This turned out to be a bit of a day for humility! It contained some miserable lows, but some very unexpected good stuff, too. It was a day when we, in different ways, all had to confront hard things and unwelcome truths – and find the strength to go on, even if that also meant admitting that we weren’t going to be able to stick to the original plan exactly….
The day got off to a slightly gloomy start. Parochial refugio tend to be ruthless about chucking you out as close to seven as they can. Now, in Spain, in September, that means before it’s light enough to cycle…
However, we were able to have coffee and toast – and to admire the pilgrim art/ graffiti – before discovering the old part of town, which we’d completely missed the night before, and having a sustaining orange juice and tortilla (a remarkably good cycling breakfast, incidentally).
In the refugio…
Church of San Miguel, near the refugio
Palace of the kings of Navarre.
Detail on palace
Not far outside Estella you find Irache, where there is the famous wine fountain. It was originally established by hospitable Benedictines, and is continued by the local vintners. Sadly it was far too early in the day for a proper drink, but we had to sample it, and it’s not bad wine at all! Amusingly, a vending machine nearby sells tinned crackers, pate, and asparagus, so you could have a very civilised tapas or picnic lunch…
The vinyard’s website has more information- and a webcam.
Once passed Irache, the route became hilly again:
The distant cliffs were impressive.
The striking conical hill of Monjardin, crowned with a ruined castle.
The little town of Villamajor de Monjardin – and its vinyards!
We made it into Los Arcos, a fine old town, for lunch in the main square, by St Mary’s parish church.
Despite the moody sky, it stayed dry while we drank coke and Kas Limon and ate patatas bravas and ham sandwiches…
The town gate and St Mary’s church
The choir gallery had a particularly gruesome depiction of St Roch, a patron of pilgrims, reportedly cured of plague by friendly dogs licking his sores.
Baroque splendour in St Mary’s.
After lunch we headed into Logroño- it quickly became quite flat, but also very dull and dusty. We spent much of this stage wondering when we would actually cross the border into La Rioja…
Logroño cathedral, a rather grim building. The smudges of black are from where local left-wingers throw paint at the decidedly fawning inscription to Franco.
Leaving Logroño was harder than expected – we started off on a good cycle path up to a reservoir:
We should have been able to get on to the N120, but the road was marked as closed. So we carried on up the pedestrian path, which brought us to a fence where pilgrims traditionally make and leave crosses. So we did too, and said a prayer.
The rest of the road towards Navarrete was somewhat dull, though it did have this splendid roadside billboard:
When we got to Navarrete, we were faced with a choice, to go on or stay put. We probably could have gone on – but acknowledged that we needed a decent rest. As we came into the village, an old man stopped us and, as far as we could tell, asked if we were pilgrims, and told us that we must see the church’s altar. That decided us, so we stopped, even though it meant staying behind our target. We checked into a delightful, if eccentrically decorated Pension Peregrinado, had our washing done, and went to the pilgrim mass and blessing at the parish church. After the mass, the priest called us into the sacristy, where he showed us the impressive collection of plate – and a breathtaking altarpiece depicting Our Lady by Ambrosius Benson.
Totally unexpected. After leaving our names on the prayer board, and heading off for one of the best meals we had on the Camino, we were left reflecting on unexpected graces, and the fact that we’d have missed the experience altogether had we been determined to stick to the plan. Food for reflection…
The day was the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows – hence the image.