Day 42 – Cacabelos to Villafranca del Bierzo

Walked today: 5.2 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 305.4 miles

We stopped for breakfast at Hostal/Restaurant Siglo XIX, the same place we had the delicious dinner yesterday. It’s hard to stand out with cafe con leche and tostadas, but they worked at it.

They even threw in some complimentary churros. All for a total of 5€! If you are ever in Cacabelos, we highly recommend Siglo XIX.

On the way out of Cacabelos, we saw several unusual paintings on the walls.

which for now will have to go unexplained.

On the edge of town was the Santuario de las Angustias with an unusual albergue surrounding it.

behind each door is a cabin with two twin beds

We walked on sidewalks to the edge of town

…then walked on a dirt path along the highway

For most of the way we were surrounded by vineyards. Linda said the area reminded her of Napa Valley.

Harvesting the grapes was underway as we walked by workers clipping the bunches of ripe grapes from the vines.

We walked among the vineyards for a while then joined a downhill secondary road feeding into Villafranca del Bierzo (pop. 3,505).

We walked by the Iglesia de Santiago

Iglesia de Santiago

with its Puerto del Pardon whereby if a pilgrim was too sick to make it to Santiago, he could walk through the Puerto de Pardon and receive the same indulgences as if he had walked all the way to Santiago.

Puerto de Pardon

We walked past the Castile

then on into a plaza where we stopped for a second CCL before walking across the pilgrim bridge to the edge of town to Hostal Mendez (44€) our destination for the day.

Our room wasn’t ready at 10:45 (duh), so we ventured back into town to search for some just-in-case-it-gets-cold extra pair of long pants for Linda. But when you are on the Camino you lose all track of time, so we were looking for an open store on Sunday morning. The half mile walk back to town center was fruitless and the walk back to our hotel made it a 6.2 mile day instead of a 5.2 mile day.

Our room was ready when we got back and Linda’s backpack via Jacotrans was waiting for us, so we did our chores, then headed back to town (where the main eateries were) for lunch.

We had pizza for lunch and while we waited, we ordered 4 glasses of 4 different white wines all grown and processed within a few miles from here. After careful tasting, scoring and ranking the four wines, we concluded that while these were all good, we much prefer red wines.

After two delicious pizzas and our wine tasting, we walked back to our room, making this a 7.2 mile day, and settled into our room for the rest of the day.

And did we mention we are on the 3rd floor, which is 4 levels above ground and that wifi above second floor is non-existent? So simple tasks such as blog uploads, checking mail, etc are a real burden not to mention climbing up and down stairs.

Another great day on the Camino Frances.

Day 41 – Ponferrada to Cacabelos

Walked today: 8.2 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 300.2 miles

There are two Camino routes through Ponferrada, the one which is “recomnended” that goes around the city, which we walked in 2015 and 2017 and the route through the city, which we took today.

We thoroughly enjoyed the walk through the city.

It seemed like Christmas with the Festival lights as we left our hotel

We made a left turn a few blocks from the hotel and began walking in none other than, Calle (street) Camino de Santiago.

Calle Camino de Santiago was straight, no turns, until it merged with the other Camino route some 5 miles later.

The walk was very pleasant with wide sidewalks on both sides of the road. We passed attractive, architecturally diverse, residential communities unlike we have seen anywhere in Spain, on or off the Camino.

We stopped in the suburb of Fuentes Nuevas in a very nice bar next to a children’s park, Parque de Pablo Picasso, and had breakfast.

Up to this point we had seen very few pilgrims on the “non-recommended” route.

We continued into the town of Camponaraya, where the two Camino routes merged and stopped for a second CCL. We then walked through the older part of the village and the pilgrim traffic increased dramatically.

A group of a dozen or so students from Genoa, Italy joined the Camino in Ponferrada.

This morning we became more aware of the Bierzo region with its temperate microclimate, ideal for viticulture. The scenery is green with vineyards. The mountains of Galicia loom ahead.

Located in the northwest corner of Castile and León, bordering Galicia, Bierzo is known especially for it’s unique Mencía grapes, a relatively new variety and the resulting wines that have been gaining in importance in the wine world.

The soil/rocks reminded us of Cháteauneuf du Pape

We walked among the vineyards for a few miles before entering the town of Cacabelos (pop. 5,495).

approaching the older part of Cacabelos
in old Cacabelos near our hotel

This is our third visit to this charming Camino town, that in Roman times served as an administration center for gold mining.

We staying in Hostal La Gallega (46€).

our Hostal

We had our meal for the day at lunch. It was delicious. First course was gazpacho for Jim and Lacón con Pimientos for Linda.

gazpacho for Jim
pork shoulder and roasted peppers for Linda

2nd course for Linda was Pollo al curry al con arroz and for Jim, Lubina con salsa de piquillo y ensalada.

curry chicken with rice for Linda
sea bass for Jim

We also had a chocolate tarta and tasted a glass of wine of two difference Bierzo Mencía crianza red wines of the region.

Linda preferred this one
Jim preferred this one

We made a visit to the Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora de la Plaza, consecrated in 1108, which has seen many renovations over the centuries since, was beautiful inside

inside Nuestra Señora de la Plaza

with an impressive collection of religious statues and icons.

striking version of the Virgin
St James (Santiago)
Last Supper in gold and silver

With a good morning walk behind us, a sampling of Camino history and art, a tasty lunch in our tummies complemented by a sampling of two good wines, there was nothing left to do, but retire to our hotel and savor the day into the night.

Day 40 – Molinaseca to Ponferrada

Walked today: 6.8 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 292.0 miles

Our previous walks into Ponferrada from Molinaseca have been at the end of the very difficult downhill, rocky path from El Acebo into Molinaseca.

This was typical of the walk between Molinaseca and we went straight

Today, having spent the night in Molinaseca, it was a much easier walk plus we decided to take the not recommended route, walking straight into the city on sidewalks versus swinging left of the city through some unattractive farms and abandoned buildings, then into the city through an old, depressed section.

Recommended route went left, here, we went straight

The recommended route left us with a negative feelings about Ponferrada, which was completely different from our experience today.

The so-called direct route took us through some beautiful homes and landscapes, high rise (7 stories) residential areas surrounded by parks and winding, wide boulevards with local walkers and limited traffic.

Iglesia de San Andrés
Templar Castle, 13th century

We also walked gently down into the historical old city areas instead of climbing up into the same area via the alternate route.

Preparations were underway for this weekend’s festival

Our perception of Ponferrada has improved 100% due entirely to the way we enteted the city today.

Some weeks back, we discovered by accident that Ponferrada has a Decathlon store. We were introduced to Decathlon back in 2017, when we visited the store outside Burgos to replaced Linda’s non-performing fishing sandals. Unfortunately, the only D store in the USA is in San Francisco, so we picked a hotel in Ponferrada about a mile from the D store so we could check it out while we were here, especially since Linda is concerned that she didn’t bring enough warm clothes for our remaining 3 weeks, as the mornings are now dipping into the 40’s.

As soon as we checked into Hostal San Miguel (43€), we headed out to D.

on our walk to Decathlon store in distance behind Linda

When we got there, it was closed up tight. This was in spite of the open hours scheduled on the door and the store hours posted on the internet!

Unwelcoming front doors of Decathlon Store

We checked next door at the McDonald’s restaurant and were informed that the festival for this weekend took precedence over all else.

The reason we missed shopping in Decathlon.

So, we walked back to the hotel, empty handed.

After completing chores, we had a menu of the day at a nearby restaurant/bar. It gave us a chance to taste the “Conference Pear” grown only in the Bierzo region. They were very delicate in flavor and texture and sliced and served in a light syrup.

The remains of Jim’s dinner

Jim had grilled fish, called “Lupina” and left only the bones, head and some skin.

That pretty much ended our activity for today and gave us insight to the Camino “alternate/preferred” routes and new perspectives on Ponferrada.

Day 39 – Rabanal to Molinaseca

Walked today: 7.8 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 285.2 miles

It was dark when we left Rabanal (elev. 3730 ft) and we stopped at Foncebadón (pop.13, elev. 4650 ft.) for breakfast.

We saw the pilgrim being followed by a horse once again while walking out of Foncebadón.
Looking back at Foncebadón on the way up to Cruz Ferro

As day was breaking, we walked up another mile to Cruz Ferro (elevation 4930 ft).

Us at Cruz Ferro
Us, at Cruz Ferro, up close

The site consists of a tall wooden pole topped with an iron cross. This is said to be an ancient monument, first erected by the ancient Celts, then dedicated by the Romans to their god Mercury (protector of travelers) and later crowned by the cross and renamed as a Christian site by the 9th-century hermit Guacelmo. For centuries, pilgrims have brought a stone to the place (either from home or the flatlands below) to represent their burden. The stone and the burden are left here, leaving the pilgrim lighter (literally and figuratively) for the journey ahead. Today all sorts of symbolic items are left behind, and some stones bear written messages.

Jim left a stone he has been carrying from Col Lopoeder the high point in the Pyrennes, and another stone from Alto de Pardon near Zariguegui. Merging these symbols with Cruz Ferro stones on another high point of the Camino was his way of … we’ll get back to you on that.

From Cruz Ferro we followed the pass over the Irago Mountains. The pathway

rough footing
expansive scenery
more rough footing and beautiful scenery
more scenery
scenery and rough cliff side walking
Tough choices between watching your next step and the views

was rugged at times but the views were beautiful and expansive. It was a struggle from watching every footstep to avoid a Camino-ending fall, but not wanting to miss the ever changing “oooh” and “ahhh” scenery that changed, left and right, with every few steps.

We had one last treacherous downhill section of loose, sharp rock as we descended, slowly into El Acebo (pop. 37).

El Acebo seen from our descent

Walking into El Acebo, still in one piece.

We stopped at a familiar bar from our visits in 2015 and 2017. While sipping our second CCL of the morning, we were satisfied and relieved that we had made it safely to this point. The next section between here and Molinaseca, a descent of another 1900 ft, is for us, one of the most treacherous on the Camino. We survived it in 2015 and 2017, but wondered what we had to prove by doing it once more. We thought about our knees, we thought about the risk of a twisted ankle or sprain or knee injury, with still 150 miles left to go for Camino 2019.

We finished our drinks and asked the nice lady at the bar to please call a taxi to take us the remaining 4.5 miles to Molinaseca, our destination for the day.

Our taxi driver in his best English and sign language said that anyone with knee issues should avoid the section we were skipping. We told him that we had done it twice before, but decided to do it with him in his taxi this time. We also told him we were old but not stupid he laughed and agreed with our logic, having knee issues himself.

When we arrived in Molinaseca, Luis, our driver, explained to us with his translation app that the most difficult part of the rocky path had been created in Roman and Celtic times by metal wheeled carts carrying gold and other items which cut deep ruts in the rock, making it treacherous to walk on.

So we not only survived to walk another day, but learned some interesting history about the Camino, before it was the Camino Frances, nearly 1000 years before.

We had walked through Molinaseca twice before but never stayed here. Its a charming little town on the outskirts of Ponferrada with a majestic medieval bridge reserved for pilgrim traffic entering the town of 854 residents.

We’re staying at the El Capricho de Josana (43€),

our room in the “attic”

strategically located on the Camino path through Molinaseca,

The view down Calle Real toward the Puente de los Peregrinos from our Hostel Rural

just as you exit the old section of town.

We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the pilgrims bridge and the Río Meruela and were joined by Gary from Texas who also happened to be staying in Molinaseca tonight.

Our tummies still full from lunch we decided to skip dinner and chill for another nice day on the Camino Frances.

Day 38 – Santa Catalina to Rabanal del Camino

Walked today: 6.8 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 277.4 miles

Today we began our walk into the Irago Mountains. The way was flat, dirt for the first couple of miles into

El Ganso, “ goose” in Spanish, on the right

El Ganso, where we planned to have breakfast. At first we were frustrated, because the albergues where we previously had breakfast were locked up tight. And then a mild panic set in as we had at least another 4 mile walk ahead of us without food or restrooms.

We circled around to the only other street in town and alas, a relatively new (4 years) tienda (store) had the “abierto” sign on the gate. There were three small round tables on the terrace, suggesting food and rest room possibilities, but, no one was around and we were about to give up when a gentleman walked out of one of the shop doors. Linda quickly said, “desayuno”?, “cafe con leche”?, “aseos?”, which all got the affirmative “si” from our new friend and savior, so we took a seat, breathed a sigh of relief and ordered our usual.

Foncebadon (tomorrow) high on left, Rabanal seen above road sign

The next 3 miles took us further, but, gradually into the Irago Mountains, with the final 1.5 miles becoming much steeper and we finally walked into Rabanal del Camino (pop.73).

Rabanal del Camino is another beautiful and isolated Maragato village brought back to life by modern pilgrim traffic. This was the end of the 9th stage of the Codex Calixtinus, and many pilgrims stopped to rest from the ascent and find refuge from the wolves and bandits that plagued the León mountains. The Knights Templar ran a fort here to protect passing pilgrims. A legend says that one of Charlemagne’s knights married a Muslim woman in Rabanal.

Iglesia de Santa María de la Asunción
Interior of Iglesia Santa María, currently operated bythe Benedictine Abbey of San Salvador del Monte Irago
Hostal El Tesin (50€)

El Tesin has a warm feeling to it, the owner/manager is very customer oriented and

Cantina El Tesin

unlike most every other establishment of any size in Spain, her kitchen was open from 7am to 9 pm every day!!!

We had the pilgrim menu for lunch which had the usual offerings, was tasty and 11€.

Our clothes were machine washed for us (3€) and we hung them out to dry, which took about 45 minutes in the mid-afternoon sun.

We’re had pasta dinners for supper at 6:00!!

Gary, from Austin, Texas joined us at our table and we shared Camino experiences. It’s his first Camino and he is walking 20-25 miles a day.

We retired early as we walk over and then down the Irago Mountains tomorrow.

Day 37 – San Justo de la Vega to Santa Catalina de Somoza

Walked today: 8.3 miles

Walked Camini 2019: 270.6 miles

It was a chilly 50F when we walked out of San Justo this morning just after 7 a.m.

On the edge of town we noticed two pilgrims, who we recognized were staying in our albergue/hotel last night, seated on a bench and the third walking hurriedly in our direction and passed us, back toward our hotel. We guessed he had forgotten something.

We walked on toward Astorga on sidewalk most of the way, then crossed a small, medieval stone bridge, and shortly after crossed the railroad tracks via a very complex overpass. At the top we got a good view of the city.

Once on the other side of the tracks, we meandered among automobile roundabouts until we began climbing a very steep road up into the 2000 year old city of Astorga.

At the top, immediately on our right, was a church with archeological digs beside it, revealing fairly well preserved remains of a 2nd century Roman home.

At our left was a cafe/chocolate shop which seemed like a perfect spot for breakfast.

A few minutes later, the 3 pilgrims from our hotel also sat down for breakfast and after a brief chat we discovered they were from Ireland and as we guessed, the guy who was hurrying past us earlier, had left is walking poles at the albergue.

Today was market day in Astorga and as we walked thru the main plaza, vendors were busy setting up shop.

Astorga (pop.12,078) began as a Celtic settlement and developed into an important Roman city at the crossroads of the Via Trajana and the Vía de la Plata, as well as an important center for Christianity. According to legend, both St. James and St. Paul preached here. The bishopric of Astorga was one of the earliest Christian titles. The city passed to the Visigoths in the 5th century and was destroyed by the Muslims in 714, then reconquered by Ordoño I in the mid-9th century. After León was destroyed by Al-Mansur’s army, Astorga acted as the capital of the kingdom. The city flourished with the pilgrim trade and housed 21 pilgrim hospitals, the second most on the Camino Francés (after Burgos). One of these hosted Saint Francis of Assisi on his pilgrimage in 1214.

We walked on and stopped to take photos of two main landmarks of Astorga, the Gaudi Palace and the ominous Catedral (not a typo, that’s the way they spell “cathedral” in Spain)

The 15th century catedral occupies a relatively small space in the old city and dwarfs the neaby buildings. It was locked tight this morning, but the external details were impressive.

The Palacio de Gaudí, was a palace for Archbishop Juan Bautista Grau Villespinós until his death, when it sat empty until serving as a military headquarters for the Falange movement.

We continued our walk through the narrow streets and then without warning were out into the countryside and began a gradual ascent toward the Irago Mountains.

We made another brief stop in the charming Maragato village of Murias de Rechivaldo.

The Maragato culture, is centralized in about 40 villages around Astorga. This mysterious group is rumored to be descended from the Berbers of North Africa, who arrived with the Muslim conquest in the 8th century and later converting to Christianity. Maragato men traditionally worked as muleteers, mule drivers who transported goods (especially fish and gold) around the peninsula.

Restaurants in the area offer Cocido Maragato, an extremely filling meal that is served in a kind of “reverse order,” beginning with a hearty meat dish, such as blood sausage, chicken, pork, pig’s ear, pig’s snout, bacon or chorizo, followed by the vegetables (usually chickpeas and cabbage) and finished off with a thick noodle soup and dessert.

It being only 9:30, fortunately, we didn’t partake of the Cocido Maragato today, and instead, began the gradual 3 mile climb into the, all but deserted, Santa Catalina de Somoza (pop. 30), where we stopped for the day at Albergue El Caminante.

Stopping for a photo just outside Santa Catalina

When we attempted to checkin to the El Caminante, the lady at reception said she had no reservation for us. Jim had personally called and was certain that his impeccable command of Catalan could not have contributed to the reservation showing up in her bookings for September 6 and not today.

Jim “assisting” the checkin process

Nevertheless, Jim asked if a room was available, once all agreed that we had no reservation, and the response was yes. We remembered the lady from our stay here in 2017 so we were puzzled as she struggled to transfer the necessary information from our passports to her registry. Jim actually assisted her in distinguishing between first names, last names, birth dates, etc.

When all the formalities were completed, we were escorted to our room, (next door to the one we had in 2017) and given the key, freeing us to began our chores.

We had pizza for lunch at the other albergue/bar/restaurant in this outpost that reminds us of an old western town in the U.S. We stayed at Albergue San Blas in 2015 and wanted to spread our euros around to stimulate the local economy as much as possible.

We had a simple pilgrim dinner, just the two of us in the El Caminante comidor (dining room) with 6 of the 30 village residents playing cards in the adjacent room, while the overhead modern flat screen TV was playing a Jimmy Stewart western. We wondered if it might have been filmed here, years ago.

We checked the small Iglesia de Santa Maria, which is only unlocked for Sunday mass and found the door cracked while an apparent parishioner was preparing for the next service. Finally after prior unsuccessful visits in 2015 and 2017, we entered and sat reverently while she worked, then quietly left her to her duties and returned the few steps to El Caminante.

We paused on the balcony overlooking the courtyard of this diamond-in-the-rough albergue and marveled at the efforts required to nurture the abundant plantings that filled the space, and retired to our room for the night.

Day 36 – Hospital de Órbigo to San Justo de la Vega

Walked today: 7.9 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 262.3 miles

Our internet access was weak and sporadic yesterday and we were lucky to upload it and publish what we did.

One omission was an interesting chat we had with two 40 something Spanish brother-in-laws, who were only able to walk the Camino for 6 days per year because that’s all the time they had available, with work schedules, family obligations, etc. We met them between Villadangos and Hospital and they were planning to go beyond Hospital before stopping for the day. At that rate it will probably take them 5 years to earn their Compostela.

Very few pilgrims walk the full Camino from SJPDP to Santiago at one time, actually only around 10%. Most of the pilgrims we have met while walking the Camino are only walking a portion of the Camino at a time.

Last night we were looking at our walk for today and Linda discovered that there were two routes to choose from. We’ve have walked the “preferred” route twice before, which will be 10.5 miles. We had never noticed the so called “road route” before. We had already walked along the road a lot the past few days, so Jim was reluctant. Linda said, ” is it any shorter?” After checking the guide and carefully converting the km’s to miles, etc. Jim said ” the road route is nearly 3 miles shorter.” We voted, our bodies voted and 4 to 0 we opted for the road route. (Have you noted a trend developing on Camino 2019?)

The “road” route started out like this…

… and soon became this..,

Because this is not the “preferred” route, most of the 300,000 pilgrims each year don’t walk it, resulting in a sometimes overgrown path…

…but it wasn’t all that bad.

It’s funny how car and truck noise just becomes normal and blends into nothingness and becomes less and less annoying and other thoughts, mental songs or just the new unseen sights and feelings overtake you and create another, new Camino experience.

Today’s walk was good because we got to see a “new” part of the Camino Frances.

The path to the left of the highway was the Camino

We still had hills to climb, but they were different hills.

And we eventually reached the top..,

And walked on a different surface.,,

“preferred” route coming in from the center, ours on right

And finally merged with the ” preferred” route at ….

Crucero de Santo Toribio with San Justo in foreground, Astorga in background and mountains beyond

Crucero de Santo Toribio named for the 5th-century bishop of Astorga who was said to have fallen to his knees at this spot when he was banished from his beloved city.

This view of the Irago Mountains confirmed that we are leaving the Meseta after over 150 miles.

We walked down into San Justo de la Vega (pop. 1875) stopped at Bar El Caño and had a mid-morning CCL and a nice break before going on to Hostal/Albergue Juli (50€).

Our very nice room has been recently upgraded, especially the bathroom with a spacious shower. It has a balcony overlooking main street and the continuous pilgrim traffic, mostly headed for Astorga for the night. We stayed here in 2015.

We opened the balcony door to cool off the room with the cool morning breeze, but closed it after an hour when it was apparent that too many of the local flies wanted to join us. Jim then proceeded to escort the unwanted visitors out, peacefully or violently, whatever it took.

We prefer the towns and villages just before or just after the primary pilgrim stops, which are less crowded, less expensive and more like real Spain vs tourist Spain.

We extended our emerging habit of lunch/dinner at mid-afternoon with typical 1st and 2nd courses but enjoyed delicious new desserts of homemade yogurt and tiramisu, prepared by the young owner/ chef of Hostal Juli.

A restful afternoon, became evening and a nice end to another day on the Camino Frances.

Day 35 – Villadangos del Páramo to Hospital de Órbigo

Walked today: 7.1 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 254.4 miles

Today was a continuation of walk-along-the-road Camino.

We stopped for breakfast at a familiar albergue in San Martian del Camino, known for frequents visits from extraterrestrials, so we were not concerned when we observed an alien spacecraft hovering over a village building, but walked, hurriedly through the village (pop. constantly changing).

After nearly 7 miles, we walked by an impressive looking water tower (we think) on the outskirts of Hospital de Órbigo (pop. 1031)

A water tower ?

We walked directly onto the landmark bridge for this medieval town.

El Paso Honrosa #1
El Paso Honroso #2
El Paso Honroso #3

El Paso Honroso #4

El Paso Honroso #5

The impressive Gothic bridge over the Río Órbigo is the site of a legendary medieval jousting competition. Don Suero de Quiñones, a wealthy Leonese knight, was rejected by the woman he loved. In his heartbreak, he locked his neck in an iron collar and swore he would not take it off until he had defeated 300 knights in jousting. The call went out, and knights from all over the kingdom came in the Holy Year of 1434. Quiñones succeeded in his quest, freeing him from the torment of love. He took off the collar and made a pilgrimage to Santiago where he left a bejeweled bracelet, which can still be seen in the cathedral museum. The bridge became known as El Paso Honroso “the Honorable Pass.”

We stopped for fresh squeezed orange juice at a restaurant/hostal at the opposite end of the bridge in Hospital de Órbigo before walking a few hundred more yards to our room in Albergue Encina.

We had lunch today at a nice local restaurant and think its time for you to join our culinary experience.

Here is the menu we were presented with. No one speaks English and none of the items in the menu show up in itranslate.

our menu

What did we order and who got what?

That should keep you busy until our next post.

Buen Camino!

Day 34 – León to Villadangos del Páramo

Walked today: 8.2 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 247.3 miles

It was still dark when the taxi dropped us off in Virgen del Camino, a suburb of León.

Basílica de la Virgen del Camino

We figured today would be an uneventful walk along a busy secondary road, fronting the autovia.

Well, it was, if you discount the older (older than us) fellow pilgrim who we encountered leaving Virgen del Camino and was trying to determine which direction to go of three choices. We didn’t understand his language but our version of Spanish/English seemed to help him out and he walked with us for a bit. He had previously done a pilgrimage to Rome and had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. He was Russian and lives in Moscow. He was walking to Santiago, taking the bus to Finistere, walking back to Santiago, then working his way back home via train/plane. He was walking faster than we were, so we wished each other well and off he went.

So we had an interesting start for what we expected would be an uneventful day walking along the road. A few minutes later, Linda heard a strange noise behind us, said it sounded like the clomp, clomp of a horse. It was still hard to see, but she thought it looked like a horse had stopped in the path behind us. A few steps later a pilgrim walked past us, followed by very handsome looking horse carrying the pilgrim’s gear.

As the guy passed us, he didn’t say anything except, “he keeps following me”, in perfect English.

Interesting pilgrim entourage

The horse walked around us and once he was clear of us moved back into the path behind the guy he was following… much more safely and considerate than many of the cyclists we’ve encountered in the past few hundred miles!

We followed the pair through an underpass, and noticed for the first time, the horse’s flashing tail light, his clog like shoes with buckles and other than periodic piles of equestrian evidence observed along the way, we never saw them again.

We stopped in Valverde del la Virgen at a new store that we don’t remember seeing in 2017. It had a limited selection of items but did offer a small CCL and Santiago tarta (a Camino almond cake), which was homemade by the owner’s wife. Patronizing a new business on the Camino

We stopped for a brief breakfast, asked the owner to pass on our compliments to the “chef”, then moved onward.

We stopped at the next village, San Miguel del Camino and had a normal breakfast at a charming cafe.

The site of our second breakfast today… in San Miguel

We walked on, along the road, then the path took us away from the road a few feet (we could still hear the cars and trucks) to walk among some bodegas ( individually owned, wine cellars) for a few hundred yards …

interesting and some very old wine cellars

Back along the road

… then back along the road again.

We made one last stop at a hotel/truck stop/restaurant a mile from our destination, only to cool our feet a bit and get out of the ever increasing heat of the rising sun.

After the last mile into Villadangos del Páramo we arrived at Hostel Libertad (50€) and at 11:15 were checked in immediately.

Our double room with private bath is comfortable, clean and relatively new (late 20th century).

Chores detail: Since this is not an albergue, there was no clothesline or washing machine, so we washed and rinsed our sweaty/dirty stuff in the bathroom sink, wrung the water out by hand, then laid the wet clothes onto a dry towel and rolled the towel, squeezing it tightly, absorbing and extracting additional moisture, then hung the clothes on any hanger, doorknob, chair, tv, light fixture or window we could find and within a couple hours, everything (shirts, shorts, underwear, socks, etc.) was dry, clean and ready to wear tomorrow.

After doing our chores we had a meal in the hostal at 2:00 to serve as lunch/dinner, which is getting to be a habit.

Linda was served an unusual version of “minestrone soup” that was very delicious, but much more than she could possibly consume in a single meal.

leeks were included in this Spanish version of “ minestrone “.

And we sampled a Menćia wine for building a sampling base as we head into the Bierzo wine region over the next few days.

Veal for Linda, fish (Hake) for Jim

Overall, our uneventful day walking along the road turned out pretty well.

Day 33 – Reliegos to León

Walked today: 7.8 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 239.1 miles

The path out of Reliegos reminded us of yesterday.

Just before Manzilla de las Mulas we stopped at a favorite albergue/bar for breakfast.

Manzilla was once a Roman town, likely a stopping point on the Via Trajana. The city was fortified with walls in the 12th century and rebuilt in the subsequent two centuries. Today, more than half of the medieval walls remain, some as tall as 14m and as thick as 3m. It is possible to climb the stairway up into the rounded towers, and two of the original gates still stand.

Entering through one of the 12th century gates
12th century Iglesia de Santa María still standing
Silhouetted 12th century city walls looking into sun

As we left Manzilla the path changed to a much wider dirt road which fronted a secondary road toward León.

a slightly different look from yesterday.

We soon lost our shade and got closer to the road until we finally were actually sharing the road with cars and trucks, some really big trucks.

Path getting closer to the road and no more shade
Too close for comfort

After a brief break, walking through the woods, we crossed the Río Porma on a modern footbridge

Puente de Villarente in background

adjacent to the Puente de Villarente, a bridge originally built by the Romans, and entered the town of Villarente (pop. 342).

In 2014 we spent the night here, in Albergue San Pelayo, and took a taxi to the other side of León to Virgen del Camino the next morning, then walked back into the city, then returned to Virgen del Camino to spend the night. In 2017 we walked into León, spent the night in Leon, then walked on through the city and spent the night in Virgin del Camino.

Today we split the difference, we took a taxi from here into León to Hostal San Martin (58€).

Hostal San Martin from the street
Our room with two balconies, looking out to the street

Our hotel is very centrally located just a few steps from the Catedral and other León landmarks.

We took a few photos, bought Jim some new walking shorts

Just in case the current ones don’t make it another 500 miles

and a haircut.

She didn’t know what I wanted, we couldn’t tell her and she still did a great job for 7€!!

We spent a frustrating few minutes at the Orange mobile phone store trying to extend the time on our prepaid sim cards. We’ve still got service, but for how long is still not clear. Orange (a French company) seems to be trying to establish themselves in Spain by not speaking English or French and sending confusing text messages to prepaid sim card users as if they were regular customers. Their websites and texts are at best, confusing. We’ll struggle along with them until they shut us down again, to avoid paying the very unreasonably high Verizon international options, but next time we’ll definitely go with Movistar.

Here are some photos of León today.

León Catedral
Casa de Botines by Gaudi
Calle Ancha, flooded with tourists

Royal Collegiate Church of San Isidoro

After finally getting a light supper at 6 when no one offers a meal until after 8, we made up for it by overendulging in the Valor chocolate store…

… then returned to our room to sleep it off, or walk it off tomorrow morning,