Monday 15 August 2011

Spain - notes for a diary

Very very belatedly I'm trying to sort this out. Here is everything, dumped together. It will get disentangled. over time.

Day 3 (camping)
Day 5 (camping)
Four disasters (camping)
Picos: refuge Vegebano
Chemin de la Mature

Written well in arrears, so forgive any inaccuracies, not that you'll know, of course.

Leon to Jaca

And so, with regret, out of Leon, and tentatively, onto the road away. This was a day of a long drive - about 6 hours worth, depending on when we ended up - so we had to stop the "oh, that looks interesting, lets stop" stuff. Not that there was anything interesting, as I recall - low hills, plains, all looking very dry. I think we listened to Treasure Island on much of this route, which kept the kids happy. The roads were all quiet, and mostly motorway, so it was just bumbling along for me; and when I say nothing interesting there was, of cours, always something to see. We've fallen off our map, so navigating by blackberry and "the obvious", but unfortunately (a) although we're going to France, viz Francia, the roads would like to take us via the coast, so keep directing us off; and (b) some confusion between Pamplona (aka Irunea), which we do want to pass, and Irun, which we don't want. Anyway, we probably only waste 15 mins in being lost, which is acceptable margin of error. We pass Burgos and its glorious cloisters; indeed many other wonders along the way, alas. But taking time to turn off the motorway, park, find object is more than we have; let along the time to look at it. There are many conveniences to cars, but accessibility of town ceters definitely isn't one; it makes me long for the old days of cycling, where I naturally went where I wanted and stopped when I liked. But it didn't come with a/c, true.

Stop somewhere real for coffee; then at a service station; up ahead is a lakeside campsite which we might try. But when we get there it is so dry, and the lake is like Riano: just a flooded basin, low in summer, and unappealling: so the campsite, which in winter might be just above the lake shore, was in summer on top of a long dry slope. Oh well, we'll head on, to Jaca. And so we do, arriving latish. And it has two campsites, for some reason "Ain" is clearly the correct one in our minds, but as we head though town, down a tiny lane, over a broken bit, stop to let someone else past on the 1-way-road, I begin to have a terrible feeling about it, reinforced by the sign saying "camping 1 km" - so much for the near-town camping allowing us to walk in for the evening.

However, when we actually get there it is fine, charming: a small informal site, on a hill shoulder overlooking the plain and the town with views up into the Pyrenees; grounds flat but dry and the tent pegs are hard to get in. As we're setting up the sun is going into the set-into-clouds-in-glorious-orange routine, and we settle down peacefully for some food: pasta and egg noodle. After, to the little cafe for one of our customary rounds of cards, before bed. the campsite claims silence after 11, which would be welcome, but this is Spain and the spaniards talk late into the night.

Jaca to Lescun

Lescun! Still beautiful

Lescun to Bayonne

Leave Lescun with regret, as ever; my eye catches on every peak and meadow and tree and path. And down; I'd forgotten how steep the gorge is below.

Probably possibly maybe in retrospect we could have played this day differently and better. The key point is that we're heading for Bayonne / Biarritz, and contrary to M's usual good practice we haven't booked a hotel, which is fine by me because I like to take pot luck. But I'm thinking back to the good old bicycling days, when this worked, and where if all else failed I just camped by the roadside. We haven't yet been reduced to that extremity and I'm not confident it would work; the children might be up for it but is our tent? Anyway, until we arrive we don't realise how the agglomeration of Bayonne / Anglet / Biarritz is, though really we should have known: there are no spare spaces, in any sense. We drive to the sea, to the mouth of the Addour and the little lighthouse, quite out of proportion to the vast space. There is a vast car park, altough beyond that is fairly quiet. We drive along the coast around Anglet, but it becomes clear this is not our place, and indeed quite inexplicable why anyone would want to come here. So back to Bayonne, where we hope to find somewhere. At least the parking is convenient, on this Sunday before a feast day, but much else is shut and try though we might we can find no hotels free, and indeed hardly any hotels at all - it is inexplicable, as though there is a stock somewhere hidden, or the good citizens of Bayonne are doing their best to discourage tourists. While DE and I sit in a cafe, E and I playing Casino and D iTouching, M does her best but fails. As we decide to go into the hinterland, we see "hotel" on the far side of the river so drive over there; but that too is full, as is an Ibis, and just as we are about to give up entirely we remember the 3-star Loustau, try that, and it has space. Excellent. We'd have accepted just about anything at this point, but it is quite tolerable, if a fraction tatty and the bedroom feels smaller than our bathroom in the Parador (it isn't, really). To top it off the pizza resto I'd seen before when searching has now vanished, so we eat elsehwere.

We didn't stop anywhere interesting along the way, perhaps desirous of arriving early, and perhaps anticipating something to view at the far end. But there wasn't; and anyway the countryside we passed was quiet.

Ferry Home

From Bayonne it is 200 km ish on motorways to Santander. I got up at 7 for a 8 km run, first going into town and around the cathedral (still shut, and on a feast day too) and some grassy bits and back to the river then along the bank seaward. Warm and very humid. When I started the river was just quiet; when we leave it is flowing strongly seaward. We've decided to leave early, and spend our days free time in Santander not here. Hotel does a perfectly decent buffet with coffee, juice and joghurt and bread and croissants and miel.

Drive drive: hills, tunnels, forests, rain. Several coastal bridges across small river valleys with sand banks along the river and some little settlement at the mouth: very cute to look at from above, and longing, but I'll never know what it is like. As the guidebook says, the motorway tolls in this region are exhorbitant, which may be why there is so little traffic. To Santander, park near the ferry, which we watch come in from a nearby cafe. So far so good, but then we spend an hour wandering the nearby streets looking in vain for anything interesting, and fail. Perhaps we should have driven to the beach; perhaps we should have sat in the cafe for lunch; perhaps we should have looked at the catedral even though M says the guidebook says it is not interesting; perhaps we should have used our time elsewhere.

And so onto the ferry, via a wait of about an hour on the quayside, not too painful - the children, and sometimes me, listening to Lord of the Rings. I sit on a bollard and eat bread and cheese - the crumbly hard potent cheese we bought in a pokey little shop in the Picos, the village-store type nearly dead in England, that also sold lamb-suckling buckets. I'm just a touch miffed at this point, because with this spare hour I could ahve looked at the Catedral or around, and even said beforehand that we'd probably just sit in a queue, but no-one cared.

We have cabin 6101, far forward, but otherwise just like it was before. Out of the long harbour of Santander, sunnier as we head out to sea. Santander clearly has beaches and seafront - perhaps we should have thought to have a last play. All too late now, and anyway we're all a bit tired at this point; a nice rest on the ferry will be welcome. But as we head out into what looks like the mill-pond smooth sea a swell emerges, nearly invisible to the eye but all too palpable in the rise and fall of the ship: not by much, but by enough. D feels it particularly, and stays in the cabin having taken a tablet. Hours later, M feels it enough to vom, and later E suffers the same, but has eaten so little that nowt comes up. I feel it somewhat, but blame some on the dodgy coffee onboard. For hours, as we sail N across the bay, M and E and I sit in the cafe on deck 7 at the front, with the open sea before us; at first I lie my head on E's lap and she strokes my hair, then she lies on mine and I finish "Hunger Games", the book D bought on holiday.

Later, watch the moon rise orange and fade to white. To cabin; all to sleep, well.

Up 8 by ships time, and no I'm not going to work that out in Spanish time. May be early, not sure. Breakfast, D and I leading. E eats little. D returns to cabin, M and E to explore, I read "Edmund Campion" by Evelyn Waugh, a book M read and I think recommends.

And what of it? I haven't got far yet, but inevitably (given the subject matter, and Waugh's own conversion) it is about how wonderful Catholicism is, and how bad Protestantism (or possibly just the C of E) is. Unfortunately, his arguments so far are of the "C must be good because the C's were good" variety. Indeed M and I had a conversation in which we tried to work out why (for True Religious reasons) anyone would care one way or another (though it was a very ignorant conversation, neither of us knowing the difference between the mass and communion, for example). Waugh certainly provides none: the text is couched in terms of the Olde Waye, so I assume for him it really is a matter of Brideshead Revisited: it fits his idea of how the social order should go. Anotehr example I find telling: his words around Pius V excommunicating Elizabeth. Now P-V was the head of his church, and if E has left, he is fully entitled to say so. But he has no right to tell her subjects not to obey her, which is what he does. Or rather, he thinks he does have this right, and Elizabeth (and Henry) doesn't agree. But that was the entire controversy. Waugh does his best to hide the problem: he reports that contemporaries and subsequent scholarship though P-V's action ill-judged, but continues "and yet, as one studies that odd and complelling face which peers, obliquely from Zucchero's portrait..." - and you see that this really is all the logic Waugh's argument has.

E has a swim, then returns to the cabin, where D has stayed in iTouch land. M and I sit on deck 9, E having brought us up there for the pool, writing very belated diaries and not paying a great deal of attention to England heaving into view on the port bow; it is a misty day.

Thread of a novel: The Count of Monte Christo revisted

Edmund Dantes was a fool; a man so stupid that, after accident had delivered him great wealth, he became known as the Cunt of Monte Christo...

And so on, to parody various incidents in the book. He will be an incompetent captain, and Danglars will sail the ship for him. Danglars will try to warn him about the dangers of the letter, but the arrogant Dantes will not listen. In stupid low cunning he will try to use it to buy Villefort, who will have no choice but to imprison Dantes. In prison, he will betray the Abbe for his gold and the prison guards, sick of him, will bung him into the sea.

No comments:

Post a Comment