The 32km from Sangüesa to Monreal is a long haul on the slopes of Tajonar and Izco ridges overlooking the Lumbier valley, albeit through a series of charming villages along a path trod by Saint Francis of Assisi seven centuries ago. The hiker and pilgrim enters this little pueblo over a mediaeval stone footbridge.
In 2005 and 2007, I had stayed in a comfortable if Spartan roadside hotel on the outskirts of the village, the Jakue, but when I arrived, I found that it had closed down. As I re-entered Monreal, I reconciled myself to sleeping in the twenty-bed dormitory of the pilgrims’ refuge. Even though I knew that it was a clean and well-kept hostel, I was not excited about trying to sleep through their snores.
On the way up to the church, I saw a casa rural to my right, an 18th century four-storey stone house and knocked on the half-door. One of the owners came down and, through my bad Spanish (I do not think that they speak English, although the website features an English page), I learned that a room with breakfast would be 30€. My very comfortable room with sofa and television, and ensuite bathroom was on the second floor. Extra blankets were available if a guest felt chilly at night in this village in the hills of Navarre .
Dinner is not available, but I was directed to the village’s only eating place, the social centre on top of the parish hall, where I had a plain but nourishing meal for 12€ in the friendly and cheerful company of a group watching a football game on television.
The next morning, the husband of the couple rose at what is to the Spanish an ungodly hour of 7.00 a.m., and prepared me a breakfast of yogurt, toast, fruit and cold meat, along with café con leche. This extra touch is not universally experienced in Spain , but the friendly hospitality which accompanied breakfast was appreciated.
The old church is under reconstruction, but would be worth a look when it is open again.