Sunday, April 21, 2013

Estella to Los Arcos

Last night we treated ourselves to a private room in the small Hostal Christina. We were very excited to get the last available room and have it located on the second floor overlooking the edge of the main Plaza de Los Fueros and the San Juan Bautista Church. What we didn't consider is that the Spanish love to party late at night. There seemed to be a major celebration going on outside our window until 4:30 am at which time the church bells started ringing every 30 minutes in preparation for Sunday services (and the party stopped).
But we did enjoy our evening in Estella. We walked the streets and the bridges over the Rio Ega, looking at some of the beautiful old churches and village plazas. The town was established in 1090 specifically to provide overnight shelter for pilgrims. Today it is a vibrant town of 15,000 with a modern section.
The weather was sunny but cool as we headed out of town. We didn't leave until 9 because we slept in and had breakfast at a local cafe with WiFi.
We walked past the Irache Monastery and then our first stop -- the free wine fountain provided by the Bodegas Irache winery. Even though it was just after breakfast, we had a taste, but determined it was not their best. (Like we're experts.)
Most of today we traveled on rolling natural paths which meandered through large scrub oak trees (Holm Oak) and some pine trees, but the majority of the path skirted vineyards - rows and rows of them. It is obvious why Navarre is the wine producing region of Spain.
We passed through the tiny village of Azqueta with its large parish church. There we found a handy little store that catered to pilgrims and had a bathroom. These are always a treat. Met up with a couple from Australia that we have walked with several times.
We had packed our lunches and stopped by one of the many ancient fountains along the Camino to eat. Apparently, the water is so good that people drive up in their cars and fill multiple bottles, as one man did while we were there.
Our next stop was Villamayor de Monjardin, another beautiful little village, but noteworthy because of the conical peak of Monjardin with the ruins of St. Stephen's Castle forming a distinctive backdrop to the village.
We ended our day about 3 pm at Los Arcos, completing 13 miles today, bringing our 3 day total to 40. Not bad for a beginning.
Again, we decided we needed a goodnight's sleep so we snagged the last room (again) at Pension Mavi, near Plaza de Santa Maria. Seems there really are a lot of pilgrims this time of year. The plaza had a bar and a restaurant with outdoor seating where many other pilgrims enjoyed their evening libations. We were joined by a few we had met several times before. We also went into the Church of Santa Maria and were awed by the amount of gold in the nave especially for a city of 1300.
We turned in early, not sure what tomorrow will bring.
1) Estrella- old central fountain with former city hall with Baroque facade facing and, on right, 12th century Palace of the Kings of Navarre.
2) Church of San Pedro,
3) Fuente del Vino
4) Countryside
5) Ruins of old Pilgrim hospital

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