Camino de Santiago, Day 9
Nájera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, 13 Miles
This article is the eighth in my series of walking 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago with my husband Scott. Some articles will be only about one day of walking, and some may include a few days of walking, for the lengths will vary. To begin with the first article click here.
It was pure joy to sleep in until 8:30 a.m. Scott was usually quite regimented about beginning our walk by 7:30. I told him how all the walking was catching up with me and he agreed we needed an easy day.
As we left Nájera, we bought our apples and bananas for the day.
Goodbyes and Hellos
As usual, we ran into the brothers from Minnesota. We said real goodbyes to them this time, because later in the day they would walk to a bus station and move forward 150 miles. They were on a tight timeline and needed to pick and choose the sections of the Camino they walked. It was such a nice experience meeting them, and seeing how close they were as a family. It takes a lot of patience to be around someone 24 hours a day, every day, and not under the best conditions at times.
A little while later, Scott and I met two young women from Belgium. They were school teachers taking some time off. We weren’t with them long, as they were full of energy and walked fast!
As we passed through a small town later, we stopped at a bar and discovered they were selling bocadillas (sandwiches) filled with an omelette! We were so happy, it was the closest thing to a ‘back home’ style breakfast that we had seen.
Leaving the town, we passed by a bar with patrons all on the patio. There sat our friend Park from South Korea! The last time we had spoken (in our very limited way) he had mentioned blisters on his feet. He was sitting down eating breakfast as we passed by and I asked him how his feet were. He took me literally and proceeded to remove his shoes and socks so I could see his blistered feet! Poor Park! Every toe was taped and he was in pain. I could sympathize with him, as I knew it was so much more difficult to walk with blisters.
We said our goodbyes and kept on walking. The encounter with Park was the last time we saw him on the Camino. We always thought we would run into each other again, but we never did.
We walked and walked on dirt roads through expansive farmland. It consisted of a very long uphill, which Scott kept taking pictures of me, and then led to a high plains plateau. As we crossed the plateau, we saw a man ahead selling snacks to pilgrims for a donation. Nothing beat a cold iced tea mid-way through our walk! What a treat it was!
Next, we were suddenly walking on sidewalks and pavement through the town of Cirueña. It must have been the strangest town we had ever encountered. It was 98% abandoned, but everything looked in good condition. There were apartment buildings and single-family homes, but most were empty. Every once in a while we saw a plant in a window or flowers on a porch, showing some sign of life.
Really, it felt like a movie set. We passed a beautiful golf course which looked to be maintained, although deserted. Later, we found out the town had been built as a tourist destination, but had failed due to the economy. The golf course was still open, and we later spoke to pilgrims who stopped and had a lovely lunch there!
Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Scott and I were so exhausted. The walking was taking a toll on our bodies. After 13 miles, we walked into Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The town had very interesting history. It was founded by Domingo Garcia in 1040. He was a hermit and saw how challenging it was for the pilgrims to cross the river next to the town. As a result, he made it his life’s work to build a bridge for the pilgrims, as well as a hospital, hotel and a church.
We entered the old part of town and into the central plaza. There was the Paradore Hotel. This should be the part where angels are singing, because it is a beautiful hotel and we were lucky enough to get a room. I told Scott, “I can’t go on, this is where we are staying,” and we did.
The Paradore de Santo Domingo de la Calzada
After getting cleaned up in our room and then resting a while, we then walked around the hotel. It was absolutely gorgeous and showed its history. The Paradore had been the former 12th century hospital! There were many comfortable couches downstairs, beautiful rock walls and iron chandeliers. We were very impressed!
After a light lunch, we decided to tour the Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, which was dedicated to St. Mary. The church was built in 1158 and the floor plan was shaped as a Latin Cross. There had been many modifications of the church over the years, making it look better, as well as stand the test of time. It was so peaceful inside, and we really enjoyed our tour of the church. As we walked up the steep stairway, we were very excited to see the roof top views of town.
At the end of our tour we were able to enjoy an art show in the gallery of the church. We made sure to get our pilgrim passports stamped at the church as we left, for we hadn’t remembered to do it very often.
The Paradore Hotel sits right next door to the Cathedral on the square. Consequently, it was the perfect spot to sit on the terrace and enjoy coffee and red wine before we went out for the evening. We enjoyed people watching, and at one point a small band came through leading a small parade of people. We weren’t sure if it was a festival or not, but other than that, it was quiet.
Later, we walked down the street for dinner. Scott enjoyed his first Paella of the trip, and I had a delicious vegetable stew. Our server was so helpful and sweet. We were the only ones eating because the locals wouldn’t be out for a couple more hours. He told us he was an amateur bull fighter and proceeded to show us his name on a bullfighting poster!
Those moments are really special on the Camino. We appreciated connecting with locals and found many of them to be open and friendly.
Camino de Santiago, Day 9 was a success! It was time to get some sleep, and we always slept well on the Camino.
Day 9, 13 miles