After a long day driving mostly on the auto via, motorway type roads we finally arrived in Cuenca. Not the Cuenca that I remember but one that now houses a sprawling metropolis of high rise red brick flats, I was feeling apprehensive. We arrived late to be finding accommodation and in desperation booked into the first one that would have us. The rooms were on the fourth floor and there was a garage for the car. Parking the car was a nightmare, it was dark, narrow, winding and terrifying in my beautiful SAAB. Having parked the car I decanted the bags into the lift and Lanky walked down the stairs as she doesn’t like lifts. Up and down I went failing to find the right floor, the doors opened onto back stairs and dark doors. Lanky shouted ‘where are you?’ And it echoed in the back staircase. This is a measure of the sort of place we were in.
Cuenca proved to be a huge disappointment, graffiti and general mess of overpopulation were in the town. The old town stood high above us but Lynn wasn’t up to climbing up the steps that night and so we stayed in the suburbs. The next morning we decided to get out of town. I had visited Cuenca 18 years ago and loved it, why spoil a good memory and besides I had to get the car out the hell hole of a garage. On the road we decided to avoid the auto via and take the rural roads which proved to be both excellent and empty. Spain is criss crossed with the most fabulous roads and no one on them until you get near a city. The scenery is incredible changing from high hills to open plains. The towns and villages are charming and the few people we met were lovely, though my Spanish is really bad and needs attention. In one town we sat sipping cold beer, for Lynn, cappacino frappe, for me when we got into conversation with some little girls and they crowded round us asking our names and struggling to try their English. They were like a flock of chattering birds until their parents called them back smiling at us.
We somehow managed to drive into Zaragoza again instead of driving around it but this time I was had experience and we quickly got out and onto the road heading for the Pyrenees. We were going to stop in Huesca but seeing the high rise red brick apartments I bottled out and carried on straight passed. We drove onto the next town 50 kilometres away and it was heaving with people, police, a circus was in town. There were cyclists everywhere and when we asked what was going we were told that there was a big cycling event. We stopped at a bar to have a drink and were told that there was no room at the inn 10,000 cyclists were taking part in this annual event. Add partners, family, friends etc and there were a lot of beds needed. We carried on to Jaca and still the cyclists were combing the streets. We found a twin bedded room in a hostal near the castle. And what a find, this is a lovely old town with castle and cathedral and lots of wrought iron clad balcolnies. We showered and dressed and went to the cathedral square. It was buzzing with people sat at cafés drinking and eating tapas, afterwards we went and had a delicious meal of steak for Lynn, lamb chops for me and a bottle of cava. There were cyclists everywhere walking in groups, we have probably got the last room in town.
We have driven through wooded countryside, past rocks brushed into the most extraordinary natural sculptures by the wind, passed bright red rocks reminiscent of Sodona in America and through grey rounded hills more like a moonscape. The driving was peaceful on the roads and we saw very little habitation. The occasional village left to crumble and rerun to the earth. There were plains gold and yellow and that stretched as far as the eye could see. A pair of eagles swooped low over us giving us a great view of their brown feathers and fringed wings as they curved over the hedge and joined about another dozen cruising over a corn field that had recently been cut. In Jaca we were once again treated to the dusk performance of the swifts darting and diving between the roof tops.
Now as we face the snow capped mountains we will have one last look at this beautiful town before heading towards France and making our way through one of the great tunnels. Spain is an amazing country and most people only ever see the costas, it has been a privilege to criss cross it.p>