Day 16: San Martín del Camino to Astorga 

After the early-onset food comas due to copious amounts of paella at dinner last night, Frank and Mikey got some much needed sleep and an early start this morning. Still, the going was rough due to monotonous terrain. Sure, we had a wooded walk at times, but the majority of our first 6km was alongside the highway. No bueno.


Yes, it looks nice, but the dew wet our boots (luckily waterproof) and Mikey cleared the trail of spider webs with his face. Enough complaining, though – we are on an epic journey! Let’s allow Mikey to share another Camino tale which took place some time ago:

Once upon a time, there was a knight who fell in love with a young maiden. After publicly professing his love and formally requesting her hand in marriage, it came as quite a blow to his ego and honor when she declined his matrimonial offer.

Our spurned knight could no longer appear at court much less ask for another maiden’s hand in marriage. Thus, he quit his town and rode off in search of adventure and an opportunity to reinstate his honor.

One day, he happened upon an unguarded Templar bridge at the entrance to a city. Positioning himself midway across, under the guise of guaranteeing the safe passage of pilgrims and townspeople alike, he began challenging any passing knights to a duel.

This continued for quite a while and after breaking some 300 lances on (and thereby defeating) his opponents, it was decided that his honor was no longer in question and he could leave the bridge. While it must have been a relief for the township to now have its bridge cleared of said “knight errant,” our penitent and clearly oblivious friend rode on to Santiago de Compestella to give thanks for his restored honor.

 Mikey kept his trekking poles holstered, but at the ready, as he made his way across the Puente del Rio Orbigo.
Actually, the worst part of crossing the bridge was lack of an open breakfast spot on the other side! Hence, sirs Frank and Mikey tarried for 2 more kilometers on empty stomachs.

 

At long last, their hunger was satiated with a ham and egg scramble, toast, oj, and coffee. Trust us, this is a feast in Spain!

 Still, all good things must come to an end and we found ourselves back in the Meseta in no time.

 Weather in the high plains is very unpredictable. We walked on dry, cracked  ground for quite some time only to come across a muddy pond and bogged down roads within a kilometer.

 Oh to be a farm animal!

 Speaking of which, Frank started sweet-talking some heifers on a farm through which we walked.

Meanwhile, Mikey made friends with this little calf. She was quite spirited, so he named her Elvis!


We trudged on for many miles before reaching this cross marker on a hilltop overlooking Astorga.

 Mikey and a fellow pilgrim celebrated with a swig of Brita-filtered Spanish H2O!

 Frank crossing a bridge into the city.

And, BAM! There’s your medieval cathedral. We were quite interested in the variety of stone used in the facade.

 The altar was much simpler than other examples we have seen from this period. Still, the sheer mass of stone and open space was fascinating.

These stained glass windows were from a later period when light and airy colors were more appreciated.


Ok, that’s kinda creepy!

The world-renowned architect Antoni Gaudi is famous for his Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church) and many other buildings in Cataluña, Spain. In fact, there exist only two of his major constructions outside of that region. The Bishop’s Palace in Astorga is one of the two. It was completed in the first quarter of the 20th century.

 Some of the rooms seem very Oxfordesque or maybe even akin to Hogwarts.

 This is inside the bishops’ private chapel.

 A collection of Santiago-themed art is currently housed at the (renamed) Gaudi Museum. This is a 17th century statue of Santiago.

  This 15th century oil on wooden panel depicts Santiago and Saint Peter. Oh, and Mikey totally wants that hat!


This is the city hall building. It was erected at the end of the 17th century and has some pretty rad bell-ringer figures.
After all that walking, we had some local dishes for dinner:


Local Cod with garbanzo beans and rice in a tomato sauce.  
Steak in a mushroom sauce with white rice.  Oven-roasted chicken quarter with red peppers and potatoes.
Astorga was fun, but we filled almost every free moment with touristy things. While this was a very informative and culturally enlightening stopover, we hope that a quieter evening tomorrow will offer more rest. Buenas noches.

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