Julia made an interesting comment yesterday that during her genealogical research in Europe she came across some of the old Camino routes and that there is an effort to keep these routes marked, but that there aren't many albergues along these routes. I expect that's because these days most pilgrims take one of the more established Camino routes that start in France, Spain, or Portugal. I have met a few European pilgrims who started their Caminos by walking out their front door, but I never thought to ask them how they found their way or where they stayed at night before they reached a more well-traveled route. I guess if I ever again meet another of these pilgrims who started walking where they live, I'll ask them about it.
Yesterday morning as we were leaving Leon at dawn's early light we passed by a pilgrim monument in San Marcos square. On a concrete block at the base of the monument there sat a life-sized bronze statue of an ancient pilgrim. Next to his bandaged feet were a pair of worn sandals that looked as though they'd been kicked off. This bronze pilgrim leaned back against the base of the monument in a posture of exhaustion with his eyes closed. The expression on his face seemed to say, Oy, my feet are KILLING me!
Change the clothes on this pilgrim and put a backpack next to him and hiking boots instead of sandals he could be a modern-day pilgrim.
Yesterday we hiked 21.8 kilometers - about 13 miles - in the rain and wind from Leon to Villar de Mazarife.. I shouldn't complain, though, as by this time on our last Camino we'd already had many days of rain. Last time it rained every day on the Meseta and while in Galicia, which is yet to come, it poured sheets of rain for 9 days straight. There's two more days of rain predicted according to the pilgrim weather-watchers I guess you have to get your ration of rainy days on the Camino.
The first few hours of our walk yesterday was through urban Leon. Just before we left the outskirts of the city we stopped for brunch at a warm, cozy cafe full of pilgrims and run by two cheerful, hospitable ladies.
It was so nice to be out of the rain and the pilgrims were all so sociable that we ended up staying there for an hour and continuing to order one item after another - eggs, tostadas, pastries, drinks - until we'd rung up a bill of 22€ - about $25.30.
Then it was back out onto the Camino, which eventually took us back to the countryside in all it's rainy, muddy glory..
Hours later we reached the village of Villar de Mazarife where we were hoping to get, and, happily, were able to get, beds at the place we stayed at last time - another of our most favorite albergues - Albergue San Anton de Padua.
The San Anton de Padua is owned by a nice, nice gentleman named Pepe who runs his albergue with his staff, a sweet family of .hospitalieros, a husband and wife with their teen-aged daughter.
Pepe, on the right, and his staff stirring the awesome paella they made for our dinner.
Pepe and his hospitaliero family are dedicated to the spirit of the Camino and to offering pilgrims a warm welcome and good food.
Saying the food was good is an vast understatement.
We ordered the package deal, 21€ -about $23 - each for a bed, breakfast, and dinner.
And what a dinner!
The pilgrim meal was served in communityat a beautiful and lovingly set table in the cozy dining room
The first course, set out when we arrived at the table, was a salad, the plate decorated with a line of delicious home-made fig dressing.
Next came a bowl of out-of -this-world gazpacho,
...next came the wonderfully tasty paella scooped from the pan, a vegetarian version, as the staff at The San Anton de Padua believe the pilgrims don't get enough vegetables on the Camino (they're right).
Dessert was a chocolate-topped crepe which everyone raved over but, not being a chocoholic, I gave mine to Tom.
It was a wonderful pilgrim meal, but less for the delicious food than for the love with which it was served and shared.
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
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