Day 33- Astorga to Santa Catalina de Somoza

Walked Today: 5.8 mi / Camino2022: 221 mi

It was dark at 7 a.m. as we walked through Astorga. It was a chilly 50F and a slight breeze made it chillier! Street lights made headlamps unnecessary as we walked by the Hotel Gaudi (where we stayed in 2019), the Episcopal Palace ( designed and built by Gaudi and across the street from the hotel) and the Cathedral of Astorga , adjacent to the Episcopal Palace…. all somewhat visible in the dark.

Street lights followed us for nearly a half-mile outside the city and were replaced by natural light from first light and sunrise.

We walked along the lightly traveled road, then angled left onto a smaller road that took us into the Maragato community of Murias de Rechivaldo, one of about 40 villages around Astorga. The Maragato prople are rumored to be descended from the Berbers of North Africa, who arrived with the Muslim conquest in the 8th century and later converted to Christianity. Maragato men traditionally worked as muleteers, mule drivers who transported goods (especially fish and gold) around the peninsula.
approaching Murias de Rechivaldo where we stopped for breakfast
back on the dirt trail headed for Santa Catalina de Somoza.
…still chilly and as we climbed upward, leaving the meseta behind and heading into the mountains.
just outside our destination for the day… and possible obstruction ahead
this guy gave Jim a hard “you want a piece of me?” kind of stare, which Jim pretended to ignore, sorta, while snapping this photo and moved quickly on his way…. the young bull never budged… maybe it was the bright red/orange daypack Jim had on his back!
We have a pose similar to this one for each of our four visits to this village.
our room at Albergue San Blas
look what we found behind the “extra” door from our room, it’s ours alone
never pass up an opportunity to exploit extra space… or a single, lonely chair

….. does that chair… look like a….barber chair?….

Good grooming is a must for seasoned, over 75 pilgrims. When planning your Camino be sure to include a barber in your entourage.

Has anyone noticed that as we have moved closer to Santiago, that Linda is developing a halo?

We spent the day hanging out in our quite unusual habitation, venturing downstairs to the albergue bar for lunch (pizza) and dinner (paella).

Today’s walk was very easy, especially when compared to yesterday’s. Tomorrow we continue up the mountain toward Cruz de Ferro, the highest point on the Camino Frances at 1505 meters (4918 ft).

Day 32- Leon to Astorga

Walked Today: 10.7 mi / Camino2022: 215 mi

At 7:25 we walked to the bus station, stopping for breakfast along the way.

Leaving Leon center-city on our way to the bus station.

We left the station at 9:15 and were let off at Hospital de Orbigo at 9:45, and began walking.

The Camino today was on frontage pavement road and dirt paths for most of the way, taking us out of the meseta. Thus, the terrain began to change, now including more wooded areas, more rolling hills and more mountains in the distance.

narrow path along N-120, noisy but it felt safe
pavement along N-120, safely away from traffic
The only place to stop for the first 5 miles was this gas station. We used their facilities and drank a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, while resting for a few minutes .

After walking 7 miles we were back on a dirt path which took us away from the highway and headed into San Justa de Vega.

A monument to San Justa de Vega on the hill outside of the village of the same name. Astorga can be seen in the distance, another 3 miles away.
Linda and a thirsty and very still pilgrim at the entrance of the village
the sidewalk into St Justa de Vega was lined with lavender.
Main street, maybe the only street through St Justa. We’ve stayed here on two previous Caminos, instead of Astorga.
back on a wide path between San Justa and Astorga
the zig-zag bridge over the railroad tracks into Astorga.
our hotel, Astur Plaza, and room balcony, overlooking the plaza.
Astur Plaza

After our 10.7 mile walk, we were pooped. But since it was late, 2:30, we checked in, took our stuff to our room and headed back out to have lunch… and to relax/recover with a tasty meal and glass(es) of wine!

A very tasty , late lunch at a recommended restaurant…. 1st course: Lentel soup and green beans 2nd course: veal and pork

We retreated to our room and recovered for the remaining afternoon.

view of the plaza from our room balcony
Astorga Town Hall (1683), from our room balcony

Even though we has a long walk today without a significant break/rest along the way, we are pretty much recovered as the day comes to an end and we are physically and mentally ready to hit it again in the morning.

Leon

We took advantage of our off day by sleeping to 7:30, then walking toward the bus station, stopping along the way to get breakfast.

The bus station in being renovated, so a temporary area with ticket kiosks, rest rooms and small shops was enclosed at one end of the area where buses arrive and depart.

temporary Leon bus station

We were approached by an official but very nice young lady who answered all our questions in English and even gave us a bus schedule. She also showed us where our bus will be located when we board tomorrow morning!

For Camino2022, we want to by-pass walking through the western outskirts of Leon, which offer eight or so miles of city walking with traffic, inconsistent sidewalks, then highly industrial areas and then roadside paths or shoulder walking.

Based on our findings this morning, we will walk to the bus station tomorrow morning, leaving the hotel around 7:30 to arrive at a bar just a few steps from the station and have breakfast. Our bus to Hospital de Orbigo departs at 9:00 am from Leon and arrives at 9:33. We will purchase tickets for 6€ each from the driver when boarding the bus.

We will disembark just outside Hospital de Orbigo (where we stayed in 2015 and 2019) and will begin our walk for the day.

With our logistics planning done, we began working our way back toward our hotel, and as always, enjoying the beautiful new and old buildings that remarkably blend together so well throughout this nearly 2000 year old city.

Remnants of the reinforcements of the Leon city walls

We made stops along the way to buy a few items we anticipate we’ll need on the remaining weeks to Santiago. Items like a replacement belt that broke on Jim’s shorts, a long sleeve shirt that Jim forgot to pack, some warm tights for Linda, replacement batteries for our headlamps, etc.

We also needed to find and buy an additional credential for stamps to verify/prove that we walked the necessary distance to Santiago to earn a Compostela. The single credentials we started with won’t have enough space for all the stamps we will collect for our nearly 60 day journey.

we spent a lot of time browsing eating and people watching on this beautiful walk street from the Cathedral to city center.

We unloaded our purchases at our room, then walked across the plaza to have a pizza lunch at the Boccalino Hotel restaurant.

Napoli for Jim, Margarita for Linda
Jim’s pizza never had a chance!

After lunch we visited the beautiful building we’ve been viewing from our room.

The Basilica de San Isidoro

The basilica, Real Colegiata de San Isidoro was commissioned by Fernando I to house relics returned by Muslims after their defeat in the Reconquista.

inside the basilica

The relics of San Isidoro of Seville (ca. 560-636) are housed in the basilica. Adjacent to the basilica is a museum and pantheon that includes the remains of 11 kings, 12 queens and a number of other princes, princesses, counts and other nobles. It also contains the chalice of Doña Urraca, the daughter of King Ferdinand I and Queen Sancha, the Holy Grail, reputed to be the goblet used by Christ at the Last Supper!

The Holy Grail?

We pretty much chilled for the rest of the day.

Hotel Boccalino
our room from outside, second story, with extended windows just below Boccalino.
We put the window alcove and 3rd bed to good use.

In spite of our “day off” we still managed to walk another 4.5 miles today, around Leon, but not to be included in our total for Camino2022.

So tomorrow it’s back on the Camino for our final 180 miles to Santiago.

Day 31- Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon

Walked Today: 4.1 mi / Camino2022: 204 mi.

The rain had stopped when we left our room and walked through one of the Manzilla de Las Mulas gates this morning, then rejoined the Camino.

Massive gates and huge surviving walls surround the fortified town.
back on the Camino
colorful corn fields replaced our usual wheat fields today

The path ran parallel to a busy road and shortly became the shoulder of the busy road. Our plan today was to walk to the next village, Puente de Villarente, then get a taxi or bus into Leon. The path into Leon is not very interesting with multiple road crossings, industrial and highways, none adding much to the experience, so it seemed like a good section to skip.

too close for comfort

A half mile short of our destination, we spotted a bus stop, occupied by two pilgrims. Jim walked over to them an inquired about the bus schedule. They replied, “the bus to Leon arrives in 10 minutes.

“opportunistic pilgrim collaboration”

So, opportunistic pilgrims that we are, we joined our fellow opportunists and boarded the bus …

bus riding is an unfamiliar exercise for us, but much appreciated at times

…and enjoyed our 15 minute ride into Leon (1.45€ each).

masked bandits…. or just pilgrims doing what required

Walking into Leon (and out) has never been much fun but walking in and around the center of Leon is a pure delight. We really love this place.

An interesting display just after walking into city center
pedestrian friendly sidewalks and walk streets throughout…
…. colorful, well maintained, architecturally diverse buildings and shops of all kinds
a park near our hotel, El Boccolino

We walked the 3/4 mile from the bus station to our hotel, grabbing breakfast along the the way. Our room was ready and we checked in immediately.

our room
the view from one of our room windows

First item on the agenda was to go to Valor, a restaurant specializing in churros, Linda’s favorite. We also added some tasty sandwiches and called it lunch.

Valor churros are to die for

We chatted with two charming ladies from Holland who were with a group touring northern Spain. One of the ladies had walked the Camino 25 years ago.

Jim likes ‘em too

We stretched out lunch with people-watching from our lunch table, then walked around re-famiarizing ourselves with landmarks and getting re-oriented after a 3 year absence.

our lunch view
The Leon Cathedral… a few steps from our lunch spot, 5 minute walk from our hotel.

The rest of the afternoon and evening included making reservations for the next few weeks, settling into our “habitación” for our two day stay in a most favorite Camino location.

We’re taking a break tomorrow, so no advancing on Camino2022, but we’ll give a brief report on whatever mischief we got into on one of our rare “days off” when walking the Camino.

Day 30- Bercianos to Mansilla de las Mulas

Walked Today: 8.2 mi /Camino 2022: 200 mi

Even without alarms, our bodies are now on automatic to wake at 6:00 a.m.! So off we went into the dark, expecting rain at any minute, but not wearing our ponchos, yet.

We felt some light sprinkles just before entering Burgo Ranero… but they went away as we stepped into our “routine” breakfast stop, La Costa el Adobe.

Our first thoughts were remembering our breakfast rendezvous on September 5, 2017 with Ken and Mandy, special Camino friends from South Africa and fellow bloggers. They are planning a return to the Camino in 2023. A cafe con leche toast to you both and Buen Camino!

Jim’s toast today…. our first in person meeting in Bercianos on September 4, 2017.

We called a taxi to take us to Reliegos. He arrived a half-hour later and we hopped into his car. We both were surprised when we saw the inside, which looked familiar.

Look familiar to anyone?

We had a very nice chat for the next 12 miles as we covered a section of the Camino that we didn’t like too much and which dropped our total walk to just over 8 miles. The driver spoke very good English and we learned that he had lived in Texas and California. Jim asked if he had solar cells at home and he said yes, but not batteries… “generated his own electricity during the day and bought it during the night.” He charged us 18€ for the ride, a very quiet one, and wished us well as we put on our ponchos and began walking in the rain.

Our driver, Linda…sheltered by the building while donning her poncho, and our ride!!!

We continued for the next 3 miles walking in a light rain but comfortable and dry in our ponchos.

Our Caminos are usually during the months of August and September which are typically dry, so we seldom need our ponchos on the Camino, but still carry them just in case.

The rain we are experiencing is forecast to continue through tomorrow afternoon. It is the remnants of Hurricane Danielle which affected mostly the western coast of Portugal on September 11-12 with rain and strong winds. We are seeing rain and wind, but nothing approaching hurricane strength.

We arrived in Mansilla de Las Mulas just before noon and waited 30 minutes for our room to be ready.

We took the next several hours to find an open restaurant for our main meal, dodging showers in between, then settled back into our warm, dry room for the remainder of the day.

our room, Hotel Rural los Soportales, in Mansilla de Las Mulas.

Day 29- Sahagún to Bercianos del Real Camino

Walked Today: 7.5 mi / Camino2022: 192 mi

Today was going to be a shorter walk, after hoofing it more than 8 miles the previous two days. It actually started out just as planned. We left our hotel at 6:45 and walked for about 2.5 miles in the dark. We reached a junction just outside of Calzada de Coto where the Camino splits. Going through Calzada results in walking an extra 3 miles and it misses Bercianos completely, where we have reserved for the night.

walking along a campground on our way out of Sahagún

We missed the poorly/confusingly marked split-off in 2014 and walked nearly into Calzada, before a local resident pointed us in the correct direction. Having learned from our 2014 near goof, in 2017 and 2019, we carefully maneuvered through the junction and were merrily on our way. Today was a different story.

We remembered not to go right at the junction, but we went too far left and missed the Camino entirely. Not realizing we had found a new way to goof, we continued walking for over a half-mile until we realized that nothing around us looked familiar.

Our erroneous path (in green)… the Camino is the path with the dots (trees) alongside.

Jim pulled out the Google Earth app so we could see the actual area from above and when we saw what had happened, we looked for a way to take a short cut back onto the Camino. We cut across a couple of mowed fields to a farm road the angled over to the Camino. (If we had remembered that it was at the junction that the Camino becomes a path with evenly spaced trees to provide shade all the way into Leon, we would have become aware of our wrong turn much sooner. What a difference 3 years makes!)

The map below shows our path, then reversing course, then cutting across the fields, then returning to the Camino.

Beginning our “shortcut” across a mowed grain field
cutting between the fields on a farm road
….from farm road back onto Camino

This unplanned deviation added an extra 1.6 miles to today’s walk!

back on the Camino again
Getting off our feet for a few minutes after 5.5 miles non-stop, and finally getting back on track.
la Perala, light sprinkles and imminent cloud burst in minutes… will we make it?

Adding to our excitement, forecasted showers had been threatening all morning long. We delayed putting our rain gear on mainly because we were focused on getting “unlost”! With less than a quarter mile to go, small water droplets began falling. We walked faster, entered the albergue gates, hustled inside and ordered breakfast. No sooner had we taken our first sip of cafe con leche, when the heavens opened up! For the next 20-30 minutes, thoroughly drenched pilgrims came charging up the sidewalk, into the front door, while we watched… warm and dry in the refuge.

hustling into La Perala
Breakfast at La Perala and sipping cafe con leche as the rain begans to pour!

We stayed at La Perala in 2019, soon after its opening. It is a very nice albergue, owned and operated by the same family that owns and operates Albergue Los Templarios, where we stayed two days ago.

The hospitality demonstrated by our hosts was unsurpassed today. Every member of the staff went out of their way to make sure that our stay was satisfying. They were each well organized, friendly and striving to please…. at 40€ per night for a double room, ensuite bathroom, large shower, good food, plenty of comfortable sitting areas in a warm, relaxed environment.

We had interesting conversations with a guy from Holland, as well as a former Michelin employ who lives in Leon, France and was walking his Camino from there. We also chatted with a young lady from Germany, and a lady from Sarasota, Florida, among others.

We’ll hopefully get our shorter walk day, tomorrow and have shut off our alarms tonight, accordingly. It’s amazing how our miscue this morning was so quickly overcome and lost among so many positive experiences and encounters during the rest of the day.

Day 28- Terradillos de los Templanarios to Sahagún

Walked Today: 8.3 mi / Camino2022: 184 mi

It was a warm, humid 62F when we left Los Templarios at 6:35 this morning. Our first rest/breakfast stop was a little more than 2 miles down the path, in Moratinos.

our first breakfast stop
an above-ground “wine cellar” in the field across from the bar.

Shortly after, while walking to the next hamlet, we looked over our shoulder and saw a nice sunrise.

familiar looking scenery, still on the meseta.

Another two miles later, we made our second rest/breakfast stop. Before arriving in San Nicolas del Real Camino, we passed a sign regarding one of the two bars/ albergues in the hamlet.

Advertising on the Camino

We stopped at the first bar, a favorite, from prior Caminos. We have stayed in the albergue (2014) of bar number 2 and eaten there also Both bars have good food, based on our experience.

this is the first bar, not referred to in the sign attribution to Socrates.

Just outside of San Nicolas…., the Camino pulled alongside of N-120, going into Sahagún. We then walked the next 4 miles, arriving at our hotel at 10:40 and check-in.

Camino becoming a path along N-120
decent walking surface, gradual incline
Approaching Sahagún (in the background, 2 miles away)
milepost marking leaving province of Palencia and entering Castile and Leon.
final mile stretch on shoulder of N-120

Our room was still being cleaned, so we waited on the hotel terrace until 12:00, when we accessed our room and began unloading and organizing our stuff for the afternoon and evening.

Our room meets our basic needs: twin beds, ensuite bathroom, clean, on or close to the Camino.

We decided to walk 7 minutes to a supermarket to gather some snacks for the next several days. By then, it was 1:30, so we took a seat in the hotel dining room for our main meal of the day.

The owner/ waiter brought us a menu in the form of scribblings on a small piece of paper, and proceeded to go down the list quickly in Spanish (did we mention that people around here are all fluent in Spanish, for some reason, and mostly assume everyone else is too?) making it clear by demonstrating on our first question, that all responses were going to be in even faster Spanish. Jim, whose stomach growl could be heard by Linda, chose something with included the word pasta for his 1st course, and after asking about the last item on the list and understanding nothing.,. said he’d take that one. Linda followed a similar approach picking an item with tomato in the description and the word pollo (chicken).

1-Jim has no clue after ordering, 2-success on first course: delicious multi-veggie pasta with brown sauce for Jim, sliced tomatoes with basil & olive oil on fresh cheese for Linda 3-second course:fried chicken & “Lincoln log”? fries for L., baked wing and breast of something that flies. and fries for J.

So, what was the verdict on Jim’s mystery selection for course 2?

cleaned to the bone, literally… yum!

What do you think?

The rest of the day was spent napping, blogging, etc. Long walk, feeling strong, having fun on the Camino Frances.

Day 27- Villalacazar de Sirga to Terradillos de los Templarios

Walked today: 8.9 mi /Camino2022: 176 mi

After walking in the dark for nearly a half-hour, the scenery around us was still the same as yesterday.

“campos“ all around us

We reached Carrion de los Condes after 3.5 miles and stopped for breakfast at La Corte, a very nice restaurant/albergue.

Entering Carrion de los Condes (upper left), Santa Clara Monastery, La Corte, our place for breakfast… across the street from Iglesia de Santa María and desayuno ( breakfast) at La Corte.

We’ve had two dinners and now, two breakfasts here. As soon as we finished eating, we asked the waiter to please call us a taxi, which arrived at 8:30.

The driver took us to Calzadilla de la Cueza, which is located at the end of the walk from Carrion, which offers 11 miles with no shade and no services… one of the longest stretches without a town on the Camino Frances.

just after leaving Calzadilla de la Cueza

The next 3 plus miles were quite pleasant. Even though we walked along a two lane, lightly traveled road the entire way, the natural shrubs and trees mostly blocked our view of the road and provided ample shade to mitigate the ever increasing heat from the sun.

Just after leaving the dirt path before entering Ledigos, we encountered some nice pilgrim art, created from nearby stones.

Ledigos is a very small village with brick and adobe buildings. Nevertheless, it has two nice albergues. It was nearly 11:00 so we stopped at the newest one and had “smoothies”!

Smoothies, to give us an extra boost for the final stretch.

The walk out of Ledigos was beautiful. A huge birch tree also captured our attention on the way out.

… walking out of Ledigos
on our way to Terradillos de los Templarios

Albergue Los Templarios was not open until noon, so we made ourselves at home on the front porch (in the shade) and discovered the wifi was strong and the password was the same as 2019 (both our phones remembered).

At 11:50, the owner opened the front door, welcomed us inside and we were soon in our room.

our room ( 42€ )

We took advantage of the laundry service to wash our clothes (4€) and we hung them out to dry ourselves.

Front of the albergue and rear where we hung clothes to dry (took about 2 hours)
lunch (7.50€)

We had ensalada mixta’s for lunch. The afternoon was spent enjoying the property. We had nice chats with two guys, both retired, from Stuttgart, Germany and a British couple currently working in Madrid. They were both nurses, walking their first Camino. We talked about our recent Camino experiences and their experiences working in medical facilities during the pandemic.

We had a dinner in the albergue dining room and retired to our room at 8:30.

Day 26- Población de Campos to Villalcázar de Sirga

Walked Today: 6.2 mi / Camino2022: 167 mi

moon set ?

We began the day with a “moon set”… and a sunrise a half-hour later… not photo worthy.😉.

Most of the villages we’ve encountered yesterday and today end with Compos, “fields” in Spanish. After walking along a two lane paved road with light vehicle traffic but relatively heavy pilgrim traffic for couple of miles we passed quickly through Revenga en Campos, then back along the road. (Note: cyclist pilgrim pulling good size cart behind)

Aporoaching Revenga

Next, we approached Villarmentero de Campos. It being about breakfast time, we saw an intriguing sign and decided to make a stop.

approaching Villarmentero de Campos
Our breakfast stop in Albergue Amenecer
Our standard breakfast in an anything but standard albergue.

We returned to the road and “campos” and walked another 3 miles to Villalcazar de Sirga.

approaching Villalacazar de Sirga

We waited comfortably in the La Cantigas Bar terrace until our room was ready.

Our hotel for the night, Las Cantigas
nice room

After attending to some chores, we had a three course lunch in the Las Cantigas Bar, then walked to a nearby “supermarket”, about the size of our living room back home, to get some snacks for next several days and returned to our room.

First Course (Primero Plato): lasagna for Linda, Spaghetti Carbonara for Jim

Later, we ventured out to the huge church dwarfing our hostal and did the self-guided tour and got a stamp for our credential for the day.

directly across from Las Cantigas, Santa María La Blanca
…inside Iglesia Santía Maria la Blanca, built by the Knights Templar as a temple-fortress in the 12th century as protection for pilgrims bound for the Holy Land.

Back in our room, we were more than adequately sated from our lunch, so we decided again to skip dinner and finish out the day blogging and reading.

Day 25- Boadillo del Camino to Población de Campos

Walked Today: 6.1 mi / Camino2022: 161 mi

We were on our way at 6:40, before first light. Linda captured this shot as we began walking along the Canal de Castile.

The Canal de Castile was intended to transport grain from Castile to the northern port of Santander on the bay of Biscay and to other markets from there; vice versa the canal was also intended to facilitate moving products from the Spanish colonies to Castile. Construction was started in 1753 and continued until 1849 with only 207 of the planned 400 km completed when work was halted as railroads began to be built to serve northern Spain. The canal ultimately evolved into a major part of an irrigation system still in use today.

Reflection of the silhouetted trees reveals the Canal de Castile location
The Canal de Castile just before the locks located on the outskirts of Formista. The valves are located along the canal to release water into a system of aqueducts that irrigate the crops located below and off to the left of the Camino.
This ferry boat provides rides up and down the canal on special occasions and holidays, according to Mario. We passed another boarding dock about 2 miles earlier, soon after starting to walk along the canal in the dark.
the canal locks at Formista which were decommissioned in the 20th century.

We stopped for breakfast in Formista, then continued on to Población de Campos, to complete today’s planned walk.

After several days without, cafe con leche y dos tostadas for breakfast in Formista
Attractive Camino path exiting Formista.
the Camino crossing over an autopista, then back down to walk along a secondary national 2-lane highway
… many pilgrims walking along the highway between Formista and Población de Campos.
Some really strange artwork outside an albergue, just before Población de Campos. We would have taken a close-up shot, but Jim was afraid to get any closer!

We arrived at a very early 9:45, but the front door was open and when we identified ourselves, Carmen told us that our room was not ready, but we were welcome to come in and use the rest room and sit in the jardin behind the building until our room was ready. A few minutes after we were settled she brought us each a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and recognized us from our previous visits! We love this place, having stayed here in 2014 and 2017 and have been excited about returning since booking it several days ago for Camino 2022.

Casa Rural Amanecer en Campos…. amanecer means “dawn” or “daybreak”.
The “jardin” behind the building
our room

We got into our room about 10:15, did our chores, had a delicious lunch in the casa dining room ….

Our delicious lunch: Ensalada Rusa (potato salad) and la Carrillera de ternera ( veal cheeks), fresh bread, vino tinto (red wine) and for postra (dessert) flan (Jim) and melón (Linda)

…..hung out in our room or the jardin: napping blogging and reading until lights out at 9:00 p.m.