I have taken everyone’s excellent advice, and am taking it easy for another day — really easy. It’s 4:30 p.m., and I’ve only accumulated about 1 3/4 miles. But here’s how great Astorga is — we had the cab drop us off at one of the main albergues; we got a room for the night (shared bath); we went out to get more minutes on our SIM cards for Anthea’s phone and mine; we found Roman ruins (2 sets), 2 chocolate shops, several interesting churches, a pasta and pizza place for dinner, and a government building with a set of mannequins who strike the hours on the bells in the tower. Plus, we got breakfast, and rented a hotel room, which given how far Regina and Anthea have walked today (about 20 miles, I think), we may let them have and we’ll stay in the albergue.
I’ve spent a couple of hours in the lounge at the albergue this afternoon watching a steady stream of peregrinos come in. They haven’t turned anyone away yet, and there have been dozens, especially between about 1:30 and 3:00 p.m. We’re glad that we got the room here earlier, before the rush. In fact, since 10:30 this morning (we arrived by cab from Mazarife because I wasn’t ready to start walking yet) we have seen peregrinos at every turn, many more than in any other town. Astorga is the junction for the Camino Frances (the Camino from France, which we are on) and the Via de la Plata (which comes up from Cadiz and Huelva through Seville), so in addition to all of the peregrinos who started out from Leon rather than further east, people may be arriving from the south. Regina and Anthea said that they were never out of sight of other pilgrims all day long.
The girls left shortly after 7:00 a.m. and arrived here at 4:30 p.m. — making excellent time. We’ll take them to the sports store when it opens again (hours: 11:00 – 2:00 or so, and 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.) to get insoles for their shoes (we already bought them chocolate).
9:00 p.m. — Time to wrap it up for the evening. We had an excellent dinner — pizza and pasta, with a good Rioja red wine. Making our arrangements for tomorrow we found that the one hotel still available in Rabanal del Camino was completely full. This is a first, and must represent the greatly increased stream of peregrinos. We will have to begin making our arrangements further ahead of time if we want places to stay. So Jim and I stayed in an albergue last night, tonight, and another one tomorrow night.
Tonight’s albergue has one of the stranger music mixes — I’ve spent a few hours in the lounge today, off and on, and have heard a wide variety of New Age music, some David Lynch (“Twin Peaks”), “Chariots of Fire” theme, Gregorian chant (several times), a torch version of “Waltzing Matilda,” and more — but no rock and roll or heavy metal or jazz. Another source of music is one of the sets of town bells, which ring out from just across the street on the quarter hour and chime the hours.
The guy who runs the sports shop (see giant backpack below) is Swiss and reminded us very much of other guys we’ve encountered along the Camino — maybe in his 40s, but with the lined face of a 70-year-old, tanned, terrible teeth, grizzled, and something deeply attractive about him. For whatever reason, they’ve ended up in places like Los Arcos and Astorga, greeting and serving in one way or another the people who pass by from all over the world on their way to Santiago. One could do worse. We bought insoles for the girls’ shoes, and a scallop shell for Regina, and then admired the hippie shop upstairs from his sports store. Yes, hippie shop, with the Nepalese dresses, the Guatamalan purses, the Indian cotton prints, the beaded trinkets from everywhere, the incense — all of it, right on the main square of Astorga.
Regina’s photo (about 7:40 a.m., west of Mazarife): “The problem, of course, is that the route runs west, so if one wishes to watch the sunrise one must walk backwards.”
Regina, at the end of the day: “Ay, mis pies. (Except according to the guidebook today’s stage was 31.2 km/19.4 miles, so I walked at least a mile further than the pedometer says. AY, MIS PIES.)” We are all still working on getting our pedometers set correctly. Anthea’s seems to be best; it’s an app on her phone.
A can of yellow paint at last night’s albergue — this is where the yellow arrows come from.
One of the Mazarife’s albergue dorm rooms — fairly typical of what we’ve seen. Tonight we have a private room with a bunk bed, and shared (multi-gender) bathrooms.
One set of town bells — the mannequins take turns striking the bell to count out the hours.
This is the crest just below the bells with the mannequins. I think that the lions are for the province of Leon, of which Astorga is a part.
The books did suggest carrying a slightly smaller backpack. . . Jim at the sports shop in Astorga.
Hippie store in plaza at Astorga.
Regina and Anthea, with a Rioja red at dinner.
Mosaic floor of a Roman villa, preserved in Astorga (the brick is modern).
Tonight’s albergue (for Jim and Teri; Regina and Anthea are staying in the nice hotel). It’s a remodeled building of some sort, possibly a school.