Saturday, May 30, 2015

Zamora - May 30th

Getting to Zamora from Astoraga was easy peasy. The Estacion de Autobus was a 5 min walk from my hotel and at 8:50 am I was on my way for the 2 1/2 hour bus ride. The bus station in Zamora is in the newer part of the City about 30 minutes walk to the Albergue. The walk was very pleasant and through areas of town I don't recall seeing when I was here last time I walked the Camino. Once I found my way to the Parque de la Marina Espanola La Farola and from their to the Calle peatonal (pedestrian lane/walkway), Calle Santa Clara, it was a straight path to Plaza Mayor and for their I recognized where I was and so could find the Albergue.

Zamora is quite the city. According to Wiki the population is over 66,000 and with 23 Christian temples, it has the highest number of Romanesque churches of any European City. have vowed to at least see the outside of each of them in the 16 or so days I will be in town.

The first church I saw when walking to the Albergue was Iglesia de Santiago del Burgo, which was in front of the walkway at Plaza de Santiago.

It is quite the touristic City with not only beautiful churches, monistariea and a Cathedral, but also has a number of Museums, a Castle and other historic buildings. If I have any spare time I will certainly get my fill of architecture and history.

At Plaza Mayor is the Iglesia de San Juan de Puerto Nueve. This was a familiar site and I recognized the statues by the Church. Here is my blog from my previous Camino visit to Zamora.

What I didn't remember is the exquisite weather vane at the top of the tower. It is is a replica of the Vane of Permanto which is a 16th century iron warrior wearing armour and forged in 1642.

I also remembered the Plaza de Viriato, which is planted with wonderful pollard plane trees.

The Albergue is beside the Iglesia de San ace rain et San Cipriano, built into the side of the old city wall, on the path the Pilgrims walk up the hill into the city.

There is a wonderful view vantage point which is behind both the church and the Albergue.

The Albergue is next to the Iglise de San Cipriano
The Zamora Municipal Albergue

Iglesia Maria Magdalena Is one of 14 churches in the old historic area of the city and it is just a short stroll from the Albergue toward the Cathedral.

This really grabbed my attention.

This church is very near the one above. It is Iglesia de Santa Maria la Nueva.

I will be here for 16 days and so will have lots of time to tell you about Zamora and the sights. So stay tuned for the blogs I post in the next 2 weeks for more pictures and info on Zamora.

I joined the two other Hospitaleras who were stationed at the Albergue from 15 May and will leave on the morning of the 1st of June. Jocelyne, the other Hospitalera who is assigned here for the next two weeks jointed me on the afternoon of the 30th. She had walked from Salamanca, a three day walk.

Our first priority is to learn what we need to know to be a good Hospitaleras. I will blog about the job and what is happening in the Albergue when I can. Hopefully I can put together another blog in a few days to catch up and tell you about our first day (13 Perigrinos) and 2nd day (29 Perigrinos). The Albergue holds 30 people so that is near a full house. We serve breakfast and do all the cleaning, in addition to greeting Perigrinos, recording who is at the Albergue and and some details about their Pilgrimage journey, and helping them in any way we can - so we are busy.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Leon to Astorga via Bus - May 29

Getting to Astorga was painless. Easy walk to the bus station where I joined a half dozen pilgrims who were busing forward various distances. The route paralleled the route which the Pilgrims were walking, and I wished them well as the bus zipped by them.


Hotel Gaudi, my hotel was just minutes from the bus station and in a perfect location right across from the Gaudi castle. It was a jump above my budget at 50 EUR a night, but there aren't any lower priced hostals in Astorga and I wanted to be in the old part of the City. told me that this was the least expensive of the available accommodation so I had taken it. Turns out that it is absolutely spectacular with a view from my window of the castle!

Hotel Gaudi

The bed is really big and comfy!

After wandering around town for the afternoon, i Indulged myself with an afternoon nap. I didn't sleep that well last night. The hotel seemed to be a gathering point for late night revellers and I was frequently woke to loud singing and hoots and hollering. I was glad to crawl into my comfy bed for a bit of shut eye.

I have been to Astorga before, when I did the Camino last time. It was so familiar wandering around and it was as nice as I remembered,

What is left of the old Roman city wall
The Cathedral
Roman ruins
The City park
View from the city wall

I walked around the entire perimeter of the old city until I was back at the Gaudi Castle. I didn't need to tour the Castle or the Cathedral as I went through them last time I was here.

I decided to eat a light "Racion" for dinner, rather than the full Pilgrims menu and I ordered "Gambas Gabardina", thinking and hoping it would be shrimp fried in garlic butter. I had seen this dish served yesterday at another restaurant and thought that it was the standard way of serving shrimp. Instead what arrived was something that reminded me of Chinese deep fried battered Shrimp. While it was tasty it was not what I was craving.

My bus is at 8:45 in the morning, so I will have an early night and high tail it out of here in the morning. I can grab a coffee at the bus station. I am expected at the Albergue in the afternoon and the current Hospitalaros are in charge until the morning of June 1st, so there will be a good amount of time to transisiton. My Hospitalara partner, Jocelyne, a Canadian from Quebec, is arriving on the 31st. I am sure we will have a good time during our 15 days at the Albergue,

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Leon Sightseeing - May 28

I has another great day yesterday in Leon. The weather has been fantastic, as you can see from the pics blue skies for the last week and temps in the mid to high 20s for the last several days and more of the same for most of the week. Perfect weather! Interesting is the range of temperature in a day. It is 7:00 am now and the temp is 15 degrees, warmer than many mornings and it got as low as 5 degrees one day. That said, the sun is extremely hot, so as soon as it is up a bit in the morning the temps begin to rise and it continues to warm until about 6 pm, which is quite unlike Canada. I guess Spain is at a lower Longtitude, but it sure is welcome.

Leon is a vibrant City, much more than Burgos and much more than it's Cathedral, as lovely as it is.

My first stop was the Cathedral and the audio tour of the Cathedral was 3 EUR was worth the money. I have previously posted pics from the front, here is the side plus some interior shots.

The Santa Maria de Leon Cathedral was built on the original 2nd century site of Roman Baths, which were subsequently converted to a Palace, a Cathedral and then a grander Romanesque Cathedral. Built in the 12th century, it is apparently the finest example of French-style classic Gothic architecture in Spain and is also famous for it's spectacular stained glass windows, next in grandeur only to Lourdes. Hard to believe when looking from the outside the stained glass is only visible from the inside. The building is also know as the House of Light or Pulchra Leonina for that reason.
The audio guide also I formed me that the building was almost lost in the due to some engineering and material quality issues the ceiling started to fall in sometime during the 15th century and there was risk of the whole building coming down due to the failure of critical supports. Thanks to some careful interventions and restorations it stands today.

There is parkland all along the Rio Bernesga. Pathways are lined with trees and pruned to provide maximum shade, encouraging new grown close to the trunk.



A sightseeing train ride to get the lay of the land
I took a train ride to get the lay of the land. While the ticket was only 4.50 EUR for a 45 min ride, it was very frustrating because the English language narrative was not working well and the last few minutes of every explanation was cut off!

The Casa Botines is a Modernist building designed by the well known Antoni Gaudi is at the entrance to the old part of the City.

The Monastery of San Marcos is now houses the Paradour San Marcos (part of a luxury hotel chain operated by the Spanish government), a consecrated church and museum. It was built in the 12th century and at that time housed a Pilgrim's hospital.

Mugging with the statue, outside the Parador. I went into the Parador for coffee and a good look around.

The Basilica of San Isidoro.

Remains of the City wall.

I had an excellent meal at the cafe by the Cathedral. The Pilgrim's meal had great choices - I had gazpacho and Salmon, just delightful,

In my travels today I found the bus station and bought my ticket to Astoraga (3.85 EUR). My bus leaves at 11:30 and it is just an hour's trip. I will be there one night before busing down to Zamora.

Sahagún to Leon Via Train - May 27

Yesterday, I hung up my pilgrim's shell and became a tourist for a few days as I transition to my new role as "Hospitalera". That is the name of the job performed by those who run the Albergues, but more about that in a future post, for now I am a touristica, so when I woke up in the Albergue in Sahagún, at 6:30 am when the dorm lights were flipped on, I didn't have to get out of bed. I had the luxury of getting up slowly and lingering over coffee with the hotel guests and the 2 Perigrinos who were staying in Sahagún, forced to rest due to foot issues.

I met a most interesting English couple who were doing a road trip through Portugal and Spain with 4 other couples from their Teal Car (Bugatti) car club. I went out back to the Hotel car park and saw this wonderful fleet of antique cars.

After a long chat with John and Wendy I hung around watching John pack their stuff in their roadster and get ready for the day's drive. There is no top for the car. I asked what happens if it rains and was told they have 2 umbrellas! The windscreen hardly was worth having as it did not reach above their heads, so goggles and hats and heavy jackets were in order with the stiff wind and chilly morning temps.

My train was not until 12:52 so I was able to do some sightseeing around the town.

Then to the train station to take the 30 min ride into Leon. There were lots of Perigrinos aboard. I guess their were more than a few who needed to rest their feet. I talked with a lady from California who was doing the Camino "Kangaroo style", as she put it. She had sold everything she owned and was touring Europe,making her first travel segment the Camino. Her bag was too heavy for her to carry and so she was sending it forward each walking day, but instead of walking the whole distance, she was walking a bit and then busing or taking a train for the next bit. As is said, everyone has their own Camino. She was the third woman I have met on the Camino who does not have an answer when asked "where is your home"?

The train brought me pretty much to the centre of the City, just a 20 minute walk from the Cathedral and my hotel. Thanks to I was able to book a nice hostal at the corner of the street right at the Cathedral, for only 30 EUR a night. I will stay here 2 nights as a tourist. I really lucked out with this hostal. A hostal is really just a less expensive hotel. Private room and private bath - unlike a Pension, which Is a still less expensive version, generally with shared baths.

The walk to the Cathedral was easy easy and picturesque and the Cathedral in Leon is pretty special, but I will leave that to tomorrow's post to describe.

The room was perfect
My view from my Juliette balcony
Hostal Albany where I stayed in Leon

My hotel featured a restaurant/Cafe/bar/ice cream shop downstairs. It was a perfect place to sit out and watch the Pilgrims arrive after their day's walk and to take in the beauty of the Cathedral. The empanada and Sangria was a perfect afternoon snack!

After checking in I went out wandering about town and did a bit of sightseeing. Amazingly, I bumped into dozens of Pilgrims I had become friends with over the past 3 weeks from a the various cohorts I had joined. Leon is a popular stop for pilgrims to stay a few days. A large number of us headed out for dinner together and for an evening of socializing.

It was a late night- the first late night since I arrived in Spain. I will leave my descriptionn of Leon and the sights until tomorrow's blog.