Camino Francés description : 03. Zubiri - Pamplona   

 

                                          Camino de Santiago / French Way : 03. Zubiri - Pamplona

                                                                                        (21.7 km)

                

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  When you leave Zubiri you will follow a well marked path past an industrial estate called Magnesitas because of its magnesium factory. The path will then lead you through the small villages of Ilarratz and Esquirotz following the Arga river valley towards Larrasoaña 5.5 kilometres away. Soon after leaving the hamlet of Esquirotz you will come to a map of the Camino. At this point you have a choice to make, do you continue on the Camino, or do you take a slight detour into Larrasoaña? Well we will be taking the slight detour.

 

  To get to Larrasoaña you need to cross the 14th century gothic bridge Puente Larrasoaña, also known as el Puente de los Bandidos (the bridge of the bandits). The bridge got its name in medieval times due to opportunistic bandits lying in wait to rob the pilgrims coming to the village. Thankfully this doesn't happen anymore. In Larrasoaña you will find the very popular Albergue Larrasoaña, which is actually run by the village's mayor. There are also 3 pensiones as well as a bar which offers a Pilgrim's menu and a small shop.

  Larrasoaña is the first of the villages along the Camino known as a Pueblo Calle were the village is built around the main street rather than around a church or monastery. This was a good design as it focussed the centre of economic activity on the centre of the village.

 

  Leave Larrasoaña the same way you entered, via the Puente Larrasoaña and passing the map of the Camino the path takes an uphill track heading towards the village of Aquerreta 1 kilometre away where there is a single hotel.

  From here the path takes you through the village and through some pine woods and down a steep descent and some steps until you reach a modern bridge across the Rio Arga and after 3 kilometres, the village of Zuriáin.

 

  About 400 metres down the main road you will be re-crossing the Rio Arga through another pine forest heading towards the village of Irotz, a walk of 2 kilometres, where you will find a fountain to fill up your water bottles.

   From Irotz you again cross the river via a medieval bridge and follow the path through the village of Uroz and towards the village of Zabaldica where you will find a statue of St James in the Iglesia de San Esteban. The church is usually locked but the key is available from one of the nearby houses.

  Once again on the path and heading uphill once more you will arrive at the small village of Arleta. Here there is a nice manor house and the Iglesia de Santa Marina. The area around Arleta is particularly beautiful in spring and summer when the path is lined with orchids.

 

  The path continues for approximately 1 km until you reach the tunnel underneath the main road. Taking this route you will reach a medieval bridge over the Rio Ulzama and the hamlet of Trinidad de Arre.

  Here you will find the Albergue situated behind the Basilica de la Sanctisima Trinidad de Arre, which is the white building as you cross the bridge, as well as a number of bakeries and other places to eat.

  At the Basilica de la Sanctisima Trinidad de Arre there is an old monastery and the remains of a pilgrim hospice.

 

  Not far along the main road from Trinidad de Arre you will come across the village of Villava, birthplace of Miguel Ángel Indurain Larraya who won the Tour de France on 5 consecutive occasions between 1991 and 1995. Villava is also a suburb of the first major city on the Camino Frances, the city of Pamplona.

 

  After 1.5 kilometres the route takes you through the suburb of Burlada and past a house known as la Casa de las Conchas due to it being decorated in scallop shells.

 

  You will once again have to cross the Rio Arga using the medieval bridge Puente de la Magdalena which is decorated with stone statues and a cross which was donated by the city of Santiago de Compostela in the 1960’s. Just after this bridge is an Albergue to your left. The path then takes you through the public gardens called Playa Caparroso towards the city walls surrounding the medieval part of the city of Pamplona.

 

  Here you walk over a draw bridge through the Portal de Zumalacárregi also known as el Portal de Francia and into the old town of Pamplona. Pamplona was originally a Basque village called Iruña until 74BC when the Roman General Pompeyo Magno founded the new Roman town of Pompaelo, naming it after himself obviously. Over the centuries the city was populated by Visigoths and the Moors.

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  Pamplona - Pamplona city map (Rabe) - Pamplona city map (Pombo)

 

  During the 12th century at the height of the Camino there was an influx of people, particular French (or Franks) and they settled within the city and the city was segregated into 3 burgos or boroughs built around a parish church. Two of them, San Cernin and San Nicolás were Frankish and the other Navarreria, was where the Basques settled. Internal walls divided each of the boroughs mainly because of many disagreements between the different peoples. In 1423 King Carlos III el Noble (the noble) pulled down the walls and banned the building of any walls within the city, basically making the settlers integrate. The city walls and the Citadel were built between the 16th and 18th centuries because of the city’s strategic importance being so close to the French border and also to repel any possible invasion. In the 19th century as the city grew some of the walls, at the south side, were demolished to allow expansion of the city.

 

  Pamplona is most famous for the Fiesta de San Fermin when they run the bulls through the streets. The Fiesta was made world famous by Ernest Hemingway who first attended the Fiesta in 1923 and made it the backdrop of his novel “The Sun Also Rises”. He returned a further 8 times with his last visit in 1959. The city council paid tribute to Hemingway by unveiling a monument next to the bullring on the Paseo Hemingway, the street that had been named in his honour. The Fiesta takes place in early July so be aware when making plans to travel that accommodation may be a little hard to come by at this time.

 

  There are a number of places in Pamplona worthy of a visit including the walls and some of the lovely squares and parks. One of the most impressive buildings in Pamplona is the gothic cathedral, la Catedral de Santa Maria la Real, and is a must see whilst you are in the city. The Cathedral was built during the 14th and 15th centuries over the remains of a Romanesque church that had collapsed but archaeological investigations have found that it was built over a Roman capitol. The façade is Neoclassical but the interior is gothic, apparently taking its inspiration from the French cathedral at Bayonne. In front of the presbytery is the impressive mausoleum of Carlos III el Noble and is wife Leonor de Trastámara but the jewel in the cathedral’s crown is that of its gothic cloister. Built between 1286 and 1472 it is one the very few intact cloisters of this quality to be found in Europe. When the archaeological investigations were taking place in this area they discovered the remains of a Roman market, forum and baths. Inside the cloister you will find a small museum which shows the evolution of both monumental and decorative gothic sculpture from the 13th century.

 

  Close by to the cathedral is one of the most beautiful parts of the city. This is the highest point in Pamplona, an area known as the Bastion de Redín and the building here is called el Meson del Caballo Blanco (white horse inn). Built on the remains of an old palace of which only the Cruz de Mentidero remains the Caballo Blanco has the most outstanding views out across the city. This building used to be a pilgrim hostel but it is now a restaurant. This area is still regularly visited by the pilgrims who entered the city through Portal de Francia.

 

  The fortified 12th church la Iglesia de San Nicolás was the main religious building in the borough that was named after it. Its main function was to defend against its neighbours and it did this through its thick walls, iron doors and 3 watch towers, of these 3 only one remains. This is one of the main landmarks to be found in the Casco Antiguo or old town. Most of the interior is gothic but little remains of the gothic exterior because of  any alterations undertaken in the 19th century. Inside the church you can find a rather large baroque organ built in 1769.

 

  In one of the other boroughs is the 12th century Iglesia de San Cernin or San Saturnino. The church is believed to have been built over the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Diana. Like the Iglesia de San Nicolás it is a fortified church and was the central point in the borough known as San Cernin. It too had a military and defensive function helped again by its thick walls and two high towers. On the top of the one of the towers is a weather vane in the shape of a cockerel. Known as the Gallico de San Cernin the cockerel is one of the most popular emblems of the city. The clock in this same tower is used every morning during the Fiesta de San Fermin to announce the moment when the rocket is let off to announce the beginning of the Encierro or the running of the bulls.

 

  The Casa Consistorial is Pamplona’s town hall. In 1423 when Carlos III decided to tear down the walls between the 3 separate boroughs and reunited the city he built the original Casa Consistorial to house the singular city council. The original building was demolished in 1752 and a new one built in 1760. Of this second building only the façade remains.

 

  For those of you that come during the Fiesta de Fermin it’s around this building that everyone congregates on the first day of the fiesta waiting for the Mayor to start the festivities. Thousands of people gather here waving their red pañuelos (handkerchiefs) high above their heads and chanting “San Fermin” waiting for the first chupinazo (rocket blast). At noon the Mayor comes out onto the balcony and fires the first chupinazo shouting in both Spanish and Basque “People of Pamplona! Long live San Fermin”.

 

  There are a number of hostels in Pamplona both private and municipal as well as a number of places for the pilgrim to have a meal and a drink. During the Fiesta de San Fermin many of the hostel’s prices skyrocket and the albergues usually close. So it is probably a good idea to spend the night at one of the albergues on the route into Pamplona or stay at one at one of the next stops on the Camino.

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                                                   delhommeb at wanadoo.fr - 10/01/2014