Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Santo Domingo to Viloria de la Rioja (14 Kms). 13 May

Pilgrim monument outside the Parador Bernardo de Fresneda

Bridge going out of Sto. Domingo

I didn’t leave town till 8.30 a.m., as I wanted to enjoy the final Parador breakfast. It was a perfect morning: quite crisp, but a cloudless blue sky and sun shining on the mountain peaks on both sides as we crossed the bridge out of town, a little snow still visible on the highest ones. Today’s 14 kms did not appear to be too demanding, and I felt relaxed now that I was sure of a bed in my chosen private Albergue, which I had booked over the phone.

I stopped for a picnic lunch at Redecilla del Camino and chatted to a man in a Prius, telling him I had the same car at home. It was warm and sunny so I had a mini siesta on a park bench. The small town was very quiet. I went into the church and took a photo of a 12th century baptismal font.

I arrived here at the Albergue of Acacio and Orietta with its Brazilian connections, at about 2.00 p.m., had a shower and did a bit of washing since it was such a good drying day. Everyone was fighting for space on the 2 clothes airers out in the sun. Inside a wood burning stove had already been lit, so they must be expecting a cold night. Here it is a mere €5 for a bed in a 10-bed dorm, with a suggested €10 donation for dinner and breakfast.

Dinner was leek and potato soup, bean stew (with tiny bits of chorizo in it and thick with lentils, and a bought-in chocolate dessert. The other guests were either Brazilian or French, so it was difficult to have a good conversation with any of them. It appeared that the writer Paul Coelho was somehow a sponsor of the Albergue, as they were selling his books and there was a wall hanging of knitted hearts by Paul’s wife. It was very cosy in the evening with the wood fire going. The stove actually burned tiny pellets of compressed wood, and needed no attention all evening as every so often a few more would shoot down into the fire.

Breakfast was not so hot, just coffee, bread and jam and a hard boiled egg. I slept well in the 10-man dorm. It was absolutely pitch black in the middle of the night when I got up to go to the loo! I had to feel the way back to my bed. Everyone had to be out by 8.00 a.m. Orietta said I was carrying too much: 6 or 7 kilos would be enough for me, she said! Orietta is Italian and said she and Acacio had met on the Camino and decided to stay.

Motto on their wall: “Tourists demand; pilgrims ask”.

Sketch of the Albergue done by a pilgrim

My photo of the Albergue. Which one is nicer?

Redecilla del Camino

 Coat of arms on the wall of a house

12th century baptismal font

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Santo Domingo. 12 May

Santo Domingo festival procession

My bed in the Parador

I decided to stay an extra night in Santo Domingo and use the Sunday (Mothers Day) for a well-earned rest in the Parador. I enjoyed a good breakfast and then a laze in my nice warm room. I ventured into town at 11.00 a.m. It was still freezing. I wore hat and gloves and lots of layers. I caught the end of the Cistercian Nuns’ Singing Mass, had a coffee and then emerging from the bar, I found the procession starting for the Sto. Domingo festivities. There were incense swingers, boys dancing, brass band and finally the statue of the Saint himself and the chickens of the legend being paraded through the town. All the locals were dressed up to the nines, as if attending a wedding. I took lots of photos. The police contingent, also in Sunday best uniforms, were trying to keep people away from the procession route along the narrow main street. It was a wonderful chance opportunity to be in Sto. Domingo on this feast day.

Sitting in the sunny cloister back at my own Parador in the late afternoon, I met Carol Damm who described her quilting and dyeing projects in her granddaughter’s school in the U.S. and showed me photos of these on her iPhone. She had spent last night in the Cistercian Nuns’ Albergue in rather cramped one star conditions, and had now moved to the four star Parador as a Mothers Day treat to herself! She had contrasting photos of the two sets of accommodation.

Then, we went back to the main Parador for dinner: Cannelloni stuffed with spinach and salmon, Merluza en Papillote with leek and green asparagus, Agua con gas and David Moreno blanco. There were complimentary appetisers of soup in a shot glass, pate and hummus on the side. The wait staff were walking around the dining room very fast and the service extremely efficient.

Merluza en papillote
Dining room in the Parador

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Najera to Santo Domingo (21 Kms). 11 May

Only 571 Kms to go!

Another extremely cold day. Could this really be Spain in the middle of May? After one and a half hours, I arrived in Azofra to a warm welcoming cafeteria for a café con leche and a chocolate croissant. The long days walk through fields of wheat and rows of vines was not really hard going, but the 21 kms seemed long, especially with insipient blisters coming. The sun came out in the afternoon which was nice after all the low cloud. I met Wendy from London at a rest area and walked with her for the last 5 kms into Sto Domingo. We passed through the suburb of Ciruena, which now has the nickname Sevende (for sale!), due to rows and rows of new houses which have never sold because of the recession.

Wendy was going to stay at the Albergue of the Cistercian Nuns, so I left her to walk another 600 m. to the far end of town where I had a booking at the second Parador in Sto .Domingo (Parador De Bernado de Fresneda, a new addition to the Parador chain). Years ago, I had stayed at the main Parador in the town centre, but they did not answer the phone when I attempted to book this time round. I later realised that by chance I had arrived for the fiesta weekend, so there were a lot of people in town.

After a hot bath and a long lie down, I went out late-ish into town, i.e. at 6.45 p.m. I was sitting down in the lounge of the main Parador when I met Maria and Ian, 2 Brits who have a property near Alicante. They had been walking the Camino for just a week, and I had dined with them and a group of pilgrims in Navarette two nights ago. A neighbour of theirs had come to pick them up from Sto. Domingo in his car. He was from Nottingham and had a house in their village in Spain. He was enjoying speaking Spanish, drinking the best wines and staying in as many Paradors as he could. He was about to go on a cruise to Rio, he said. What a life! He had gone to learn Spainsh at uni on his retirement. I enjoyed dinner with them (verduras, cordero asado & vino tinto de la casa for €40) in the busy Parador dining room which opened at 8.45 p.m.

Back in my own Parador, the festivities in town were getting louder, even at my end of town. I was unable to get to sleep, even with earplugs, and eventually had to go down to Reception to ask for a room overlooking the internal courtyard. This was a “superior room" with a separate lounge area, so I was able to sleep beautifully at last!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Navarette to Najera (17 Kms) 10 May

Monastery of Santa Maria de la Real in Najera

A very cold day. I noticed it had only reached 14 ° on entering Najera at lunchtime. I stood on the bridge over the river for a while, to get my bearings. The town was busy and the hotels were full, including my chosen 4 star one! (Duques de Najera). My second choice (San Fernando) had closed down. I had to settle for a dorm in the attic of the Ciudad de Najera, poor value with 9 beds and one bathroom: €20 with sheets, towels and dormer style windows in the roof. The hotel appeared to have private rooms on several floors, which did not seem to be in use, for some reason. Many of the town’s visitors seem to have come by car i.e. not walking the Camino. I got no real siesta because of 3 Germans chatting. The remaining beds were reserved for a group of cyclists.

Outside it was even colder. I found the prime historic site of the town, the Monastery of Sta. Maria de la Real, with many royal tombs, including the 18 year old Bianca of Navarre, who died in childbirth in 1134. There were also said to be interesting choir stalls with pilgrim motifs carved into the seats, but I couldn’t find these.

Inside the royal Pantheon

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Viana to Navarette (13 Kms). 9 May

Inside the ruins of San Pedro, Viana

I was up early for a quick breakfast in the hotel dining room, including a fried egg and little sausages. I decided to avoid walking through 9 kms of boring industrial suburbs of Logrono, by taking the 8.20 a.m. bus into town. It proved to be a lovely comfy ride! The bus dropped me off near the Cathedral, from where I was able to quickly re-orientate myself and pick up the Camino. Inside the Cathedral, I saw another pilgrim sitting and contemplating his surroundings: he was the 80-some year old from Berlin, whom I’d seen 2 days ago walking at snails pace. How come he had managed to overtake me?

Walking out of town on a new long concrete pathway, I met loads of keep-fit Logrono ladies coming back from their morning walk. Then, I crossed over the embankment wall of a big reservoir where all the men were fishing. After a quick coffee there, I noticed it was coming onto rain, falling more and more heavily for about 2 hours. I got soaked, having failed to put on my backpack cover, which I had been unable to locate quickly. It is quite miserable walking through a never-ending downpour, as I had learnt on my training trek in Tasmania in March. I didn’t take a single photo on this stage of the Camino.

On arriving in Navarette, I again checked into the best hotel in town: the Rey Sancho (€50). It appeared dead, as if the town’s action was elsewhere. I got out of my wet clothes and turned on the heating to dry everything, then went in search of a bar. I saw 2 other ladies, pilgrims I had seen before, consuming big bowls of garlic soup. Perfect for such a poor day! The landlord showed me his dining room and encouraged me to return for dinner at 7.00 p.m. (At least he was clued up as to pilgrims’ desired eating times!) I am now suffering from a bad cold which is threatening to get the better of me. I found a public library again for internet access and a sit down, amidst kids doing their homework.
At 7.00 p.m., I enjoyed an excellent pilgrims meal: vegetable soup; “special of the day” peppers stuffed with prawns served in a sauce of squids ink & rice; fresh pineapple for dessert.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Los Arcos to Viana (19 kms) 8 May

Leaving Los Arcos at the crack of dawn

I am now installed in the Palacio de Pujadas, a haven of luxury “at the top end of the market and top end of town” (literally), but only €50 for a beautiful room overlooking the ruins of San Pedro. It is a restored former stately home, a bit like a small Parador. 9 kms short of Logrono. I have done about 19 kms today, so I am making good time on the Camino.

One tiny blister has appeared in spite of Claire’s excellent socks. I have just filled up the bath with bubbles, flung in all my clothes and jumped in myself! Bliss! The room is in Spanish style; in fact, the whole hotel is beautifully renovated.

It was another good day for walking, with total cloud cover. There were lots of wildflowers again, including many orchids, but European orchids are very smtall so you need to be observant. Poppies were everywhere and rows of grapevines just shooting. En route, I visited another octagonal church at Torres del Rio, very similar to the one at Eunate.

Santo Sepulchro Church at Torres del Rio

I had a look round the San Pedro ruins: a 13th century fortified church, partially destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. On the other side is a terrace with fantastic views of Logrono and the Ebro Valley. The guide book tells me that Viana was a major pilgrim halt in the 15th century, and was also noteworthy because Cesare Borgia died there defending Viana in the siege of 1507.