Overnight in Lorca I had access to a television. There are numerous Spanish channels, and just about everything is dubbed into Spanish, or even the regional language. (Later I was to watch The Magnificent Seven in Galician.) This is very bad for Spain’s evolution to a modern and global “brand”, and explains why, as one Belgian industrialist later remarked to me, Spain is such a source of frustration to northern investors. (When you don’t want to speak English and don’t have dinner till ten at night, you may not cut it in the boardrooms of Brussels or Hamburg? Any dill could have told the EU that, and for free.)
Well, for the learning of Spanish, provided one is already acquainted with the written language or Italian, television is a massive resource. You can even turn on Spanish subtitles, though the text often differs from the dialogue.
That first night I watched an old episode of Columbo. The gravelly voice used for Peter Falk was a challenge, but the strong and simple plotting enabled me to follow what was happening, and tune in more and more to the dialogue.
(I should add that, when you cross the International Bridge at Tui, this learning system breaks down. There are only a handful of free channels in Portugal, the content resembling what might have been Adelaide television in the 1950’s. And there’s no dubbing!)
So, from Lorca, the major town of Estella was less than ten kilometres away. The grey skies threatened, but the weather held for me.
Coffee and snacks at Villatuerta, where the Basque language reappears in an official way.
Here, in a cafe, I met my first pilgrims, a young American couple who had just completed service in the Peace Corps. They were more dining companions than walking companions, since they were quite swift, and I am, well, as you know…
A very old Ermita of Saint Michael catches the eye after Villatuerta.
Then it’s on to Estella. My new friends had rocketed ahead, and I was not to see them that night, but the town was full of interest.
I don’t think it was ever a capital, but I read somewhere that when Navarre was run by the French house of Champagne in the later middle ages, the rulers preferred to stay away from Pamplona and its powerful bishop by nestling here on the banks of the Ega. This attracted wealth and a new population of French to the town, but Estella seems to have been a royal seat even before all that.
Nearby Najera was an actual capital when Pamplona was wrecked by Muslims, but Estella figured strongly in Navarre’s history. San Salvador’s portal is evidence of serious urban investment.
And the Royal Palace is the best non-ecclestiastical Romanesque of the region.
But I love a good bridge most of all…
Estella is a true hub of the Way. It was founded for pilgrims and all the business that came with them. You could have bought miracle foot lotion there nine hundred years ago from a shrewd pharmacist or hospitalero. And if you wanted to try the latest aphrodisiac from the east, after all that exhausting piety…