The next morning, we had the traditional Spanish breakfast of toast with tomato and cured meat.
It started raining pretty hard so the hike we had planned in Aigüestortes i Estany of Saint Maurici National Park got changed to just a simple hike up to a reservoir above a dam.
We missed the trail and ended up walking down the stairs where the workers maintain the dam. It started to get a little difficult and I realized that this could not be correct. Amy was eager to keep going, but I convinced her it was unwise
Here is a shot of the water shooting out below the reservoir
We finally got back on track and hiked up to the lake. Still pouring so it was a brief view and then back to the car to move onto the next town
The town of Ainsa is representative of a lot of rural towns in Spain and Portugal. A high ground is located, a tower (military defense) is erected, and a town grows up around it. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into a room overlooking the town square. It was managed by a local restaurant that specialized in medieval food.
We had drinks and a salad on the back deck of a local hostal before heading to the restaurant who rented us the room. I had a pork shoulder and Amy went for the duck
There were house flies in our room, but with the temperature and stuffiness of the room I could not keep the windows open. That along with the late night construction going on next door provided little rest, but we had no agenda so it was no bother.
The next morning we had our typical toast and tomato in the main square. Bought a present for our neighbor helping manage some construction going on back in Michigan, then got the rental car and headed off to or hike for the day. The weather was clear as we headed to Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido. It was basically a big valley you walk through. Cars are not allowed in the park, so we had to take a bus in.
Lots of people hiking. It was a gradual uphill trail culminating in a cascading waterfall.
I would have liked to swim, but was not permitted unfortunately. After the 8 mile jaunt, we caught the bus back to our car and made our way to the next village on a hill. Our destination was the town of Sos del Rey Católico. As with the last nights lodging, we walked the streets of the old town in search of a place to eat. This location was not a picturesque as the last one. I chose the location more for its proximity to Pamplona rather than it aestetic appeal.
We found the only restaurant open at a decent price and sat down for dinner. I ordered the Cuttlefish, a sort of squid. It was quite large. It was much like eating calamari without being breaded and fried. I tolerated about a ½ the dish but the rubbery texture and taste eventually became too much for my palate.
The next day we put on our all white outfits with a red bandana and head to Pamplona for the running of the bulls festival. We had not planned to go there, but it was purely coincidental that the event took place while we were passing through. I had thought about running, but after we learned about the endless animal cruelty the bulls were subjected to, I decided not to participate. They bloat the bulls up, rub Vaseline in their eyes, put weights on the neck, send them down this corridor of crazed and drunk people. As if that is not enough, they are then stabbed and sent into a ring to get slowly bled out by a matador. No thanks. The event had not taken place for 2 years due to COVID so this year was triple the chaos. The bulls run at 8am and the party goes all night long. We figured if we showed up around noon we would miss the bull run and most drunks would be asleep until later in the afternoon, leaving only the hardcore ones who push through all day long. I was surprised how big the city was. I was expecting another small village that expands one week of the year for the event, but it was quite modern and felt like it inhabited around 500k people. We walked around for about 30 minutes and had a couple drinks, before tossing our outfits and continuing on to San Sebastian
A funny thing happened on the way out of Pamplona. At the toll booth there were all these cops stopping cars after they paid the highway toll. I thought it was some police fundraiser, but it seemed a bit aggressive that they stopped each vehicle, almost forcing them to give. Then we got closer and I realized they were giving each driver a breathalizer. I had a little panic because I had two beers about 10 minutes ago and I also knew that European countries don’t mess around with drunk driving, having much lower limits than US. Amy, for some reason, was trying to pass me water, instructing me to gulp in down, and then I think suggested I spit into the device. I ignored these recommendations. I blew into the breathalyzer as faintly as possible. He yelled something in Spanish to me and I pretended to blow some more. He said something else and I had no clue what he wanted. I think he was just tired of me and let me pass, even though I am sure 2 beers put me close to whatever the limit was. Thankful to be out of there we were on our way to the beach.
We arrived in San Sebastian around 2pm. Parking is a nightmare, just like Barcelona. Eventually I found an underground parking. I left the car there for 2 days and it cost $55, but I gladly paid it as I was not going to get back in that vehicle and run the gauntlet until we left town. We had rented an AirBNB above the old town, splurging for once.
San Sebastian is in the basque country. It comprises 3 provinces in Spain and 3 in France. They have a very unique and mysterious origin story. Great seafarers, they have a language that resembles nothing I have seen before. We watche the Bourdain special on San Sebastian before leaving the US. It turned out to be the food capital of the country. It had more Michelin star restaurants in a small area than anywhere else in the world. I will break some the food experience down tomorrow. Today we just walked the city and marveled at the crescent-shaped beach
For dinner we walked along the marina and found a restaurant with seating that served us up some local Hake and Sardines
I saw this wood carved door that was quite impressive
It depicts the days of Sperm whale hunting, much before the New Englanders got into the game with the days of Moby Dick. Still seeking that whale oil, the petroleum of its day.
After dinner we walked along the ocean seawall. Amy fell in love with the city, and it was hard to argue
A view from our balcony as the party went late into the evening in the old city