Dr. Hoffer's Travel Site This site was last updated 05/05/11
IBERIA2001 #18 Mnts to Pamplona
Getting out of Andorra was a little time consuming but we filled up the tank for only $2.58/gal which is really cheap. On our way out the traffic was bad coming in and we sailed past the Spanish border guards where they were backed up for miles last night. The roads were very slow driving to LLeida and we passed the city and headed northwest to Huesca. Because we are going so slowly and seeing the countryside, we now realize we are never going to make it there in time for dinner. We search one of the Spain books and find a restaurant called Flora in the town of Barbastura. Using the cell phone, I called ahead and asked what time they close and she told me 9:00 and that all the restaurants do the same. We race like hell to get there before they close and arrive at 8:55. No time to run before dinner. We are seated and we are the only people in the place. As we are ordering more and more people arrive. As the place fills up, we realize that it opens at 9 not closes at 9. I guess my pronunciation of "cerrado" sounds like "abierto". Damn! Now I have to run after eating and in the dark. After a dinner of their specialty, baked hake and a funny rice and meat mixture wrapped in a sewed-up piece of stomach tissue, I take over the driving through and past Huesca to the north into the mountains. After more hours of pretty good roads and very little traffic we arrive in Sallent at 11:55. It is rather cold and dark and time to run. Racing through the cobblestone streets around medieval buildings I must have encountered 20 large dogs wandering around, two of which expressed their dislike for my presence. They didn't come after me though. It wasn't really all that bad. The owner of the Hotel Almud was nice and made me a hot cortado (coffee) and gave me some advice regarding seeing northern Spain.
The next morning we were amazed at where we were; high up in the Pyrenees in the most beautiful setting. They threw us out of our room after I did my run over the same territory. We enjoyed the scenery and a "cappuccino" in the central square and then headed down the mountains. We made a right and headed west to the town of Jaca (hah-kah). This is a beautiful little place with clean streets and parks and very livable. There was a huge statue of Jesus made of steel that was very unusual. We visited the main Cathedral which was first built in the 11th century and the museum showed artifacts from that time. We had some coffee in the main Plaza while a funeral was going on. We enjoyed the place but we had to continue on to our next destination, Pamplona. But on the way we saw signs for Monasterio San Juan de la Peña which was supposed to be interesting so we made the 12 mile round trip off the main highway up into the mountains to see it. The monastery was built into a crevice in the rocks and is spectacular to see. The views of the countryside of Aragon (photos) as well made up for the time it took to get there. We arrived in Pamplona in time to check into the Hotel Ciudad de Pamplona, a really neat place that Manuel got for us. We'll do two days here. Jairo recommended Restaurant Europa near the Plaza de Castillo in the old town. We took a taxi there since our car was locked snugly in the garage. The restaurant was really first class (4 star) but the wine list had 40 wines at $5/bottle - incredible! The dinner included vichyssoise with bacon, peas & beans with yolks, peppers, lobster, monkfish, chocolate soufflé, coconut ice cream espresso and pacharán which was excellent and we drank plenty of cava to wash down the lobster, etc. A trip to see the bar scene in the main square didn't get us back to the hotel until 3 AM.
The next morning we could sleep in, which was a pleasure. I did my run down the new part of Pamplona to the old city and all of it is wonderful. This place is really NEAT. I saw the street (Estafeta) where the bulls run during the festival of San Fermin ( a week long party in July). There was a statue commemorating the runners (photo) and in the Placa Valencia there is a huge column representing the freedom of Navarra, which is the kingdom of the Basque that we are in now. It looks like it has been there since the late 1800s but the inscription on it says "1963". The Basque people have been here since way before the Romans came here to conquer the indigenous people and make their Iberian colony. Pamplona's name came from Pompey. It's name in Basque is Iruña (ee-rune-yah). Dimitrii's good Russian friend Georgio is an obstetrician in Milano and is married to Mercedes, who is from Pamplona. They're here visiting her mother and they took us out to typical Basque places for drinks and dinner. I had duck and Marcia had a huge T-bone steak that I had to help her with. A view of the town and it was 4 AM again. Off to San Sebastian tomorrow.
KJH Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #19
Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD
[1) A hill town in the "nation" of Aragon, 2) Monasterio San Juan de la Peña (MSJDLP) in the rock, 3) MSJDLP again, 4) View of Aragon from MSJDLP, 5) Another view from MSJDLP, 6) Pamplona running of the bulls street, 7) Metal statue of Christ in town of Jaca, 8) Cathedral in Jaca, 9) Brook in Sallent de Gallego (SdG), 10) View in SdG, 11) Another SdG view, 12) Statue of bull runners in Pamplona, 13) Pamplona statue to Navarra freedom, 14) SdG Hotel Almud.]
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