Skip to main content

Rios de Navarra 2017/02/10 Pamplona/Iruna

After a few days hermiting indoors, working on tour logistics, I was due for an outing, a day of tourism and sunshine. The Camino de Santiago beckoned, but I decided not to risk foot pain and bedbugs on this dance tour! And while I eyed the canoeists with envy, no canoe was available. Finally, I found an affordable local bike rental.

Everything is near here... it's a small town with a great design. I've never seen a town map with so much public green space, except maybe Geneva. Most of the river bank is a public park, part of a 33km nature corridor on the river connecting several local towns. Development of the riverbank is also naturally constrained by steep cliffs running along one side for several kilometres. Pamplona is at the top of this cliff, with parks and city walls offering expansive views over suburbs and pine forested hills.

In medieval times, Pamplona was the capital of the Kingdom of Navarra, a region that still enjoys some autonomy to this day. The town's medieval stone fortifications are so wide, you can lounge on lawns atop one section, looking down on lawns and walls below. Humans have been building walls for a long time... it's not the most innovative defence idea, Mr. Trump! Thanks to institutions like the EU, medieval walls now are charming old pieces of landscape that we can enjoy in peace.

Near my B&B lovely Media Luna Park features a beautiful chunk of wall, and a glass elevator drops down to the riverbank below. A few times I practiced yoga here, under plane and chestnut sun-dappled trees, in elegant autumn colours. On my second day with the bike, I rode about 25 km round trip along the river. I passed historic stone bridges and mills, bountiful market gardens, pine forested hills. There were also soulless modern apartment complexes, highway underpasses and industrial zones. Most of these areas were saved from total banality by colourful energy of street art. The smooth, easy track was not busy... just enough joggers and hikers to make it feel safe. I saw a red squirrel on the way, and a few eagles. A golden one.

It was curious to come upon a bridge named Trinidad de Arre. I wondered if the inhabitants of this quaint village on the pilgrim trail of Santiago were among the conquering forces that wiped out the native peoples of the West Indies and profited from slavery? This violent history so easily forgotten... it was the Spanish that first colonised my mother's island: Barbados. Later I realised that Trinidad just means Trinity. It's a word from the Catholic tradition... so probably is used all over Spain – not much use as a clue to the origin of those Conquistadors.

After 12 km rolling along el rio, I reached the tiny village of Sorauren, hungry for a hearty lunch. The popular, unpretentious restaurant on the river did not disappoint. I had three giant, white asparagus spears, a small serve of paella and a local sheeps yoghurt for dessert... all for €13 including beer. Best value meal of this visit to Spain so far.

Cuisine: Pamplona

I haven't liked the cuisine much since I arrived in this northern part of Spain. The salty, oily bar food drove me into the kitchen to cook for myself. Yesterday in another riverside restaurant I spent €13 on an unsatisfactory two course meal. The menu itself was strange -- there were a lot of raisins. 'Spinach and cheese' crepe... with raisins? On request, they were able to omit the raisins. But the plain bread rolls had more flavour than this crepe, with its spinach swimming forlornly in a bland bechamel.

Next was an equally bland and very unattractive fish. It looked two lizard-tails or snake-ends. White, muscular, sinewy flesh tightly attached to a strange tapering spine. Are these the creatures that inhabit these murky green waters? More than eating, I enjoyed watching a heron stalking, his long neck snaking, telescoping and stretching surreally. And the waiter was nice... gave me a whole bottle of wine after I only ordered a glass. Perhaps it's because I was their only lunch customer that day. Not that I drank it of course, but a nice touch! 


Popular posts from this blog

Physical poetry – Contact Improv in Madrid

On my first visit to Madrid, I wrote about exploring Lavapies Tabacalera by day – sophisticated art installations in warehouse galleries. On this second visit to Madrid, I discovered the Tabacalera studios by night – a living, breathing art community. Cuban flautist and poet Liz stayed in touch after our chance meeting in Lisbon, and joined me for this contact improvisation adventure. Tabacaleras are former tobacco factories, given over to the arts by many Spanish municipalities. Passing through the unmarked portal into this furnace of creativity, I quickly felt relaxed and at home. Liz said she had never seen anything like it it. To get the dance studio, we traversed a cavernous room of giant murals into a corridor of spectacular street art, past booming reggae and African DJ dens, out into the yard. A few oil drum fires burned, and people gathered around to keep warm, under the gaze of Albert Einstein. If only he could see his two-metre high portrait, spray painted on old wo

From seaweed to bananas – Contact Improv in Dublin

The dancers were sitting in a circle when I arrived. A stranger, I was greeted with words of welcome and invited to join the end of a class by Yaeli. We danced as seaweed buffeted by waves, brushed by fish... first anchored on rocks, then taking flight into the water. This seaweed dance was one of my best trio experiences, taking turns with David and Fergus in the roles of weed or wave or fish. A friendly jam followed, including dances with Isabel and Jacob.  When the jam was over, we said goodbye with hugs. I felt great... welcomed to the community, emotionally and physically invigorated. I walked to my bus stop with a smile on my face. Though bus rides are usually tedious and smelly in the damp Dublin winter, I smiled the whole way. I got off and walked the few hundred metres home in the freezing rain. Soon I was home with hot tea, a hot bath, and downy bed – a happy body, drifting into dreams. Going bananas at the Lab The offer to share dance skills came at a dance

Discoteca Habanera: dances for sale

My Cuban friends Pablo and Vanessa picked me up at my B&B on my fourth night in Cuba. We caught a taxi collectivo to Havana Vieja to meet another friend. Then the four of us walked a few blocks to a dance bar, called Jager Bull. The interior was minimal white, animated with multicoloured spotlights. Sexy salsa dancers loomed over the room in a huge wall projection. I ordered a round, including virgin Pina Coladas. These were the real thing: coconut milk, fresh pineapple – delicious! A few dark-skinned guys busted out synchronised dance steps. We had fun copying their hip-hop/ Afro moves. One of them greeted us, introducing himself as Andy. He danced with me a few times – mostly salsa – and taught me a three-count step in another style. The other dancers were not as friendly, but most said yes when I asked for a dance.    I noticed Jean’s metallic pink shoes first, and then her warm smile. She was slender and tall, her face dark and lined. I sat beside her and sai