2nd April 2017. Listorreta, Spain.

We must have chosen the busiest place in the area  to park in.  Since 8.30 a.m. people have been coming and going.  We assume they must all be visiting the monastery or going for a walk, although they’re taking very short walks if that’s what they’re doing.

It was quite chilly overnight.

We had decided to go for a walk along the river before we left this morning which is just as well because we weren’t  able to leave the car park.  A small motorhome decided to park in front of us in what had been the only way in and out of the car park for everyone.  We assumed as it was a Spanish registered van and that they had children with them they’d need to get home at some point today to get ready for school/work for tomorrow, fingers crossed!

We’re amazed at how people park here, at one point even though there was a space at the back of the car park (the car park was so small there was only a front and back row) the driver parked in the space at the front which had been left as the exit.  Some women came back just after the driver and his passengers had gone off for their walk and realising they were trapped set about moving one of the concrete blocks next to us so they could get out that way, then they drove off leaving the block where they’d moved it too.  Eventually a car left from the front row but still people squeezed their cars through the little gap where the block had been moved.  Bizarre behaviour.

We went and looked around the monastery first.  We queued at the little booth expecting to pay but instead we were just given two tickets and told the rules.  Do not climb on the walls or touch the walls and no flash photography, fair enough.

The monastery was intriguing, the arches that were left had different designs on them, they were extremely intricate.  It would have been great to know how that area had been set out, it looked like it might have been three separate rooms, each room having different designs on the arches.

Inside the building there was a little exhibition with a film being projected on the wall.  It was interesting to walk around and we had a guess as to what the writing was saying.  There was some unexpected entertainment thrown in whilst we were in the monastery , a phone suddenly began playing music extremely loudly in the quiet and echoing building.  Everyone immediately turned around to see who the culprit was!  It was an elderly and apparently deaf man who was completely oblivious to the fact that he was supplying his own sound track, consequently there was a lot of glaring and tutting until a hugely embarrassed member of his family rushed up and turned the music off!  Hee!  Hee! Hee!

Once we’d looked around the monastery we walked along the path beside the river, we wanted to see the part of the path that we’d seen from the hill.  It had been built on to the outside of the rock where it snaked in and out as it followed the rock face.  It was brilliant.

There were lots of Spanish people out for their morning constitutional, we’ve noticed through out Europe lots of people go out and exercise.

The path eventually joined up with the one that returned along the opposite bank, our plan was to go into the little bar that was beside the car park, have coffee and start off to our next stop however when we got back to the car park Darren noticed that a lot of the cars had gone so he quickly popped back to the van and moved it to the front row.

We ordered a coffee, it would have been great to have tapas as well but all the tapas in the little cabinet had fish on them (it must be a local speciality) so I tried to order two slices of cake instead, WHY does my brain seize up as soon as I try to ask for something in Spanish, I knew the word for cake and the word ‘two’ but was struggling to put them into a sentence, luckily the waiter noticed I was struggling and was able to speak a bit of English so he sorted out our order.

We sat outside in the courtyard with our tasty cake and coffee.  We could have sat there all day basking like lizards but we needed to get a move on.  Over the last 10 months we’ve said time and again that if we’re doing a long journey we need to leave early in the morning and yet we very rarely do!

I was hoping not to take many photos during the journey but I couldn’t get over the colours of the soil and the changes in the landscape even  the mountains differed from rounded ones to sharp spiky ones.

Unfortunately there were no lay-bys along the majority of the route where we could stop and take photos until we eventually reached a place in the mountains where we saw a sign for a picnic spot which was apparently on the other side of the tunnel we were about to enter.  Events determined that we would pull in there regardless of whether we wanted to or not.

As we exited the tunnel we were waved over to the picnic spot by a policeman who didn’t speak any English but was trying to tell us that we didn’t have any lights on as we went through the tunnel.  He made Darren get out of the van and after quite a lot of time Darren eventually managed to make him realise that we did actually have our lights on!  He looked so disappointed and waved us on, we pulled up at the other end of the picnic spot where we had lunch, watched birds of prey circling above the mountain and discussed what had gone on.

We can only assume that the policeman had decided that it would be too much hassle with paperwork and trying to make us understand what he had been trying to tell us and that’s why he’d impatiently waved us off.

We saw them pull about four other cars over while we sat there and then they drove off.

After lunch we drove off and a little further along the road we saw a Guardia Civil car pulling a car over, we couldn’t see what the driver had done wrong but we joked that they were desperate to get someone for something so they were pulling him up under the offence of driving a car that was so ugly it was a disturbance to other road users.

This journey seemed to go on forever, maybe the bad weather made it seem longer than it really was or maybe it was the SAT NAV which had (unbeknownst to us) decided to change the route when we stopped for lunch to a longer journey through the mountains!

We only realised we were on a different route when we got to Estella and the SAT NAV suddenly directed us off the main road and through the town, it was a bit of a worry when we saw the signs to Pamplona (which we were supposed to be by-passing) pointing in a different direction!  It had decided to send us up through a National Park, Parque Natural Aralar which turned out to be well worth the change of plan, it was a gorgeous, if windy route.

We were a bit concerned at first but although there were some VERY tight hair pin bends the roads were actually very good and the National Park was beautiful.  The first part had lush green grass and trees, similar to the New Forest in Hampshire, we saw small herds of shaggy ponies there and sheep with long fleece grazing on the grass.  However as we went through a tunnel we looked down on a beautiful valley surrounded by large craggy mountains. We kept hoping to find a place to pull over to take some photos but on the two occasions that we found a ‘view point’  there were trees blocking the view!

Once we’d come out of the National Park we started driving through the industrial area, not so pretty and very busy.

We eventually arrived at the place we were stopping in Tolosa, it was SO disappointing that we decided we couldn’t stay there.

We filled with water at the services and carried on to another stop over in Andoain which was packed full of cars and there wasn’t a motorhome in sight!  I felt so sorry for Darren, he’d been driving for ages, I was feeling tired, he must have been exhausted!

We drove on while I quickly tried to find another place to stop on the Park4Night app and I discovered a stop in a Country Park, Area de Listorreta.  It was bizarre as we drove up the lanes to it, it was like being in Austria.

We were so pleased when we arrived there, there were six other van already parked for the night but there was still plenty of room.  We were parked in a beautiful area surrounded by parkland and trees and the only sound we could hear were birds cheeping.  Just what we needed!

We had a very peaceful night, at last!

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