At times, during the winter and spring of 2015/16, my student warden cell - I mean bedsit - resembled a World War Two operations room. So many maps and guides, to the casual observer it might have seemed like I was planning an assault on norther Spain.
Which isn't so very far from the truth.
I sat, I planned, I drank gin and tonic. I walked the Camino Frances - and several others - time and time again, in my imagination, on the map. I drank too much, I planned too much; it was always going to go arse over elbow when I finally got my feet on the ground.
Like many pilgrims, I overestimated the first stage of the Camino Frances and thought that, once I'd gone up and over, the rest would be plain sailing. Somehow, perhaps after a night of particularly fine gin, I'd reckoned I could walk the 38km from Burguete to Pamplona.
No effing way!
That much became apparent with the first few kilometres of yesterday's walk so I quickly hopped on to the internet and booked a room at a very pleasant pension in Zubiri. Couldn't do that in 2012; in 2012 I'd spent an unpleasant night at the municipal albergue in Zubirir which had crammed in far too many pilgrims for the limited facilities. Nowadays, Zubiri, like many towns on the Camino Frances, has three or four albergues plus pensions, hostales and hotels. Spoilt for choice, I don't know what the purists would say. Not that I really care.
'Circles in the sand/'Round and 'round'
Shortly after the fabrica I came across a right little gem in the shape of the Abbey of Eskirotz and its Church of St Lucy. The church, its adjacent house and grounds are currently being restored by Neil from South Africa. More details on the Abbey's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/theabbey.es/: suffice to say that the place is a veritable web of intrigue with enough occult spirituality to make The Da Vinci Code look like a Janet and John narrative. Buried moors, parish politics, repressed Virgin Mary and Templars (obvs); they're all here. Well worth more than a cursory visit if you're passing by.
Santa Lucia. The church appears to have been originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Why was she demoted?
The door - not the original - had once been painted with stars but these have, in turn, been painted over. Is somebody trying to hide something? I feel a Holy Grail plot narrative coming on ...
The church of Santa Lucia from the outside. Much restoration still to be done inside but it's an exciting project.
Path of the Day. Nice, easy walking down to Pamplona.
And what's this? Not a Virgin and Child but a stepfather and son (17th century)
Looking back up the valley before the Camino enters the outskirts of Pamplona
Trinidad de Arre, outskirts of Pamplona. Close to here the Camino Baztan joins the Camino Frances.