Camino Frances 2018 – Viana to Ventosa

September 15th, 2018 – Day 4
Viana to Ventosa, 28km

Today I said goodbye to Navarra and hello to La Rioja as I ventured westward. It was due to be a hot day so I decided on an early start, just to be safe. I was pretty sure I made the right choice as the last few kilometres without shade made it harder.

I set off alone after 6am. The hospitaleros had set out a breakfast that I took advantage of. It’s essential that you have something to eat before you leave in the morning, and then you can have 2nd breakfast at your first stop, and so on! It was pitch black outside so I took it nice and slow. The next few kilometres to Logrono is far from attractive so I suppose early morning is the ideal time to walk it. I left with a full battery and with a full tank’s worth of coffee. The next town will top me up! I said goodbye to Viana and walked under its archway leading back on to the Camino.

 

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Instant darkness. I put the music away and turned the flashlight on full. I was urging the sun to rear her head over the horizon. I would have to wait another hour for that however. After the Camino brings you through some back roads, you are lead on to the main road. Here you can see the “Communidad de La Rioja” sign. I knew where I was now. But there is a good bit of industrial area to walk through before arriving at Logrono proper.

The sun rises in the background.  I stop for a moment or two. I say goodbye to Navarra and silently thank everyone whom I have met since I have been here. It’s this time of the day I cherish the most. Always happy to see another day.

 

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I arrive in the city close to an hour later. The party from the night before was just ending, the Fiesta de San Matteo. I spotted an Irish bar – Dublin Bar on Avenida Zaragoza. I know for next time. After the long walk up Calle Marqués de Murrieta, the Camino leads you to a number of parks and to the La Grajera where swans and other small animals are known to dwell. I have passed through here twice before so I look forward to seeing the swans. It is also the first time I see the Scottish pilgrim, Andrew. What strikes me is how fast he walks. He was out of sight in no time. I got to meet the Irish couple who were on the same flight as me. We agreed to meet up and talk again in Santo Domingo de la Calzada a few days later.

 

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Leaving the La Grajera park, you will pass a long-bearded man by the name of Marcellino who will offer you a sello. Be sure to take one, he is quite a famous peregrino! He was there that morning and was offering everyone a “Buen Camino”.  Once you leave Logrono, you arrive at the side of the main road and you are following that until you stop for the day. The sun was out and I could feel the heat on my neck already. But I had another 10 kilometres to go.

Navarrete was in the distance. Placed on a hill with many vineyards surrounding it, this town is a favourite for pilgrims. I stopped for a little while to soak up the atmosphere. All the cafes were full however so I declined a cafe con leche and had some fruit that I bought the day before, taking advantage of what little shade there was.

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Navarrete

This day was bringing back great memories of my Camino in 2013 when I walked from Logrono to Leon. I met so many good people that year, most I am in contact with to this day. I hoped this year would be just like 2013 but I didn’t want to compare. I wasn’t here to make friends, I was here for the experience.

The final 8kms to Ventosa were the toughest I have walked in a long time. The heat seemed to be increasing with each hour and this pale Irishman became this pink Irishman very quickly. There were pilgrims taking rests under trees and haystacks just to avoid the worst of the heat. I arrived at Ventosa at 1pm. It wasn’t opened yet but there was a queue. Patricia from Logrono had just walked her first day on her Camino and decided to finish here. She had good English but she was looking forward to her siesta!

After washing my clothes, I checked out the local restaurant and had the pilgrim meal. Not bad for €11. I met Madalina from Canada, the French part. She had walked from Logrono so I bought her a glass of wine for her efforts. I noticed she had a patch on her arm and asked: “Is this for Type 1, Diabetes?”. She said it was and I explained that I needed to carry a large supply of medication with me on Camino also. So it was nice to open up about our respective conditions. She said that she was aiming for Santo Domingo tomorrow, but there was no guarantee. After a few hours talking, we walked back to the albergue and prepared for the next day.

I met Karsten in the albergue that evening and myself, Patricia and Karsten arranged to walk tomorrow. Adelante!

 

Camino Frances 2018 – Los Arcos to Viana

September 14th, 2018 – Day 3
Los Arcos to Viana, 18km

Dark thirty. I wake to pilgrims gathering their belongings. I reach for my phone and see the time. 4.30am. Sigh. I then see that my phone had not charged during the night. Well, I will have no photos today. I decided to turn my phone off until later that evening. With those two pieces of unwelcome news, I turned over and tried to sleep for another hour.

At 6am, I awake again and gather my pack and leave. The Quebecois duo had left, the American lady and Mexican man had both departed. However, I would hope to see all in Viana. I doubt I would see Doug today. So today would be a solo walk! Let’s go! Breakfast was served at 7am in Los Arcos main plaza which I accepted. There are not many stops for water and food along the route today, so it is worth filling up when you can. The Camino takes you past the Iglesia de Santa Maria and over the River Odron. It isn’t long before you are back in traditional Camino territory. But of course, it is still dark as we are expecting a hot day this day. I noticed the whirr of an electricity station on the outskirts of the town. Ok, now for music. I hadn’t had a chance to listen to any music since I started walking. Not that this is a bad thing. I’m in the zone when I walk alone and having some music helps me think, I suppose.

More and more vineyards crop up as I walk westwards. Reaching out to grab a few grapes are so tempting, but a voice inside tells me otherwise. The sun rises as I spot Sansol and Torres del Rio in front of me. Both towns might as well be joint to the hip for they are so close. Torres is bigger and is established on a hill. It takes great energy to get to a cafe and have a 2nd breakfast. I’m sad to learn that Albergue Casa Mari is no longer open. I stayed here in 2014 and really enjoyed it. The Templar church looks magnificent as always.

Although the day starts at about 450 metres, the high point of the day is nearly 600 metres. It is a very hilly day with many rolling ups and downs, it is it not as easy as it may seem. I passed a few pilgrims who were having difficulty and I always said “take a rest, you deserve it, the hardest is behind you. It gets easier”. While others, and more agile than me, walked past me like I wasn’t there. So you get all sort of pilgrims. I enjoyed today, particularly watching the sunrise over the vineyards. Stopping where you are, turning around and watching the sun rise is just essential on the Camino.

I was aiming for Albergue Izar in Viana and I arrived just before midday. The albergue didn’t open until 1pm so I had some time for a drink and some lunch. I walked past the bullring, and down Calle Rua Santa Maria where the Church of Santa Maria stands tall. I took a moment or two just to take it in and then ordered a cafe con leche. I immediately saw some pilgrims who I had met before from Finland and Germany respectively so I joined them for a bit. They wanted to walk on to Logrono, another 10km. But the day is young. The wine festival of San Matteo was happening over that weekend so most pilgrims wanted to be there for the festivities. I, on the other hand, was aiming for Ventosa the following day. I’m not a fan of the big cities. I saw the Quebecois duo also, who were staying in the same albergue as myself. They were fun to be around.

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The entrance to Viana

Albergue Isar is a good clean modern albergue with communal meal and breakfast. It has small rooms upstairs for just 6 or larger dorms on the ground floor. The only problem is that it is situated at the bottom of a short steep climb in the town.

Iglesia de Santa Maria de Viana. In the heart of Viana. ...#caminodesantiago #caminosocietyireland #caminofrances #viana #navarra #spain🇪🇸 #peregrino #elcaminopeople

Iglesia Santa Maria de Viana

I met L&R for the last time on this Camino for a final pilgrim meal and some drinks. The restaurant was on a side street so it was away from the crowds of Calle Rua Santa Maria. Back to the albergue I went after saying my goodbyes and thinking about tomorrow. Most were talking about walking to Navarrete, but my feet felt good, and I have walked before. I think I will make Ventosa. Adelante!

So nice meeting up with L from @somewhereslowly and her husband over the last 3 days as they start their Camino. Tomorrow we part ways. But we will see each other again...#camin

Myself, L&R meeting for our final meal before they continue on their Camin

Towns Along the Way – Navarra #2

We continue on our journey…

Uterga (map) – 710 kms to Santiago.

utergaUterga is the first town you arrive at after descending the Alto de Perdón. The descent can be perilous at times, especially during bad weather. I remember walking into the village in September 2014 and initially spotting its large town hall. It must be the tidiest village I have seen. It is home to 2 albergues and a hostal (Gronze). Albergue Camino del Perdón is perfect for a stop off after the tough climb and descent. However, many choose to walk on to Puente la Reina, another fine town.

 

Villatuerta (map) – 685 kms to Santiago

Villatuerta is a town of just under 1000 residents located 4 km outside of Estella. Although probably of Roman origin, the greatest development of Villatuerta occurred in medieval times and, as a consequence of the Camino de Santiago. Since then it has retained its Romanesque bridge over the river Iranzu, the river that that divides the town into two neighbourhoods. The parish church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, also of Roman origin, it had to be rebuilt in the 15th century. There is the one albergue here, Casa Magica (Gronze), which is well recommended.

Villamayor de Monjardín (map) – 653 kms to Santiago

VillamayorDMonjardinIn 2014 I encountered this village in Navarra. I had stayed just outside of Estella the previous night and had left early that morning. Unfortunately, there were no cafes open in Villamayor when I passed so I had to make do with the wine I picked up in Irache earlier. I wasn’t complaining :). Villamayor de Monjardín is a small town located at the foot of the Castle of San Esteban of Deyo. The fortress walls are well conserved. The main site visited is the Romanesque church of San Andrés, from the 12th century. You should have no problem finding somewhere to stay here (Gronze).

Torres del Río (map) – 636 kms to Santiago

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Torres del Rio is one of the final towns you will pass before entering La Rioja. This small village, located at the side of a hill, hosts of one of the most characteristic monuments of Romanesque architecture in Navarre, an octagonal church of the Santo Sepulcro. I was unlucky not to witness the inside of this church as it was closed the day I passed through Torres del Río. There are three albergues here (Gronze). I really enjoyed my stay in Casa Mariela. The following clip shows you the church of the Santo Sepulcro.

 

Viana (map) – 625 kms to Santiago

Viana is a town that will surprise pilgrims for its rich architecture, wine cellars and, above all, for its extensive history. The last town in Navarre is situated just seven kilometres from Logroño. It has a fortified square, surrounded by a medieval wall, which served as a defensive stronghold during the Middle Ages against the ancient Kingdom of Castile. Its narrow streets, many monuments, and the majestic church of Santa Maria are highlights. The importance of the Camino on the evolution of Viana is evident by the six refuges for pilgrims, of which several traces still remain. Viana often hosts fiestas and is known to have a ‘running of the bulls’.

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Outside the Iglesia de Santa Maria in Viana

Leaving Viana brings us to Logrono and the new province of La Rioja…

 

Camino 2014 – Day 7 – Torres del Rio to Logrono

September 10th 2014 – Day 7
Torres del Rio to Logrono, 20km

We had another early start today but a short day was planned as decided to finish up in Logrono. It was Anna’s final day also. She has walked with us since Pamplona and was part of the family. But we had another few hours of walking to go before saying our goodbyes. I was also looking forward to getting back to Logrono as I had started my previous Camino there last year.

The weather was perfect again but it was cold in the morning. We were getting close to the La Rioja / Navarra border, which is just as you enter Logrono. La Rioja includes Logrono, Najera, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and ends just after Granon..which is another 4 days away. Navarra has been very kind to us since we crossed into it at Roncesvalles. But it has some of the toughest terrains on the Camino. Wine Country awaits. The bad thing about leaving Torres del Rio at crazy o clock is there is a pretty tough climb just as you open the door of the albergue. We have a nice 100metres ascent over 2kms. I find climbs no problem at this stage and reached the top of the hill (Alto NS del Poyo) in no time. There is a Spanish couple giving refreshments for a donation at the top and I take a can of Coke to cool me down. It is only 7am at this stage and I watch the sun rise while I sip on my drink. I’m joined by a Belgian girl called Cap. She stayed in the same albergue as us last night. She is in university at present and can afford the time to have a long Camino. Oh I wish I was in her position again! I’ve also noticed over the last week that I had been drinking a lot of cans of Coke. Back in Ireland, I never drink it, but here I was a 1-or-2-a-day-man. I hope I don’t bring the habit home with me.

After the climb, comes the descent and I let Dave and Anna walk ahead as I navigate cautiously. The ground below me is made of dry red silt as there has been no rain here in a week. The descent is around bends and is tricky. You can tell I’m not a descent kind-of-guy! I had noticed, along with my blister at the back of my foot, that I had been getting pain in my left hip. It only seemed to affect me on descents but a few Camino candy sorted me out for the day.

We arrive at Viana, 12km from Torres del Rio. The Camino cuts through the old town, which is asleep. The only movement is coming from the main plaza. About half a dozen men are putting together a bull ring so I can only assume the town is holding “a running of the bulls”. There are no advertisements for it however. We walk on after a few minutes. Our next stop is La Rioja and Logrono. I’m not a fan of walking into large cities. Last year, the walk into Burgos was depressing and in 2011, the walk into Santiago was one I wish I could avoid. But they are part of the Camino as a whole and must be done unfortunately. The final 6kms into Logrono passes through suburbs, under tunnels and along main roads. A large green sign post with “Communidad de la Rioja” tells you exactly where you are. Just before that, we passed Felisa who sells trinkets and gives a stamp for a donation. She and her family have been doing this all her life. It is a great place to grab a rest as there are a few seats. I recognised Logrono’s main bridge (Puente de Piedra) over the Rio Ebro but many of it’s streets were in darkness when I arrived last year.

Logrono is a large town, with over 140,000 people living there. It is a recommended end stage also, and many pilgrims stay here. It has 7 albergues also, and it is next to impossible to not find a bed here. We stayed in one of the many private albergues here and after settling in, Anna decided that we meet to say our goodbyes. It was great to see Phillipe later on as it meant he could wish Anna well also. I slept for a few hours and met in the main plaza while the town was waking up. The meal as always was fab and I drank far too much wine yet again. Saying goodbyes are never my forte and saying goodbye on the Camino is much harder. You open yourself up to people whom you would consider strangers days before and friendships are formed. Anna also kindly gave each of us a bracelet with a shell attached to it, the symbol of the Camino.

I had decided before reaching Logrono to start walking by myself for a while. Prior to the Camino, I booked a room in a pension in Navarrette so I had tomorrow’s walk set out for me. Dave, Bob and Leslie were walking to Ventosa which is further on so it was unlikely I would see them again. I hoped I did as I wanted to wish them goodbye. Tomorrow would be another short day which I looked forward to. It would be on familiar ground after walking it in 2013.

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