Where's Frankie?

A load of bull

Friday 20th November

We were woken up to the sound of workmen messing about fixing the waste water drain at the services. Our Spanish neighbour had mentioned that it was blocked to the Police yesterday afternoon and here they were in force. At one point there were nine of them chatting away, smoking and laughing but there didn’t appear to be much work going on. We wanted to empty our waste tank and empty the loo but by 11 o’clock (and with them knowing that we needed to use the services) we took the easy option and gave up. We nipped into the local Repsol and topped up with LPG and diesel and then returned to the service point to find that they had at last run out of words and gone.

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We decided to make our way towards Pamplona but on the way saw some signs for the Monastery de San Juan de la Pena which Julie and Jay had visited a couple of days ago. Half way up we stopped at a lay-by to take in the views and stretch out the shoulders. Jay had been complaining about sore shoulders but the drive hadn’t been that bad, we’ve seen far more twisty turny than this bit of road.

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And then we got to the Old Monastery, this photo was actually taken on the way down. It looked lovely built into the cliff but it isn’t open to the public. It is at this point that the road takes on a serious bit of bendy and now I can appreciate how Jay was feeling. You have to remember that we have our whole house with us, every worldly possession and all it takes is one moment of inattention and you’re 1000 feet lower, very quickly.

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We found a spot amongst the trees and stopped for lunch.The place was silent and it must have unnerved Lucy, she started to talk to compensate and in the end was babbling nonsense (no change there) just so she could hear something.

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After lunch we ventured out for a look see. Here is the front of the new monastery.

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And the side, nothing of any real architectural merit and it was €12 per person to go inside so being ever so tight I stamped my feet and said no.

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Instead we went for a lovely walk through the trees to a lookout point.

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Another wow moment and this large flock of Eagles / Buzzards / Vultures lazily circled catching the thermals. They weren’t there for long and we were so lucky to see them.

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On the way back we managed to get a much better view of Santa Cruz de la Seros, a wonderful 11th century town where all of these buildings feature cylindrical chimneys to prevent a very serious problem which occurs in this area. 

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The chimneys are called espantabrugas and are believed to ward off witches. Lucy had gone very quiet by this time, I can’t be sure if it was the stress of having to travel down the steep twisty turny road or if the chimneys really do work.

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Even the roundabout has an espantabruga.

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Back on the main road which turns into an Autovia, an essential travel link between two towns or cities designed to carry thousands of vehicles every hour. At this rate the roads will never wear out.

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We made a small mistake, I say we but I get all the blame and put m hands up to this one. Julie and Jay want to Pamplona, they managed to park up no problem and got into town easy enough. Because we left it to the last minute to try Pamplona I just put the town name in Stella and thought we could park in the main square little realising the size of the city. There is no where to pull over to consult the maps, you have to keep alert to the odd driving habits of Spaniards who seem to look upon every roundabout as if it was the first they had ever seen but in the end we stopped and found an aire 3 or 4 miles out of the city. Parking is on both sides of a road so not very inspiring. There was a car parked in the service point and there are no lines wide enough to get Frankies svelte body into.

Then lots of cars started turning up and parking around us, it turns out it is the pick up point for the school to the left. After the kids had gone it all went quiet and we had a good nights sleep. Our All the Aires book said that there was a bus stop into the city so bright and breezy Friday morning (I might have lost or gained a day on the blog titles somewhere) I was saying “Me gustaria dos emtrados para el centro por favor” and handed over €2.70. Not only that, he gave us a shout when we got to el centro, sometimes I really feel fluent.

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Pamplona is far, far bigger than we had imagined, there are thousands of apartment blocks, large factories including a VW assembly plant and lots of nice buildings. The main part is almost enclosed by old city walls and a citadel.

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This sculpture is amazing, created very recently it really captures the excitement of the bull run.

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We chose to walk the bull run in reverse, just in case one of the bulls had been overlooked and we’d be able to see it coming. Just behind us to the right is the Bullring where the bulls are aiming for. This is the most famous street in Pamplona and named after the first post office in the city. The bull run is approximately 850m long and is held as part of the celebrations to St Firmin.

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The races start at 8am every morning for a week and it is a mark of great honour if you are able to strike one of the bulls with a rolled up newspaper.


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And this is very close to the start of the run. Imagine all of the balconies full of onlookers and the streets full of crazy people, this section has no where to hide. It is hard to imagine how terrifying being with the bulls must be, I did think about doing it but white trousers do not suit me.

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Pamplona has two facets to it’s history as the man in the tourist office was very keen to point out. The city was founded by the Romans, allegedly Pompey, in 75BC. The Goths took over in the 5th century and were in turn kicked out by the Moors who used Pamplona as a staging point for their ill fated attempt to take France in 732.

Charlmagne destroyed the city in 778 and it was the pilgrims on the Way of St James who revived it. Three town centres developed next to each other and the Town Hall shown above is where the three areas met. There was a lot of antagonism between the three areas and consequently the churches were built as defensive units as well as places of worship. The Kings of Aragon and Castille fought the French Kings of Navarre with peace only coming in 1423 with a proclamation of the Privilege of Union.

As a result of all of this conflict and because Pamplona was the capital city of the Navaresse King Carlos III and his wife Leonora de Trastamara, strong fortifications have been built as well as palaces and cathedrals.

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We did visit the Cathedral and here are where King Carlos and Leonora are buried.

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The cathedral was very impressive and we took the full tour.

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The cloisters were 14th century but we’ve been spoilt, Mont St Michelle was far more delicate and pretty.

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A small part of the display inside the cathedral and cloister buildings. The exhibition won best exhibition of the year in 2013, that is the best international exhibition, best in the world but would have / could have been far better with some translation. We think there may have been an audio guide but it wasn’t offered to us on the way in.

After the Cathedral I took Lucy for a Menu del Dia, €23 for two main courses and a dessert each and a bottle of red wine. Lucy doesn’t usually touch my red wine but today she has made an exception and found that she rather liked it, just my luck!

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Parts of the old city walls.

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This is part of the citadel, a pentagram shape from the air with diamond protrusions on each corner. The wall in the distance was at the limit of how far a gun could accurately shoot at the time the citadel was built so that determined the maximum size of the building.

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he main gate into the city of Pamplona, obviously either side are the guns of Navarres. 

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Our last bits of sculpture. Pamplona is staging a Henry Moore exhibition and in the main promenade we have 6 of his best!! Compare these with the bull run sculpture and I know which I would rather have. We have really enjoyed Pamplona, the weather has been good and much of it is pedestrianised.

When we got back to Frankie we were still alone but since we were tired and some of us were still giggly we decided to stay another night. Three more vans soon turned up, one of them despite being French registered was owned by an English couple living in France. We invited them in for more drinks and to swap stories. Fred and Glenys are on there way to Albufera for Christmas so following a similar route to us. It turns out that Fred has been following Julie and Jay from the beginning as well and had just read on their blog about another couple meandering around Europe. He was very surprised to find out it was us!

We’re undecided at the moment but we could be Xmasing in Albufera as well.

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