Pilgrims’ Progress


Friday, June 10, 2016
Day 10
Viana to Logroño

Leaving Viana, we saw a beautiful portal and stepped through, expecting to see a historic church. Instead, all was ruin, the evidence of time.

Coming into Logroño, we saw storks flying overhead, and then their nests on top of poles and spires. We crossed the bridge over the Ebro River and made our way to the Pilgrims’ Fountain, which has above it the escutcheon for Logroño (pictured above).

A medieval  fair is in town, and we briefly stopped at some booths along the route to our hotel. Later, waiting for my laundry, I sat near an elderly gentleman who clearly delighted in feeding the doves. He didn’t mind having his picture taken, either!

Your pilgrims are suffering from the walking and the constant moving from day to day. I caught a cold in Pamplona, which has now jumped over to James. Lots of aches and pains.

Steps Today: 28,432

Check out additional photos as June 10, 2016: Viana to Logroño.

The Straight and Narrow

20160609_095218Thursday, June 9, 2016
Day 9
Los Arcos to Viana

We left Los Arcos fairly early. The road was a good surface, through vineyards and wheat fields, growing golden in the sun. I met four pilgrims from Louisiana, and we chatted at Sansol after hop-scotching each other up the road. Just up the road from  Sansol we caught the bus at Torres del Rio to take us into Viana.

The Camino surface was generally hard and firm, good footing. There was little shade, though, so when we made it to Sansol we sat down for drinks at the first cafe we came to. Then a long lunch at Torres del Rio while waiting for the bus. I used the time to upload photos. I’m  still struggling with the technology!

Steps Today: 18,300

Photos: June 9: Los Arcos to Torres del Rio

Monasteries and Churches, Iron and Roses

Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Day 8
Estella to Los Arcos

Our day started with a stop at a monastery and went on to include a memorable church.

Our first stop after leaving Estella, just out of town, was the Irache Monastery, where Benedictine monks make wine. The monks have a fountain offering free wine and water. Their sign asks visitors to enjoy a cup of wine on them, but for more to please purchase a bottle. James partook, but it was too early for me.

Earlier in the day we had walked past an iron worker’s workshop. We stopped to admire some of his pieces, and he invited us in to see others. Wonderful work, but very, very heavy.

Late in the afternoon we visited the Church of Santa Maria, which had a fabulously beautiful cloister, in the center of which was a rather overgrown, unkempt bed of roses. There is symbolism there–the religious fervor of those earlier Christians who built the church versus the inattentiveness of the current era.

We also saw roses everywhere throughout the day, some with huge blooms. I plan to post more photos on a page, which you might like to check out.

Tweaking our updated travel plan, we took off walking early in the day Spain seems to be having an unexpectedly early heat wave, and we need to take advantage of the coolness in the early mornings. This turned out well. We had time in the late afternoon to visit the church and admire its beautiful cloister.

Steps Today: 18,777

See more photos as June 8: Monasteries and Churches, Iron and Roses.

Vineyards and Olive Orchards


Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Day 7
Puente La Reina to Estella

Walking from Cirauqui to Lorca  we saw our first (of many) sizeable vineyards and olive orchards. The ground is dry and rocky. The sun is very hot. The sky is very blue.

Implementing our new walking policy, we planned to take the bus to Lorca and then walk into Estella from there. When we stepped onto the bus, however, we were told that our only two choices were to get off at Cirauqui or to ride all the way to Estella. Having to make an instant decision and wanting to walk at least part of the way, we elected to get off at Cirauqui.

We found the Camino and started off. It was very hot, an unexpectedly really hot day. For a good part of the time, we walked along a Roman road–rounded, uneven stones. Historic, but treacherous  footing, so I was inching along. And then my bad shoulder  started aching again, so I gave my water to James. When we staggered into Lorca we dropped at the first bar and guzzled liquids. The kindly bar keeper gave us an excellent gazpacho (cold) soup for lunch and then phoned a taxi for us. And off to Estella we went.  Our new travel policy still needs tinkering!

Steps Today: 13,912

Spanning Time


Monday,  June 6, 2016
Day 6
Pamplona to Puente La Reina

Puente La Reina (The Queens’s Bridge) has spanned this hamlet since the 12th century.   The guide books say that historians are not sure which of two queens had it built. What?  If a king had built it….but let me not get off on that particular hobbyhorse. How many millions of pilgrim feet have traversed these stones? What a timeless, serene, and beautiful image it is for this town.

On this day, James and I started our new regime of going by bus halfway and walking the rest of the way, about 10 kilometers.  Better and easier for us!  More time for reading and napping and having a leisurely lunch.  I think we may have finally hit our stride.

Steps Today: 23,510

End of the Journey (for Bulls)


Sunday, June 5, 2016
Day 5

This red door marks the end of the journey for the bulls who run through the streets of Pamplona during the Festival of San Fermin. Behind the red door is Pamplona’s bullring, and by the end of the afternoon the six bulls who thundered through the streets in the  morning, bowling over the runners, will themselves all be dead. To the left of this view, outside of the frame of this photo, there is a bust of Hemingway. Supposedly at the end of his life Hemingway regretted having made Pamplona, San Fermin, and the Running of the Bulls famous, since it “ruined” everything by attracting too many tourists. In Pamplona, however, the townspeople seem to love Hemingway and what he has done for their city, since Hemingway’s image is everywhere.

After our late Saturday night out, first at Pablo Carbonell’s show and then our midnight visit with Hemingway at his bar, we slept in and had an easy Sunday. In the afternoon we took a walking tour around Pamplona as recommended by Rick Steeves in his guidebook.

Steps Today: 7,825

Return to Pamplona

Saturday, June 4, 2016
Day 4
Zubiri to Pamplona

Pamplona of course was one of the, if not the, favorite places of Ernest Hemingway. You find traces of him all over town–his favorite hotel, his favorite bar, his favorite…. It was fun catching up with him late at night in “his” bar.

After our brutal walk from Roncesvalles to Zubiri, we decided to take the bus to Pamplona. At the bus stop we met a number of other pilgrims who were also ready for a ride rather than a walk.

We had stopped overnight in Pamplona on our journey from Madrid to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, but had had time only to visit the Church of St. Saturnin.  Before we could explore more of Pamplona, we had housekeeping to do–laundry. After that, we went to a club to hear a Spanish singer-songwriter named Pablo Carbonell. Great fun!  Dinner at almost midnight in “Hemingway’s bar” on the Plaza de Castille.

Steps Today: 10,791

Walking the Walk

The final descent to Zubiri was all downhill slopes of shale and rock like this.

Friday, June 3
Day 3
Roncesvalles to Zubiri

This day was walking, all day.  Twelve hours of walking.

Much too ambitious a day for me. I was ready to call it quits at about 3 pm, but James wanted to continue, so we did. The last descent was steep, over shale and rock that was slippery and super dangerous. I only hoped to get to Zubiri by nightfall, and we did, around 9 pm. An amazing number of steps for me. I usually only walk around 5,000 steps on an average  day.

Steps Today: 49,806

Please see more photos at Pics from June 3rd, 2016.

Roncesvalles Means Charlemagne, Roland, and Sancho the Strong


Thursday, June 2, 2016
Day 2
Valcarlos to Roncesvalles

In Roncesvalles, history comes alive. This is where Roland, of the famous Song of Roland, fought his last battle for Charlemagne and died. Here too 7’2″ King Sancho “the Strong” of Navarre, who battled  to expel  the  Moors from Southern Spain, is buried. It’s a tiny town but packed with history.

I woke up this morning with a swollen arm, a legacy of my cancer surgery (lymphadema). That means no more weight (backpack) on my shoulder for a while. I also doubt I could have made the steep climb up the mountain. So we rode a taxi in comfort from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles and spent the day exploring the town.

Steps Today: 11,242

There are some additional photos at June 2, 2016: Valcarlos to Roncesvalles.

And We’re Off!

(Photo by Leon at the Pilgrim’s Office)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Day 1
St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to Valcarlos, Spain

In James Michener’s Iberia, he says that all Medieval pilgrims had four essential items: a warm cloak that could also be used as a blanket or pillow; an eight-foot staff for walking and for keeping off aggressive dogs, spangled with gourds used to hold drinking water; sturdy sandals; and a wide brimmed floppy hat. As we set off on our journey from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, we are not that different from those earlier pilgrims. We have our impermeable jackets on or strapped to our backpacks. Our walking sticks, while not eight feet long, are fairly tall. Instead of gourds, we have fancy new hydration (water) packs, but they serve the same purpose as the gourds. Back in Houston we spent a lot of time trying to locate the right, sturdy but comfortable, hiking boots. And we both have our hats. Mine is wide brimmed. James’s can more correctly be deemed “jaunty.” You’ll see it in a future post. And of course we both carry our cockle shells, mine affixed to my backpack.

This was a very rough day for me. More steps than ever, many of them uphill. I was ready to quit 2/3rds of the way to Valcarlos, but James urged me on and I finally straggled in quite late.

Steps Today: 28,164