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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 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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