I left Hospital de Órbigo at 7:40, then stopped at Don Suero de Quiñones for a huge chocolate croissant and cafe con leche. There, I ran into Coreen from Oregon again; she had stayed the night in the hotel. I was just finishing up when the waiter brought her a huge breakfast, so I left her to eat alone, taking off shortly after 8:00.
After leaving town, I took a track over a canal and across farmland bursting with cornstalks. There was a magnificent sunrise over the farmland, the corn and the charming villages of Villares de Órbigo and Santibáñez de Valdeiglesia. I was filled with gratitude to be back to the Camino I fell in love with.
Hospital de Órbigo to Villares de Órbigo (3.1 km)
At Santibáñez de Valdeiglesia, I stopped at a cafe for some fresh orange juice and chatted briefly with Martha from Barcelona who was doing a section of the Camino this year; she’d done other sections in years past.
I climbed a pleasant and wide pathway, talking to Coreen for quite a way. I found it hard to connect with her so was glad for a nature break so she could go on ahead.
Villares de Órbigo to Santibáñez de Valdeiglesia (2.5 km)
I walked up and down over two dry river valleys through a woodland of mostly holm oak and box trees before ascending to a high place and le Casa de los Dioses Cantina, the Abode of the Gods, where I stopped to enjoy another orange juice.
Santibáñez de Valdeiglesia to Cruceiro Santo Toribio (6.6 km)
A short time later, I came to Cruceiro Santo Toribio (Cross of Saint Turibius), a stone cross commemorating the 5th-century Bishop Toribio of Astorga who supposedly fell to his knees here in a final farewell after being banished from the town. From this point on Monte Gozo, we had views of Astorga below. The Montes de León on the horizon past the city were the mountains we would cross in the days ahead through the highest point of the whole Camino at 1,515 meters (4,970 feet).
I descended into the town of San Justo de la Vega, an expanding suburb of Astorga, where I had a sharp pain in my left foot and had to stop on a bench, take my shoe off, and massage my foot. While I sat there, a line of hunched, dusty and tired pilgrims marched by and I had the realization that I looked just like them!
Cruceiro Santo Toribio to San Justo de la Vega (1.4 km)
We crossed a bridge over the río Tuerto and then on a dirt track alongside a factory, then along a pleasant path crossing a Roman footbridge, Puente de la Moldería, and then over a multi-tiered railway pasarela (runway).
San Justo de la Vega to Astorga (Plaza San Francisco) (3.6 km)
It was a steep climb into Astorga (population 12,000), a beautiful medieval walled town set atop a steep ridge. Originally a powerful community of Asturians, a subgroup of Spanish native to Asturias with Visigothic, Latin and Celtiberian cultural origins, it became an equally important Roman city because of its prime position at the junction of several major routes. This is where the Camino Francés (the French Way) and the Calzada Romana (the Roman Road, also known as the Vía Aquitana) joined the Vía de La Plata (the Roman silver route) from Sevilla and the south. In addition, Astorga also was a crossroads for the Cañadas Reales, or royal drove roads, used to herd livestock up and down the Iberian peninsula. In medieval times, this crossroads gave rise to some 20 pilgrim hospitals.
I walked through Plaza San Francisco, where I stopped in briefly at the Convento de San Francisco, or Church of St. Francis of Assisi. Supposedly, St. Francis came here on his pilgrimage to Santiago in 1212.
I checked into Albergue San Javier near the Cathedral at the far end of town. Darina wrote me that she would be staying at the same albergue and asked if I’d join her to eat the local cuisine tonight at 8:00.
San Javier had no place to in our rooms to charge our phones. It also had paper sheets and pillowcases. The man who ran the albergue, a fat man with bad knees, took me upstairs to show me my bed and insisted on giving me a kiss on each cheek. If I hadn’t turned my head quickly, he might have landed a kiss on my mouth! When Darina arrived he did the same thing to her. This kissing thing was strange because a man in Villares de Órbigo did the same thing earlier today.
After I showered and did laundry, I went to visit the mid-15th-century Gothic Cathedral standing majestically over Plaza Catedral. It is a blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and later styles of architecture. It has three altarpieces of great artistic value, including a Renaissance altarpiece with a Romanesque statue of the Virgen de la Majestad, for whom the cathedral is dedicated.
Adjoining the Cathedral is the Museo de Catedral, with displays of sacred art and artefacts, as well as depictions of pilgrimage.
The religious art in the Museo is quite impressive.
The museum has a magnificent 15th century painting of the burial of St. James entitled El puente de la Vida y la Reina Lupa, “the bridge of Life and Queen Lupa.” One panel shows bulls pulling the sarcophagus of St. James in front of the queen (not shown here) and the bridge caving in by divine intervention, thus preventing the Roman soldiers from seizing the Apostle’s disciples and their sacred cargo (below).
As the afternoon whiled away, it got very cold and gray clouds hunkered down overhead.
I went to Plaza Mayor, where I came face-to-face with the graceful 17th-century Baroque Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall. The façade dates from 1675. The square is porticoed and houses many bars and restaurants.
I found a lunch spot and attempted to sit outside but it was getting icy cold and windy. I went indoors instead, where I warmed up with a glass of Sangria and deep fried jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese. It was too much food!
The Palacio Episcopal (Bishop’s Palace), stands on Plaza Catedral with its neo-Gothic spires puncturing the clouds. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, construction began in 1887. Though Gaudí’s hand is obvious, this is considered one of his lesser works. It houses the Museo de los Caminos (Museum of the Pathways), showcasing historical notes and artefacts on the many Roman roads that converged on Astorga and provided the main trade, military and pilgrim routes through northern Spain.
At the Bishop’s Palace, I ran into the two Irish ladies, Anne and Marian, who I’d met the previous night; they were so lively and funny. They had “treated” themselves to a hotel for the night, but they said it was a dump. They planned to walk about 17 km tomorrow and then they’d head home to Ireland.
In the evening Darina and I went to a fancy restaurant where we looked like something the cat dragged in. The country bumpkins had come to the city. We shared a delicious chickpea and wild mushroom soup. We ordered beers which the waiter poured into the wineglasses. We laughed and joked that most people probably didn’t drink beer at this place. We also shared the local dish, cocido maragato, typically a hearty meat stew – pork and black pudding with beans and cabbage – followed by vegetables and finished off with a bowl of broth.
Our meal was a little different. The first course was a bowl of many meats, most of which looked disgusting to me, so I told Darina she could eat it all. I only ate the sausage and a little pork. The dish had pork, sausage, ham, beef, chicken, and some kind of heavy bread dumpling. The second course was chickpeas with cabbage, deliciously seasoned. We enjoyed pudding for dessert. And we shared lots of laughs, as we always did.
By this time, a cold front had moved in and gripped Astorga. We froze as we walked back to the albergue. It was a very cold and restless night of sleep.
*Day 33: Saturday, October 6, 2018*
*33,327 steps, or 14.12 miles: Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga (17.3 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk.