We walked almost half of the
Camino del Norte just one year ago now. We did well from San Sebastián to Bilbao and from Bilbao to Santander. Jim began struggling and we had to abort the pilgrimage on October 3 in San Vicente de la Barquera when Jim just felt that he couldn’t go on due to exhaustion on the hills. We returned to Boston and after more cardiac testing Jim received his second cardiac stent and has seemingly been doing well since. We have climbed multiple flights of stairs in San Miguel de Allende and have walked the hills of Porto with no problems and we now feel that Jim is able to attempt the Camino de Santiago Francés. Walking the Camino involves 5-8 hours of walking every day and can be exhilarating, exhausting, spiritual, lonely, boring and also full of unbelievable camaraderie. The whole experience is indescribable as you are walking across Spain in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims from all over Europe, some of whom turn around and return to their starting point. We pass quite a few pilgrims going in the opposite direction. Jim describes this as a bar crawl as we walk from one bar to the next, stopping for coffee, beer, wine, sandwiches, omelettes or cakes.
We would really like to post a blog every day but at the end of walking 5-8 hours, we are very tired, internet access and wifi can be quite iffy and posting does not happen. We are now taking our third and last rest day and will try and post our first blog.
We began our walk by visiting a nearby church to get the first stamp on our Camino passport (credenciales) which proves that we have walked the Camino route. The last 100 km require two stamps a day. These can be obtained at churches, town halls, Albergues, bars or hotels and are needed to obtain the precious Compostela at the end.
Late start at 8:30 am since we had to wait for the church to open. Sun comes up at 8 but a 7:30 start is perfect. So many people got ahead of us as a result of this. We will average about 15 miles a day and with brief stops to rest and snack every 4 miles it will take us anywhere from 6-8 hours of walking, depending on difficulty of the terrain.
The first 5k (3.1 miles) is mostly via city pavement and suburban roads. Beyond Cizur Menor we have pathways through hills.
We so enjoyed the path through the forest.
And then a pastoral path through hay fields.
This is where we had our first 4 mile rest stop of the day.
The road ahead beckons us.
This was our first encounter of meeting other Pilgrims. Sandy talked to a man from Sedona named Robin whose goal was to find Michelin Star restaurants along the Camino, sorry we do not have his photo here and two weeks out we have not met him again but feel he has dined well through his pilgrimage.
Our first church in Cizur Menor.
Bocadillo’s ( baguette sandwiches with ham and Cheese).
Views along our walk.
Jim feeling like an exhilarated Pilgrim.
This is a very famous Pilgrim Sculpture.
Another Pilgrim took our photo here.
Looking back on the road we have travelled.
Amazing Wind Turbines.
And we start the treacherous descent.
We leave the Windmills behind.
A welcome rest stop where we walked in with Jim and Sue from Worcester. The food here was very good.
Jim from Worcester and behind is his wife Sue waking with Jim.
Views along our walk.
Beautiful Church that was closed.
This church was very dark and open but had no Pilgrim stamps for our credenciales.
The crucifix presides over the temple with real crown and four nails. It dates back to the 13th century.
This is our first nights lodging. Upper left window.
Checking in to our Hotel in Puente la Reina, “bridge of the Queen”.
Our accommodations for the night, rustic but adequate.
Fun evening, meeting up with Jim and Sue for dinner then meeting a bunch of crazy guys from Orange County California. This is the street view from our balcony.
Day 2: from Puenta La Reina to Estella.
07:30 start, this is the Queen’s bridge before sunrise.
Dirt track to start on.
Beautiful views of vineyards and a glimpse ahead of the next town we will pass through.
This rainbow was a welcome site along our walk.
Shadow of a pilgrim.
Glorious groves of trees.
Long, long roads ahead.
The path can seem never ending at times.
So excited to see this livestock as we entered the town of Cirauqui.
And yes there is an AED along the Camino.😲 Just after this we saw an ambulance picking up a pilgrim who had fallen and fractured his ankle.
Sandy with Pilgrim and nurse friend Rebecca from Wisconsin.
It was a long road to Logroño and was exhausting for Sandy who carried a very heavy pack as Jim ditched his.
Endless rocky surface of up and down.
Sandy loves going up but hates going down as it is such a fall risk on the rocky scree. She looks like a little old lady going down but a youngster passing everybody going up.
A help yourself unattended free or donation accepted refreshment stand set out by locals for the Pilgrims.
Lunch of Lentil soup was so good and a healthy option from the usual carbo load of a frittata with egg and potatoes or a bocadillo of French bread, cheese and ham. We are worried that we will end up gaining weight on this pilgrimage.
It is traditional to leave stones on the Camino markers which is annoying to Sandy as this is where she likes to sit and wait for Jim. She puts them on the ground and then returns them to the top of the marker before leaving.
First sighting of a horse on the Camino. We are seeing less animals on this route than we did last year on the Norte route.
Here is what we refer to as The Orange County Pilgrims as they are all from Orange County California. Traveling together but only doing one week. This was our last sighting of them. We met up with them our first night on the Camino and several times later. They were definitely party animals,
Government building in Estella.
Don’t remind us !!!!!
Our Hotel in Estella and starting out and heading to Los Arcos at 08:00. We had one of our best dinners here last night as there was one couple and three individuals sitting at separate tables. We started speaking with the person closest to us and before we knew it, we had all pulled our tables together and became a Pilgrim family. A woman from Ireland named Paula, a mother and wife from San Francisco named Tracey who had lost a son to melanoma and has another son with Down’s syndrome. She started the camino in Le Puy France 350km ago. Another couple, Francis and Hugh from Sydney Australia and the man that we started the conversation with, Preben Pedersen from Sweden who is a restaurant owner on the island of Hönö in Sweden. Tullhuset Restaurang, we have promisee that we will visit him there.
Sandy actually had enough energy to walk up 100 stairs to see the inside of the church in Estella only to find it was absolutely pitch black inside and she could not see a thing even using her phone flashlight.
The sun comes up at 8am and most hotel breakfasts are at 7:30. We would prefer an earlier start though.
Heading out from Estella after a great night. The hotel even laundered all of our clothes for 20€.
Estella to Los Arcos is 13.4 miles.
We started around 8am when the sun came up.
This famous fountain offers either wine on the left spout or water on the right. We of course sampled the wine. The fountain is at the ancient Benedictine Monastery in Irache. A community of monks served pilgrims here since the 10th century but were forced to vacate in 1985 due to a lack of novitiates.
We had no vessel so we drank the wine out of the palm of our hand.
Benedictine Monastery of Irache,
82% of our walk today is on delightful natural paths through native evergreen oak and pine trees.
There are magnificent views southward over an alternative route.
These yellow arrows are always so reassuring to see as we know we are going the correct way.
Shortly after walking in those mystical woods we come to a wide dirt track with fine views to the north revealing the conical peak of Montjardin.
The path signs directs us to the route.
We begin our descent now into a shallow valley,
Then ascend to the high point of this stage. Does that path ahead not look never ending?
The foliage is turning, awarding us with fall colors.
Our descent into Luquin begins.
We were serenaded by this accordion player along a rather remote stretch.
Church in Luquin.
Refreshing our water bottles at a fountain in Luquin.
A long straight away.
This route follows the road less traveled from the bustle of the main Camino and skirts the slopes of Montejurra entirely on natural paths.
An encouraging and common phrase shared between pilgrims as they encounter one another and it is understood no matter what language you speak it translates in English to “Good Camino”.
Ruins along the route.
These massive bales of hay are everywhere.
Los Arcos is a dwindling population town of 1,200 people. It has Roman remains and connects the towns of Estrella and Logrono.
Entering town Sandy was delighted to finally see some animals, horses.
Goats, roosters, chickens.
Duck, sleeping dogs and goats.
An amazing phenomenon for us is every town we enter is like a ghost town with no locals to be seen, only pilgrims, until 8-10 pm at night when the locals come out.
We had a great lunch here before finding our hotel.
Heading to our hotel out of one of the many ancient village gates.
Hotel Monaco was wonderful. We had a large apartment with a kitchen, living room, L shaped corner terrace with gorgeous views and a bedroom.
Stats for the day from Jims Apple Watch. Six and ½ hours which includes all stops. Elevation gain, 1,532 is a lot for Jim.
View of the Cathedral from our balcony.
Another balcony view looking towards our next destination, Logroño.
Double beds are very common.
Another beautiful church for such a small town. Iglesia de Santa Sepilchra XII Century linked to the knights Templar and based on the octagonal church of the Holy Sepulchra in Jerusalem.
Beautiful dome ceiling over the altar.
Another candle lit for all of you.
Adding another sello (stamp) to our credenciales which gains us a Compostela in Santiago.
Exploring Los Arcos in the evening.
Leaving Los Arcos at 8am with predictions of rain. Pack covered and rain gear on. It never rained.
Messages of encouragement written everywhere.
First town after Los Arcos, Sansol with a nice bar and lots of pilgrims.
It is always so rewarding to catch that first glimpse of a town in the distance where you get to take a brief rest break and a snack.
It is always about searching for these yellow arrows.
12th Century Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the most singular Romanesque temples on the road to Santiago.
The crucifix presides over the temple with a real crown and four nails. It dates back to the 13th century.
The Latin inscription above this cemetery translates to “Today you are who I was and I am now who you will be one day”. Ponder that deep disturbing thought!
Majestic mountains seemed to appear out of no where as we turned onto the next trail.
May this be true for us!
This was much worse than it looked.
Pilgrims love creating rock piles as you can see here.
Sandy of course had to add her rock.
We had nothing to hang on this tree but stay tuned….
The Meseta is never ending at times but still beautiful in its own way.
There are pop up refreshment stands from the local people who drive their van with snacks out to remote areas along the Camino to take care of the Pilgrims and provide them with nourishment for a minimal cost.
A Camino shrine built along the route.
More of the Meseta scenery. A Meseta is a high plain which is very hot in summer and very cold in winter.
Pilgrims leave things behind along the route. We are not sure why they leave their shoes???
Arrival into Viana which dates back to the Roman times.
The altar of the Parish Church of Santa Maria which exterior resembles a fortress.
The town Hall was built at the end of the 17th Century, conserves small coats of arms of the city.
The ruins of the church of San Pedro, the first church built in the 13th century.
So many times Pilgrims say this refrain as they pass a fellow pilgrim.
Arrival to Logroño, the capital of the province of La Rioja, situated in northern Spain, the major wine region of Spain.
Beautiful River crossing into Logroño.
Town church of Santiago.
Remains of a Tobacco Chimney factory.
We walk and walk and walk.
Our final place to rest/sleep in Logroño. We have two nights here with a rest day.
We really wanted to publish this two weeks ago but were so far behind that it was impossible. We are now in León with two rest days and will try and catch up a little bit. We are having a great time and can only manage one day at at time.