From Gorbeiako Parke Naturala we headed south, starting off with a narrow miss on the tight entrance road, from a crazy impatient driver who was desperate to squeeze past us without waiting for us to manoeuvre and make space. The side of his car was lined with deep scrapes, signs of a previous mishap, as is our wing mirror now after his latest idiocy.
Not to be outdone, I later had my own driving faux pas – I brainlessly followed our SatNav the wrong way back out of a car-park to a roundabout on a two-lane but, as it turned out, one-way road when leaving a Decathlon store – it only by chance that nothing was coming.
All drama over, we made it to an impressively busy aire in the north of Vitoria-Gasteiz, where we joined a long run of motorhomes at the back end of a huge car-park. From here we undertook a longish walk into the old town, a little wearily, feeling yesterday’s mountainous 20km in our legs.
We passed thousands of apartments in tall, sprawling blocks, with scruffy communal spaces but no private gardens other than what could be imaginatively squeezed onto the small balcony spaces. There was lots of commerce, small stores in long rows, no known brands, all looking locally owned and well used. There were also lots of small bars, accompanied by the constant and distinctive smell of piss.
We arrived at the north of the old town centre where we were able to ride a long conveyor belt up the hill to the imposing 14th century Cathedral de Santa Maria. There were multiple escalators on other steeper streets too, a modern means of ensuring an ageing congregation can always make it to church.
We followed our noses through lanes and squares large and small, flanked by tall townhouses with enclosed balconies of painted timber, looking more Venetian than Spanish. After some exploring we entered the grand Plaza de España, where we found the tourist office and swiped ourselves a handy town map.
We next stumbled upon the Plaza de los Fueros, a stepped amphitheatre with peripheral spaces created out of tall walls, all corners, niches and dead ends. On paper it may have represented something profound, intellectual, but in reality it was a horrible piece of urban design, deeply flawed, with dark, enclosed spaces designed only for violence or for use as a makeshift toilet. We were in awe at any council that allowed it to be built.
George Mélès movies and their history were being displayed in a travelling show trailer in the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca. As it was our favourite price, we had a good look around inside, imagining more simple times when his oftentimes bizarre films would have been seen as wild, shocking, incredible, sometimes scary and always technically brilliant.
We passed several other large churches including the Neo-Gothic cathedral de María Immaculada, then sat a while in the sunny, leafy square in front of the Neo-Classical Palacio de la Provincia. The oval-shaped historic centre was delightful in the sunshine, much more appealing than the surrounding estates. We returned through a leafy park and alongside a large cemetery. It was slightly longer, but a much nicer route.
We decided not to stay overnight here, so we abandoned our original plan and moved to another nearby aire at Nanclares de la Oca. The motorhome bays there were separate from the adjacent car-park and we were the only van in town, so we had our pick. We had a short walk into town to look around, and buy onions. We passed an interesting sculpture, a negative of traditional dress without the person within. We then saw a huge heron nest on the pretty stone church roof as we wandered the side streets, before retiring for the day. Later, after dark, we could hear the distinct roar of planes overhead, mixing with sporadic traffic noise, but despite the mechanical interference, we slept soundly.