Day 10 – Estella to Villamajor de Monjardin

Walked today: 5.9 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 75.1 miles

We walked less than 6 miles today to avoid a 14 mile walk. There are no places to stop between “Monjardin” and Los Arcos.

The first mile and a half out of Estella was on steep concrete surfaces through surburban residential areas. Crossing the highway out of town we continued upward passed the Irache Monastery, which dates back to the year 958… and the Irache Winery with its famous wine fountain, yes, 🍷 fountain.

The plaque on the wall next to the fountain reads:

“Pilgrim, if you wish to arrive at Santiago full of strength and vitality, have a drink of this great wine and make a toast to happiness.”

The rest of our morning walk was uneventful… not overly strenuous, varied scenery, a rest stop halfway up Monjardin in the village of Azqueta, and a final steep climb to our destination for the day.

That’s Monjardin with castle ruins on top

Closing in on Monjardin
Breakfast stop
The fortress of Monjardin seen from Villamayor de Monjardin

We entered the village of Villamayor de Monjardin at 9:15, earlier than normal due to our early start (6:10) and the shorter distance to walk.

Villamayor de Monjardin (pop 139), derives from the Latin for “Mount García” for Sancho Garcés, first King of Pamplona (905-925AD), whose remains are interred in the Castle atop Monjardin.

King Sancho I and Iglesia de San Andrés in background

The castle of Monjardín is the very origin of the kingdom of Navarre. The takeover of the castle of Monjardín is the first remarkable conquest that Navarre achieved over the Muslims in the area of the Reconquest. As a result, Navarre rulers were no longer treated as lords or barons, subordinate to the Mohammedan invaders rather than true kings. Sancho Garcés I (905 – 925) was the first to break this relationship of submission and the first to be recognized by the other Christian kings as one of their peers.

We’ve been very fortunate during our first 9 days to have access to our room very early in the day. But our luck ran out today. It’s the earliest we’ve arrived at our destination and the latest access so far… 2:00 p.m.!!

So, we had 4 1/2 hours to wait before getting showers, starting our chores, etc. And tomorrow we’ll need an early start for a much longer walk before it gets too hot.

Selfie of us waiting on the bench across from Albergue

Linda found a comfortable bench in the shade in the tiny village square, where we took in all the action of pilgrim after pilgrim passing through and continuing onward. Removing our walking footwear, at least, gave our feet a start on cooling down and recovery time.

We visited the small 12th century Iglesia de San Andrés on the square and finagled the camera through a metal grated encasement to capture an image of the silver processional crucifix from the year 1200, which is displayed proudly on the sanctuary wall. We also had our credentials stamped by the attending priest.

Reflection in mirror shows details of back of crucifix

Next we walked down the hillside for a half mile to visit a local bodega but were thwarted by the manager who said we would need to make a reservation for a wine tasting/tour and that it open from 2-4 only! We did negotiate a visit to their nice restrooms before climbing back up to the village square.

It being noon, by now, we continued further up the hillside to the only bar in town and ordered chicken nuggets for Jim’s birthday lunch a la Camino.

We stretched lunch until 1:30, then headed back down to village square and were delightfully surprised to find an open sign on our Albergue’s window.

We checked in and began our routines at about 1:45.

Our private room consists of a bunk bed, a bathroom with sink, toilet and shower, a cabinet to hang clothes and minimal floor space. We were each supplied with a fitted sheet, top sheet, and pillowcase and bath towel. No toiletries are included except a roll of toilet paper. Mattress is foam rubber and pillow is kingsize. While we have more personal space than a dormitory type arrangement with 4,6 or greater beds per room, we keep tripping on our stuff and each other. We have AC but no individual control… fixed at 25C(77F) day, 22.5C(72F) night. The room and bathroom have a floor to ceiling window that can be opened for circulation. (40€).

Panoramic photo of our room
Our room from entrance

We have stayed in albergues with the bunk bed arrangement before, but only do it if other options are not available. Normally we stay in a double room with ensuite bathroom, like a typical hotel room. Sharing a bathroom/shower with others is not a problem, only a little inconvenient. Double rooms with bath ( habitacion doble con baño) can be found in pencions, casa rurals, hostals and even most albergues at a cost slightly more than two single bunk beds in a dorm arrangement. Consequently, whenever available, we opt for the double room with bath. For example, we described above our accommodations for tonight which is 40€. Last night in Estella we stayed at ground zero for the biggest festival of the year, watched festivities from our room balcony, amenities like extra towels, soap, shampoo, drinking glasses, chairs to sit in, plenty of room at 45€.

A pilgrims dinner was available in the village bar at 7:00 tonight. We were hungry at 5:30 and the bar kitchen was closed until 7:00. So we went to a small grocery store, assisted by the consumer oriented owner, bought a half baguette, some mayo and mustard packets, a pre-packed ham slices (5) and a bottle of local Chardonnay (from the closed bodega we couldn’t access today). The store owner sliced the bread to our sizes, cut open the blister pack of ham, opened the bottle of wine and loaned us two wine glasses.

The store with owner who helped us the birthday dinner
Jim’s Camino birthday dinner

We had our ” birthday” dinner at a table outside the store in the cool breeze, wine was excellent (8€) and we shared the last third of the bottle with the surprised but grateful store owner. Jim says it was the best birthday dinner he’s had in a year!

Another great day doing the Camino “our way”.