Spain Part 2

Day 117: July 7, 2018

We were able to sleep in a bit this morning, then we had breakfast on the terrace of our Airbnb. We packed up and left around 9:30 am. We said goodbye to our host who was very chatty again. As we drove away I said, “I want to be his neighbour”. Danny agreed that he would be a great friend.

We drove on to Monsanto, a very beautiful town in Portugal. We drove up a very narrow street then decided we’d better stop and park. We walked around a bit there. The mountain rock has been used as walls and parts of houses. It was a very nice place to wander around. It was also very quiet. It may have been because it was a Saturday morning.

Danny walking the streets of Monsanto

We continued our drive and stopped in a small town along the highway to eat our lunch in a park. It’s been a lot of driving the last few days so it was nice to stop somewhere quiet for lunch. We listened to another BBC podcast about the origins of Islam which was very interesting. We have become much more interested in religion and its tie to history on this trip.

We found our Airbnb which is on a farm quite far off the main road. We drove up the driveway, but no one greeted us. We could see a party going on in the backyard so we knocked on the door, but no one heard. We messaged the host then looked in the window and she came to greet us. She asked if we spoke Spanish and we said, “No”. She tried explaining the house and we understood most of it. They were having a family barbecue outside. She called her daughter over to translate and she explained everything.

She asked if we would like some food as they had lots of leftovers to which we heartily agreed. We went into the backyard and there was tons of meat: pork, skewers, chorizo and a stuffed casing with rice, pork and onions. For dessert there was melon and ice cream. It was all very tasty and we were treated very nicely.

We chatted with the daughter quite a lot who was around our age. For work, she does visas for students going to Canada and the USA. She lives in Madrid and comes out to visit her mom on the farm. She breathes a sigh of relief when she is leaves the city to which I can definitely relate.

After we finished eating, Danny and I went for a walk around the property. We walked up a road through some fields. There were mountains to the front and we could see a storm coming behind. It was all very beautiful. As we stood there in the field, Danny said to dream that our house was just over the hill. We stood there imagining a small two bedroom home that we will put an addition on for a third bedroom. The image kept forming as some chickens and a small garden appeared. It is interesting to think how our image of the future has changed. We used to want to build a house and it was big and beautiful. Now the dream is more reasonable and focussed on living with a smaller footprint. Oh, what travel does to us!

Walking around the farm of our Airbnb

We came back and most everyone was leaving. We sat in the backyard enjoying the quiet. The female doggy very much liked Danny and gave him lots of kisses.

Danny getting kisses

We went back to our room and got ready for bed around 9:00 pm. The family was just making supper as we went to sleep. The time of meals in Spain is so different than our typical schedule.

Day 118: July 8, 2018

We woke up at 6:30 am and I had a shower. We had a very good sleep, but not quite long enough. Our host had breakfast for us outside: little toasts with butter and jam, fruit, tea and a cake. We ate then headed out. It was hard to thank her without knowing Spanish. We said an emphatic, “Gracias,” and double kissed good bye.

We drove into Segovia which was only 15 minutes away. We saw the famous aqueduct built in the Roman times (likely finished between 98-112 AD). It transported water from the river in the mountains 17 km away into the city.

Segovia Aqueduct

We walked along it until we reached one of the sand traps. It was a large water tower for purifying the water and regulating flow in the aqueduct.

Back at the car we drove down the narrow streets and found a parking spot near the main square. We parked and walked to Catedral de Segovia.

Catedral de Segovia

We walked around and then up to Alcázar de Segovia, the residence of the Castilian monarchs. It was still too early to be open, but we enjoyed the outside view. It was built on the remains of a Roman fortress between the 11th and 16th centuries.

Alcázar de Segovia

We drove north towards our next Airbnb and stopped in Valladolid for groceries. It was Sunday so no big stores were open. We found a small one then realized we should probably get cash so we walked ten minutes to an ATM. Then Danny had to pee so we stopped at a bar and got potato tortilla, a quiche with potatoes. I also wanted orange juice, but didn’t know how to communicate it in Spanish. The lady asked, “Cafe? Agua?”. So I agreed to agua.

We walked back to the store just as the doors were closing. The store owner must have been taking an early siesta. With no groceries we headed out of town. On our way I yelled for Danny to stop as I spotted another small store open. We purchased enough food to make pasta for supper.

We continued our drive north stopping at a beach on the way for a walk. It was super busy. The water was calmer than in Portugal, but there were still lots of surfers. We hopped back in the car and drove to our Airbnb in Cuñaba. We knew the town’s location, but not the exact coordinates of the house.

At the bar in town, a lady pointed us to drive down a road then we didn’t know where to go from there. She then called us to come back up and pointed to the road beside the bar. She led us to a spot to park our car in the bushes of the church then led us up a walking path. We then understood that she was the host. She showed us the place which isn’t quite as nice as the pictures. The town is very quaint.

Our Airbnb in Cuñaba

We settled in and Danny made pasta for supper. The lady living in the same building walked by and we said, “Hola”. She stopped to talk to us, but we said, “No hablo Español”. She nodded then continued talking to us in Spanish. We had no idea what she said. At times she would repeat a word and then say it extra slowly thinking we would understand. Our Spanish is too near non-existent of that. She eventually left and we ate supper outside on a little bench. I’ve been catching up on some blogging. There is no wifi and no service so all I can do is type. We went to bed fairly early, ready to sleep in.

Day 119: July 9, 2018

We woke up at 9:00 am only because my alarm went off. We had been sleeping the last couple of hours with the rooster yelling for us to wake up. Danny went for a run then we had yogurt for breakfast. We met up with the same neighbour lady again. We think she was asking if we were going swimming, but she didn’t seem to raise her voice in a question.

We got into the car and managed to navigate narrow and steep roads out of town. Danny wasn’t looking forward to the driving in and out of town. We drove up to a larger town for groceries. We bought two bags of fruits and veggies for 10 euro ($15 CAD) which I think would have cost $30 CAD back home. We went to a full grocery store up on the main street and picked up everything else we needed. We drove back up the mountain road to our Airbnb and took a few pictures along the way.

Road up to Cuñaba

We unpacked groceries and had grilled cheese for lunch. Our neighbour dropped by and had a jar of hazelnuts. She let us taste them then motioned for us to get a bowl. She emptied almost her full container into the bowl. They are very tasty and much softer than regular ones.

We decided to go for a walk around town. Being in the mountains makes me feel a bit trapped. Especially when there is no easy road out. As a girl that grew up on the prairies I like open space. Walking around did make me feel a bit better.

View in Cuñaba

The village is very idyllic. Stone houses with mountains in the background. Little vegetables gardens everywhere. Some cows and chickens.

Cows grazing in Cuñaba

We returned from our walk and I did more typing. Danny started getting supper ready. We ate stir fry outside around 6:00 pm. Our neighbour came to collect her laundry and we think she asked if we were eating lunch or supper. We replied supper to which she pointed to her watch implying it was too early. She continues speaking to us even though we understand almost none of what she says. Maybe she is hoping some of it will sink in. Danny fell asleep on the couch and I read until bed time.

Day 120: July 10, 2018

We slept in, had breakfast then drove to the cable car in Feunte Dé about an hour away in Picos de Europa. We arrived and the parking lot was quite full. We walked to get tickets and were number 1050 and 1051. We looked at the number they were currently loading: 640. We figured we were in for a long wait. We walked back down to the parking lot for a view of the mountains and some cows in a field.

View from the base of Fuente Dé

Back at the cable car we purchased some gelato; then we sat at a picnic table in the shade to wait. When 1040 was called we lined up and got to skip ahead because they were looking for a set of two people. It was a three minute ride to the top after a two hour wait.

The view of the mountains at the top was quite amazing. We would have really enjoyed hiking around there if we had arrived earlier. We walked up for a bit then around a corner into another valley. We ate our salads there and enjoyed the view.

Picos de Europa National Park

Back at the top cable car station, we waited maybe five minutes for the cable car down. We returned to the car and drove back to our mountain retreat.

Danny decided to go for a hike up one of the mountains in front of our Airbnb. I stayed and started getting supper ready. Every 10 minutes I would look out the door up at the mountain and every time I saw no sign of him. He returned 1.5 hours later with blood dripping down his knee; he had hit it on a rock. He had almost made it to the top and got some very nice views.

View down to Cuñaba

Our neighbour friend came by asking where Danny had been. He showed her pictures. She pointed to another peak where a cross was and we believe she was saying that someone died there climbing. She asked if we had supper yet and we said we would eat now. We asked what time she eats supper and she pointed to the 11 on her watch. We must seem so odd to her.

We had shrimp zoodles and white wine for supper then went down to the only bar in town. On the way to the bar we saw a teen next to a house sitting there listening to music. We joked that that must be the only place in town with service.

At the bar, Danny had a beer and I had wine. We watched the end of the France vs. Belgium World Cup game. Our wine and two beers was only 3 euros or $5 CAD. Crazy! We walked back home and went to bed.

Day 121: July 11, 2018

Breakfast of egg and veggies then we packed everything up. We were told to leave the key at the bar, but it wasn’t open when we arrived at 8:00 am. I knocked lightly, but no one was there. Danny walked back to leave the key inside the house, but then I heard a clap and a man was on the balcony of the bar. He signalled that he had been sleeping, but could take the key. I went back and got Danny with the key.

The man and woman were inside and chatted to us in Spanish. We said we were heading to Pamplona. He said something else we didn’t understand so Danny signalled, “Next time, we will learn Spanish.” We said, “Gracias” and headed out. It was a four hour drive. We messed up the exits a couple of times because the road would randomly split into different highways. We arrived in Pamplona and dropped the car which was conveniently at our hotel. We checked in and went to our room which is fairly nice. We wifi’d and I called my parents.

Everyone in town is wearing white with red highlights for the San Fermin Festival which includes the famous Running of the Bulls. We looked out of place in our regular shorts and t-shirts so we went looking for an open clothes store and found one behind our hotel: Italian fashions made in China. I got some red skinny jeans, a blouse and a bandana. Danny got white pants, a white shirt, a bandana, and a scarf belt.

We walked down to the main section of town which was about a 20 minute walk. There were lots of people drinking in the streets at 4:00 pm. People were carrying buckets with ice and their drinks inside. The streets smelled like a bar.

Streets of Pamplona during San Fermin

Danny has wanted to do the Running of the Bulls for many years. On the drive into Pamplona I was reading more about it and decided maybe I could do it. We walked to the beginning of the bull run to get an idea of where we should stand. We had read that a very safe place was the inside of Dead Man’s Corner. The bulls take the corner wide because it is a tight turn so if you’re on the opposite side they won’t be near you.

We walked the route all the way to the arena. Then we decided to find somewhere to eat. At 6:00 pm almost every restaurant was closed. We walked around aimlessly back to the hotel. Just up the street was an Irish pub that opened at 7:30 pm. We watched some videos to prepare us for the run then went down for supper. We had burgers and watched the beginning of the England vs. Croatia World Cup game. The seats weren’t very comfy so we came back and watched the end in the room. I fell asleep before the end.

Day 122: July 12, 2018

Neither of us had the best sleep. At midnight it sounded like canons were going off, but it was likely just fireworks. We were also anticipating the run. We got out of bed at 5:30 am, had a quick breakfast and walked down to the bull run area. We found the corner we wanted to be at around 6:30 am.

Found our spot on the bull run

There were so many youngsters still in the streets drinking. It smelled worse than a bottle depot. most of the teens looked so tired I just wanted to tell them to go to bed.

At around 7:00 am the cops started pushing people behind us further back. We thought maybe we were going to be in a different section, but then around 7:30 am the cops pushed us further forward and kept walking us off the track.

We soon realized we were not in the right spot. We followed others back around to near the start of the bull run. There was an opening so we hopped under the fences and into the massive crowd. Eventually we were allowed passed a line of cops. We all had to raise our arms and they padded some people down. You weren’t allowed bags and couldn’t be holding anything. They were also checking to see if you were sober.

Once through we were able to get back to our original spot. We decided to be just up from the corner so that we could run for a bit then hide around the corner as the bulls came. We weren’t sure how much distance we would need, but we left about 25 m from the corner. We did some stretching and jumping jacks to get ready.

Sign on the street of the bull run

At 8:00 am, the first rocket sounded indicating the bulls were released from their pen. The second rocket wasn’t too long after indicating all the bulls were out. Our hearts started beating very quickly.

We were watching behind and saw people start a light jog so eventually we started a light jog. I looked behind seconds later and people were barreling towards us and screaming. I couldn’t see bulls, but I yelled to Danny in front of me, “Run!”. He took off and I followed him.

We made it around the corner just as the bulls took the outside of the corner. They went by crazy fast. We kept looking behind for more bulls because we knew there were supposed to be two sets.

We started our run to the stadium. We were 300 m from where the bulls were released and 500 m from the stadium. We ran as others milled about. We walked into the stadium as the last bull from the first set was penned. Watching videos we had seen many people slip down the slope into the stadium so we were extra careful there.

Made it inside the stadium

Maybe a minute later the second set of bulls entered the stadium and were penned. The stadium was closed off and we kept to the side. Not long after another bull with tape on it’s horns was released. It made a run straight towards where we were standing and I said, “Nope, I’m out,” and squeezed behind the boards. Danny came out not long after.

The stadium

We watched the people teasing the bull for a bit then decided it was time to leave. The taunting of an animal was not our thing. We decided we wouldn’t be able to go to the evening show with the matador bull fight. It sounded even more gruesome.

We walked back along the bull run and took some pictures where we had stood. I think I was actually more excited about having completed the run than Danny. He said that he had built it up so much in his head and it really wasn’t even that scary. I guess I had no expectations.

It seemed you could make the run as safe or as dangerous as you wanted. We obviously planned the safest way, but we could easily have gone to a straight section and ran in the middle with the bulls right behind us. Sticking to the outside seemed to be safe although sometimes the bulls do veer to the edges depending on the crowd. The other runners also seemed to be a hazard because if one person trips it can cause a chain reaction. We didn’t see anyone injured the day we did the run.

This is where we hid from the bulls

We then walked back to the hotel. We laid down and had an absolutely wonderful three hour nap. I cannot stress how amazing the nap was: think of Joey and Ross’ nap. When we awoke we had tomato, cucumber and cheese sandwiches.

We went out in search of a cake and candles for Danny’s mom’s birthday. We came back and Danny phoned his parents. We lit the candles without setting off the fire alarm in our hotel room and sang Happy Birthday.

We then walked to a pizza restaurant for supper. It said it opened at 8:00 pm, but we had to wait outside for a bit. We were the only ones in the restaurant until 9:00 pm. The bread there was amazing. I had pizza and Danny had cheese cocotta which was baked cheese with potatoes. After supper we came back to sleep.

Rocking the red and white
Day 123: July 13, 2018

We had a much better sleep. We were up at 5:30 am again for a quick breakfast and then we walked down to the bull run. At 6:30 am the first viewing area was already packed with people. I had read that you have to get there at 3:00 am to get a spot and it did seem like people had camped out there.

We went up a bit to the next fenced area and climbed up to sit on top. They have two sets of fences put up. The cops, paramedics and media stand between and viewers sit on the second fence. We had a not bad spot. Our bums did get very numb sitting there for an hour and a half.

Cops and Paramedics ready

We watched everyone preparing for the run. A group of guys all hugged before it started. Many stretched or did a quick run to warm up. Then everyone picked their spots. At 8:00 am the first rocket went off and then the second. It was crazy the amount of people you saw flying forward then the bulls packed between them. It was all over so quickly.

Bull run

The second set of bulls came about 30 seconds later. We got down from our spot and walked up to the stadium to enjoy the atmosphere. We walked around and found a café in Plaza del Castillo. We each ordered a tea then a set of churros with chocolate.

We sat enjoying the relax time. Then as our eyes looked across the square we saw a set of refugees laying in the park. Danny eventually asked, “What do you think they think of us?” We both sat there staring. We had just spent 11 euros on food we didn’t need, a completely overpriced hotel room and indulgent meals. I felt awful. They have escaped a place they felt unsafe and are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their children. They weren’t begging or asking for anything. It seemed many of them were trying to sell items if they could. We had seen some women with a hair braiding stand earlier. They likely had no idea the next time would be that they would have a roof over their heads.

Eventually we decided to walk up to a store and buy them some food. We bought fruits and veggies thinking those were likely more expensive for them. We split it into two sets. We walked back through a park we had seen lots of people in previously. We left two bags with a woman. There were some others sleeping there. She looked through the bags asking what it was. We said it was for her. A younger man came over and looked then asked, “How much?” We said, “No, for you.” He said, “50?” And we replied, “No, free”. They seemed a bit sceptical about people coming up to them with free things much like we would have been. They said, “Gracias”. And we walked away.

We walked back into the square we had sat in and went over to the guys we had seen previously. We dropped the other two bags and said, “For you.” They said, “Gracias,” and we walked away. I think they were also a bit sceptical.

Plaza del Castillo

We walked back to the grocery store to pick up some things for us. We discussed how easy it would be for everyone to give a bag. Why don’t we do that more often? Why do we become so caught up in our daily lives that we forget about the struggles of others around us? A little bit of food for them probably saves them so much. We are all human beings. We are all living things. Why can we not share that wealth even a little bit?

We came back to our hotel and had a snack. Then we got ready for our nap. It wasn’t as amazing as the previous day’s, but we still woke up at 4:00 pm. Danny and I joked that it feels like we have been in Pamplona for much longer because every time we wake up it feels like a new day.

We found a sushi place to go to for supper, but when we went downstairs it was pouring rain. It looked like clearer skies were coming so we waited in the lobby.

As we were waiting, Danny looked at me and said, “Why didn’t I drive to Beaumont-Hamel from Frankfurt?” I looked at him and replied, “Why did we not think of that?” It would have been a much shorter distance and way cheaper on hotels. The way we made the plans we hadn’t thought of Danny flying to Frankfurt first. Oh well, what’s done is done and we can’t change it now.

The rain let up and we walked to the restaurant. We had a salad and sushi platter which was a nice change. We walked back to the hotel and headed to bed.

Day 124: July 14, 2018

We woke up at 7:30 am, finished packing our bags and had breakfast. We checked out and had the hotel call us a cab. It showed up quickly and took us to the train station to pick up Danny’s rental car. It is a Citroen C1, perhaps the smallest car we’ve had so far.

We drove to the San Sebastián airport where I was able to get a much cheaper flight than flying from Pamplona. Sadly, I parted with Danny and dropped my bag for my flight to Madrid. Danny and I had been having a really good couple of weeks with very little fighting. It’s weird being away from someone when you’ve spent basically four months, 24/7 together. I’m worried about him driving by himself and will definitely be missing him.

I had a four hour layover in Madrid. I got some McDonald’s which wasn’t as amazing as I wanted it to be. I chatted with my mom for awhile and then Danny who had arrived at his first hotel in France. He told me about his drive and his plans for the next day before I caught my flight to Frankfurt.

I’m spending some time in Germany with a family I met ten years ago as part of a student exchange in high school. I’m very much looking forward to some family time. Danny is driving to Beaumont-Hamel, a Newfoundland memorial for the Battle of the Somme in World War I.