Even Ernest Hemingway in "The Sun Also Rises", describing events and places
of 90 years ago in precisely this area of the world
said that France seemed more "suburban" than Spain. I've seen pictures of the Costa de Sol and I know that "suburban" definitely applies there.
But here in this part of Navarre widespread commercial development has still not hit.
There are a few extremely new shops on the border selling goods that the French
come to purchase at cheaper prices than in their own country.
But you will not find the big-box stores, the hyper-marches, billboards, music blaring
out of speakers everywhere, vast parking lots, CCTV cameras, generic Chinese-made goods.
Instead, life is lived closer to the earth, as it has been for centuries.
Things are still made by hand, or very nearly so.
Roads are not straight, but they meander - according to the contours of the mountains or following the turnings of a stream.
Everything is still mostly made "for the ages".
The structures seem to be deeply rooted in the earth and immoveable.
Indifferent to change's buffeting winds.
This is a good thing for any visitor who craves tranquility, a sense of life lived in common
with others, and continuity....the sense of knowing where you've been - and the reassurance that
where you're going might look quite similar to what you've left behind.
It's a place to move gently and quietly through. Almost reverentially.
To sit often and look around oneself.
A place to seek comfort or simply, rest.
To be fed generously - as Hemingway describes, the Spanish dine copiously compared to
To breathe in lots of clean air. And plan a long walk. For when the rain stops. There will be calories to walk off.