Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day 122. The High Pyrenees

After another luxurious bath I headed up the valley to the High Pyrenees, with their amazing glacial valleys. There was still a lot of snow in the cirques, so there were waterfalls everywhere. I went for a long walk under a persistent drizzle, imagining myself one of those old smugglers who in the times of Franco used to bring merchandises from France.

The valley, the waterfalls, the incredibly green vegetation reminded me a lot of Yosemite Valley, but the Pyrenees are a folded mountain range, so instead of the big granite domes of California, the walls are decorated with beautiful examples of the Alpine fold-and-thrust belt.

Around noon I came back to the car, had lunch, and started on the leisurely but long drive south. I still got to drive for a good 100 km through the foothills, which are very beautiful, down to the city of Pamplona. I guess I expected to see a white-washed town with people in berets dodging running bulls. Nothing could be farther away from the truth. Pamplona is an open, modern city with many chic avenues, fountains, and parks. It has an old medieval center, but nowhere did I find where the bulls run.

After that I headed south through the wine-producing regions of Navarra and La Rioja, which are carpeted by vineyards and olive orchards. The weather had cleared, but the wind was blowing, so the leaves shimmered on the sun in that way that is reserved to places like Provence or the Napa Valley. Again, I am struck by how modern and prosperous the countryside looks.

I finally made it to Soria, a small town along the banks of the river Duero, where I spent the night at a small roadside hotel.

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