Saturday, September 30, 2017


Stepping out of my hotel for a little "paseo", I couldn't stop taking photos. The second one is my home for the night. There is one in the middle specially for Claire (maybe 2!)

Mushrooms w fois gras
Roast suckling pig


On Friday night the town of Elciego was dead.  There were only two restaurants and both opened at 8.30pm: too late for me, so I went back to the Casa Rural Rojanda and prepared a mushroom cup-a-soup from my emergency rations. 

The next morning was dull and misty and there had been a shower before I got up. The way to Laguardia was on a quiet country road (no Camino tracks here) and mostly uphill for 6 kms. This is the Rioja wine country, with grape vines as far as the eye can see, now turning red and brown in their Autumn colours. I saw a group of pickers arrive in 3 white vans to start work at 9.00 am. The grapes are put in a cart on the back of a tractor. It is lined with a yellow tarpaulin in my photo. The load goes straight to the crusher in town.

Laguardia is another hill town and it took me some time to climb up there and locate the Hospederia de Los Parajes. This is my Saturday night splurge! (Booked weeks ago). The town is full of tourists who've come for the weekend. Everything is about the wine, even the toiletries claim to be made from the stuff!

The hotel has a wine cellar, two floors below ground, where I had a late lunch of goats cheese salad. One glass of wine was on the house. I sampled some Verdejo and some AlbariƱo. Both were delicious! Then a siesta was called for!

Elciego on Friday night

Elciego church at sunset

Workers starting to pick grapes on Saturday morning

Approaching Laguardia 

Hospederia toiletries containing wine!

Looking down at the internal stairwell from my room on the 4th floor

Down in the wine cellar, looking up at the ceiling 

Wine cellar menu

Friday, September 29, 2017


On the agenda today: a visit to Elciego and the Marques de Riscal Bodega.  I drink their basic red wine "Proximo" all the time at home, so I've been wanting to come here for some time.

I left Viana on the 9.00 am bus (no walking today!) and the 10.00 am bus from Logrono to Elciego. It was a lovely drive through several small village on a winding route through the Rioja vineyards. I was the only one doing the trip, as I'd left behind all the pilgrims on the Camino. Cost of the fare: €1.60. Cost of Winery Tour: €12.00 for 1.50 hours.

I knew that there was a tour in English at 12.00 so I had plenty of time to have a snack in the cafeteria first. Lots of goodies in the gift shop were tempting but out of the question for a weight conscious pilgrim! ( Eg Riscal Rueda Verdejo half bot €4.15)

The busiest time in the winery is now. Picking has started. The workers are mostly Portuguese.

Oak barrels for are used for storage, French oak for oldest wine and American oak for the rest. There are 140,000 bottles in the oldest cellar which was featured in a YouTube video, with bottles stored by year, representing each vintage.  VIP visitors receive a bottle from their birth year.

 There are 4 million bottles in storage in big square crates in a new cellar below the hotel, ready for shipping all over the world. The Frank Gehry designed building in titanium is similar to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and shines in the sunlight: an amazing sight in the traditional Spanish countryside. I would like to have stayed there but it's a bit beyond my budget!

View from my window at the Palacio at 8.30 am

Marquez de Riscal Hotel

Tour of the Winery

Reserve wine maturing in oak barrels 

Older vintages behind lock and key

Newer wine maturing in bottles stored on crates


This is what we tried 

Elciego Church from the Winery back gate

Winery gift shop

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Well-heeled Pilgrims can stay in a palace if they want to. See:

I woke up early today and left Los Arcos at 7.00 am in the dark. There were 2 people ahead of me with torches and one behind with a headlight, so I was OK. The track was wide and straight and the sky began to lighten after half an hour, with sunrise at 8.00 am.

It was quite overcast all morning: 14 degrees on leaving Los Arcos and 21 degrees entering Viana at 1.00 pm. Without my backpack I could achieve a reasonable pace, with fewer stops and fewer people asking if I was OK.

At Sansol a new Albergue was serving breakfast and doing a roaring trade. Then it was Torres del Rio, famous for its hexagonal church. I got someone to take my photo outside; I was there 4 years ago. Some people were phoning up the person with the key, but I didn't want to get chilled waiting around.  

Finally, Viana came in sight. Four American women were coming in the wrong direction. They told me they had met on the Camino ten years ago and were walking backwards from Burgos to Pamplona to celebrate the anniversary.

I stopped for a beer and a piece of tortilla on the outskirts of town, but I was keen to reach the Palace, my destination! It is a lovely hotel, done up in traditional style throughout like a mini Parador. Every day on the Camino should end like this!

On the road to Sansol

Torres del Rio

Outside the church of San Sepulchro 

Pilgrims love to construct piles of stones 

Alto del Virgen del Poyo

Looking out to Logrono

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Los Arcos

The weather in Estella was very cold when I left the Albergue: only 9 degrees. By lunchtime it had warmed up to 22. For me this was a "rest day", but I still managed to do more than 10,000 steps just walking around. 

The bus to Los Arcos took less than half an hour to do the 18 kms, which would have taken me all day. When I arrived at Pension Mavi it was closed up, but someone in the nearby bar was kind enough to call up the owner to let me in.

After a siesta and shower, I went along to the main square for a beer and a visit to the Church of Santa Maria. This is an overly decorated Baroque Church, not to my taste at all, but I was there at exactly the right time of day to see the minor miracle! At 6.45 pm, a beam of sunlight comes through a west window and shines on the Virgin Mary above the altar.

I had a Pilgrims Dinner at Restaurant Mavi: mixed salad, chicken w chips and dessert for €12.  Early to bed in preparation for long walk to Viana tomorrow.

Church of Santa Maria in Los Arcos

Santa Maria in the evening sun


Estella cont.

I decided to send my backpack on to Los Arcos with Jacotrans, which enabled me to spend the morning sightseeing in Estella. First, I went to the bus station to book the 2.30 pm bus to Los Arcos. Unfortunately this means I miss the Irache wine fountain, where free wine trickles out of a tap to help pilgrims on their way!

I was keen to visit the Palacio of the  kings of Navarre, a rare example of 12th century domestic architecture.   Inside was a bit disappointing, since it has been converted into an art gallery. Most of what there is to see is evident from the outside.

Across the road is the Church of San Pedro de la Rua, an unusual 11th century fortified church, with a striking bell tower. The Cloister is one of the best examples of Romanesque sculpture in Navarre dating from 1170. It has a set of twisted columns, the same as in the cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos which I will be visiting later I hope.

The lady in Tourist Information advised me to go up to the old Jewish area, next to the Castle which was blown up in 1572 and some of the debris fell down and damaged part of the cloister of San Pedro. The former synagogue was converted to a church which became Sants Maria Jus del Castillo. It now contains a Romanesque interpretation centre with a model of the town before the destruction of the castle.