Today we visited Arantzazu, not far in distance but high up in the foothills of the Pyrenees. A huge sanctuary was built here, whose church houses a statue of the Virgin Mary, discovered by a shepherd in 1458. It’s an impressive edifice, though it’s exterior is a little brutal in style. I was in a very grumpy mood but I think the tranquility of the church interior helped lift it.
The manager of our hotel, recommended we also visit the shepherds school (one of only two world wide). Access to this was by a path which took us along the mountain slope, a 4km plus walk. The path has been adapted for the blind and partially sighted, with information about the local flora and fauna both in braille and raised pictograms. There’s a sturdy rail on one side and a raised line down the middle of the path so you could easily keep to one side.
We reached the shepherds school (no shepherds in residence today, classes are October to February) and there’s also a small shop where we sampled some cheese. We asked to see the animals and were shown into a huge barn where the herd of sheep were being kept until the next day, when they were being let out to pasture. It was very smelly in there and conditions didn’t seem the best..
We hiked back along the path to the Sanctuary, somewhat more quickly than we’d completed the outward leg. We drove back to the hotel (again getting lost in Onati) and will rest our little used calves before limping down to the restaurant. Tomorrow we hope to have a gastronomic and architectural experience……