Left Molinaseca before 7:30 to beat the heat. Many other pilgrims with the same idea. We reached the city of Ponferrada before 9 and had Cafe and a donut before nine. Talked with other pilgrims that we had seen on and off the last two weeks. Quickly compared notes and likely destinations. Since we had decided that we would do no more 30 km days, we settled for a destination shorter than most, Cacabelos some 25 Kms from last night.
The main sight in Ponferrada was the Templar Castle that they built and managed to use for around 20 years before their fall from grace and abolishment. It is now a Spanish national monument but did not open until 11 which might have well been the next day. There was no way that we would wait for the heat to arrive. Found our way out of the city. The signage was terrible. Ran into other pilgrims on the other side of the city who said the same thing.
The path through the countryside and small suburban towns became pretty easy. Leap frogged groups of pilgrims between Limon breaks. The little towns are lined all along the Camino with one street. In Bierza, cherries are everywhere. We resisted the temptation to pluck from the trees that line the road. Many Spanish have their little plots of garden outside the towns. I believe this is a medieval legacy. Peggy bought about a kilo of cherries from a little old lady for about a Euro. Ate them the next few Kms.
Went through towns stretched along the highway and the Camino. Some seemed as long as Fresno. We finally went into the countryside and vineyards. We reached our charming town of Cacabelos before 1 after wandering through vineyards and countryside. We checked into our Posada, Moncloa San Lazaro, a former leprosarium. Maybe the best hotel experience on the trip. Wonderful and gracious host. Rooms filled with antiques and large beds and modern plumbing and AC. The whole place is some kind of recognized Spanish treasure. The host handed us our tickets to the local wine festival and we were set. Had a nice lunch and a long siesta.
I need to explain that there are limitations to the pilgrim path of using Albergues. While they allow you to pretty much stay with other Pilgrims and develop relationships, they do Isolate you from the real Spain. As a pilgrim you eat pilgrim meals and stay in the Pilgrim end of town. Not that this is bad but you do not really integrate yourself with the non-Pilgrim oriented Spain. For reasons of personal preference and comfort, we are using local hotels. We seem to interact with a more normal Spain.
Instead of a Bocadillo from a bar for lunch we had a large meal which is normal before Siesta. Had a drink around 6 before heading out to the local wine festival. Saw a good cross section of Spain this evening. Saw no other pilgrims other than a small group of slack packers who are staying at the same place. We made it back to the hotel, the former leper hospice, by 10 which is late for a pilgrim. Other people were just getting started on this Saturday night. It is just a different experience. I am glad we are mixing it up. Besides I still don’t like sleeping with 30-40 others in bunk beds.
We have another 25 km for tomorrow as we head towards the mountain range that separates Bierza from Galicia. I will do more history tomorrow when I have not spent 3 hours at the wine festival.