Day by Day 1: Cantabria and Navarra
S of Potes
S Martín de Unx
S Maria de Eunate
Puente la Reina
Fab de Orbaitzeta
Monast de Irache
Foix and around
Camon & Puivert
To the Dordogne
W of Borrèze 1
W of Borrèze 2
Urval & Cadouin
Off boat (no formalities) at Bilbao in steady rain. Rain became torrential as we drove west along motorway. Stopped to stock up at supermarket where we came off A-8. On to Acenaba in drier conditions and able to unpack car without rain.
Dull but dry so first to the monastery at Santo Toribio de Liébana, a major (but underwhelming) pilgrimage site just above Potes. Back into Potes to explore the pleasant, if a bit touristy, little town with some interesting old buildings. Next headed up the valley and had a look around Mogrovejo, nice little village with a castle. Finally on to top of road at Fuente Dé but cloud was still firmly down.
Headed north on a lovely morning to explore small village of Esanos with its little (closed) church. Next to interesting little C10th church of Santa Maria de Lebaña, one of the few in the area open with with an annoying ban on photos. After that we went above Pendes on the west side of the Deva valley into nice open countryside with good views and did a little walking. As the weather was good we headed to Mogrovejo and Fuente Dé again. In Potes we saw that the doors of the new Church of San Vicente were open so went in to have a look at its interesting collection of reredos. Finally we headed to Piasca just above Acenaba to the fascinating Iglesia Santa Maria la Real de Piasca, a C12th building on the site of a C9th monastery.
Another beautiful day as we went up to Aniezo to see the industrial archaeology there. Next we explored some of the villages off the N621 to the south of Potes at Tudes, where we had a little walk, and Cucayo in its splendid mountain setting for a slightly longer one. This was followed by a pleasant drive up to Ledantes (not a lot to see) before heading up the N621 to the San Glorio Pass through some excellent scenery.
We left Cantabria on a beautiful morning for a good, fast drive (though a bit busy round Bilbao) into the hills towards Vittoria. Super run through Sierra de Andia with a stop at the pass at Porto de Lizarraga for a walk in lovely limestone country. Found a supermarket in Estella on NA-122 south more by luck than judgement. Stocked up then on to our chalet on the shores of the Alloz reservoir at Lerate.
We decided to spend the (dull) day round the hill villages. Headed for Artajona but Eleanor wanted to do the nearby dolmens which proved to be down the end of a badly eroded road which gave cause for concern for the wellbeing of the exhaust. Dolmens underwhelming but a lot of lovely orchids which sent Eleanor into overload and good views of Artajona. Artajona an incredible walled settlement with walls largely complete. Then to San Martín de Unx, another hilltop town this one dominated by Iglesia San Martin de Tours which should have been open, wasn't, but loud door rattling led to opening by the owner of one of the voices inside. Good church with nice C12th crypt. Next to Ujué a well-preserved hilltop settlement where the extraordinary church of Santa Maria is effectively surrounded by a skin of fortifications. Finally on a lovely evening we took the quiet and slow valley road of the NA132 through the pretty village of Olletta to the unusual church of Santa Maria de Eunate. Built in 1170 it is thought to be a Templar church and is surrounded by an arcade set in a round enclosure.
After heavy overnight rain we woke to a very cold (5°C) and windy morning which saw us donning sweaters, body warmers, fleeces and hats. We went to explore some villages of varying degrees of interest to the east getting to Unzué, Oricin, and Olóriz before heading for the interesting little church of Ermita de San Pedro de Echano (closed, of course) deep in the countryside. Incidentally we found the Michelin map unreliable in these parts. On a dull, damp afternoon we headed to Puente la Reina, an interesting town with the splendid Iglesia de Santiago. By now it had started to rain steadily so we had an early finish, only to have a frustratingly lovely evening later.
A beautiful clear morning so we had a quick look around Lerate before heading for the foothills of the Pyrenees. Heading north on NA172 we stopped for a look at Uriz before exploring the attractive Aezoka valley. Next to Fabrica de Orbaitzeta, the site of a Royal Weapons and Ammunition Factory built on the orders of Carlos III in 1784 on the site of a 15thC ironworks. Then on to Roncesvalles, the scene of the defeat of Charlemagne in 778, with its splendid Basque Gothic Iglesia de Santa Maria. Finally we made a leisurely drive down the NA2330 through the Erro valley with a brief stop to explore Zunzarren.
Into Estella on another dull day. First stop was the splendid west front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before heading for the impressive C12th Iglesia San Pedro de la Rua with its attractive cloisters. The massive Iglesia de San Miguel, supposedly open, was shut. A short drive brought us to the C13th Monasterio de Irache. Finally we headed back to explore some of the villages near Lerate but had to give up when it started to rain heavily.
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