May 29, 2011 Itero de la Vega to Villalcazar de Sirga

On the road to Villalcazar de Sirga

Last night’s stay was extraordinary. This is where I would return to be a hospitalero. I enjoyed David and the other hospitaleros and clearly they had had a good time too in their volunteer week. I was sad to leave the albergue in the morning, but it was a beautiful day.

Left alone, but soon joined Cloud, Tom and Alish. Had long, childlike discussions about favorite movies, etc. Left them just before Boadillo then was rejoined by them at Fromista. Church at Fromista once again closed so could not see inside. From outside it is a treasure.

Left Fromista alone and stayed that way through the end to Villalcazar de Sirga. Took the send route next to the road, so no real joy in it, except that I was eating up miles. Arrived at Villalcazar about 16:40 and immediately saw Sebastian! Joyful reunion and we began catching up as I unpacked my things at my bunk. Agreed to meet for dinner at 18:00. Showered and entered journal notes. Had Menu del Peregrino at restaurant, then a leg massage by German Nick, with whom I’d walked out of Boadilla. Very comfy and relaxing. He’s a rough/tough guy, but that made the massage all the better. Sebastian doesn’t like Nick much, but each on his own is a fun companion.

Would learn later that these two Germans were Bea (in the sculpture) and Catia (taking photo)

June 8, 2008 Fromista to San Zoilo

After a long day yesterday I decided to take it a little easier today, and I had read in the Brierley guidebook about an interesting monastery/hotel outside Carrion de los Condes. I left Fromista, keeping an eye out for Trevor and Danni, whom I believed were behind me.

After a couple of hours I came to Villalcazar de Sirga, home to one of the most interesting of camino churches. The reredos there date from the 12-14th centuries and the Gothic architecture is unspoiled by renovations, damaged only by the erosion of time and weather. It’s hard to imagine now how a tiny village could have created such an amazing church, but clearly the town was much larger in the 12-14th centuries when the church was constructed. Here at Villalcazar I met an interesting Canadian woman who worked at a seminary in Montreal or Toronto and was aware of some of the staff at the seminary I attended near Chicago.

As instructed by Brierley, I walked through the town of Carrion de los Condes and made my way across the river to the Hotel/Monastery of San Zoilo. On the south side one would guess this was a modern hotel. On the north side, though, is an historic entryway to the monastery. In between are two amazing cloisters and a grand chapel for the former monastery. My room was in a monk’s cell, just off the cloister, and the massive and ancient wooden doors hid a modern and comfortable room inside. This was one of the most amazing hotels of the camino and I was glad to be able to afford the premium fare after many nights in low-cost albergues. At dinner I discovered the Canadian woman I’d met earlier. She’d been intrigued by my description of the hotel earlier in the day and had also decided to stay here. She mentioned that, as she had sent home stories of her camino to her husband, he had decided it was something he needed to do. So he would be joining her in a day or two in León.

I settled in for one of my best camino nights so far, looking back with some pride to the over 350 kilometers I’d traveled. As I calculated the distances I realized that in the next couple of days I’d reach the halfway point of my camino. I felt sad that this great adventure was already nearly halfway done.

June 7, 2008 Hontanas to Fromista

Trevor proved to be much fun and very good company and he had with him Danni, a policewoman from Berlin. We set out after breakfast on a cool and windy day with rain threatening from the skies.

Soon after Hontanas is the Convento San Anton, a ruined medieval convent with portions of the apse and some buttresses all that remain. The road goes under one of the buttresses and the whole scene is one of beauty and desolation.

After a time the road straightened out as vistas of the next town, Castrojeriz, came into view. The crescent-shaped town hugs a conical mountain with a ruined castle on top and, though Castrojeriz is quite small, it is easily 2 km in distance to cross it from one tip of the crescent to the next.

After traversing the town, Danni, Trevor and I set out to climb the big hill opposite. This is considered the biggest climb of the Meseta, and perhaps one of the steepest (though not the longest) climbs of the entire camino. At the top we looked back to spectacular views of Castrojeriz and the pathway from which we’d come. On the other side of the hill we looked down to unobscured views of the remainder of the Meseta and the mountains beyond. The steep downhill was followed by more, seemingly endless, flat stretches.

Feeling good in my new boots, I left Trevor and Danni behind and headed to Fromista, 34 km from the day’s start. This was one of my longest days so far on a camino and, when the hospitalero at the albergue indicated there were no more beds I was discouraged. After walking through the plaza area and finding now hotel rooms, I was even more discouraged. I went back to the albergue, put on my sad face, and the hospitalera opened a vacant overflow room and let me take the first bed. Later that evening a group of strapping, young Italian bikers in Spandex shorts joined me and, though we had no language in common, we spent a friendly night in our bunks, with handshakes and smiles all around.

I regret missing the open hours of the Fromista church. It’s one of the treasures of the camino, with hundreds of sculptures in the outdoor soffits. It’s tiny, but clearly a Romanesque gem.