Barcelona & N. Spain

Day 07 - Monday, October 1, 2012 - Travel Day to San Sebastian; Visit Pamplona with the Plaza del Castillo, the Old Town; View the Basque Countryside; Free Time in San Sebastian

October 1, 2012 - Happy Birthday to our lovely Tour Director Laura and our good friend Dr. Dallas Strawn today!

The day began with a wonderful breakfast and lively conversation; we are meeting so many interesting people from all over the US. Our group has been very prompt and considerate. The temperature this morning was 52° and the humidity was 71%.

Javier had all of the bags packed and we were on time to leave at our scheduled departure of 9:00. At the very last minute a man from another tour group came running up; he had put his bag with ours.

Our tags were all green like theirs, so Javier had to open up the bays and sort the bags to find his. Always something - oh, the joys of traveling! We were only delayed a few minutes and by 9:08 we were on our way out of Zaragoza.

When things calmed down and we were moving we sang Happy Birthday to Laura. She gave us an overview of our day’s activities. She also took the opportunity to answer questions we have been asking about the economic difficulties in Spain.

Like each financial crisis, Spain’s is unique, but similar to ours in that unemployment is high; but almost 25% and their housing bubble was even more dramatic than ours.

As we traveled north to Pamplona we saw fields of grain ready to be harvested, groves of fruit trees, and many green pastures. As the soil got rockier and the soil poorer, we saw acres and acres of vineyards utilized to make red wine famous in this area.

Because Spain has no oil or natural gas, we also saw many solar farms. Spain also is a leading manufacturer of solar panels. Almost every hill had a row of wind turbines that supply over 16% of the electrical needs of the country.

Before arriving in Pamplona, Laura gave us a synopsis of the history of the region as well and Navarra and the Basque Regions we will be visiting. In the mid-1400’s Ferdinand and Isabella were married to stabilize the Kingdom of Spain and bring peace to the region.

At 11:00 we made a technical stop for restrooms, to get a snack, and for Javier to have a break from driving. We got a bottle of water and took a few photos and walked around to get the kinks out of our legs.

In 20more minutes we were in Pamplona, famous for the “festival of the running of the bulls”. Hemingway lived here and wrote about the Spanish Civil War as well as loved bullfighting and all of the traditions behind the sport.

We began our tour in the Plaza del Castillo and walked to the bull ring and to see the statue of Hemingway. We retraced the path of the running of the bulls; fortunately today there were no bulls, only tourists and a few pilgrims on the Way of St. James, El Camino de Santiago.

Our tour ended at the City Hall and we had more than 3 hours of free time to explore the city. We were looking for the corral where the bulls start their journey and found the traditional city market. Because it was almost closing time, many of the vendors were already gone for the day.

A few vegetable stands were still open and Vic found a vendor selling small round red chilies stuffed with cheese and an anchovy that he wanted to taste. It is always fun to try new foods when we travel and this one was excellent!

There were many Tapas Bars along the Bull Route and we chose Chez Belagua. We had one tapa of Iberian bacon, grilled green pepper, and cheese. We also chose one of the many varieties of Pinchos; fried eggplant with tomatoes, cheese, Ibearian ham, with fried red and green peppers. Both were excellent and enough for lunch for both of us.

We had to have a taste of the local dessert so we stopped at a helados shop and enjoyed a cup of delicious ice cream – yummy!

Our meeting time was at 3:15 which gave us time to explore more of the city and to watch the tourists and trekkers with their famous clam shell symbolizing the pilgrimage on the Way of St. James. Most of the shop keepers had closed up to go home for lunch and the customary siesta.

Laura gathered our group and we walked to the bus for an hour’s drive to San Sebastian. The hotel is right on the Urumea River which flows to the Bay of Biscay and then in to the Atlantic Ocean.

After we checked in and got our key we went for a long walk along the river to the city center and Old Town. We walked back by way of the park and felt refreshed and with enough energy to tackle the photos and the journal before dinner.

Gathering for dinner at 8:00 is a bit late for us, but when in Spain, do as the Spanish. We had a birthday celebration for Laura and came back to the room at 9:30 to finish our photos and the journal.

The day was a long one, but we are seeing much more of Spain that we did on our previous trip here eight years ago.

Accommodations: Silken Amara Plaza Hotel - - - Meal: B, D

Please see our Trip Evaluation -- Click Here -- A Complete Review of Go Ahead Tours: Barcelona and Northern Spain


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