From Lows To Highs on the Camino – Logrono to Espinal, Spain
Life can change in a day. You learn that lesson in regular life of course, but it seems to be taught more often when you’re on the road. Something about the unpredictability of travel I guess, or just the fact that when you’re “out there” you’re exposed to so much more in such a little time (& space) that things can often go a little wonky.
Today was one of those days.
It wasn’t a terrible day really. In fact it ended up being a GREAT day, but it got off to a pretty rocky start. The first hiccup was Taggart thowing up everything she just ate in bed at around 2AM. This was immediately followed by a second release (also in bed), culminating in a third and final act of feline loveliness all over the carpeted part of the floor. Oh the joy of owning cats, especially older ones!! Cleaning up the mess was not fun and I couldn’t get it all. So it was back to bed with a lovely aroma of cat puke at ~3AM.
Of course we have not just one but two cuddly felines, and far be it for one to outdo the other. So around an hour later, juuuuust as I was drifting peacefully back into sleep, Rand decided to enact an encore. And of course I did my best to scramble out of my stupor fast enough to catch her, but didn’t succeed (I never do…). Arrrghhhh! Another cleaning, accompanied by some healthy Danish/English/French cursing and another attempt to fall asleep in the now much-enhanced odor. Lovely…
Mere seconds later (or so it seemed) it was time to get up. I dragged my butt out of bed, dutifully removing ALL the sheets from the night before, lugging them over to the laundromat and then sterilizing everything in and around my bed. An hour later with soaking wet bed-sheets (because of course the campground dryer wasn’t working....yes, seriously!) we pack up and get on our way.
Pleeeeease can this day get better?
Our Plan Today Was Was To Stay Small & Get High
Our plan today was to follow the Camino De Santiago for ~137 km high into the Spanish side of the Pyrénée mountains, almost right to the border with France.
It’s a gorgeous one-lane curvy drive on N-type roads that starts with rolling green hills, passes through a multitude of lovely little villages, and finishes with fabulous views (if weather allows) at elevation in the high mountains.
Just the kind of driving I love to do!
Our route today would today would take us most of that way (but not quite over) the top of the Pyrénées and would also take us around a rather famous big town, Pamplona. The latter is known the world over for the annual running of the bulls (the encierro) that occurs every July. It’s a historic town with lots to see, but finding somewhere to park close to downtown in a motorhome is a bit tricky. I agonized about whether to attempt a visit, but in the end decided to bypass it for smaller, more accessible places. Nothing against Pamplona (we’ll make it there one day!), but for dad, the dog and I we wanted to keep our sightseeing easily walkable today.
We decided to just continue our roll of seeing smaller towns, catching as many interesting churches as we could along the way.
Our First Stop Was A Monastery With A Free Wine Fountain!
Our first stop was an iconic Camino landmark.
The Monastery of Irache (full name Santa María la Real de Irache, OR/ Santa María la Real de Iratxe) is a former Benedictine monastery located in the town of Ayegui, Navarre, Spain. It dates back to the 8th century and is a superbly impressive building, having been massively expanded by the monks in the second half of the 11th century. These days it’s no longer operating (not enough young monks to keep it going, apparently), but it houses a huge 12th century Romanesque church and is beautifully located in the midst of vineyards owned by next-door Bodegas Winery. The latter operates a cute little on-site museum and most famously, offers a free wine fountain!
The fountain is something all pilgrims look forward to on the Camino. It’s an iconic stop, where weary hikers can quench their thirst with either water (from one tap) or wine (from another) using a cup or their Camino scallop. It’s just around the corner from the wine museum and it really is a cool little sight to see.
We arrived mid-morning and parked LMB easily in the spacious Monastery parking lot. Sadly the Monastery AND church were both closed (only open Wed to Sun) so we didn’t get to see them, but we visited the little wine museum and easily found the fountain. We didn’t take any of the free wine (that’s for pilgrims only), but we took a photo and helped a few solo pilgrims to do the same. A lovely little stop!!
We Spend the Afternoon in The Medieval Town Of Estella
Our next stop was a gorgeous little town with a slew of fabulous churches.
Estella is a medieval town close to the border with La Rioja and Álava. Founded in 1090, it rose to splendor in the 12th and 13th century and has been a key stop on the Camino for centuries. It’s beautifully set along a river right in the middle of rocky hills and is fabulously compact and littered with interesting Roman and Gothic constructions.
Plus it has more than just good looks.
There’s an 11th century saying about Estella that goes “Estella is a city of good bread, excellent wine, much meat and fish and all kinds of pleasures.” One could add churches to that list since there are no less than 7 (!!) of them in town including the ruins of the medieval church of San Pedro de Lizarra, the Romanesque church of San Pedro de la Rúa , the church of San Miguel (XII-XIV), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the church of San Juan Bautista, the church of Santa María Jus del Castillo (site of the old synagogue), and the Basilica of Our Lady of Puy.
Holy mother of all churches….I think we’ve hit the jackpot!
Luckily for us there is free (and fairly easily accessible) parking right above town with lovely views over the city. Perfectly convenient!
We arrive just before noon noon, drive the curvy little road up to the parking lot, snag the last open spot that could fit us (phew!) and then load Polly out of the motorhome to walk down the steps into downtown to explore.
We spend the next few hours sightseeing around town, doing a tour of the old churches, walking over the old medieval bridge (La Puente de la cárcel or Prison Bridge), gawking at all the stone buildings and stopping for fresh tortilla (sooooooo yummy!) and coffee at several cafes around town. The city has historic significance, but is also bustling with life so it’s a total joy to explore. Plus everything is so darn dog friendly (the only place Polly can’t go is inside churches). What a great little town!
We Drive Up, Up, Up and Get High
After Estella we motor past Pamplona (basically south around it, on the periphery road) and then take N-135 up, up, up and high into the mountains.
It’s an absolute JOY of drive!
N-135 is a curvy single-lane road, but it’s in great shape and there’s literally no-one around. Plus LMB just rocked it! Our motorhome has a slightly bigger engine than the standard Carthargo model (we’ve got a 150 hp instead of a 130 hp) and I really feel the difference here. It was the first time I’d driven LMB up such a curvy, steep route, but she performed beautifully with nary a complaint. Plus the weather was perfect, sunny and cool and we enjoyed jaw-dropping views as we made our way up.
Literally motorhome driving PERFECTION!
We stop at a neat little overlook, Alto De Erro which has a nice, flat parking area and a cool little food truck that’s well-known stop to Pilgrims who’ve just made the crazy hard climb over the mountain pass. It’s wonderfully quiet and the views are gorgeous!
Finally we drive just 20 mins more to get to our last stop of the day.
We Find Near Perfection At Camping Urrobi
When we arrive at Camping Urrobi we immediately recognize it as the kind of place we’re going to love.
It’s a huge grassy, wide-open kinda place with pitches that look more like wild-camping spots than actual campsites. Plus it’s set alongside a running river with views of hills in the background.
We pay our EUR 20 fee and pick a site in the middle of the field by a tree. It’s literally perfect! Weather is ideal, moderate and sunny and there’s almost no-one around. The nearest rig is at least a few hundred feet away and the road traffic, although audible is just a mild background hum. Plus the sites are HUGE, even by American standards. Who knew a campground like this existed in Europe?
The pets know it’s good too. As soon as we park the cats are at the door ready to get out and explore in the grass while Polly is bouncing around, basking in the fact that she now has a whole field to herself. I mix up a couple of gin-tonics while the paws relax in the sun, hang out the wet sheets from the AM wash (that we’ve carried all day) and then dad and I sit outside to enjoy the evening sunset. What a wonderful spot!
As we get ready for bed I reflect back on our day. It started out a smidgen rough no doubt, but finished on a definite high. We saw a ton of interesting stuff, immersed ourselves into some wonderful nature and managed to finish up in one of the nicest campgrounds I’ve encountered so far in Europe. Nature, peace and almost no-one around. No better way to end a day on the road!
Coming Up Next -> We celebrate dad’s Bday with a VERY cool final stop in France…SPONSORED LINK:
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