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Journal

Follow here my journey and stories around the World. 

 

Filtering by Tag: Beer

Day 12: Villafranca del Bierzo - Samos

Ivan Blanco

Español aquí

Leaving the day before with one casual thou glorious pilgrim family dinner, a new day was about to start and new heights were to be conquered!

Cozy albergue dining 

Sleeping in a lovely cozy house, with about other 30 pilgrims per room, it's not rare to be woken up at early hours by some plastic rattling and pilgrims waking up early (check day 3). However, this time a rather uncommon sound woke us up everyone at the same time. Imagine yourself sleeping tenderly among fellow pilgrims, wrapped up in your sleeping bag and all cuddled up when... SUDDENLY, a big BANG wakes you UP! In addition to this, someone cries out anxiously "Oh Dios mio!!!" (=Oh my Gosh!) with a strong English accent. Being the room pitch black, making sure it wasn't me and not hearing anyone complaining any more, in a mix of startled and sleepy situation... I soon went back to dreamland.

With the first sun rays hitting my eyes I finally woke up and we all discovered the night's mystery, there was a person who literally fell down from one of the higher bunk beds, which was what made that big noise. However, the "Oh Dios mio!!!" wasn't the same person, it was someone else bewildered by the banging noise. Mystery still surrounded on who was the person who fell down... that's when an "Ondiñas" member confessed: Carla fell down! Even with a slim body as hers, the bang was an impressive one and although she didn't cry it out, the "Oh Dios mio!!!" jokes didn't stop during the whoooole day :)

After this revelation we soon attacked our breakfast in one of the loveliest albergue dining rooms I've ever seen. The breakfast itself was glorious too, to Andrew's rejoice, they served us bacon and eggs on delicious bread. I also caught up with Fee, the Danish pilgrim from day 11 and I could do another of my famous photo interviews with Blanca, who works at the albergue where we stayed. This made me yet stay behind again, but it wasn't just that, awed by Villafranca's charming beauty, I couldn't leave without a photography moment, check it out below.

The gorgeous Villafranca del Bierzo

Stopping by a small village to quickly sip a coffee, to my surprise the unstoppable Andrew arrived behind me, he got slowed down because he walked with some pilgrims he found on the way. Riding together, he told me a story that happened to him: he was simply riding on the road as usual pilgrims do, with his luggage rack, bike and all when he suddenly sees at some near distance a group of cyclists, quite a bunch of them! When he neared more and more, with his weight and all, he saw it was a cyclists peloton that were taking part at the Cycling World Championship we saw the day before, in Ponferrada. The thing is, he had at some point to overtake these professional guys riding 10.000 € bikes... the funny thing is that the guy in the car told Andrew to "back up, back up", to which he simply answered: "Well, they've got to ride faster then!" Yep, the amazing Mr. Andrew with a heavy trekking bike and loaded, was faster than World cycling champions... what a rider! (we then guessed the team leader didn't probably want to discourage the riders from being overtaken by a heavy loaded bike pilgrim ;) ).

Climb and you'll get rewarded

Thirteenth recommendation of the Camino: follow your way step by step, don't fear the big players, sometimes you even overtake them!

We later entered the beautiful area of "Los Ancares" where Andrew took the lead (try to keep up yourself after the story I just told you). Therefore, I rode mostly alone on the way up to Cebreiro, until I encountered two Basque men doing the Camino on foot, we had a fun chat and I went on for a last push and climb the 1098m heights of the first Galician village. With unplanned perfect timing, I found there the "Ondiñas" team, who had taken the main road vs. the secondary one I did. I actually already knew Pedrafita do Cebreiro quite well, it was one of the places I used to bring friends to visit and specially see the traditional dwellings called Palloza. Besides of this, they also have one exquisite gastronomic delicacy: the "Queixo do Cebreiro" (= Cebreiro cheese, more info here; Spanish only). It's a bit like a ripened soft cheese, that you can almost spread on bread but not as soft as French Camembert or the other Galician cheese "Tetilla" (read more about the "little breast" cheese on my day 10). I then convinced Andrew to stay there a bit longer and visit this small village, it wasn't difficult to do so, he happily agreed by ordering two beers while I got us one piece of this cheese, bread and some delicious home made raisin marmalade; mmmmm delicious!

Delicious Cebreiro cheese and my favourite beer

After yet another gourmet moment, what wrongly looked like a smooth ride down, soon became another steep hill to be conquered. We even adventured ourself to a typical narrow trekking path... which was becoming an impossible task, to such an extend that pilgrims almost overtook us and we nearly fell down twice on that rocky climb. However, this made the arrival to the top even more rewarding, once there, we mingled with three Brazilian pilgrims who were amused by our exhausted faces. Lucky thing too, there was a nearby bar where we had a few well earned beers: cheers to that!

Happy rainy rides!

Fully recharged, we hit the road again to dive into the magnificent landscapes of my beloved home region Galicia; hills, cows, trees, fresh air and unique views were welcoming us to one of the greenest areas of Spain. Of course, in a region that is similar to the French Brittany or Ireland, we couldn't be welcomed without one of its most outstanding elements... the RAIN! This source of life poured on us in its most natural form and in just a few minutes we were completely soaked up, which, contrary to general belief, made us happier and have even more fun on our ride down. 

The "Ondiñas" team in the Samos Monastery

After this fresh downhill, we finally arrived to another unique place: Samos! Its most noteworthy point of interest is the wonderful "Monasterio San Xulian de Samos", a medieval monastery belonging to the order of the Benedictines, dating back to the 6th century with examples of three different architectural styles: late Gothic, the Renaissance and Baroque. Among the likes of the Cathedral of Santiago, Samos is on its own rights one of the most beautiful places of my home region.

The Monastery's Church

When we reached our final destination of the day, Andrew and I had a great welcome from our "Ondiñas" friends that arrived just a few minutes before. Settled down in the nearby albergue, after a quick shower, we went to the Monastery and enjoyed a guided visit of the grounds. In the visiting group there were some people who didn't speak any Spanish, so, since no else offered, I did them the translation into English. Both non-Spanish speakers were really grateful for my assistance and even fray Horacio, who was our tour guide, wanted to recruit me for the congregation. Before leaving, he even told me "Think about it!"... it was a funny anecdote for something I will... not do ;)

The amazingly tasty Zamburiñas

In a whole: good cheese, magnificent green landscapes, rainy rides, one beautiful town, people and our "Zamburiñas" (like small scallops) dinner, made again for another wonderful Camino Day. 

Day 9: Calzadilla de la Cueza - León

Ivan Blanco

Español aquí

Do you remember the last time?
On day 8 we were about to arrive to the end of our journey while trying to avoid thunder and storm...

Tigers and Wolfs!

Well, the thing is that the route to Calzadilla de la Cueza is only one and short, but that's on a normal day. With the hearing thunder and lightning approaching, rain doesn't usually scare off people from the north, even heavy one is ok, but when at some given point the expression raining like cats and dogs turns into rather tigers and wolfs... well, that's when you have to consider getting some cover. Add to this, killing hail and wind forces that displace you sideways for more than a meter, and you will see even the tough ones back down!

Against this rage of the gods, the only good thing I could do was jump into the nearest bushes and trees. But the storm was so strong that I had to find another solution, luckily, I was in the same place where the road's waterways were: two tiny holes of 1m by 1m. In the fashion of a circus like contortionist, I squeezed myself into one of them to wait out the storm. Following also the SMS instructions Marta's dad sent us a few days ago, what we initially considered funny ended up being some really good advise:

Tenth recommendation for the Camino: specially if you're a bike pilgrim, when seeing lightnings approaching, get shelter and away from your bike, or you might end up with a haircut worse than Einstein's.

My siesta "tent"

Actually, among mud and spider webs, during those 45 min of apocalypse, I even indulged into another great Spanish tradition, the siesta! Yes, with no way to reach the girls and whereas a Gaul's biggest fear was becoming true "the sky falling on our heads" (check here for reference). Well, that's the moment when a northern guy decided to simply take a nap ;)

The calm after the storm

With the calm after the storm and a lost hope of drying up, after some long ride I suddenly arrived to Calzadilla de la Cueza, where the only things available are the albergue and a restaurant... But what a restaurant! The guys running it and the food they serve is worth every storm, the servers' friendliness and funny attitude were amazing. On top of it, I had again some great regional dish and even retasted my second favourite beer, Alhambra Reserva. All ended even better with a big laugh attack of Marta and Maitane, only silenced due to the 22:00 lights out.

Calzadilla mornings

With Day 9 beginning, Marta and Carla retook last night's endorphins rush and started to dance dance dance! So after some energy rush and a great breakfast, off we went again. While crossing Sahagun, we stopped at a bike shop to refurbish our many punctured tubes from our legendary Puncture Day (check back on day 7 and day 8). Suddenly, that's when I realised that my fantastic pump was broken, whilst hesitating if I really needed it, I finally bought a new one for precaution. I also got myself the best Camino Bike souvenir I could get me, plus, it made me visible! (just in case another rage of gods fell on us; check future entries to discover it).

Pumped up, off we went again to actually get separated soon afterwards. The girls preferred to take the "royal Camino" and as my guide wrote, the "more humanized" one. Wrong it wasn't, since I took myself the "historic path" of Roman origin which was, quote: "more solitary, rough and wild". And boy it was really rough, we are talking here about 30 kms, yes, flat ones, but mostly made of clay-like grounds and full of small stones all the way, monotony and strong side winds all the time! When riding, I was even preferring the dreadful hills of St. Jean Pied de Port from my first day.

One of the only 3 pilgrims I crossed that day

If I thought having a solitary morning the day before, this one was definitively my most solitary moment in all my Camino de Santiago. The road never seemed to end because its landscape was all the time the same. Of course, since one "good thing" never comes alone (yes, if you sense some irony, you might be on the right track), it was my time to suffer a puncture! Somewhere in the middle of the roughest paths, my fate was to get punctured and with nothing around at all, yes nothing; outer space in comparison to this nothingness can't even keep up. 

But no worries, I was prepared, destiny wanted me to have bought a new pump that morning. She, destiny, really seems to be chasing me, because since I started the Camino she didn't stop to put me on the right track. In any case, after having changed 3 wheels the days before, I could almost do it with my eyes closed... but, there's always a BUT (interpret it as you wish ;) )! My new shiny pump didn't fit my tube, air was going anywhere except into it. I tried and tried and tried, and there was no way I would get it inflated, my other dear pump did fit, but it was broken... that's when at some point my favourite child series came to my mind, MacGyver! Yes yes, make whatever comment you want, but it actually worked. Using my broken pump in combination with the new one allowed my to inflate my wheel to a reasonable amount as to go on direction Leon. MacGyverism works!

So it was then, that I managed to finish one of my hardest and also coldest journeys of my whole Camino, I didn't take off my jacket all day. I finally entered Leon on quite an early time and I reunited there with the "Ondiñas" team again.

The amazing Estrella Galicia 1906

In need of some time off, I went to one great bar near our albergue where I received my reward for this hard day: my favourite beer! Even better, they had the toasted version, Estrella Galicia 1906! Ok ok, I guess at this point I might be able to ask them for some commission on all the promo I'm giving them. If not, at least I got a great picture and one amazing tapa of another Spanish delicacy: Jamón Ibérico (=Spanish Ham), the best ham in the World!

After this gourmet moment, another one had to come, dinner!

Looking for a place with a pilgrim menu it was also the first time we met a new companion, Felix from Germany. He actually started his "Camino" in Berlin as part of the World travel he's still in. Obviously, as every good German, after our great dinner he became my beer buddy by tasting and enjoying my favourite beers.

Leandro and the girls

Unfortunately, since some albergues have a curfew, we had to run back in order to avoid being closed out, but not without meeting one of the most funniest priests I've ever met, Leandro...

Tune in for the next days of my Camino to know more about him and other soon to be new companions of the "Ondiñas" team: bigger, better and stronger!

Day 8: Hornillos del Camino - Calzadilla de la Cueza

Ivan Blanco

Español aquí

Day 8 was about to start in the lovely village of Hornillos del Camino, but it wasn't without efforts that we reached it the day before...

Epic Camino de Santiago Pin puncture!

What we can now call the Official World Puncture Day (note: some intrinsic exaggeration may be present in the statement), ended with a trilogy of punctures on Maitane's bike and one of the most epic ones ever. Having only a few more kms to reach Hornillos del Camino, Maitane suffered her third strike of the day with a Pin... keep with me, it wasn't just any kind of pin. It actually was a Pin of the Camino de Santiago and on the Camino! Among all the possible roads and all the possible pins that exist, it precisely hit the same bike that suffered two previous punctures...there's probably only one in a million chances of this to happen... After taking the picture above, I told Maitane:

"Hey, you really got to buy some lottery today!"

Carla and her unique "diamonds" phone

So it was that we ended the day on this "lucky" strike and while fixing it, Marta and Carla went on to book our next Albergue. This is how we reached Hornillos at sunset and relax could be the word that better describes this evening. Relax and... Estrella Galicia, yes yes, I can't do without my favourite beer! Chance made it that the only bar in town had this beer and we had a few rounds during our journal keeping. Some extra ones had finally to be added when suddenly Giulia and Nicola appeared (check day 3 if you missed my first bikers' encounter with them).

Once we finished our (Amazing Beer!) rounds and dinner, I had the chance to continue with another of my photo interviews with our "hospitalera" (= albergue host) Inma. She, as other "hospitaleros", after finishing the Camino ended up here to help and assist fellow pilgrims. A curious thing was that, Alex, the bearded Italian I hinted on day 4, was there too having his dinner. However, this time again, I didn't get to know him and I wasn't going to until way way later.

Brotherhood

Brotherhood

During the night we might have had some puncture nightmares, probably also caused by the intense snoring we suffered.

Ninth recommendation for the Camino: unless your passionate for the delicate sound of noses, get yourself some earplugs!

Fortunately, we woke up to a very beautiful sunrise and to a precious moment. Do you remember my Sixth Camino recommendation of day 5? Well, what seems to be just another pair of pilgrims (see the picture right), turned out to be a precious scene of utmost brotherhood. One of the pilgrims is actually blind and the companion leaded the way with a simple string that turns out being the most symbolic element of their union, mission and Camino. Again, open up your eyes and you'll see beauty everywhere!

Mostelares plain next to Castrojeriz

Getting a bit behind the "Ondiñas" team, probably dazzled by this unique scene, I went out to ride a rather solitary morning. I guess that after sharing my route with others, I probably needed to have my own moments, pace and the first thoughts about the experience of the Camino for myself. Although the girls and I found each other quite often, whenever I reached them, they were already leaving: this day, I was the turtle of the team.

Concentrating a bit more on taking pictures and visit the little beauties of this journey, I came across beautiful riverside paths, museums in churches, steep hills, towns and the amazing canals in Frómista where I joined the girls again. Once we arrived to the, surprisingly, empty Carrion de los Condes, a town which I remembered buzzing with people on a visit some years ago, had now just two open bars and fellow pilgrim bikers that actually had stayed in the same albergue we did the previous night.

Carrion de los Condes is better known for its Santiago Church which is a significant example of the Romanesque style (click here for more info about the town). Besides of this, I was happy to cross the Palencia region which I specially remember for being the hometown of one of my best friends, Alfonso and whom I surprised in Greece a few months ago, to visit another best friend of both, Konstantinos: more than six years had passed since our last three musketeers encounter

Fromista channels

But back on the Camino and being already a bit past lunch time, I needed to grab some more delicious "Morcilla", the typical blood sausages from the region. With the belly full and seeing some grey and angry clouds approaching (maybe they were the same ones from day 5...), we decided, in spite of this, to go on to the next town. Although we started to have some rising doubts provoked by the treacherous lightnings and thunders... we, the "Ondiñas" team, people from the North, didn't let ourselves be intimidated by a "little" storm... So we went and while I was setting up my bike, as usual for this day, I got behind again.

En route for another 10 km, these were to become some of the longest of our Camino. Ignorant we were to what was about to happen...

Yes, since humans are bound to habits, I'll keep you in suspense again ;)

Tune in next week for a new day of my Camino!