Well – dinner last night was a bust; no vegetarian entree, so I skipped that. Had the Emparador with vegie for a main – fish was overcooked and greasy, the vegies mush – and the dessert was a creme caramel – must have been a week old. And they charged me for a glass of wine. If you’re travelling this way, Utrillas is a place to stop at briefly, then move on. The room was OK, but the wifi dodgy – and every time you lost connection, you had to go downstairs to log on to the main server…
And breakfast; served to me – one croissant, one small cake, one cup of coffee, and fake OJ. The radio was at full volume, ditto the TV. If you view my trip as a living thing, I’ve just found it’s arsehole…… The Hotel Villa de Utrillas rates itself as three stars. I’d struggle to give it two. The room and en suite were OK, but the rest (though the staff were good) was way below par, given the general standard I’ve met in Spain.
Back to my room, which overlooks the local primary school, and i awoke to the sounds of children and parent (mostly mums, though there were one or two dads) gathering at the gate, which didn’t open till 9:00 am, when a tocsin sounded. Showered, got my bike gear on, and hit the road around 9:30 am. Cool, almost to the point where I needed a jumper, but the sky was clear, and I knew I’d warm up quickly.
Which I did. A rapid drop through town on the N-420 to a roundabout, then a long, slow grind on the A-222; uphill, just spinning in granny. The climb ended at La Hoz de la vieja,
which I translated as Gran’s house – probably very badly – it’s a crack in a valley, houses built into the cliff face, with a mediaeval castle lurking above. A very picturesque, but dying town, again; half the places were boarded up, or looking abandoned.
Then a long, cruisy section up in the high country, up and down a bit, but nothing too arduous, and long sections of just not pedaling, cycling along gentle downhills at around 25 Km an hour.
Then, around a corner, a fantastic vista – Banjo said it best – “I saw the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended” – a long steady drop onto the plain. Glorious views, and no pedaling until Lecera.
I had about thirteen Km to go to Belchite, and was averaging 25 Km an hour as I approached Lecera; then it all turned to custard. A headwind sprang up, gusting at me, and very, very strong; it blew me from one side of the road to the other, nearly knocking me off my bike. No traffic, so I didn’t get squashed, luckily. I slowed to a crawl, struggling to keep on the verge – traffic on one side, a couple of metres fall on the other. I eventually made Belchite, stopping to take a couple of pictures at the ruined seminary just before the town.
I turned off the A-222 into Belchite new town, and found the hotel – as it’s council run, it was shut between 1:00pm and 5:00pm – it was just on 3:00pm as I got there, so I stopped at a nearby bar, had a toasted cheese sandwich and a beer, and waited. The receptionist finally opened up the Hotel Oleum at 5:30, and I booked in. Fabulous place – big rooms, great bathroom, good wifi. No dinner, but there are a couple of restaurants in town, and breakfast is provided. I’d recommend it if you’re in the area.
I booked in for two nights.
Belchite was on the frontline during the Spanish Civil war; for nearly a year the place was besieged, and blown to buggery and back. At the end, when the Fascists under Franco finally claimed it, they built a new Belchite beside the old, and just left the old as a reminder of war; all they did was remove the corpses. So Belchite old town is an amazing legacy of the stupidity of war. Well worth visiting. Here’s one web resource to start you off:
Places like this fascinate me way more than the ancient ruins in Athens. They strike me in a place that I see as relevant, almost current; a reminder of how absofuckinglutely dumb we are, fighting pointless wars, killing and maiming many, many thousands, all to no purpose when looked back at in 30-50 years time.
Dinner was at the same cafe/restaurant I ate while waiting for the hotel to open. Seafood paella, followed by Emparador and a green salad. Utrillas should send their cooks here to learn. A great meal. I’ll eat here tomorrow night, too.
I’m the only person in the hotel. Freaky. And, given its historical importance, astonishing. People should be queueing to get here.
See you down the road.