Posts Tagged With: Return to the Camino

Mansilla de las Mulas

My 6 kilometer walk from Reliegos to Mansilla de las Mulas didn’t take very long, even with a limp. It was perfect walking weather:  cool with a breeze, and big, fluffy white clouds sailed in a blue, blue sky.

Almost to Mansilla de las Mulas

Almost to Mansilla de las Mulas

Out in the country I saw this fire burning unattended. It was such an unusual sight for this urban Californian, I had to take a photo.  Way in the background you can see a little fringe of snow on the mountains.

Fire burning in a field, en route to Mansilla de las Mulas

Fire burning in a field, en route to Mansilla de las Mulas

Mansilla still had its medieval walls, and it seemed like it had walled itself off from the 21st century.  The stores on the Plaza Mayor sold fabric and craft supplies, children’s clothing, and toys.  All of them had dusty windows and were closed for siesta. I’m amazed how Spain is largely unspoiled by chain stores or fast food restaurants. Not a Starbucks in sight outside of Madrid!

Tired PIlgrims statue in Mansilla de las Mulas

Tired PIlgrims statue in Mansilla de las Mulas

My friend Nancy had recommended a place to stay in Mansilla called Albergeria del Camino.  I’d sent my big pack there from Reliegos that morning. It turned out to be a cute little hotel with just four rooms.   When I walked in the entryway the owner said, “oh you’re the one who belongs to this pack! I didn’t have a reservation for you, but I have one room left!”  He showed it to me and it was so cozy!  He said, “this is the best bed on the Camino!” It was the Spanish version of a Tempurpedic!  I couldn’t resist.   After a soak in my own tub, and blow-drying my hair for the first time in several days, I went downstairs for a late lunch.  The Ensalada Mixta was a cut above the usual pilgrim menu.  I had definitely kicked it up a notch by staying at the Albergeria.

Fancy Ensalada Mixta

Fancy Ensalada Mixta

Javier, the owner, recommended I visit the Provincial Ethnographic Museum of Leon about five minutes across town after lunch.  Wow!  What a fantastic place!  I wish it had more presence on the web so I could post some links.  It was a Smithsonian quality museum about the history and culture of the people of the Province of Leon placed in a former Monastery.  It had three floors of exhibits of all eras of history going back to before the Romans.  Fashion, furniture, photographs, jewelry, traditional farm equipment, looms, spinning wheels, and other artifacts were all arranged by century and theme.

IMG_5839Visiting the museum was just the right thing to do that afternoon. I’d fallen in love with Spain and I wanted to understand it better.  So many times I’d wondered, “What did this place look like before it began to crumble?  What did the people wear 100 years ago?  What is the terrain like a little off the Camino? What is that mountain range? I wonder what happened here during the Civil War?”   That afternoon in the museum helped me integrate something of what I’d learned and observed along the Camino. And lots of the exhibits were in English.

I wandered back to the hotel taking my time.  It was a luxurious feeling to not be in a hurry. Perhaps that was one of the themes of Camino 3.0.  Taking my time.  I walked out of town a bit, investigated the Camino route for my exit tomorrow.  It crossed another rushing river, and as I looked back, there was a nice view of the walled city.

View of city walls of Mansilla de las Mulas

View of city walls of Mansilla de las Mulas

Back at the hotel, my room faced the church.  The stone glowed in the evening light. I rested on my “best bed on the Camino,” with ice on my ankle and watched the stone of the church change color as the sun went down. One of my stork friends was hanging out on the roof.  Seeing the storks in their nests all across the Meseta was one of the joys of my Springtime Camino.

View from room in Mansilla de las Mulas

View from room in Mansilla de las Mulas

Eating dinner in the dining room I noticed that by staying at the Albergeria, I’d shifted uptown into a more affluent crowd of pilgrims. Lots of people on the Camino ship their luggage every day, and stay only in hotels, or travel in organized groups, but for the most part, I had been hanging out with the backpackers. Among that crowd in the dining room I felt like I was transitioning back into my regular life, and also teetering on the cusp of being a tourist.  It felt very comfortable and it also made me a little sad.

A group of five Irish women sat at the next table. They were very jolly, and we talked over dessert.  They walked together for a week on the Camino every year. That’s more of a European approach—to do it in chunks. Right then I wished I was walking with a group of old friends, too.

I was contemplating whether to walk all the way to Leon in the morning.   It seemed like a prudent thing to get a taxi into town at some point with my sore foot. What did it matter really? It would give me more time in Leon.  I’d finished the missing link of my Camino.  I went to bed feeling conflicted about it. Tomorrow was my last day of walking.  Just 18 kilometers to go.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

Categories: April 2015, Favorite Albergues, Museums on the Camino | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Carrion to Terradillos de Los Templarios

My short day to Carrion had a strategy to it: the next stage on the Camino is a whooper, and I wanted to be rested for it. The first section is 17 k on the flat Meseta without any services, including water. This was where I was thankful it was April, not July.

The dotted yellow line is the Camino. I could have stopped at Calzadilla, but I got caught up in the excitement about a 27k day to Terradillos, and went for it. 


It wasn’t too bad, really. Sun and clouds, no rain, cool temperatures. The first couple of hours I listened to the birds and was lost in my thoughts. The second couple of hours I listened to old favorites like James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” album, and John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” singing along as loud as I pleased. Then there were a couple of necessary pit stops. None of those services, either. Had a big salad for lunch at Calzadilla. The bookmobile was also in town.

The afternoon was harder. Just when I was feeling draggy, a Dutch woman came up alongside me and we talked for the next two hours. Her name was “Jacqueline, like Kennedy” and we had a fun time. Turns out that she is from Neighmegan (sic), the same town Hale and I visited when we hitched a ride inParis  with a Dutch couple named Meip and Albert. They took us home with them. They had three little kids, who must be forty by now.

Jacqueline had 20 year old twin boys, and was a widow. We talked about kids and husbands and our Camino experience. She was going to Santiago.

At the end of the day we got to Albergue Jacque de Molay, and just about fell in the door. Bride of Frankenstein.

The Albergue was one of those Camino oases run by a family who know the needs of pilgrims. They washed your clothes for 7€, a bed was 8€, and dinner was 10€. There were 4 young Korean  women in my room and Jacqueline. So it looked like a snore-free night.

After some Spanish ibuprofen 600mll, and a shower, we all gathered in the dining room and had an excellent meal. I had my only trout this trip. I sat with a Spanish woman from Pamplona, a Swiss woman, and a Finnish woman. My Spanish got a workout, but the Swiss womsn did some working around in French. Jacqueline was reunited with her pilgrim family, a boisterous group. I wished I could have joined them, but I was too tired to be boisterous, and went upstairs to enjoy a full nights’ sleep on my bottom bunk.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Final Kilometers and Request

Hello, friends of the blog! I’m 8k away from the Cathedral in Leon,my final destination. If any of you are up right now can you send me some energy? I’ve got the a case of the Pilgrim limp and taxi temptation.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Dark night of the Snore

After my pleasant dinner by myself in Fromista, I walked across the street at 10:00 to the Albergue and pulled open the heavy wooden door to the courtyard. Or I tried to. Locked! What? I’d seen a sign that said “quiet hours” after 9:30, but didn’t realize it meant the door was locked. Albergues usually  close at 10:00. And usually, I’ve had dinner there and hung out, then gone to bed. This night was different because the Fiesta was on and the communal dinner was cancelled. I could hear and see the Techno concert going on at the other end of town. No doubt my Albergue guy, whom I’d met when I checked in, was down there.

I ran back across the street to the restaurant for help. The guy at the desk told me to talk to the hotel connected to the Albergue. I did that and there was no answer. I rang the doorbell over and over and an elderly woman opened the door. I explained my predicament and she was not amused. But after a few minutes her husband, who was standing in the background, said he would open the door. I walked back around the corner to wait for him, and no one showed up or opened the door. I wondered if I could scale the wall? I began to feel very foolish for even thinking that and for being in that position at all. It was like a flashback to my travels in college.

Just then, Mr Albergue walks up the street, smoking furiously. “Why are you out here? You should be asleep! You are Pilgrim!”

Thus ensued a huge argument between us in my bad, but loud Spanish and his bad, but loud English. Finally, he let me into the pitch dark Albergue and I found my bunk.

Unfortunately the woman sleeping next to me had what sounded like pneumonia and snored loudly and coughed throughout the night.  My white noise app was only of partial assistance.

Fromista had a few more things to teach me.


Categories: April 2015, Return to Camino, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hontanas to Itero de Vega

I didn’t intend to walk very far today. I left Hontanas and thought I’d walk 10k to Castrojerez and stay there for the night. The ruins of the 12th century Monastery of San Anton  

 were along the way, and I looked forward to spending some time exploring them. But when I got there, the ruins were all locked up. During the summer, volunteers run a primitive Albergue  with no electricity , and I wanted to see it. Oh well. It began to lightly rain. So on to Castrojerez.  

 When I got there I had a cafe con leche in the first establishment in town to get out of the rain, and regroup. The 13th C Church of Maria de la Manzana was across from it.  

 But like the ruins, it was also locked up until the summer Pilgrim season. So disappointing. Met several American guys my age who are walking together, and, attempted some conversation with the proprietor and his wife, and then the rain let up. When I walked through the rest of town it was rather deserted and I didn’t feel like staying there. All the other churches were locked up, too, which was sad, because there were so many of them, one after another along the length of the town.

So I kept going. Little did I realize how far or how demanding the route would be!  There are not many places to stop along the Meseta.

Just outside Castrojerez is this 900 meter butte. For some reason, I didn’t study the map. Wow!!  


All I could think was, “let’s do this thing!,” It had to be less steep than the Pyrennes out of St. Jean, right?” Hmmm. I was thankful for my training the last few weeks with Janet. And a little chocolate also helped.

Here’s the view from the top: 


The Meseta!

Then the sky opened and it rained for the next hour to Itero de Vega. Thank God for Gore-tex! It was a really long 5k stretch towards the end, and I broke out the iPhone and headphones, singing along to “Sound of Music.”  


Right before Itero de Vega the Camino crosses an ancient bridge into Palencia. Turns out that Itero means boundary marker.

I checked into the first place in town, and splurged on a private room. I wanted a radiator to dry out my pack. The bar was a real gathering place for the village. 

There was a funeral and I caught a glimpse of the priest walking by in his chausable. 


The proprietor was very patient with my Spanish. There was a 12c Church in the center of town, which I wanted to see, naturally, but he told me it was closed permanently because of termites. Thwarted again. 


They served a community dinner, and I ate with a group of older guys who had met each other while walking. The proprietors wife came by with their adorable six month old son. It was a fun evening.

In the morning, I came down at 7:30 looking for coffee and found the proprietor in his bathrobe behind the bar. He told me there’s no breakfast until 8 and, “go back to your room.” OK. He said the whole town was closed until 8.  I’m normally a night owl, but walking the Camino puts me in bed early. In my next life I’d like to live in night owl heaven: Spain.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , | 2 Comments


I had a lazy afternoon in Hontanas at Albergue Santa Birgida. I hand washed clothes and hung them up to dry, but transferred to the radiators as it was abou 55degrees and drizzling. The hostel was a sensitively restored stone building with three dormitory rooms. 8€ for my bunk bed, 10€ for dinner & wine, 2€ for breakfast.  Beautiful up to the minute tiled private showers, in two shared shower rooms, but just two, also very new, beautiful toilets downstairs. It’s interesting to see how there’s flexibility in the building code that wouldn’t  happen in CA. For one thing, shared baths aren’t done culturally, except at camp sites or gyms.  But in a place that sleeps 30 would there be just two toilets?

The two brothers that own the place are there from April to Zoctober and then they go to Cuba in the off season.  Not clear on what they do there, but I found it interesting.

I was the only one there until 5 when Alan took another bunk. He was about 50, from Rouen, and spoke no English. But he had one those little brick shaped French/English dictionaries and we passed it back and forth over dinner and had a very fun time talking about the Camino and different types of wine, Californian and French, and how he thought French wine was vastly superior to Spanish wine.

It occurred to me that at home it would not be done to share accommodations with a strange man and would be perceived as dangerous, and for many reasons, rightly so. But it wasn’t awkward. It’s nice to know that a certain innocence, respect, and safety still prevails, on the Camino.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: