Thursday, September 11, 2008


After a good night, we got up at 8:00 AM and had a great breakfast at the hotel. We got a call from our friend Stella Azpiazu, who would be leaving Miami and arriving in San Sebastian the next day. She and her husband, Justo would be joining us somewhere along the way before Santiago. We had talked to Carmen, the owner of Casa Mendez, so we were very well informed as to everything we should see during our visit in Villafranca. The Calle del Agua takes you anywhere you want to go, so we walked along it to the highest point in the city, going by some very beautiful mansions. At Villafranca two rivers converge,Church both of crystal clear waters that reflect the buildings like a mirror. The castle of the XV C. is a private castle that apparently has belonged to the same family for centuries. Across from it, there is the Romanesque XIIIC. Church of Santiago, which has an incredibly beautiful Byzantine Crucifix. We had been told to eat at La Puerta del Perdon, a very beautiful restaurant that had just been renovated. We stopped, talked to the owner, reserved a table and continued on our tour. We so welcomed this day of touring!. We continued on to the center of the city where we visited the old convent that has a wonderful church, and next to it what is today a fine Hotel called San Nicolas el Real. When we got to the restaurant, we were given the best table with view of the castle, and there we had a lovely lunch accompanied by a very good Bierzo wine. We walked back to our hotel, picked up our backpacks and walked to the road to wait for the bus that would take us to Piedrafita. It was 4:45 PM, but the sun was so hot! We sat there baking in the sun until the bus came. It was totally packed! In the back we found a couple of places next to two young boys, Francisco and Alex who had started their walk at Roncesvalles, in the Pyrenees. They were delightful young men, very polite and helpful. We got off the bus at Piedrafita after a very steady climb; from 800 mt. to 1,300,mt. We were so glad we were not doing it on foot. Galicia opens up to you like a flower. What beauty! What vastness! We walked only 3,5 km to get to O'Cebreiro, an old Celtic slate village which still has a few "pallozas" or Celtic dwellings of thatched roofs. The village is tiny and intimate with its narrow cobblestone streets and tiny church. Our lodge was called Carolo, owned by a young couple who had just remodeled it, so the rooms were very comfortable and the bathrooms, modern. At the bar, we had a beer, some home made "requeson" country cheese from Galicia, and some delicious olives with peasant bread, al lovely combination. From there I was able to make a phone call to my bank to get a new password for my ATM card. I had to scream because they could not hear me on the other side, but I succeeded at the end. We ran into Sol, whom we had met along the way several times. She was getting tired, she told us, so we think after O'Cebreiro she might have gone home. Before it got dark, we went to see the church of Santa Maria, a refurbished IX C. church, and one of the oldest in the Camino. The mass was ending, and the little church was full of young pilgrims from all over the world. The blessing was given in Spanish, Galician and in Polish by a visiting Polish priest. There is a perfect wooden Statue of Sta. Maria from the XI C. and a chalice which has its own little chapel in the church. We went back to the hotel, the temperature having dropped considerably after sunset, so we had a very good night's sleep.

Pilgrim statue Villafranca

Castle at Villafranca

Church of Santiago, Villafranca del Bierzo

Galician "galeria" and S. Nicolas el Real, Villafranca del Bierzo

View of castle from our restaurant table

A poem to The Pilgrim

Green, Gorgeous, Galicia!

Alex, Libia and Francisco

Shining slate roofs of O'Cebreiro

XI C wooden statue

Sta. Maria La Real, O'Cebreiro

Palloza or Celtic dwelling, O'Cebreir

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