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 café 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 pâté 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.

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