Camino Postcard 17: Población de Campos to Carrión de los Condes

27.4.19
Day Five on the Meseta

We left La Finca behind and began walking. It was another hot day, and Población was another sleepy Spanish town. Spaniards simply do not do mornings.

Further up the road, we stopped at a café-albergue that promised ‘Paradise Without WiFi’. I’d love to be able to speak approvingly of this, of how good it was to be freed from the chains of communication but I’m neither a hipster or a hippie and love my WiFi so can’t.

This café-albergue was certainly a paradise for hippies and hipsters – it has very ramshackle, had a farm attached (I saw some cute asses there; now let’s talk about the donkeys frnarrrrrr) and the rooms were tents. They weren’t called tents but had a particular hippy name that I can’t remember.

Anyway, it was also a very friendly environment. Inside the café itself, pilgrims were encouraged to leave messages on the side of the counter or on the wall. Many had done so. So did I. I could have written an appropriately inspirational message but instead chose to write something facetious about Alexander the Great that nobody but me would understand and which thankfully I forgot to photograph.

While at the café, we met George from Seattle. He was in good spirits despite the fact that his husband had given up on the Camino and returned home – walking was not for him.

Tony had left La Finca ahead of us so at this point, and indeed until we arrived in Carrión, it was just Ellena, Carolin and myself together.

We left Paradise Without WiFi and continued up the road. The Meseta continued to roll by. Our path took us along the roadside and we saw a sign saying ‘Santiago 464 [km]’ which meant that we had now walked about half distance from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago. As I think I mentioned before, despite being called the French Route, the start of this particular Way is regarded by the Spanish as being at Roncesvalles, which meant that we would not receive our halfway compostelas until we arrived in the town of Sahagun in three days time.

Upon a moment we arrived in Carrión de los Condes, and there we checked in at an albergue in a former (?) covent. The dorms at the Espiritu Santo were named after the continents and contained single beds – no bunks again, which sore legs greatly appreciated. I slept under a beautiful wood icon of Our Lady (below), which more than made up for the cheesier Catholic artworks in the vicinity.

To its credit, the Espiritu Santo had a chapel, although it was no more than an altar and cushions. However, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved there, which immediately made it the most important place in the building.

After ditching our backpacks and showering down, we went out for a beer. I lost over a stone walking the Camino yet still drank beer every day. No wonder I enjoyed myself so much.

To celebrate the fact that we had, or were about to, walk half distance we took a stroll into town to buy a congratulatory present for ourselves. Ellena and Carolin chose matching bracelets. I bought the necklace that you can see below in imitation of the one that Martin Sheen’s character wears at the end of The Way.

While in Carrión we met Tony again. On his recommendation, we ate tea/dinner at a fish restaurant. On the way there, he had to make a pitstop at the local pharmacy to get help for his poor blistered foot. Tony is a powerful walker but it’s amazing that he could walk at all on that foot. The blister was huge and, of course, open.

Afterwards, we strolled happily back to the Espiritu Santo. In the large courtyard there we met a certain someone smoking a joint. Well, I suppose a religious house is a place for ecstasies.

Camino Postcard 16: Castrojeriz to Población de Campos

First of all, I owe the people of HONTANAS an apology. I realised the other day that in my earlier posts, I referred to their hometown as ‘Honatas’. Lo siento!

26.4.19
Day Four on the Meseta

Today, we ate breakfast at our albergue in Castrojeriz before setting off. Our boots had spent the night in a little shed. When we collected them we found that they were now more or less dry.

Tying our laces up, we started walking; just the three of us, now; we left Tony at the albergue to catch us up later.

This morning, we climbed the alto de Mostelares. The path wound its way to the top, stretching our legs but never being too strenuous. At the top, we were rewarded for our efforts with a beautiful view of the valley we had just crossed.

A short plateau followed before we began walking down a very steep incline. It was so steep, we had to lean backwards as we walked.

The clouds skudded across the sky as we continued on our way – a breezy day in the heavens.

Upon a moment, we came to a chapel where we paused to stamp our pilgrim passports. Framed photographs of the current and last two popes hung proudly on the wall. The photograph of John Paul II showed him wearing a brown pellegrina with scallop shells embroided onto it. This photograph was taken in the early 80s when John Paul made his own pilgrimage to Santiago.

We next stopped at an interesting café-albergue in Itero de la Vega, where we saw bronze insects mounted on the wall. Tony caught up with us here so we ate together.

After stopping again at Boadilla del Camino, we joined the Canal de Castilla, which took us to Frómista. As canals go, it was a fairly ordinary one although the high walled lock at its end with its two bridges, one held up by a lovely arch, were impressive sights.

Our original intention had been to stop in Frómista but at Boadilla Tony told us that the albergues there (or at least the one we had intended to stop at) had been reviewed unfavourably online. In contrast, an albergue three kilometres up the road – just before Población de Campos – had been very favourably reviewed – so we decided to head for that one.

The albergue in question is called La Finca and it was unique among all the albergues we stopped at on the Camino Francés. How can I describe it? There were no dorms, but rather, individual bedrooms. I say ‘bedrooms’ reservedly because they were more like cubicles. The bedroom/cubicles had an upper and lower level. The lower level was on the ground floor; the upper level was accessible via a short set of stairs.

Our first impression of La Finca was very favourable. Very soon, however, we began to see some of the cracks – the showers didn’t have locks on them and the water was permanently cold; neither were the bedroom/cubicles as clean as one would have liked. I think La Finca had only lately opened so hopefully these were just teething problems. At any rate, the food that evening was good. As we ate, proud parents took photographs of their daughter in her first communion dress outside.

As soon as I finished my meal, I retired to my bed. I was feeling out of sorts that afternoon and not in the mood for company. I did a little writing before going to the toilet. When I came back, I found Ellena sitting on my bed. She had been concerned for me and came to make sure I was alright. Did I say I didn’t want company? I will always be very grateful for the company of a friend. We sat and chatted and peace came back to my heart.