Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Day 10 - 2 May - Ventosa to Cirueña

As Benny Hill famously sang:

But a woman’s needs are many fold                    

As Mrs C has said                                               

But strange things happened on Monday night    

As we lay in our bed                                          

Was that the trees a-rustling                                

Or Rioja grapes being juiced?                              

Or Tommy Shelby’s chickens                               

A-coming home to roost? 

The forecast rain had failed to arrive when we awoke this morning so we were up and at it, keen to get going whilst the going was good. After a quick coffee and chocolate croissant at Ventosa’s one and only bar we hit the road shortly after eight o’clock. Pretty landscape if unspectacular, dominated by fields of vines which should be no surprise to anyone as we are walking through the province of La Rioja. Our first port of call was Najera where we stopped for a coffee and then onwards, crossing the Rio Najerilla, passing through the old town and up the hill out of town. 

Having peaked the hill, the terrain had changed once more and reminded me of the final scenes of the last episode of (adopt Brummie accent) Peaky Bloinders where Tommy Shelby is camped out in his gypsy caravan. Anyway, we turned a corner and, bugger me, there it was. Tommy Shelby’s caravan. Probably.

Spooky eh? Anyway, next stop Azofra where we had another coffee and a bocadillo then on to the final five miles of today’s total fifteen miles to our end point for the day being Cirueña. There wasn’t a lot to Azofra which is more than can be said for Cirueña. In the meantime however, our luck ran out with the weather. It started raining as we left Azofra and continued for the rest of the day. Accordingly we were rather damp by the time we arrived at the albergue two hours later. However, despite the rain, our spirits had been lifted as rolling hills of green wheat and yellow canola began to replace the vines as we approached Cirueña.

Cirueña is a ghost town. No doubt inspired by the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams and its message “if you build it, they will come”, developers back in the noughties decided Cirueña was the next big thing so they built a golf course, hundreds of houses and apartments and……..no one came. The global financial crash of 2008 played its part but whoever decided to build apartment blocks resembling prison blocks deserves their share of the blame too. Spooky no.2 eh?

Cirueña is six kilometers south east of Santa Domingo de la Calzada through where we should be passing tomorrow. Camino legend has it that some seven hundred years ago, a devout German couple and their son were passing through Santa Domingo on their way to Santiago. The local barmaid took a shine to the lad but, for reasons alien to me, he rebuffed her advances. Not too happy with this knock back, she basically framed him for theft and the (normally very friendly in my experience) Spanish townsfolk had him hanged (well, he was German after all). Anyway, his parents were a bit cheesed by this but carried on to Santiago regardless, said a prayer or two then turned round and promptly started walking back home to Germany. On passing back through Santa Domingo, they thought it might be nice to see their son one last time so they went to see him (still hanging there) and to their relief found him to be alive, quite chirpy but a bit fed up of hanging around by his neck. So off they rushed to the local sheriff asking that he release their son. The sheriff was tucking in to his chicken dinner at the time and suggested that the boy was “no more alive than these chickens on my plate” at which point the cooked chickens immediately sprouted feathers and flew off. So the lad was pardoned and everyone was happy. As for the barmaid? I’m hoping to have a drink with her tonight. Only joking. Spooky no.3 eh?

We stayed at a private albergue with a bunk bed each. Happy days. The assembled throng met for the evening pilgrim meal, split between two tables and we broke bread on our table with Harriet (who we met last night), Christine from Italy and Pierre and Geraldine from France. Yet another sophisticated French man to contend with. How on earth can a French man even know, let alone throw into casual conversation, the word “gelatinous”? Still, I bet he doesn’t know the lyrics to Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West).

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