In November 2019, we spend some days in Pamplona to explore the city and the surroundings. Our first excursion takes us to Puente de la Reina (a small town with a Romanesque bridge), to the Cistersian monastery Iranzu and to the Benedictine monastery Irache (which is also a bodega).
Source: Google Maps
Puente de la Reina – Romanesque Bridge from the 11th century, built for the pilgrims
In the early 11th century, pilgrimage on the Way of St. James thrived. Two branches of the Way of St. James meet here to cross the river Agra. The wife of Sanchez III the Great (or her daughter in law) decided to build a bridge and for that it was called “Puente de la Reina”. Here it is allowing to enter the city…
… and leading out of the city.
Puente de la Reina is a pretty town – with various churches
With the bridge for the pilgrims, the town Puente de la Reina evolved. Until today, brave pilgrims are withstanding the rain…
… to visit the churches such as this Crucification Church from the 13/14th century…
… with Christ crucified hanging inside.
The city also caters for the pilgrims. The restaurants offer cheap pilgrim menus for 5 to 6 Euros and shops sell trecking cloth that is particularly useful now that it rains so much. We buy jackets and shoes here (though not being pilgrims). The “Planeta Agua” belongs to a chain that we also find in other towns along the Way of St. James.
Red pimientos (sweet pepper) are omnipresent in Puente de La Reina
We have parked our car near the market that sells primarily pimientos or sweet pepper.
Sweet peppers hang on the balconies…
… and they are on offer in every vegetable shop,where they are being roasted and peeled using these machines.
Then they are marinated in garlic. Shops and restaurants sell them (note the two pilgrim’s scallops).
In the restaurant La Plaza, I eat marinated pimientos as a pintxo (snack) and they are very, very delicious.
The monastery Iranzu
The sun shines for some hours and we benefit from this rare occurrence by driving to the mountains, where the secluded Cistersian Monastery Iranzu from the 12th century welcomes us.
We arrive just in time to visit the monastery, before it closes. This is the cloister…
… with the beautiful fountain.
The sun brings the rosettes on to the wall of the gangway.
The church is sober. The Cistercians were masters in laying bricks precisely.
In the sun we head off to walk in the canyon behind the monastery.
Panels explain the geology and the biology of the valley. The mediterranean vegetation is changing to a eurosiberian vegetation, as we climb higher. Typical of the mediterranean vegetation are for example ilex (Steineiche), acorns, poplars and pine-trees, whereby higher up, in the eurosiberian vegetation, oak trees and beeches are dominating.
We are caught by rain again, return to our car as fast as possible and, swish-swish-swish, drive to Irache.
The Benedictine monastery Irache is also a bodega
The Benedictine Monastery Irache is beautifully located within its vineyards.
Their emblem is the golden lion on red background. In the shop, I buy a bottle of Garnacha rosé and a bottle of Vino de Pago (Tinto). Vino di Pago is a label that only three bodegas of Navarra carry, as they process their own grapes which gives their wines the character of their territory, while the territory as such does not carry the DO label.
The monastery can be visited for free. It is under restoration and only the Plateresque cloister is accessible…
… with the porch and the medaillons that they are proud of and explain each of them in an exhibition.
We drive back to Pamplona. Fog and rain accompany us.
Tomorrow we plan to see Rioja Alavesa, Laguardia and Elciego.
Sources: Marion Golder: “Nordspanien und der Jakobsweg”, Dumont Reise-Handbuch, Ostfildern 2018; Marion Trutter (Editor): “Culinario España, Spanische Spezialitäten”, Tandem Verlag 2015; “El mundo del vino”, Edition Larousse.