DAY 26: LEON TO VILLAR DE MAZARIFE
We left Leon today, but not before stopping at the San Marcos Parador on the outskirts of the city. It may look familiar as it was the fancy place Martin Sheen’s character stayed at in the movie, “The Way.”
It is now a five-star hotel, but back in the 12th century it was a monastery for pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela. After that, it became the headquarters for the Order of Saint James who were put in place to protect the christian pilgrims. Knowing these little facts is why I think it is absolutely ridiculous that they now don’t even let us piddly pilgrims in past the front corridor. Oh well, we take a look at what we can then move on.
Today was a lot of road walking which I am not fond of. Getting in and out of the bigger cities are usually not pretty, but we’ll take it since the payoff in this case was the lovely Leon.
We did pass a few cute hobbit-looking houses. Some we’ve seen are homes like these, but others are wine cellars.
Since I’m still coughing, I pushed for a private room again tonight. We have been having our hotel or albergue call ahead for us to reserve our stay as we go along. It’s been working out well with the exception of not really being able to ask questions.
Apparently there are two options on the private rooms for tonight: with a private bathroom for $50 or with a shared bathroom for $30. If we knew, we would have chosen the cheaper of the two, but were stuck in the more expensive one since everything else was taken. Once we saw the room, we were happy there was a miscommunication!
To end the night, we dine on a salad with a light mustard dressing, pumpkin soup, vegetable paella and crepe for dessert.
DAY 27: VILLAR DE MAZARIFE TO SANTABANEZ DE VALDEIGLESIAS
Today’s weather was perfect hovering in the low seventies, mixed with a little sun and cloud coverage.
It was a fairly easy day with no major climbs. The highlight was the small town of Hospital de Orbigo this afternoon.
We had a fantastic lunch at the patio of Bar Puente. With its little outdoor oasis, I forgot I was hiking the Camino in Spain for a minute.
We took our shoes off and relaxed for a bit.
The medieval town has a recently restored stone bridge across the river, probably the longest one we will see on the Camino.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but one of the common sights we run across on the hike are storks and their nests. It must be the baby delivery headquarters here in Spain because as you can see, they are everywhere. Every church has at least one and sometimes as many as three.
Tomorrow is a big day!
DAY 28: SANTABANEZ DE VALDEIGLESIAS TO SANTA CATALINA DE SOMOZA
Busy, busy, busy today with awesome stops along the trail. We covered thirteen miles and soaked in some unforgettable experiences.
I’m returning to the “Wizard of Oz” comparison with the trail this morning reminding me of the yellow brick (sandy in this case) road.
It leads us to the first stop that makes my day. A sparkly blue-eyed man from Barcelona, who chose the simple life over a material one, provides a pilgrim relaxation post.
He has fruit, vegetables, jams, juices, and medical supplies all for whatever donation you choose. He chats with us and encourages us to take whatever we want. I have been craving watermelon for weeks and guess what he has?
We move on after a short time because we are trying to arrive in the city of Astorga early so we can spend at least two hours there.
Astorga is unique in that it has a Gaudi building like Leon. There are only a limited few outside of Barcelona. Supposedly the story goes, he was commissioned by the bishop to build the palace yet the bishop died before Gaudi completed the project. He had issues with the commissioner that took over and ended up burning his plans so they couldn’t finish! Another architect completed it, but it seems to be more of the interior versus exterior.
If this doesn’t scream gothic fairytale castle, I don’t know what does!
Inside was intriguing, but less unique (as in Gaudi-ness) than the outside. Inside houses an exhibit related to the pilgrimage. Unfortunately, all the information is in Spanish only so we translated some things but not all.
Even though service was being held, we were able to look around in the Cathedral of Astorga. Its Gothic style makes it the perfect neighbor to Gaudi’s design.
The inside has some of the widest columns we’ve seen in a church with soaring ceilings.
After Astorga, we continued on our way and took a short side trip to the adorable stone village of Castrillo de Los Polvazares.
We walked another three miles to complete our exhausting day.
157 miles left to Santiago!!