May 28, 2008 Logroño to Nájera

I believed I could make it over the next two days as far as Santo Domingo de la Calzada, before having to catch a bus or taxi to Burgos for my detour to Copenhagen. So with this goal in mind and all my English-speaking pilgrim friends ahead of me I set my sights on covering the distance.

Just after Logroño vineyards dominate the countryside. It’s clear to see how Logroño is the capital of the famous La Rioja region of Spain, known world-wide for its Tempranillo wines. Entranced by the vineyards I walked right through Navarette, not stopping even for a croissant. After Navarette the town of Ventosa seems best to embody this region. Set on a hill with its church tower dominating the countryside, Ventosa is what you imagine a Riojan town to be like.

After Ventosa I came to the eastern suburbs of Nájera, looking for the 100-bed albergue — quite a transition from the plush hotel of the night before. The albergue is located adjacent to the river park, very near the historic church built over a cave. I dropped my bag at an upper bunk in a large room with 99 other beds and headed to lunch and a tour of the grand church which is located just a couple of blocks away.

The church was not a disappointment. Its Gothic nave is surely one of the most beautiful in Spain, and its crypts contain sarcophagi of many of the kings and queens of La Rioja and Navarre who’d made their capital here in Nájera.

That evening I sat with a crew of English speakers in the albergue’s kitchen and recounted pilgrim stories, particularly how each had survived the hailstorm of the day before. One pilgrim woman had been caught in a freeway underpass as the swirling waters became nearly a foot deep. Though it was a great conversation I held back some, knowing that my detour would cause me to lose connection with yet another group of pilgrims. I began to look forward to my flight to Copenhagen in part to see Gail, but also so I could settle back into what was becoming the best part of pilgrim life — making friends over the course of many days and kilometers with other pilgrims from all around the world.

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