Soon after leaving Zaragoza, we reached the northernmost point of our Tour of Spain (right). We were in the foothills of the Pyrenees. We passed turnoff for Pamplona and talked about Hemingway’s masterpiece “The Sun Also Rises” and the bull fights.
Next exit was Bilbao, a port city in northern Spain, or more accurately, in Basque country. So we talked about the Basques and their separatism. We contemplated making the right turn and heading in that direction. But eventually we decided against it.
Instead, we decided to go on to Burgos, a town with a famous cathedral. We did not know it at the time, but Burgos is on the main Saint James Route (El Camino de Santiago de Compostela).
Preparation and Improvisation
You see, in early February, I started studying Spain’s geography, history and various tourist attractions using “Spain This Way” website as aid. Eventually, I had the rough Tour of Spain sketched out that would take us from Barcelona to Malaga, hitting most of the (for us) most interesting sights (see Preparation and Improvisation: Key to Great Trip Experiences).
Our actual trips pretty much evolved along this route. With some minor changes (enter Improvisation). Before we left Hawaii to go to Arizona, I printed the information about our “target sights” and cities. Then Elizabeth and I read it together.
Before we left on this trip, three months later, we did it again. And then every day, before we started driving, I would pull out the pages our possible destinations and “target sights,” and hand them to Elizabeth. She would then read them out loud. And we would make a rough plan for the day.
From there on, it was Improvisation and spontaneity 100%. Like today, May 22.
For example, we had planned today to overnight in Valladolid. The reason this city was one of our “target sights” was that Valladolid was the birthplace of King Phillip II, one of my past life Spanish incarnations. But after having enjoyed our Zaragoza visit so much that we never left that city until early afternoon of May 22, we tentatively thought we would head for Burgos, maybe bypass Valladolid, and perhaps even reach Salamanca.
When we got to Burgos, another cold weather front was moving in from the west. It was Vienna from a week before all over again.
By the time we reached the famous Burgos Cathedral, the main reason for our visit, the rain had also started. So we sought shelter from it inside God’s house.
“God,” I took the Creator’s name in vain, “here we go again. Back to a windblown umbrella.”
Here are some of the still shots we took in Burgos…
It was still raining when we finished our quick cathedral tour. So we went into a nearby coffee shop to see if we could wait out the storm. Turns, out I was unexpectedly rewarded by a surprisingly great cappuccino, one of the best on this trip.
“You never know what can happen when you practice spontaneity,” I told Elizabeth. “Usually good things follow.”
After the rain shower had passed, we decided that we liked Burgos so much that we would try to find a hotel room there. Alas, it was not to be. The two hotels that we could see and which looked good to us were both sold out.
So we got into our jalopy and headed for Salamanca, Spain’s ancient and pretty “university city” (akin to Cambridge or Oxford in England).
We got to Salamanca before sunset, and were able to find a nice hotel in the city. Alas, we could not see the sun. Because as soon as we got our bags into the hotel lobby, the heavens opened up. It rained all evening and all night.
We thanked God for sparing us this while on the road or looking for a hotel. It was a happy end to our longest day on the road.