Some observations from recent trip to Spain (north)

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of DBMarcos99 DBMarcos99 4 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #56811
    Profile photo of DBMarcos99
    DBMarcos99
    Participant

    Just returned from Navarra (northern Spain) after staying with friends and thought my observations may also be of interest

    Navarra is in the (relatively) more prosperous north, and it has to be said it looks a lot better in terms of building quality, roads, city layout etc than either southern Spain or indeed the UK! Certainly our friends apartment was very spacious (2 bathrooms along with 2 bedrooms) and had very efficient heating on cooler evenings. I’m comparing with London which is of course an unfair comparison, but it’s definitely an easier and more pleasant place to drive around than the UK capital.

    The scenery is incredibly beautiful. If you like mountain scenery as a backdrop, go to Pamplona and other areas of Navarra and the Basque country. It’s not a Med climate, so winters can be cold with snow, but I’m told the summers are still very hot and sunny. You also get British quantities of rain, often in Spring and Autumn, but that helps in creating such beautiful green countryside.

    The quality of the wine here is fantastic – Navarra has a wine area of note that competes with neighbouring Rioja to produce some of the countries best wines. Also the pintxos are generally of very good quality, and inexpensive. Bars, restaurants etc seemed quite busy at the weekend. Perhaps a response to the tight economy is that a lot of bars now offer special deals on Thursday nights – a glass of wine and a pintxo for 2 Euros – fantastic value indeed when you can pay £4 for a very so-so wine in London.

    For anyone thinking of holidaying in Pamplona, I can recommend it a lot. There are lots of pathways to explore (the camino de Compestela passes through here) and you can walk along the rivers and find museums such as the old watermill, with mountains as your backdrop. The area around the cathedral and the old city wall is also quite atmospheric. Of course, it may be worth giving a miss in July when the San Fermines festival attracts all those Americans, Australians and Brits etc. who over-indulge at this time.

    Bilbao airport impressed me a lot, but I often think smaller airports are better-run for some reason. The slow queues we encountered were back in Blighty – this is currently making headlines in the UK press as the Border Agency are creating long queues for those entering the country. I have to admit though that UK security is a lot more rigorous than on the continent.

    I’ve shown my partner a few parts of Spain now (Cantabria, Valencia, Madrid and now Navarra), and I think she is overwhelmed by the natural beauty of Navarra. I suspect it wouldn’t attract many Brits looking to buy accommodation, as it’s not on the coast, prices are not dirt-cheap, and there are few other Brits around. It’s not too far to drive to San Sebastian, but there the prices really are high. I’m struggling to think of any real drawbacks to the region. There didn’t seem to be any real concern about crime – I’m sure in southern Spain you’d worry about leaving valuables in your car, but not here, outside of festival time of course. Indeed I didn’t see beggars on the street as you’d find in the Med cities, but again that may be different in San Fermines. I was told that the music scene isn’t what you’d expect from a decent sized city, so perhaps teenagers would find the area boring, although if they’re into mountain trekking or pelota they may love it. Also the train connections are currently poor, but that may change as the AVE lines are extended into the Basque country. Plus of course, you’d need to drive there after flying to Spain, from Bilbao or Zaragoza airports.

    Could the local authorities attract more tourists to the area? Possibly, but at the possible risk of destroying the elements that make it such a nice area. I can’t really see Brits coming here in large numbers, but I’m sure that discerning Brits would love the place.

  • #108602
    Profile photo of kgpoc
    kgpoc
    Participant

    DB, Shhhhhhhhh!! The north is still very much a secret to the rest of the world. However due to the high variability of sunny days, the general English tourist will never come here, so it’s going to remain safe..

  • #108603
    Profile photo of Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Participant

    It’s not the real Spain *laughs*. It’s a little like people say that below nothing below Madrid is civilized and everyone down there is just lazy. =)

  • #108604
    Profile photo of angie
    angie
    Spectator

    DBM, Navarra and Rioja are both areas I would like to visit one day, I have been to Santander and C. Brava and liked both of them. I especially like Navarra wines which I think are every bit as good as Riojas but can’t find many now in the UK wine shops and Rioja like lots of things in Spain is getting too expensive.

    Whilst the weather is not as good as the South of Spain the landscape up North is dramatic, beautiful lakes and mountains, excellent food and probably Spain’s best kept secret. 😉

  • #108606
    Profile photo of DBMarcos99
    DBMarcos99
    Participant

    @angie wrote:

    DBM, Navarra and Rioja are both areas I would like to visit one day, I have been to Santander and C. Brava and liked both of them. I especially like Navarra wines which I think are every bit as good as Riojas but can’t find many now in the UK wine shops and Rioja like lots of things in Spain is getting too expensive.

    Whilst the weather is not as good as the South of Spain the landscape up North is dramatic, beautiful lakes and mountains, excellent food and probably Spain’s best kept secret. 😉

    Yes I agree totally – Navarra wines can be superb and seem to be relatively inexpensive. I have been warned though that the odd mediocre wine sometimes slips throught the net!
    I don’t see northern Spain being “discovered” by large numbers of Brits. It may have fantastic scenery, low crime, tasty pintxos and the best wine, but the climate will always put off most holidaymakers.

  • #108607
    Profile photo of Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Participant

    And for those who are partial to a spot of fly fishing …. there’s trout in ‘them there hills’ …. Rivers Irati and Urrobi.

  • #108637
    Profile photo of Chopera
    Chopera
    Participant

    I’ve never been to Navarra but have travelled through Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia, and they’re all beautiful. I’ve spent a long weekend in San Sebastian and while it is a very beautiful city, I found it a bit impersonal and lacking in character, and I have to admit I did got a bit bored of pintxos after a while (it seems to be the only type of tapa they have).

    I think you do get a fair few UK tourists passing through the north of Spain, it’s just that they don’t all congregate together in the same places and they might not be the sort that likes to return to the same place year after year. Also there’s not that much reason to buy a second home there – for not much more money you can buy somewhere in Cornwall, which for many is more accessible and certainly more familiar.

  • #108639
    Profile photo of DBMarcos99
    DBMarcos99
    Participant

    @chopera wrote:

    I’ve never been to Navarra but have travelled through Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia, and they’re all beautiful. I’ve spent a long weekend in San Sebastian and while it is a very beautiful city, I found it a bit impersonal and lacking in character, and I have to admit I did got a bit bored of pintxos after a while (it seems to be the only type of tapa they have).

    I think you do get a fair few UK tourists passing through the north of Spain, it’s just that they don’t all congregate together in the same places and they might not be the sort that likes to return to the same place year after year. Also there’s not that much reason to buy a second home there – for not much more money you can buy somewhere in Cornwall, which for many is more accessible and certainly more familiar.

    I agree that Cornwall is also a beautiful place, but I’d personally rate Navarra possibly higher now, based on what I saw. I certainly think you’d get more bang for your buck in Navarra and good quality built houses at that – prices are high in Cornwall, and I doubt you’d get a good glass of wine for 1.20. Not sure that Cornwall is more accessible for many – it’s a long drive down to Cornwall and in the summer it’s possible to get stuck in a 15 mile tailback some weekends. The drawback with driving from Bilbao to Navarra is having to fork out a few euros on the toll roads, but at least that means less congestion. I think the major obstacle to Brits is that few Brits (if any ) are based there. You can get by in English, but (apart from Yanks who are drawn by the Hemingway connection) you won’t bump into many native English speakers.
    I agree about the pintxos btw – my partner and I reverted to sharing a good racion or two, although we had an excellent menu one day in a workers transport cafe – knocks our transport cafes into the distance.

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