A Squeeze, Snowflakes & Gin – From Burgos to Logroño, Spain
“I think we can make it” I said to dad
Those were confident words for someone who really had no clue. The truth was I wasn’t sure, not sure at all, but we had managed to get ourselves stuck in the middle of a teeny little Spanish village and unless we wanted to back-up a curvy one-way street for several km (which I really, really didn’t want to do), forward was the only way.
The only problem with that was the road in front of us was a nerve-wrackingly narrow passage with a 2m high brick wall on one side and concrete barriers/street-lamps on the other. It was only around 100 m long, but it wasn’t straight the whole way and it was super narrow. This was going to be a helluva nail-biting sqeeeeeeeze. Still, it looked do-able…..right?
Dad got out to walk the route and measure the width of the passage at the shortest curve with his feet. He paced back and forth, counting it off carefully.
“I think we can make it” he finally agreed, albeit somewhat hesitantly
So of course we went ahead and did it. We inched forward at a snail’s pace with dad walking in front to check clearance on both sides of the motorhome, and me behind the wheel completing a world-record best in manual-gear-driving to manage the sloth-like pace.
“Oh shit, we’re not going to make it”
We’d gotten to the squeeze-point when we both realized we’d made a terrible mistake.
While pacing out the width of the motorhome, we had totally forgotten about the side-mirrors that were now millimeters away from scraping the start of Beethoven’s ninth on the concrete wall. We couldn’t go forward, and at this point there was no way we’d make it backwards either. So either we were permanently stuck here, or we would have to abandon ship. I had brief flashes of walking the Camino with dad, the dog and 2 cats in tow while LMB languished behind in a Spanish alley. I wonder if anyone else has walked the Camino with cats?
“They fold, the mirrors fold!” I shouted, having a sudden revelation
Dad squeezed in around the sides to fold in the motorhome mirrors, providing several precious extra cm of clearance. We inched forward, making our way out of the narrowest point with just whispers of air to spare. We’d made it! The biggest squeeze I’d ever driven in my life and thankfully, blissfully there was a wide-open parking space (and another way out of town) in front.
I am NEVER doing that again!! I declared, my hands trembling
*No Photos? Sorry, no photos of LMB in the actual squeeze. I was honestly just too stressed while we were going through it and didn’t even think about it until afterwards. Would have made for an epic shot though!
I Blame It On The Churches
Our route today was an easy meander of ~114 km along the Camino De Santiago (N-120 if you’re driving it) from Burgos to Logroño, with no squeezing planned.
It’s a wonderful little stretch of road that goes through rolling hills, beautiful wine country (Rioja, in specific) and a slew of charming little Spanish villages. It’s back-road kinda driving so traffic is super light, but because it’s along the Camino De Santiago it’s packed with Pilgrims, Albergues, Restaurants and (of course, since the Camino is a religious pilgrimage) masses of churches.
The latter was of specific interest to us, given my fathers love of churches. So our goal for the day was really just to take our time and stop along the way to see as many of them as we could. LMB is small and nimble, so I figured we’d just pop off the main road whenever we spotted anything caught our eye. Solid plan, right?
Of course I might have underestimated how much of a squeeze little Spanish towns can be……
Our First Stop Is A Rock Chapel
One of the first churches that catches our eye is up on a hill, dramatically perched inside a cliff off the side of the road.
We stop in the little town (Tosantos), finding easy parking on the side of N-120 and walking up with Polly to explore it. Ermita De La Virgen De La Peña looks super interesting from afar, but is quite tiny and sadly closed up as we get close. It’s a cool little walk however with lovely views of the valley. Plus it’s a pretty well-known landmark on the Camino, so it feels somewhat momentous to see it.
Then We Squeeze Into Belorado
Our next stop is in the small town of Belorado which has several interesting-looking churches on Google.
That’s where LMB gets stuck and we decide (somewhat after-the-fact logically) to thoroughly Google Street-View any future little town we go into. A total noob mistake, considering how many years we drove “the beast” in USA, but I guess I’d just gotten over-confident in our little new rig. She’s nimble alright, but she can’t quite go everywhere a regular car can. Oh well…
Once we make it to the church (Iglesia de Santa María La Mayor) and settle our nerves from the alley squeeze, we quite enjoy our visit. The town actually has 3 lovely churches and is covered in interesting wall art, plus the weekly open-air market is on, so it’s rocking with people. We have coffee in the main square and stroll around for a while before getting back into LMB to carry on, this time taking the main road out of town.
We Stop For A Fascinating Clock Tower In Santo Domingo De La Calzada
Our next stop is the penultimate one for the day, in the charming town of Santo Domingo De La Calzada where we parked at an easy (phew!) parking area right outside of downtown.
Santo Domingo De La Calzada is a key crossroads on the Camino, named for it’s founder the religious hermit Dominic de la Calzada, who built a bridge, hospital, and hotel here for pilgrims on the French Way. It’s home to a 12th century cathedral and has a unique extra attraction, the oldest working clock tower in Spain. This latter is a fabulous 70 m tall building the interior of which displays the wonderful clock-mechanism, while the top houses the bells and opens to a fab view. It is well-worth seeing.
We walk with Polly into the center, following the Camino trail through town. Dad goes up to visit the clock tower, while I hang around in the main square, mingling and chatting with Pilgrims, all of whom are extremely friendly and want to pet Polly. It’s a wonderfully pleasant atmosphere and would be darn near perfect except for some random cannon going off every 20 mins that practically causes me to jump out of my skin. What is that?????** In the meantime some young boys come dancing through town playing medieval music and carrying huge semi-circular rainbow colored pom-pom-like things. It’s all very elaborate and entertaining to watch.
After dad is done with his visit we wonder round town for a bit more and then snag some lunch, before I decide to go back to explore the clock tower myself. Of course by this time it’s siesta, the sacred time of afternoon rest and so the tower is closed. Noooooooo! It’ll be several hours or more before it opens up again (if it opens in the afternoon at all?), so I resign myself to the fact that I’ve missed it altogether. DUH! Well at least dad got to see it, and we DID enjoy the town, without any squeeze. Call it a win?
** What WERE those canon noises? I never exactly figured out what was making the noise, but there are several medieval festivals held in town between May 10-15, so it was probably linked to that. That also explains why those dancing boys came though.
We Arrive At Our Final Destination, Logroño
After our clock tower stop we continue on a pleasant drive through the Rioja wine region towards our final destination of the day, the larger town of Logroño. Admittedly, our first impressions are not exactly great.
The entrance to town goes through a kind of industrial suburbia that feels particularly unappealing after a day of charming 12th and 13th century towns. The one and one campground in town (Camping La Playa) doesn’t exactly inspire either. It’s super tight*** with only very few sites many of which are shared spots (two motorhomes in one site). The whole layout is awkward, plus it’s the most expensive campground we’ve stayed at thus far costing ~EUR 30/night. I’m underwhelmed by the place, but it’s shaded and clean and in a very good location only ~10 mins walk from the historic city center (which Paul assured me was very nice indeed). So we decide to stay.
We squeeze LMB into a (thankfully completely empty) double end-site, get Polly on the leash and summon up a last-ditch effort of energy to walk into town.
***Motorhome Size: Our 7 m motorhome just barely made it into this campground. Most of the other rigs here were either ~6 m or vans. I definitely wouldn’t recommend coming with anything longer/larger than us.
We End The Day With Snowflakes & Gin
It looks exactly like snow. Fluffy flakes of feathery white balls are flying through the air and swirling around in clouds, covering the ground in a thick mass of white.
We’ve apparently hit a record month for tufted catkin seeds (the seeds of Aspen trees), and it’s kinda romantic until the fluff gets into your nose and sticks all over your skin. Despite the cotton-like rain, it’s actually really nice here with large green banks of grass and trees set along a beautiful wild river. It’s a pretty setting and everybody is out enjoying the early evening cool, with folks walking the trails and dogs playing off leash along the banks. Just lovely…
We walk the few minutes to the bridge, cross the river and enter into old town.
Immediately we see the charm. There are churches everywhere (literally almost 20 churches & parishes just in old town!!), bells ringing the evening clock and old cobblestone streets alive with the hum of outdoor restaurants and tables packed to the brim with folks enjoying an evening drink. We visit a few churches and then sit down at a street side bar to take in the atmosphere. Dad orders a large beer while I get a gin and tonic which happily turns out to be a head-sized monster. It totally hits the spot. Is there any better way to end a day?
After our refreshments we walk around and explore a bit more.
Logroño is famous for their tapas, known as some of the very best in Spain. The crème-de-la-crème is along a single street, Calle Laurel where we see tapas bar after tapas bar loaded with piles high of sumptuous and superbly inventive creations. The food looks amazing, but sadly it’s only 8:30pm, super early by Spanish standards and so none of the bars are open. We’re dying to try them, but we’re exhausted and simply can’t stay up late enough. So we call it a day and walk home for another simple meal before piling off to bed.
It’s been another full day and the Camino has provided, as it does to everyone who travels along it. Tomorrow we follow the trail even further, up high into the mountains of the Pyrénées. If the weather holds, it’s going to be a helluva gorgeous drive…
Useful Camino extras: When traveling along the Camino whether it be by foot or camping car, it’s useful to bring along some guides. There are several apps that do an excellent job of tracking distances & services in each town. Paul’s top tip is Wisely+ the Camino Frances. For the drive in LMB dad and I carried along the book A Pilgrim’s Guide To The Camino De Santiago which we found super helpful for deciding stops and things to see along the way.SPONSORED LINK:
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