We passed through the medieval portal (I love that word) juxtaposed to the opulent Church of St. Mary of the Arches (photo 1) and onto the Camino, leaving our Hostal around 8:30. It was very cool and cloudy, not what we were expecting, but thank goodness, no rain.
Anyone who is a fan of James Taylor can imagine I was humming his song "Walking Down a Country Road" as I journeyed today. Most of today was on natural paths and dirt tracks through arable farmlands, many of which are devoted to vineyards. We are in Rioja, after all, the famous wine-producing region in Spain.
Our first stop was in Sansol, where a pilgrim "tienda" had attracted a number of walkers. We reconnected with some former acquaintances and, of course, took advantage of the single bathroom.
From there it was a short walk across a small river into Torres del Rio (photo 2). Here I visited the 12th century church Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro linked with the Knights Templar and based on the octagonal church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The rest of the day was rolling hills and farmlands, but often with paved trails and always well marked. (photo 3) Lunch was a brief stop with carried sandwiches under pine trees with an assortment of nationalities.
We arrived in the village of Viana about 1:30 and had an unusual experience. We tried to get a double room at an albergue that was full. But the woman called her sister(?) who came and got us and took us to a beautiful albergue with 8 beds in 3 rooms and 2 baths. We had a room to ourselves. But the woman handed us keys to the front door and told us where to leave them in the morning. Then she left and never came back. Later that night a young couple from Nova Scotia, whom we had met previously, joined us. The 4 of us had this lovely, new, quiet 3 story dwelling to ourselves. Interesting.
We then explored the town and found it delightful. We located the Iglesia Santa Maria, (photo 4) a huge 13th century church situated on the Plaza de Los Fueros with its central fountain and across from the town hall. Continuing on, we toured the ruins of the Church of St. Peter, which must have been enormous, and they were painstakingly restoring some of the medieval frescoes on the remaining walls. We then walked along a lovely sidewalk which seemed to circumvent the old city and we saw the ancient defensive walls on the west side.
We found free WiFi at the library and then had dinner at a popular pilgrim hangout, La Taverna. A group of 8 or so Australian women, with whom we had shared accommodations the past two nights, were there celebrating their last big night on the Camino. They were a delightful group and we are sorry to see them end their trip so soon.
Today we completed 12 more miles of our journey.