Archive | September, 2012

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El Camino: Day 11 (Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado)

Posted on 24 September 2012 by christie

Cat in the window

Even “los gatos” are staying inside away from the vicious winds

The strong 25mph headwinds made today’s 22 kilometer trek to Belorado quite challenging. We felt as if we were carrying extra weight fighting against the violent winds pushing us back to Santo Domingo. We plowed through 7 km’s to Grañon, the last village in the beautiful Rioja wine region. Bar Teo, the only town bar, served up great breakfast egg sandwiches and espresso coffees. Leaving the bar we noticed “Panaderia Jesus”, and took a photo. A Spanish pilgrim walked out and told us we had to try some of the delicious cookies. We wound up buying a few chocolate cookies with nuts for the remaining long windy 16km walk ahead.

Castile y Leòn

Entering the dry plains of Castile y Leòn

A few kilometers after Grañon, we reached the border crossing into the Castile y Leòn region. No more vineyards….. just dry open farmland ahead. Supposedly, Castile got its name from the numerous castles build in the region during the Reconquista. Hopefully some castle ruins remain for us to see along the way. In the next 12 km’s, we passed through three small villages; Redecilla del Camino, Viloria de la Rioja and Vilamayor del Rio. They are equally 4 km’s apart from each other, which was a pleasant way to break up the monotonous walk through dry farmland. And! I spotted a few cute cats along the way! Continue Reading

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El Camino: Day 10 (Nàjera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

Posted on 23 September 2012 by christie

Green Friend

Our little wiggly green friend on the Camino Road

Albeit last night’s loud sleepless party village of Nàjera, we arose early to start walking at 8:00 to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. This seems early for us, however the majority of pilgrims are gone just before sunrise at 7:15. Some wish to escape the midday heat while others are racing to the next destination to secure a bed for the night. We’ve been booking private accommodations well in advance, feeling no need to rush in the morning. We have even heard there are pilgrims up and out at 5:00. The later departure works out better as we can enjoy ourselves by stopping in each village or pretty site along the way…… confident that we have a comfortable place to rest our heads at night.

More Rioja Vines

Our last day walking through the stunning Rioja

Today was a particularly easy and peaceful day, with evenly split up village stops. The initial ascent and descent out of Nàjera was a great way to get our blood pumping. Over the mountain down the hill led us to an endless land of more Rioja vineyards. This would be the last day through the Rioja region, as tomorrow’s walk to Belorado would lead us into the dry lands of Castille & Leon. After a brisk 6km walk we took a breakfast and coffee break in Azofra, a village with less than 350 inhabitants. Continue Reading

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El Camino: Day 9 (Logroño to Nàjera)

Posted on 22 September 2012 by christie

Rioja Wine Region

Holy grapes and vineyards of the Rioja, Spain’s wine capital

The magnitude of vineyards became very apparent as we left the city limits of Logroño. We were definitely in the famous La Rioja region, Spain’s wine capital. Luckily, we were able to sample plenty of delicious Rioja wine during the San Mateo Festival in Logroño. Spain is where my love of red wine began and it’s still as delicious and plentiful as ever. We cannot figure out how Spanish wine is so cheap, but great. When you order a “menu del dia” for 10 euros, they give you an entire bottle of wine included in the meal. Spaniards expect to pay only $4 for a good bottle of wine and just a bit more for a Crianza (Reserve). It’s crazy after coming from a culture where a decent bottle of wine costs at the very least $20. Some of the best and most expensive Californian wines are easily comparable to a $15-$20 bottle of Spanish wine. With all the amazing and cheap supply of wine floating around, it’s certainly hard to pass this indulgence up each night after a long day of walking.

Navarette pottery town

Navarette pottery town

Happily snacking on plump grapes, we meandered through 12 kilometers of vineyards until reaching the tiny pottery village of Navarrete. The town didn’t have much going on, besides the 16th century Asunción Church and a few red clay pottery shops. Brett was hoping to find some pottery, but the prospect of carrying it on the Camino made it impossible to buy. Just outside of the town are ruins of the old Antiguo Hospital de Perigrinos (pilgrims) “San Juan de Acre”. Next to the ruins is a large scale winery facility called Don Jacobo Winery. It was very early in the morning, so unfortunately we weren’t able to visit for a tasting. We grabbed a quick tortilla sandwich in town and continued on our way to Nàjera. Continue Reading

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El Camino: Day 7-8 (Los Arcos & Logrono Festival)

Posted on 20 September 2012 by brett

Leaving ealry 7am

Leaving bright and early 7am for Logroño

We set out on El Camino while the sky was still black. Christie led the way with her headlamp. We planned to have plenty of time for the 29km walk from Los Arcos to Logrono. This day, we moved from the Navarra to the La Rioja wine region. In Logrono, the annual San Mateo Festival (Wine Harvest) was in full swing. My knee tendonitis was severe, so the extra days’ rest was to be a huge bonus. It was nice to get a head start on the long day ahead. We couldn’t believe how many other pilgrims set out so early in the morning. The hardcore pilgrims race to each destination to ensure ccomodations. We anticipated today’s walk would take us 8 hours including short stops in Sansol, Torres del Rio and Viana.

Viana

Descending to the charming 11th century village of Viana

We were shocked when we made the 19 kilometers to Viana in three and half hours, without stopping once. That meant we were walking five and half kilometers per hour. We stopped at a nice picnic bench to eat our late breakfast sandwiches. Viana is a charming town with the 11th century Gothic Iglesia de Santa Maria at its hilltop center. Quite randomly, a Google Maps vehicle appeared. I tried several times to get a snapshot, but it moved too fast. Finally, I was able to catch its back half with octagon-like panoramic top camera. We would have liked to spend more time there, however we had to move on to Logrono for the festival.

Plaza Mayor craziness during the festival

Plaza Mayor craziness during the San Mateo festival. Food BBQ’s and wine.

We arrived in Logrono mid-afternoon Thursday….. with just enough time to grab a hearty overpriced lunch. The Spanish day typically involves lunch between 2-4pm. At this time, all other shops close down for Siesta. Dinner is not available until like 7pm, which usually involves Tapas only. Luckily, we’re Pilgrims for a while and most restaurants have a “Pilgrim’s Menu” at 7pm. Everyone basically rushes to checkin at the hotel and have lunch before 4pm. Continue Reading

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El Camino: Day 6 (Estella to Los Arcos)

Posted on 19 September 2012 by brett

Bodegas Irache Winery

Red wine and water fountain of Bodegas Irache Winery (1891)

Is it ever too early in the morning to drink wine in Spain? A few kilometers from Estella lies Bodegas Irache’s fountain of wine. It was 8:30 in the morning but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drink from the magical fountain of wine. The fountain was installed in 1991 for thirsty pilgrims on their way to Santiago. The inscription on the fountain says, “Pilgrim, if you want to arrive in Santiago with strength and vitality, drink a mouthful of this great wine and overflow with happiness!” Bodegas Irache Winery has been in operation sine 1891, but the vineyards of Irache have existed since before the 12th century and are closely linked to the nearby Irache Monastery. Interestingly, there is a live webcam pointing at the fountain enabling anyone to see pilgrims in “real time”…indulging in their red wine at Bodegas Irache Wine Fountain.

Navarrean vineyards

Grape tasting in Navarrean vineyards

Continuing on a beautiful country trail for 7 kilometers, we made our way to Villamayor de Monjardin. Upon approaching the village, we spotted San Esteban de Deyo Castle (formerly a Muslim fortress) perched high on the mountaintop. We thought for a second about the hour climb to the top, but quickly came to our senses as we remembered the 12 kilometers ahead to Los Arcos. We whizzed past the 12th century Romanesque Iglesia de San Andres, and departed from the other side of Villamayor. Continue Reading

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