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Not Exactly Live - VDLP, Fall 2016

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Earlier this fall, I walked the Vía de la Plata with the Camino Sanabrés variant. In this thread, I'll add my daily commentary as I compile my notes from that journey. They will also be available on my blog. Hence, this is a route report, though, Not Exactly Live.

Seville, Spain (October 17, 2016)

That moment when you realize it sounded like a good idea when you made the plan:

That dark, calm morning, I kissed my wife goodbye, loaded her bags, and helped her into a taxi for the Sevilla (“Seville” to us in America) airport in Seville, Spain. Since her flight was an early one, she left our hotel at 5:00 a.m. Because sunup was not until after 8:30 a.m., I went back to bed, putting off setting out on foot for Santiago de Compostela until I could see the flecha amarillas (yellow arrows) marking the path before me.

She and I had been together almost every moment for the last five weeks, as we played the tourist game in Italy and Spain. I would not see her again for another five weeks, while I trekked the Via de la Plata (VDLP) from Sevilla, in southern Spain, to Santiago de Compostela in the northwest corner of the country—1,000 kilometers (625 miles) ahead of me before a return flight home to my beloved.

Each day in this route report lists start and end points, the distance walked (in kilometers), the time taken to walk that distance, notes about the route, a log of that day’s adventure, and costs. Included in the version of these reports on my blog, is a screen grab of my GPS record for that day, taken from my smartphone app Strava. Also included, when available, is a link to each day’s slideshow that has been uploaded to Facebook.

Day 1: Sevilla to Castilblanco de los Arroyos

43 kilometers, 7 hours and 35 minutes. Lunch in Guillena.

The weather: Overcast morning made for cooler temps but the afternoon warmed up for the climb. Always up, fortunately never steep.

The Vía de la Plata (VDLP) route from the Catedral de Sevilla (Seville Cathedral) out of city central was not well marked, though easy enough to manage; a guide book, a map app, or some advice from a local was helpful for finding the route’s yellow arrows after you crossed the Puente de Isabel II, a bridge that led into the Triana district to the rest of the city. Next, you cross a cycle bridge over the Guadalquivir river. This was your second crossing, as the river was split in two through the port city.

We stayed at the Hotel Ribera de Triana, which was very near to the VDLP as it passed through the working-class neighborhoods of Triana. At 8:00 a.m., with my backpack newly organized, I left the hotel and headed off for Santiago, seeking yellow arrows and scallop-shell symbols, and a much slower pace of life.

My gypsy heart slipped on the VDLP as if it were an old worn and welcome t-shirt. So very similar in markings to the Camino Francés, but with a much different vibe. I did not see one pilgrim the whole day. I did meet Peter, a hospitalero (hostel host), when entering Guillena. He was out for a walk and walked with me until we reached his albergue (hostel). He was a nice German man who helped me decide whether to press on or not. He explained the route ahead, and since it was early, I continued on.

The Easy Part: Walking to Guillena

The route was well marked but busy with noisy commute traffic at the early hour. And, disappointingly, there was a lot of trash along the river, away from towns. Owing to the route’s different vibe, it was nearly two hours before a cyclist said, “Buen Camino,” the traditional Camino greeting, to me.

I passed through Santiponce, a town where there are Roman ruins. They were closed on Mondays. Hadrian, of Hadrian’s Wall fame, was born there.

Industry gave way to vast fields of tilled-under crops: sunflower stalks, cotton, sweet potatoes, and olive trees.

The Fun Part: Walking to Castilblanco de los Arroyos

Soon after leaving Guillena, I walked the Via as it turned north into olive orchards. I followed farm tracks and began a long, slow climb toward Castilblanco. Before long, the path followed dry stream beds, becoming very rugged and rocky. During this section, I saw livestock and many more olive trees. And, as luck would have it, a group of wild boar—all young and black as coal—on the run.

Stayed at the Albergue de Peregrinos that night and had dinner at Casa Macarena, just down the street. The albergue was donativo (a donation). I dropped €12 in the slot, my donation.

Casa Macarena had excellent food, though it didn’t serve meals until after 8:00 p.m. A little hard on the stomach if you wanted to go to bed soon. Probably the best salad I ever ate, though. Perfect with lettuce, tomato, egg, olive oil, and vinegar—and loads of tuna. One of the people staying at the albergue where I stayed, Eric from Belgium, ran into me at the Macarena, and we ate our meals together. Nice guy.

Marite, hospitalera at Albergue de Peregrinos, from Holland, originally. Had lived in Marbella (Costa del Sol, the sun coast), Spain, for thirty years. She shared with me the website for a Kiwi family that blogged about the VDLP. Nice and clean albergue, and Marite ran a tight ship. In the morning, I stopped for café con leche at a bar and bought some bread for the trail before leaving town—because there was nothing until my next stop, 30 kilometers away.

A young Cuban woman, Jenny (Eric, my new friend from Belgium, liked to call her Jennita), came in after 9:00 p.m., completely knackered. The guys (fellow trekkers Eric, José, Carlos, and Fran, if memory serves) offered all the help possible, and Marite found some food for her.

Costs: €4.50 for lunch, €12 for a donation to the albergue, and €11 for dinner and beer.
 
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BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 2: Castilblanco to Almadén de la Plata

30 kilometers, 6 hours. No stops in between.

Overcast and warm again. Easy walking—half beside highway, half on dirt road through parkland, Parque Natural Sierra Norte de Sevilla. Lots of cork trees and pine plantations.

Looked much like California with its dry grasses, oaks plus cork trees. Very dry; end of summer.

A friendly pig I called El Jamón (the ham) followed us quite a long time, hoping for a handout. I walked with Eric from Belgium most of the way. We had met the night before and ate dinner together, and mostly chatted about the next weeks on Camino.

Jenny, from Cuba, walked 12 kilometers and developed a blister. She caught a bus and beat me to Almadén. Nieves, our hospitalera (hostel host) from the municipal albergue, fixed her up. Nieves was a spitfire. The Spanish guys (José, Carlos, Fernando) and Eric really got her going, or the other way around, when we checked into the hostel later that afternoon.

Jenny was thinking to quit. She “changed her mind all the time,” she said to us. Though we coached her a little about taking it easy and continuing, we did not see her again after that night.

People on, more or less, the same schedule:
Eric (from Belgium)
José (from Spain)
Francisco (Fran) (from Spain)
Carlos (from Spain), who started in Cadiz, another 130 kilometers before Seville.
Fernando (from Spain)
Nina (from Switzerland)
Lara (from Germany)

Others we talked with: four from Holland. Stayed in hotels, not albergues. Three women, one man. Nice people. Spoke Dutch, French, English, and a little Spanish.

Nieves recommended the Restaurante La Muralla for food that evening. It was near the church, the red clock tower, and the tourist office. I had a mini burger for lunch, and Eric and I met there for dinner at 7:30 p.m. Shared a plato (plate) of local pork, potatoes, and peppers. Most excellent and plentiful.

Costs: €3 for coffees and bread, €8 for lunch, €10 for the albergue, and €10 for dinner.
 
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BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 3: Almadén de la Plata to Monesterio

36 kilometers, 8 hours and 30 minutes. Through El Real de la Jara.

Stopped in a small pueblo, El Real de la Jara, had café con leche, and ordered a bocadillo (sandwich) to go. Eric and I stopped later to eat along the path. I paid €3 for the bocadillo. Was large and filled with pork steak, Spanish ham, roast peppers, and olive oil. We heard the barkeep cooking it all up—for €3. That's like $3.30!!! I love Spain.

Before breakfast, as I left the albergue, I recorded a short video with my phone in the dark streets as roosters woke the town for a new day. Surreal. We had checked out the Café Reloj the previous evening, and I immediately decided to have breakfast there. When I entered from the street that morning, there was a woman behind the bar and couple of men in for coffee before the start of their day. TV blared out a nature show of some sort, and all the folks were in rapt attention.

As usual, I was an anomaly and received quiet glances, but there was no ill feeling. They knew of peregrinos (Camino pilgrims), and they quickly returned to the show. The café had seen many days; pictures adorned the walls of days past. It was pleasant outside and warm inside, and I was quickly setting my mind back toward a comfy bed. The café con leche helped with that.

I left Almadén early after I had my breakfast of toast and eggs with the café con leche. I met Eric as I headed out of town, and we walked together most of the day. Very interesting guy. He started his own company, then sold it to The Daily Mail in England, and retired at 43. He was 60 now and had traveled much of the world. He and his wife also had a place on Mallorca.

Relatively short day in terms of distance, but we gained 1,000 meters (as Fernando’s GPS watch revealed that evening), approximately 3,300 feet. Most of that at the end of the day. Legs felt it. Very open country with oaks and cork trees, cattle, sheep, many black pigs, and goats. Mostly on gravel roads. Passed under and walked near a major freeway as we climbed to Monesterio, a bigger town than Almadén but with much the same feel.

The usual routine: Checked into the municipal albergue, a nice municipal run by volunteers Angel (when we checked in) and Rosia (later). Showered, washed clothes, and then got on Wi-Fi so we could check on the rest of the world.

Later, off to store to buy lunch stuff for the next day. There were five of us that went to the store, then off in different directions. Later, I found Café La Rambla and had an awesome ensalada mixta (mixed salad) and glass of wine, and I asked for a bocadillo for the next day, all for €7.

Much fun. Next day would be either 22 kilometers or 47 kilometers. We all decided to have an easy day.

Costs: €3 for lunch, €7 for dinner and the next day’s lunch, and €10 for the albergue.
 
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BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 4: Monesterio to Fuente de Cantos

22 kilometers, 5 hours and 30 minutes. And no villages, or anything other than ranch lands, in between, not even drinkable water. That stretch must be a bear to walk in the heat of summer.

A little about our cadre: Eric and I always seemed to leave town at the same time. That morning, I left the albergue with José and Fran, then stopped for a café con leche before getting out of town. At the edge of the village, Eric walked out of another café, and we hit the trail, together again.

Before long, we caught up to Carlos as we passed by some friendly pigs. Eric and Carlos wandered on, and I starting taking pictures and videos. We walked within sight of each other for the rest of the day. Carlos spoke only Spanish, and very fast. He's probably my age and pretty quiet, and preferred to walk alone.

Another half hour, and we caught up to José, the joker, and Fran, his friend. José and Fran would not finish the VDLP in Santiago, as they did not have enough holiday time. They were both from Ourense, which the Camino passed through shortly before Santiago. Both spoke little English. But we managed.

The young women in our little group: Nina, from Switzerland, left first and got to Cantos first. Lara, from Germany, started after us and came into Cantos two hours behind us. She spoke German, Spanish, and English, but she didn’t spend much time around us and preferred the solitude. Nina was a delight, a bit shy; her English was excellent because her father was Canadian, and she lived in Canada for many years before she settled in Switzerland.

And Fernando: He was from the north of Spain and spoke with a gruff, fast dialect that only the Spaniards understood. He always left later, walked fast, and came in shortly after us. He was our senior, but strong as a bull.

As we neared Cantos, we passed an Italian couple in my age bracket who lived near Lake Como. They spoke very little English, and my Italian ended with the expression ciao bella. But when they said where they were from, they referenced George Clooney. I didn't diss him; I liked Clooney, but Lake Como had so much more to offer than just a famous actor when talking about the region. My wife and I and our friends had spent a few days on Lake Como just weeks before.

The funny part about our group was that we all stayed at the same albergues after I caught up to them in Castilblanco, and we all managed to find the same albergue again that night in Cantos. It was the Albergue Zaguán, near the town center. Cantos was bigger than a village but wasn’t quite a city. Don't tell them I said so. Zaguán was run by Antonio, who also ran the insurance office next door. He's helped by another man, the one who found us on the edge of town and directed us to the albergue.

Unlike the high season for the Via (springtime), our little group of travelers were the only pilgrims in the albergue that night. The previous night, we all stayed in the same dorm, a room with over twenty bunk beds (there were two other dorms, both empty). The eight of us each had a bottom bunk to sleep on and a top one to spread out our stuff. Quite decadent by Camino standards.

Costs: €12 for the albergue and breakfast, €1.20 for beer, €5.50 for dinner, and €2.13 for snacks for the next day at a store. I was really breaking the budget there.
 
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Juanajoanna

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to bike spring 2017
I'm also loving your posts. I'll be on the Via de la Plata next April. Glad to hear you are having an enjoyable trip.
 

Juanajoanna

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to bike spring 2017
I'm not seeing the Facebook links for your photos. Would you please repost.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
I'm not seeing the Facebook links for your photos. Would you please repost.
The picture are on my blog, each day's slideshow is in each daily page. Here's a link to Day 1. Scroll down to the picture that looks like a video, with the play button. Click on that and the slideshow will open in Facebook, in a new browser window.

Hope that helps. Enjoy,
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
I am really loving your report, BrienC. I always thought that Guillena was a very short first day, but I never thought to walk all the way to Almaden like you did!
It was a long day, peregrina. But so worth it. If the ruins in Santiponce had been open, I would have spent time there and probably stayed the night in Guillena. But then I would not have met the wonderful people in Castilblanco I spent so much time with over the next month.
 
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BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 5: Fuente de Cantos to Zafra (25 km)

25 kilometers, 4 hours and 30 minutes. Stopped in Calzadilla de los Barros for café con leche. Then nothing until Puebla de Sancho Pérez, just before Zafra, a relatively new town around an older, much smaller village.

In Calzadilla, we made our way through the small town and into a plaza near its center. There we found Lara, referring to her German guidebook and looking for a bar to have some coffee. I’d had tea with the breakfast provided at our albergue, so I was interested in a coffee, too. And I hoped to get to know another member of our Camino family.

Eric and I had left Cantos together, and we joined Lara to seek out a bar/café. Our strategy was the following: to ask a couple of locals and look lost. The result was that we would find almost anything we needed. People were very helpful.

Indeed, we did get to know Lara. She and I ordered café con leche, and we started talking. She had walked the Camino Francés (CF) six years earlier, and we discussed our favorite parts of The Way (a popular shorthand term for the Camino de Santiago) and the city of Santiago de Compostela.

As we were finishing our coffees, she told us about a spiritual place she had heard about on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees near the Camino Francés. She asked if I knew of it. I did not. It was off the Camino path by five kilometers, so I hadn’t considered such things when a friend and I walked the CF in 2015.

Lara had gone there to explore the spiritual site, having been told of a practice that involved removing one’s shoes and walking around the edifice to experience its spiritual powers. Lara said she didn't take off her shoes but decided to walk around the edifice three times. Then she sat for a while to see what occurred.

After nothing seemed to happen, she donned her backpack, began to walk back to the Way, and headed toward Santiago. As she moved, she told us that she suddenly felt a new strength and flow to her movement that propelled her down the trail. This feeling lasted for more than ten kilometers, she said.

As she related this tale, I felt a welling up of tension and emotion. As she came to the end of her story, I felt a chill rise up my spine. I shivered and had to stand up. I could not resist; I could no longer sit still. I was full of goose bumps. That sensation was what I, and many others, call the breath of God.

Whether religious, spiritual, or atheistic, you know that feeling. We all feel it when God is closest, when we are in matching frequency.

The name of that spiritual place was Eunate.

Stayed at the Albergue de Vincent van Gogh. Antonio and his wife lived there and ran the place. This was where Carlos made paella (a Spanish rice dish) for everyone. Most excellent. He had talked Antonio into purchasing a large paella pan so he could make us dinner that night. We all pitched in to help with the cost, which included a couple of bottles of wine. It came to €3 per person.

Costs: €3 for breakfast, €12 for the albergue, and €3 for dinner.
 
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BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 6: Zafra to Torremejía (48 km)

48 kilometers, 8 hours and 30 minutes. Through Los Santos de Maimona and Villafranca de los Barros. Vast square kilometers of vineyards slowly gave way to mostly olive trees. Fairly flat and straight to the north.

Our sagrada familia (a name that Eric gave our group, meaning "holy family" in Spanish) chose to split up that day. José, Fran, Fernando, Eric, and I decided to do two stages, and Nina, Carlos, Lara, and the Italian couple decided to go to Almendralejo, a shorter distance. Probably a good choice. But I needed 30 kilometers average to arrive in Santiago in time for my flight home, so I wanted to do more than the shorter stage. Also, Almendralejo was off the Camino proper by a short distance.

Café con leche must be just right. In Los Santos de Maimona, the first village we passed through that day, we looked for a café so I could get a café con leche. Eric didn't want anything but was good enough to stop with me. There was only one option, and we walked through the door just after an elderly man made his way out, saying his goodbyes.

The café was in a newer building that looked old. We entered the room, all white and dated—not in a good way. Many men stood at the bar or around the room, and some were seated at the tiny patio through a small door at the back. All about our age and older, save for one man that looked a little younger and had long, curly black hair.

I ordered my café con leche and began to check out the scene. Eric was taking a photo of me at the bar, to get a shot of the men with their drinks. A water or coffee, with a shot of one kind or another. Tiny little shots of liquor. At 9:00 a.m.

The café con leche I received was not impressive. I took a look around for an espresso machine. There was none. Note to self: check this first! I sweetened my coffee and tucked in, not expecting much, and stood against the bar to absorb the atmosphere. There were so many voices and so much noise; I could only focus on the tweets of the tiny birds, one in a cage at each corner behind the bar. They were loud and very different from the men. They stood out in the crowd.

Café con leche must be from an espresso machine, with steamed milk, and sweetened to the customer’s preferences. Nothing else was the same. On Camino, one occasionally came across the poor substitute I had. Pass it by. Worst yet was the coffee vending machine. My advice to would-be travelers: Keep walking. There is better. Keep walking.

Stayed at Albergue de Via de la Plata in a renovated old building in front of the church. Run by a couple who were not terribly friendly. Everything was an extra cost, which got to the Spaniards. Though I found that a glass of wine was only one euro.

Costs: €3 for breakfast, €12 for the albergue, €1 for the café con leche, and €9 for dinner.
 
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BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 7: Torremejía to Aljucén (34 km)

34 kilometers, 7 hours. Passed through the city of Mérida. Followed highway most of way to Mérida, and then took the bicycle path out to the lake near the town of Proserpina, crossed over its ancient Roman-built dam, and continued beyond. Finally, the path turned off to the north on dirt track to Aljucén.

It had rained during the night and looked very threatening as I left the albergue, off in search of breakfast and coffee. At the same place we had dinner the previous night, I met José, Fran, and Fernando. Shortly after, Eric entered. We were five.

After a café con leche and toast, we said our goodbyes to the proprietor and headed out. They knew I planned on another long day. The four planned to stop in Mérida. We started out, and I felt them settle into a slow pace as we took the main street out of town. They had no need to hurry. I wanted to gain my normal quick pace and started to pull away, not wanting to say goodbye. Emotions rose up.

Suddenly, José rushed up and told me that the normal dirt path would be very muddy and difficult. I asked if they would stick to the road. Fran said yes. We made quick goodbyes and shook hands, and I moved off. I will always remember these men.

I stayed to the road and then took a shortcut to a Burger King near the proper Camino, in Mérida. I stopped for a burger and then headed back toward the Camino. At the intersection, I came up on Eric, Fran, and José. They had taken the dirt path, suffered from the mud, and met me where the two routes joined, at the very same moment! Freaky, that. Fernando had left his camera and returned to Torremejía after four kilometers. Ugh! We were four.

I decided to walk with them until they reached their albergue for the night. We crossed the Rio Guadiana on the ancient Roman bridge and then turned north along the river until we found their place. We said our goodbyes again, after talking about my plan to meet up with Fran and José in Ourense where they lived. I planned to pass through Ourense on my way to Santiago.

Off again. I was one.

In the tiny town of Aljucén, I found the Albergue Annalena. I only went there because it was in the information I had and because it was heavily advertised as I came into town. There were others not mentioned anywhere. One looked quite inviting just as I entered the small village, but I was on a mission, as I too often am.

I showered and organized my bunk and then went for a beer at Bar Sergio. Later, I returned to the albergue to call my wife and do some work. Two Spaniards, brothers who were on their first day on Camino (starting in Merida), joined me at the albergue. Juan, who spoke good English, and Javier. They were originally from Madrid; Juan lived in Valencia, Javier still lived in Madrid.

Anna arrived later to check us in and stamp our credentials. She told us where we could eat in town and invited us to her house, a casa rural (a guest house), where she would make us dinner for five euros. We took her up on the offer and settled on a time.

She fixed us an excellent pasta dish and mixed salad. She included a bottle of a local vino tinto (red wine), pineapple slices for dessert, and a shot of bellota liquor, a local delicacy. All for five euros.

Costs: €10 for the albergue, €8 for lunch, and €5 for dinner. Oh, and €1 for a beer.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Enjoying the narrative. Hope you are in top form reminiscing.

Buen Camino.
Oh I am! It is a fun process; brings much clarity to an adventure I will never forget.

Cheers,
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese.
Keep going, keep going! I'm following with eagerness, waiting for when you reach Salamanca and beyond, as I am walking there in April.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Keep going, keep going! I'm following with eagerness, waiting for when you reach Salamanca and beyond, as I am walking there in April.
I'll be posting the second week today. All should be posted by April ;-)
You will love Salamanca. I certainly did. My 16th day on the VDLP was a rest day in Salamanca.

Cheers,
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 8: Aljucén to Aldea del Cano (36 km)

36 kilometers, 7 hours and 30 minutes. Stopped in Alcuéscar for lunch. Route also passed by the village of Casas de Don Antonio and over a couple of Roman bridges dating back nearly two thousand years.

Woke to rain that morning. Steady rain, not hard. It had rained all night, and I worried that would mean a lot of mud on the trail. My worry had no purpose.

Out of the albergue (hostel) at 8:00 a.m. Before Juan and Javier, the Spanish brothers, were up. They had planned to complete the same distance I did that day. To each his own. The rain was still coming down. I checked all the zippers and Velcro® on my rain gear, checked the cover on my backpack, headed through the small village, and passed the last street light. This would be the first day I used my headlamp. The sun didn’t come up this time of year until 8:45, and the clouds made the dark last even longer.

The rain lasted only a couple of hours, and the mud was quite manageable. Lots of puddles to navigate around, but no problem with that. Most of the day was through ranchlands of grass and oak trees. Cattle and sheep here and there.

At the end of the previous night's dinner, Anna served a digestive called Licor de Bellota. It was a sweet liquor made from the acorns of trees with the same name, Bellota, which is known as the Blackjack Oak, as well as Emory Oak, in the States. The liquor tasted a bit like amaretto but was less repulsive—to me.

Albergue Annalena was a nice, clean place. I found it to be very quiet and peaceful. Anna ran it from her house, a casa rural (guest house) down the street. She came by the albergue, checked you in, stamped your credential, and then left you to enjoy the place. All visitors—well, most everyone, as reports had it—cleaned up after themselves in an albergue.

I was most impressed by the albergues I'd stopped at on the Via to this point. The best one so far had been the Albergue Zaguán in Fuente de Cantos. It had a pool, beautiful courtyards, a museum of sorts, and a great atmosphere.

The albergues I stayed at were very practical arrangements; most had bunk beds, showers, a sitting area, sometimes a patio, a kitchen (a minimum of one or more), and sometimes a clothes washer. If no washer, at least a wash basin.

All had been super clean. The municipal versions were run by volunteers. Private albergues were slightly different in the way they were run and had more personal touches but were just as practical. A key feature for me was Wi-Fi. Most had Wi-Fi included, though fairly minimal bandwidth.

Costs: €6 for the albergue, €5 for lunch, and about €13 for dinner.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 9: Aldea del Cano to Cáceres (24 km)

24 kilometers, 5 hours. Route was mostly through open grasslands, with more cattle and sheep, and through small village of Valdesalor before reaching the large city of Cáceres.

For the second day in a row, I made tea alone in the albergue (hostel) kitchen before I repacked my backpack and headed out onto the Camino for another day of walking. It was so different from the previous week with the sagrada familia (our little “holy family”), when we were all getting ready and sharing the bathroom and kitchen space, as we prepared for a new day.

I hesitate to tell about Aldea del Cano, but I was not impressed. Sure, it was a small town off the large autovia (freeway) with little to offer. And sometimes that was cool. I was the only one who stayed in the municipal albergue that night. That should have been a sign.

On my arrival, as directed by the info in my guidebook, I went to the bar Las Vegas (another bad sign) and asked for the key to the albergue. After help with interpretation from a nice guardia civil (local cop) who spoke some English, I managed to get my credential stamped, pay the bartender for the night, and get the key. The only key, it seemed.

As was the normal pattern, I selected a bunk, unpacked, and took a shower. After I cleaned up and started some laundry, I took the key back and wondered how I could lock up at night. Without better language skills, I didn't bother to discuss options with the rather taciturn barkeep, and I ordered a glass of wine so I could use the Wi-Fi. No internet at the albergue.

I shouldn't complain; the albergue was only €6 for the night. But the food—and wine—at the bar (only place in town) was the worst I'd had in nearly six weeks in Europe. There were giant spiders, which I found out about in the morning, and the water from Aldea tasted horrid.

The water, which I needed until the next source, left an aftertaste like that of the Licor de Bellota that Anna had served the night before. Now, I don't mind that earthy aftertaste in liquor, but in water, yuck.

Stayed the next night at a hotel in Cáceres. A chance at a comfy bed and to get some laundry done—for me. Stayed at Gran Hotel Don Manuel Atiram, which was on the Camino route just before the municipal albergue (though I didn’t know that at the time). This was a nice, modern four-star place I had selected using Booking.com the night before. My plan was to stay in a hotel once per week on my trek. That approach is frowned on somewhat by Camino purists. I understand that, but I figure there is no right or wrong way to do a Camino. Just do a Camino however it might work best for you.

Costs: €88 for room and laundry at the hotel, €5 for lunch, and about €20 for dinner on the Plaza Mayor (Main Plaza).
 

BrienC

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Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 10: Cáceres to Cañaveral (45 km)

45 kilometers, about 9 hours. Through Casar de Cáceres, past large lake (the Embalse de José María Oriol), and over two large bridges. Also crossed over the new high-speed rail system being built to/from Portugal.

After I made the summit of the last ridge before my destination for the night, Cañaveral, I could just see a conglomerate of white and red on a distant hillside. The trail before me meandered, and the winding double track that few vehicles ever travel brought me closer to a shower and a bed for the night.

As I covered the distance, buildings took shape. Red roofs became less of the matte, more distinct. I could judge distance in this way, and I watched as shapes formed and the ubiquitous church tower poked out from the tableau.

But not too quick. The trail dropped down into one last drainage and rose over another small Roman bridge before it ramped upwards to the smallish village.

The route from Cáceres started out on a two-lane highway for very many—too many—kilometers before it diverted onto a new gravel path into Casar de Cáceres, a suburb of Cáceres. A mix of old and new. The promenade paralleled the highway as you entered the newer part of town; it was at least a kilometer long and beautiful. Very clean and well maintained. Something the town should be very proud of. I imagined it full of strolling people during warm evenings. Must be a sight.

From there, the route headed off into ranch lands on farm tracks for what seemed like forever. Occasional detours took the path over or under a high-speed rail line that was being constructed. The high-speed trains will be quite the sight from the old town square of Cañaveral only a few kilometers away.

A few more kilometers along the highway and then back to the rugged double track over ancient Roman roads. The countryside was vast, dry, and beautiful. Much like desert portions of the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California, south of the Sierras.

Spring was high season on the Via, summer was brutally hot, winter was cold, and fall was nice, though the countryside tended to be brown and dried out after the long, hot summer. The couple of weeks prior to my Camino had brought some rain to the region and then hints of green.

Saw my first snake this day. My new Spanish friends called them vipers. Throughout that day, lots of cattle and sheep—and the required fences with a lot of gates to pass through.

Costs: €3 for a breakfast of café con leche (espresso with steamed milk) and toast; €18 for the albergue (hostel), including the next morning’s breakfast; and €2 for a beer for dinner (it was too late to eat by the time Eric and I headed out to find something).
 

BrienC

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Day 11: Cañaveral to Galisteo (28 km)

28 kilometers, 6 hours. Path mostly trail after I left Cañaveral. I bypassed Grimaldo, a short seven-tenths of a kilometer off path, and I bypassed a turnoff for a “new trail” that passed through Riolobos. I opted to stay on the official trail as much as possible.

When I left Cañaveral at daybreak, it was obvious there were various paths that led to the same destination. I preferred the off-highway options, so I eventually made my way to a long, steep climb that followed a high-voltage power line right-of-way. By then, a wonderful sunrise over my right shoulder added to the rapidly increasing streams of sweat that ran down my face.

The payoff was that I walked on some of the prettiest path I'd been on yet. Oak- and cork-tree-studded grasslands quickly turned green, more so everyday. More cows and sheep, a single goat, and signs of pigs rutting in the newly softened soil. More gates to pass through, that reminded me of the rule: if it’s open, leave it open, and if it’s closed, leave it closed. And magnificent mushrooms, large as your hand.

In the early afternoon, I saw a couple of people a kilometer or so ahead on the trail and wondered if they might be Johann and Eva, the couple from Sweden I had met the night before. I eventually caught up to the two and, yes, I was right. Johann was a lanky man with thin blonde hair and a grey beard—a man with a look of experience in the field, so much so that he might have been just as comfortable crossing Africa two hundred years ago. Eva had an earthy beauty and a friendly manner. They were easy to chat with over a beer. The previous evening, after they asked what I thought of the presidential election back home, Eva said she had another question: “What do you think of Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize?” More fun conversation followed.

The previous night, after meeting the Swedish couple, I was on my bunk in the albergue (hostel) with the door closed, working on a new blog series about Italy when I thought I heard my name and then more conversation. All in Spanish; more names were said. I grew curious and rose to open the door. There stood Eric, the guy from Belgium I had met my first night out of Seville.

It was late, and he was a bit knackered, so I left him to clean up and to relax some before asking him about his last few days. His plan had been to cover less ground than what was included in my plan, so I didn't expect to see him again. But, as it turned out, he was trying to get ahead of some snoring Frenchmen, so he put in an extra-long day to do so. We were the only two in the Cañaveral Albergue, so maybe he succeeded.

You just never know, though. As I entered Galisteo, I passed Juan and Javier, the two men I enjoyed my birthday dinner with three nights earlier. They were not covering the distances they had hoped, so they took a bus and bypassed one stage. Their primary goal was to spend the week together. Brothers catching up.

Spent that night at the Albergue Turistico Galisteo. Eric caught up to me, and we were the only two in the albergue again that night. After cleaning up, we made the small climb to the old walled city and explored; we climbed the wall and walked around it as much as possible before we found a bar for a cold beer, this time a jara (big frozen mug) full of draft beer. Yum!

Later, we walked to the outskirts of town to have dinner at the Hotel Medina Ghaliayah, sort of a truck-stop arrangement beside the highway. It had a decent enough menu del dia (menu of the day), which included wine and dessert. Here, we met Juan and Mercedi, a couple on Camino who were staying at the hotel, rather than at the albergue. Johann and Eva were staying at the Pension Los Emigrantes, over the bar of the same name, near our albergue.

Costs: €7 for the albergue and €9 for dinner.
 

BrienC

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Camino Francés, July 2015
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Day 12: Galisteo to Arcos de Cáparra (31 km)

31 kilometers, 6 hours. Through Carcaboso on highway and then more ranch lands and double-track trails to Arcos Romano de Cáparra.

We left Galisteo well before light, hoping to make the thirty kilometers to Arcos de Cáparra, where we would spend some time exploring the Roman ruins before seeking an albergue (hostel) for the night.

I left the albergue in Galisteo about twenty minutes after Eric and made my way around the walled pueblo on a relatively new promenade under streetlights to the edge of the new town, outside the walls. From the edge of town, my way was lit by headlamp, mostly so cars could see me rather than my needing a lighted path.

Shortly after Carcaboso, the VDLP route left the blacktop (the “black road,” Eric called it) and took farm tracks through cattle country. As I followed the way, I noticed a marked difference from the past days: everything was green and looked refreshed. Much more rain had fallen in that area of Spain than further south. And I liked it!

At Arcos de Cáparra, I wandered around the old Roman ruins as I waited for Eric to catch up to me. We determined later that we had taken different paths that day and ended up separated by more time than we expected. Arcos de Cáparra was the largest Roman ruin I had seen. It was an outpost on the VDLP, but apparently an extraordinary one. It must have been magnificent in its day. I recommend taking a short walk off this portion of the trail and through the ruins to check out the visitors’ center. Well worth the time.

I had passed through one-third of the distance from Seville to Santiago in about one-third of the time I had before my flight home. By then, those few pasta pounds put on during my time in Italy were gone. The next day, I would put on a belt to keep my pants up. Good thing I had brought one.

More about Eric, my Belgian buddy: He taught me more about current US involvement in Europe (by way of my tax dollars for NATO, tangential organizations, and contractors) than I could have ever learned on my own. He spoke six languages and could switch from one to another seamlessly. And he had been to thirty-five US states! I'd only been to eighteen. He admitted that some of those state trips were simply drive-throughs, from point A to point B, but still, thirty-five altogether!!!

Eric was walking the Camino for a purpose. In 1999, during a trip to China, he went to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and had a unique and life-altering experience. While he toured the city, a street kid, an urchin, walked up beside him and took his hand, and walked with him for a period of time through the busy city streets. From that moment on, Eric had thought many times of the millions of children roaming the streets of cities all over the world.

He walked that Camino for them. Every step of his tour on Camino was for fifty of these children. There are an estimated one hundred million of these young people, and he walked with the hope of bringing awareness to their plight and to add a positive energy to a negative situation.

Check out his website at http://ericdelcamino.weebly.com. It is in French, so use Google Translate, if you need.

Costs: €16 for the room and €9 for dinner at the Hostal Asturias.
 

BrienC

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Day 13: Jarillo to La Calzada de Béjar (38 km)

38 kilometers, 9 hours. Two kilometers back to VDLP route, then through Aldeanueva del Camino, Baños de Montemayor and Puerto de Béjar to Calzada. New terrain—into the mountains we went.

Our previous day, we made it to Arcos Romano de Cáparra and had the docent at that facility call the Hostal Asturias to come to get us to stay the night. We were led to believe that this approach was the best, since we thought that there was nowhere else to stay until Aldeanueva, twenty-two kilometers further on. That would have made a fifty-two-kilometer day. Hostal Asturias knew this and was entrepreneurial enough to seize the opportunity. I wish I knew then it was only ten kilometers further to the Hostal Asturias, not twenty-two kilometers away in Aldeanueva as I'd thought. We could have managed that shorter distance. We could have managed that distance and would not have been concerned with the two-kilometer off-trail excursion.

No big deal, but to lock in the deal as soon as the staff members had us at their hostal (another Spanish word for hostel), they gave us a “souvenir,” a string pack with their logo. The minor hitch was that we arrived at 3:40 p.m., and meals were only served until 4:00—the restaurant not reopening until 9:00 p.m.! I would never get used to the dining schedule in Spain. We ordered our meal and showered later, and generously sat far from everyone else as we ate.

The next morning, after we witnessed a crew drop a dead tree outside our room well before daylight, chainsaws blaring, we had café con leche (espresso with steamed milk) and hit the trail. I wanted to go back the two kilometers to the proper route, and Eric went on a more direct path toward Aldeanueva.

About three hours later, I came into Aldeanueva and started looking for churros (breakfast snacks). I was determined to have this Spanish equivalent of the American doughnut—in a confectionary way, not in looks. We had been too early or too late for them on previous days. I set my intention and expected to find a churro that morning. It was Saturday, and things didn’t open early, or at all, on Saturdays in rural Spain.

As I wandered the streets of this smallish puebla (village), I turned down one street and saw an open café, and there was Eric, eating a bocadillo (sandwich). After we said our hellos, I went in to order something to eat, and there was a huge tray of fresh churros! Big smile.

With bocadillo, churros, and coffee consumed, I was happy and ready to head into the mountains. Something new.

From light valley fog at daybreak to mountainous terrain and a hint of fall colors, it was always great to have new scenery, even though I had absolutely enjoyed the previous twelve days.

Albergue Alba-Soraya was owned and run by Manuela, mother of sisters Alba and Soraya. Alba was helping her mother when we were there. (Side note for me as a runner: Alba is a trail runner and was training for a trail half marathon.) Manuela made an excellent vegetable soup and lomo de cerado (thin pork steaks) with wine and salad for our dinner, plus a dessert for €9. Very filling and very good. The next morning, Manuela’s husband came to the albergue (hostel) to make us a simple breakfast of coffee and toast before we departed.

Costs: €15 for the Albergue Alba-Soraya, €9 for dinner, and €10 for other meals during the day.
 

BrienC

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Day 14: La Calzada de Béjar to San Pedro de Rosados (49 km)

49 kilometers, 9 hours and 30 minutes. Through Valverde de Valdelacasa and Fuenterroble de Salvatierra, along with a climb over the Pico de la Dueña.

Out of Fuenterroble de Salvatierra and before one may make the climb to a ridgeline with wind turbines, there was a long, very straight stretch of Roman road marked with millarios (mileposts). A milla was a Roman mile, and the mile markers indicated distance and tolls along the Silver Way, the Via de la Plata. The Roman Empire had the road built to haul silver from Spain and bring it to the port at Seville. The silver was then transported to Rome.

Our mile in the US came from the milla, through England, and is close to the same distance. The mile markers, or millarios, were the route markers of the day—well before the birth of Christ. We followed the same route using yellow arrows painted on rocks, road signs, buildings, and whatever was handy. We also used GPX files and our smartphones. Eric, my Belgian friend, said the millarios were the GPX of the time.

GPX files were recorded by others that have covered the same path we wished to follow, using a GPS device or smartphone. We downloaded the file, and using a map program on our phones, we followed the route.

All the albergues (hostels) in my VDLP information for San Pedro de Rosados were closed for the winter, or permanently—I don't know which. So I stepped into Bar El Claveles and asked the lady behind the bar for both a beer and information about the albergues. She said they were closed. I asked if there were others, and yes, she indicated there were and that she would show me. After I finished my beer, the bar owner, named Elena, showed me to the side yard of the patio at the bar, and there was a small albergue, Albergue Casa Elena. She had started her own after the others had closed.

People:

Eugene (from Belfast, Ireland), who lived in Denmark with his Danish wife. He and I had dinner together at Bar El Claveles.

Juan and Mercedi, the Spanish couple from Seville, whom we met coming into

Cáparra and with whom we went to Jarillo and the Hostal Asturias.

The German couple we met at Cáparra.

The German woman, the Frenchman, and the Italian man in the albergue in San Pedro.

Costs: €6 for the albergue, €5 for lunch, and €10 for dinner and wine.
 

BrienC

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I'll be posting more days after the holidays. Merry Christmas, everyone!
 

BrienC

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Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
As a reminder, included in the version of these reports on my blog, is a screen grab of my GPS record for that day. Also included, are links to each day’s slideshow that was uploaded to Facebook. You don't need to be a Facebook member to see those slideshows.

Cheers,
 
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Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
Day 9: Aldea del Cano to Cáceres (24 km)

24 kilometers, 5 hours. Route was mostly through open grasslands, with more cattle and sheep, and through small village of Valdesalor before reaching the large city of Cáceres.

For the second day in a row, I made tea alone in the albergue (hostel) kitchen before I repacked my backpack and headed out onto the Camino for another day of walking. It was so different from the previous week with the sagrada familia (our little “holy family”), when we were all getting ready and sharing the bathroom and kitchen space, as we prepared for a new day.

I hesitate to tell about Aldea del Cano, but I was not impressed. Sure, it was a small town off the large autovia (freeway) with little to offer. And sometimes that was cool. I was the only one who stayed in the municipal albergue that night. That should have been a sign.

On my arrival, as directed by the info in my guidebook, I went to the bar Las Vegas (another bad sign) and asked for the key to the albergue. After help with interpretation from a nice guardia civil (local cop) who spoke some English, I managed to get my credential stamped, pay the bartender for the night, and get the key. The only key, it seemed.

As was the normal pattern, I selected a bunk, unpacked, and took a shower. After I cleaned up and started some laundry, I took the key back and wondered how I could lock up at night. Without better language skills, I didn't bother to discuss options with the rather taciturn barkeep, and I ordered a glass of wine so I could use the Wi-Fi. No internet at the albergue.

I shouldn't complain; the albergue was only €6 for the night. But the food—and wine—at the bar (only place in town) was the worst I'd had in nearly six weeks in Europe. There were giant spiders, which I found out about in the morning, and the water from Aldea tasted horrid.

The water, which I needed until the next source, left an aftertaste like that of the Licor de Bellota that Anna had served the night before. Now, I don't mind that earthy aftertaste in liquor, but in water, yuck.

Stayed the next night at a hotel in Cáceres. A chance at a comfy bed and to get some laundry done—for me. Stayed at Gran Hotel Don Manuel Atiram, which was on the Camino route just before the municipal albergue (though I didn’t know that at the time). This was a nice, modern four-star place I had selected using Booking.com the night before. My plan was to stay in a hotel once per week on my trek. That approach is frowned on somewhat by Camino purists. I understand that, but I figure there is no right or wrong way to do a Camino. Just do a Camino however it might work best for you.

Costs: €88 for room and laundry at the hotel, €5 for lunch, and about €20 for dinner on the Plaza Mayor (Main Plaza).
Wow, I would choose a hotel any time in Cáceres... I've had serious problems with the albergue in that town... The bell in the church rang every hour all night through and woke us up, and another time a gang of drunk people were screaming to each other beneath the window (it's a square) until 4 in the morning...............

/BP
 

BrienC

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Wow, I would choose a hotel any time in Cáceres... I've had serious problems with the albergue in that town... The bell in the church rang every hour all night through and woke us up, and another time a gang of drunk people were screaming to each other beneath the window (it's a square) until 4 in the morning...............

/BP
Interesting, BP. I was pleased that the bells and clock towers were quiet at night in the towns I stayed in. They marked the hours (sometimes even accurately), but normally only until 11:00 p.m. (23:00, in Europe).

Cheers,
 

Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
I was most impressed by the albergues I'd stopped at on the Via to this point. The best one so far had been the Albergue Zaguán in Fuente de Cantos. It had a pool, beautiful courtyards, a museum of sorts, and a great atmosphere.
Yes, I agree! I stayed there, brings back memories! I wasn't used to finding a pool by an albergue and it did surprise me! Me (in my early 30s) and a 65-year-old lady were the only pilgrims, we shared a bottle of wine and had a splash! It was so fun (nothing more happened, I promise) :OP

/BP
 

LesBrass

Likes Walking
Camino(s) past & future
yes...
Crikey you walked some long days o_O I keep wondering if I will ever be able to do a 40km day! :D

Loving the read... I would echo the avoidance of the albergue in Caceres. Friends stayed in a private room for the same price we paid for our not so good albergue. I loved this city so much we're going back in February but staying in a hotel this time :)
 

BrienC

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Crikey you walked some long days o_O I keep wondering if I will ever be able to do a 40km day! :D
Many of those long days were very flat. Having done the Camino Frances in twenty days the previous year, in July, I did not want to push that hard on the VDLP. But, cooler temps and lots of fairly flat terrain, not to mention long distances between villages and cities, made for many kilometers some days.

Cheers,
 
D

Deleted member 12253

Guest
Many of those long days were very flat. Having done the Camino Frances in twenty days the previous year, in July, I did not want to push that hard on the VDLP. But, cooler temps and lots of fairly flat terrain, not to mention long distances between villages and cities, made for many kilometers some days.

Cheers,
Nearly certain to start in Seville in March 2017. Ryanair Dublin to Seville. Planning 40 days to Santiago like your blog and information
 

BrienC

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Nearly certain to start in Seville in March 2017. Ryanair Dublin to Seville. Planning 40 days to Santiago like your blog and information
Buen Camino!!! You will love it!
 

Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
Wow, I would choose a hotel any time in Cáceres... I've had serious problems with the albergue in that town... The bell in the church rang every hour all night through and woke us up, and another time a gang of drunk people were screaming to each other beneath the window (it's a square) until 4 in the morning...............

/BP
I agree about Aldea del Cano and the albergue. I remember it well because it was the first place where I got bitten by bed bugs. Second time around the VdlP, I avoided staying there and pushed on to Valdesalor. Now this is not a "bed bugs report" cause this was in 2012 so who cares, I'm sure it's alright now.
 

BrienC

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I agree about Aldea del Cano and the albergue. I remember it well because it was the first place where I got bitten by bed bugs. Second time around the VdlP, I avoided staying there and pushed on to Valdesalor. Now this is not a "bed bugs report" cause this was in 2012 so who cares, I'm sure it's alright now.
Though an unfortunate thing, it sounds like they could use a regular pest control plan. The many methods in use on the way were ... interesting: Disposable sheets; large cans of bug spray; signs that warn about leaning your pack again a bunk; even bug resistant mattresses. All good stuff. I treat everything before I leave home and follow the advice of SYates on my return. Nothing in my pack comes past the garage floor before it has been dealt with properly.

Cheers,
 

Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
Though an unfortunate thing, it sounds like they could use a regular pest control plan. The many methods in use on the way were ... interesting: Disposable sheets; large cans of bug spray; signs that warn about leaning your pack again a bunk; even bug resistant mattresses. All good stuff. I treat everything before I leave home and follow the advice of SYates on my return. Nothing in my pack comes past the garage floor before it has been dealt with properly.

Cheers,
That's right, I always follow the same procedure when I get home. Amongst other things, putting everything in the freezer for five days. And I mean everything, except technological devices or other items that I would ruin, of course. Well, during my Caminos I've only been bitten there. I have been in albergues where others were bitten though while I was alright (Mombuey, C Sanabrés).

/BP
 

BrienC

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Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
That's right, I always follow the same procedure when I get home. Amongst other things, putting everything in the freezer for five days. And I mean everything, except technological devices or other items that I would ruin, of course. Well, during my Caminos I've only been bitten there. I have been in albergues where others were bitten though while I was alright (Mombuey, C Sanabrés).
Chance favors the prepared.
 

BrienC

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Day 15: San Pedro de Rosados to Salamanca (24 km)

24 kilometers, 5 hours. Through Morille and vast, open farmlands.

Not much to see on that short day of trekking. Still, it was a very pretty day with many wide-open views. With a plan to stop in Salamanca, only twenty-four kilometers away and with no real climbing, I decided on a late start that morning. I slept in for a while and then had breakfast with Eugene from Ireland/Denmark, back in the Bar El Claveles. Our other companions—the German woman, the Frenchman, and the Italian man—had left earlier.

The previous day, my Belgian friend, Eric, walked into a small village called Morille a few kilometers further on. That was over fifty kilometers for him! When I met Eric, he indicated that he planned to average twenty kilometers per day. Maybe he will someday.

The relatively short distance covered as I walked to Salamanca was mostly on dirt tracks and gravel roads. The route passed over rolling hills of beautiful grasslands and trees and beyond freshly tilled fields. Many mountain bikers were out for some exercise on that network of gravel roads, evidence of the large city in the distance, just beyond some low-lying hills.

As I neared Salamanca, the path made a short climb on rugged, rocky trail to a crest with a yellow cross on top and a view of the city. The multinational threesome, who had stayed at the albergue (hostel) where I had the previous night, sat on rocks eating snacks and taking in the view. We said our hellos the best we could and walked into the city together, separating before the Roman bridge at the hotel where I had previously made a reservation using Booking.com. I planned to stay two nights in Salamanca, to rest and see the sights.

Since I was early on arrival in Salamanca, I walked through the new cathedral (constructed between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries) and found something to eat on the Plaza Mayor. The big plaza. There were lots of people—and higher prices.

Costs: €57 for the hotel room, €2.50 for breakfast, and €23.50 for dinner.
 

BrienC

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Day 16: Rest Day in Salamanca

Wandering around kilometers, for most of the day.

I had arrived at the halfway mark of my journey the previous day (five hundred out of one thousand kilometers), and I thought that taking a day off to see the beautiful city of Salamanca was an excellent idea. Also, I planned to get some laundry done, do a little shopping for the trek on the following day, and explore the city of nearly a quarter-million people. There were more churches, cathedrals, palaces, and Roman bridges to be explored.

First order of business was easy: walk around the corner from where I was staying to a churreria I had noticed the evening before. It was a little box stand that sold churros (a fried doughy breakfast snack), hot chocolate, and other snacks. A husband and wife ran the place; he cooked, and she made drinks and handled the cash.

The churros were super hot, just out of the boiling oil, and lightly covered with sugar. The hot chocolate was thick; it clung to the churro after dipping. You must dip a churro. Something I would never eat at home, but when in Spain and burning four thousand to six thousand calories per day, what the heck, I would live a little.

I'd have done more there in Salamanca but it was All Saints’ Day, a Spanish national holiday. Most businesses were closed; those included markets, hair stylists, and barbers. Oh well. A peregrino (pilgrim) needs for so very little (’cause he’d have to carry it with him).

Resting was hard work, too. It was difficult for me just to be at a Roman bridge munching on hot churros draped in rich chocolate. It was also hard to sip tea while writing and making plans for the rest of my walk, as I sat in a quiet café and gazed across the street at a church that was hundreds of years old. With too much time to ponder, the mind wandered, the attitude became maudlin, and I started feeling homesick. I wanted Santiago to be much closer.

However, the next day, I would start off again. I'd ponder other things on the trail. Maybe I'd be inspired to write something worthy of the effort—something that would help me to further understand my earthly purpose.

On my way back to my hotel room, following my day as a tourist, I made the climb to the Parador Hotel, which looked out over the river and toward the old city, to have a glass of Albariño (a Spanish white wine). Great view of the city from the patio, and the wine was not bad, or terribly expensive. For more about the chain of Parador Hotels, click here.

Costs: €57 for the hotel room, €2.50 for churros and hot chocolate, €3 for tea, €8.50 for dinner, and €2.50 for a glass of wine at the Parador Hotel.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 17: Salamanca to El Cubo de Tierra del Vino (39 km)

39 kilometers, 7 hours and 30 minutes. Route through Castellanos de Villiquera and Calzada de Valdunciel. Rather plain route near to the N-630 highway and the A-66 autovia (freeway).

Leaving the hotel that morning, I stepped out into the dawning of a chilly morning; rush hour traffic started to build following the holiday weekend. Most people had had a four-day holiday weekend for All Saints’ Day, a Spanish national holiday.

I crossed the Puente Romano, just another ancient bridge built by the Roman Empire thousands of years ago. I say “just another” because I'd already crossed dozens on the Via de la Plata, it seemed. But then that history and a long walk through Spain were what prompted that particular Camino.

From the river, my route took me up into the old city center of Salamanca, past the Old Cathedral and the New Cathedral and through Plaza Mayor before continuing north out of the city passing a large, still-in-use bullring.

As I walked through the city at that early hour, I was once again reminded of why I liked visiting Spain. There was a pride, one we don't see everywhere in the world. The previous day, I had seen many people out for the holiday, sitting in the sun at street cafés with family and friends, drinking and eating and talking up a storm.

The morning after brought the cleanup crews and the sound of street sweepers and vacuum tractors busily making everything shine again. Restaurateurs had brought in all of their tables and chairs—quite literally hundreds of them, dozens at every café and restaurant. And once the streets were polished and wet from cleaning, they put their paraphernalia back into place, a practiced ritual of carrying and carting furniture out onto the street, into a square, or to their sliver of sidewalk.

Menu boards were placed in their proper order. Planters and dividers were brought back to place, giving an added ambiance. All with perfection and order. Sure, it was a ritual, one with not only commerce and tradition in mind but also a sense of pride. Salamanca, and most of the Spain that I had seen, was proud. A worthy pride, one steeped in history not even the Spanish may appreciate.

By nature, I like tidiness and order—cleanliness. In the city streets of Pamplona or Salamanca, or some tiny pueblo miles from anything, Spain has got it right—in my mind.

Stayed that night in El Cubo de Tierra del Vino, at the Albergue F y M. Super clean and tidy. Carmen, the owner who lived around the corner, treated me as a grandmother would. Was I okay . . . warm enough? She served up wine and a light snack when I arrived. Later that evening, Carmen fixed me an excellent dinner of salad, soup, and pork.

Costs: €12 for the albergue (hostel), €8.50 for breakfast at the hotel, €3.50 for lunch of nuts and chips, and €8.50 for dinner.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
As a reminder, included in the version of these reports on my blog, is a screen grab of my GPS record for that day. Also included, are links to each day’s slideshow that was uploaded to Facebook. You don't need to be a Facebook member to see those slideshows.

Cheers,
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 18: El Cubo de Tierra del Vino to Zamora (32 km)

32 kilometers, 6 hours and 30 minutes. Mostly farm track through tilled fields and the puebla (village) of Villanueva de Campeán.

The previous night was one of those experiences I savor. After resting a bit and talking with Eric, my Belgian friend, on WhatsApp, then visiting with Juan and Mercedí (from Seville) and a young German woman named Cristina, I was summoned to dinner by Carmen’s daughter, Mercedes.

Juan, Mercedí, and Cristina were staying at another albergue (hostel) and came by on their tour of town, just to say hi. Very nice people.

At Carmen’s, I was ushered into a family room with a large table, set for one, beside a warm fire. Carmen was cooking in the main house and handed the portions of my dinner to Mercedes through a portal in the wall opposite the entry door. Another woman, I assumed to be a daughter-in-law, and that woman’s daughter, sat watching TV and talking with Mercedes.

Dinner consisted of a splendid seafood soup in a creamy vegetable base, an excellent and typically fresh mixed salad, plus a main plate of pork lomo (thin chops) with a few potato fries. Wine was offered, but I had already had plenty at the albergue, and then yogurt for dessert. Yogurt is good for everything, in my opinion. Oh, and to finish off, a digestif (digestive). Some sort of liquor in a tiny glass. Can't really say I liked it, but I couldn't be rude.

During my meal, Mercedes told me what to expect the next day on the Camino path and where to have a coffee and to get some lunch. She spoke fairly good English. Better than my Spanish, for sure.

In the morning, I ate the breakfast that Mercedes had set out for me the night before, including plenty of coffee, and then I set out for Zamora. I stopped where she had suggested in Campeán, and I ran into Juan, Mercedí, and Cristina. There, we chatted some, and I had more coffee and ordered a sandwich to go, soon heading back on the trail and later stopping trailside to eat.

In Zamora, I checked into the albergue others had recommended—the municipal—got cleaned up, did some laundry, and toured the city. Though the city is not large, there was quite the collection of historical sights in Zamora, including a well-preserved castle ruin at the west end of town on the outer edge of the old walled city and, of course, a cathedral.

Costs: €12 for a donation to the albergue, €3 for breakfast, €3.20 for lunch and coffee, and €10 for dinner on the main plaza. Oh, and €7 for a haircut.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 19: Zamora to Granja de Moreruela (43 km)

43 kilometers, 8 hours and 30 minutes. Through Montamarta and Riego del Camino. More farm track. Gray, drizzly day.

Looking back through my notes, I find so very little to relate about this day. It was gray with a little rain here and there, so that may have dampened the mood. I left Zamora before the other pilgrims at the albergue (hostel), leaving at first light, and walked all day alone.

I do remember an excellent lunch of tortilla española (Spanish tortilla—more like a simple quiche of egg and potato) and café con leche (coffee with steamed milk) in the small village of Montamarta. The bar was on the Camino path, near the little church. The town, and so much of that day, was very quiet, sleepy. As I looked about for something to eat, I saw some women in blue coverall uniforms (what the English call boilersuits) cleaning the streets, sweeping, and collecting. I asked one of the women if the bar I could see ahead was open, and she indicated that it was. I ate the warm and delicious meal by myself, as the owner quietly read a newspaper behind his bar.

Later in the day, I met Mike and Cici, an Australian couple, at the ruins of the Castillo de Castrotorafe (Castle of Castrotorafe), beside the Rio Esla. They were taking a break from their trekking near some interpretive signs inside the ruins, a short walk off the Camino path. I ran into Mike and Cici many more times in the days ahead, and they became an integral part of my Camino experience. Truly wonderful people.

Granja was a decision point. Along the Via de la Plata, the peregrino (pilgrim) must decide left or right at a fork represented by an unceremonious sign in the center of the village, not far from the church. From here, the peregrino can continue north toward Astorga to meet the Camino Francés (the path most of us understand as the Camino de Santiago), or turn west toward Ourense and Santiago, on the Camino Sanabrés.

Some months prior to my start on the VDLP, I had sought advice on a Camino-specific forum (click here for the forum) from veterans of the route on which route to take from Granja. The best guidance I received was to make that decision when I got to Granja. It was an easy decision to make: I had walked the Camino Francés route the previous year, there were normally many more people walking the Camino Francés, and it's the one everybody knows. So I would turn west in the morning, toward Ourense. The Camino Sanabrés it would be.

Costs: €22 for the casa rural (guest house), €8.75 for a makeshift dinner and lunch and breakfast for the next day, and €1 for a beer at an unfriendly bar.
 

AcrossTheWater3008

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
C Frances x 2 - 2016, 2017
C Portuguese x 2 2016, 2017
C Muxia/Finisterra x 2 2016, 17
CdM
@BrienC

Thanks for your wonderful and detailed updates!! Am walking VDLP in march!!!

Cheers...
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 20: Granja de Moreruela to Tábara (27 km)

27 kilometers, 6 hours. Over a bridge called Puente Quintos and the River Esla onto one or two kilometers of rugged single track. Then through Faramontanos de Tábara, mostly on farm track. Mostly in a light rain.

Interesting evening last night: When I entered Granja, I made my way past the suggested municipal albergue (hostel) to its associated bar to check in and pay for the night. There, I found the least hospitable bartender I had ever met. Not just with me, but especially so. I asked for a small beer and inquired about the albergue. She just said something like, give me your credential. Okay fine.

I laid out my pilgrim credential, and she gave me a registry to fill in my own information. A rather simple affair: name, passport number, date of birth, country of residence, etc. She perfunctorily stamped my credential and left it where it lay. (For more information on the pilgrim credential, click here.)

Most places do the registry themselves, and most are very fussy about your credential being properly completed. It must be accurately filled out, and other stamps may not bleed onto the opposite page. The bossy, rude young woman could not have cared less.

About then, the couple from Australia I had met before, Mike and Cici, popped in for a drink before catching a bus back to Zamora for the night. We chatted about all sorts of things (including American politics), and then they headed out. By then, there was a different bartender, another young woman.

I asked how much I owed for my beer and for the albergue. Blessing was, this new woman told me there was no hot water at the albergue. Ugh! Okay, is there another? She directed me, pointing through a window, to go down the street to the church and turn left. Then, I would need to go two blocks, and there would be a casa rural (guest house). All this in rapid Spanish. My ability to grasp Spanish was improving everyday. By necessity.

So down the street I would go following her directions to the country home. There, Marisal opened the gates of Casa del Tio Quico and happily ushered me into the courtyard. Once inside the house, I met Carmelo, a Spanish pilgrim walking in the direction of Astorga the next morning. He had much the same episode I had at the bar. When he found out on his own that there was no hot water at the albergue, he left his five Euros as a donation, not wanting to return there and have a similar experience to his first, I supposed.

Casa rurals are people’s homes with extra rooms for rent. They are usually more expensive than albergues, but they are cozier and have more amenities. Casa del Tio Quico was very comfy—and warm.

Not wanting to go back to the bar for dinner, I asked Marisal about a tienda (shop) nearby. Indeed, there was one just down the street, and I went for provisions for the night and the next day. I made my dinner in the kitchen, and I later sat in the very nice living room, writing and reading for the evening. All good.

I had a bed in a loft above Carmelo’s room and was asleep by 10:30. Would have been earlier, but the family started fixing dinner at 9:30.

Following an evening when the Camino did indeed provide—a warm place and hot water—I walked through heavy midday rains and cold winds that followed. I spent the afternoon and night at an albergue run by José Almeida. José was the author of eight books about the Camino.

Costs: The Tábara albergue was a donativo (for a donation) affair, meaning donate what you will. So, for the night, a hot shower, José doing my laundry, afternoon tapas and wine, dinner and wine, and breakfast, I left €40. Oh, I left out the variety of locally made liquors we sampled en la tarde y con la cena (in the afternoon and with dinner).
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 21: Tábara to Santa Marta de Tera (24 km)

24 kilometers, 4 hours and 30 minutes. Took the slightly longer, original Camino route through Bercianos de Valverde. Not much reason to, other than it was the proper route, according to some people.

There was no Wi-Fi at the albergue (hostel) in Tábara, for José’s own Camino purist reasons. Although José did not speak English, and José’s albergue was a bit eclectic, I found him to be very welcoming and to truly embrace all things Camino de Santiago. The albergue was well away from the town center, so after showering and settling in, I planned to find a bar with Wi-Fi in the town center and to have a glass of wine. As I went to leave the albergue, a younger Spanish man visiting José asked if I would like to join him at the dining table and have some wine and pinchos (snacks).

Okay, not wanting to be rude, desiring that type of local experience, and not really needing the Internet, I said, “Sure,” and I sat down. Two lady friends of José’s were there, too. I was quickly kissed on both cheeks by both women and determined that they had started drinking much earlier in the day. After all, it was Saturday. Good fun.

The younger Spanish man interpreted the conversation when needed and was quite evasive when I asked where he was from. He never did say, but he spoke English with a British accent, had lived some time in England and in the US, served a one-year stint in the Spanish military, and—near as I could discern—had never really worked any other job. Kind of a professional student I gathered.

So the next day, on a very quiet Sunday afternoon, I was the only person in the Bar Stop in Santa Marta de Tera, diagonally across the main plaza from the albergue I stayed in that night, which was beside the village church. The church in Santa Marta is the main reason I wanted to stop there. It was built in the tenth and eleventh centuries. A thousand years old! I still have a hard time with that notion.

Reportedly, the oldest known statue of St. James as a pilgrim was there, but the church was closed.

Behind the counter at Bar Stop I saw three generations come and go, fussing with this and that and waiting for the late-hour rush of business. A woman appearing to be in her early forties served me a coffee and made a sandwich for my lunch. A young man, presumably the woman’s son, got me the Wi-Fi password, and later his grandmother came in and cleaned at the espresso machine. A normal Sunday afternoon.

The municipal albergue where I stayed the night was renovated the previous year and was very modern and sparkling clean. And there was hot water. I found my way through a maze of fancy new wooden doors and noticed that the place was empty. I claimed a bunk away from the door to one of the dorm rooms and near to the heater, and then I went off to a hot shower before heading to the bar later for something to eat and to use the Wi-Fi.

Costs: €5 for the albergue, €3.50 for lunch, and €9 for dinner.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 22: Santa Marta de Tera to Rionegro del Puente (27 km)

27 kilometers, 5 hours. Through the villages of Calzadilla de Tera, Olleros de Tera, and Villar de Farfón. Crossing a large dam on the Rio Tera at Embalse de Agavanzal with a short bit of overgrown single-track trail below the dam. Finished with a great stretch of disused double track for the last six kilometers into Rionegro de Puente.

Donettes to Gourmet

It all started the evening before. I had a basic but filling combination plate for dinner and a couple of glasses of red wine at the Bar Stop in Santa Marta. After I paid for dinner, I asked the bar owner when the bar would reopen in the morning. It wouldn't, she indicated in Spanish; it was closed on Mondays. Okay, I thought, and I asked if I could buy some snacks to get me to the next village. She promptly brought over a box of this and that, and I picked out chocolate covered Donettes (mini doughnuts); a wannabe, prepackaged croissant; and some chips. That would have to do, I supposed.

After waking late, I ate the Donettes and drank a couple of cups of tea (down to my last few tea bags at that point), while I chatted with a Spanish man who had come into the albergue (hostel) late the previous night and was walking the VDLP in the opposite direction. He was a wealth of information about what I should expect in the days ahead. We later said our Buen Caminos (Good Caminos) and went our separate ways.

I figured at this point that the snacks were just backups. I could find a café con leche (espresso with steamed milk) and a bocadillo (sandwich) somewhere down the path. Wrong! Everything in every little town was closed. You'd think logically that one café would stay open on an opposite day. But, oh no!

So I snacked as I got hungry, snagging an old apple from a tree here and some grapes still on a vine there, as I reminded myself that the Camino would provide.

My destination for that day was twenty-seven kilometers off from the start, and near the end, I was famished. Even water didn't help. Usually, water would help to fill the void. All it did was make for more frequent nature calls.

I easily found the municipal albergue in Rionegro and had to cross the highway to a bar/restaurant for its key. When I walked into the place, my mouth started to salivate uncontrollably as the aromas of garlic and olive oil and pork and beef hit my olfactory senses.

I got the key for the albergue and found out the hours for meals; I was going to be back ASAP. I returned to the albergue to claim a bunk bed (the first of the available thirty-two) and to take a shower, and then I returned to the restaurant for my big meal of the day.

After a few moments and some help from the chef’s son, who spoke some English, I happily accepted the menu del dia (menu of the day). To be upfront, the name of the restaurant was Asociación Gastrónomica / Me Gusta Comer (Gastronomic Association / I Like to Eat), meaning the owners knew what they were doing. Me Gusta Comer seemed quite out of place but was so very welcome.

The fixed menu of the day was a fresh local vegetable in a light cheese sauce with tiny slices of an excellent Iberico (Spanish) ham, a thick stew of beef rib and potatoes, a large pork lomo (thin chop) with roasted peppers and crispy garlic slices, and a dessert of ice cream and tiramisu.

All of this came with a half liter of red wine, café con leche, and lemon liquor—for €10!

Costs: €10 for a donation to the albergue, €2 for breakfast of junk food bought the night before, and €10 for the menu del dia at Me Gusta Comer. And €5 for tapas and wine later at Bar Palacio across the plaza from the albergue.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 23: Rionegro del Puente to Asturianos (27 km)

27 kilometers, 5 hours. Through the larger town of Mombuey on the highway and then through the tiny hamlets of Valdemerilla, Cernadilla, San Salvador de Palazuelo, and Entrepeñas, before crossing the freeway to Asturianos.

The night before, as I finished off a glass of red wine and some light tapas, fully expecting to be the only pilgrim in the albergue (hostel), into the Palacio Bar walked the Australian couple I had met days earlier at some ruins beside our Camino path. They were bundled up against the cold, had headlamps atop their heads, and were fully spent.

Mike and Cici had walked over thirty kilometers and into the cold night because they thought there would have been some sort of lodging in one of the villages in which I had found so little—like nothing. They asked me about the albergue, and I told them it was unlocked and the little heaters were on, and I suggested they try the food at Me Gusta Comer. We chatted later at the albergue; they said they liked their meals, but they were quite knackered from their long day. Lights out early.

Next morning, Mike and Cici and I met at the Palacio Bar and had breakfast together while they waited for the sun to rise, and we talked about game plans before I headed out into the cold. It had frozen again that night—even though my weather app said it wouldn't. Oh well.

I had developed a minor head cold the previous couple of days and planned—with encouragement from Cici—to stop in Mombuey and find a pharmacy. In Mombuey, I did that and with my best—painfully bad—Spanish bought some meds to help clear up my sinuses, hoping to avoid worsening symptoms. I then stopped at a bar to get a bocadillo (sandwich) for the road.

As I strode along anticipating my lunch, I could see snowy peaks on mountain tops to the northwest, near the border with Galicia, home to the autonomous community (state) of the city of Santiago de Compostela, my eventual destination.

When I talked with my daughter on her birthday, she had asked me if I was getting homesick. I had answered with a resounding “Yes!” At that point, on that day, and anticipating the finish in Santiago, I simply thought, “In less than two weeks I will be home. Manageable.”

As I lay in my sleeping bag in Asturianos later that same day and hoped the heater could work faster while I wrote up my notes for the day, in walked Fernando. He was a member of the sagrada familia (our little “holy family”), a name the Belgian guy, Eric, had given our Camino group in the early weeks of my Camino. I still understood very little of Fernando’s rapid staccato of the Spanish language, but it was great to see him. He was the oldest of our group, and one of the strongest. He had been with Fran and José (other members of the familia) until they had to head home, no more holiday time off.

Costs: €4 for the municipal albergue, €6.50 for pharmaceuticals, €5 for a sandwich and coffee, and €8 for a pizza and wine in the bar at the sports complex where the albergue was located.
 

federico

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 11 & 14
Norte & Ingles 15
Portuguese 16
Via de la Plata 17
Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo 17
Thanks BrienC, greatly appreciate your account of your experience on the VDLP. I will be following in your footsteps Feb/Mar and appreciate the information.
Fred
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Thanks BrienC, greatly appreciate your account of your experience on the VDLP. I will be following in your footsteps Feb/Mar and appreciate the information.
Fred
Buen Camino, Fred. That might a bit early, but it won't be hot and there will be lots of green.

Cheers,
 
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BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 24: Asturianos to Requejo de Sanabria (29 km)

29 kilometers, 5 hours and 20 minutes. Completely different landscape and wonderful trails sliding past Remesal, Otero de Sanabria, and Triufé, and through historic city of Puebla de Sanabria and beyond.

This was one of my favorite days on the VDLP. During the night, heavy rains had waked us. As I lay there, I remembered reading in my Camino information that “off-road sections between Asturianos and Puebla de Sanabria may be muddy and flooded after rain.”

In the morning, as we readied to go, I decided I'd take the trail as long as it made good sense. Mike and Cici, who ended up at the same—like only—albergue (hostel) in town, thought they would take the highway, a safer bet. Because of the new freeway, the highway had little traffic. Fernando, a member of the sagrada familia (our little “holy family”), was up early and had left the albergue before the rest of us.

We said our goodbyes at the split of our paths on the edge of town, and I headed for the trails. I was quickly rewarded by little water or mud on the lightly used trails and by the beautiful sights of the fall season: wonderful red mushrooms, frozen dew drops on fallen yellow leaves, and chestnut tree orchards with leaves yellowing and scads of chestnut pods giving even more cushion to my path.

My plan was to continue with a relatively light day of 29 kilometers in advance of a long 42 kilometers the next day—with lots of climbing, including the highest point on the VDLP, at 1,361 meters (4,466 feet). In Puebla de Sanabria, I stopped at a Dia store to buy snacks for both that afternoon and the long next day. I then climbed the long staircase to the historic old city, where I found some lunch and café con leche (espresso with steamed milk). This was a perfect spot for coffee and a generous slice of Spanish tortilla (egg and potato quiche) straight out of the oven, all for €1.80, along with a great view looking back to the newer parts of town.

Just before the town I was headed for, Requejo, I passed through the tiny puebla (village) of Terroso. There, I was beckoned by an older man to come sign his book, and he would put a new stamp on my credential. His name was Andrés, and he had many other pilgrims’ names in his book. He wasn't looking for anything from me. But I did catch the word parochial, and he did seem to give me a tiny speech about the blessings of marriage. He had pointed to my wedding band and spoke for just a moment. Then and there I missed her all the more.

In Requejo, I found the private Albergue Casa Cerviño and quickly started on laundry. I stayed there because of the washer and dryer, the Wi-Fi, and hopefully better heat than what the municipal albergue across the street offered. Casa Cerviño was very comfy and warm, and I was the only pilgrim there that night. I found out later that Fernando had stayed at the municipal albergue. He preferred those, indicating we needed to support them to keep them alive.

I later went to the Hostal Tu Casa for dinner. This place was recommended by the hospitalera (albergue hostess) at Casa Cerviño. I cannot recommend Tu Casa, though it was inexpensive and hearty. It’s a pretty good walk out of town, along the highway. I was the only person there, and it appeared that the place was well past its prime, decaying slowly. New freeways and rail lines are killing these old places.

Costs: €12 for the albergue, €4 for laundry, €1.80 for lunch, €4 for snacks, and €6.50 for dinner.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 25: Requejo de Sanabria to A Gudiña (43 km)

43 kilometers, 9 hours and 15 minutes. Over the highest point of the VDLP and through Lubián, Vilavella, O Pereiro, and O Cañizo. There were some detours because of construction on the new high-speed rail system.

Another Fine Day of Beauty and Introspection

Just out of Requejo, on a wonderful path, there was a detour sign that took me back to the highway until I rose above a construction site for the new AVE high-speed rail line that would run from Madrid into Galicia. A nag, that. But, what ya gonna do?

This part of the VDLP was well and properly into the mountains bordering the autonomous community of Galicia. And it was stunningly beautiful. After so many kilometers of farm tracks, oak and cork forests, and tilled lands, it was a welcome experience for me to climb into the higher terrain.

I spent much of the day reflecting on the beauty, the long views and what it was I sought during that long walk. It had started the previous summer while I hiked the John Muir Trail in California. I would try to break a nagging habit of always needing to know what was next.

Throughout my professional career and my amateur athletics, I had always been controlled by that concept of what was next. I made a good living and funded a comfortable retirement with that focus. And I've been very happy with the results of my athletic endeavors. But I thought, It’s time to develop an ability to turn those mental machinations off when I want.

Walking a popular Camino route in Europe is pretty easy from a navigational perspective. Follow the yellow arrows and listen to the locals. That seemed simple enough; keep my head up and pay a little attention when I would come to a junction. But I continually looked for the path well ahead and depended on my map and GPX course on my smartphone. When I would remember, I endeavored to let go of those habits. So what if I was off course for a bit. I could find my way back on course, and I may have found something special, something rewarding on my detour.

I would constantly think about what was next. What should I be doing, eating, drinking, or writing? I could break that habit, I thought. I could let the Camino provide. It would give me the arrows when I needed and would provide the intuition to know when I needed to ask or to look around for the proper route.

As I made my way over the high passes (highest at 1,361 meters, or 4,466 feet) and into Galicia, everything changed. The terrain changed, but also the language and the people. Signs had to be reconsidered. I had become quite good at interpreting Spanish signs, but Gallegos is more like Portuguese. I had to calibrate.

And the people were different—in a cool way. Much of the labor force that worked on the rail line was from all over Spain. But in this area, the sheepherders were pure Galician, a dark, weathered Galician masculinity. I passed one such man on my route that day as he moved his herd from one pasture to another, his stubby, smelly stogie protruding just beyond his lips. As I passed and said, “Buenas tardes (Good afternoon),” he gave a sharp grunt—the most I have ever received in reply from a Spanish sheepherder.

At the xunta (the Galician equivalent of a municipal) albergue (hostel), I found Fernando, Hiromi, and the young Spanish couple, who rode bikes on their Camino, I had met earlier in the day. I knew Hiromi only by her name that I had seen in registries at albergues in the previous days and weeks. She started in Seville about twelve days before I had.

The albergue was close to the train station, but it was quiet and nice. Warm, too.

Costs: €6 for the albergue, €2 for breakfast, €5 for lunch, and €6 for dinner.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 26: A Gudiña to Campobecerros (21 km)

21 kilometers, 4 hours and 30 minutes. A little climbing out of A Gudiña and then through nothing little villages that time forget: A Venda Da Teresa, A Venda Da Capela, and A Venda do Bolaño. High hill towns of very few and mostly old people. Capela was at least on the old train line, and there was a stop there.

About 90 percent of this day was on quiet blacktop country roads, mostly rolling up and down along a ridgeline once you are above A Gudiña and before dropping quickly to Campo. (There I go again, shortening and simplifying the Spanish names.)

There are two paths indicated as you leave A Gudiña, one for the Laza route and one for the Verín route (toward Portugal). The Laza route is normally taken, and we followed it. That route takes you through great scenery with long-distance views in every direction. Fernando and I walked together most of the day, only separating when one of us would stop for a picture or something to eat.

We talked little. He understood, knowing my limited Spanish, and only talked about what was obvious. He would tell me things about the terrain—like the fire breaks cut preemptively along ridgelines—and about the AVE high-speed rail line construction. He indicated that one tunnel section we had passed over the previous day was eight kilometers long (five miles). Wow! But looking from our vantage point that day, there must have been many such long tunnels in the new line. Very little of the new system through the hill country I saw was above ground.

I got the sense that Fernando was not really pleased with the new lines and the money being spent. He probably knew best, but I was always super happy with the AVE trains I had taken in Spain. They were always very close to on time and very comfortable. However, I can only imagine the billions in European capital being spent on the projects I'd seen during that trip.

But then, the government’s spending of billions on wind turbines, solar energy, and high-speed rail seems very forward looking. With energy and transportation secured, the sky's the limit.

We stopped for the day at a short distance (as the other option was a very long one), staying at Albergue da Rosario in Campobecerros. Fernando and I met Rosario later at a little bar in her name on the tight, medieval streets inside the small town.

I later had dinner just up the hill at Café Nuñez with many of the construction workers laboring on the new rail line. Campo sat in a bowl, and the rail line popped out of a tunnel on one side, then back into another on the other side of the bowl, the short section in between adjacent to the little town.

That day, I noted I had set some personal records: most time away from home (not really a bragging point), most time away from my wife (certainly not a high mark there), most time at one physical adventure (old record was twenty days and five hours on the Camino Francés), and most distance walked (I had passed through eight hundred kilometers of trail that day).

Costs: €8 for the albergue (hostel), €4 for breakfast (leftovers for lunch), and €8 for dinner in Campo.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 27: Campobecerros to Alberguería (28 km)

28 kilometers, 5 hours and 30 minutes. Rainy day of up, then down, then up, and through Portocamba, As Eiras, the larger town of Laza, and then Soutelo Verde just before the climb to Alberguería.

Our route that day passed through beautiful countryside, though we could see very little of it from the fog and rain that day. Rain makes its own beauty, though—rain drops on pine needles, seed pods, and flower petals. Rivulets formed. Tiny hillside villages appeared and disappeared through fog and cloud.

Fernando, Hiromi, and I started—immediately—uphill and into wet fog as we left Campobecerros. From the blacktop roadway, the Camino passed over a ridge where a lichen-covered cross marked the summit before taking to a pleasant gravel road and steadily dropping down to the town of Laza.

We all walked at slightly different paces and met up at a bar in Laza for some eats and café con leche (espresso with steamed milk) before finding a shop to resupply for our next day, a Sunday. Most everything was closed on Sundays, and we had to prepare. That would be my last Sunday to consider that particular issue on this trek.

The wet fog had eased as we walked down into Laza, but as we left town heading for the climb to Alberguería, it began to rain, though light at first. We each donned our rain gear of choice. Some pilgrims prefer a poncho; I went with pants, jacket, and pack cover for that Camino, more of an experiment than a preference.

The VDLP passed through two more villages before making a drastic change, beginning to climb rapidly. Hiromi had said at lunch, referring to her guidebook, that it would be a five-kilometer climb. I quickly removed my rain gear as the climb began. I would be wet either way and opted away from overheating.

As Alberguería drew nearer, the rain got serious, and I threw my rain jacket over my head and shoulders, draping it over the back of my pack. It would suffice for the last two kilometers.

In Alberguería, I found the only albergue (hostel), El Rincón del Peregrino, and quickly went to the bar owned by the same man, Luiz, to check in. The bar was just across the skinny little street and was closed, so I went back to the albergue and let myself in, out of the rain.

Shortly after, Hiromi and Fernando arrived, and I opened the door, offering them a way in out of the rain, as well. We all made ourselves comfortable and got cleaned up before Luiz arrived and started the pellet stove for heat. After beginning some laundry, we adjourned to the bar and had vino and acitunas (tuna-filled green olives) to hold us over until dinner.


The albergue was stocked with pastas and sauces for purchase that Hiromi graciously prepared for us for our dinner. At the bar, we had purchased canned tuna and sardines, olives, and a bottle of wine. It was hard to believe just how delightful a simple mix of available supplies could taste. So filling. And the company was great. We sat by the fire of the pellet stove and noshed on olives, ate our pasta (supplemented with tuna and sardines), and sipped on a decent vino tinto (red wine).

Costs: €10 for a donation to the albergue, €4.40 for lunch, €4 for snacks at the shop, €2 for my share of our dinner, and €1 for my share of the laundry.
 
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BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 28: Alberguería to Xunqueira de Ambía (21 km)

21 kilometers, 5 hours. Through larger Vilar do Barrio and smaller villages of Bóveda, Vilar de Gomareite, and Padroso.

We woke to a still and quiet morning; I only roused myself from a warm sleeping bag after Hiromi said the bar was open and she was going for café con leche (espresso with steamed milk). The day outside was crystal clear: blue skies and warm sunlight. However, that only lasted until the sun warmed the valley fog, and it rose to engulf us again. Still, it was very beautiful, calming.

If the prior day was considered wet, this particular day was idyllic. Beautiful scenery in every way. After the fog burned off, the landscape gave way to long views reaching far over verdant valleys to mystical passages lined by large moss and ivy-covered stones, shaded by lichen-jacketed chestnut and oak trees.

Three of us—Fernando from Nueva, Asturias, Spain; Hiromi, a nurse in Japan, and I—walked together most of the day, while Fernando educated us on the many mushrooms and edible fruits and nuts along our path. We ate chestnuts and figs while he picked mushrooms and indicated which were good and which were bad. Ah, fall, my favorite time of year.

Our day was very quiet, though most days had been so far. It was Sunday, and we saw only an occasional person in the villages or hunters in the fields with their dogs, hunting perdices (grouse). But when we stopped in Vilar de Gomareite for coffee, the tiny bar was filled with many residents—from the elderly to infants, husbands and wives, and mothers with their children surrounded by other women and hounded by grandmothers to hold the little ones. A vibrant scene. They all knew each other and were very cordial with us.

As we arrived in Xunqueira, we stopped at the xunta albergue (municipal hostel) adjacent to a large sports complex. The place was quite new and modern. So very white and clean, appointed with stainless steel. A radical contrast to our previous night’s lodgings in the ancient building of an even older hilltop town.

Later, we made our way to have the menu del dia (menu of the day) at Bar Guede, near the central plaza, where we had drunk some wine and used the Wi-Fi earlier in the day. Good food and atmosphere, and the family members who ran the place were quite nice.

Costs: €6 for the albergue, €1 for café con leche, a couple of Euros for wine in the afternoon, and €10 for dinner.
 

peregrina2000

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Day 24: Asturianos to Requejo de Sanabria (29 km)

29 kilometers, 5 hours and 20 minutes. Completely different landscape and wonderful trails sliding past Remesal, Otero de Sanabria, and Triufé, and through historic city of Puebla de Sanabria and beyond.

This was one of my favorite days on the VDLP. During the night, heavy rains had waked us. As I lay there, I remembered reading in my Camino information that “off-road sections between Asturianos and Puebla de Sanabria may be muddy and flooded after rain.”

In the morning, as we readied to go, I decided I'd take the trail as long as it made good sense. Mike and Cici, who ended up at the same—like only—albergue (hostel) in town, thought they would take the highway, a safer bet. Because of the new freeway, the highway had little traffic. Fernando, a member of the sagrada familia (our little “holy family”), was up early and had left the albergue before the rest of us.

We said our goodbyes at the split of our paths on the edge of town, and I headed for the trails. I was quickly rewarded by little water or mud on the lightly used trails and by the beautiful sights of the fall season: wonderful red mushrooms, frozen dew drops on fallen yellow leaves, and chestnut tree orchards with leaves yellowing and scads of chestnut pods giving even more cushion to my path.

My plan was to continue with a relatively light day of 29 kilometers in advance of a long 42 kilometers the next day—with lots of climbing, including the highest point on the VDLP, at 1,361 meters (4,466 feet). In Puebla de Sanabria, I stopped at a Dia store to buy snacks for both that afternoon and the long next day. I then climbed the long staircase to the historic old city, where I found some lunch and café con leche (espresso with steamed milk). This was a perfect spot for coffee and a generous slice of Spanish tortilla (egg and potato quiche) straight out of the oven, all for €1.80, along with a great view looking back to the newer parts of town.

Just before the town I was headed for, Requejo, I passed through the tiny puebla (village) of Terroso. There, I was beckoned by an older man to come sign his book, and he would put a new stamp on my credential. His name was Andrés, and he had many other pilgrims’ names in his book. He wasn't looking for anything from me. But I did catch the word parochial, and he did seem to give me a tiny speech about the blessings of marriage. He had pointed to my wedding band and spoke for just a moment. Then and there I missed her all the more.

In Requejo, I found the private Albergue Casa Cerviño and quickly started on laundry. I stayed there because of the washer and dryer, the Wi-Fi, and hopefully better heat than what the municipal albergue across the street offered. Casa Cerviño was very comfy and warm, and I was the only pilgrim there that night. I found out later that Fernando had stayed at the municipal albergue. He preferred those, indicating we needed to support them to keep them alive.

I later went to the Hostal Tu Casa for dinner. This place was recommended by the hospitalera (albergue hostess) at Casa Cerviño. I cannot recommend Tu Casa, though it was inexpensive and hearty. It’s a pretty good walk out of town, along the highway. I was the only person there, and it appeared that the place was well past its prime, decaying slowly. New freeways and rail lines are killing these old places.

Costs: €12 for the albergue, €4 for laundry, €1.80 for lunch, €4 for snacks, and €6.50 for dinner.
Loving these posts, thanks, @BrienC

We also stayed in the private albergue in Requejo. At that time (2010???), the municipal was really awful, totally unattended and even with broken windows. I have heard that it has been greatly improved, but I did like the Casa Cervino.

Hostal Tu Casa -- I'm sorry to hear it seems to have degenerated. I had a lunch there and it was really good. Nothing even close to gourmet, but it was good home cooking with good quality ingredients. Even then, it was clearly losing business and on the way out because of the autopista, but managing to lurch along. I am sorry to hear that it appears to be dying.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Loving these posts, thanks, @BrienC

We also stayed in the private albergue in Requejo. At that time (2010???), the municipal was really awful, totally unattended and even with broken windows. I have heard that it has been greatly improved, but I did like the Casa Cervino.

Hostal Tu Casa -- I'm sorry to hear it seems to have degenerated. I had a lunch there and it was really good. Nothing even close to gourmet, but it was good home cooking with good quality ingredients. Even then, it was clearly losing business and on the way out because of the autopista, but managing to lurch along. I am sorry to hear that it appears to be dying.
My Camino friend, Fernando, stayed at the muni and seemed okay with it, but I was very happy with Casa Cervino. Very nice couple that own/run the place, and it had everything I needed for the night.

It is amazing how a place like Tu Casa can survive this long. I mean, six years and still going! But how? It's sad to see such things, but there is only one constant in the universe, change (well, that and God). I really think there shall be a resurgence someday, what with all the new infrastructure. But when? When will people tire of city life and move back, or when will quality, fresh foods demand a price that will profit those that decide to move back?

Cheers,
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
As a reminder, included in the version of these reports on my blog, is a screen grab of my GPS record for that day. Also included, are links to each day’s slideshow that was uploaded to Facebook. You don't need to be a Facebook member to see those slideshows.

Cheers,
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 29: Xunqueira de Ambía to Ourense (23 km)

23 kilometers, 5 hours. Through A Pousa, Ousende, Penelas, Venda do Rio, Pereiras, and A Castellana, where the suburbs of Ourense begin. Mostly downhill to the lowest elevation on the VDLP since Seville, at 100 meters in Ourense.

Part One

Different. If one were to compare the Via de la Plata with the Camino Francés in one word, different is that one word. To compare this day with the day before, again, different would be the word.

It was still beautiful and verdant, still Galicia. But after Xunqueira, and the few small villages below, the VDLP route passed through suburban communities with many wonderful country homes built of quarried stone. On the outskirts of Ourense, the route passed through industrial complexes and then urban sprawl, giving way to a clean, beautiful city of large apartment complexes and the city proper.

At those lower elevations, trees still held their leaves, and tomatoes hung on their vines. Ourense had not yet seen much frost.

Ourense is in a valley on the river Miño and was warmer and dryer than much of the rest of Galicia. More Roman-built structures, too: bridges, developed hot springs, and Ourense's twelfth-century cathedral, mostly Romanesque with some Gothic features.

Part Two

Fernando and I checked into the municipal albergue (hostel) in the center of town, near the cathedral, and after Hiromi arrived, we found a nice place to eat. The Mesón de Bedoya was only a couple of blocks away and had a menu del dia (menu of the day) for €10. Excellent food and much of it. I went with the lentil soup, followed by roasted chicken with potatoes, dessert, wine, and coffee.

As we finished our meals, into the mesón (inn) walked José, one of our Camino friends, a member of our sagrada familia (our little “holy family”) from my early weeks on the VDLP. José, and his friend Fran, lived in Ourense. José was such an awesome tour guide. He drove Fernando, Hiromi, and me out to some old abandoned monasteries and to vistas of the Ourense valley and the Rio Sil. Such a gracious man.


One of the monasteries dated back to the year AD 573 , but the other was much newer, built in the ninth century. Both were in stunning settings. The more recent one, Mosteiro de Santa Cristina, sat deep in the canyon of the Rio Sil, a grand, abysmal ravine. The other and older monastery, Mosteiro de la Piedras, housed tombs, then exhumed, which had been in the floor of the old chapel. Much of that monastery was carved from one giant stone and solid bedrock. By that time of day, it was getting dark, and we could see very little of the interior, but lo and behold, there were lights—you just drop a one-Euro coin in a simple control box, and on come the lights and accompanying music. The lights and music stayed on long enough for us to view the ruins through iron gates at the entrance and to take a few photos.

Later, back in Ourense, we met with José’s lovely girlfriend, Sandra, and toured the old city center. We saw the cathedral, the main plaza, and natural hot springs, before finding a couple of different bars for vino and pinchos (small and excellent tapas).

Such a fun day. I could have spent a week.

Costs: €6 for the albergue, €3 for breakfast, €2.50 for lunch, €10 for dinner, and €8 for pinchos and vino.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 30: Ourense to Oseira (32 km)

32 kilometers, 6 hours and 30 minutes. Up, up, and uphill through Cudeiro, Tamallancos, Bouzas, Sobreira, Veduedo, Casas Novas, Cea, and Pieles.

As Ourense was at a lower elevation, the VDLP route climbed for five kilometers and three hundred meters before relenting for a while. But the path, much of it over ancient Roman roads and through lichen-covered forests, made the trek worth the effort.

From our albergue (hostel) in the large city of Ourense, my Camino friends—Hiromi and Fernando—and I headed down through the busy rush-hour pedestrians to cross the Rio Miño on the Roman bridge (yes, yet another) and found a café for some coffee and churros.

After we filled ourselves for our climb, we said our goodbyes to Hiromi. She would be resting a day in the wonderful city and taking in more of the sights. Quick hugs and Buen Caminos (Good Caminos), and Fernando and I were off. A most enjoyable time we had with Hiromi. A nice young lady and a great person.

We were on our way to Oseira and an albergue in the large monastery of the little village for that night. We arrived there at about 3:00 p.m.

After finding the albergue locked, we entered a bar on the corner near the monastery. Two customers were in attendance, sipping on beers, with no bartender or innkeeper present. But we could hear the wrestling of dishes in the back, up just a few stairs at the right end of the bar.

On and on this went. The beer drinkers left for a smoke, and we sat there waiting for a good fifteen minutes before hearing the slow shuffle of a woman coming down the stairs leading behind the bar. She was no bigger than a minute. She reminded me of my mother-in-law: short, dark hair, and attitude. We placed our orders for red wine and bocadillos (sandwiches) made of local meats and cheeses and pan de Cea (bread of Cea), the best bread in Spain—by my estimation.

We took the wine from the bar, went back to our table, and waited for the sandwiches. She cut fresh bread and meats and cheeses and then brought our sandwiches out to us. She had to open a gate in the bar and to step down to come to our table. I was sitting on a very small stool at our table when she arrived, looking level, eye to eye with me. Again, she was no bigger than a minute. But she smiled when Fernando started chatting her up and asking her about the albergue and the monastery.

Eventually, we walked to the gift shop at the monastery, paid for our night’s stay, and arranged for a tour and to listen to the singing monks after we had cleaned up.

We were shown to the large dormitory where there were forty bunk beds—and no heat. But since there were just the two of us, we were allowed to use a small sitting room just inside the old building that was enclosed and, thankfully, had a heater. Heaven sent.

Later, we met one of the monks for an outstanding tour of the eight-hundred-year-old monastery and the large Romanesque church.

We could not take a single picture, which was a shame, but I had so many from other churches and cathedrals, it was ridiculous. I must say I was incredibly impressed with the whole place, its history, and especially with the library we visited. We were shown a bible that was four hundred years old in this fantastic old room just above the albergue. That particular library wasn't used much, as it was one of five in the monastery, the monk told us. Even if you were to enter that room blindfolded, you would know it was filled with old books. Nothing smells like that, malodorous and dusty, but it did in a way that would make a bibliophile giddy.

As we walked through cloisters and patios, up some stairs, and through the church, the monk asked about my "conviction." To my questioning face, he said, "religion." I said I wasn't religious but spiritual. To which he said, after considering my response for several minutes as we walked, “Your religion is inside you.”

Stopping in Oseira for this experience was well worth the price of admission. Though I had found no, zero, nada Wi-Fi. Some of these places the Internet simply forgot. Or they just don't think they need it. But it will come.

Costs: €5 for the albergue, €2 for churros, €7 for lunch, €3 for a tour of the monastery and a performance by the singing monks, and €10 for dinner.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 31: Oseira to A Laxe (30 km)

30 kilometers, 5 hours. After a steep, rocky climb out of Oseira, the VDLP route passed through or near small villages like Piñor, then through the larger town of Castro Dozón on the N-525 highway and more villages, and along the outskirts of Botes. The route to A Laxe was mostly downhill, but there were enough little climbs to make us question that reality.

We woke to moderate temperatures, much nicer than when we returned to the monastery the night before, and we stepped out under a beautiful, clear blue sky. This was the first morning I was clothed in just the right arrangement—one layer and a beanie cap. As we climbed, I got warm but not sweaty. That was a first in a month on the trail. I must have been learning, however slowly.

After we made the top of our climb, we passed two men from California we had met two days before. Didn't get their names, but I called one Mountain View, because he lived there, and he called me Napa, figuring that was close enough. I always tell people I'm from near the Napa Valley. Everyone knows that place; not many know my little hometown.

This, and much of what I had seen since walking into Ourense, was what I fondly think of as Galicia. Green and more green. Beautiful views in all directions. And the stuff on my shoes, not so much mud as . . . lots of cows are walked through villages, up this bit of trail and down that. Enough said there, eh?

We finished our day, Fernando and I, at a xunta albergue (municipal hostel) in A Laxe. The albergue was very modern in architecture, with many angular lines and much more glass than you see in most of Spain. It was very large with sitting rooms, a huge double kitchen, and a dining area. And a four-bay laundry station.

I knew my time in Spain was coming to an end because I was tiring of washing clothes in a basin—even those with an integral washboard. And I was tired of cold hands in the process. There's seldom hot water at the lavadora (washer).

Moreover, I was tiring of disposable sheets and motion lights and no darned Internet. We had stayed in xunta albergues when possible because they are very inexpensive, and to support them helps ensure they will remain in years to come. The local government largely funds them, and using them helps keep the albergues in service for future pilgrims. One downside was in Galician, the albergues used a government network for Internet access that you registered for, and then you would be texted a password on your phone—unless you had an international number.

Another downside was that I had a visitor in the night. After dining at a nearby bar, we returned to the albergue and went to our bunks for the night. As was my custom, I was reading from my smartphone. It was very dark otherwise. The screen of my phone was lighting only a small area and was not disturbing Fernando, who was clear across the room, resting in slumber. As I lay there, I could hear some slight rusting at my backpack, which was leaning against the wall beside my bunk. I slowly turned my phone to light the pack, and there was a mouse scrambling up the pack, looking and sniffing here and there in its progress. Without much thought, I flipped it off with a flip of my wrist and promptly put my pack on the top bunk above me. Back to my book and then to my own slumber.

Costs: €6 for the albergue, €3 for breakfast, €6 for lunch, and €11.50 for dinner.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 32: A Laxe to Ponte Ulla (30 km)

30 kilometers, 5 hours and 30 minutes. Very little climbing, mostly down to lower elevations, through Silleda, Bandeira, and Leiras, and then to a steep paved road down into Ponte Ulla.

Next to the last day complete. My next day would be into Santiago. Only twenty kilometers to go, and it looked fairly flat, not much climbing.

Fernando planned to arrive in Santiago midday on Saturday, and many of his friends planned to meet him there that day. I had planned all along to arrive by Friday, so I would have a rest day for my legs before my long flight home on Sunday. So in Bandeira, we stopped at a bar near the turnoff to the Albergue de Peregrinos and had a beer and pinchos (small snacks) together before I left Fernando there and walked on toward Ponte Ulla.

It wasn't an emotional goodbye because we planned to see each other on Saturday—on the main plaza in front of the cathedral. The evening before, at dinner, we had talked some about our friendship and the people we had met. Fernando got quite animated and was very gracious with compliments about my daily commentaries on Facebook and how we got on so well. He was an amazingly good sport about my poor Spanish, and he spoke no English. But we had great times walking, dining, talking, and taking in the sights. He truly loved life and especially so, walking Caminos. He had done four different routes to Santiago, including that VDLP.

I met Fernando my first night out of Seville at the municipal albergue (hostel), where all the sagrada familia (our little “holy family”) began to walk the VDLP together. There was no plan to or discussion about our treks; we all walked at different paces, with others or not, and then would end up at the same albergue for the night.

There was Eric, Carlos, José, Fran, Fernando, Nina, and Lara. At times, we had a delightful Italian couple and other travellers. We walked along more or less in each other's company for a week or two. Then, slowly, paces and priorities caused us to drift apart. Eric went on ahead. We left Nina, Lara, and Carlos before the city of Mérida. At times, I would be alone, not seeing the others for a day or two, and then other times, I would walk into an albergue in the middle of nowhere, and Fernando would be there.

That's just the way the Camino works. When I first met the group, I may have thought Fernando would be the last person I would befriend and be so close with. Eric and I hit it off the first night and spent a lot of time together. He taught me a lot about Europe and US involvement in Europe. We talked about so many different things.

Fernando was our naturalist. He would show mushrooms to Hiromi and me in the rain and tell us which ones were good for what and which ones were bad. He taught us words like liguenes (lichens) to identify plant life in the forests and would point out three-hundred-year-old castaña (chestnut) trees.

I will not forget my Camino friends. Nor will I ever forget that Camino, the Via de la Plata.

Spent that night in a pension (lodge), Pension de Juanito. Was first open place and had a bar and restaurant. The restaurant had an excellent menu del dia (menu of the day) and did pretty good barbecue ribs.

Costs: €15 for a room at the pension, €2 for breakfast, €3 for trail snacks, €3 for lunch, and €12 for dinner.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Day 33: LAST DAY, Ponte Ulla to Santiago de Compostela (22 km)

22 kilometers, 3 hours and 30 minutes. Through Outeiro, A Susana, O Pinero da Igrexe, and suburban countryside entering Santiago.

Though I greatly enjoyed those many days walking with my Camino family, I also enjoyed walking that last day by myself, reflecting on the previous month on the trail, looking back on what it had meant to me, what I'd learned. And thinking about how to sum it all up.

Considering a conversation with an acquaintance of mine in a tent in a snowy mountain camp some years back, I decided to focus on three salient points of my current journey. Just for conversation that night, she asked me about the book I was reading and to identify three key points in my reading so far. As I walked those last kilometers into Santiago, I looked back at my recent Camino in much that same way.

My Personal Goal: I am driven by accomplishment. I use that drive to get me out there and to challenge myself, to push past not only perceived physical limits but—more important to me—to push beyond my natural shyness. Close friends don't see that now—that's the point. But the thing I learned in this regard comes from someone I met on that Camino. He said in an email following some previous discussions we’d had that the great Joseph Campbell wrote, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” That advice could not have come at a better time, Mike. Thank you for that.

The People I Met: I am grateful to have met many wonderful people on Camino, especially the members of our sagrada familia (our little “holy family”) and extensions of that group, Mike and Cici, Juan and Mercedi, many other travellers, and the different hospitaleros/hospitaleras (hostel hosts), such as Marite, Annalena, José Almeida, Luiz, and others. Very few people I met on Camino did I not get to know at least a little something about. Sure, we had a common purpose, which made it easy to strike up conversation, but even in very small contact, there was a bond created. Grateful for that, I am.

The Camino Itself: I was awestruck by the beauty of the trail, the grand views, and the amazing history of it all. I loved the Roman history, the vast farmlands and vineyards, the oak and cork forests with wild boar, and the beautiful cities of Cáceres, Salamanca, and Zamora. But all that led up to the grand finale of Galicia. Whether you walk the Camino Francés, the Via de la Plata, or one of the many other Caminos, when you arrive in Galicia, it is completely different. Green and more green, with beautiful rolling hills, native and cultivated forests, wonderful homes, and especially the culture—so very different. A different history, a different environment, a different outcome.

I stayed that night and one other night at the Hospedería San Martín Pinario, next to the cathedral. Fantastic place to stay and to meet other pilgrims that had just finished their respective Caminos. Thank you, Laurie, for suggesting I stay there.

I'll cut this here, quite sure I'll write more about specific subjects in the future. If you stayed with me for this journey, God bless, you are a better man than I, Gunga Din (Thanks, Eric del Camino).

Costs: €23 for a room and the breakfast buffet at hospedería (another type of guest house) in Santiago and €30 for wine and tapas and later a mixed salad, as I searched out a decent Wi-Fi connection.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Well folks, that's all of it, all of the days of my Via de la Plata journey. Please enjoy, and if you have any questions, shoot them my way. Also, as noted before, there are GPS tracks, slideshows, and videos from this journey available on my blog.

Cheers,
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 29: Xunqueira de Ambía to Ourense (23 km)

.... some old abandoned monasteries and to vistas of the Ourense valley and the Rio Sil. Such a gracious man.


One of the monasteries dated back to the year AD 573 , but the other was much newer, built in the ninth century. Both were in stunning settings. The more recent one, Mosteiro de Santa Cristina, sat deep in the canyon of the Rio Sil, a grand, abysmal ravine. The other and older monastery, Mosteiro de la Piedras, housed tombs, then exhumed, which had been in the floor of the old chapel. Much of that monastery was carved from one giant stone and solid bedrock. By that time of day, it was getting dark, and we could see very little of the interior, but lo and behold, there were lights—you just drop a one-Euro coin in a simple control box, and on come the lights and accompanying music. The lights and music stayed on long enough for us to view the ruins through iron gates at the entrance and to take a few photos.
Hi, Brien,
I have spent a fair amount of time visiting some of these out of the way monasteries near Ourense. I'm sure I've been to Santa Cristina, and have a strong memory of expecting a few supernatural creatures to pop out of the thick growth at any moment. What a location. But I'm wondering about the other. Could it be San Pedro de Rocas? http://www.turismo.gal/ficha-recurso?cod_rec=5218 If so, I've been there, if not can you tell me more about it so I can get it on my list?! I think that's the one you are talking about because Sao Pedro was carved out of the rock, but there are so many of these places in Galicia that I'm sure I have a lot more to visit. Thanks, I'm continuing to really enjoy your posts, sorry they are done! Laurie
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
IMG_8639.jpg
Hi, Brien,
I have spent a fair amount of time visiting some of these out of the way monasteries near Ourense. I'm sure I've been to Santa Cristina, and have a strong memory of expecting a few supernatural creatures to pop out of the thick growth at any moment. What a location. But I'm wondering about the other. Could it be San Pedro de Rocas? http://www.turismo.gal/ficha-recurso?cod_rec=5218 If so, I've been there, if not can you tell me more about it so I can get it on my list?! I think that's the one you are talking about because Sao Pedro was carved out of the rock, but there are so many of these places in Galicia that I'm sure I have a lot more to visit. Thanks, I'm continuing to really enjoy your posts, sorry they are done! Laurie
Laurie,
I believe that you are correct. We got there pretty late, so I didn't get many pix. Here's is one, from the inside, when the lights were on. It was late enough, too, that I thought of supernatural creatures. I didn't feel spooked, but an awareness, no doubt. It was a very special day, during another very special time in Spain, with very special people.

Blessings,
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
simply amazing. Now that I see the picture, I'm actually not sure I've been there. Time to go back to poke around that area with its many jewels. And to top it all off, people who want to take some time around the Sil River region should consider the parador in Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil. http://www.parador.es/es/paradores/parador-de-santo-estevo (not to be confused with the church of Santo Estevo de Ribas de Minho on the Minho River not too far away, another jaw-dropping romanesque church). Brian, you are really whetting my appetite for a visit. Thanks so much for taking us along on your Vdlp. Laurie
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
the parador in Santo Estevo de Ribas de Sil
This place looks amazing! I like the Paradors I have visited so far. I've been slowly trying to sway my wife into a short Camino with me. Perhaps, if I throw in a stay at some, especially some like Parador de Santo Estevo, she'll come round. BrienC
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
This place looks amazing! I like the Paradors I have visited so far. I've been slowly trying to sway my wife into a short Camino with me. Perhaps, if I throw in a stay at some, especially some like Parador de Santo Estevo, she'll come round. BrienC
And if you can believe this, rooms in late March (when I'll be in Lisbon and could conceivably head up for a weekend) are $78 per night!!!!!
 

sharon w

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007
Camino Portugues 2009
Via Podiensis, Camino Frances, Camino Finisterre 2012
Cammino di Assisi 2014
Via Podiensis, Camino del Norte, Camino Frances(Astorga to Santiago) 2015
Aussie Camino 2016
Thanks so much for your posts Brien. Looking forward to doing the VdlP in April.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
And if you can believe this, rooms in late March (when I'll be in Lisbon and could conceivably head up for a weekend) are $78 per night!!!!!
That's awesome!!! Enjoy!
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Thanks so much for your posts Brien. Looking forward to doing the VdlP in April.
Buen Camino, Sharon!!! You will love the VdlP, especially in April.
 

federico

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 11 & 14
Norte & Ingles 15
Portuguese 16
Via de la Plata 17
Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo 17
Wonderful account Brien. In less than a month I'll be in the sagrada familia's footsteps and I will be thinking of your experiences. Appreciate the details as my stages will be similar.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
UPDATE: I've heard from a couple people that the slideshows associated with these reports on my website were not visible. I've finally sorted that out and they should be available to everyone.

Thanks ever so much for your patience.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Day 2: Castilblanco to Almadén de la Plata


Jenny, from Cuba, walked 12 kilometers and developed a blister. She caught a bus and beat me to Almadén.
.
@BrienC , I am looking forward to VDLP in a few weeks. But I am short legged and cannot walk anywhere near the distances you walk. The 30km from Castilblanco to Almaden is a stretch I need to rework.

You said ine of you walking buddies caught a bus. I would like to catch one leaving Castilblanco in the morning and have it drop me off 10km or so later. Do you remember anything else about the bus your friend caught?

I will Google to see if I can figure out what line it may have been and where it might stop, but if anything comes to mind I would be most grateful.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Day 5: Fuente de Cantos to Zafra (25 km)

As we were finishing our coffees, she told us about a spiritual place she had heard about on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees near the Camino Francés. She asked if I knew of it. I did not. It was off the Camino path by five kilometers, so I hadn’t considered such things when a friend and I walked the CF in 2015.

Lara had gone there to explore the spiritual site, having been told of a practice that involved removing one’s shoes and walking around the edifice to experience its spiritual powers. Lara said she didn't take off her shoes but decided to walk around the edifice three times. Then she sat for a while to see what occurred.

After nothing seemed to happen, she donned her backpack, began to walk back to the Way, and headed toward Santiago. As she moved, she told us that she suddenly felt a new strength and flow to her movement that propelled her down the trail. This feeling lasted for more than ten kilometers, she said.

The name of that spiritual place was Eunate.
I had no idea Eunate is supposed to give you special powers if you walk around it ghree times barefoot. It is such a special place and will make sure I try this when I visit again.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
@BrienC , I am looking forward to VDLP in a few weeks. But I am short legged and cannot walk anywhere near the distances you walk. The 30km from Castilblanco to Almaden is a stretch I need to rework.

You said ine of you walking buddies caught a bus. I would like to catch one leaving Castilblanco in the morning and have it drop me off 10km or so later. Do you remember anything else about the bus your friend caught?

I will Google to see if I can figure out what line it may have been and where it might stop, but if anything comes to mind I would be most grateful.
Excellent idea. That is a long stretch! If you can, catch a ride from Castilblanco to where the Camino leaves the road, taking to dirt track. They are farms roads mostly from that point. I can't remember exactly, but I think it's about in the middle of the 30k. A taxi, if available, could work. Or a bus if they know where the trail takes off.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Excellent idea. That is a long stretch! If you can, catch a ride from Castilblanco to where the Camino leaves the road, taking to dirt track. They are farms roads mostly from that point. I can't remember exactly, but I think it's about in the middle of the 30k. A taxi, if available, could work. Or a bus if they know where the trail takes off.
Thanks. I'm sure the hospy can make suggestions regarding where to ask the bus to drop me off.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
The 30km from Castilblanco to Almaden is a stretch I need to rework.
About that stage, @SYates said "I was sure that I couldn't manage a 30km stage that day. Me and another pilgrim shared a taxi (total price 25 Euro) to the entrance of the park. The first 16km of this stage are exclusively on the road, not even on a path beside it. Every bar in the village has the name and number of that taxi driver."
 

camino07

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x5, Portuguese VdlP12, Sanabres, Aragones, Norte,Salvador,Primitivo, VdlP 17,Madrid18Norte
Five of us shared a taxi 5E each to the gates of El Berrocal. I heard that the hospitalero of the Albergue asked the night before who wanted a taxi. It is common there.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Five of us shared a taxi 5E each to the gates of El Berrocal. I heard that the hospitalero of the Albergue asked the night before who wanted a taxi. It is common there.
I always say ot to others, it is all much simpler than we think while sitting on our couch, head in guide books. Now, if only I could remember that in my planning ;).
 

Michael fletcher

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Frances 2010 ,Santiago to Finisterre 2010,G.R.11 Pyrenees 2011, Vi Augusta, Via de la Plata, Via de Sanabria 2013,Camino del Norte ,Camino Primitivo 2015.Camino de Levante planned Spring 2017.
Well folks, that's all of it, all of the days of my Via de la Plata journey. Please enjoy, and if you have any questions, shoot them my way. Also, as noted before, there are GPS tracks, slideshows, and videos from this journey available on my blog.

Cheers,
Enjoyed reading your account of The Via de la Plata and comparing it to my walk from Cadiz ( Via Augusta) to Sevilla on to the VdlP then through Galicia on the Via de Sanabres to Santiago in 2013. I am planning to walk The Camino de Levante this coming Spring so I will once again be Zamora and onwards. Best of luck in all your future walks , regards Mike.
 

BrienC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés, July 2015
Via de la Plata/Camino Sanabrés, Oct/Nov 2016
Enjoyed reading your account of The Via de la Plata and comparing it to my walk from Cadiz ( Via Augusta) to Sevilla on to the VdlP then through Galicia on the Via de Sanabres to Santiago in 2013. I am planning to walk The Camino de Levante this coming Spring so I will once again be Zamora and onwards. Best of luck in all your future walks , regards Mike.
Glad you enjoyed the reports. Zamora is one of my favorite cities in Spain. Not large, but beautiful. Buen Camino!
 

Sorcha

Casa Camino Riego - Riego del Camino
Camino(s) past & future
We run a guest house in Riego del Camino for pilgrims on the Via de la Plata route - Casa Camino Riego :)
@BrienC

Thanks for your wonderful and detailed updates!! Am walking VDLP in march!!!

Cheers...
@AcrossTheWater3008
We run a guest house for Pilgrims in Riego del Camino - a small village between Montamarta and Granja de Moreruela. It would be lovely to have you stay with us. We offer dinner, breakfast, washing machine, wifi and a warm and friendly atmosphere :) On facebook we are Casa Camino Riego. Here is our website: http://casacaminoriego.weebly.com

We hope to see you this year!
 

Sorcha

Casa Camino Riego - Riego del Camino
Camino(s) past & future
We run a guest house in Riego del Camino for pilgrims on the Via de la Plata route - Casa Camino Riego :)
Thanks so much for your posts Brien. Looking forward to doing the VdlP in April.
@sharon w We run a guest house for Pilgrims in Riego del Camino - a small village between Montamarta and Granja de Moreruela. It would be lovely to have you stay with us. We offer dinner, drinks, breakfast, washing machine, wifi and a warm and friendly atmosphere :) on facebook we are Casa Camino Riego.
Here's our website: http://casacaminoriego.weebly.com. We hope to see you in April! Buen Camino!
 

sharon w

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2007
Camino Portugues 2009
Via Podiensis, Camino Frances, Camino Finisterre 2012
Cammino di Assisi 2014
Via Podiensis, Camino del Norte, Camino Frances(Astorga to Santiago) 2015
Aussie Camino 2016
Would love to stay with you. Will contact you.
 

camino07

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances x5, Portuguese VdlP12, Sanabres, Aragones, Norte,Salvador,Primitivo, VdlP 17,Madrid18Norte
@AcrossTheWater3008
We run a guest house for Pilgrims in Riego del Camino - a small village between Montamarta and Granja de Moreruela. It would be lovely to have you stay with us. We offer dinner, breakfast, washing machine, wifi and a warm and friendly atmosphere :) On facebook we are Casa Camino Riego. Here is our website: http://casacaminoriego.weebly.com

We hope to see you this year!
Looks good! Have added you to my guide book . We should be there around 16th May but playing it by ear.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
This place looks amazing! I like the Paradors I have visited so far. I've been slowly trying to sway my wife into a short Camino with me. Perhaps, if I throw in a stay at some, especially some like Parador de Santo Estevo, she'll come round. BrienC
Hi, BrienC,
An update to say thanks! Because of your posts, I have just spent three awesome nights up in this little corner of Galicia. First night was in Celanova, and the day included a veritable trip through history -- visigothic church, a huge Roman encampment, a baroque monastery with a mozarabic chapel out back, and Santa Mariña das Augas Santas, which has everything from a romanesque church to pre-roman underground saunas and some hill forts and roman ruins thrown in. And nothing was more than a half hour drive from the last place!

Then two nights at the parador on the Sil Gorge. Lots of great walking around San Pedro and Santa Cristina both, plus a hike up from the parador to some 5 star views. The parador is just a wonderful place to stay -- they tell me that every year, as they are about to reopen for the season (closed a couple of months every winter), they run specials like the one I got. Looking at the date of our earlier exchange on this thread, I see I got that rate in mid January. It would be a bargain at more than twice the price. I did have one bit of pilgrim paraphenalia with me, my trusty electric coil, since I was not prepared to spend 18 euros on breakfast!

Happy to provide details on walks I took, the driving itineraries, or anything else, but if anyone has a few days near Ourense, this is a great way to spend them!
 

Azelia

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2018
CNorte 2018
This place looks amazing! I like the Paradors I have visited so far. I've been slowly trying to sway my wife into a short Camino with me. Perhaps, if I throw in a stay at some, especially some like Parador de Santo Estevo, she'll come round. BrienC

Brien,
Thank you for the detailed account of your journey. My husband and I are planning to go to VDLP in Sept. Your writing helps me with my planning and I am very excited.

Just to share, we did CF in May 2018 and spoiled ourselves at Hotel Monasterio san Zailo in Carrion de los Condes http://posadasdelcamino.com/en/posada/hotel-real-monasterio-de-san-zoilo/ It was an absolute peaceful, serene, gorgeous place. It cost us 80euro only! We were lucky as the next day the price was double due to a long weekend and the local went there. The restaurant was a Michelin star and the pilgrim menu was 25euro. Maybe you can entice your wife.

Thank you again for your blog.
 

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