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Winter Sun Pt 12 – Zaragoza to Urrugne

Winter Sun Pt 12 – Zaragoza to Urrugne

Saturday 14th March

We left Zaragoza around 08:30. There was a great feeling of camaraderie, with everyone wishing each good luck and a safe journey and talk of the “Dunkirk spirit”.

Zaragoza is on the River Ebro and the Autopista we joined was labelled the “Autopista del Ebro”. Just so you know, the Ebro is the longest river running entirely within Spain.

The scenery was generally not very entertaining on this route, but as we approached Pamplona – home of the famous bull run – we saw the most amazing aqueduct – possibly the longest structure of its kind we have seen. You know me – I had to find the stats and they are quite staggering! It was built not by the Romans, as you might suppose, but in the 18th Century. It reaches a length of around 1,245 metres spanning 97 stone and brick arches, of which 94 are still standing. It has columns up to 18 metres in height and a canal at the top. Quite a sight to enliven our journey.

Noain Aqueduct – Pamplona
Shot from the car
Can’t fit it all in!

As we neared the foothills of the Pyrenees the scenery started to perk up and the architecture started to look very alpine. This was more like it! We love a good view.

We also noticed – now that we know what to look for – that virtually every pine tree we passed had the dreaded Processionary Caterpillar nest. I just hope it never takes a good hold in the UK. The problem is currently confined to the South East – let’s hope it stays there!

Hairy nasty caterpillars

The road started its long descent down the coast and we drew nearer to the border. We were still wondering what we would find, whether there’d be massive queues, strip searches and so on when all of a sudden it was upon us and we were through. Just like that. No patrols, no special measures. Nothing! Rien. Nada. A bit of a non-event really – but a relief, too.

Vive la France!

After the border it was just a short leg to our site for that night “Camping Larrouletta” in Urrugne, just in France. I had phoned ahead and was happy to hear that they were open and that it was still business as usual.

We had arrived quite early – although it was during the strictly observed French lunch hour. Monsieur had told me to find a space and pop back during the afternoon. Very laid back.

Getting set up

We set up, had lunch and – as it was the weekend – we went out exploring. We set off for the “Corniche Basque” – a beautiful and protected piece of coastline which runs from Ciboure to Hendaye.

The first town we encountered was the pretty little village of Socoa, where there is a nice little beach, with lots of people surfing, several restaurants and a very doughty-looking fort.

‘E’s givin’ me the run around
Surf school

We took the boys for a play on the beach, where they met a lovely big dog with whom they played chase for some time. And then we spotted him – a chap with an ice-cream! And where there is a chap with an ice-cream? There has got to be an ice cream shop.

Socoa Fort

We sniffed it out and had a delicious 2 boules cornet. (me Rum and Raisin and Salted Caramel and Paul Creme Brulee and Salted Caramel). I had a nice chat with the owner. It’s so nice to be back in a country where you can comfortably converse. I wish I was better at Spanish. But I am definitely better than before we came away. I can read and understand more than I can actually say – it’s the lack of vocab that holds me back. I’m working on it.

We continued our journey along the coast, calling in at the very elegant town of St Jean de Luz. Fabulous beach. I really liked it and would like to return some time.

The Grand Hotel
The beach – with the Pyrenees behind

We eventually returned to the site to find a queue of motorhomes, caravans and camper vans, all waiting to get onto the site. We were jolly glad we had left in good time this morning and had a nice pitch. We guessed that everyone else had had the same idea as us – get out of Spain while you still can.

We planned to eat at the onsite restaurant and had a quick wash and brush-up and changed into slightly warmer clothes – it’s a tad cooler here – and set off for pre-dinner drinks.

The bar/restaurant

We got chatting to some chaps who were from Bailey caravans. They (with 2 caravans and motorhome) had been on the “Sahara Challenge” – the aim was to drive through Spain and Portugal and across to Morocco and the edge of the Sahara Desert. The plan was to cover 3,500 miles in 20 days. Sadly they were stymied because Morocco had shut up shop. They were on their way home too. What a shame.

The Bailey Sahara Challenge MoHo

It was pretty hectic in the restaurant and as we sat there, more and more units were pouring in through the gates. The owner must have been cock-a-hoop. He was putting them in every nook and cranny and even in areas that had been cordoned off – presumably because they were a bit muddy? Mind you, he’ll need this boost if things continue as they are with Covid-19.

Monsieur le proprietor

By the time our food arrived I was frozen and ate it quickly and repaired to the van. Reader – I put the heating on! It had been weeks since I had even thought about it.

Sunday 15th March

We awoke a little later than normal and opened up the blinds to see a queue of vehicles queuing to get OFF the site! And a lot of empty pitches around us. We had talked last night and decided that we would stay the extra night – as planned – and do all the phoning round to try and get home a bit earlier, on Monday morning when everyone would be open. That might just have been a decision we would live to regret, but there it was – decision made.

We had breakfast and decided to go out and make the best of what was probably the last day of exploring we’d get.

We went the other way up the coast this time, towards Hendaye and – eek – the Spanish border. Hendaye was very pleasant. The beach is a large swathe of sand. It must be very popular but impossible to park in the Summer. It was bad enough on that day in the bright and very pleasant Spring sunshine.

The beach at Hendaye

We had looked at the weather which told us that rain and even possibility of thunderstorms would be hitting the area late afternoon. We could scarcely believe this, in the lovely warm sunshine. We still find it amusing that, while we are clomping around in shorts and sandals, the people of Spain and now France are currently sporting long trousers, jackets and scarves! Crazzeee Eeennglish eh?

We found another good beach for the boys to let off steam and drove further along the coast and – I know right? – we went back into Spain – but not for very long as there was a police roadblock on the road to the town – Hondarribia – that we wanted to visit.

Ted with stick
Bill with log
The Basque police or ” Udaltzaingoa “

I’d have loved to have taken a pic but they were a bit scary looking and we didn’t want to get arrested and clapped in irons! The pic above is for illustrative purposes only

As we were in Spain again, we took the opportunity of topping up the fuel tank at Spanish prices. We then beat a hasty retreat back to the site, while the going was good.

We spent some time packing stuff away ready for a smart getaway in the morning – and the rains started. Very heavy! And the vans etc kept on rolling in. They were queued up to the main road but spaces were found for all of them. The tills must have been full to bursting!

The restaurant was only offering a take-way service so we ordered a couple of cheeseburgers. and they were most excellent. After polishing them off, we watched some tv. The rain was so flipping heavy and loud that we had to turn up the volume! Did you hear it? I had to put ear plugs in at bedtime but I could still hear it as I dozed off, wondering how we would get on trying to change our travel plans in the morning.

My quick review of Camping Larrouletta

This is a much bigger site than it would first appear. It actually has nearly 400 pitches for tourers. I imagine it’s very busy in summer. There are several toilet/shower blocks with very good clean facilities. There is a lake and heated swimming pool and a bar/restaurant – good food but perhaps a shade dear? Or it may be that we are so used to Spanish prices that made it seem dear? It’s in a great area with the Pyrenees behind and the Atlantic in front. I’d very gladly return and stay longer.

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