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When you walk the Camino, and suddenly a pandemic appears

VdlP: Sevilla to Salamanca, February 2020

fb1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2020
In February 2020, I walked the Via de la Plata in Spain from Sevilla to Salamanca. Little did I know that this would be my last adventure for a while as the world stopped soon after.

I just posted a writeup containing my itinerary, photo gallery, and some thoughts about the experience: https://faisalb.com/vdlp

Summary:

* February can be a wonderful quiet, sunny time on the VdlP.
* The biggest highlights were the cities along the route, Sevilla, Merida, Cáceres, Salamanca, as well as the Iberian pigs.
* Torremejía earns the distinction of the worst town and accommodation I have experienced over 140 days on various caminos. Strongly recommend adjusting your itinerary to avoid staying there overnight.
* While each camino is unique and special in its own way, I prefer mountainous terrain similar to the Primitivo than the VdlP. I hope to return to the camino to walk the Camino Aragones, Camino del Salvador, and Primitivo in the near future.

Here's to a hopeful and brighter 2021 for all! 🤞🏽💉🙏🏽

Buen camino!
 
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Flog

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Welcome!
Yes, those Iberian pigs look almost good enough to eat! I remember Torremejia. We considered pushing on to Merida, me and my Swedish friend. But it was late and she was tired so we were happy enough to just find a bar and a bed in Torremejia. It seemed typical of any small farming town you would find along the VDLP and as we sat outside in the fading sun, drinking beers and telling stories, we contemplated the easy short day into Merida. But in the end, we spent a really uncomfortable and stuffy night crammed into a tiny dorm with too many beds, a prison cell window and a low ceiling. It was a short, though uninspiring walk next day and the delights of Merida's rich Roman history more than made up for it...

But I've stayed in worse places... Had you walked a few more days along the VDLP and managed to read the faded and scribbled instructions for the key, you might have endured the donativo abandoned community hall at Fontanillas de Castro, complete with smashed windows, giant painted tractor tyres, cold water showers, horse hair blankets and rat poison in every corner. That evening I had the honour of being the sole diner at the nearby roadside bar, a meal that must have lasted all of 5 minutes (including the two hastily gulped beers, I'm not joking) under blinding fluorescent lights and an inane gameshow blaring away at full volume on a huge TV in the corner. Still, no regrets. None at all, just fond memories of another epic camino...

 

fb1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2020
wow, that does sound quite horrible. but I agree, both the positive and negative experiences make the overall camino experience, how we handle diversity, how we can shake things off and continue to plod forward, and often get surprised by unexpected wonderful moments ahead. aaah, I miss the camino and look forward to my eventual safe return.
 
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D

Deleted member 73526

Guest
A new albergue was opened in a restored house in Fontanillas de Castro. I think that was in 2019.
Paul Garland (a member of this forum) was hospitalero there for a while. It has 8 positive reviews on Gronze. So let's not discourage people from staying in Fontanillas now - As a pilgrim stop, it has been transformed.

I will say, though, that I didn't think that the old sports hall / community hall was the worst place I stayed ... I spent a cold night there in late November 2017. The faded note on the door with instructions to call for the key ... Yes. I remember all that. It was a nice old fella who showed up and took me to the albergue. The hall was frigid, but clean, and I was delighted to see the roadside inn so close. Like you, I found that the service there was impersonal, but a good lentil stew warmed my body.
I remember feeling nervous about the showers but there was, in fact, plenty of hot water. I don't recall any broken windows, rat poison, or scratchy blankets. There were several heaters in the changing room where the beds were. There was no donativo box. I think it was one of those rare, free refuges. (I nonetheless left a donation inside).

At the risk of turning this thread into a pilgrim version of Monty Python's four Yorkshiremen sketch, that was nothing compared to the worst place I stayed ...
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012. Hoping now for 2022.
At the risk of turning this thread into a pilgrim version of Monty Python's four Yorkshiremen sketch, that was nothing compared to the worst place I stayed ...
Oh, come on! I think it can be considered on-topic as long as it is about the camino!
 
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Flog

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
A new albergue was opened in a restored house in Fontanillas de Castro. I think that was in 2019.
Paul Garland (a member of this forum) was hospitalero there for a while. It has 8 positive reviews on Gronze. So let's not discourage people from staying in Fontanillas now - As a pilgrim stop, it has been transformed.

I will say, though, that I didn't think that the old sports hall / community hall was the worst place I stayed ... I spent a cold night there in late November 2017. The faded note on the door with instructions to call for the key ... Yes. I remember all that. It was a nice old fella who showed up and took me to the albergue. The hall was frigid, but clean, and I was delighted to see the roadside inn so close. Like you, I found that the service there was impersonal, but a good lentil stew warmed my body.
I remember feeling nervous about the showers but there was, in fact, plenty of hot water. I don't recall any broken windows, rat poison, or scratchy blankets. There were several heaters in the changing room where the beds were. There was no donativo box. I think it was one of those rare, free refuges. (I nonetheless left a donation inside).

At the risk of turning this thread into a pilgrim version of Monty Python's four Yorkshiremen sketch, that was nothing compared to the worst place I stayed ...
I stayed there in April '19, just a few months after you and the place was all but abandoned, had furniture piled up and had been vandalized so I guess that was in the transition period before the new place opened. The nice old lady at the house in the village just gave me the key at her door and I left it back in her letterbox the next morning with a small donation. I didn't view it as an overall negative experience at all, just an abiding memory of a quirky place. I had what I needed. I'm happy to hear that here's a new place now though!
 

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Flog

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
wow, that does sound quite horrible. but I agree, both the positive and negative experiences make the overall camino experience, how we handle diversity, how we can shake things off and continue to plod forward, and often get surprised by unexpected wonderful moments ahead. aaah, I miss the camino and look forward to my eventual safe return.
Yes, absolutely! We have good, bad, challenging and wonderful days looking back...and always memorable! It will come again..
 
D

Deleted member 73526

Guest
According to Gronze, the new albergue was inaugurated on 7/Apr/2019. You were unlucky.
I was there in Nov 2017 (and considered myself unlucky because the three famously hospitable women who ran the Casa Camino up the road in Riego had just closed that albergue for the year).

I understand what you mean - not negative, just quirky (and uncomfortable).

For me, the truly negative experiences are the rare occasions when people ruin things. I recall checking in at the beautiful, modern, albergue in Muxia - the fulfilment of my dream to walk from sea to ocean - and greeting the man behind the desk with a warm "Hola. Buenas tardes!" He just grunted "Passport," without looking up. I would rather have encountered a friendly old guy with the key to an abandoned community hall.
 
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D

Deleted member 73526

Guest
Oh, come on! I think it can be considered on-topic as long as it is about the camino!
OK ... Monty Python Yorkshireman-pilgrim style ...

One of my worst Camino accommodation experiences was the Ruta del Califato in Baena. At first glance not a bad facility. But there was no toilet in the dormitory building and the unfriendly owner locked the main building after lights-out. I think that's ****ing disgraceful. But it was about to get worse ...

The five Norwegian pilgrims in the dorm only had one key to the building between them. Being quick thinkers, they decided to leave it in the lock so that any of them who needed to pee in a bush during the night, could pick up the key without disturbing the others. They didn't tell anyone else about their plan. I guess it didn't occur to them that they were setting a trap. Sometime after midnight, I crept out quietly with my own key, and when I tried to get back in, the lock would not move. Nobody heard my knocking. The owner ignored me ringing the bell.

As a result, I spent the next six hours on a concrete step in underpants and a T-shirt. The step was hard. The day had been fiercely hot. The cool, evening breeze chilled me to my bones.

Second Yorkshireman-pilgrim: A concrete step, you say? You were lucky. When I was on the Via Francigena, I had to sleep on a rusty spike...
 
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Flog

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
According to Gronze, the new albergue was inaugurated on 7/Apr/2019. You were unlucky.
I was there in Nov 2017 (and considered myself unlucky because the three famously hospitable women who ran the Casa Camino up the road in Riego had just closed that albergue for the year).

I understand what you mean - not negative, just quirky (and uncomfortable).

For me, the truly negative experiences are the rare occasions when people ruin things. I recall checking in at the beautiful, modern, albergue in Muxia - the fulfilment of my dream to walk from sea to ocean - and greeting the man behind the desk with a warm "Hola. Buenas tardes!" He just grunted "Passport," without looking up. I would rather have encountered a friendly old guy with the key to an abandoned community hall.
Sorry, I just re-read my post...it was late April 2018, not 2019. But I agree, it's the encounters with people we meet that make it and only very occasionally break it..
 
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Flog

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
OK ... Monty Python Yorkshireman-pilgrim style ...

One of my worst Camino accommodation experiences was the Ruta del Califato in Baena. At first glance not a bad facility. But there was no toilet in the dormitory building and the unfriendly owner locked the main building after lights-out. I think that's ****ing disgraceful. But it was about to get worse ...

The five Norwegian pilgrims in the dorm only had one key to the building between them. Being quick thinkers, they decided to leave it in the lock so that any of them who needed to pee in a bush during the night, could pick up the key without disturbing the others. They didn't tell anyone else about their plan. I guess it didn't occur to them that they were setting a trap. Sometime after midnight, I crept out quietly with my own key, and when I tried to get back in, the lock would not move. Nobody heard my knocking. The owner ignored me ringing the bell.

As a result, I spent the next six hours on a concrete step in underpants and a T-shirt. The step was hard. The day had been fiercely hot. The cool, evening breeze chilled me to my bones.

Second Yorkshireman-pilgrim: A concrete step, you say? You were lucky. When I was on the Via Francigena, I had to sleep on a rusty spike...
But you can laugh now!
 

Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Past OR future Camino
Too many to count!
@fb1, welcome to the forum. Having already walked from Salamanca to Santiago, my last Camino in 2019 before the pandemic, this is the one that I would like to do, to complete the VdlP. I have already been to Seville and Merida as a tourist, but would love to go back as a pilgrim. Thank you for the post, and indeed not only were you a lucky man, but a smart one at that to bail when you did! Hope you can get back again to finish the VdlP. It gets interesting from there, and both Salamanca and Zamora are indeed a lovely towns. The Camino Sanabrés is lovely and mountainous, and very similar to the Primitivo, so you may enjoy that one a lot! Buen Camino!
 

fb1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2020
@fb1, welcome to the forum. Having already walked from Salamanca to Santiago, my last Camino in 2019 before the pandemic, this is the one that I would like to do, to complete the VdlP. I have already been to Seville and Merida as a tourist, but would love to go back as a pilgrim. Thank you for the post, and indeed not only were you a lucky man, but a smart one at that to bail when you did! Hope you can get back again to finish the VdlP. It gets interesting from there, and both Salamanca and Zamora are indeed a lovely towns. The Camino Sanabrés is lovely and mountainous, and very similar to the Primitivo, so you may enjoy that one a lot! Buen Camino!
I look forward to returning soon to finish walking from Salamanca to Santiago and will read more about the Sanabrés. I'm sure when we all return to the camino when it is safe to do so will have quite a special experience after what the world just went through. I look forward to that very introspective pilgrimage full of gratitude and relief. Perhaps 2022. Perhaps even late this year. 🙏🏽
 

KimR

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés April 2018
Camino Portuguese Coastal & Central (from Porto) May 2019
In February 2020, I walked the Via de la Plata in Spain from Sevilla to Salamanca. Little did I know that this would be my last adventure for a while as the world stopped soon after.

I just posted a writeup containing my itinerary, photo gallery, and some thoughts about the experience: https://faisalb.com/vdlp

Summary:

* February can be a wonderful quiet, sunny time on the VdlP.
* The biggest highlights were the cities along the route, Sevilla, Merida, Cáceres, Salamanca, as well as the Iberian pigs.
* Torremejía earns the distinction of the worst town and accommodation I have experienced over 140 days on various caminos. Strongly recommend adjusting your itinerary to avoid staying there overnight.
* While each camino is unique and special in its own way, I prefer mountainous terrain similar to the Primitivo than the VdlP. I hope to return to the camino to walk the Camino Aragones, Camino del Salvador, and Primitivo in the near future.

Here's to a hopeful and brighter 2021 for all! 🤞🏽💉🙏🏽

Buen camino!
In February 2020, I walked the Via de la Plata in Spain from Sevilla to Salamanca. Little did I know that this would be my last adventure for a while as the world stopped soon after.

I just posted a writeup containing my itinerary, photo gallery, and some thoughts about the experience: https://faisalb.com/vdlp

Summary:

* February can be a wonderful quiet, sunny time on the VdlP.
* The biggest highlights were the cities along the route, Sevilla, Merida, Cáceres, Salamanca, as well as the Iberian pigs.
* Torremejía earns the distinction of the worst town and accommodation I have experienced over 140 days on various caminos. Strongly recommend adjusting your itinerary to avoid staying there overnight.
* While each camino is unique and special in its own way, I prefer mountainous terrain similar to the Primitivo than the VdlP. I hope to return to the camino to walk the Camino Aragones, Camino del Salvador, and Primitivo in the near future.

Here's to a hopeful and brighter 2021 for all! 🤞🏽💉🙏🏽

Buen camino!
Just adding a positive experience for Torremejia. March 2020. We walked the VDLP as far as Mérida until the COVID situation dictated otherwise. We stayed at an Albergue in Torremejia, the owner - who also owned a local restaurant. He was warm and generous. When the impending shutdown was announced that later that day, gave us his phone number and offered to pick us up from Mérida if we could not find accommodation there. As well, he offered to house us for as long as we needed. A small rural crossroads with just the basics but with giving people.
 

Pangloss

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Via de la Plata (2015)
I'm sorry to read of your unhappy experience in Torremejia. I stopped there in 2016. It had been a very hot walk from Villafrance de los Barros and I was pretty worn out so keen to find a decent hostel. A fellow pilgrim took me to Hostal Rural Palacio de los Lastras on the far edge of the village. Had you stayed there you would have had a very different view of Torremejia. Freshly renovated 14th century building: spotless dormitory with plenty of room for the nine pilgrims staying. And, best of all, outstanding food in their restaurant.
But I did walk round Torremejia and, apart from the hostal, I agree that it had nothing to recommend it.
 
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D

Deleted member 73526

Guest
Freshly renovated 14th century building: spotless dormitory with plenty of room for the nine pilgrims staying. And, best of all, outstanding food in their restaurant.
Sounds like you had the best of all possible stays.
 

fb1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2020
I'm sorry to read of your unhappy experience in Torremejia. I stopped there in 2016. It had been a very hot walk from Villafrance de los Barros and I was pretty worn out so keen to find a decent hostel. A fellow pilgrim took me to Hostal Rural Palacio de los Lastras on the far edge of the village. Had you stayed there you would have had a very different view of Torremejia. Freshly renovated 14th century building: spotless dormitory with plenty of room for the nine pilgrims staying. And, best of all, outstanding food in their restaurant.
But I did walk round Torremejia and, apart from the hostal, I agree that it had nothing to recommend it.
sounds like a lovely experience. the camino (like life) is constantly changing, so just have to embrace what it offers, both good and bad. I think I showed up at a time where the entire village was having a bad day perhaps. :) maybe I was in a grumpy mood and chose to only find the negative things and not focus on the (few) positive things that may have been right in front of me. either way, a memorable experience.
 

fb1

New Member
Past OR future Camino
2020
Just adding a positive experience for Torremejia. March 2020. We walked the VDLP as far as Mérida until the COVID situation dictated otherwise. We stayed at an Albergue in Torremejia, the owner - who also owned a local restaurant. He was warm and generous. When the impending shutdown was announced that later that day, gave us his phone number and offered to pick us up from Mérida if we could not find accommodation there. As well, he offered to house us for as long as we needed. A small rural crossroads with just the basics but with giving people.
a wonderful story! as they say, the camino gives you what you need, not what you want. seems you got exactly what you needed given the circumstances.
 

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