Into the city – to Pamplona

Not only does the Aca y Alla serve a delicious communal meal in the evening, it serves an equally lovely breakfast in the morning – and they asked us when we wanted it! So after another good fuelling and conversations with our fellow guests, we set off towards Pamplona.

I remember coming up this hill from a leisure area in 2012, when the many many wooden steps defeated me several times. This time I walked straight up it! Huffing and puffing, yes, but I managed. Shows what a difference being hooked on camino walks can make.

That photo above – my camino daughter Lynn once devised the camino rule that ‘where there’s a car, there’s a bar’, and 99% of the time she’s right. The people living in that house had clearly felt the effect of the ‘car=bar’ school of thinking. The other one is just me walking off into the distance with my lightweight 25L pack, practically dancing along with my Hokas and poles.

Last time I saw this bridge, it was late afternoon, 38°C, and we’d run out of water half an hour earlier. This time I was well hydrated, well fed after a pit stop by a river, nice and cool in my walking clothes and eager to carry on to Pamplona instead of stopping in Trinidad de Arre, though I remember the parochial albergue there fondly for its lovely walled garden and shade. This time we sat down on the square where there was a market and lots of people, just to have a drink and a rest. When suddenly, these oddly clothed people in sheepskin? tunics, with huge metal bells on their backs, pointy hats with colourful paper streamers and a boombox blasting out some traditional music, came walking purposefully down the road and disappeared into a courtyard. We never saw them come out again. It’s all a bit mysterious but seemed good fun.

Love how they have decorated these houses in a suburb of Pamplona with shells, even the family crest is made up of shells.

Arriving in the walled part of Pamplona proper! It really is impressive and no wonder, given the city’s turbulent history. Colleen and I went straight to the albergue where she had booked beds for us and the group we were meeting later in the afternoon, so we showered and did the laundry thing and saved beds for the newcomers. She had met them before, I hadn’t. In fact I had no idea what to expect, I had just come along to see what it’s like walking in a group, and also organising and leading a group. Tomorrow morning we were all going to set off towards Logroño together, but tonight was all about getting to know each other and enjoying Pamplona.

We were going to meet them at the Iruña café bar on the main square, yes, the one with the statue of Hemingway propping up the bar to the side. It is a beautiful place and the outside seats are great for people watching. We hadn’t sat there long before the first few group members arrived, and as so often happens – where exited pilgrims meet, it feels like we have known each other forever.

After installing them in the albergue, we went to the Mesón del Caballo Blanco, the outside restaurant where in the film The Way Tom meets Joost eating a leg of lamb and gets told the difference between tapas and pintxos … and naturally we had some of those. And some vino, as you do.

And then night fell on beautiful Pamplona, and not yet tired pilgrims had a quick night cap before they had to get themselves to bed. Adventure awaits!

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