VíA De La Plata (Camino de Santiago) 2014

  • March 14: Starting at Fuenterroble de Salvatierrra (3/14/2014) - Estamos en España! I’m here in Spain to update my app guidebook on the Vía de la Plata (VDLP), one of Spain’s five main Caminos to Santiago de Compostela. I’ve always dreamed of taking each of my three kids with me, separately, on the VDLP. Since they’re all young adults and only getting older, I figured I’d better get on this, stat. So I’m accompanied by my youngest, Maura, who is on her spring break from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
  • March 15: Fuenterroble to San Pedro de Rozados (3/15/2014) - Today dawned sunny and cool. We had about 17 miles ahead of us, including hiking up to the highest point on the entire VDLP. Fueled by cafe con leches, we headed out around 9 a.m. Since I was last here in 2011, much has changed (for the better). There are several new explanatory plaques about the ancient Roman road, which the VDLP follows, including one sort of recreated section that gives you an idea of its width and general contours.
  • March 16: San Pedro de Rozados to Salamanca! (3/16/2014) - I love Salamanca! It's long been one of my most favorite cities along the VDLP. But I'm way ahead of myself. Last night Maura and I had one of the best meals I've had in Spain. The owner of the inn (Mari Carmen of Carreras VII) made us a wonderful soup with cod, chick peas, rice and spinach as an appetizer. Then we had a nice little beef filet with an amazing watercress salad. (It took her hours to clean and prepare the watercress; she worked on it the entire time we were on our laptops in the bar before dinner, which was at least 2 hours.)
  • March 17: Salamanca to El Cubo del Vino (3/17/2014) - Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We keep forgetting it’s today, because there’s no green beer here, corned beef and cabbage, shamrocks or any other sign of this popular holiday. Today was another beautiful, sunny day. We were looking at about 23 miles, but not daunted.
  • March 18: El Cubo to Zamora (3/18/2014) - Another glorious, sunny day in Spain. But let’s pick up from last night. Berto, our host, chatted with us at the end of our meal, which was fantastic: a tasty fish soup, fried eggs and beef. I mentioned the confusing “sin agua” and “con agua” signs, and he promptly called a Camino expert/friend to explain. Apparently it was a misinterpretation. The signs were referring to a stream that ran under the highway. If the stream was “sin agua” (or dry), you could continue on the normal route under the highway. But if the stream had water, you needed to detour up and around.
  • March 19: Zamora to Granja de Moreruela (3/19/2014) - Today was another long day -- about 28 miles. We left Zamora and passed through one small town, then headed toward the next, Montamarta. There's an enormous amount of highway construction going on here (as it had been when I last passed 2 years ago), but this time it's quite confusing.
  • March 20: Granja de Moreruela to Santa Croya de Tera (3/20/2014) - Today we faced a nearly 50-kilometer hike. Intense. But what countryside! We left Granja and wandered throughout gorgeous land before coming upon the Esla River and the old Roman bridge spanning it. We crossed that as Maura noted the opposing cliffs were like Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin. Ha! Little did she know the Camino runs around and up those hills, so we experienced a hike/climb very similar to what we do at Devil’s Lake.
  • March 21: Santa Croya de Tera to Rionegro del Puente (3/21/2014) - Today could have been a real coup, but sad to say it wasn't. When we got to Santa Croya de Tera last night, Ana (the owner of the popular albergue Casa Anita) told us that tomorrow and the next day or two were special. The neighboring church in Santa Marta de Tera has this religious depiction near the altar carved in stone. Twice a year (March and September), the light shines through a window in the church and illuminates this carving.
  • March 22: Rionegro del Puente to Puebla de Sanabria (3/22/2014) - Maura's tendonitis was pretty painful today, so I left her to explore Puebla de Sanabria (a great city) while I went back and hiked there from Rionegro del Puente, about 26 miles away. The day was mostly sunny and fresh, although at times I was walking straight into a ferocious headwind, which was tough.
  • March 23: Puebla de Sanabria to Vilavella (3/23/2014) - Oh my. This was definitely one of those days every pilgrim needs to have at least one of. I got lost several times. I got wet. I was exhausted. I had some magical moments. So here goes.
  • March 24: Vilavella to Laza (3/24/2014) - Things are getting a bit tough out here. Definitely tougher than any other Camino trips I've made. I keep telling myself what I'm going through is nothing compared to what the "real" pilgrims of the past dealt with. Today I had 30 miles on the docket. So of course it was supposed to rain all day. Oh, and did I say I'd be in a really mountainous stretch? And that just as I was leaving my lodging, I realized I only had one glove?
  • March 25: Laza to Vilar de Barrio (3/25/2014) - Today was a short day -- just 12 miles. THANK GOODNESS! Today was another rainy day. Like yesterday, the rain was intermittent and not too nasty for the first two hours. I didn't make good time, though, like I did yesterday (when I ran a lot) because there's a HUGE climb up a really rocky path in part of this segment.
  • March 26: Vilar de Barrio to Ourense (3/26/2014) - Raindrops keep fallin' on my head ... That was one of the first 45s in our family (my older brother), and it's certainly apt. The forecast today was just for rain the first 1-2 hours of my hike, then partly sunny skies. Well, it sort of was true.
  • March 27: Ourense to Cea (3/27/2014) - Today was a short 14-mile jog to Cea. I let myself sleep in, then got ready to head out at 10:30 a.m. SCORE -- the staff at my hotel found a new mochila taxi service that operates from Ourense to Santiago. The rate is 20 euros/leg, no matter what length the legs are. This is especially beneficial for folks like me, who never have enough time away from home and have to log long days. So off my bags went, while I headed to the Museum Cafe.
  • March 28: Cea to Silleda (3/28/2014) - This morning, on the advice of my inn hostess, I stopped for breakfast at Sol Y Luna, right on the Camino in downtown Cea. What a lovely spot! The spacious café also includes a gift shop, so it’s fun to browse while your breakfast is being made. It doesn’t look like there’s much food, but they offer toast, eggs, omelets and an assortment of pastries. I ordered a café con leche and croissant. The owner asked how much espresso vs. milk that I wanted (a nice touch) and included a slice of her cake with my croissant. Everything was great. Best of all, though, were the bathrooms. I rate the ladies’ room the best on the VDLP. Not only was it clean, but it came equipped with all sorts of amenities: air freshener, hand lotion, perfume samples, etc. What a treat!
  • March 29: Silleda to Santiago (3/29/2014) - This is the last leg, folks. It’s always an exciting, yet sad, day. I hate the end of the Camino! But I always look forward to reaching Santiago. Before I got started, I toured a newer albergue in town, run by the same Maril family that operates the inn. It looked fairly nice to me – clean, three floors, no more than three beds per room (and singles and doubles, too). One living room even came with a massage recliner. A Maril uncle runs the adjacent bar.
  • March 30: Santiago! (3/30/2014) - My flight to Madrid wasn’t until 5:40 p.m., so I had the day free. I am so lucky. I went to the noon pilgrim Mass, and for the third time in three visits, the botafumeiro was swung. The previous two times I’ve been here, I arrived into Santiago shortly before the Mass. I was tired, dirty and had to stand the entire time. This time I was rested, clean and had a seat. Plus, the cathedral itself wasn’t bursting at the seams. So when they swung the botafumeiro, it was very easy to see and take a nice film clip (normally my photos and videos have the backs of people’s heads in them).

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