Villava > Pamplona > Muruzabál
September 11 – 12, 2017
From Villava it was an easy walk into Pamplona and we got there shortly after 10am. We planned to take a “nero” there and be tourists for a day. I learned that word from Vanessa’s PCT hike and it comes from when hikers take a day off, walking zero miles and call it such. When they only walk a few in a day instead of their usual it’s a near zero, a nero.
No albergues would be taking guests yet but the German run one, Paderborn, right on the river into town would hold our bags so we dropped them off and went in search of the tourist office.
The lady there gave us a great rundown including the oldest cafe called Iruña which turned out to be amazing, especially the churros. It’s impossible to convey how beautiful this was inside with its nouveau-ish lighting and architecture. We took many pictures but none do it justice.
Pamplona is a walled city, a good use of medieval defenses that have survived to present day. So on the way back to the albergue we took pictures from the ramparts and all around the grounds of the old city.
Once given our beds and settled we walked to the bull ring. The running of the bulls, what Pamplona might be best known for, is in July but I think they have some sort of museum or exhibit year round. We weren’t really sure our feelings on the whole thing but it was closed that day anyway so we just walked around. All the things in this area are named for Hemingway as he spent several years here writing an early book and Vanessa made me take a million photos of her with Hemingway statues and plaques etc. why she loves that man I really cannot guess.
Through the drizzle on and off we went went back to Iruña for lunch because even though the town was filled with tapas bars this one really did seem like the best. We weren’t disappointed. The inside was serving a multi-course lunch but we were more than happy to find a dry spot on the terrace and order our first real pinchos of the trip. They seem to be the same thing as tapas, although perhaps they are more specific.
Either way in Pamplona they label them as either but all the rest of the areas we visit call them pinchos exclusively (or pinxto in Basque). I’m curious about any differences or origins but all I’ve got is the scene in “The Way” where Martin Sheen looks like an ass (one of many I guess). We order various kinds but are especially into the meats they have here (serrano, Iberico) which are technically ham but don’t resemble anything we would use that name on at home. Even better is the foie gras, warm and perfect, better than the more pâté-like version we had in Paris.
After some laundry folding and a brief rest at the albergue we decide to go to the big cathedral which is really even more a museum complex. I am particularly excited at the archaeological sections that go through the layers and objects starring before even the Roman period. The descriptions here are all in Spanish and I am excited the help translate for V as she had at the Louvre in their older rooms that had no English (although they were usually simple enough for me to understand even in my very limited French) but her interest is much lower than mine and I mostly just read to myself.
It’s really much more comprehensive than we expected and takes much longer than anticipated. At the end is a bright pink room that symbolizes envisioning the peace and harmony of a possible future maybe? My Spanish really wasn’t that good to understand whatever esoteric message it was trying to express. But V liked it.
Our plan was to skirt the rest of the city along the walls and check out this park with animals but it was getting a little late and we were a bit tired. A lot of walking today for it being a “non-walking day.” We thought about heading directly to the restaurant that our hospitaleros (what they call the albergue host here) had recommended but once we were on the wall there wasn’t really a way to get off until almost our destination anyway. So we found the “new” city gate, I think this one was only 15th century compared to the first one which might had been 12th that led into the park.
Overlooking a sunken pond area we were surprised to see an odd assortment of animals including deer, peacocks, chickens, ducks and I can’t remember what else. We couldn’t tell if they were enclosed there like a zoo or free to roam or how they got there and no explanation was provided. But it wasn’t far to dinner now and we had a decent one, same white asparagus and local wine that we had come to expect with every meal, and booked it back to the albergue which closed its doors at 10.
We were lucky enough to have been given a 4 person room, sometimes smaller rooms are more expensive but they were all the same price here and because we were so early we both had bottom bunks. We had it to ourselves most of the day but there were 2 women there when we arrived. They were nice and this was fine but if I looked forward to being lulled to sleep by the rain and the gently rolling river I was up for a rude awakening…literally. One of the women snored like a horse. I had earplugs in but it made little difference. Well I suppose this is a typical Camino experience. Le sigh.
In the morning we skipped the albergue breakfast which we had come to discover is often 4€ for basically white bread which you may or may not be able to toast. This varies of course but usually grabbing a baguette either the day before or if you’re near a town an hour or so into your hike is a better plan and we had delicious ham from a store we visited in the plaza.
Today would also be an iconic day as the pilgrim statue at the top of the Sierras del Perdón was on our way. We stopped to have our snack at a little pond a ways before there and met a woman named Diana. When we got to the top she took some really great snapshots of us imitating the monument. There’s a tale that tells it was here that the devil tempted some thirsty pilgrims asking them to renounce god, Mary or at least Saint James but they refused. In contrast we were fine sitting for a moment having a Coke from the stand that was set up there.
The way up had been dotted with raindrops but I had put in headphones and tried to keep Vanessa entertained by dancing up the trail but the way down was fairly grueling. Rocks are common on the Camino but these were numerous and in combination with the downward angle was pretty grueling.
We didn’t stop at the very first town at the bottom but when we saw a nice looking albergue in the countryside right before the next we did. Albergue El Jardín de Maruzebál was a cute little house that had just filled up but she said she could offer us a couple pullout beds in the basement living room. Although it meant we couldn’t rest right away it also meant we would have the space to ourselves from after dinner until breakfast was set up there at 6am so we said yes.
Once again there was a pool but it was pretty cold and the air wasn’t that warm either even though on the trail we had been sweating profusely. We tried to get in but only did about to the waist. The next day was supposed to be hot and we pondered taking a break and going to San Sebastián but we had to walk to the next town to catch the bus anyway so decided to wait until morning and see how we felt.
Dinner was probably the best we had of the trip thus far and was several courses that included Spanish tortillas (have I talked about those before? It’s kind of like an omelette), pork loin, salad, and red wine from Obanos, the next town over. We met other people from Oregon, a hilarious mother daughter duo and a couple Spanish women from Barcelona who I had a fascinating conversation with about an upcoming referendum on Catalonia independence.
We went to bed happy and full not knowing that some hard times were ahead.