Our journey south had gone well. Clara had performed magnificently, we’d not got too lost and we’d covered almost as many miles as we’d aimed for. Sat eating our freshly baked croissants just west of Dax, our thoughts were now turned to Espanna. The Misty Mountains lay in wait to the south and beyond that the vast scorched landscape of Spain. The land of sun, siestas & sangria. It was a land I’ve always felt particularly at home in. Tracy’s heart is still probably in France; she speaks the language and we’re both fairly familiar with all things French. As for me, my heart has always belonged south of the Misty Mountains. I prefer the climate, the relaxed almost comatose approach to life, the wine (of course), the food and the people. I just wish I could communicate with them a little better!!! Maybe one day?
With Clara packed & un-popped we were ready for the road pretty early. We’d even written a pre-launch check-list to save on any more roof-vent/levelling blocks/doors open mishaps (did I mention driving with the door open?). With a wave we left our second rather charming French campsite and went in search of those Misty Mountains. Our final destination today would be the tiny Spanish pueblo of Contamina. Roughly equidistant from Madrid and Zaragoza, the tiny town sits nestled in a vast barren Aragon landscape. Population of 42 at the last count. I can’t even remember seeing a quarter of that on our previous visit 😯 The town boasts a bar (of sorts), a church (compulsory in Spain I think), a tiny kids park (all the kids just play in the street) and not a lot else. The information sign also displays a knife & fork symbol, although I’m baffled as to why. I’m sure a local will kindly lend you some cutlery if you ask, but a café/restaurant? It must be pretty well hidden. Contamina is about as far removed from the English infested Costa coastal resorts as it’s possible to be. For years we’ve been on a quest to find some real Spain and last year we got lucky. Our stay had been brief and we’d not really explored too much, but we’d been taken in by quaint little Contamina and it’s friendly inhabitants (the few we’d seen). This year our stay in peaceful Contamina would be for a little longer.
I don’t intend on giving you a blow by account of our entire stay in Contamina. Firstly, because there were days when we did bugger all apart from splash about in a pool and uncork wine and secondly, because the enormity of the blog post would probably kill off the few readers I get to this site 😯 I’ll keep things as succinct as possible. Part 3 of this trilogy is another matter entirely and I’m promising absolutely nothing about the succinctness of that one!!!
With a little prior knowledge of Contamina we’d carefully planned our visit this year. Our imminent arrival into Aragon coincided with fiesta time. A lot of the nearby towns and cities would soon be awash with noise, colour, music, alcohol & a lot more noise. Unfortunately Contamina’s own little fiesta arrived a day after we were due to leave, but we simply couldn’t fit them all in. Maybe another time? As it turned out I think we only really scratched the surface with the fiestas. We accidentally bumped into a troupe of very pink clad musicians & revelers in a supermarket one day. The brass section kicked into gear and the troupe promptly followed us through the streets into Calatayud. The noisy troupe gradually losing members after every bar they passed. In Alhama de Aragon the band was a little more civilised, a lot more musical and less drawn to the crowded bars. By all accounts the festivities really kick off after dark. We didn’t do that bit.
If I’m being honest it wasn’t the fiestas that really made our stay so special in tiny Contamina. It was the people, the surroundings, and undoubtedly the wine. Unlike our previous visit we did explore a lot this time. We lunched in sleepy little towns, took a picnic in a Wild West looking ravine with vultures circling overhead and spent a good three hours in one of Aragon’s most amazing hidden gems. The Monasterio de Piedra is worth every Euro (and they do charge rather a lot). To borrow a quote from their own website, the Monasterio is ‘an excursion to one of the most remarkable natural curiosities in Europe.’ It truly is and at some point I will plaster my Flickr account with countless photos of this place.
The biggest wrench when when we eventually pulled away from Contamina was driving away from some very welcoming & lovely locals. People we’d met once before, for just one week. People who had no English, apart from a few who had a smattering and Joanna & Ivan (the owners) who lived next door. If there’s an adjective for less than a smattering then that’s what we had of Spanish and we only just had that. Yet all of this didn’t seem to matter. For two weeks we felt very much a part of peaceful little Contamina, and as our departure day drew nearer relatives & friends began to descend upon the tiny pueblo (I’m still not convinced we counted 42 people though!!!). For a few days sleepy little Contamina was alive. We actually saw people in the bar and the street (there is really only one!!!) was now a children’s playground. Suddenly Sawyer was in big demand. Did he want to play football? Did he want to come on a bike ride? Did he want to go out for the day? We had a knock on our door at 11.45 one night. Outside stood grandma, mum and two little kids (about Sawyer’s age). Did Sawyer want to come out and play? I felt embarrassed to admit that Sawyer was in bed (at almost midnight!!!).
Contamina is not remotely touristy. Apart from Ivan, we didn’t encounter a single English person on our entire stay in Spain. Even our one touristy trip to Monasterio de Piedra was English free. Contamina is typically Spanish, it’s a little tapas sized bite of rural Spain. Maybe not a full blown paella. More akin to a little bowl of padrón peppers. Either way, it’s a taste we like and it was a big shame to leave it behind, especially when you read part 3 of this trilogy 😯 I’m fairly confident we haven’t seen the last of el pequeño pueblo tranquilo. We’ll pay the little town another visit soon I’m sure. We’ll also endeavor to improve on our tiny smattering of Spanish.
To be continued…
*If you ever fancy sampling a taste of rural Spain – Alto Jalon, Contamina*
*If you ever fancy reading about life in rural Spain – Gone to Aragon*