Day 20 – Castildelgado to Belorado

Walked today: 6.4 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 138.7 miles

We had another cool morning to walk but out of habit we still left at first light (6:30).

The first village we came to was Viloria de la Riója, the birthplace of Dominic García, aka: Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

Entering Viloria de la Riója, pop. 50

Monument to Santo Domingo in front of village church

Nothing else remains in the village belonging to Santo Domingo, all have gone to ruin in the 1000 years since his birth here.

Throughout Castile and León, simple maps like the above are posted at the entrance of each town or village showing the Camino route into and out of the the town, to keep us from getting lost. Very helpful.

Briefly, after leaving Viloria, we walked through the fields again

We passed by sunflower fields and pilgrim art?

Following a brief break from the highway path, we resumed walking along N-120, the national highway that follows the Camino.

The next village we walked through is called the place of three lies. Villamayor del Río , translates: “the large town by the river”, is actually a small hamlet on a creek!

“The place of three lies” pop. 52

We walked another 2 miles along the highway

Next was Belorado (pop. 2140), which has been settled since Roman times.

In 1116, King Alfonso I, king of Navarre and Aragón, gave the Fueros ( judicial statutes and privileges) to certain villages to encourage re-population after the “reconquista”, when Christian kingdoms were being formed after the Muslims were driven out.

These Fueros established laws to establish acceptable behaviors and also granted privileges to the people to encourage stability and economic growth.

Belorado was awarded the right to have a market on Mondays and a fair every year on St Michael’s birthday. This was the first community in Spain to be given such a privilege. Belorado was also freed from paying fees to the local Feudal Lords and churches to hunt, fish and cut trees. They were also allowed to have their own representatives and judges, giving them more independence from the power of feudal lords and the church. This resulted in making Belorado an important commercial center and establishing an important local law system, unique for the middle ages.

We’re staying in a very nice Casa Rural Verdeancho (66€).

Our room

Our ensuite bathroom

We ventured out into the town around 1:30 and briefly looked into Iglesia de Santa María which is right next door to our residence for the evening.

Exterior of Iglesia de Santa María – note stork nests in belfry
Interior of Santa María

We walked a few hundred feet to the Plaza Mayor and found a shaded bench and sat down to observe the natives.

Two groups of 20 something folks were frolicking about from one shady spot on the plaza to another, accompanied by a small brass band with drums.

We watched for a while, then found a restaurant that served a pilgrim dinner and had our 2:00 p.m. lunch/dinner for the day.

On the way back to our room we asked an English speaking group of 3 pilgrims if they knew what was going on and they also didn’t have a clue. (It turns out they were from Germany) Finally, we happened upon one group of the revellers and asked if they spoke English and a couple of them did and they explained that they were all 20 years old and the other group was 25 years old and since it was Saturday, they decided to party as a group. They even had matching tee shirts listing the names of each individual in their group. It was all in fun and we high fived several members of the group, they wished us Buen Camino and we headed back to our room for the day.

Day 19 – Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Castildelgado

Walked today: 7.5 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 132.3 miles

It was another cool morning for walking as we left over a later version of one of Santo Domingo’s many bridges

and joined the familiar dirt path.

We paralleled the main road most of the way to Grañón.

on the left appeared to be potato plants

Grañon had been a stopping place for us twice before and has been one of our favorites.

Welcoming pilgrim entrance into Grañon

Today was a mixed experience. We arrived at around 8:30 to find all the bars and stores to be locked up tight, which has not been the case in the past. The only exception was the bank (which doesn’t have food or public bathrooms) and a bakery.

We stopped in the bakery and purchased two pain au chocolats and asked the English speaking owner what was going on. She said that the merchants in town were getting rich from the Camino traffic and decided to reduce their hours, not opening until 10:00 a.m.! She said her customers, mostly local, still needed her to provide their daily bread, early.

We asked her if any aseos (toilets) were available and she said go around the church and go up the stairs in the albergue, which we did.

When got to the second level, a nice young lady asked us what language we spoke. We pondered between French and Spanish, then settled on English. She welcomed us and pointed to one bathroom and then another one upstairs. We split up and gratefully made use of the services.

We were offered coffee or tea which we declined but offered to make a donation which they would not accept. The lady and 3 other volunteers were from Italy and had just arrived to serve for 2 weeks. We rested for a few minutes, while Linda tended to a potential blister, and then thanked them for their hospitality and continued on to the next village.

Today we crossed the boundary between the region of Riója and the region of Castile and León. We will be in Castile and León for the next 200 miles or so.

The walk as we approached Redecilla del Camino

We stopped at the first village, Redecilla del Camino (pop.137) for breakfast. Then continued to the next village of Castildelgado, and checked in to Hostal El Chocolatero, for obvious reasons.

El Chocolatero is on the main highway, just outside of the village. Their are two very small albergues in the village with very limited facilities, so it was the best option for us.

Our hotel appears to be a popular truck stop (not with gas pumps and other services, just a place to stay/eat). Our room is spacious and has reasonable amenities. The lady at reception has helped us make future reservations and her English is good.

We had a late lunch/ early dinner in the hotel comedor (dining room) at 3:30, along with apparently most of the village’s 54 inhabitants (Lunch hours were 1-4 and dinner hours 8:30-11:00).

Most of the lunch crowd had left by the time we sat down at 3:30.

There are no services for our walk tomorrow, we’ll leave before the bar opens, so we bought a bogadilla to hold us until we reach our destination and have breakfast.

Oh, and by the way, we did buy a nice hunk of dark chocolate, very delicious and something to savor for the next few days.

Day 18 – Cirueña to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Walked today: 4.05 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 124.7 miles

Leaving Casa Victoria behind…
and walking out of Cirueña at 7:25 this morning

Soon after leaving Cirueña, we began a walk through grain fields for nearly an hour.

We saw a dozen or so quail hunters and their dogs along the way.

After about 3 miles, we could see the buildings and Cathedral tower of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Off to our right was a large field of potatoes and in the distance, a flock of hot air balloons descending to a nearby airfield.

We next walked by a series of warehouses and processing facilities of some sort, then observed hundreds of stacked crates with evidence of the likely product… potatoes.

We next walked into Santo Domingo de la Calzada (pop. 6231) and then entered a walk street which took us to the Cathedral and the old city.

city streets toward old section
entered old city
Camino markers typical of cities

municipal albergue and Cathedral tower (reno work)

We stopped for breakfast at a bar next to the Cathedral and then walked on to our hotel, El Molino de Floren.

We were early, but the owner allowed us to wait in the lobby or restaurant until our room was ready. We opted for the restaurant and he prepared two cafe con leches for us.

The young family at the next table seemed interested in us and guessed we were doing the Camino. So we initiated a conversation and we had a delightful exchange for the next hour or so.

The family was from Valencia and was on a three day holiday to walk part of a hiking trail mostly in the nearby mountains. The dad spoke a little English, but we soon learned that the 10 year old daughter was taking English in school, so we encouraged her do the translating and, as needed, supplemented our conversations with itranslate.

Nice family from Valencia

It was a really wonderful experience and we gave them our blog info, so they could follow us if they wanted.

Our room was ready around 11:30 and shortly thereafter we went back to our breakfast spot, about a 3 minute walk away, and had lunch.

A nice room with ensuite bathroom in our boutique hotel

Bar Piedra, our choice for breakfast and lunch

Ensalada mixta for Linda, pintxos for Jim

After lunch we searched for a popular snack called “ahorcaditos” or Little Hanged Man, which we”ll explain later.

Ahorcaditos, sweet almond creme pastries in shape of shell, a disappointment, but now we know.

Cathedral de Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Altar and interior if the Cathedral,

Santo Domingo de la Calzada takes its name from Dominic Garćia, born in 1019 in nearby Viloria de la Rioja. He cared for and developed sections of the Camino in this area in the 11th century including building bridges and clearing the road.

Myths and legends abound about the saint, such as when he was clearing the forest he fell asleep and angels picked up his scythe and miraculously continued clearing! He also brought a pilgrim back to life that had been hit and killed by an ox cart.

The most famous legend associated with Santo Domingo is “the hanged innocent.” A German family (father, mother and their son, Hugonell) were on the pilgrimage to Santiago. In Santo Domingo they stayed with a farmer’s family, and the farmer’s daughter tried to seduce Hugonell but, as a pious pilgrim, he refused her. She became so angry that she hid some silver items in his pack and after he left, called the authorities and accused the boy of theft. Upon finding the items in his pack, the boy was found guilty and hanged.

His grief-stricken parents continued to Santiago, but stopped to see their son’s remains on the return journey (thieves were left to rot on the gallows as a warning to others). They were delighted to find that he was still alive, claiming that Santo Domingo had held him up so he did not die. The parents hurried to the magistrate and asked them to cut down their son, as he was clearly innocent. The magistrate, who had just sat down to a hearty chicken dinner, shouted, “Why, he is no more alive that this roasted chicken I’m about to eat.” At this, the cooked chicken stood up on his plate, miraculously brought back to life feathers and all, and crowed.

The cage housing the descendants of the “roasted chickens that crowed”.
Relic of the gallows where Hugonell was hanged.
You can see the live rooster that actually crowed today, just as photo taken, hen not visible,

In remembrance of this story, live chickens are kept in the  Cathedral which are said to be the descendants of the resurrected fowl in the story. A piece of the gallows is displayed over the cage housing the chickens.

The Cathedral museum displayed numerous items related to Santo Domingo, including a number of beautiful 16th century paintings:

Miracle of saving of Hugonell from hanging
Miracle of the resurrected roasted chickens

Saint Domingo died in 1109 and was buried in the small church he built on the Camino, which grew into today’s Cathedral that houses his tomb.

Santo Domingo statue over his tomb
Cript for Santo Domingo’s remains

Tonight we had a tasty dinner in the hotel restaurant. Linda had chicken paella and very tender pork with rice pudding for dessert. Jim had lentil soup and beef stuffed relleños peppers and an ice cream tart. The wine was local and also quite nice.

Lobby and lounge of El Molino de Floren
El Molino de Floren restaurant

We retired to our room after finishing dinner at 8:30 and called it a day.

Day 17 – Nájera to Cirueña

Walked today: 9.9 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 120.7 miles

It was only 53F when we walked out of Nájera this morning at 7:15.

The mountain that forms the back wall of many of the buildings in the old town was our first obstacle of the morning.

Buildings backing up to cliffs of Alto Nájera
Following Camino markers out if town
End of the road ahead and rejoining Camino

The brick and stone streets ran out and gave way to a steep dirt path out of town and up to Alto Nájera.

As the case with many of these climbs, upon reaching the top, we’re rewarded with a view, either before us or behind.

working our way up Alto Nájera
near the pinnacle
heading down into the vineyards and grain fields
heading down into the rolling fields

This morning the reward was a colorful landscape of rolling hills of green vineyards and harvested grain fields. They formed a quilt that kept us looking left and right not wanting to miss anything.

The smooth, unchallenging dirt walking surface and cool air and a slight refreshing breeze put all the focus on the colors and patterns around us.

Unusual pilgrim formation ahead … Straight line?!

approaching Asofra

After about 4 miles we stopped for breakfast in Asofra. We stayed here in 2014 in the unique albergue with all semi-private twin bed stalls with saloon like swinging doors at 7€/person. No bunk beds, no noisy sleep areas and an open shelf to put your stuff.

The other thing that made Asofra special was what we called the “tractor ambiance” at the Seville Bar. Outside seating is along Calle Mayor, the very narrow main street. During dinner we shared our seating area with passing tractors coming home from the vineyards.

Ah shucks, before we had our cafe con leche.

We had hoped that we’d have a “tractor” breakfast this morning, but our timing was off. One passed by before we got our order and all was quiet until just as we left, two tardy tractors ushered us out of town.

We walked past the Rollo of Azofra, which is a 16th century boundary marker.

Rollo of Asofra

Such markers originate from the Middle Ages, a period in which small villages were converted into important urban enclaves and consequently needed there own justice instruments. On this occasion, the stone marker is in the shape of a Rollo sword (an ancient symbol of justice) and was intended to deter potential offenders from committing a crime within the boundaries of the marker.

Midway we walked along an autovia, but with enough separation to minimize noise, etc.
A few miles later the path moved back into the fields with no end in site.
The “ too good to be true” walk, headed upward
…. and after almost two more miles we finally reached the top

and breathed a sigh of relief at the flat path ahead

We walked toward a modern development of sorts and to our left was a beautiful green 18 hole golf course, on the Camino!

It being a little after 11:00, we missed our tee time but stopped anyway at the 19th hole for a late morning snack and a much deserved rest.

We walked the final 3/4 mile to Casa Victoria (44€), a casa rural in Cirueña, and checked in at noon. Francisco remembered us from our two prior visits.

stairway to our room on third floor.
Beautiful antique furniture and real beams
Beautiful beams, but low, had to duck on way into ensuite bathroom

view outside our room window, patio, clothes lines, etc.

Cirueña (pop.131) is a favorite stopping spot for us, having stayed here in 2014, 2017 and now 2019. It is a home with 15 beds in 4 or 5 rooms, no bunk beds, all rooms beautifully decorated, w/shared or private bath.

We think its a real bargain, upscale in all aspects and very comfortable.

In addition to clothes washing and drying availability, it has a small kitchen for preparing a simple meal and a choice of drinks conveniently kept in a fridge for 1-5€.

A bar is across the small village square from the Casa and has food all day. A pilgrims dinner and breakfast is available a block walk away at the Casa Victoria albergue, which we understand is owned and operated by a relative.

We signed up for the 7:00 p.m. albergue pilgrim dinner (9€ each) when we checked in.

And if you bring your clubs, an 18 hole golf course is a 3/4 mile walk away with reasonable green fees and cart rental.

We walked down to the albergue to the pilgrim dinner at 6:45.

The pilgrim dinner was a nice experience. We shared a spaghetti/pork/chicken dinner with the 12 pilgrims staying at the albergue.

A photo of 10 of the 14 pilgrims at dinner tonight

And even with such a large group and a long table, we were able to have interesting chats with pilgrims from Brazil, Austria, New Zealand and Germany. We wish we’d had more time to get to know them better. Maybe we’ll see them again.

Another nice finish to a day on the Camino.

Day 16 – Ventosa to Nájera

Walked today: 6.8 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 110.9 miles

A dry, 56F morning was perfect for our walk to Nájera. All went well for the first mile or so, on a level dirt path winding through one vineyard after another… until we were abruptly confronted by this:

Rough footing.,,
… and uphill

… and large loose stones are hazardous to foot health

Fortunately, it was only about a 10 floor hill and we were rewarded with a nice view at the top.

Nájera off in the distance, right of center

A relatively easy downhill path continued for several miles with vineyards surrounding us all the way.

Vineyards left and right

Vineyards all around

The hill with the tower in the upper left corner is known as “El Poyo del Roldán” or Roldán’s Hill. It is here that Roldán (Spanish), Roland (French) was established as the greatest knight of Christianity.

The story of Roland and Ferragut closely mimics the story of David and Goliath; Ferragut is even described as a descendant of Goliath. The story goes that the giant Ferragut was sent along with 20,000 soldiers from Turkey to fight against Charlemagne’s army. Ferragut came out from Nájera, challenging any of the opposition to fight him one-on-one. Many tried and failed. Finally, Roland insisted on having his turn and fought with the giant for three days. In between spurts of fighting the two conversed about their respective faiths, and Ferragut revealed that his one weak place (his Achille’s heel if you will) was his belly button. A final battle ensued, having both agreed that the winner would be the one espousing the true faith. Ferragut tried to fall on Roland to crush him to death, but Roland stabbed him in the belly and won.

Sign at the base of Poyo de Roldán with local version of legend

As we approached the outskirts of Nájera (pop. 8452) we passed through industrial areas that seemed to be co-exiting well with the persistent vineyards.

industry and vineyards

Just as we entered town, we stopped for breakfast.

Coming into Nájera

Nice bar specialized in tapas, we stuck with our usual

We walked through Downtown Nájera
Crossed the bridge
into the old section of the city
looking down Calle Mayor (Main Street)

Having dos mas (two more) cafe con leche while waiting for Pension to open.

We checked in to our room in Pencion Calle Mayor (30€) at noon after having lunch and immediately went through our daily routine.

Our double room at Pencion Calle Mayor (shared bathroom)

Jim ventured out into the city looking for an ATM to replenish our supply of Euros and had to cross over the bridge to eventually find one, after retracing our steps of this morning.

Interesting pasta bowls… something to look for back home

Next we had a pasta dinner at a riverside bar/restaurant and wandered around a bit on our way back to our room.

We stopped by the Monasterio de Santa María la Real which contains the 11th-century church built by King Garcia III after a most unusual hunting trip in 1044. The story goes that as Garcia hunted partridge along the riverbank, his falcon flew into a nearby cave. Garcia followed and was amazed to find a beautiful statue of the virgin with a vase of fresh lilies and a burning oil lamp.

Visiting hours were over, but here is photo of Virgin statue in the cave.

King Garcia saw this as a blessing on the Reconquista, and used some of the money he plundered from the Moors to build a church here for the icon. The Virgin statue is still resting in the original cave, the original church built around it. Little remains of the original church except for the area around the cave. The statue originally wore a crown of jewels, which was later stolen and divided; the Black Prince Ruby made its way to England’s coronation crown!

From outside the current church, after destruction and restorations over the centuries, you can still see where the remains of the original church merges with the cave in the mountain side.

Cliffside, original church remains and wall of current church
The current church attached to the Monastery

Main entrance to current church

We made our way back to our room, finished today’s blog entry, then called it a day.

Day 15 – Navarrete to Ventosa

Walked today: 4.6 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 104.1 miles

Even though we started later (7:15), it was a chilly 56F and perfect for walking. Our distance was short today, like yesterday. We want to stay in Ventosa tonight and it’s only a few miles up the Camino. Also, our bodies have been building stamina and adjusting to the routine well, so having a couple easy days, while still advancing, hopefully will give us a good base to pick up the pace in the coming days.

As the sidewalks of Navarrete ran out, we passed a cemetery with a beautiful gateway

that was recovered from the ruins of the historic pilgrim’s Hospital de San Juan de Acre, which we passed when entering Navarrete yesterday.

Leaving the pavement we followed a dirt path thru several miles of vineyards

and periodic clusters of olive trees abundant with fruit,

ready for harvest in the coming weeks.

Vineyards and Ventosa in background
San Saturino Iglesia on hilltop

We stopped at the first of only 2 bars in Ventosa (pop. 169) and had breakfast and waited until around 10:30 before walking the final distance to Las Aguedas.

Normally check-in time is 1:00, but if we arrive too early, we’re likely to have to wait longer, but, if we get there later, our chances of getting in earlier increase, based on our Camino experience. Go figure!

Las Aguedas

Las Aguedas is our favorite accommodation on the Camino out of over 120, so far. We stopped here by accident in 2014 and were overwhelmed by the interior decor and comfort.

Our room
vanity, bathroom and sitting area

The owner, Señora Rocio J. Bonet, is a superb hostess, graciously, welcoming you into her beautiful 18th century home, with period furnishings and yet all the facilities of a modern inn.

common area, library, sitting area

She prepares a delicious dinner in her dining room featuring Spanish cuisine and fine wines. Consequently we worked our Camino itinerary to stay here again in 2017 and were fortunate to book a room two days ago for tonight. It’s a B&B extraordinaire for 75€ for a large double room and ensuite bathroom +10€x2 for dinner.

After getting lunch at the other bar in Ventosa, we did some planning for the next week or so, to decide our walk for each day, where we’d like to stay, then making reservations via email or Booking.com. The month of August is prime festival time and its not easy to know which towns will no longer have accommodations that match our preferences… a little planning will reduce the stress of finishing a long walk and not having a place to stay.

Dining Room
Outdoor garden and common area

Our dinner tonight met our expectations, even though it was just Linda and Jim served by Rocio, our hostess. No other guests had arrived in time for dinner at 7:00.

fresh garden salad with fruit and vegetables
paella
Local wine, a Tempranilla (85%) Mazuelo (15%) blend- 2011

The salad, paella and homemade citron sorbet was delicious and the reserve local wine was exceptional for a Riója and bottled here at the Alvia Bidegas in Ventosa. Hopefully we can buy it at Total Wine when we return home.

Our after dinner conversation included strategies to expand the Las Aguedas business into corporate markets and shared experiences walking the Camino. Señora Bonet is a good businesswoman and very customer oriented. We wished her well and retired to our room after an interesting, engaging evening on the Camino Frances.

Day 14 – Logroño to Navarrete

Walked today: 4.5 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 99.4 miles

We had our taxi take us to a park on the edge of Logroño, avoiding a several mile walk through the city. So you might say initially it was like a walk in the park (sorry).

We stopped at this cafe in the park but closed until 9.

Oh. Did we mention that it was raining when we started?

The park is actually a combination golf course, camp ground, wildlife preserve and agricultural research area for white Tempranilla grapes.

We followed the path for a mile or so then climbed a hill with a nice overview of the park with Logroño in the background.

At the top of the hill we exited the park on a narrow dirt and paved road which paralleled the highway

Pilgrims can’t pass a fence without adding cross art.

until we approached the town of Navarrete and the rain stopped.

We stopped for breakfast after entering town,

Classy Camino marker on Navarrete streets

then walked to the Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Asuncíon and went inside.

Its a parish church whose construction started in 1533 and completed in 1645!

It is mostly known for its main alterpiece, considered one of the finest examples of 17th century Baroque works in Spain.

There were several other interesting art forms displayed in the church that captured our attention,

Santiago ( St James)

before we left, in respect for a morning service that was about to begin.

We continued our walk along the Camino into town center and Hotel Rey Sancho(55€). Our room would not be ready until noon, so we settled down in the nearby town square for a supplemental cafe con leche and enjoyed the cool breeze and shade.

We checked in at 11:40. Our room is wonderful and a real bargain.

Jim removed his boots and socks and Linda laughed at his feet.

I don’t see anything funny about his feet, do you?

So, for lunch we went bar hoppin’ for pintxos.  Without the advantage of language, selecting a pintxo is based on visual appeal and an occasional recognized, preferred food component. But like a box of chocolates, you are never sure what you’re gonna’ get until you bite, chew and swallow.  
Mushrooms on right near Linda
Never did figure out what item in foreground was.
Add the ambiance of an outdoor, tree shaded area with a slight breeze and a local red wine… and you have the makin’s of a culinary adventure filled with potential.  
Today’s surprise was the most delicious mushrooms we have ever tasted.  We ordered two and savored every morsel, then sopped the residual garlic/olive oil drippings with torn pieces of baguette. We learned later that mushrooms are a specialty of Navarrete.  How did we miss this in 2014 and 2017?!
While reminiscing our most recent culinary triumph with the last few sips of Riója red, Linda observed an unusual tandem bicycle pull up and an apparent grandfather and grandson disembarked and sat down at an adjacent table.  
Not wanting to appear nosy, Jim didn’t look around, but got up and walked over to the bike, made eye contact with the owners and asked if he could take a photo.
One thing led to another and it turns out, the grandfather was from Belgium, had biked to a town in France, picked up his grandson (one of eight) and they together had crossed the Pyrennes several days ago and were headed for Santiago.  The grandson had recently successfully made the school volleyball team and had been given 3 weeks off between pre-season training sessions.
The proud grandfather had made 3 previous trips via tandem bike to Santiago with family members.  He had purchased the bike in Holland when he retired ten years ago as an incentive to keeping in shape and a unique way of bonding with next generation family members.

We read, blogged, napped, then snacked for supper, still sated from our mid-day pintxos binge.

It was a delightful day spent in Navarrete, Riója, Spain on the Camino Frances.