Navarra is one of the oldest of the kingdoms that make up Spain. It has a wonderful mix of history and nature, not to forget the food. Just before New Year, BLC spent a few cold days in a foggy Navarra to inspect the area and scout out the Bodegas.
Foz Arbayun is the biggest gorge in Navarra. A great introduction to the Spanish Pyrenees, it will stay on the itinerary, with some spectacular scenery and “buitres Leonado”.
The area is home to a number of monasteries and classic Romanic churches. Having looked at a number of these, a trip to the foothills of the Pyrenees led to a combination of the two. A night in the monastery of Leyre, known for its services with Gregorian chants. This will give the opportunity to listen to these in both an evening and a morning service.
The area also has unspoilt medieval hilltop towns such as Ujue with its beautiful church and views of the Pyrenees.
The plan is also to fit in a visit to Pamplona, famous for its bull running. Here you can follow the route the bulls take, or have a coffee in the cafe frequented by Hemingway. As always there is more, such as the fortifications and the bars with the typical pintxos.
And so to Olite. This was the main residence of the kings of Navarra. The palace is notable for the several towers. Apparently there are views. In December the fog hid these! With its small unspoilt medieval centre Olite is a pleasant place to pass the time. We investigated some Bodegas to find one for a tasting but even the losers in this competition have wines that are worth trying and can be found both in the town’s bars and restaurants as well as in the bodegas and their associated shops.
We don’t only think about wine! The nearby area of the Roncal Valley is famous for its cheese, Ujue is known for its caramelized almonds and we also found a seller of local honeys.
A visit to the Bardenas Reales, one of Spain’s deserts, showed it to be interesting but we will leave it for another trip as this won’t be the best time of year to visit.
Everything started a year ago…While we were in one of our enrichment activities in Spain our group of students asked for flamenco lessons back in Bedford!
Back home we contacted Claire, La Fresa Flamenca, and since then two groups of students have learnt this type of Spanish dance.
Last Saturday night, as a grand finale we offered a “ palma”workshop with tapas and paella. In this workshop we learnt different Spanish rhythms and after that we all danced sevillanas, that is a dance from Seville, in the South of Spain.
We had Timothy Pearson, our guitarist, and Claire Astbury, our flamenco teacher. Everyone had a fantastic time!
There were 25 of us who went to the talk about Katharine of Aragon given by Alison Weir.
I was not sure what to expect as Katharine has always seen the cause of religious separation from the Catholic world in England. Having heard a lot about Alison Weir but having never read her books, nor followed her on the media, I knew only that she was a well-known English historian.
What a talk!
Alison’s narration and story-telling techniques, as well as her deep knowledge about the early Tudor times transported us to the times of Kathari ne of Aragon. We learnt how tough this Spanish lady was and how ruthless Henry VIII was to her. She did not manage to meet her only living child, Mary, for the last years of her life.
Alison is very erudite on the subject of Henry VIII and her way of presenting the topic made me realise how much more I would like to learn about Katharine of Aragon. We are thinking of organising a tour where Alison can tell us more. Thank you to everyone who came on the trip and shared this experience with us.
Singing is a great way to learn a language and to meet others.
Working with María Fernandez Toro was such a joy and enrichment for everyone. Maria did a fantastic job with 28 of us and we sung in French, Italian, German, Spanish and English. Some of us were monolingual and very amateur singers, but we all were willing to try new things and the group worked very well.
Maria explained the meaning of the words and gave us directions about how to make sounds in different languages. So by the end of the two days workshop we felt far more confortable about singing in a different language. Please find few of our multilingual songs at our you tube channel.