring little border town before getting to France. San Sebastian looked lovely . A blue sea and a conch shaped beach. A port with a vibrant feel about it. Shops and cafes bristling with life . We could see the little island which you can visit in the summer season and the rock on top of which is the statue of Christ the Redemer or at least I think it was Christ . Perhaps it was Mary I never got to see it.
Our campsite was Igueldo a new one to ACSI . A huge sprawling site on a hill rather a long way out of town. It boasted a shop – well there was one but it hardly had anything in it. A bar – that was Ok but any idea it served food was a lie . They even told us that there was a restaurant next door. On closer inspection it was closed and had been for a very very long time. Our pitch was wet and damp and very muddy. Awkward to get into we felt it overbearing . The place was heaving . A dutch couple we met later on the bus admitted they felt claustrophobic and hemmed in. They hated it as much as we did . Our near neighbours a couple from Kent told us we could move if we wanted to. The choice however was to be closer to some Belgian lads playing crap music . We stayed . The Kent couple had been there a couple of days, he liked opera , she was reading about Bess of Hardwick. They had a house in Spain and were taking their motorhome down. They kept a car in Spain and travelled home most times cheaply with Monarch airlines. They left – they paid for the night but moved to the aire rather than stay.
At night we ventured down the town 1 euro 70 each for the bus which ran half hourly. What they didn’t say was it took over 35 minutes and a round circuit of the town before you got anywhere. By the time we arrived it was pitch black . Now I wanted to do you some photographs but sadly you are never going to see San Sebastian. We ate dinner in a small café . Rather chic – black and white and quite Art Deco in appearance . I ate beef cheeks in gravy with potatoes and Glenn had a chicken dish with a Russian salad. Our journey back was uneventful . Not a brilliant day in San Sebastian and as we wanted to move again the next day sadly we saw nothing of it.
Over the border back into France . It seems weeks since we were here last but we find ourselves out of the mountains and its Bonjour from La Belle France. Pampas grass and dunes and the sea to our left .
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