November 11, 2000 Jaca Spain. A bright sunny day.
We had a very pleasant drive to Jaca from Pamplona once we were able to get out of the city. Road signs can be confusing even in your own country and your own language, but in foreign countries and in foreign language it's often a crap shoot. At one point we went around a traffic circle three times before we were sure that the route we were looking for had disappeared... But all that is behind us now.
So let's go back a few days to San Sebastian on the north coast of Spain. As the sun was setting we took a walk along the promenade around the bay. The surf was impressive from the storm that had swept across the Bay of Biscay and across Europe. Other than gray skies we were out of the storm.
It was quite beautiful scene, but we were ready to move on and head up into the Pyrenees. For lunch we stopped at a small country restaurant. Things are kept neatly trimmed. Every fall the trees are trimmed back. To an American like me it seems like a lot of work, but around here it is the way they've been doing it for centuries so why change? Certainly the food is much better. We both had a three course meal, cooked with care from fresh ingredients, a bottle of sparkling water, and a bottle of very good Rioja wine in a pleasant dining room with damask linen table clothes. The bill, including the tip, was about $25 US.
We had called ahead to reserve a room in a small place a little further up into the mountains. It is the first time since we've been here that we have done that. But when we arrived there the room was very cold and the heat wasn't going to be turned on for a few more hours. So we gave up on that idea and decided to continue on up the small winding road and cross over the mountains into France. Below is a view of the Spanish side as we wound our way up the small narrow road. Fortunately there was very little traffic since in many places it was only one lane wide.
Up at the pass there wasn't even a marker saying that we we entering France. But the walls of the valley was a lot steeper and driving down we were on the outside of the narrow road. There were no guardrails, just a low berm of rocky dirt and then nothing, not even a tree to keep you from falling hundreds or maybe thousands of feet down. Having recently polished off a bottle of wine with lunch I wasn't ready to be Mario Andretti power sliding my way around the hairpin turns. But in some ways it is almost more scary when you are only going 10 MPH. It makes it like a slow motion dream, heightening the effects of the cliff dropping off beside you.
It was off season on the French side as well, but we found a little Chambre d'hôte with a warm room and good French cooking. In the morning we went out on to our little balcony and knew we wanted to take a walk in the mountains.
At breakfast some of the other guests suggested a good place to hike a little further along the road. We went there and started up the farm paths passing lots of sheep, a few large pigs, and even a few farmers and their barking dogs. One of the great things about hiking up mountains is that the views keep changing and getting more expansive.
Up at the top of our hike there were these big rocks that seemed like they had been placed there by some ancient giants. It was hard to see why the were there since we didn't see any like them on the way up or on the other side either.
After hiking back down into the French valley we were hungry. Unfortunately we were way out in the country and it was off season so that all the restaurants around were we got back to our car were closed. So we drove down to Saint Jean which had a lot of restaurants but most of them were closed and by the time we arrived is was past 2PM and we were refused service for being too late so we ended up at bar where we ate barf food and a bottle of wine. After that we looked for a hotel room but gave up and hiked up to the top of the fort of St. Jean where it started to rain and Marianne saw a vision and we knew that it was time to go back to Spain.
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