Yesterday, we left basque country (or was it the day before?) and entered the region called Rioja- wine country. it is also paella country apparently. For the last two days, paella has been on offer for the pilgrims menu and we've been loving it.
We had planned to walk 7km today, from Navarette to Ventosa and then go on to Najera tomorrow. Plans on the Camino, however, are ephemeral at best. We found ourselves on the road at 6:30 a.m. which put us in Ventosa at 8:30 - far too early to stop for the day. So, we had some pan chocolat for breakfast and hit the trail towards Najera (10km further away).
Along the way, we passed a stone beehive shaped building with an information sign telling the story of how the pilgrim, Roland (you know, Charlemagne's pal), killed the giant Ferragut - who is reported to have been nine feet tall with "a nose span of length and strength of four men". Wow. That must have been one. strong. nose. In some versions of the tale, the mighty schnozz was felled by a stone from Roland's slingshot. The version we were offered today tells a different tale of a death thrust through the giant's navel (see photo).
While we were sitting and contemplating noses and navels, one of Dad's fans came by and asked if she could take our picture. We said yes and after she took her photo, she offered to take one of Dad and me with my phone. I can't believe I haven't asked someone to do that sooner! Photo is in the mix below.
We arrived in Najera just before noon and were met by other newly arrived pilgrims clutching their cell phones and telling a woeful tale. Today is a fiesta day in Najera and, they told us, all rooms were taken in the whole town. The hotels were "complet".
Dad and I decided to check with the oficina de turismo to see if they could find us anything and, if not, if they could book us someplace in the next town (and we'd take a bus).
There were signs indicating the way to the Turismo, but the way was far from clear. Happily, a lovely and kind teenaged Spanish girl chose to lead us there (rather than try to explain directions). The very nice lady at the Turismo made one quick call and we had a room with en suite bath only two minutes walk away.
We took baths and put on our last clean clothes. It was 1:30 -time to go get lunch before everything closed for siesta (2:30-5:00 usually).
When we got to the lobby, we asked if there was a laundry service and, miracle of modern civilization, there WAS! Up in the ascensor to stuff our laundry in a bag. Down again to hand it to our wonderful hostess and then out into a cool afternoon to find paella, grilled pork ribs (with the ubiquitous papa fritas) and flan (for me) ice cream (for Dad).
Back to the room we went for our own siesta, then out into Najera for an hour of sight seeing. We visited the Monestario Santa Maria la Real (a lovely church and cloister built onto a cave in the hillside) and the Museo Najerillense (where artifacts from excavations near Najera are on display including roman and Neolithic pieces).
We made our way back to the room to find our laundry done. Ahhhh.
Dad says we've gone 20% of the way. Only 370 miles to go!