Almendralejo to Torremejia

Apr 23 – And now the skies are clear and the sunny weather is back.  We walked two miles along the side of the paved road to get back on our Camino track this morning, past the bull ring.  

Welcome back, yellow arrows!  More grapevines, olive trees, morning mist and flat wide Roman Road.  There is mist at the base of the mountain.  I wonder when we’ll have to climb one?

There was a purple flower growing in the ditches that seemed to glow in the early morning light.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy these days.

I was feeling great that we were able to cut our long walk in half, until we came upon Brendan this morning, or rather, he came upon and swiftly passed us.  He is an Irishman living in Ontario, who takes no rest days and walks 35 – 40 km (22 – 25 miles) a day.  Now I feel like a real 🐌 slug, with my piddly 10 mile day. Oh well, as the saying goes, “everyone walks their own Camino.”

Torremejia is a one horse town, and we had no trouble finding our hostal.  There was an excellent restaurant right across the street with a midday meal of delicious pork, egg and noodle soup, fried eggs, Iberian ham and potatoes.  Yum. We talked to two Belgians who encouraged us to visit Bruge.  It’s now on my list.  494 miles to go.

Villafranca de los Barros to Almendralejo

Allow me to take a moment to recommend that you check out and follow Jim’s blog  Jim and Karen Walk About (beingheresite.wordpress.com) if you are not already doing so.  While I am a practical traveler, Jim is a spiritual traveler, and his perspective on our adventures is thoughtful and thought provoking.  KF

Apr 22 – Today our guidebook encouraged us to walk 18 miles to Torremejia.  Although I am getting stronger, I’m not sure I am ready for quite that long a hike.  Luckily, my Camino app suggested that there was a town called Almendralejo with places to stay that was halfway between, but it was not part of the Camino.  We decided to break the long march into two shorter days.

When we woke this morning, a new experience greeted us – rain!  So far, our Camino has been sunny, dry and pleasant.  Today we zipped on our raincoats, flipped on our pack covers, stowed our cameras, protected our phones in plastic sandwich bags, and set off in the gray drizzle.  It was a soft spring rain – if you have to walk in the rain, this is the kind I recommend.

The sun never really came up, but there was a faint light in the east as we walked among the grape fields.

We met a young Italian couple wearing matching rain ponchos, and waved at the farmer tending the young vines.  Nothing else to report- it was all rain, all grapes, all day.

We turned on the GPS so we would know where to leave the trail – so long, comforting yellow arrows!  In a few miles, we reached the town of Almendralejo, walked over the highway overpass, and found our hotel.  After a shower and a rest, we made our plan.  As this is Saturday, we know the supermercado Dia will close early today and will not open at all tomorrow, so we need sufficient supplies to get us through until Monday.  As this is not a Camino town, there are no signs for Peregrino Menu al Dia, so we’ll have to find a regular restaurant for our big afternoon meal.

We did our shopping, then set out to find a restaurant.  All the stores in Spain close around two, and that is when the restaurants open for lunch.  We saw some possibilities on Googlemaps, but none near our hotel.  We chose a few options, then set out to walk.  Luckily, the rain had stopped and the sun was poking through – I dried my jacket by putting it back on! 

We passed a lot of cafĂ© bars that will sell you a plate of French fries or some tapas, but we wanted a meal.  The first restaurant address was a closed building – out of business.  This is the case with many businesses and stores here.  We moved on to a place called Nandos, that Google said was a casual, cozy Afro-Portuguese purveyor of spicy chicken.  Sounded yummy!  We opened the door, and were greeted by somber white-coated waiters in a very upscale venue.  We were whisked over to a dark corner (our hiking clothes probably didn’t meet their dress code) and offered menus.  No chicken at all, never mind spicy or Afro-Portuguese.  The name of the place matched, but they must be under new management.  Well, in for a penny, and we were hungry, so…

I couldn’t understand one thing on the menu, and Google Translate was not being helpful at all.  Evidently the offerings were couched in superlatives that didn’t include words like ‘fish’ or ‘beef’.  We asked for an English menu, perhaps? No bananas for you.  So Jim manned up and selected a random item on the menu – para dos.  The waiter asked lots of questions, but we had to keep shaking our heads in the negative – even with Jim’s pretty decent Spanish, this guy was speaking some other language, and we just didn’t know what he was asking.  Bread came, both crunchy and soft, with liver pĂątĂ© and goat cheese – very nice!  Beer came, in tall wine glasses.  Little fried cheese empanadas came,  courtesy of the chef ( we understood that).  Green olives came, then more bread.

Finally – what we had ordered:

A bowl of soup!  Fava bean soup, to be sure, with chorizo sausage and hot peppers on the side, and very delicious, but still only a bowl of soup.  And that was our big meal of the day, and there went $35.    But as the story of the day?  Priceless!  504 miles to go.

Zafra to Villafranca de los Barros 

Apr 21 –  As we left Zafra in the early morning, I turned around to see a line of peregrinos/hikers/pilgrims following us up the hill.

It reminded me just a little of our Camino FrancĂ©s experience in 2011, except that then there were 50 and this morning only 5.  Everyone stopped to get a picture of the old tower (Torre de San Francisco) from the 1500s, on the way out of town.

Then everyone rushed up the hill to capture the sunrise.

We talked to a white haired woman from Quebec, a young man from South Korea, and an older gentleman from Rotterdam.  We smiled at the French. It’s good to be on the Camino.

Today we walked 12.5 miles again.  We passed through a little town in the morning where we got some coffee at an open bar.  We sat with the guy from Rotterdam.  His name is Marcel.  This is his third Camino too.

It’s colder than it’s been, and Jim is lamenting the loss of his jacket – he left it at the hostal a few towns back.  More grapes, more olive trees.  We see more ruins.


514 miles to go.

Puebla de Sancho Perez to Zafra

Apr 20 – Today is a Short Walk Day.  We had the option of walking three extra miles yesterday (which would have been a 17 mile day – boo) to get to Zafra, but opted to stop in Puebla instead, sleep in, have a leisurely breakfast, read the news, then proceed on to Zafra this morning so we would have all afternoon to see the sights. Zafra is the first big town we’ve come to, with “things to see” according to TripAdvisor.

We left Puebla around 10am. The sun was already shining!

The walk was mostly a sidewalk alongside the highway, crossing over the railroad tracks.

We passed a beautiful field of red and yellow flowers.

And a house with a bright pink wall that caught my fancy.

Once in Zafra, our first order of business was to stop at the alburgue, where we were told that we can (finally) purchase our pilgrim credentials.  We were unable to get them in Sevilla due to all the Semana Santa hoopla, and have been striking out in every town since.  A credential, or Pilgrim Passport, is the official document that you get stamped and dated in every town you walk through to prove that you actually traveled the Camino.  Today was our lucky day.

The man who runs this alburgue is the president of Friends of the Camino, and was happy to give us our credentials plus a German map.  A lot of Spanish people think we are German on this trip – what’s up with that?

I liked the artwork on the alburgue wall that showed our progress thus far: sore feet in Sevilla, getting lost in AlmadĂ©n, taking pictures of pigs in El Real, and surviving the water hazard at Fuente de Campos.  I guess everyone has more or less the same Camino experience!

We are staying at the historic Hotel Cervantes.  Don Quixote and Sancho Panza greeted us in the lobby.

We dropped off our packs and went off to explore the town.

El Plaza Grande

I don’t know what this is, but I like it!

There is an old castle here, which is now a hotel.

There is an old church here, Nuestra Señora de la (Our Lady of the) Candelaria, containing paintings by Francisco de ZurbarĂĄn, who was born right up the road in Fuente de Cantos, and is a big deal in these parts.   The church was dedicated in 1543.

Like every town, there are old men gathered to sit in the sunshine.

There are narrow streets where shoppers walk.

We asked at our hotel if there was a place where pilgrims could get an early supper.  The receptionist cheerfully directed us to the restaurant around the corner, which did indeed have a Camino shell on the front.  They didn’t open until 9pm.  Not acceptable!  We walked around, looking for fast food options:  pizza 8pm, gyros 8pm, Chinese 8pm.  We were standing at the door of the Chinese place, trying to decipher the Spanish menu, when the proprietress popped her head out and said, “Siete y media”.  7:30!  She reinforced our understanding with hand motions and a gap-toothed grin.  We felt like we’d won the lottery!

So we were standing at her door at 7:30pm.  She let us in and gave us a delicious three course banquet that couldn’t be beat, with real fresh vegetables, spicy chicken, and absolutely zero pork or potatoes!  Our first Nice Person of Spain award goes to the proprietress of Restaurante Chino Oriental!  526 miles to go.

Monesterio to Fuente de Cantos to Puebla de Sancho Perez

Apr 18 –  Got up early to leave our room by 7am.  As the hotel’s restaurant doesn’t open until 9am, the proprietor made us a picnic breakfast, and hung it on our doorknob – oranges, bananas, juice and a muffin.  Nice touch!  We stopped in town for a quick coffee, then we were on our way.

13.5 miles to go today.  The countryside was particularly beautiful in the early morning light.  We walked alongside stone walls that reminded us of our hike in Ireland.

More Iberian jamon on the hoof, makin’ bacon.

These two pretty ladies posed for a closeup.

We started the morning in sweatshirts and long pants, but by 9:30 we stowed our extra layers, and walked in shorts and tee shirts with our umbrellas up for shade. Really love our German sun umbrellas, as there is very little shade in our future along these old Roman roads.

Lots of wheat growing here. The newly sown fields are dark green; the lighter fields are farther along.

As we approached town, a man stopped his car and gave us a flyer for his new hostal Zaguan.  He made it sound wonderful, even promising us a double bed (cama matrimonio!), which we hardly ever get. We decided to check it out, to encourage his entrepreneurial spirit.  The place was lovely, and even had a pool, but it was a cross between a hostal and an alburgue – we had our own room (with the promised bed), but there was only one bathroom to share among four rooms.  Drat!  The upside was that we had access to a kitchen, so we walked down to the supermercado when it opened at 6pm, and bought the fixings for a veggie omelette, which we ate at the very respectable hour of 6:30pm.  Having to wait until 8 or 9pm for restaurants to open is driving us nuts.  We knew about the unique work and meal hours kept in Spain, but knowing doesn’t make waiting any easier after a long day’s walk!  543 miles to go.

Apr 19 – Left Fuente de Cantos by 7am.  The early morning is the most beautiful time.  

14 miles to walk today, over more farmers fields.  Saw newly planted grape vines, and one field that was planted with both grapes and mature olive trees.  Wonder how that will work out?  Grapes need lots of sun, and usually aren’t planted near anything that casts a shadow.

Water hazard!  Yes, I did skip trippingly across the stones to the left, and avoided getting my boots wet.

We were passed today by all four of the Brits we met at the hostal last night, plus two Spaniards.  As we approached town, we walked over a railroad track.  I liked the sign.

So now we are in our nice hotel, with private bath, waiting for the restaurant to open at 8pm.  529 miles to go.

El Real de la Jara to Monesterio

Apr 16 – Happy Easter, Happy Resurrection Sunday or Happy Fiesta de Judas to you! In Andalusia, an effigy of Judas is hung on Good Friday, then it is taken down, beaten, burned, exploded with firecrackers or otherwise held accountable for turning Jesus in, on Sunday.  That’ll teach him.

Today we have a 12.5 mile walk.  All the stores and bars are closed for the fiesta, so there is no sense even thinking about a hot breakfast or coffee.  We ate the yogurt and oranges Jim had the prescience to purchase yesterday, and hit the road at 7am.  We took a moment to appreciate the Easter sunrise, pictured above.

Our walk took us out of the province of Andalusia, and into Extremadura.  Sounds pretty extreme!

We met an older German hiker today, who proudly showed us his Garmin satellite tracker.  He always knows right where he is, how much farther he has to go, and exactly where he is going to stay. He prebooked all his rooms for the whole trip, which means he cannot deviate from his plan.  Very German.  We also met a Frenchman who saunters into town, has a drink, and asks for a recommendation of where to stay.  He looked like the happier of the two.

So now we are in Monesterio, in a very nice room.  It is still Easter Day, and no restaurants are open, even the ones that cater to hikers and pilgrims.  Jim found a very small grocery, and bought us an overpriced can of meatballs.  Yes, we ate it cold, out of the can. Yes, it was every bit as Alpo-like as you are thinking.  Yes, I will be happy when the fiesta is over tomorrow!  556 miles to go.

Apr 17 – We decided to spend a day here in Monesterio, as we need the grocery store to open so we can reprovision.  Monesterio is the Iberian Ham capital of Extremadura, and we also didn’t want to miss our chance to see the Museo del JamĂłn. The sign at the entrance to town shows how important ham is around here.

We arrived at the Museum bright and early, and were given a very comprehensive tour of the raising, slaughter and sausage manufacture of Iberian ham, which are produced by the black pigs we spent some time on the trail with the other day. 

Iberian ham is low in fat, high in protein and full of vitamins.  You should eat some every day.

Famous artists have creativity adorned many Iberian pigs, similar to the decoration of mermaids that we have in Norfolk.

This one is by the famous artist Eduardo Naranjo.

The tour concluded with the opportunity to take a captioned selfie.  Here is ours!

AlmadĂ©n to El Real de la Jara

Apr 15 – Today’s walk is only 9 miles, and the morning is cool and clear.  Leaving AlmadĂ©n, we see the bullfighting ring.

Today’s trail is brought to you by Parque Natural Sierra Norte.  

We are walking through farmers fields, opening and closing many gates as we go.  We walk through LOTS of free range pigs.  If you make noise, they will get out of your way.

We also saw some spring lambs, and a lake.


Some goats:

And a pretty big hill.  I had to shift down into first gear to get up the hill, taking little steps. The view from the top was lovely.

We passed an old castle that had seen better days.

We were passed by seven bicyclists, including one from the Netherlands who stopped to chat, and we passed two women from Argentina.  Then we saw El Real de la Jara, which might mean the Royal Rockrose, or might mean the Real Fuzz.  Google Translate makes me laugh.  We asked our waitress at dinner, and she said it meant the Reality of the Rockrose, and that the rock rose is a flower.  Jim asked if it was a pretty flower, and she replied, “not particularly.”  She showed us a photo, and I realized I had taken several of them, including the pic at the top of the hill today.  I think it’s a very pretty flower.

This town boasts a real castle on the hill, so after dropping our packs at our room, we went to check it out.

The castle is of unknown origin, probably built in the 14th century to keep out those pesky Portuguese.  From the ramparts, you can see another castle! The white road (old Roman road) is part of the trail we’ll be walking tomorrow. 569 miles to go.

Castilblanco to AlmadĂ©n de la Plata

Apr 14 – Woke up early this morning with the conviction that we must move on.  The morning was cool and misty, which we took as a good sign.  Without any buses scheduled today, Jim said we would walk, and put out our thumbs and hope for a ride to get us at least part of the 18 miles (28km) to the next town.  No trails today – the entire hike is along the side of the asphalt road. Surely on this holy fiesta day, one good hearted person would stop for two old Peregrinos?

On the edge of town there was a bar open for business, so we stopped for some coffee (cafĂ© con leche) and toast with butter and ham.  I looked at the other patrons of the bar – all older men, some drinking coffee, and others drinking whiskey or brandy at 9am.  I asked Jim if he thought it would be a good idea to ask if anyone was traveling north to AlmadĂ©n, but he replied that this was not usually a fruitful strategy.  Better to show we were willing to walk, but would appreciate a ride.

So we hiked down the roadway through the grey and misty morning.  It was a very quiet road, but twelve cars passed us by, with our smiles on and our thumbs out.  Most waved left or right to indicate that they were turning soon, so therefore could not pick us up. Some made no eye contact.  Three bicyclists passed us as well.  

At about the four mile mark, after a long stretch of no farms and absolutely no traffic, a car going in the opposite direction stopped and the driver rolled his window down, asking if we wanted to hire his taxi to take us to AlmadĂ©n for 30 euro.  The price seemed a little high (we had already discussed offering 20 euro to anyone willing to drive us all the way), but I remembered the joke about the drowning man who passes up three offers of help, saying God will provide, then asks St. Peter at the Pearly Gates why God didn’t save him.  “God sent you a raft, a boat and a helicopter – you have to meet Her halfway!”  We got in.

So now we are in AlmadĂ©n de la Plata, named for an old silver mine, where it is still a fiesta day, and no stores are open.  The taxi dropped us off at the municipal alburgue, whiched looked clean with a large room full of bunk beds, but communal sleeping is always our last choice.  Although Booking.com said there were no rooms available at the hostals in town, it is not yet noon and we have nothing to lose by trying our luck.  At Casa de Concha, the door was open and a lady was cleaning the restaurant. We got a private ensuite room without any trouble, for only a bit more than we would have paid at the alburgue.

We walked through the quiet town, and saw the church with the usual complement of stork nests on the roof.  Storks are considered to bring good luck (as well as new babies) and their nests are encouraged throughout Spain.  Have you ever heard the call of a stork?  Not at all musical – like the sound of a stick being dragged across a washboard.  

We peeked into the church, expecting to find another bunch of silver- bedecked pasos, but instead found…women praying!  A group of ten or so, doing their rosaries aloud.  First time this trip we’ve found anyone actually doing what people do when it’s not Holy Week!  A refreshing change of pace – we sat and listened to the soothing drone of their voices blending together.

Our midday main meal consisted of pasta in tomato and cheese sauce, short ribs in brown gravy, and the ubiquitous fried potatoes.  So good! So much! So full!  I may never eat again.On tv, the Semana Santa parades from Sevilla continued all day long.  From time to time, a float would stop under a balcony, and a woman would sing out something akin to the Muslim call to prayer – definitely not melodic, but long and sort of screechy.  I don’t know if I’m ever going to figure these customs out!  Here’s another – Sunday is not advertised here as Easter, but as the Fiesta of Judas. Go figure!  578 miles to go.

Guillena to Castilblanco de los Arroyos

Apr 12 – Having walked 13 miles yesterday, I figured that today’s 12 mile trek would be a snap.  It is another beautiful day, cool enough in the early morning for a sweatshirt.  We walked confidently out of Guillena, following our yellow arrows.  Just out of town, we saw a pond, with trees reflected perfectly in its calm surface.

After a bit of highway walking, we found the trail, which looked like it might provide more shade than yesterday.  

Once again, plenty of spring wildflowers in bloom.

We passed a castle in a farmer’s field.

We saw a local family out for a walk, and were passed by a singing cyclist, but otherwise we had the day to ourselves.  Except for some burros.

As we approached our destination, we encountered a sign meant to encourage us.  Of the original 1000 km trek, only 927 left to go!

Unfortunately, as the afternoon heated up, my pace slowed down and we made it to town about two hours later than planned.  When I removed my socks, we surveyed the bloody damage to one of the toes on my right foot.  Jim proclaimed tomorrow a rest day.  Hallelujah!

Apr 13 – I am very much enjoying my rest day.  This is a nice little town, very clean and friendly. We walked down the street to a bar for coffee, and over to a bakery for some bread and ham for breakfast.  Looking at the map of our next segment, it will require an 18 mile walk along a roadway, with no towns in between. After my poor performance yesterday, Jim doesn’t think I’m ready for that (and I agree!), so he suggested we look for a bus to take us at least part of the way.  We asked around and found the central square and a man with information about buses.  There are several buses that go back to Sevilla, but only one that goes north, and it runs only once a day in the late afternoon.  “What time tomorrow?”, we asked in blissful ignorance.  “ÂżMañana!?  No! Es impossible!”  Turns out that tomorrow, Good Friday, is the biggest fiesta of the whole year.  No buses run tomorrow!  Crap.

We had our main meal at lunchtime (ham soup with hard boiled eggs in it, and chicken with couscous).  We walked around in the afternoon and waited until after siesta time (2 – 6pm) for the stores to reopen so we could buy some supper, but it turns out that tonight the fiesta begins, and the supermarket and all the shops are closed.  Thanks to our experience last Sunday in Sevilla, we knew what happens next.  We walked down the block to the church, and watched the men decking out the pasos with flowers.  We saw Jesus carrying his cross, dead Jesus in a glass coffin, and two sorrowful Marys.

Every man, woman and bambino was out in front of the church by 7pm.  Fewer penitents in pointy capriotes, but a very credible brass band and lots of swaggering costaleros ready to do their part in lifting the heavy floats.  We are told they each weigh about a ton.

This time we were able to see the pasos leaving the church door and being negotiated down the steps.  The townsfolk applauded when the men reached the street and turned them 90 degrees for its walk down the block.

It took about half an hour to move each of the pasos down the street. We didn’t stay to the conclusion of the festivities, so I can’t tell you how it all turned out.  The music, drums and tolling of the church bells continued until well after midnight.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Sevilla to Guillena

Apr 11 – This morning we left our little home in Triana, following the yellow arrows out of Sevilla, to start our 621 mile walk to Campostela de Santiago.  If we make it (operative word is IF), this will be our longest Camino so far.  Today’s segment is 13.7 miles.

The Camino starts at the door of the Catedral, and proceeds north for a really long time. 

After this sign in the sidewalk, the trail is marked by yellow arrows, spray painted on utility poles and trees.

This Camino is less popular than the Camino Frances and the Camhiño Portugues, as it covers long stretches of featureless farmland, and is considered the most boring of the Caminos.  We shall see!

After leaving Sevilla, we found ourselves on a dirt road surrounded by wildflowers.

Horses were calmly grazing at the roadside.

By mid morning, Jim had befriended a young Brit named Tom who was walking in the same direction to get the feel of a Camino walk.  He was only out for the day.  Together, they solved the political problems of the world as they strode along.  We also passed two old Frenchmen, and were passed by several bicycling couples.

By 15:00 we arrived in the little town of Guillena, and walked down the Main Street in search of the Hostal/ Bar Frances, which we had prebooked.  

Just to confuse you, I will explain that a hostal in Spain is a small hotel or bar with rooms above.  What we would call a hostel, as in a dormitory of people sharing facilities, is called an alburgue.  We try to stay in private rooms whenever possible, but in some towns the choice is limited to alburgues only.

After a restorative shower, we went downstairs for a hikers Menu al Dia, which is a three course meal for a set price.  These are very popular on the Camino, as hikers are very hungry people!  We had seafood paella, followed by fried calimari, and rice pudding for dessert.  Feeling fine now, and only 608 miles to go!