Estella to Montjardin

The day– I left the albergue this morning with Kathleen and the Texas sisters after the ladies running it literally moved us out the door at 8 am and locked it behind us. There we were in the drizzle, trying to put our wet, muddy shoes back on (we’re pretty sure the outside shed they had for boots was leaky — all four pairs of boots were wet).

Ok, here we go. In the rain. Again.

More about that albergue later.

None of us were feeling very springy or energetic this morning, and the rain was becoming a real downer. After not sleeping well (at least for me), we were all dragging. This was also our last day in a shred of a town for a while, so we took care of a few chores.

The other three needed to mail stuff home to lighten their loads, so we found a post office. I downed a quick espresso while they did their mailing (delicious!).

Then someone needed a pharmacy. I replaced my $20 pharmacy Bartells sunglasses that broke last night with a pair of €20 pharmacy Bartells-look-alike sunglasses.

Out of town, we were on the hunt for a sporting goods store so everyone could purchase various new needs: ponchos, knee braces, pack covers … I lost a pair of liner socks a few days ago and grabbed a long-sleeved quick-dry shirt for the sun I now know is ahead of me.

Next door was a grocery store where we loaded up on bananas, nuts, etc.

OK, everything is done and it’s fine to go (around 10:30 am!).

Oh man we were dragging! Do we really need to walk today?

Yes, because the infamous wine spigot is ahead for us.

We all used my little shell from my backpack because I was the only one with a shell. I even tried the tiniest bit; it barely touched my lips and tongue, hopefully just enough to get the associated good luck (I’m allergic to red wine, for those who don’t know).

Sally using the shell:

The beautiful Irache Monastery:

And then we had run out of excuses to not walk very hard. We had to walk. The worst thing about today was that it was raining but also very warm — maybe mid-50s? So we were just sweating it under our plastic ponchos. Yuck.

villamayor pathVery cool cistern outside Villamayor de Montjardin. All of our different guides said the arches were “Moorish.” My art history experts: what makes it Moorish? Looks like later Romanesque to me.

We finally reached Villamayor de Montjardin after a mile-long hill climb. This was the final destination for Kathleen and I, but the sisters decided to forge ahead. Buen Camino, Sally and Amy! The great thing about the Camino is knowing we will see each other again. I heard someone refer to a “first Camino family” — meaning your true Camino team are those you meet and bond with in the first few days. I first met the sisters in Bayonne, France, before we had even started walking.

Kat and I were stopping in this village instead of going on to Los Arcos because I read nothing but terrible reviews about Los Arcos albergues, and nothing but wonderful things about this one. The albergue is Dutch, so Kitty and Wilma sent them a message asking to reserve, then arrived there before us and got a whole room for our party: them, Kat, Stu, and me.

The albergue we stayed at in Estella was very uncomfortable for me. It wasn’t the weird setup or lack of privacy in the bathroom or feeling of filth or… it was the fact the one of the two women was incredibly rude to me the moment I put my hand on the door before I could even say hello. Kat pointed out that she’s brusque by nature and it probably doesn’t have anything to do with me. She’s probably right, even when the woman wouldn’t let me put my filthy wet clothes in the wash because two women older than me asked first … and they were messing around with their packs and were going to take showers first. I’m standing there with my small load in my arms while they futz around and take showers. Oh, c’mon!

So imagine my shock when Jahn the host in Villamayor greeted me by getting on his hands and knees and untying my mud-caked boots for me. It was the sweetest, kindest act of love I had been shown in a week. I was moved to tears (Wilma and Kitty got a photo while I stood there tearing like a baby):

I feel so at ease here. What a wonderful place and wonderful hospitality!

The view from the albergue (the oldest standing building in town, by the way):

They don’t have a washing machine BUT they have deep sinks that are clean, washing buckets, and this incredible clothing spinny thing:


One of the lessons you learn quickly on the Camino is that there is no such thing as discretion or shame over dumb stuff. I got to hang all of my socks, underwear, and bra right there next to the front door, ready to greet other pilgrims as they checked in:

The seating area with the wood-fired stove (and Wilma and Kitty):

The incredible communal pilgrims meal cooked by an American volunteer (pic taken from over my shoulder so I wouldn’t be conspicuous):

And a few more shots of the town and 11th s church:

villamayor church

Here are some lessons from today:

1. Be grateful for even the smallest things.

2. Not everyone has to like me. Let it go.

3. Sometimes acts of kindness hit you upside your head, and it’s ok to be touched and humbled. Also, sometimes strangers see you and can tell what you need before you do.

4. You will always have a connection with your first Camino family.

5. Miracles occur! (Hi Kendall!)

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