Navarra and La Rioja

After a couple of decent journeys since the last post, we crossed the Pyrenees and entered Navarra.  

This did prompt a realisation that we hadn’t got a clue where we were headed! Time to get the maps, books, and ipad out….

The weather improved greatly as we approached the border. It’s been bright and sunny for the last couple of days, with clear blue skies (though correspondingly cold at night). On arrival at our first stop in Spain, Mark even managed to briefly get his new chair out before it went dark (something he’s been itching to do since we set off).

On Wednesday, we visited Puente la Reina and Estella, both of which were given roughly equal billing in our guide book. Puente la Reina was great. It turned out to be the point where two of the main pilgrim routes to Santiago merge (one coming West across northern Spain and one South across the Pyrenees from France). Indeed we hadn’t been parked up at our Aire the previous night for more that ten minutes before Mark suddenly yelled “There’s One!” as a young peregrino (pilgrim) with rucksack and what seems to be the official pilgrim stick trudged past.
In Puente la Reina we had a look at the bridge from which the name derives, built in the 11th century by order of the Queen for the use of the pilgrims. There was also a church to look at, olde worlde narrow streets, and at the other end of town a more modern statue of a pilgrim.

Estella was as disappointing as Puente la Reina was good. Apparently it was the centre of the Royal Court of Navarra in the Middle Ages and a major stopping point for pilgrims. Unfortunately, the two main sights to see (both churches) were firmly locked up and the rest was just a modern town.

Undeterred, we returned to our Aire for a second night and after parking Kampington, walked the very short distance to the Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Irache. Needless to say the monastery was closed until January, but we did manage to visit the wine tap provided by the neighbouring bodega for the use of passing pilgrims. I tried a little taste and let’s just say that it didn’t fill me with the urge to rush round to their sales outlet and buy anything….

We then continued West into La Rioja and into a valley above a small place called Encoso that is well known for dinosaur footprints. It was getting late in the day by the time we arrived, so we only visited one site, choosing the one the website said was accessible and had clear explanation boards. It turned out to be a strip of exposed rock containing lots of footprints, and below, some huge plastic dinosaurs as examples of the types that could have made the main prints. There were plenty of visitors, but strangely we were the only ones bothering with the actual prints. It seems to be a site Spaniards take kids to look at huge plastic dinosaurs…..

The good thing here were that there were lots of very different prints. We saw the prints of a 7-10 metre tall carnivore:

There was also a family of herbivores – three sets of tracks (the one in the middle being much smaller). Here’s one of the adult tracks (bottom right to top left) with the prints of a different dinosaur crossing them:

There was also a long trail of prints from a dinosaur (23m long and 8m high according to the information board) that walked on 4 legs in the same way as an elephant (both left forward, both right forward), with more weight on the rear than on the front legs – the font and rear prints almost overlap. Here the dinosaur’s moving from right to left:

In other news, Mark has been working on his linguistic prowess, though I’m not altogether sure how much use it’ll be in Spain. We have been watching a French series called Résistance, and Mark has now mastered a worryingly convincing “Arrêtez! Arrêtez-vous!” and “Papiere, bitte. SCHNELL!”. God help the awkward German at Almerimar if we come across him again this year…… Mark did have a comedy moment in a French supermarket since our last post. I had put some mince in our trolley while he was busy interviewing baguettes in excruciating detail. There was a look of shock, then an “oh, we’re having horse are we?”. He has now learned the difference between chevaux (horses) and cheveux (hair) – the logo on the packet of mince said “cheveux d’anges” (angels’ hair – not angels’ horses! an easy mistake to make…..).

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