Camino Postcard 26: Astorga to Santa Catalina de Somoza

6.5.19
Today, we were unashamedly lazy – we did not leave the Hostal Coruña until after eleven o’clock in the morning. We were very comfortable in our hotel room and did not want to leave!

Such a late departure time would not have been possible in an albergue: there, pilgrims are required to leave by 8:30 or nine o’clock: the hospitaleros have to get the beds ready for the pilgrims who will be arriving later on. At a hotel, though, the rules are different, and we were happy to obey them.

After hauling ourselves out of bed, we trotted downstairs to the little hotel café for breakfast. I nearly left without paying but the vigilant hotelier was wise to my games. She probably knew that I had form for nonsense. I once left a pub in Primrose Hill without paying for my food – the barman had to chase me outside. In Siena, I left my wallet on the seat after paying and the waiter had to chase after me to let me know.

After paying up, we headed out of Astorga. The walk today was mostly along the roadside or within a close distance of it. Snow peaked mountains dominated the horizon ahead of us and it was another hot day.

At Murias de Rechivaldo the Camino path split. The left hand path turned away from the road, while the righthand path continued to follow it. I cannot remember at all which one we took. In my journal, I have noted that it was possibly today that Ellena met another dog – friendly, of course, because she knew it’s language and was a friend to it.

I say possibly because, of course, I wrote today’s diary entry a few days later and sometimes events shift around in one’s memory.

We arrived in Santa Catalina de Somoza whenever it was that we arrived – probably in the mid-afternoon given our late departure time from Astorga and its distance from the same (10 km).

After walking down a side street or two with high walls and bushes, past a church with a by now very familiar arched top, we stopped at an albergue for a beer and to decide where to stay the night. Why not here? Well, indeed, why not; so, we did. Here was the Albergue El Caminante. It was a lovely albergue with the café and dining area and dormitories being set around a central courtyard, which had a flower filled fountain at its centre (Photo above). We decided to stay at the El Caminante mainly because we were there. I imagine it’s prices were not too different to the albergue up the road as well. At least, I hope so.

We checked in. Carolin went to sleep. Ellena and I returned to our table. Not long later, we heard an interesting chattering sound. At first, we couldn’t locate its source but before long the owner was revealed to be two storks who had taken up residence on top of the church opposite the albergue. It was lovely listening to them speak to one another.

It was a windy afternoon and while we sat at our table – I used the time to drink beer and write notes for my Nicola Fixx book – the breeze blew over the parasol on someone’s table, which was diverting for all concerned: especially the people at the affected table.

Pals

At six o’clock in the evening, we ate the pilgrim’s meal in the dining room. We were rather blessed as other people who turned up to eat not long after us were turned away until seven o’clock. Like most pilgrim meals, this one was much of a muchness. The best that can be said about it is that it was food to keep you going rather than to admire, which, for a pilgrim, is really about as much as he can – or probably should – ask for.

To round the day off: I hung my clothes up to dry in the back yard on a line next to a very rustic looking rear exit from the albergue. I met the albergue cat and unsuccessfully tried to photograph him. A helicopter – or aeroplane? – flew overhead. That was notable because it was very rare to see or hear either on the Camino. Before we arrived in Santiago (via the airport) the only other occasion I remember seeing anything other than a bird flying above us was a small plane flying across some fields of the meseta.

Our dorm was tightly packed with bunks so there wasn’t much room for our backpacks. I put mine against the wall and hoped for the best (which happened; it didn’t get in anyone’s way). The place was packed with pilgrims so I had to wait outside the bathroom to make sure I got to the one shower before anyone else. That evening, we relaxed, and then rested. It was good.

Camino Postcard 25: Santibañez de Valdeiglesia to Astorga

5.5.19
Today was, I think, the first day on the Camino that we did no walking whatsoever. Ellena was unwell so the hospitalero in Santibañez kindly called a taxi to take us to Astorga.

While we waited for it to arrive, we said goodbye to Tony – he was heading on by foot. We didn’t know it at the time but this would be the last occasion that we saw him on the Camino.

Astorga was ten or so kilometres away – a morning’s walk on foot but less than an hour by car. Before we knew it, therefore, we were sitting in the seating area of a rather ornate hotel drinking coffee, looking up albergues on-line.

The Palacio Episcopal in Astorga

In the end, we decided to stay at a nearby cheap hotel – the Hostal Coruña on the av. de Ponferrada – nearby was important so that Ellena didn’t have to walk too far. We also wanted a little extra privacy.

We checked in and found our room. Ellena and Carolin settled down to rest. I went in search of food, and a cash machine. Surely there would be one in this town?

Off I went, enjoying the sight of the countryside and distant mountains until I turned left and found a church, which I decided to pop into. There, I found Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament exposed. That was a bit of a treat, so I knelt down and prayed before Him. I prayed for Ellena and, yes, a cash machine. Laugh when you have gone three days on the Camino without money and have had to rely on the kindness of people with not much more than you. I also gave some thanks because twice during this Camino when I had run out of money and not been able to find a cash machine, including at Santibañez, Tony had lent me some of his.

After saying my prayers, I left the church to resume my search. Along the way, I ran into Lillian. I told her about my quest and she offered to lend me some money as well. The miracle of the Camino: being so kind to people you barely know. Lillian and Tony were very kind indeed. Thanks to Tony in Santibañez, however, I didn’t need any more money at the moment, but I told Lillian I would let her know if no cash machine was forthcoming.

Off I went, and not long later – a cash machine! Two cash machines! Three! Hold on, there’s a fourth!! All within spitting distance of each another. Wow.

I withdrew as much money as the machine would let me then went in search of my second target: a supermarket. Today was a Sunday so many of the shops were closed; Lillian, however, had found one and gave me directions to it. As much by accident as by design – remember I am Malcolm the Bad Navigator – I found it and bought some supplies for the afternoon.

After returning to the hotel, it was my turn to rest for a while. Later, we watched The Fugitive in Spanish, and in the evening, I went to a local pizza restaurant to buy our tea.

The pizzas that we ate on the Camino were generally okay to good; I think there were only two or three had were really good. I’m sorry I didn’t write down where I ate them – another reason to do the Camino Francés again!

After finishing our food, we settled down for the evening. Rest was the order of the day; rest, and recuperation.