We were up early (well sort of) and packed and ready to go. Last stop before we leave France is a Carrefour. Last chance for Chris to buy anything French. Yes yes I know you can buy French things anywhere but not the French selection you can get in France….duh! I was in big trouble as I had forgotten that Chris NEEDED to go to the Carrefour before we left France so when I programmed the Tomtom for Pamplona in excitement I was given such a hard time. Let me tell you don’t come between Chris and a French Carrefour.
So after the shopping we hit the road. We were making our way to Pamplona over the Roncesvalles pass.(Puerto de Ibañeta). This pass is apparently entirely in Spain but the road weaves in and out of the 2 countries. The pass of Roncesvalles has a lot of significant meaning, as its a very important pass for the pilgrims crossing over between France and Spain, and it also has a lot of historical significance as it was the site of many battles of war, from the battle of Roncesvalles in 778, which led to the Kingdom of Pamplona being formed, to 1813 when one of the Napoleonic battles of the Peninsular war took place resulting in Anglo-Portuguese defeat.
We had been expecting a lot of traffic. But we’re pleasantly surprised at how quiet it was. It was misty and the mist and fog hung in the trees and mountaintops. It’s very green with trees growing densely along both sides. Every few hundred meters you see signs for the Camino but we didn’t see any actual pilgrims. The road is incredibly twisty turny and Chris has to concentrate quite hard. Along the way, there is a shopping mall which is in fact in Spain. Filled with lots of French people shopping as Spain has a lower tax and it’s much cheaper.
And then just like that, you reach the top 1057m high and we are heading downhill into Spain. The countryside looks the same but coming into our first village you can see you are still in the Basque Country as the houses have those red and green shutters but somehow things look different. There is no mistaking you are back in Spain. The next challenge was a cycle race. It’s was a Saturday and a local race was in full flight. For 10 long Km’s Chris had to slow down, wait and then overtake groups of cyclists going uphill. Downhill they went as fast as we did but uphill was torturous.
Just before Pamplona they went another way, thank God!
So Pamplona, most of you know about running of the bulls in Pamplona as it’s probably the most well-known festival in Spain. The San Fermín festival takes place from July 6-14th.
We found a lovely tarmac area which for €10 you could park, electric and services. All secure and neat and just a 10min walk into the centre of Pamplona.
We had a mission in Pamplona as we needed to but a shirt for Chris. It’s his nephew’s wedding in Jersey in a few days and he needs a shirt. So once we have paid our money we wasted no time in walking into town. As we arrived in town we saw a wedding party already at the church waiting for a wedding to take place and it is lovely seeing all the family and children all dressed. That will be us soon Cameron and Charlotte!
Pamplona is an amazing city with wide boulevards and green leafy parks all around. The old Centro is mostly pedestrian cobbled and filled with independent shops and bars. We strolled in and around had a good look. We had no intention of having lunch yet but as we walked past a row of pintxos bars they were so full and buzzy we decided a drink was in order. And when we got to the counter and saw the food on offer we could not resist. So a beer, a vermut( my all-time favourite Spanish drink) and 2 tapas. We stood in a corner and just watched the Spanish socialize and mingle. It’s Saturday morning and they are doing what we all should do at weekend. Relax and socialize with friends and family. It’s such an amazing atmosphere.
After too long we moved on as we had a mission to complete so we headed to the more modern shopping boulevard. By now it’s siesta so most independent shops are closed but the ‘inditex’ group are all open right through of course. We were very surprised at the lack of people. We are not sure if the siesta means that most of the Spanish don’t shop in the afternoon, or whether Spanish culture has moved to shopping malls being more popular. It was quite a pleasure to shop though and after a short while, we had found the parsleyspursuitoftheperfectshirt!
Next mission was haircut for Chris and a manicure for Rose. The first was easy as we had spotted a small barber in the old town and for €8 Chris was sorted. For me and the nail bars, it was not not too difficult as Spain like a lot of cities has nail bars galore and all run by the….chinese. it seems these days no nail bar in any city is run by any other nation. But a lovely woman did my nails and feet with a smile on her face and free wifi. Chris relaxed and read his book while he waited for me and then we sat down for pre-dinner drink. It was quite early for dinner in Spain so we needed to pass some time but that was not difficult. Just sit down at one of the many bars along the squares, order one drink and you can sit for as long as you like.
Pamplona has a similar pintxos culture to San Sebastian or Logroño where the locals move from one to another having the house speciality and chatting incessantly. But what was a really great for us was seeing a new side, which was the way the students or younger people just sat in the street(on steps on walls, fountains or on the floor) in groups drinking and talking. Most had their own snacks, some seemed to have drinks bought from the supermarket but it was so vibey. The Spanish seem to drink a lot and from early in the day but you NEVER see a drunk person. I’m not sure why, but my opinion is that although they are drinking they talk so much, they actually don’t drink as many drinks as you think. The other thing I love and I have mentioned before is the “sobremesa” which is the ability to carry on socialising and talking once they are finished eating and drinking. No one rushes to take away a plate or clear the table and chase you out with a bill, you could sit all night if you like.
We had read up on some recommendations of pintxos bars, and we started with one outside the city hall.
I can’t bore you with all the details, but I will post pics below with descriptions. We moved from restaurant to restaurant having a pintxos and a small drink in each.
We ended the evening early with a lovely stroll back to the camper. We were very happy…we love Pamplona.