Day Thirty Seven: Torres del Rio to Navarette: Mainly in the Plain - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

May 3, 2017

Day Thirty Seven: Torres del Rio to Navarette: Mainly in the Plain

This was a super day, that did not start off as planned. We had cleverly detected that at the "albergue" part of the operation, breakfast was offered at 6, while in the "hotel" part the time was given as 7:15. (Both halves of this strange operation use the "hotel" restaurant for the evening meal, but breakfast is simple here, so pilgrims can be dealt with at ad hoc tables up the little hill.)

Our plan was to go for the 6 o'clock breakfast and return to the hotel to collect our bikes and leave at 7. So we got up at 5:30, packed, and were ready to bring bags to the bikes and head to breakfast at 6. But no - we were locked in to the hotel. The reception was dark and though we could go through its door (after wedging a fire extinguisher in it to ensure a return) the courtyard leading to the street was barricaded and locked with a padlock. Wow, and we thought the place in Toulouse with the code to get out was a fire hazard - but here, a padlock? What is WRONG with these people!

We returned to our room and breakfasted on cookies liberated from yesterday's breakfast. Then we sent out a scouting party and discovered an openable door in the second floor restaurant - a door that opened to the street! (Possible becasue the building was built on a hill). So then we piled the bikes one at a time into the very small elevator (had to partially fold mine) and brought them through the darkened restaurant and out to freedom! Needless to say we passed away the first few kms of ride talking about our possible booking.com review of this place. After those kms, though, and given the beauty of where we were, we stopped and took big breaths, telling ourselves to forget about it. It did take a few more kms after that, but then it was ok - until now writing this, of course!

Trapped!
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The net town along for us was Viana. The night before we had looked at the Bikeline guide, which contained a scary number of hill denoting chevrons on the stretch to Viana. There was an alternate with no hills marked, but three times as long. Oh hell, we said, we'll just go straight for it. Rehashing the hotel escape helped a lot, as we noticed any hills less while ranting.About 7 kms on, we crossed paths again with the two walking girls we had been going apace with for part of yesterday. We enjoyed meeting them again. It also demonstrated that on a route segment with significant hills our speed is about the same as walker speed.

It's not a race, but these girls go about the same speed as us (on hills, anyway)
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Cruising down to Viana
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Any effort we had put in in climbing out of Torres del Rio was repayed with some swift downhills and an easy entry into the town of Viana. As a safeguard about the feared major hills into Viana, we had booked a short day, to end at Navarette. So we felt much at ease to explore Viana, not that we had arrived so early (9 o'clock). Viana is a small town, and easy to understand. At one end of the old town is the church Santa de Maria de la Asuncion and the city hall, while at the other end is a ruin of the church of San Pedro. The main street in between houses such shops or cafes as there are, and also at the San Pedro end is a vista out over the Ebro River valley.

We found the Santa Maria church only opened at 10, so that gave time to noodle around. The first chore was to supplement the cookies that had posed as breakfast. This would be easy, since we had seen lots of "ants" walking up the main street with bread. The bakery was easy to spot since we knew it had to be there, but again it had only a small door and no large display window. The breads inside were numerous, but looked weak (dry, light). The lady suggested a "health" bread which we gladly went for, but have not checked out as yet. Two pastry like things proved to be no sweet enough and again with suspect low quality shortening. We stuffed them in our bag (in case of starvation/dire need later) and moved along to what we had figured out was a second bakery! This actually had a somewhat large window, and miraculously croissants that were as good as or better than France! So now our opinion of Spanish bakeries is a bit in flux. Ones that do their own Spanish thing rate low for us, but clearly there can be some that emulate the French and do it well. We will have to keep checking.

The San Pedro church was fascinating. It is a 13th century church/fortress that was seriously damaged in the first Carlist war, said the plaque. Right now, we do not know what that war was. The church is a gothis design, with several areas of remaining fresco. Many areas of carved stone are in good shape, but some are seriously worn away. A missing rose window in the ceiling gave me a photo through to blue sky that looks like some representation of Planet Earth.

With 10:00 upon us, we returned to the Santa Maria church. There we encountered four young men who were cycling the Camino with 29" wheel mountain bikes. They were young and very strong, and at least pretended to be impressed at how we had handled the stretch from Torres. They said they had pushed it in some sections also. Of the four, two were Spanish, while one was from Portugal and one from Argentina (though living in Paris). Dodie spoke to the Portugese boy about cycling near Porto, which I spoke to the Argentinian, reminiscing about cycling in downtown Paris, including around the eight lane roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe.

The church itself is known for housing the remains of Cesar Borgia, who was the son of a Pope (how does that work?) and a soldier in the time of the Renaissance. He died here in 1507 (I think). Cesar Borgia is not to be confused with Victor Borge, the very funny Danish comedian!

The grave of Cesare Borgia, in front of the Santa Maria church in Viana
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Viana city hall
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What a bakery looks like in Spain
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Lots of breads - all weak looking
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Ok, the second bakery had a window
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The facade of the destroyed San Pedro church
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Carving on the front
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A lot of the carving is worn away - not sure how something like that could be restored
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Piees of fresco remain
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This arch and fresco are ok, but exposed to the elements
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Missing rose window produces planet earth type shot
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Three of the four young cyclists by the Santa Maria church
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Inside Santa Maria, Viana
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Lots of gold paint
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Dodie mixes it up with the walkers
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It is a short and mostly downhill run from Viana to Legrono. Legrono is a large city and capital of the region we are now in, Rioja. Guidebooks like that of Rick Steves brand it forgettable, but we liked it. Again, the old city is not very large and is built around one significant street, in this case calle Barriocepo. Along this way are several memorable buildings, commemorated by plaques, and at the end is the Rioja parliament. The building for that used to e a monastery and also used to be a tobacco factory. It still boasts a tall chimney.

But the star of the street is the St jacobs church, featuring on the facade statues of the warrior and the pilgrim facets of the saint. Inside is what we have come to recognize as the typical carved, gold painted, full height wall decoration. This one portrayed lots of figures, but we had no idea who they were or what they were portrayed as doing. Impressive, though.

Navarette is not far from Legrono, but we upped the degree of difficulty by heading off north and west along the Ebro River, just for the hell of it. We had read in a guidebook that the "plain" of Spain starts here, and that we can expect to see relatively flat and dry terrain until at least Burgos. It was all true, as if a switch had been flipped. The various shades of green that I had tried to capture with the camera earlier were now much more tinged with brown. And the wide open spaces with large fields no doubt tended by residents of the scattered villages now became small holdings, with houses spread out and located on the lands.

At El Cortijo we picked up a short bike route, a rail trail, part of an ambitious plan to have lots more. It was fun for a while, as it paralleled the river, but eventually it came to a screaming halt at an access parking lot. So we exited the lot and continued on a little road toward Fuenmayor. Within half a km, though, we came to a construction worker and car, and he told us what we had already seen from up on the ridge with the cycle path - they were paving the road to Fuenmayor and it was impassable. He said this with a lot of fast Spanish, and we could not really make out if proceeding for us was forbidden and/or impossible or would just be a bug. So we filtered past the man, and since he did not scream at us, we assumed we had a chance of getting through.

When we reached the construction we could see that a large truck was dumping hot ashfalt the full width of the road, which otherwise was bounded by grape plants trellised with wires at right angles to the road. i.e. no place to pass. But the workers indicated a one foot dirt margin between the ashfalt and the vines, and we carried our bikes through that. Actually, they helped both of us carry through! We don't think this would have happened in most other countries. Had it not happened here, it was a hell of a way back and out (maybe 15 km).

We gleefully carried on to Fuenmayor, and then down to Navarette. Or at least the outskirts. Our little excursion was bringing us to town not on the Camino way, and anyway the Albuergue we had booked was not downtown. The door of the place when we arrived was locked, and no one appeared to be inside. I went around to try another door, before phoning, but meanwhile someone came and admitted Dodie. But they relocked the door, leaving me standing there?

The place turned out to be huge and so far we have only seen two other people in it. It is quite a change from the bustling scene we have encounted at every other place. Not sure why. But we are going down now to see about food. could be a maybe. Stay tuned. Photos coming too...

Looking toward Logrono
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The Logrono bridge
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Pilgrims' fountain near St James church, Logrono
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Two views of St James - warrior and pilgrim
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Inside St James, wall covered in figures - who are they and what is the story of each diarama?
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One closeup of the wall
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another closeup of the wall
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The Rioja parliament. The building was at one time a tobacco factory
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Even modern walkers can get immortalized in sculpture
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We exited the old town and entered modern Logrono
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Heading out of modern Logrono
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We plotted a route by the river - about a 10 km detour. See how the landscape is way browner than even this morning?
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Vines growing in stones - just like at Chateauneuf du Pape. Lots of fields of vines were heavily frost damaged, just as we had seen in France
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The paving equipment as i struggled by
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Giving Dodie a hand
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Every day we are passing gorgeous wildflowers of many types. I just snapped these poppies to help remember
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In France roadsides are clean, and Spain too, up to today. Now suddently they are full of discarded bottles (mainly)
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Bicycles are not allowed on the autoroute, makes sense. But why pick on the poor Amish?
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Our albergue at Navarete stands quite out of the way. It's interior is clean and new
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But the albergue is empty - strange, except that it is out of the way. The evening meal was very plain - not really worth it, except for the effort needed to find another place or to find a grocerey and cook something.
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Today's ride: 43 km (27 miles)
Total: 1,623 km (1,008 miles)

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