Monday, March 31, 2008

Some Time Spent in Pamplona

Pamplona is the capital city of Navarra, in the north of Spain. The province is also an autonomy. Navarra was once a larger area, stretching as far north as the Atlantic coast in the area which is now the Basque Country. This happy time was when Sancho el Fuerte ran things - from 1000 to 1036 AD, and on the back of this, the Basque nationalists consider that Navarra is not only part of the Greater Basque Country, along with three French provinces and the three current Basque provinces, but that Pamplona is the hereditary capital.
The top picture looking west is the view from my hotel, the 'Toq H'.
The southern part of city is rather tame, with wide avenidas and plenty of space and always a sight of the surrounding hills. Walking up Pio XII one will eventually get to a large park with an old fortress on it. This efectively divides the new town from the old - the area famous for its bull-runs, the San Fermines in July and the Hemingway bars.

The main square in the 'old town' is breath-taking with narrow streets branching out and a presence of Basque speakers. The famous café pictured here is the Iruña, which means 'Pamplona' is Euzkera (Basque).

I've spent a week so far, when not visiting the massive hospital complex to the south of the city, wandering around the streets and looking for a large black Basque beret ('txapela') in my size. Also looking for something to read in English, but there is little tourism outside the famous fiesta in a few months time and the book shelves are a bit empty so I have been reduced to thundering through 'War and Peace'.
The city has a system of special pedestrian traffic lights at some of the crossways which show a kind of 'count-down' to cross the street, which, at least for a country rube like me, seems sensible. You can huddle in a shop entrance out of the rain and wait for the timer to approach 'green'. On other zebra crossings, where there are no lights, often on roundabouts and in difficult corners, the cars actually stop as you attempt to cross - unless of course the motorist happens to be visiting from Almería. So far I've been safe.
The banks here offer 'ethical investment' which was all the rage in England about thirty years ago. It means that your money won't be invested in paying children in Cambodia tuppence an hour to make running shoes. I know - it never caught on in England either...
The city is full of Guinness bars, very fashionable. I asked for a Guinness in one, much to the barman's surprise. There's one 'English Bar' nearby where I'm staying called something ethnic (can't remember what), but it should be avoided as it is for fruits. Cor what a surprise I 'ad there! In the hospital café you wash down your beer with a 'vegetable sandwich' which usually has one leaf of lettuce, a suspicion of tomato and a huge plug of tuna mayonnaise. Very good too.
I found a Mexican restaurant last night and felt the better for it.
There's a large store down the road from here which sells all those things one forgets to take on an extended visit to foreign parts, like these rather nifty running shoes I've bought to help me get about. The streets are full of nuns and priests who all look benignly on as I canter past with my guidebook.

1 comment:

Sergio said...

Hi Lenox

Love the photos, Pamplona sounds interesting. Especially like the one taken from the hotel.

Did you manage to find a beret?