Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo ( Pop: 3500)
April 25, 2015
7:15 AM to 1:13 PM
5 hrs 58 min for 25.67 km
We have not yet arrived at our lodging, this is the first time we stopped at a restaurant first. We have reached the centre of Villafranca, but Hostal Burbia is about 500 metres further.
We decided we would have our big meal now since lunch did not happen.
We had a very good pilgrim’s meal at Cafeteria Compostela. All of us had the lamb chops which were done just right. For my first course, I had vegetables in tomato sauce with a fried egg on top. I was not expecting the egg but I gobbled it up. Breakfast at 7:30 AM was a long time ago and the pain au chocolat is long gone. I had rum caramel cake for dessert. There was more alcohol in that slice than in the bottle of wine Margaret and Brian drank. Brian helped me with my cake. Margaret ate all of hers.
Margaret had gazpacho and Brian deep fried calamari as their first course.
We did not take picnic food with us today as we figured it would rain most of the journey. It did. We planned on having lunch in Valtuille de Arriba, but there may only have been a population of three and no one was serving food nor drink. We sat on a wet bench and shared a bag of nuts and a clementine.
Although this hamlet had cobblestone streets, the single road in and out was red mud. We slid our way to Villafranca, donning and removing our ponchos as the sun and rain played with us. We did our best to clean mud from our shoes before arriving in town. We did not want to be rejected at the restaurant.
Today we saw many gardens, orchards and vineyards. The area of Bierzo is noted for wine and sweet apples. Mercedes told us the best apples in Spain are here while Oscar said this is the second best area for red wine. Apparently the best red is from Ribera del Duermo. He was not a lover of white but suggested Galicia and Rioja had good whites.
This year’s cherries are well established. Looks like a good crop. Pilgrims in late Mayight be able to sample them as they walk.
There appear to be many garden plots outside of towns and villages. Often the plots are surrounded by fencing and or stone walls. Some fences have barbed wire on top to protect their vegetables and fruit trees. In town, many gardens are surrounded by chain link fence with artificial grass woven through it; so, only tall people can get a peek at the green and flowering treasures within.
Yellow, blue and purple irises, large white calla lilies, roses (red, yellow and white), azaleas, peonies, hydrangea…all are in bloom. Grape vines are sprouting green shoots. Some are growing between rows of cherries, apples, peaches, almonds, pears or plums. There are huge fig trees with this year’s crop in evidence. One pine forest had vines in between its rows.
I saw the chapel door open in Fuentes Nuevas; so, I went in. I chatted with the artist who was on scaffolding painting a scene above the altar. He was very humble about the Last Supper he painted on the dome of the side altar. It was beautiful and not at all expected in such a small chapel.
Last night we could not wait until 8 PM to eat. We found one place that was to serve at 7:00 PM, but that did not look likely; so, we went to an ice cream store and had a cup of delicious ice cream then returned to our hotel and Brian made us a sandwich with what he was going to make them at lunch time.
We walked around the exterior of the castle, visited the Basilica and walked through the old town. Our general fatigue and continuing rain made us lazy. We were happy to return to our hotel room. One game of rummy was enough before sleep.
We have been reworking the distances suggested by the Brierley Guide over the past few days. We find it to be much better to do days of twenty – four to twenty-six kilometres rather than days of thirty then twenty.
My pack preceded me again today and Brian is also enjoying a much lighter load.