Day 5: Karen and Dom’s road trip, Spain: Pamplona to Talarn.

Today was a driving day, covering around 320km and passing through some of the most stunning scenery en route. Our journey took us through several gorges and canyons in the foothills of the Pyrenees, where we saw white water rafters shooting the rapids of the Rio Gallego. The towering fingers of the Mallos de Riglos are really spectacular, and we had to stop for a photo opportunity.

We paused for lunch at a nice wayside inn before descending into Huesca, where the San Lorenzo festival is in full swing. Well… this was siesta time, so the town was pretty sleepy and the fiesta was just setting up, though most of the residents were costumed up in their  traditional white and green clothes.

Coming out of Huesca the road took us through the Tunnels of Olvena – check that out on Google; it insists you want the “Tunnels of Love” 😉

There are about ten tunnels in a row, all very short, enabling the drive through the Olvena Canyon to be smooth whilst still giving you incredible views of the scenery – here’s a virtual ride through the tunnels of love, courtesy of RoadTrooper, a big bike and some stirring music!

Finally, after taking the mountain road from Puente de Montanana, with hairpin bends and more great views, we descended into Tremp, and tonight’s destination, Talarn.

Just in time for a glass of vino blanco as the sun sets.

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Day 4: Pamplona, no bulls: Karen and Dom’s road trip, Spain.

Hooray, it’s sunny today and hot, giving us a great opportunity to get out and explore Pamplona, with its mediaeval fortress, its quaint old town, and its recollection of another classic movie scene: the opening of City Slickers from 1991. City Slickers is an underrated film, but who can forget Billy Crystal and his pals legging it through the cobbled streets chased by a pack (herd?) of bulls.

Disappointingly, we came on a Sunday, and a month late to catch the festival of San Fermin. So there were no bulls, and no Billy Crystal, and the bullring itself was shut. But these minor location issues aside, we managed to recreate a little bit of the atmosphere of the famous bull run.

Nevertheless, one advantage of seeing the town when it is quiet and when lots of the shops are closed is that you get to see the many murals that decorate the shop grilles throughout the old town.

Karen was particularly taken with this one. Not sure if it is because of the dog or the feminist message. Throughout this region there is a quite a strong swell of political sloganism – not least because of the campaigning for Basque independence.

While Dom circumnavigated the bullring, looking for a way in (there wasn’t one: it was shut. But it has a capacity of 19,700 and is the third largest in the world), Karen spotted a fungus.

It’s been a shame not to have the thrill and exhilaration of Pamplona on a weekday, when we can imagine thousands of people running through the streets pursued by bulls. However, the local council have usefully provided a statue of the event for those of us turning up late. And to be honest, it’s quite a bit safer.

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