To Villafranca del Bierzo

24.08.08 Sunday.

Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo.

Our fears of a noisy night were unfounded, we slept well and with a 0600 start we were soon wandering in the dark out of Ponferrada and along the road westwards. We now have less than 200km to go to Santiago de Compostella. Dawn found us in another wine growing region (well all that Spanish wine must come from somewhere) with rolling hills and dry grasses alternating with vineyards. One interesting sight in one village was an 18th century wine press made from a whole tree trunk and a few other bits and pieces. Wine has been made and drunk here for a long time.
We only walked 22km today because tomorrow is an ascent of 800m after a 25km march and we are not in a hurry to reach Compostella as our ladies will not arrive till Monday evening a week from tomorrow.
We have now been on the road almost 4 months and it seems a lifetime, but home is getting closer, our legs could really do with some time off so we are glad we need a slower pace.
The municipal albergue in Villafranca has a usable WiFi connection so this post should not be subject to the vagaries of the connection via Tony’s super phone, while this has served well it has often taken multiple attempts with Tony disappearing up hillsides to get a good data signal and it seems telecom companies just don’t expect people to upload data in the middle of nowhere.
Villafranca is quite a large place and having arrived early with washing done we wandered down the hill into the narrow streets finding a restaurant and joining a rapidly growing crowd of locals in the bar waiting for the back room lights to go on, like greyhounds out of a trap we all surged forward into tables and a well trained cadre of staff rapidly took orders and served food, relatively expensive 13€ for 3 courses, inc wine and water.
The restored but very old church 50m from the albergue is where in the 13 and 14th centuries pilgrims too sick or injured to continue were taken to receive their indulgences as if they had been to Compostella.
The local storks have now ceased to nest on church towers but are instead using large industrial chimneys as well as high voltage electricity pylons.

Link to where we are on Google Maps