Camino de Santiago de Compostela - Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo and a rest day

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October 2nd 2015
Published: October 25th 2015
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La Posada de MurielLa Posada de MurielLa Posada de Muriel

Our lodging in Molinaseca
1 October 2015, Thursday. Stage 27. A cold 40 degrees as we start our walk from Molinaseca.

GPS: 21.65 miles. 10 hours from start at La Posada de Muriel to end at Paradores Villafranca del Bierzo. 8 hours 21 minutes moving. Our longest day of walking!

Fitbit: 20.3 miles, 46,476 steps, 117 floors.

Today and yesterday were two very tough days. The ups and downs from Rabanal to Molinaseca on rocky mule path and the very long day with several up hill climbs to Villafranca have taken a toll and we are welcoming our rest day; especially our feet and toes.

From our cozy room at La Posada de Muriel on the edge of town in Molinaseca we are soon off and on the Camino. Looking back at the last plaza in town we see a 4 degree centigrade temperature sign. There is a dirt track to the right of the highway which we miss so make the climb along with a few other pilgrims out of town along the road. The Camino path crosses the road after a mile so we are back on it and take the main path to Campo where we can view an ancient Roman cistern still functioning with water flowing into it. Signs are posted to not drink the water. But the stone walls and roof are examples of the great Roman builders and the structures have survived for more than 2000 years.

The city of Ponferrada is a very large industrial town. We stop for coffee and orange juice and a teresita pastry at the cafe adjacent to the castle. There are many interesting sights to see but we limit our time to the plaza and statues then work our way out of town. We have to ask directions getting across the Iron Bridge. Pons Ferradas is the name of the bridge and hence the root of the name for Ponferrada. On the edge of town the Camino goes through the center of a building in what looks to have been an old convent. We then pass the Iglesia Santa Maria with its beautiful wall paintings. By now we have been on the road for four hours and are only about 1/4th the way to Villafranca. We continue past Columbrianos, a suburb and through Fuentes Nuevas to the albergue in Camponaraya called Albergue Naraya where we have a great special hamburger and tonicas. This bun is really special but the burger includes cheese, tomato, lettuce, egg and bacon. It is now after 2 PM and we are still barely half the way for the day.

But we make a short stop at a cooperative wine bodega for a sample and a tapa for 1.5 euros - up from 1 euro last year. (Karen's note--Well, Harlan did the tasting. I had no desire and he thought the decision was a good one. The wine was super dry and left a funny taste in his mouth. El Bierzo is really making a publicity push re. their wine but we have yet to be won over. The vineyards do not seem to be as well kept and are straggly in comparison to Navarra and La Rioja much further east. We continue past farmland until we drop down into the Rio Cua river valley and town of Cacabelos. Some very nice old buildings and it is the last large town (population 5500) we will see for a while. We climb the steps to the second floor cafe in the Moncloa de San Lazro, a former 17th Century pilgrim hospital. Karen likes the
The old Roman CisternThe old Roman CisternThe old Roman Cistern

On the outskirts of Campo
beautiful craft shop in the plaza. Now we must decide which option to take. With the day wearing on we choose the shorter but highway route. We believe we will miss the much photographed white two story house in the pines. But, as we turn to go through the vineyards the last 4 kilometers to Villafranca we see it on the hill. Our route through the vineyards seems to be heading the wrong way but I am confident we are correct. Eventually we join the alternate route still a distance from Villafranca. The map had indicated the joining of the routes occurred at the town border--wrong!

Now I have looked at the map in the book and read that the Posada is on Plaza Mayor in town. When we arrive I realize we are at the Parador (not the Posada) back on the edge of town and I have just added an extra kilometer to our day. Retracing our steps we check in and Karen collapses into the bed too tired for dinner.

2 October 2015, Friday and a rest day in Villafranca del Bierzo.

Breakfast is until 1030 so we do not get up and going
The Castle in PonferradaThe Castle in PonferradaThe Castle in Ponferrada

Castillo de los Templarios. Home of the Knights Templar from the 11th Century
until late. We sleep a full nine hours. We are frustrated by the fact that the internet will not work on the chromebook and so Harlan has gone down to the Paradores computers to download and upload photos for the prior blogs. After determining that these XP machines (a non-supported operating system) will not support what is needed, a download of google chrome solves the problem. This of course adds another hour to the process.

Our first stop is to the Municipal Albergue and the Church of Santiago we passed coming into town. The quilt shop is now closed and lunch is not being served at the albergue. So we head back into the Plaza Mayor along the twisting stone streets. Here we find a nice restaurant where Karen can get a pizza. She has read that Jo had a nice pizza in the plaza here and that sounded good to her. I stick to the menu of the day. After lunch we explore some old buildings, and visit the information office where we learn that the normal camino route is not recommended because of the fire two months ago destroying the trees and burning the way marks. The
La Torre del RelojLa Torre del RelojLa Torre del Reloj

With its gate into the Plaza Mayor
garden across the street from the information center is beautifully maintained with gorgeous, blooming flowers and nicely trimmed boxwood hedges. Checking our route out of town for tomorrow we climb the first 200 meters of the normal camino for views of Villafranca. We are able to see our route along the river. It will be our companion much of the day.

Heading back to the Parador we pass the pilgrim statue at the bridge and walk along the calle del Agua y Ribeira with many old buildings with interesting coats of arms; some in total disrepair and others restored and maintained. A quick trip back to the quilt shop and then to the Parador for the night. The Parador now hosts a bus load of pilgrims. They ride the bus to a location, walk part of the Camino and get back on the bus to ride to their lodging for the evening. For some with serious problems walking or on limited time this is a great alternative way to enjoy the Camino.

Additional photos below
Photos: 33, Displayed: 26


Underground trash receptacle being lifted onto garbage truckUnderground trash receptacle being lifted onto garbage truck
Underground trash receptacle being lifted onto garbage truck

In case you are curious as to what happens to the trash that goes underground.
The Camino passes through the center of this building at the Convento  CompostellaThe Camino passes through the center of this building at the Convento  Compostella
The Camino passes through the center of this building at the Convento Compostella

Leaving Ponferrada we passed over the Iron Bridge from which the name Pons Ferrada is the basis for the name of the town. Since 11th century this has been a coal and iron mining region.
The door of Iglesia Santa MariaThe door of Iglesia Santa Maria
The door of Iglesia Santa Maria

In Compostella on the grounds of the old convent.
Ermita San BlasErmita San Blas
Ermita San Blas

in Columbrianos
Finally out of Ponferrada suburbsFinally out of Ponferrada suburbs
Finally out of Ponferrada suburbs

The countryside to Fuente Cacabelos
The white house on the hill in the pinesThe white house on the hill in the pines
The white house on the hill in the pines

A view across the vineyards

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