{camino day 14} azofra to santo domingo de la calzada & ruminations {week two}

I was up by 6:00 a.m. eating a breakfast of a banana, bread, pâté, and orange juice I’d bought the previous night at a market in Azofra. I left by 6:45 in the dark with a headlamp.  My 71-year-old Japanese roommate Keiko, from Sapporo, wanted to follow me as she didn’t feel comfortable walking in the dark alone. I feared I was getting us lost as there seemed a lack of waymarkers.  Keiko was concerned until we finally saw the markers and knew we were on the right path.  I kept stopping for photos, as I was prone to do, especially as the sun came up and cast a soft light over the landscape. It was so lovely and cool walking before sunrise in the early morning hours.

We walked 8.1 km through rolling farmland to Cirueña. The path was lined with grapevines, cattails, wildflowers and spiky weeds.  I kept stopping for photos and told Keiko to feel free to go ahead. At some point along the way, she left me behind. I felt relieved because although she was a kind and gentle soul, I didn’t like walking at someone else’s pace.  Besides communication with her was very difficult as I didn’t know Japanese and she knew only a smattering of English. She was anxious to get to a hospital at Santo Domingo de la Calzada to see about the rash she’d contracted a week before.

Azofra to Cirueña (with Opción for detour) (8.1 km)




me on the way from Azofra to Cirueña


vineyards Azofra to Cirueña


bicyclists from Azofra to Cirueña








long shadow


Azofra to Cirueña


vineyards on the way from Azofra to Cirueña




catching up with Ray from Australia


Azofra to Cirueña

I converged with Aussies Tony and Ray as we entered the soulless modern town of Cirueña.  I stood within an iron carved-out sculpture of a pilgrim, and Tony took my picture.  I returned the favor for him.  The three of us stopped at the Rioja Alta Golf Club restaurant to get café on leche and a chocolate croissant; we sat outside on the patio overlooking the golf course.  I plugged my phone into an outlet inside the bar to charge.  When it was time to leave, Tony pulled the phone out so I wouldn’t forget it, and he accidentally left the converter in the socket.  I didn’t notice until I arrived at my albergue ahead of my bag.

Cirueña seemed like a ghost town, with a maze of housing blocks and barely a soul in sight.

Cirueña (Opción) to Cirueña (where the detour rejoined the Camino) (1.3 km)

After Cirueña, the path continued through rolling farmland and a field of greens with water sprinklers tossing arcs of water over the path and passing pilgrims.  It was refreshing to get a bit of a soak. It was slightly cooler today; as it was a short walk, 15km, or 9.25 miles, we arrived in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a town of 6,600 people, by 11:30.

Cirueña to Santo Domingo de la Calzada (5.8 km)


Camino marker leaving Cirueña


Cirueña to Santo Domingo de la Calzada


Cirueña to Santo Domingo de la Calzada


Cirueña to Santo Domingo de la Calzada


Cirueña to Santo Domingo de la Calzada


Cirueña to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Santo Domingo de la Calzada has always been linked to the Pilgrimage of St. James.  It takes its name from Saint Dominic, born as Domingo García in 1019 in the humble town of Viloria de Rioja.  When the San Millán and Valvanera monasteries rebuffed the illiterate young man’s desire to become a monk, he became a hermit in the forests where the town now stands. From his home, he saw how difficult it was for the pilgrims and he began to help them by building a bridge to cross the Oja River, a hospital where pilgrims could seek refuge (now the Parador de Santo Domingo), roads connecting Nájera and Redecilla del Camino (Burgos), and a little church, which sadly no longer exists, but eventually evolved into the Cathedral.  His followers maintained the village which later took his name and they continued his work, creating a confraternity which works with pilgrims today.

The albergue, Casa de la Cofradía del Santo, was huge and well-organized.  It held 220 beds at 7 euros/night, although wi-fi was nonexistent. On the bottom bunk adjacent to mine, I met Vibeke, a lively and hilarious lady from Denmark.  I told her, as I told every Danish person I met, that I was a big fan of Danish TV series: Borgen, Rita, and Dicte.

We had a good laugh joking about our BUFFs, and how some women look so stylish in them but we couldn’t seem to pull off the look. I was attracted to them because they were a colorful and lightweight addition to my Camino wardrobe, but I could only wear them in the cool mornings around my neck.  I modeled mine as a headband on my rather large head; the look on Vibeke’s face confirmed that it was not a good look on me.  Vibeke went on to tell how she was wearing one as a headband and was walking along, shaking her head, thinking she looked like Julia Roberts. Then she caught a glimpse of herself in a shop window and shrieked with horror! She was hilarious and added such a light touch to my Camino.

Vibeke’s feet were hurting her horribly and she had stayed an extra night so she could go to the local hospital.  She had tried to keep up with an Irishman she’d met early on and had pushed herself too hard.  However, she would leave me in the dust the next day, and I’d never see her again.

Knowing the buff wasn’t a good look on me didn’t stop me from buying another one with a cool pattern at a sporting goods store in town. I also bought a t-shirt and some laundry soap, spending 49.40€.


Casa de la Cofradía del Santo

After my backpack was finally delivered, I showered and did laundry and went to visit the Cathedral of Santo Domingo and the Museum for 3€.

Construction on the Cathedral of Santo Domingo began in 1158.  An independent tower was added to the Cathedral in the 18th century. The interior houses the tomb of Santo Domingo, the chapel of La Magdalena and a fine altarpiece.


Cathedral of Santo Domingo

Interior of the Cathedral of Santo Domingo and museum


interior of Cathedral of Santo Domingo


The Virgin


interior of Cathedral of Santo Domingo


interior of Cathedral of Santo Domingo

The Renaissance altarpiece at the Cathedral was built by Damián Forment from 1537-1540 from walnut and pine.  The lower part of the piece is made from alabaster.  It is devoted to El Salvador and the Assumption; their sculptures are in the middle of the altarpiece. The altarpiece includes mythology that is now forbidden in Christian art such as sirens, centaurs, newts, etc. Later, another artist added Grotesques and Moorish designs, based on images and designs found on embroidered Arabic cloths.

The Cathedral interior includes Santo Domingo’s Mausoleum.  Santo Domingo is seen on his deathbed crossing his hands on his chest with six angels around him. It was restored in 2009. The tombstone is supported by an alabaster table. The saint’s life and miracles are represented in twelve different scenes.

The Cathedral Museum exhibits a permanent display centered around three Flemish triptych paintings: “The Annunciation,” by Joos Van Cleve, painted between 1515 and 1520; “The Adoration of the Maji,” an anonymous work created at the end of the 15th century; and “Mass of Saint Gregory the Great” painted in 1530 by Adiran Isenbrant.

The Museum displays many other statues, relief carvings, altarpieces, and paintings.


painting in museum


relief carving in museum

I wandered around the streets of Santo Domingo de la Calzada.


Streets of Santo Domingo de la Calzada


Cathedral of Santo Domingo

After that, I met with Ray and Tony at the Parador de Santo Domingo, once a 14th century pilgrim hospital built by Saint Dominic. They treated me to a wine, and I told them I’d treat them the next time we met.  Somehow, I never had the opportunity to treat them in return.


Parador de Santo Domingo


bar at the Parador de Santo Domingo


Parador de Santo Domingo


Parador de Santo Domingo

I shared a pilgrim meal with Vibeke, where we laughed so much it was hard to eat. I ate a delicious vegetable stew with an egg on top, fried eggs & chorizo, and apple pie.  And of course, wine, always wine.

There were so many people at the albergue, and there was loud pounding music in the town.  A German couple occupied the bottom bunks on either side of a large window; they had closed the window so it was quite stuffy in the room. It was annoying. I really disliked people who appointed themselves keepers of the windows. There was also a huge school group of about 40 high school kids. A thunderstorm erupted in the early evening, so my clothes didn’t dry. I had to hang them all around my bed as I slept. I had no idea how I would sleep in that stuffy room with all the hustle and bustle around me.

Amazingly at 10:00 p.m., the music went silent and the lights went out, and all was quiet until morning.

Ruminations {week two}

By the second week of my Camino, I felt like I’d established a reliable rhythm to my days. I started leaving before sunrise with a headlamp and usually called it a day no later than 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. I reveled in sunrises and rested during the hottest parts of the days. I fell in love with early morning light, lavender and white wildflowers, starry weeds, building-like haystacks, the vineyards of La Rioja, olive groves, and the towns of Villamayor de Monjardín and Torres del Río.

I was blessed with a moment of presence as a modern-day shepherd led his flock of bleating sheep, with bells around their necks chiming a soothing tune, across a bridge. I loved soaking my feet in a cold pool at a municipal albergue in Azofra with fellow pilgrims.

I continued to love stopping in churches, kneeling, and offering prayers for family, friends, fellow pilgrims, my country and the world. On the home front, I felt encouraged as my loved one moved in temporarily with his brother and his roommate and got a new job, which he seemed to like.

I loved the iron pilgrim shell I bought from an ironsmith; the artist gifted me a fig, which, in the heat, was like nectar from heaven. I enjoyed drinking wine out of a fountain in Irache.

The challenges of my second week included the uncomfortable afternoon heat, the pungent and ubiquitous pilgrim stink, and arguments with fellow pilgrims who insisted on closing doors and windows in albergue rooms, making for stuffy afternoons and evenings. I wasted a day in the city of Logroño, where I lost several fellow pilgrim friends I’d never see again.

I was put off by a Trump-supporting pilgrim from Perth, Australia, who showed her true colors by rudely shooing off a Chinese man who tried to join our group in Parque Granjera.

As I walked and shared my struggles with other pilgrims, they shared intimately with me, about: sons who had died of opioid overdoses; sons with whom they are estranged due to drug-addiction and mental illness; schizophrenic brothers; ex-husbands suffering from alcohol abuse and addiction; and daughters exploring the mystical and healing properties of mushrooms while on Shamanic journeys in Peru.

My second week, I connected with pilgrims with whom I shared a spirit of fellowship and laughter: Darina from Slovakia, Ingrid from Minnestota, Pat from Seattle, Anna from Denmark, Kees and Jannie from Holland, Paul and Richard from Quebec, Keiko from Sapporo, Japan, and Vibeke from Denmark, who had me in stitches over BUFFs. I loved being serenaded by Anna, who played guitar and sang “Moonshadow” in Torres del Río. I enjoyed meeting Tony and Ray from Australia, especially gentle Tony who always asked pilgrims about their lives and why they were doing the Camino.

I continued to be obsessed with collecting sellos (stamps) in my pilgrim credenciale.  I loved the pinchos and wine in Logroño and albondigas in Villamayor de Monjardín, as well as the potato tortillas and café con leche that continued to be my “second” breakfasts.  I loved the pilgrim meals where people shared their reasons for doing the Camino and where fellowship evolved among pilgrims. It felt like life in microcosm, parallel yet removed from my actual daily life.


*Day 14: Monday, September 17, 2018*

*27,070 steps, or 11.47 miles: Azofra to Santo Domingo de la Calzada (14.9 km)*

You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:


On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk.