El Camino Frances

The Traditional Route from France

Western Meseta

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Hospital de Órbigo to Astorga

2 June 1993 and 20 June 2002

This is the last stage across the meseta and the way gradually rises towards more mountainous country. In 1993 this section formed only part of a long hard day because our gang decided to go on to Rabanal. We set off before 7am on a very cold morning but the sun soon came out. A cool breeze made walking more comfortable and we were in Astorga in time to have a late picnic breakfast in the grounds of the cathedral.

Astorga

The others pressed on towards Rabanal after breakfast but I took some time out to view the cathedral and the nearby bishop’s palace which was designed by the Catalan architect Gaudi. I also went to the museum alongside the cathedral and had a chat with the curator, Gustavo, who had lived for a while in Tunbridge Wells. Susan turned up with her cycling companions; they were having a lazy time, riding slowly and sightseeing. Just after 11am I recommenced my journey, walking most of the way with Patrick from Belgium.

2002. While we were having breakfast in the courtyard of the refugio we were entertained by a family of swallows which were nesting just above our heads. Jann set off first and we arranged to catch up with her in Astorga but that was not to be.

Astorga

Much of the way was along the main N120 but this day it was unusually quiet because a general strike kept most of the lorries off the road. We were able to grab a coffee from an automatic vending machine outside a petrol station but we had to wait until San Justo de la Vega before we could have real coffee and croissants. This break was much longer than normal because Judith met a Swiss pilgrim who was walking from Zurich and the bar owner had lived for three years in her home town of Luzern.

Astorga"

In Astorga we went straight to the cathedral for our stamps and then went looking for Jann. Other pilgrims had seen her near the refugio so we went there. It was not yet open for guests but the hospitalero was taking in rucksacks to make life easier for pilgrims who were sightseeing. We dumped our bags next to Jann’s and walked round the town again. Eventually we joined other pilgrims for a beer outside the Astur Plaza hotel in the main square hoping she would walk by. We later found that she had moved on to the next village but we would soon meet up with her again.

Several of this group sitting around the tables would stay near us for the rest of the journey to Santiago. Mark from Long Beach, California, was walking with his cousins, Dianne and Carolyn. Meera was from Holland and Angelika was a nurse from southern Germany.

Tony was carrying a book of Times crossword puzzles so we could exercise our brains as we lounged about in the main square. We also had a good view of the mechanical clock tower of the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall).

I was pleased to stay in Astorga after my brief visit in 1993 because I had enough time during this pleasant evening to visit the cathedral and museum in the Gaudi palace that I was only able to glance at previously.