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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo

Although this is a 24km day (or 22.4km - or 23km, depending on which guide book you believe!) It is one the easier days on this section. The first 10km is on a flat path through many little hamlets all with acres of vegetables and fruit on both sides of the road. There are places to stop for a coffee and small shops to buy fruit or drinks. After Cacabelos you enter the vineyards and the path becomes a little steeper and more undulating. By then it is also hotter and the dust from the path covers your boots and lower legs in a fine powder.
We saw workers harvesting grapes in all the vineyards. Some carry the grapes in large, black plastic buckets which they tip into the back of lorries. Others pack grapes into white plastic crates which are stacked onto trailers behind tractors. One gang gave us each a big bunch of grapes the colour of dark plums. sweet and juicy for thirsty pilgrims!

As we entered Villafranca we visited the church of Santiago with its Puerta del Perdon where medieval pilgrims who were too ill to continue to Santiago could earn the same forgiveness of sins and indulgences as they could in Santiago. The doors were locked so no 'get out of jail' early for the amaWalkers! We got a stamp at Ave Fenix and I popped in to see Hermoine at the La Puerta del Perdon where we stayed in June.

This time I'd booked rooms at Casa Mendez which is on the other side of town, across the river. There are week-long fiestas in town and last night was a parade of 'gigantes' - giant characters - and a music fest at 8:3pm and mid-night. We were pleased not to be staying anywhere near the square. If you plan on booking accommodation ahead here is a tip. In most towns and villages with 'old' towns, the Pensions and Hostals in the old centers are not modern or 5-star and cost less than upmarket, modern hotels . If you want more upmarket accommodation you have to stay outside the old town. I much prefer to stay in the cheaper accommodation in the old quarter. Secondly, if you want a good night's sleep don't book a place on the plaza mayor (central plaza)as it could be the noisiest place in town! Last night was very quiet next to the river.

1 comment:

Annie said...

I was walking this time last year and remember all those festivals! It seemed they followed us half way to Santiago! The Gigantes were awesome. I hope your folks got to see them! Sounds like the weather is especially hot this year. Can't wait to see all your photos! Are the walkers keeping a blog this year?