June 9, 2011 Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro

Up at 07:00 for 07:30 breakfast at hotel. Felt weird to be a relatively ragged pilgrim in the midst of beautiful Spanish businessmen and businesswomen who are nicely dressed for a day’s work. My dirty clothes from yesterday have been transformed into nice-smelling, machine-washed laundry.

Out the door at 8:30 and up long hill to O Cebreiro. Decided that since I’d done the Camino Duro (the upper path above the road out of Villafranca) back in 2008 there was no need to do it this time. So I walked along the road, which was very quiet and had a much easier grade. Walked alone for first bit, then with Stefan of Quebec, Steve of Australia, and John of NY. Then caught up to Andreas followed by Nikki. Long talk with Daniel who turns out to be former Catholic priest, also with his friend Paula, a Russian from Australia. Had long talk about meaning of the camino.

Walked more with Andreas, then Mishael of Israel. Thought for sure he was Italian and indeed he is of Italian background. Hope to see him again and talk more Israeli politics. At La Faba caught up with Alexandre and arrived 16:30 with him at O Cebreiro. Went to pulperia and found Joy and Karl Heinz there. Room at home of owners, shower and quick bowl of Caldo Gallego prior to meeting Joy and Karl Heinz for dinner.

Dinner with them and their Swedish friend but before met 2 Bostonians — Christina and Margarita — here with their small guitars to make music. Christina’s Spanish reminds me how far I’ve come with my own.

Back to room for sleep, trying to stay warm. Fortunately 2 blankets in closet. Slept straight from 20:00 to next morning at 07:00. Would discover later that Sebastian and Catia were in town at the albergue, but totally missed them overnight and wouldn’t see them until Palas de Rei.

June 8, 2011 Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo

Left giant Ponferrada albergue to very cold but dry weather and headed on long sidewalk along street with closed shops for several kilometers. Some streets with vacation-looking homes and many cars to avoid, then more long sidewalks to Cacabelos.

Met Joy and Karl who told said that Rocky was in Ponferrada last night. She is now doing camino by car apparently and perhaps will hang out with Joan of Vancouver BC for remainder of camino.

Stopped for tastes of wine at a winery along the road outside Cacabelos. The guidebooks say that if you’re nice the wine and tapas are free, but none of our group apparently qualified. The wine was tasty, though, and this was a welcome stop in the hot sun.

Finished walk to Villafranca and got lost getting to restaurant plaza. Am writing this note in the blowing and cold plaza so may soon move inside. Andreas and Alex are planning to cook at the municipal albergue. Sebastian and Catia at the albergue across the river. I’m at the Parador where Gail and I stayed in 2008.

Sebastian and Catia later join me for dinner, along with Nikki (who ordered a large burger, first we’d seen on a menu). Then joined by Hannes and Pieter of Germany and Austria and enjoyed shots together of arujo. Back to the comfy Parador and an old Paul Newman movie and room service of bocadillo before bed at 23:00.