A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 27 January 2008

A Frenchman Ate My Food

The next day 22 November a fine natural track took us to the village of Torres del Rio (see 1st photo) with its 12th century Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro linked with the Knights Templar (more of the Knights Templar later - they are associated with much of the route) and the octagonal church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. These churches are respectively on the left and right of the photo. In Spain the churches were often sadly locked, whereas in France they were usually open.

My 2nd photo shows some of the typical landscape on the way to the beautiful, historic and architecturally significant town of Viana, a major pilgrim halt. Cesare Borgia, of Italy's infamous Borgia family, is buried here in the Church of Santa Maria. He was the son of Roderigo Borgia (elected Pope Alexander VI in 1492) and brother of Lucrezia. Commander of the Papal armies, he was banished to Spain on the death of his father by his father's papal successor. He died near here defending Viana in the siege of 1507. He was a friend of both Leonardo da Vinci (who had been his military architect) and Niccolo Machiavelli. During the course of his life he fathered 11 illegitimate children.

Just before Logrono we entered the region of La Rioja, renowned of course for its wonderful wines. After passing a wetland nature reserve, the outskirts of Logrono were a little grim. There were roads, there were trucks, there was ribbon development. The weather had deteriorated, the skies were grey, there were squally showers. However when we crossed the wide Ebro river, and reached the proper town itself, we found it delightful.

Logrono is a lively university town, the capital of La Rioja, with a population of 130,000. I liked it very much. The 3rd photo gives a detail of its impressive Plaza del Mercado which fronts the late 14th century Gothic cathedral. That evening I shopped for fresh minced beef, vegetables and garlic in its atmospheric, traditional covered market, and for linguine and tins of tomatoes in its large modern supermarket (Logrono is a seductive blend of the old and the new). I cooked the old fall-back favourite of English-style spaghetti bolognese for my pilgrim friends in the albergue municipal. Success! I made a huge amount but every plate was wiped clean. Even le cuisinier Laurent had to admit it was rather good. A FRENCHMAN ATE MY FOOD AND ENJOYED IT! This was indeed a proud moment.

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