At Najera, we inadvertenly picked a Jewish owned albergue to stay on a saturday, their Sabbath! At least I think it was Jewish owned because of the Star of David on its stamp on our pilgrims credentials and the restaurant assciated with it was closed that evening. It also meant that there was no one around at the albergue when we wanted to seek advice on the huge blister that had developed on K's foot, at a time when all the town's pharmacists were also shut. Luckily we had read up before we left and so we followed our limited knowledge and perhaps intuitions!
Najera is situated on a narrow strip of land bounded by a river and a hill with a rocky surface that reminded me of Castle Hill in Townsville. The town square was all set up with a stage and soon it became obvious that a festival was on. When the music started around 9pm we could not resist going back to the square to join the crowd. The celebrations started half an hour later and over the next hour there was an elaborate introduction of the celebrities getting on to the stage including the MC, a festival queen of some sort and a male high achiever from the previous year, as well as the corresponding winners for the current year. Each had to be given a fanfare by the band, then a long introduction, escorted onto the stage by a member of the opposite sex, given a couple of kisses and receive flowers from two young children, and more kisses. The crowd obviously enjoyed it. Like quite a few others, we left when the male VIP started to speak, fun was over.
Again we left at first light after breakfast the next day. The vineyards soon gave way to bare harvested wheatland as we got higher. The day got hotter and became most uncomfortable for us, especially with the constant climb uphill. It was a relief when we finally got to the top around midday, to be met by a sight we only read about, a deserted golf course and seemingly dead suburb of new houses - the debris of the building bubble crash of recent years. It was the new suburb of the village of Ciruena, that had street after street of terrace houses and apartments, all new and mostly empty and many had "se vende" (for sale) signs. We went closer into the village's old centre of much older houses and found where there was life - the pub where people had gathered after church, for it was a Sunday.
We chose to stay at a place across the road from the pub and the local church, called Casa Victoria, our first experience of a casa rurale. It that turned out that a casa rurale was just like a B and B, and Casa Victoria was run efficiently by a friendly couple. The biggest surprise was that the house was renovated from a very old building and the attic room had been renovated to include an ensuite but retained the original exposed natural tree trunks rafters, similar to those we saw in England.