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Monday 29th July 2019

I wake with a start when the light is rudely turned on by the Frenchman, one half of the bickering couple from last night. He sees it as his job to make sure we are all out of bed. There are two washrooms, one for men and one for women. The women, of course, spend hours in theirs and so the waiting women, including the pretty French girl, start to use the men’s room, slipping in in front of the men with angelic smiles. I am angered by this, as I know damn well that they would object very vocally were we to start using theirs. It seems that equality cuts one way only. The door finally unlocks and madamoiselle steps out, fully dressed and ready to face the day; I bounce out of my sleeping bag and make a beeline for the washroom but am beaten to it by an Oriental whose bed is much nearer to it than mine, and who had cunningly led me to believe that he was still asleep. Curses! He is in there for a good 20 minutes with the result that, by the time I am ready, the breakfast coffee is cold and only the ubiquitous stale toasted baguettes remain. 

As we cross back over the Puente de la Rabia, I am in such a bad mood that I forget to be grateful for this glorious day. It is truly perfect walking weather and, as happened yesterday, my mood brightens as we pass through one sleepy village after another, greeting people, ponies, chickens, cats and dogs. We stop at a bar in one such village, with the exotic-sounding name of Trinidad de Arre, and order a beer and tortilla which comes with cheese, tomatoes and peppers. It is hard to get up and start walking again but we know we must. We want to get to Pamplona by lunchtime, before it gets too hot to walk and before all the beds are taken. 

I am not sure what to expect of Pamplona. I know it is famous for Hemmingway and the Running of the Bulls but I am afraid that it will be something of a dump after the bucolic beauty of so many villages. 

We cross the River Arga at the Puenta de la Magdalena and climb up towards the city. My first impression on entering is one of an explosion of colour. My second is of the smell of cooking. This is no dump but a very beautiful place indeed. We go to the tourist office to find out about the availability of private rooms and to have our passports stamped. We are lucky and the office finds us a room in the Hostal Aralar for €45. It has a private bathroom too! Bliss! There is no toilet paper so we go to ask the manager for some. He promises to bring it up later. As I am waiting for Mrs. Asinello to shower and dress for a tour of the town, I look at what the guidebook has to say about the Hostal Aralar.

Apparently, the man we have just met is called Alberto Diaz and my book describes him as a “total mensch”. I don’t know what that means and have to look it up. I hope it doesn’t mean “jerk”! Fortunately it is a good thing and I relax. The book also tells me that the Restaurant Aralar on the floor below is a fine place to eat. It certainly looks a fine place when we poke our heads in at lunchtime, and we resolve to eat there later. We spend a pleasant afternoon walking around Pamplona and bump into the pretty French girl with the infectious smile – one of the women who angered me this morning by using the men’s washroom. But I couldn’t be angry with a smile like that for long and she is already forgiven. We speak a mix of French and English and discover that her name is Blandine.

An Explosion of Colour
Another Explosion of Colour

Mass is at the church of San Saturnino and, later in the evening, we head out for dinner, but all the restaurants seem to be closed. Why this should be, we have no idea. Everyone is sitting in bars drinking beer or rosé wine and eating pintxos. We decide that this is as good as we are going to get, so we find a place that appeals to us, order two large, cold beers and a selection of pintxos, and settle down to enjoy them. Very good they are too. When we leave, at around 10.00pm, we notice that the restaurants are now opening. Wow! I thought the Italians were late eaters, but this is in a different league! The Restaurant Aralar is also buzzing with life but it is far too late for us. Again we have to be up with the “alondra” and so we buy a mini bottle of bandy at a small shop and drink it back in the hostel as a nightcap and to ensure we get a good night’s sleep. The manager has forgotten to bring the toilet paper. 

Did I mention the explosions of colour?

Music: Cold Chisel – Twentieth Century

Audiobook: Jane Austen – Emma


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