Thursday, 6 September 2007

Through Navarra over the Pyrenees to France

This post covers our journey through Navarra to France with tales of rubbish-strewn hill towns, travelling circuses and boring archaeological sites.

On the afternoon of Tuesday 28th August, we left Playa Joyel and motored along the autovia towards the region of Navarra. The pilgrimage trail to Santiago runs through here and signs reminded us we were now 740 km away from the town where we had recently spent the week. We stopped at a Carrefour supermarket near Vitoria to stock up on supplies then headed towards a small town called Mendigorria where we stayed at the “El Molino” (windmill) campsite. The site was quite large but thankfully only half full, we had lots of space around us. It was very hot that evening and we struggled to keep cool. Sarah grabbed the frozen cauliflower from the freezer to put on her head! We had a chat to an English bloke who told us he was heading to the coast as it was too hot here, but we told him it wasn’t much better on the coast.

Left: This reminds me of what my old boss Robert used to say to me... Now don't get cross...

The next day (Wednesday) we headed to the pool and spent an hour in the sun before packing up our things and driving off to 2 nearby towns. The first was called Artajona, a small town which has a nice section of town walls surrounding it. The rest of the town was pretty shabby though, near the walls there was loads of rubbish, such as old chairs and beds people had thrown away. Do these people have no pride in their town? Can’t the local council clean up this place? The town features in their Navarra tourist brochures so you’d think they’d do something about it.

The next town we went to was much cleaner, Olite was the seat of the monarchs of Navarra for centuries. We walked around the royal palace and admired its turreted towers before grabbing a mini milk ice block and heading back to Ace. We tried to find the campsite in town but we couldn’t. We then thought about heading to a nearby national park, but the roads were all gravel and the vehicles shown in the brochure were all 4 wheel drives! In the end we decided to head back to France! This next leg of our journey is towards Italy as we are meeting my parents and their friends Steve and Jenny in Rome on the 20th September.
Above: Sarah at El Molino
2 Below: Artajona (carefully composed not to include the rubbish...)

We drove up through a gentle stretch of the Pyrenees, the road twisting its way through the hills to France. We filled up with diesel as at 96 cents / litre in Spain, it’s much cheaper than in France where a good price is between 104-106 cents / litre. Still way cheaper than the UK though! After an hour and a half drive we ended up at St Pée again – the scene of muddy disaster the night before we headed to Spain 3 weeks ago. I’m glad to announce we had no disasters here and spent a very peaceful night. It costs €5 a night to stay here, you pay for tokens by VISA card and then insert the tokens into a slot and the barrier lifts for you. When we arrived the local police had let in 2 huge caravans that belonged to circus people for free! We were not happy, these places are for motorhomes, not caravans!

On Thursday we got up early and drove along the toll motorway towards the town of Pau. We stopped to fill up with LPG along the way as one of our tanks was empty and the other couldn’t have much left in it. It proved impossible finding a petrol station that sold LPG in Spain. We visited a small exhibition at the motorway services about the pilgrimage trail to Santiago. We tried to park in Pau to have a look around the town but unfortunately most of the main car park was not in use, no idea why it wasn’t, but parking was difficult for everyone so we left. We drove on to the small grotty little town of St Girons where we spent the night in an aire de service with 6 other motorhomes, all French. About a hundred metres from us there were dozens of caravans all parked up, we think it was another circus! Travelling circuses are everywhere in France during summer, along with another attraction we saw called Toro Piscine where you pay €10 to get chased around a pool of water by bulls!

On Friday we drove along small country lanes towards Carcassonne. We drove over a tiny one lane bridge and continued. Driving towards a bend, a car rocketed around the corner, clearly going way too fast. At first he was in his lane but closer to us he veered over on our side of the road, we have no idea how he missed as it wasn’t a very wide road. We found an aire de service along the way in a small town but it was packed, the electric sockets in use and the tap didn’t look very clean. We drove on past the witches’ hat turrets of the medieval walled city of Carcassone, deciding not to visit as we had spent several hours here last year.
Left: Exhibition on the pilgrimage trail to Santiago. Pilgrims carried a staff to aid their trek which also protected them against man and beast. This scene reminds me of the first time I met Sarah's dog...
Below: Nice ass! Sarah at the boring archaeological site

On the way towards the Mediterranean Coast, I decided to stop off to visit an ancient archaeological site on a hill. In one of my guide books it looked quite interesting, but half an hour and €11 later we were bored to tears, it was definitely in our top 5 worst attractions so far! We continued on towards the coast and drove past where we had spent a week last June at Serignan. We pitched up for the night at a campsite near the seaside town of Sète and just managed to catch the last half hour of sunshine before it sank behind the hills.

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