Thursday 25th November.
Unfortunately we missed our departure target of 0600hrs, but we did get away soon after at 0620am!!!! We witnessed the dawn come up as we headed eastwards. This was followed by the usual blue sky with the sun reaching the heat we have come to expect as we passed Valencia, after which we headed north towards Zaragoza.
Normally this is a very scenic drive through the foothills of the Pyrenees, with the sun shining reminding us why we live in Spain. Alas this was not so, today we experienced U.K. weather, snow, yuk. Christine was quick to remind me that this was the “planned” preparation for our month in England!! At this point we had to stop for fuel and getting out of the car was a very great shock, not expecting this!!!!! If the snow laying all around us wasn’t enough, there was fairly thick fog adding to the uncomfortable driving conditions, still we survived as we went passed the 1,000-meter high point of the route passing a number of snowploughs en-route; In fact we were astonished as to how many snowploughs there were about. Not the sought of sight one would have thought one would see so close to the Mediterranean. Anyway after dropping down towards Zaragoza the snow went to sleet, followed by rain, and soon after normal weather with dry roads!!!
We now stopped at a services and strangely had a superb lunch, a far cry from normal services but it did look new and not too many people about.
It was now Christine’s turn to take over the driving as we headed past Pamplona towards the French Boarder when the heavens opened, just like the “goto fria” * we get at home and as soon as we found a garage close to the boarder, she was very happy to relinquish the driving. This must have been quite something as she hates not completing her two hour stint!!! Anyway we zoomed straight through the border, if there was one!!! “COVID restrictions, what are they”!!! And as we drove into France, the rain stopped; obviously Spain was crying because we were leaving!!!
We arrived in Bayonne and went straight to our hotel, arrived in the room and I am sorry to say that’s where we stopped. Having had such a good lunch, food wasn’t a necessity and besides, the girl guide in Christine came to the fore; she had brought the kettle, tea bags and some cake, so this is where we stopped, watched a film and had an early night.
Friday 26th November
After an excellent nights sleep, gosh we were tired after driving through such “crap” weather yesterday, we were completely knackered.
We enjoyed our, leisurely “Petit déjeuner“ before heading out. Bayonne is a city in the Basque Country, (an ideal over night stop-off) in southwestern France. It is located at the confluence of the Nive and Adour rivers. Just up the road from our hotel is The historic district; Grand Bayonne is characterised by its narrow medieval streets. This is where the Gothic Notre-Dame (or Sainte-Marie) cathedral stands, with its 13th century cloister, and the Château-Vieux. On the other side of the Nive, in the Petit Bayonne district, is the Basque Museum with the History of Bayonne, and dedicated to the arts, crafts and traditions of the region.
We wandered around the quaint streets but it rained again, so we were forced to buy an umbrella and the only one available at that moment in time was a “Bayonne Rugby Club” umbrella, not my first choice!!! Whilst here, we naturally paid a visit to the magnificent structure of the Cathedral though the inside wasn’t that stunning.
Walking past a very attractive toy shop, I was seduced by a magnetic jigsaw world map; a toy with educational connotations, just the job for a Christmas present for my youngest granddaughter, in I went to buy it where upon Christine spotted something for her new grandson; a worthwhile visit.
We enjoyed our morning coffee in a patisserie, no brandy🥵 and went to the old market where after a walk around admiring the cheese, wine, shellfish and charcuterie “posh” stalls, we partook of a glass of wine or two. The odd thing was, we ordered a couple of glasses of dry white to start and whilst drinking asked what region the wine came from only to be told it was Spanish; what? Spanish wine at a French wine stall in a French Market, in a French wine region; whatever next!!!
Bayonne is situated about 7-kms from the sea and was an important maritime town in the Middle Ages and after Henry the second Married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the area became English and was an important trading route between England and France. So much so that it was fortified in 1177 by Richard the Lion Heart. In 1451 the city was taken back by the French Crown after the Hundred Years’ War . The loss of trade with the English was followed by the river gradually filling with silt and becoming impassable to ships; still it is worth a visit.
Returning to the hotel via a street full of restaurants (we needed to know where to go tonight!) still raining; thank goodness for our umbrella, we arrived in our room where we enjoyed a cup of tea or two.
It was time to head out again for dinner, and yes it was raining still! We walked quickly between the rain drops and found a very nice, albeit expensive, restaurant by the river; shame it was dark, wet and miserable so decided to step inside only to be accosted by the waitress asking us for our code. Code we exclaimed, yes she said to prove we’ve been vaccinated. Oh dear, we haven’t got them with us and we thought that was that, we would be thrown out. Purely by chance, I had taken a photograph of my European Vaccination Certificate and showed her that. Blimey, she scanned the QR code and it worked; nobody was more surprised than me!!! Unfortunately Christine hadn’t done that and it looked like she was going to have to hoof back to the hotel to get hers but fortunately the waitress, knowing I had been jabbed 3-times, accepted Christine’s word and let her stay!!!
After a nice meal we left, still raining of course and returned, via numerous puddles to the warmth of our hotel as tomorrow we are on the next leg of our journey as we head for Orleans.
*The cold drop (Spanish: gota fría) is an archaic meteorological term used popularly in Spain which has commonly come to refer to any high impact rainfall events occurring in the autumn along the Spanish Mediterranean coast.