Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Logroño – 52km
Logroño to Estella – 47km
The hills are still with us, but with no headwind the last two days, the cycling has been a lot easier.
We are continuing to follow (in reverse) the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James), occasionally on the path itself, but mostly on roads that run alongside (N120 and 120A to Legrono; N111 & NA1110 to Estella) (sometimes the Camino is on the road) or that meet up periodically with the Camino. This Camino de Santiago, also known as the Camino Francés (the French Way), is the most popular of a number of ancient pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia. St. James, one of the Twelve Apostles and brother of John the Apostle, is the patron saint of Spain and, according to legend, his remains are held at Santiago de Compostela. Where before, our presence on the road or passing through a town has been generally ignored, we are now being greeted with a respectful “buen Camino!”
We have spoken to a few “pilgrims” – an Australian, a couple from New Zealand, 3 cyclists from Germany, who were finding the 25/30 km days long. A young cyclist we met today had started yesterday on her own from Pamplona and looked quite discouraged. She looked so disappointed when we said we were going the other direction. We get the impression that, at least for the hikers, there is the camaraderie and support of other hikers on the trail, which is not the case for a cyclist doing it alone.
We cycled through Rioja vineyards yesterday, the vines just starting to shoot. We had had a wonderful Rioja the night before in Santa Domingo de la Calzada; a typical blend will consist of approximately 60% Tempranillo and up to 20% Garnacha, with much smaller proportions of Mazuelo and Graciano.
After a fairly easy ride in the morning, the afternoon became more complicated when the N120 turned into an A road and we had to detour through the hilly area around Ventosa. We were later able to follow (and lose and regain) the Camino. Arriving in Logroño our first (booked) hotel refused our bikes, so we used another Lonely Planet recommendation, Hotel Calle Mayor, where we got a much better reception – the young man on the reception desk was a cyclist, who competed in long distance races and planned to cycle to and climb Mt. Blanc.
Apparently, Calle Laurel in Legroño is known for its pinchos (tapas) bars and the Australian hiker had specifically recommended Bar Soriano, for its stacked mushrooms. However, unable to wait until 8:30-9:00, we found another bar open which served various fish pinchos, all of which went down well with glasses of Rioja.
Today, we left Logroño passing over the Rio Ebro. We rode on the Camino for a while, which was lovely, walking our bikes up a steep hill through a village, then back on the road when the Camino path turned to gravel.
Just when Lois was waxing lyrically about the serenity of the day, we were overtaken by rally drivers from Torres de Rio to just before Villamayor de Monjardin (III Rallye de Circuito de Navarre).
On a good downhill stretch into Estella we stopped at Benedictine Monastry of Irache which has, for pilgrims and other travelers like ourselves we think, water fountain AND a wine fountain.
Wildlife notes: Long-legged Buzzard and Black-winged Kite.
It was wonderful to receive an email from Paul (Martin) whom we met on our cross-Canada trip in 2013 and cycled with for a few days in northern Ontario. He is an avid cyclist from the U.K. who is now living in Montreal. Hopefully we will meet up again sometime in the future!
Wildlife notes: Long-legged Buzzard and Black-winged Kite