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Thursday 1st August 2019

We awake after a deep, deep sleep. I look at the time on my phone. It says 6.50 a.m. I had set the alarm for 6.00! We had been sleeping so soundly that we simply hadn’t heard it! No matter. Things are not urgent today as we have to arrive at the wine fountain at the Monasterio de Irache no earlier than 9.00, when the spigot is turned on. This fountain was inaugurated in 1991 and the water and wine of the fountain are symbols of the first miracle performed by Jesus at the wedding of Cana, namely turning water into wine. 

We have managed to find a bar that was open for breakfast and have enjoyed the umpteenth lovely coffee and met the umpteenth super-friendly barman. I have been looking forward to today for a long time, having watched many a video about the fountain. Things are not quite as I had imagined. First of all, it is pissing with rain. I am determined not to break my vow and get angry or frustrated, but I confess that it is difficult. We wait in the monastery museum with Michelangelo, our walking companion of today, for the rain to relent. It does not. We decide, therefore, to brave the rain and perform the ritual of drinking wine from our scallop shells. Plastic cups, we have been told, can be found at the fountain, but when we get there, cups there are none.  There is, however, a notice telling us that in lieu of the plastic cups, we can buy a small bottle of mineral water at the monastery museum shop, and use that instead. What a damn cheek! Still, we haven’t come all this way to bypass the chance of drinking from the fountain of Irache, so we head back to the shop, buy a bottle and go back down to the fountain where I drink the water and fill the bottle with wine. You are supposed to limit yourself to one glass per person but, having paid for the bottle of mineral water, I feel entitled to a little more than one measly glass and I don’t feel in the least bit guilty, not even with the live webcam watching me. I down the wine there and then, notwithstanding Mrs. Asinello’s suggestion that we take it with us for later and notwithstanding the fact that it is not even 10 o’clock and it wasn’t that long ago that we had breakfast! 

The wine soon does its job and has me feeling downright chipper. It stops raining and we make for the village of Villamayor de Monjardìn. Michelangelo is still with us, as are Simone and Nicolà. All three are from central Italy and are pleasant walking companions, although I soon realize that we are going to have to steer well clear of any political discussions. It is abundantly clear that they think very differently from us. By early afternoon, we are nostalgic for the rain. It is now baking hot and we are walking in open countryside with no shelter from the blazing sun. Thank heavens for my desert hat. We arrive late in Los Arcos and find a double room in the Albergue Casa de la Abuela. A lovely room it is too. There is a communal kitchen and the stairways are decorated with gorgeous painted tiles.

The man who runs it is a sweetheart. He tells me that I am very red and warns us to be off early tomorrow as it is going to be another scorcher. I am not looking forward to tomorrow. We are going to be saying goodbye to some good friends: the two priests from Bari, Mother Hen with Multiple Sclerosis and, worst of all, Blandine, who brightens my day and my camino with her smile. In Los Arcos I forgo my usual beer and, instead, we order a carafe of Sangria, which we enjoy in the sunny plaza. As we sit there, Michele arrives. He has taken it easy today and makes it into town late afternoon. He throws up his arms in the manner of an Olympic sprinter crossing the finishing line as he enters the plaza and Mrs. Asinello hangs her blessed necklace, given to her after Mass in Puenta La Reina yesterday, around his neck as a reward. Although he is not a religious man, I see his eyes well up. Something is stirring in him; I recognize it all too well. Mass is in the stunning church of Santa Maria de Los Arcos, where we receive another copy of the Pilgrim’s Prayer.

After Mass we go for beer and paella at the Menson de Gargantua, where we had the sangria earlier. Trip Advisor gives the place a pathetic 2.5 points and purists would no doubt scoff at the industrial paella we are served, but we enjoy it and order a fennel liqueur to finish with. We get off to bed as early as we can. Given the predictions of infernal heat tomorrow, we want to be out of here by 6.00 at the latest. 

Music: The Wildhearts – Renaissance Men

Audiobook: Jane Austen – Emma



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