After our disturbed night’s sleep in Lekeitio last time, we elected to make an early start to pack as much as we could into the journey to Pamplona, our next stop.

First port of call on a busy travelling day was Guernica, one of the first cities in the world to be flattened by aerial bombardment. In 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, General Franco asked the German Luftwaffe to carry out the bombardment to aid his mission of overthrowing the Spanish Republican and the Basque governments.

There’s a memorial square and museum in the heart of the rebuilt city movingly showcasing the devastation, and the plight of the survivors. Pablo Picasso reacted to this atrocity by painting his interpretation of the tragedy. He wanted to tell the world about the actions of the Fascists and to ensure they were never forgotten. 

This painting is regarded by many as one of the most moving anti-war paintings in history. It is proudly reproduced as a mural and displayed for all to see.

Picasso’s Guernica
Picasso’s Guernica

Guernica’s market was at the heart of the devastation and it felt strange to wander around the rebuilt (now covered) market halls amongst all that history. We saw behaviour there that I’ve never seen in all our visits to Spain – people were actually forming orderly queues to buy their fruit & veg. I know! They were more British than the British! So instead of elbowing our way to the front of a crowd of noisy shoppers at each stall we had to wait in near-silence to pick up the makings of that night’s evening meal. So strange. We bought what we thought were really big spring onions for the salad. They turned out to be really small leeks 😀

Queuing in Guernica
Queuing. In Spain. Who’d have thought..?

With a few more miles under our belt, we stopped for lunch in Castro-Urdiales. On one of our apps for stopovers I’d seen a description which began “a cheeky park-up right in the town overlooking the beach”. It had me at the word “cheeky” so there was no chance we were going to pass that one by. On another day we’d have considered staying overnight as it really was in the heart of things with amazing views. Better still it was in a cul-de-sac so there was no passing traffic. There was also a lovely park area at the end.

As we were on a mission though, we restricted ourselves to lunch in the vans and a doggie-walk through the park before firing up the engines of both the vans again. We also had a bit of a pow-wow as the rain in Spain most definitely wasn’t just falling on the plain. Maps were consulted, Michael Fish and Iain McAskill too. Further south seemed to be the way to go in search of dryer, warmer climes. This location however, was very much noted for future visits.

Vroom with a view. Castro-Urdiales from Vince’s lounge window

Pamplona was our final stop for the day. Most people associate Pamplona with the running of the bulls, one of the world’s top tourist attractions. Walking those narrow streets I can truthfully say that one of the last things I’d like to see behind me would be a herd of angry bulls stampeding after me!

Pamplona Bulls
The only bulls I want to see in Pamplona!

For us, meeting Charles & Camilla just after the coronation was the real highlight of our visit to Pamplona. No, really. I took a pic of their Jaguar to prove it. After our full day, we just settled for a wander past the Bull Ring & the cathedral before a quick aperitif in a bar then an early night.

Charles & Camilla’s wheels.
Charles & Camilla’s new wheels…

From Pamplona we set the controls even further south and headed for Huesca. No stops on the way this time, until we reached the free aire on the edge of the old town. Faced with the choice of big roomy bays round the outside of the parking area in full sun, or squeezing between close-packed trees in the centre to get some shade – you guessed it, we squoze ourselves in amongst the vegetation. Reversing out the following morning was a challenge but rest assured no paint was scraped and no pedestrians harmed.

Once again we restricted ourselves to a general wander round the centre with drinks in the square and a visit to my first octagonal museum. That’s not to say it was dedicated to geometric forms, it was more about natural history. Each of the halls were linked together to form an octagonal ring, so you moved through time as you explored each interconnected space.

Tight squeeze!
Tight squeeze!

Leaving Huesca was something of a challenge. Vince led the way with Graeme & Sally following in their own motorhome. They had to stop briefly as the sunshade used to keep the heat off Bobbie the dog had come unstuck. I carried on in a dream without spotting they were no longer there. That‘s when things got complicated as we use an Aguri satnav, while the others were relying on Google Maps. And – of course – they recommended different routes through the narrow streets of the city. Phone calls between passengers ensued, and only served to confuse us more. We decided just to make our own way towards our next destination, and hopefully hook up again along the way.

Then we saw a familiar couple waving at us as they headed in the opposite direction! They were the saving of us to be fair. Our satnav had got into a death-loop as some new roads had sprung up since my last update. Our instructions just had us going around and around the same three mile loop. We’d have been there still if we hadn’t just ignored it and followed Graeme & Sally.

Turquoise waters, and not a sound to be heard.
Turquoise waters, and not a sound to be heard.

We were able to compare notes at our next stop, where Graeme thoughtfully provided pastries stuffed with chocolate and custard* for us to share over coffees brewed on board. There were no other vehicles in the car park overlooking the Embalse de Calcon o de Guara. We were above a dam blocking a narrow gorge to provide millions of litres of water for the cities below.

The views were magnificent, the only sounds were trickling water from the dam and birdsong. It was heavenly. The information board told us that the dozens of house martins flitting around us were the very same ones which migrate back and forth to the UK every year. Although since Brexit they’re only allowed to remain here for 90 days. 

Our wildlife treats continued as we watched dozens of griffon vultures wheeling above us in the thermals rising from the mountains. We were even treated to the sight of a lone deer carefully picking its way down the near vertical rocky slope to find a little green vegetation at the water’s edge.

Our next destination and overnight stop was in the heart of the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Natural Park. Our guidebooks and apps all warned us that motorhomes should not be taken into the narrow streets of the town. There was no way I was making the same mistake I made in Zahara a few trips ago. We found a free terraced parking area overlooking the town of Alquézar, and ignored the sign saying no overnight parking. So did about twenty-five Spanish vans as well. I can’t say Alquézar without putting on my Ali Baba & The Forty Thieves voiceover voice. Sorry but you’ll just have to live with it.

What a gem of a place! I’ll save the details until next time. I should warn you though, anyone with even the slightest fear of heights should consider skipping the next post.

Until then – Hasta Bañana!


*some were stuffed with custard, others with chocolate. Stuffing them with both would just be barbaric.

On the road from Pamplona
On the road from Pamplona
The park in Castro-Urdiales
Huesca streets
About Ken Tomlinson 219 Articles
Semi-retired biker, blogger and world’s best grandad. Doesn’t take life too seriously. Discovered motorhoming in 2015, sold up and downsized to fund more travels. Now with added Yorkshire.

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