Hotel Villava (118€ for two nights)
Up, down, up down, up down. The terrain is forested in places, over hills and down to rivers. Beautiful walking, but very hard. It’s overcast and windy. There are lots of people on the trail, many of them Sunday day hikers. We see Aspen Judy again, with her van set up to serve her hikers morning snacks. We arrive in the town of Villava at 1:00 PM. This is a suburb of Pamplona. There are crowds of people everywhere. A major celebration? We duck into a church and are surprised to be part of a packed audience listening to an orchestra performing a variety of classical and Spanish music, even some opera. Wonderful! The church has standing room only and very little of that. The audience gives the program their rapt attention. I believe these are Basque musicians… all wear the red bandana favored by their culture. Back on the street with throngs of revelers (and growing piles of trash), we now start a daunting search for our hotel. We ask for directions and cannot understand answers. We call the hotel and cannot follow their directions. Finally, beside ourselves we wander in the direction someone has pointed to and see the giant four stars on top of the building. Hurray! And whew!! It is now 3:00 and fortunately, lunch is served from 1-4. More whew!!! The Spanish stretch their mid-day meal out much longer than the French and then dine much later at night, typically sitting down to dinner well after 8:30. Big learning curve here in Spain’s food department. The hotel offers an elaborate buffet for the first course – tons of food – and then the entree. We eat way too much: stuffed eggplant, stuffed piquenos, pasta with sauce, salads, duck comfit for my main course and steak for Nick’s, finally flan for dessert. Stuffed us!!! I’ve never been so uncomfortable in my life. We toddle to our room and are in bed by 6:00. Sleep through with a little midnight reading. The room is very comfortable, a good thing since we are here a second night.