Trying to keep up with the blog while walking the Camino de Santiago has been challenging. The typical day is to put in the miles, get to our Albergue (hostel), hand wash our laundry, write in our journals over beers, eat dinner, and go to bed. We’ve also been meeting amazing people along the way, so there’s socializing as well.
Squeezing in time to blog has been a fail on my part. But since starting the adventure, I’ve received many nice comments, texts, and emails from friends, family, and even strangers who are enjoying reading my posts. So I am committed to keep ’em coming … even if they are infrequent.
In effort to catch up, here’s my recap of 4 days on the Camino: 2 walking and 2 rest ones in Logroño for their annual Harvest Fiesta.
Estella to Los Arcos
When researching the Camino, J’Nell and I read about so many interesting things we needed to seek out during our 500 mile walk. One that particularly piqued our interest was the Irache Wine Fountain in Ayegui. While it might sound like a myth or fairytale, I can indeed report there is a fountain open to the public in Spain that dispenses wine free of charge.
We heard that sometimes it isn’t running, and when we arrived around 9:30 am with nobody else there I was a bit worried. J’Nell was the first to test it (we used these little juice containers we bought in Estella), and, hallelujah, there was vino flowing. It was tasty rosé and a good morning pick-me-up; we capped-up what we didn’t finish and put it in the side of our packs for later.
After continuing our hike we eventually reached a higher vantage point and we could see the sheer cliffs off in the distance we viewed yesterday, and also a concial hill we were heading towards. The mountain is called Monjardin, and there are ruins of a castle on top (St. Esteban). Getting closer as we ascended, the moon was rising just to its right and it was magical.
After stopping for a rest and and an ice cream at Villamayor de Monjardín, we would then descend into the valley past vineyards, olive trees, and asparagus & squash plants. When you turned around, you could see the mountains and castle ruins receding, but they were still imposing. It had to be in the mid 80s with no shade and we were getting weary, but luckily got a 2nd wind when in the middle of nowhere we passed the woman playing the accordian under the tree. A special moment.
There would be another wonderful surprise later that day as we continued in the heat through the dirt trail with no shade or town in sight. We figured we were still about 1.5 hours to Los Arcos when we spotted the mobile cafe with covered seating. I got a beer and J’Nell a local orange soda, and our rest gave us enough energy to trek to our destination. We showered and hand washed our clothes after checking into the first place we found that had availability, and then toured the beautiful Los Arcos church and had some drinks and dinner in the town square.
Wine Fountain is flowing!
Moon rising next to the castle ruins at Monjardin
Los Arcos to Logroño
This day would be the longest distance we’d walked (around 18 miles) and my feet were throbbing by the end of it. Thankfully there was plenty of cloud cover and breezes to mitigate the heat, and we got (what for us was) an early start at 7:45 am. If we left later and it was hotter, I’m not sure how we could have made it that far to
Though very difficult, we were treated to some outstanding sights during the hike that day. The first was in Torres del Rio where we got to see the unique 12th Century octagonal Iglesia del Santo Sepulcro, which likely was built by the Knights Templar as a connection to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Its a very small church, but one of the most special I’ve stepped inside.
The next to note was, after a good climb, the sweeping and gorgeous views of the Navarra Region (where we’d been but would soon be leaving for Rioja). And my third favorite part of the day would be the lovely 800-year-old hilltop town of Viana. The cathedral was closed for renovation, but the facade was outstanding, the square charming, and as we were very hungry, we’d end up getting a 3 course lunch with wine. Probably not our best decision with a couple more hours to walk, but it was very tasty.
After checking out the cool ruins of San Pedro (13th century, destroyed in the 19th), we left Viana and set out in the late afternoon for Logroño. Other than 2 bikers we chatted with, we didn’t seen any other pilgrims the whole way there. We figured lots stayed in Viana, and the ones who went to Logroño left much earlier in the day.
We would spend 3 nights in Logroño and fully enjoy the wine harvest fiesta we were lucky to be there for. While so much fun, it was strange to be around thousands of people partying after the solitude of the Camino. On Friday evening when we arrived, with all the music and food and crowds and drinking, it was like stepping into the pages of The Sun Also Rises (swapping Logroño for Pamplona).
During our time there we would be absorbed by the fiesta and have an amazing time. But in addition to the wine tasting and partying, we did visit the terrific churches in town and enjoy the historic areas and cultural aspects. We also chatted with lots of truly wonderful locals who were proud to share their festival with us visitors.
Knights Templar (probably) Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro