Slow News Day

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it – John Steinbeck (America’s greatest author??)

Camino Day 21, 29th Setiembre. 488 klms. Santa Marina del Rey, León, Castile y León, España.

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We left León a little later than planned, but that didn’t matter as today was a short walk anyway. (I had only overnight made the final decision to walk today, as I had to assess the leg. Hopefully this will be the last of the leg reports – yes I know I’ve said that before – as the drugs have kicked in, the swelling and the red blotches have subsided, and the pain factor today was close to cero.)

The photo above is of the Renaissance Plaza San Marcos, which had its roots back in the 11th century.

Below is a farewell shot of the Roman walls at the back of San Isidoro.
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We had a choice of routes today. Ours was predetermined by the accommodation choice I had previously made, and whilst not a bad choice, you’d easily argue that it was the sub-optimal one.

The choice is made at a town called La Virgen del Camino, about 8.5 klms out of the centre of León. Those 8.5 klms are mostly just through the outer León suburbs. I don’t mind those walks, as they give a wider sense of the city, which clearly one can’t get just from the old town in the centre. That said, there’s nothing all that inspirational about such a walk – informative, not inspiring.

At La Virgen the choice is then to keep going straight (south west) alongside the N-120, or to veer off south-ish into the more remote country. Because we had accommodation booked near to the end point of the former that was the one we chose.

A couple of photos first …

At La Virgen
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And then at San Miguel, I think (love these church/stork shots)
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Now I don’t really mind walking alongside the N-120 – we’ve followed it previously, and it reminds me that as I stroll generally quite carefree along my 800 klm journey I remain part of the wider world, and the cars and trucks zooming by are a clear and important part of that world. Even so, compared to remote county walking it’s not as much fun.

So as we approached the Hotel Avenida III, arguably one of the world’s weirdest hotels in one of the strangest towns we’ve seen, it was with some relief as it signalled that our N-120 stretch was nearing an end. Not that we are staying at the Hotel Avenida III. They have a website which proudly proclaims their support of the Camino, and as we approached their home town of Villadangos del Páramo they have posters everywhere exhorting one to come and stay. Nothing wrong with that – except that I had tried at least 4 times to book a room, and not once did they respond. You can’t book though booking.com, they don’t answer emails, nor do they respond to their online query form. So we walked straight past! Now Villadangos is quite a big town. But odd. No other apparent hostals or pensions. Certainly no other hotels. Therefore no other options. I’d previously booked a room at the Hostal Salon Victoria in nearby Santa Marina del Rey, and we made a big decision, which prompted today’s quote from Steinbeck. Rather than walk another 8 klms, off the Camino, we caught a taxi to our lodgings, and tomorrow morning will walk the approximately 6 klms back onto the way. Good call.

The town of Santa Marina is quite intriguing. A mixture of new and old. A couple of shots follow:

Iglesia de Santa Marina, with obligatory storks nests on the steeple
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Run down old gate on the left, a row of modern houses opposite
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New roof going on
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A lovely building. The inscription on top reads “Anos 1932. Vinos y Ultramarinos. Pedro Sanchez Olivera. Hijo Sucesor de Baltazar Sanchez”. The mosaics have seen slightly better days, but how fabulous is this?
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Plaza Mayor
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Vino tinto at Bar el Barin, Santa Marina del Rey
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Now to answer the quiz from Ledigos. Technically Susan from Perth wins with a guess of €5. She does have an advantage though, having walked the Camino and being a bit of an expert. Next closest to the pin was DW, with a guess of €6. The correct answer, wait for it … €4.40 – €1.20 each for the coffees and €1.00 each for the vinos.

So now a couple of penultimate closings …

We had a couple of small vino tintos each at Bar el Barin. The lady had walked the Camino twice and her credencials and Compostelas were on display. And then her daughter(s) and grandchild arrived. Just a fun family gathering. A couple of patrons came and went. And we had a bowl of peanuts to go with our vinos. The cost … €2.40.

As we left the bar I greeted an elderly señora with a “buenos noches”. She corrected me with a “buenos tardes”, and then we had a conversation, in Spanish, about noches versus tardes, and how tall we are, which resulted in a farewell hug with Janet.

And finally on the way back to the Hostal Victoria – the local cows were also heading home down the main road. I love this place.
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Maybe it’s not been such a slow news day at all …

Tomorrow, a medium ~24 klm day into Astorga a medium sized town of about 12,000.

And to (almost) close … the Steinbeck quote is about the journey, not the marriage. I’m not getting drawn into that.

And finally finally. Back onto decent internet again. Photos from last couple of posts now uploaded. Check back if you’re interested.

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