Monday, April 15, 2013

We are in Pamplona – No Bull!

We’ve just spent the last 5 days in Pamplona. I’m happy to report that there were no hapless bulls being terrorised in the streets, being chased into the Plaza de Toros for further torture.

This seems such a tame, civilised provincial city, it’s hard to imagine how this madness called a ‘festival’ came about.

Pamplona Main Square

Anyway spring has sprung and the sun is shining and we are very very happy. I can’t tell you what a joy it is to jump on our bicycles and zip along the cycle track to a nearby village or into the city. Having said that, on day one – we did get a soaking on the way home, but skies are now blue and the days are warm.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I last left you as we were preparing to visit Vega Sicilia in Ribera Del Duero. It is not open to the general riff-raff, but Lawrence managed to wangle a visit somehow. He even made me do my homework before we went, so we would look knowledgeable and professional. Happily, there was not a test.

We got the grand tour and I began to see why it’s so damn expensive. This really is state-of-the-art winemaking. No expense is spared. Every piece of equipment is custom designed, even down to the stainless steel pallets (yes, you read that right).

The vineyard is tended by hand, and the winemaking is slow and gentle with great care taken at every step to ensure that the wine is perfect.

We got to taste the entire range, but they were way too young as they need 20-30 years of bottle aging. I’ll be dead before the recent vintage is drinking. They don’t have any for sale, so we went home and drank our 2 euro wine with dinner.
Barrel Fermentation Room

Vega Sicilia Tasting Room Set in a Japanese Garden

We spent one night in Logroño (Rioja Baja) but the campsite was expensive (29 euros – yikes!) and it was too cold to do any vineyards, so we headed for Pamplona. Plus, you may remember, we had such a brilliant time in Haro in Rioja Alta last year during the harvest, we felt we’d really DONE Rioja.

The camp here is 9kms from the city and there is a marvellous cycle track that follows the river into town, dotted with picturesque villages and medieval bridges. For Sunday lunch we walked to a nearby village and had another delicious meal. The highlight was my pork cheek braised in Pedro Ximinez (sweet, sticky sherry).
Village Along the Cycletrack
Being in Basque country, the Pintxo bars are fab - innovative tapas tempting you at every turn. We declined to go into the cathedral, yet another gothic monstrosity, for 10 euros and decided that a vino and pintxo was a better way to spend our money. I’m sure God will understand even if the Pope doesn’t.
Pintxo - note the water
As we have been overindulging again, we are now on the veg, water and exercise regime. We did 30kms today – all on cycletrack, quite a lot on our 20” wheels.
Veg Diet

Tomorrow we are heading for Jaca in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

The magic cupboard is filled with Spanish and Portuguese wine for when we get to France - figure that out!!!

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