Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We are now resting in Auch, which - to the annoyance of my French partner - I insist on calling "Ouch". A few observations on our journey here via Estella, Pamplona, St Jean Pied-de-Port, Lourdes and Toulouse:-

If you arrive in Estella at nine of a Sunday evening at the end of September, it will be difficult to find something to eat. The one place we could find open offered us pigs' trotters', pigs' cheeks, pigs' stomach lining, lamb viscera with blood, or chopped cod. My parter said she'd never been happier [or even happy] to see a plate of cod. But then ate the trotters. Guess what I ate.

If you want to travel from Pamplona to France through the mountains, you're best advised to take an orienteering course beforehand. Virtually all the signs conspire to take you north to Hendaye and the one sign for France that points vaguely towards the mountains is not followed up by any others as you pass through confusing roundabout after confusing roundabout. If you're unlucky, you will turn back and head north before you realise the road is not going to branch off into the mountains. If you're really unlucky, you will get on the right road by accident and then be given the wrong directions by someone who claims to know what they're talking about. And you will end up back where you started from. My advice is to find a local policeman and ask him for detailed directions to the N135. They're easy enough to find as their uniform is bright red.

When you finally get onto the N135, there will compensation in the form of a sign to France at least every 1,000 metres. Almost 30 of them within the first 20km. Every time, in fact, there's a turn off to a local village. This is either an example of Basque/Navarran humour [possibly their version of Galician retranca] or a reflection of the fact the local mayor has a relative in the sign-writing business.

The countryside and Basque architecture on both sides of the border are magnificent. And we found everyone to be very pleasant and helpful. This might just be because the men on the Spanish side at least appear to start the day with a beer alongside their coffee. Though this is less potent than the brandy of Andalucia, of course.

More anon . . . 

5 comments:

Keefieboy said...

Glad to hear you're enjoying the trip, Colin.

Colin said...

Thanks, Keith. Actually'm lucky tobe alive, having mistaken a two-way sysem for a one-way system here in Ouch. Sometimes it's god to have a co-pilot.

Brendan said...

Buy a GPS and get lost knowing you wont...!

moscow said...

Colin,
Sorry to pester you. Please, remind me to dig out this article again when Santander goes bust.
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/77409482-8e87-11dd-9b46-0000779fd18c.html

Colin said...

Moscow,

Yes, you might like to click on the Ibex Salad link to see some less hagiographic views on this bank . . .