Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Unimpressed with Pamplona

Pamplona is famous for The Running of the Bulls San Fermin, which was made famous by Hemingway. I did not let either count hold us from visiting Pamplona.

We arrived on a Sunday evening. The streets are reasonably lively, but what got our attention was the trash in the streets. We both told ourselves that it will magically disappear in the morning. Much to our surprise and disappointment, it didn't, unlike any other city we have been in Spain! We always thought the Spaniards are overzealous with street cleaning, for which we adore them.

Another odd thing we noticed in Pamplona is that we were always looking over our shoulders for cars. They do seem to control vehicle traffic but there is always the chance of the odd car looming.

Much of the old town, save for the Plaza Mayor, seemed shabby and cheerless, though there is much refurbishing going on. It is unlike other Spanish squares; its large size and the numerous distinct facades are more reminiscent of main squares in Central Europe.

Pamplona is a major city on the main Camino. There are quite a few visitors in town, touring and walking the Camino (which I am beginning to think as a phenomena). I wonder what they think of Pamplona....

As seen from the bus window on the way from Jaca to Pamplona.
On the bus to Pamplona, Spain

Pamplona City Hall at night.
Pamplona, Spain

We walk the route of the famous "running of the bulls", starting with the corral.
Pamplona, Spain

The route is of course well marked.
Pamplona, Spain

Pamplona, Spain

And ends at the Bull Ring.
Pamplona, Spain

Pamplona, Spain

We spot a gorgeous Art Deco building.
Pamplona, Spain

And some other scenes from around town.
Pamplona, Spain

Pamplona, Spain












Saturday, May 27, 2017

Hiking in the Pyrenees - Torla

On the way to Zaragoza we bypassed Pamplona, just so we can get to Torla, Huesca, our base for visiting the Pyrenees, after which we would backtrack to Pamplona. Torla is the town closest to the National Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido.

We arrived in Torla on a Thursday, around noon. We had expected a passing shower, instead it was steady rain until 6pm. Any ambitions of hiking had to be scrapped. Our guesthouse had only a trickle of internet. RENFE (Spanish train) website couldn't sell us tickets. The grocery stores did not open by their posted hours (John started talking about rationing our food stash). It might have been the worst day of the whole trip, and it was our anniversary.

There was only one way for things to turn. Torla is at 1000 meters, so all the rain we got meant new snow at the top. The valley was extra picturesque. First thing the next morning we caught a ride with our new friends Ana and Antonio (from Barcelona, 31/2 hours away) directly to the parking lot at Ordesa and walked the canyon/waterfall trail to the Cola de Caballo waterfall.

The next day we walked directly from Torla to the top the canyon. It was gratifying for me to look eye level (more or less) at the same mountain tops that I had to throw back my head to see from the canyon. On the day we left, we caught a ride again to the same parking lot and walked back to Torla , which was easy but very worthwhile. Quite a few people were walking that, apparently they must agree with us, though it was a Sunday.

On top of the magnificent scenery and all the water and waterfalls, we even saw some wildlife: a chamois, a red deer, and griffon vultures. We have been told that in the spring the waterfalls are bigger in Ordesa, but fall foliage is also very beautiful; something for us to look forward to.

From the bus window as we approach Torla.
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Day One: We catch a ride with Ana and Antonio and then walk to the Cola de Caballo waterfall. I took this shot just at the edge of town, Torla, while waiting for passing cars.
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ana kindly took this photo of SL and I with my phone.
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

A beautiful walk, punctuated with waterfalls and ending (turn around point for most walkers) in a magnificent upper pasture.
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Our fav waterfall was the Gradas de Soaso. Some video and pics.


And the video link is here.

With Ana and Antonio. Photo courtesy of Antonio.

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

To the upper pasture, with great views to snow-capped peaks, Monte Perdido at back left, and the Cola de Caballo waterfall. Photo courtesy of Antonio.

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

And we head back to the parking lot.
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Done.
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Day Two: It's up, up, up from 950 meters above sea level on the Torla bridge, to 2100 meters high above the Ordesa Valley where we walked the day before.

But first, we have to wait while the cows clear the Torla bridge. Then we follow trail PR-129 up to St Ana church at 1500 meters.
The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

Lunch with a view at 1700 meters.
The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

And a final push up PR-129 to the Mirador d'Molar.
The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

Almost at the treeline.
Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Various views along the Mirador ridge at 2100 meters, about 7000 feet.
The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

View down to yesterday's trailhead and parking lot.
The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

A blurry view of a griffon vulture soaring by below.
The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

Alpine flowers.
The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

We walk a few meters farther and kick back on some warm rocks and relax.
The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park - near Torla, Spain

The Pyrenees - Torla, Spain

Day Three: Hitch a ride back to the Ordesa Valley Parking lot and walk back to Torla along the Rio Ara.
Torla, Spain

Torla, Spain

Torla, Spain

Torla, Spain

Torla, Spain









Playa del Carmen, Mexico

From Aguascalientes, there is a very convenient direct flight to Cancun.  Since the wedding is at a private beach south of Playa del Carmen,...