Camino Day 18, Fri 14/6/02:
Vega de Valcarce

38.5 km today
611 total
The low road

Started walking very late, at 8:30. This was probably the latest start I had on the camino. My blisters were painful, but the knees and ankle were fine - if it's not one thing, it's another. A hazy day meant that it never got too hot. Much of the camino today was composed of road walks on roads, some quiet, some not-so-quiet.

The stork nests, once fairly ubiquitous, were now markedly less common. Just how ungainly these birds are was brought home when I watched one particularly graceless specimen attempting to land on his nest, chickening out at the last second every time, whereupon he'd do another 100-metre circuit and try it again... the patience of Job!

Stork landing the 11th attempt (24K)

Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Compostilla
- Columbrianos (38K)

Dust track

Cacabelos (51K)

Church of San Nicolás

Villafranca del Bierzo (53K)

After an easy walk, much of it on the side of a road, I arrived around noon in Villafranca del Bierzo ("The town of the Franks in the province of Bierzo.") I was feeling a little overheated and a lot peckish, and so opted to have an early lunch. An interesting-looking town with three fairly old churches; alas I managed to miss almost the entire town centre in my quest for something to eat. I arrived more-or-less at the other end of the town before I gave in and asked a local where the nearest bar was. Finding it, I entered, plonked down my backpack, and asked the young barman if they did sandwiches - "Tiene bocadillos?" He made great play of not understanding any of this, much to the amusement of his mates drinking at the far end of the bar. It turned out they didn't do food - one of the few bars I came across that didn't! - so I upheld the reputation of the Irish by having a beer instead.
I continued on a bit further, and at the edge of the town, found a restaurant where I was the first customer. Opting for the Menú del dia was probably a mistake - it was very plain: lettuce, tomato and onions swimming in dressing, stale bread, and three tiny trout - I have seen bigger sardines - for a fairly naughty 9 euro. After leaving, I discover that I got shortchanged, receiving 36 euro change instead of 41 from my 50. I shrugged and put it down to experience.

More Churches

Villafranca del Bierzo (55K)

Colegiata de Santa María

Villafranca del Bierzo (59K)

Santiago & Palacio de los Marqueses

...with crane (53K)


Vega de Valcarce (30K)

From Villafranca del Bierzo, there were two routes to my destination for the day, Vega de Valcarce. I unfortunately chose the road journey, figuring my knees and blisters would thank me for it. Maybe they would have, if I didn't spend quite so much time hopping into ditches to avoid traffic speeding past three feet or so from me. It was nightmarish, to be honest. Next time, I'll take the high road and damn the knees!

Castillo de Sarracín

Vega de Valcarce (40K)

Arboreal lushness

Vega de Valcarce (58K)

Close-up of Castillo

Vega de Valcarce (25K)

Whassat orange thingy?

Vega de Valcarce (52K)

I arrived in the little village of Vega de Valcarce around 4. Dominated by the ruined Castillo de Sarracín, and with the river Valcarce running through it, it's one of those picture-postcard pretty places, and it looked even better when the clouds cleared. I found and booked myself into the fairly nice refugio, had a shower, dressed blisters, and explored the village. Sampled the very crisp local sidre at a local bar: it's much dryer than the Bulmers stuff we get here in Ireland. Sat drinking a bottle gazing at the green arboreal variety on display, with the little river Valcarce burbling away. There was something idyllic about the place...
Finished up with a superb Peregrino Special dinner - Patatas a la Riojana and a tuna and tomato dish whose name I forget - washed down by a very palatable house wine. Yum Yum Pig's Bum.

And so to bed. Tomorrow, I leave the province of León and enter Galicia - the home province of Santiago de Compostela!