Hostal Ezequiel (71€, inc. dinner)
Out by 7:00 AM. No place for coffee anywhere! Lots of pilgrims leaving at this early hour. It is uphill right off the bat. We pass an old country hotel and La Ciudad de Vacaciones, both, sadly, closed for the season. So no coffee! On to the next town, still going uphill… still no coffee! It is a beautiful day through little forests opening onto expansive views. Then fields of gold and red. We finally arrive (still going up) at Monjardin for snacks, joined by a million other pilgrims who haven’t had coffee either. The place is packed and everyone enjoys a well deserved sit-down and morning sustenance. We split a ham and cheese sandwich, with café con leche for me and for Nick, Coca Cola, which he normally doesn’t drink, but somehow finds refreshing and energizing on the trail (He thinks that the fact that here it’s made with cane rather than corn syrup may have something to do with this). Satisfied, we press on and are delighted with much easier downs and rolling trails and dirt roads by olive trees, vines laden with grapes, and bountiful Basque gardens. We stop for a tiny rest at a tiny bench that appears out of nowhere, then it’s on to Los Arcos, arriving at 2:20 PM. The town’s famed church is closed, so we will give it a try later. We tarry for wine and Coca Cola at a bar near our hotel. We check in at 4:00 and find that we have two tiny rooms next to each other with a bath down the hall just for us. We nap in our respective places and then head back to town.The church is open… WOW!!! OVER THE TOP!!! As Nick takes pictures, I hang out communing with the Saints and the Queen of Heaven. Curiously, no sign of Jesus, but then I find him, stuck behind a door… The interior appears to be solid gold. No wonder they lock these places up for most of the day. And this explains a thing or two about the Spanish conquest of the New World: it was for the gold, and here is where it wound up. Back to the hotel for a bath, then a wait for dinner served at 8:00. We enjoy the company of a French couple who started when we did and spoke English. The dinner is good. Bonnie: white beans, duck, cheese / Nick: gazpacho, trout, and flan.