Friday, July 12, 2013

San Sebastián

San Sebastián is a beach town in the Basque region. So, what do you do there?


6pm. Crowded. 

9pm. Not crowded.


Ham, mushroom, pepper, cheese, bread...


Favorite ice cream flavor: leche merengada 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The French Pyrenees: Les Fontaines d'Escot

     After El Pueyo de Jaca, we made a brief stop in the town of Jaca before catching the bus to the French Pyrenees. Last summer, my younger brother worked at a bed & breakfast chateau in The Pyrenees for a month. While there, he accrued a couple nights of credit for any family member ever made it to the south of France. Fast forward a year to me, capitalizing on this offer.
     The place, called Les Fontaines d'Escot, is in The Pyrenees national park, far from any town of significant size. It's located on a crystal clear and ice cold river, and nestled between the mountains. It was, to say the least, very peaceful. 

The Aspe river next to the chateau
     We spent our two days there walking around the area, reading by the river, and talking with our hosts.  

The backyard
The chateau (established in the 15th century)

     The second day, we took a trip into the nearest town of any size, Oloron-Sainte-Marie. We ate dinner there and bought a few groceries. It's a nice little town, also situated on the river. I took the opportunity to eat pastries. 
     I wish I had more to say, but really the two days passed very quietly. It was so nice to be in a place without any light pollution. I went outside to see the stars and couldn't even see the door to get back inside. We had a fantastic time and I would love to go back, next time with a fishing pole to catch some of the trout. Thanks to Ben for having worked there! 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Spanish Pyrenees: El Pueyo de Jaca

     We left Pamplona in the morning and took the bus southwest to Jaca, and then another bus for an hour to El Pueyo de Jaca, which is a small village in the Spanish Pyrenees. There is a youth albergue (hostel) there and we were ready to do some hiking. So after dropping off our stuff and eating lunch, we went hiking.

Albergue in El Pueyo de Jaca

           The nearby village of Panticosa is a ski resort town and is nestled into the mountainside. We hiked there to get some fruit and then went back into the mountains, hurrying ahead of a couple dozen horses that were being led to graze in the fields beside the trail.


Hiking trail

     The hike offered fantastic views. We hiked for around five hours, all the way to a pueblo called Hoz de Jaca (Hoz means gorge), and back to the albergue. 

     Pueyo de Jaca is located on a reservoir, which this year has overfilled to the point of swallowing some of the surrounding trees. 

     So our day there was spent hiking and we woke up early the next morning to catch the bus back to Jaca, then another bus to Canfranc, and finally a third bus to Escot, France, to stay at a chateau for a couple of nights where my brother worked last summer. Stay tuned for that post coming soon. 

Friday, July 5, 2013


     From Logroño we took the bus to Pamplona, famous for its San Fermín festival held in July which has the famous Encierro, the Running of the Bulls. The festival starts this Saturday, so we went early to avoid the chaos. My brother, who went last year and ran, recommended we go during the festival, but we wanted to be able to walk in the streets without tripping over people. We showed up just early enough, because they were already busy fencing off the parks to keep people out during the festival.

Pamplona, taken during siesta hours
     We were hungry when we arrived, so we went to the Mesón de la Tortilla, supposedly one of the best Spanish tortilla places. The tortilla was very tasty—I had ham and mushroom tortilla and Katie had spinach and cheese. It is €1,50 for a slice, which fills you up.

Spanish tortilla
     After, we stumbled upon a photography exhibit with photos by Francisco Cano, one of Spain's most famous photographers. He is 100 years old and some of his most famous photographs are on display, from Charlton Heston trying his hand at bullfighting to Hemingway in Pamplona, Orson Welles at bullfights and Manolo Caracol (flamenco singer) performing his art. 

Francisco Cano photography exhibit
Famous photos of bullfighter Manolete

     Later we walked around a park and after the shops opened back up in the afternoon we went to a famous bakery called Beatriz and bought some delicious chocolate pastries.  

     After that we went to the big square, Plaza del Castillo, to hear some traditional Basque music played with the instruments called txistu (a flute-like instrument) and gaita (like a bagpipe), among others. It's kind of a mix between Celtic and marching music, and was interesting to hear, though nowhere close to as powerful as flamenco music—at least to the uninitiated. 

     At some point we got a little hungry at went to Café Iruña and had some tapas. If that name sounds familiar, it's because you've been reading Hemingway recently. 

"We had coffee at the Iruña, sitting in comfortable wicker chairs looking out from the cool of the arcade at the big square." -The Sun Also Rises

      In the morning before catching the bus to Jaca, we walked around the Ciudadela, a 16th century fortress. Fortunately, we got there before the temporary fence enclosed it to keep out the upcoming festival attendees. Pamplona was a really nice city, much prettier than we were expecting. The center of the city has beautiful old buildings and the green spaces are abundant.

Next up: El Pueyo de Jaca.

Monday, July 1, 2013


     This morning Katie and I left Madrid. The school year is over, the contract for the apartment is up, and we are staying in Spain until late July, so we have decided to get to know the north of Spain. First stop, Logroño—the capital of the region of La Rioja. The region is famous for its wines, and Logroño is a big stop for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). We arrived today at noon, ate lunch, and walked around the park and old part of town.

(Camino de Santiago markers)

(Calle Portales)

     We visited a few churches and enjoyed the narrow streets in the afternoon...

Katie on domino blocks in front of Iglesia de Santiago El Real
     But what we were looking forward to most was eating pinchos, which are tapas, which are small portions of food you usually eat with a drink. There is a famous street here called Calle Laurel where the bars serve delicious pinchos, and we went there for dinner. We had some fantastic food. 

(This mural says: El Camino de Santiago se hace por etapas. The e in etapas (stops, stages) is crossed out so that is reads tapas. So instead of meaning "One does the Camino de Santiago in stages," it says "One does the Camino de Santiago for tapas.")

(Calle Laurel)

Fried crepe with sirloin, mushrooms, green peppers, and caramelized onions

Spinach croqueta with pine nuts. Chicken skewer with green chile.

Mushrooms with garlic sauce and shrimp on French bread. 
Patatas bravas—'hot' sauce and alioli sauce. 
     So, the food was fantastic and it alone was worth the stop in Logroño. Tomorrow we head to Pamplona. I'm going to try to make a blog post after every city, but let's face it, I'll probably get behind. But stay tuned if you want to keep up with our two and a half week trip around The North.