Grañon - Villafranca
01 November 2002
Day's km: 28
Overall km: 618
I bid farewell to Guillermo and Isabella this morning. We probably will not meet up down the road and they are not headed to Villafranca Montes de Orca because the albergue is really supposed to suck. I am writing this from the Hostel de Pájaro which I believe is only around $17 a night but he was speaking sort of fast.
I am looking forward to staying here. I managed to just barely make lunch which is served from 2-4. I enjoyed paella and lomo with ice cream for dessert. I left the dining room for the bar to write this over some San Miguel beer. Most of all I am eager for the morning because I can sleep late. I really love the hostel experience, but there are obvious disadvantages to sharing a bunkroom with 20 others for the night and usually having to leave around 08:00. Atapuerca which I want to tour is only 4.5 hours away so I plan on sleeping in and visiting the prehistoric site in the afternoon. There is another albergue in the town so it may only be an 18 km day.
Enough about tomorrow, how was today? Today was a little cool with changing cloud conditions. No rain but I am a bit concerned about tomorrow. I ended the day only a few hundred meters higher than I started, but there was up and down in between. This is barren farm landscape over gentle hills with mountains visible in the distance. It is also my introduction to Castille y León. Goodbye La Rioja. The local table wine proved very good, so I have high expectations.
The walk seemed to go quicker in the morning than the afternoon. Before I knew it, I was through Redecilla del Camino and the Castildelgado and 5 km to Belorado. In Belorado there was an open bakery, una panadería, where I bought a long loaf and 4 chocolate chip cookies. I just followed my nose to the bakery which ended up being right on the Camino. I had lunch around noon in front of one of the churches below a cliff. There were some French pilgrims on bicycle that left shortly after I arrived. Lunch itself consisted of the four cookies and a cured ham and cheese sandwich washed down with a half liter of Sunny Delight. The sandwich was really good and not just because I was hungry. With most of the kilometers done I relaxed and took a look around the church. Very impressive really.
After lunch, it was Tosantos to Espinosa del Camino to Villafranca. I arrived at my destination around 15:30. Along the way I strolled by an interesting structure built into a sandstone cliff that I hope to find in my larger guide tonight. Much later were the ruins, a single tower really, of an old monestary.
I mentioned several towns above, but not just because I have my guidebook open. Those towns, now villages and hamlets, have always straddled the Camino Frances, the main pilgrim route to Compostela in Spain. They are very similar in many ways and this similarity carries a great sense of history.
Let me elaborate. From afar I approach on foot with the crunch of loose stones and the wooden plunk of my staff. I can see the church tower centered in a small cluster of building surrounded by farm fields. This sight would be mostly unchanged if the year was 1,000 CE. Upon entry, the pilgrim heritage is clear. There is a single main street, the Calle Mayor, aligned West-East. In times gone by, pilgrim hospitals and other lodging as well as the church and possibly a monestary were located on the street. Now these small villages usually have only a giant stone church and maybe some sort of former pilgrim lodging turned private residence remaining. But the pilgrimage route dictated the layout of the and brought in lots of money from patrons to finance grand churches and monestaries.
It is fascinating to pass these ancient buildings, or in some cases ruins, and look up to see that you are leaving town on the Calle de Santiago and know that it has always been this way. Then for awhile perhaps the Camino is parallel to the modern highway which essentially follows the original Roman Via Traiana. Then, along the highway I may look up at the sound of a vehicle madly beeping its horn, and see a car-full of people wildly waving at me or giving the thumbs up sign to which I raise my staff in salute. For a moment, I am transported back to the year 2002 before the thunk of staff on stone, scrap of boot, and my imagination return me to the middle ages.
*Update: Guillermo y Isabella arrived at this hostal. Cool.*
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