Camino de Santiago, Days 17-22

by Elizabeth

At a Glance:

Day 17: Sahagún to Religios (32.3km, via alternate Roman road through Calzadilla)

Day 18: Religios to León (24.3km)

Day 19: León (0km)

Day 20: León to Vilar de Mazarife (21.8km, via alternate route)

Day 21: Vilar de Mazarife to Astorga (31.1km, via alternate route)

Day 22: Astorga to Rabanal (20.6km)

Daily Highlights:

Day 17: I slept like a rock last night — I was exhausted from our 40km day yesterday!  In most albergues, I am constantly waking up due to people snoring, getting up during the night, or simply in expectation of our early start times.  I forgot to mention in yesterday’s summary, but the albergue that we stayed at in Sahagún was really cool.  It was on the second floor of a converted cathedral with super high ceilings.  Of course, it was a little weird to lie in bed listening as a graduation ceremony take place in the intact portion of the building in the evening. 


Our view for much of the day (albeit a bit fuzzy).

Today’s walk was somewhat boring.  In order to avoid a full day of walking on the senda (path along a national highway route) we elected to walk the vast majority of the day on an alternate route along an old Roman road.  While that sounded interesting in theory, in reality it was an all day road walk.  The first portion was paved and had some traffic, the second half was a very rocky road with no traffic.  Unfortunately, yesterday’s long walk left me with blisters and hot spots, so the rocky road did not make my feet happy.  I also generally felt very tired and slow today — I wonder why?  The most eventful part of today’s walk was watching the storm clouds heading towards us and then being poured on!  The rain didn’t last long, but we were soaked.

We cut back to the main route in the town of Reliegos, where we spent part of the afternoon hanging out in Bar Elivis.  The walls were covered in “graffiti” and the proprietor was blaring Elvis songs and singing/dancing along for most of the time we were there.  Highlight of the day.


Bar Elvis!  Complete with graffiti all over the walls and an enthusiastic proprietor.

[Michael’s Supplement: Today was the final of the UEFA Champions League — for those unaware this is the European soccer equivalent of the Super Bowl.  The tournament has teams from across Europe (and apparently Europe now includes Israel and Kazakhstan — who knew?) but the final was two teams from Madrid.  I watched with two Spaniards and an Italian, and we worked through teaching me some vocabulary in Spanish (flopper, offside, etc.).]

Day 18: We’ve made it to León!  I’ve always thought of the Camino as being separated into three sections — with the first section ending in Burgos, the second section ending in León, and then the Camino ending in Santiago.  Arriving in León today means that we are in the final third of the trail.  I’d been looking forward to today’s walk because it was supposed to be a much shorter day than we’ve been walking lately (only 24km).  In anticipation of the shorter walking day and the fact that we intend to stay in Leon for two nights, we slept in a bit and didn’t start walking until around 8am.  Unfortunately, the walk didn’t quite go as planned.  My blister was hurting even more today than it did yesterday and I ended up walking very slowly today as a result. To make matters worse, the rain that we thought wouldn’t start until 3pm came early and we ended up walking for about an hour in the rain.  The route itself was somewhat uneventful.  We walked largely on paths along the road, passing through many small suburbs as we entered the city.  It honestly wasn’t the horrible industrial area that I’d been led to believe the approach would be, but I wasn’t really in the mood for enjoying today’s walk.


The Camino signs now include the León lion dressed as a pilgrim.


Marching band as we entered León’s old town.

León itself was very nice.  As we entered the old town, there appeared to be a festival of some sort going on and a band was marching down the street playing really dramatic music.  We splurged and are staying two nights in a four star hotel (not much of a splurge at 60 euro per night though!).  This means that we weren’t in a rush to get out and see the city’s sights as soon as arriving.  We were starving when we arrived in town though and got very excited upon finding a Mexican restaurant.  We miss our burritos and spicy food!  While Michael enjoyed his chips and guac with four salsas, my “tacos” fell far short — they were just cooked meet (without spices) and melted cheese rolled up in flour tortillas.  Oh well, the search for Mexican food continues.


View from our hotel room!


My “tacos.”

Day 19: We got to sleep in today!!  Only slept until about 8am or so, but it was glorious.  We spent our morning getting laundry done (finding an awesome laundromat that took less than an hour for the full washer/dryer cycle) and then checking out León’s cathedral.  When I walked the last portion of the Camino in 2012 I walked away feeling that León’s cathedral was one of the best that I’d ever seen.  The light wasn’t as good for today’s visit, but I still think that the cathedral here is amazing.  There is so much more space filled with stained glass than most other cathedrals that it feels much less heavy. 


León’s cathedral.


So much stained glass!

We spent the rest of the day walking around Leon’s old town and enjoying a bottle of wine with tapas at the Parador.  There are a bunch of Parador hotels in Spain that were originally built as pilgrim hospitals and they tend to be amazing old buildings (and thus, expensive hotels).


In front of the Parador the next morning.


Michael in 2016.


Flashback to me in 2012.


Michael with Gaudí.

It was great to have a day of no “official” walking (we did walk quite a bit, but at least I got to wear sandals).  I’m hopeful that my blister will feel much better tomorrow.

Day 20: We eased back into walking today with a short day knowing that we want to spend tomorrow night in Astorga so there was no need to put in a big day.  My feet are feeling so much better!  The walk out of Leon was uneventful — just a lot of sidewalk walking past shops and houses.  We again planned on taking an alternate route that we would actually spend the night on.  Since Leon is a popular starting point, this helped to minimize the crowds of pilgrims that we had to deal with today.  We had a slight mishap finding the turnoff for the alternate route (taking a lovely detour when we turned too early…), but once we found it the path was smooth sailing.  Most of the alternate today was along dirt country road through rolling hills.  It was hot today and we had little shade along the route.  Luckily, we got into town (Villar de Mazarife) at about 1pm, so we were able to spend much of the afternoon relaxing in the shade (and doing our afternoon chores of showing, laundry, cooking, etc.). 


Another albergue covered in graffiti.

Day 21: We got out early this morning in an attempt to avoid the heat.  The first part of the day was a long roadwalk along a largely straight, flat road.  During our usual morning coffee break (typically Cola-Cao for us, the Spanish equivalent of Nestle hot chocolate but somehow better) we ran into Amy from SoCal again.  It was fun running into part of the old crew as we haven’t seen many people we know since we pulled our 40km day and then spent a full day in León.  As we were getting set to head out again, our path was blocked by a huge herd of sheep and goats.  There must have ben hundreds!  Our video of them passing by (here) is a full three minutes long!


Sheep!  Goats too.

We walked off and on for a bit with Amy, passing through the adorable town of Hospital de Orbigo.  The town was the perfect backdrop for a Renaissance festival and appeared to be set up to host one as we passed through. 


Entering Hospital de Orbigo.

It’s another hot day with more rolling hills and dirt road walking today.  We joined back up with the main route just before Hospital de Orbigo and there are a bunch of people on the trail today.  Just as we approached Astorga, there was a railroad track crossing that they’ve constructed a large pedestrian bridge to cross.  The bridge had several switchbacks, so you could see everyone in front of and behind you even if they had been too far away to see previously. 


Fruit and juice stand (with cat) as we approached Astorga.  We both enjoyed a nice slice of watermelon — perfect in the heat!


Cross as we approached Astorga.

We spent the afternoon exploring Astorga — something that I regretted not being able to do on my prior visit.  We enjoyed drinking beers on a bench in the main square, walking through the old town, and visiting the Palacio Episcopal designed by Gaudí (and now housing a museum on the Camino).  We’ve run into more of the old crew in Astorga, including the Dutch couple that we seem to be following (or are they following us?).  We’re also starting to see many new faces from the crowd that started in León or pilgrims that started earlier but walked more slowly than us.


In front of Gaudí’s Palacio Episcopal.


This is the backpack I need!  Then Michael could just carry me 😉


Enjoying a beer back at the albergue called “Peregrina.”  Couldn’t pass it up since I’m a peregrina too (a female pilgrim)!

Day 22: Today was my first repeat day with my first Camino (in September 2012).  Walking out of Astorga, it was fun to think back on my experience four years ago and the places that I stopped and people that I met that first day.  The day was beautiful — the weather was great and the hills were green with lots of wildflowers and trees (that weren’t in straight lines as most of the trees that we’ve been seeing have been!). 


Typical view on the trail today.

We split up for much of the day’s walk, although ended up within 5 minutes of each other for most of the day.  As single walkers, we each spent time walking both alone and with other peregrinos for chats.  Although we arrived in Rabanal before 11:30am, we had decided ahead of time to stop here because I had a very positive experience at the donation-based albergue in town on my first Camino and wanted to come back again.  The albergue lived up to its hype (in my opinion).  After waiting in the shade eating and drinking, we were warmly greeted by the hospiteleros (volunteers running the albergue).  We spent much of the afternoon walking though the (tiny) town and enjoying the albergue’s huge garden out back. 


Garden area next to the albergue.

In the evening, we attended vespers (traditional gregorian chanting) in the small, stone church next to the albergue.  It reminded me of when I did the same thing four years ago! 


Inside of small church in Rabanal.

I know I’ll have to try to avoid pointing out every little thing to Michael that reminds me of my prior Camino, but it’s been fun to walk (both literally and figuratively) down memory lane.

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