Day 9 – Ventosa to Santo Domingo de la Calzada – 31.4km

10.30am It made a pleasant change this morning to wake to the sound of Gregorian chanting and the smell of incense rather than the assault on my auditory and olfactory senses that I’ve endured over the last week or so. When I booked in to the Albergue San Saturnio yesterday I was surprised to discover a large party of Germans  ( apparently it’s recommended in the German guide books). They had arrived mid afternoon and were all busy cooking while we found our bunks. I was happy to see Ian from Dublin and a few others I recognised too. Ian was at pains to tell me that the small shop in the albergue sold local Rioja for 3 euros a bottle and his sampling had revealed it to be excellent stuff. On my return from dinner in the village later in the evening I found Ian and the Germans sitting at a patio table that was covered in empty wine bottles. They were in very high spirits indeed. I was particularly amused to see one guy in an advanced state of inebriation. He was the snorer I had encountered back in Roncesvalles and hitherto had seemed a very serious chap , striding out purposefully with one of those Bavarian hats atop his head. The wine had made him very giggly indeed and brought out an amorous streak in him too. He appeared to be trying to chat up a fellow German lady and what made it funnier still to the other Germans was that this was all being conducted in English.

7.45pm I set out just before sunrise at 7.30am today and arrived , 31.4km later , in Santo Domingo de la Calzada at 6.30pm. My longest day , not helped by the cloudless sky and lack of shade. When I set out the plan was to stop in Ciruena but it turned out to be like a one horse town in a Spaghetti Western. I pushed on to the much more lively Santo Domingo. After walking over 60km in the last 2 days with 12kg on my back , and having shivered through cold showers and slept on mats with noisy Hobbits I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I hobbled into the main square and passed a Parador Hotel. I couldn’t help it . I walked in and booked a room. I know , I know , I’m a very bad Pilgrim. I’m sure I’ll do my penance further down the way though.

I walked through miles of vineyards today and saw some of the ripe grapes being harvested. I passed through Najera and met up with a couple from San Francisco , Sasha and Beth. We spent a hour or so visiting the Monasterio Santa Maria de la Real , burial place of many of the Kings , Queens and Knights of Navarre. The whole thing is built adjoining a cave in a sandstone cliff in which Don Garcia , son of Sancho the Great, had a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1044. I’ve posted a few photos of the interior , including the amazing main Altarpiece.

In the morning I passed one of the beehive huts that I’ve seen before in The Camino. I’ve posted a few pictures of some of the chalk writings on the interior of this one , some of them quite moving.

On the way today I was delighted to bump into Conor from Crossmolina again. He had been walking into Azofra with Jolanta and an old Spanish lady had asked him to help push her wheelchair bound husband up a hill in the town. He had sprained his right calf in doing so and was forced to stop at the Albergue in the village. His first injury in 900km. I hope he’s ok to carry on. I relayed to him the events of the previous evening when we had come back into the Refugio after dinner only to discover the other Pilgrims had drunk every drop of the 3 euro a bottle Rioja from it’s small shop. He laughed and then broke into song , singing the chorus of that well known Irish ditty ” There’s nothing so lonesome , so morbid or drear as to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer ” . He told me that he plans to walk from Lourdes to Santiago next year and was talking about doing it in his bare feet !

FAO Tony Dewhurst . Tony I did beg the Monks in the Monastery for some Indulgences ( the Plenery kind ) on your behalf but when I told them your history they went rather quiet and serious looking . ” Ok , any chance of partial Indulgences ” says I. Nada. They say you’ll have to do the whole whack in Purgatory unless you come out here and do The Camino. I did try . BTW the Monks wore a rather fetching habit , knee length with ankle socks. Would suit you I think : )

Harvesting the grapes

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