We get an early start, and after 9.4 km, we stop for second breakfast in Logrono, capital of la Rioja. Everyone there seems pretty interested in helping us find the path, and we get unsolicited directions and “Buen Camino!”s from old men with canes and city workers in bright vests who are hosing down the streets.
In Logrono, in the plaza with the Cathedral, a homeless-looking guy approaches us and asks us something I can’t understand. I think I hear Andalusia in there somewhere, but I don’t want to engage him or ask for clarification. I point vaguely in the direction of the Camino and say “No. Somos peregrinos. Andamos.”
No. We are pilgrims. We walk.
He nods vaguely, in mutual misunderstanding, and wanders off. Later we’re struck by the ridiculousness of my response and try to imagine what he could have asked us.
We’re impressed by the bird’s nest on top of the Logrono cathedral, and point it out to Brian and Mary over breakfast. We have been seeing a lot of large birds’ nests on old buildings, and have wondered what they were. Brian seems uninterested. It’s just storks, he says.
There’s a really nice park on the way out of Logrono. Parque de la grajera. Dorcinda takes photos of swans, ducks and fish fighting for bread crumbs thrown by a small child on a bridge over the pond.
To pass the time, I start telling dumb city-name riddles.
“What city is when a major Harry Potter character is asked to name his favorite singer named Joan?” Ron says Baez = Roncesvalles.
“What city holds the key to understanding Bishop’s One Art (the poem I’ve been memorizing for a few days)?” Toulouse.
“What city is when a guy organizes a fancy birthday party for himself, with parades and costumes and everything, but forgets to invite the guests?” Pomp Alone-a.
“What city is the number of keys needed to open an unlocked door?” Ciro-qui.
“What city is where a lion, a tiger, an elephant, and an antelope can get together for a few drinks before heading home?” Zubiri.
There’s a stretch of road outside Logrono where a chain link fence separates our earthen path from the road below. Abandoned buildings are scattered, occasionally, on our right. Pilgrims have put twigs in the form of crosses through the wires, but I find the scene to be depressing. It looks shitty, like the debris it came from, basically horizontal litter. I see the worst clamshell interpretation ever – it’s a black plastic garbage bag, in strips, woven into the fence. (Later, there’s another in the road made of bathroom tile, and it looks more like a skeleton hand than the rays of light or the lines of the shell).
There are several Camino legends on this stretch of road. Roland versus the Giant. The Battle of Clavijo, which ended the tribute of 100 maidens to the moors.
On the way to Navarrete, we eat grapes from the vineyards lining the road, tempranillo grapes from the Rioja wine-growing region. We decide that it’s probably fine, since the farmers here are probably used to losing a few grapes a day to hungry pilgrims, the same way that other farmers expect to lose some crops to other sorts of pests. The pilgrim tax, I call it.
In Navarette, we decide to stay at Hostal El Cantaro, which we’ve been seeing signs for along the path. When we get to town, we pass several hostels without seeing it, so we ask an old spanish lady for directions. Right after we do, we pass yet another hostel, and a British man, smiling a smug salesman’s smile, asks us if he can help us as we pass his table. No, we’re fine, we say. “Oh, think you can find El Cantaro on your own, eh?” Yes, we said, the lady just told us. He tells us, as we already know, that its basically straight ahead and to the right. A little further, there’s a very clear sign for El Cantaro. I speculate that he owned the hostel we just passed and was hoping to convince us to stay there by drawing us into conversation and seeming helpful. I am annoyed by him, although I know Pious John would want me to be more receptive to unasked for help.
At El Cantaro, we ask for the best place to eat and are directed to a sports bar, I think. Its just called Bar Deportivo, and its just below the cathedral. We stop into the church for a few minutes, and I spy a map where pilgrims can pin their home towns. There’s one map for Europe and one for the whole rest of the world. I look at New York and find that another woman from Kingston has recently made her Camino and stopped at this very spot! At Bar Deportivo, The food is delicious, and we’re joined by Brian and Mary, who again arrive a few minutes later. We find out that Brian is lagging behind a bit and Mary pushes him forward. They are both retired environmental scientists or something and met through work. I think they live near Michigan, north of the lake.