Category Archives: Camino Via de la Plata

More Santiago de Compostela 

June 21 – What else is there to see in Santiago?  Buskers of every description:

Shops and souvenirs of all types, for every price range.  There are traditional silver shops, and jewelry made of black jet.  How about a shop that exclusively sells American junk food?  One thing I don’t see in the window is peanut butter, which is just not available in Spain.  Can’t wait to get home and make a PB and banana sandwich!

This is Tarte de Santiago- a delicious almond cake on display in a panderia.

A Pilgrims Museum, for those who wish to learn more about the history of the Camiño and Santiago.  How many St Jameses can you see?

Apostolic brothers:  James and John, Andrew and Peter.

Still not sure which one is James?  Hint:  he’s the only one sporting orange.

There are protests to join:

Jazz concerts in the square:

And silly statues:

A delightful city!

Santiago de Compostela 

June 20 – We walked into the city of Santiago de Compostela yesterday morning, drenched with sweat, smelling a little gamy, with backpacks, walking sticks and face-cracking smiles.  Pilgrims and tourists crowded the narrow streets, then spread out in the big square.  As we walked toward our pension, an English woman looked at my sweaty self, gave me a thumbs-up and said, “Well done!”  I burst into tears, of course. I am so happy to be here!  1000 kilometers – my toenails will never be the same, but we are strong, we had no injuries, and we had the best time ever!

After getting our Compostela completion certificates from the pilgrim office, we, like everyone, went to the cathedral.  The city of Santiago really revolves around this place.  At the end of our third Camiño, visiting the cathedral was like coming home.Every time we have been here, the cathedral has been covered in scaffolding.  They are trying to preserve this place for future generations of pilgrims.  Many of the external images are deteriorating:You can see which ones have been replaced.Inside, St. James still shines.…and his bones still rest in the crypt below.As pilgrims, we walked to the bones of St. James the Apostle in intercession for several of our loved ones who are going through difficult times.  We thought about you every day as we walked.  Your hopes and prayers have been laid at his feet.  May you derive strength and peace from this knowledge.

We climbed the steps behind the altar to embrace the Saint.We attended the daily Pilgrims Mass, heard our country and route called out in the Prayers of the Peregrinos, sang Ubi Caritas, and watched the grand Botefumeiro swing through the pilgrims, delivering sweet incense as a powerful anthem filled the worship space.  Although cautioned in four languages that this is part of the sacred service and not a show, a spontaneous burst of applause thundered through the cathedral as the last organ chords were played.When St James is not shown as a Peregrino, he is often depicted as the Moorslayer, who came on a white horse to lead the Spaniards in successful battle to drive the Moors out of Spain.Signs of the shell and the red St James cross are everywhere.

Although the cathedral was built in the Roman period, they went crazy with baroque additions.  So many fat little pink cherubs and angels!Some nice Madonnas too:I don’t know why these upside down heads are looking at St Christopher – do you?More about the city in the next post.

Camarzana de Tera to Villar de Farfón to Mombuey

May 28 – The image above is wall art that we saw at the school on our way out of Camarzana.  After a true rest day (there was nothing to see or do in Camarzana, so we really rested), we set out to walk an eleven mile stretch down the Rio Tera, around the dam, and on to Villar de Farfón, population 5.  According to our guidebook, the only people who live in Villar de Farfón are one old man, and the missionary family who run the alburgue (I think this is a joke, but we’ll see).  The alburgue only has four beds, and we are hoping that two beds will be available when we get there, otherwise we’ll have to walk another three miles to the next town.

The day dawned overcast and gray, but no rain is expected.  

We had coffee in the tiny town of Olleros de Tera, and spent time speaking with a German and a Dutchman who were walking together.

The trail left the dirt road and we scrambled down a narrow brush path to get closer to the dam.

Then we walked over the bridge and looked down on the dam.  I think this is the last we will see of the Rio Tera and all its Tera towns.

Handmade signs let us know we were approaching Villar de Farfón.

We read that the missionary host of the alburgue offers coffee and conversation to anyone who wants to stop in.  As we enter the tiny town, we think maybe our guidebook wasn’t joking.  These buildings have seen better days, and we see no shops or businesses.

Here is the Alburgue Rehobeth:

It’s actually very nice inside, with an open kitchen and table where our two friends from this morning are having coffee.  We ask if we can stay, and are the first to check in for the day.  Our host is a missionary who has lived in South Africa and India.  He has tracts in all languages in case anyone wishes to learn about Christianity.  Here is the dormitory:

Here is the shower!

An Australian couple came in after a while, then a Brit with an injured leg.  Although there were only four beds in the dormitory, our host had another bunk in the back so all could stay.  As there is no place in town to buy food, our host keeps the makings of a spaghetti dinner and salad on hand, along with sodas, coffee, milk and cookies.  There is no set fee to stay at the alburgue – there is a box and a sign asking for a ‘donativo’.  Jim offered to cook, and we made a communal supper.  Jim’s spaghetti sauce can’t be beat!  Richard the Brit washed the dishes.  We had a very relaxed evening.

After supper we walked around the town, seeing no one.  The church doesn’t look active:

Views from the bell tower:

I think the alburgue family may be the only folks in town!

193 miles to go.

May 29 – Good beds and a relaxing night!  After a coffee and cookie breakfast, we bade farewell to our friends Peter, Lily and Richard.  Our host (sorry I didn’t retain his name) is on the right:

Nine miles today to Mombuey.

We stopped in Rionegro for coffee:

This must be the Rio Negro:

A groovy pilgrim statue:

The weather cleared as we walked:

There may be a mountain in our future!

And now we are in the Hotel La Ruta in Mombuey, with the laundry hanging by the window, a menu del dia in our bellies and a siesta coming on.  184 miles to go.

Tábara to Santa Croya de Tera to Santa Marta de Tera to Camarzana de Tera

May 25 – Up early again today, for a fourteen mile hike to Santa Croya.  Daybreak by the Torre (tower) with storks, of course, and sunrise from the road.

Tábara looks like a very nice town in the early morning light.  Too bad I was too tired yesterday to see any of it!

Lots of company on the trail this morning, mostly French, with one skinny Irish boy toting a ukulele.

A nice mix of farm track and green trail today.  For some reason, we were plagued by black flies.  Bugs usually aren’t an issue, and we have no bug spray.  I kept my mouth closed, but they flew up my nose and in my ears.  I thought for sure you would be able to see the flies in the photos!

At a fork with no clear sign to indicate the right direction, pilgrims made their own arrows to guide us:

Tonight we are staying at Casa Anita, a huge alburgue that is the only place to stay in Santa Croya.  In addition to the dormitories, they rent private rooms upstairs, and we booked one.  Signs let us know we are getting close.

Our hostess made us feel welcome, and let us know that Casa Anita is not only the only place in town to sleep, but also the only place to eat!  They serve a communal supper at 7:30, with two choices of entree.  What fun!  Back in 2011 when we walked the Camino Franćes, we enjoyed many communal suppers, but this one is the first opportunity we’ve had on this trail.

We arrived downstairs about 5 minutes early, to check out the tables.  One long table was buzzing in French, but at the other, we heard English!  Yay!  We sat down and introduced ourselves to three Australians and the Irish lad, and had a long, rambling conversation over wine, vegetable soup, pasta, pork loin, salad and fresh fruit for dessert.  Nicest evening.  208 miles to go.
May 26 – Back when we were in Zamora, we heard about a statue of St James that dated from the late eleventh or early twelfth century – the earliest representation of him as a pilgrim.  We looked in the churches and the museum at the cathedral, but couldn’t find it.  Finally, a tour guide who spoke some English let us know that the statue we were looking for was not in the city of Zamora at all, but a hundred kilometers away in a small church in Santa Marta de Tera, which is part of the province of Zamora.  Well, guess where we are right now?  Visiting a string of little towns on the Rio Tera, and Santa Marta is just a short walk away!

We woke to thunderstorms, making us glad we weren’t planning to walk far today.  We hung around the alburgue until almost 10, then set out for Santa Marta.  The Romanesque church was small, and was identified as a Monesterio, so I guess there used to be more to it.

The very nice lady inside turned on the lights for us and let us explore.

On the wall was a reproduction of the statue we were looking for – St James with his trademark staff and shell.  We asked where the original statue could be found?  Oh, she said, (in Spanish of course) it’s around back by the cemetery. Whoopee!

We went around to the back of the church, and there it was!

On the other side of the door was an equally ancient statue of St Peter.

The cemetery had some fresh mounds, reminding us that actual people were under there:

Upstairs there was a little museum with old books, pilgrim artifacts and bits of saints:

So glad we found this place!

Then it was back into the thunder and lightning for a wet walk to Camarzana de Tera.

And now we are in a little hotel with a very nice restaurant, drying out.  203 miles to go.

Monesterio de Moreruela to Tábara

May 23 – Our original plan was to walk west today, but we discovered that we are just two miles away from the ruins of an ancient Abbey that resembles what the original Santiago Cathedral looked like back in the 1100s, before they built the new one.  This deserves to be explored.  Jim called our proprietress and asked if we could stay in our lovely Casa Rural a second night.  Our comfy room was booked, but she managed to find us another, further down the street.

The brochure said the Monesterio opened at 10 (which we thought odd for a ruin) so we started walking a little after 9am.  A sunny and breezy morning, with our path half on dirt track and half on an unbusy paved road.We arrived just before 10, and waited outside the gate.  When no one came to open the gate at 10, Jim lifted the latch and we walked in.

We saw the ruins of the cloisters:

…and part of the inside of the actual church, looking through a locked gate.

I walked around back, thinking I could see the exterior of the church from that angle, but instead encountered some construction workers up on a scaffold, working on the reconstruction.  One of the men climbed down to tell us that the Monesterio was closed on Tuesdays, and we had to leave.  What?

Sure enough, when we returned to the gate, we read the fine print:  Cerrado Lunes y Martes.  Drat.  The man followed us out to be sure we did not linger.

Here is the picture I couldn’t get of the front of the church, borrowed courtesy of the Internet:

We’ll have to come back and explore some other year!

May 24 – We are heading into a stretch where accomodations are few and far between.  16 miles today to get to Tábara, and it will be hot and sunny all the way.  This will be our longest day so far.  

We got up at 6am to get a jump on the day, stopping for coffee at our Casa Rural.  On the road by 6:30.  Lovely sunrise.

We walked four miles at “Google speed” (the rate Google thinks everybody walks, regardless of terrain) – three miles per hour, on flat farm track.  No one was passing us, and we actually passed a Frenchwoman!  I was feeling very full of myself, when all of a sudden the path took a steep decline.  Something new!

At the bottom of the hill, we could see the Rio Esla and the bridge that crosses it.  Very pretty in the early morning.

After crossing the bridge, the yellow arrows pointed straight down (!) to a narrow rock-studded path.  

Jim made a movie.

We scrabbled up and down  the cliff on the other side of the river for the next hour (mostly up), until the path spit us back onto a dirt road.  Dirty trick!  And I was doing so well up to that point!  Now I was drenched with sweat and exhausted, and we still had 11 miles to walk.

The path was flat and featureless, until we spied a flock of sheep coming toward us.

It took one shepherd and eight dogs to keep the herd together.

After that distraction, there was absolutely nothing but absolutely straight dirt path.  The road behind:
The road ahead:

And now we are in Tábara, and I am resting my feet.  222 miles to go.

Zamora to Montamarta to Granja de Moreruela 

May 21 – Eleven miles planned for today.  Once again, there aren’t a lot of arrows to get us out of Zamora, but we looked at the trail map, and it was a pretty straight shot north.  I now know which way is north, at least in the morning.  Put the sunrise at your right shoulder and start walking!  On the northern end of town as we exit, we can see more of the original city wall.

Saw a sign for the Camino Portugués, which we walked in 2014.  I guess if you hike due west from Zamora, you can catch the northern edge of Portugal and take that route north to Santiago.  Not for us this time.

Eight hikers passed us as we left Zamora, walking along the highway.

We had a short road walk, then got onto a farm track that paralleled the highway.

In a few miles, the track took us through the little town of Roales del Pan.  Nothing was open on a Sunday morning, but we got to see a yard filled with strange animal sculptures.

A giraffe for Lexi:

An elephant for Emma:

One of those dwarves must have done something that really pissed off Snow White…

Pretty soon we were back on a farm track.  Here are some amber waves of grain, with windmills just generating power:

Montamarta is not much of a town.  We stayed at what was advertised as a B and B, but the bed was hard, no soap or shampoo was provided, and we had to share a bathroom.  Luckily, there was only one other guest, so KF, stop whining.  The restaurant down the road fed us the typical pork and French fries.  We have been told that from here on out, the service will get worse and the prices will increase.  I believe it so far!  252 miles to go.

May 22 – Hit the road at 7am for a fourteen mile day.  Lovely sunrise:

There was a ruin of an old church visible as we left town.  Don’t the dark shrubs look like monks walking up toward the cemetery?

As we walked on farm track, we saw the ruins of an old fort or castle in the distance:

As we walked along shadeless farm track, a helicopter flew low overhead, obviously following our dirt path.  We joked that the Guardia Civil were probably looking for dead hikers in the heat of the day.  After a few moments, the helicopter reversed direction, and landed right in front of us!  

Two policemen jumped out and stopped three bicyclists who were just passing by us.  The young men had to produce their passports.  We were right behind them, and got out our passports as well, but the policemen waved us on – we were not who they were looking for.  After a few more minutes of discussion, the policemen let the cyclists go, returned to their helicopter and flew off!  It was definitely the most exciting thing that happened all day.  By 1pm, we walked into Granja de Moreruela.

Under our sunbrellas in the heat of the day:

Today is the northernmost point of our journey so far.  At Granja, a decision must be made:  one can continue north on the Via de la Plata to Astorga and join the Camino Francés (jam packed with its hundreds of hikers each day) or head west toward Ourense and continue on the Camino Sanabrés, which approaches Santiago on a diagonal.  The latter is the route we will follow.  

Tonight we are in a lovely Casa Rural, with our own bathroom, a comfy double bed, and access to a full kitchen.  The nice proprietress even let us use her washing machine for free!  Although we handwash our clothes every day, I must admit that there is a certain aroma that never seems to leave us.  A good machine wash is just what we needed today!

238 miles to go.

A Day in Zamora – a Cathedral and a Castle

May 19 – We slept in this morning and caught up on the news.  Can’t believe what’s going on back home.  Time for some sightseeing!  

Zamora’s cathedral, Santa Iglesia Catedral de Zamora, is Romanesque – sort of square and blocky – with a museum inside.

Pretty Madonnas:

Pretty Mary with a very odd looking baby Jesus and his cousin John:

Another odd baby:

Speaking of odd, this is Jesus receiving comfort from an angel while he prays in Gethsemane:

I’m forming a hypothesis that just because it is in a museum, it is not necessarily great art!  Beauty is in the eye…

Images of St. James:

There is a huge fresco of St. Christopher that is the first thing you see when you enter the sanctuary.  Lookng at St. Christopher was thought to guarantee you would not die today.  You’re welcome!

Next door to the cathedral is an old castle / fort that looks over the Rio Duero.

From the ramparts, you can see over the city:

 A good view of the storks in the bell tower:

We enjoyed a menu del dia of lentil stew with spicy sausage, and a roast chicken leg, with nata (custard with cinnamon) for dessert.  A poor man walked among the tables, trying to sell little packets of tissue for spare change.  The lady at the next table called the waitress over, handed her 10 euro and told her to serve the beggar a meal.  Nice person of Spain!  We encounter so many poor people here.  What do you do when a beggar approaches you?

After our meal, we wandered back to our room for siesta.  The busy bustling shopping streets are empty and pin-drop quiet at three in the afternoon, as all the stores are closed.  

Back on the road in the morning!

El Cubo to Villanueva de Campeán to Zamora

May 17 – Meanwhile, back at the alburgue, some good news.  In our roomful of Frenchpersons, Jim was the only one that snored.  They were up at the crack of 6, shining flashlights at one another and making as much noise as possible.  Sigh.  I’m just not an alburgue person.  Luckily, I had gotten up at 5 to take a pre-emptive pee, so I just closed my eyes and waited for them to clear out.  

Rainy morning, but just drizzle. Eight miles to get to Villanueva de Campeán.  Leaving El Cubo:

Interesting sunrise:

About two miles into the walk, I realized that I was not wearing my little neckerchief. Alburgues! Best place to lose your stuff! I know right where I left it, hanging on the bunk bed, but the quilt must have covered it, and I didn’t see it this morning. It’s my job to check the room to make sure we leave nothing behind, so I have no one to blame but moi. Oh well. 😔 

All farm trail today, featuring different crops:

This one looks very Zen:

A whole lot of dirt.  Wonder what will be planted here?

Pretty view from the top of the hill:

Before long, we reached our tiny town.  

Thankfully, there is a Casa Rural here, so we don’t have to spend two nights in a row in an alburgue.  The Casa is lovely, with a comfy bed and lots of pillows, and I figured out how to work the espresso machine, so at least we’ll have coffee for breakfast.  At 2pm we found the only bar in town and got the menu del dia – very generic noodle soup, pork filet and French fries, which we ate while watching a Spanish-dubbed episode of The Simpsons.  We asked directions to the grocery and were told this town has no grocery and no shops at all!  Just alburgues and this bar, said the barmaid.  I wondered where folks buy food here?  She just smiled and shook her head.  Must be a secret.

276 miles to go.

May 18 – 12 miles planned for today, which will get us into the city of Zamora.  We each had three cups of espresso at our DIY breakfast, so we’ll probably make it in record time!  It is supposed to rain this morning, and it is really cold – in the low 40s – so we are wearing all our layers of clothes.  All farm track again today. Pretty clouds.

It didn’t rain on us, but the clouds were ominous at times:

We found the very marker that is pictured on the front of our guidebook:

And some thoughtful person left a chair so hikers could stop and rest!

We could see Zamora in the distance, even when we were still eight miles away.  We sang “How are things in Glock-Zamora”, and remembered what God had against Sodom, but why didn’t He like Zamora?  We saw a sign for Za❤️ (amore).

By noon we reached the Rio Duero (same river as in Salamanca) and crossed the footbridge.

Doesn’t this look like a blanket?  It’s graffiti painted on the bridge.

Zamora has 24 churches and a castle. Tomorrow we’ll see what there is to see.

264 miles to go.

Salamanca to Calzada de Valdunciel to El Cubo de Tierra del Vino

May 15 – Today marks the halfway point of our stay in Spain, and we are roughly halfway through our Camino, so we are on track to reach Santiago on time.  Our guidebook warned us that there were no yellow arrows or Camino markers to guide us out of Salamanca, so this morning we just walked north.  Nine miles planned for today.

We left the city and walked along the good old N630 with traffic whizzing by until the path took us off onto a farm road that paralleled the highway.  Much nicer walking on dirt, especially with wild flowers growing on either side.  We saw three other hikers in the morning, plus several bikers.

The farm track was pretty featureless.  You can tell that we’re bored when we start taking pictures of each other!

Jim has been watching big black ants scurry across our path, doing whatever it is that ants do.  Today seemed like a good day to stop and take a video of their activity.  I’m sure the video will show up on his blog at

The little village of Calzada looks dusty and worn.  The town square is just that – an empty square.  We are staying in a tiny room above the bar.  They did a surprisingly good menu del dia, with paella and a nice thick hake steak.  298 miles to go.

May 16 –  We went down to the bar this morning looking for coffee, but it was locked up tight.  We know there are no other towns between here and tonight’s destination.  I guess we’re going to learn what a hike without coffee feels like!  

13 miles today to get to El Cubo de Tierra del Vino. Wonder how a town gets a name like Cube of Wine? We had some farm walking in the early morning, til the sign indicated we should go back to the highway.  

Luckily, there was only a little road walking – most of the way was a dirt track next to the highway.  By 11am, I was sure missing my morning coffee.  The sun was beating down and there was not a tree in sight, so wet put up our sun umbrellas.  So glad we have them!

The tiny town of El Cubo is supposed to have two alburgues.  We walked past the first one, as the reviews said the second was better.  When we got to the F and M alburgue, the lady said she did not have our email requesting a reservation, but she could give us two bunk beds in a dorm.  That was the first bad news.  We said we’d walk back to the other alburgue and try there, but she said it was closed for non-payment of taxes (or something to that effect).  Not really sure if this was true.  Then she informed us that one of the two bathrooms was out of order.  That was the second bad news.  This was supposed to be an 8 bed alburgue: we counted 16 beds.  Person to bathroom ratio – not good.

We went to the bar down the street and got a pretty good menu del dia.  A German woman was trying to order something vegetarian.  No meat, she told the waiter.  Okay, fish, he replied.  No fish either, said the lady.  He went down his list of entrees: meat, meat, meat, fish fish, fish.  No other options.  Jim suggested she ask for fried eggs, if that would be acceptable.  She agreed that it was probably the best she could do.  Jim saves the day!

After our meal, we walked down the street and sat on a park bench.  It was full of sticky, tarry stuff that got all over our pants and our hands.  That was the third bad news.  We went back to the alburgue to do laundry and try and wash the tar out.  You know that didn’t work.  I’m going to stop writing now, before anything else happens.

285 miles to go.

Another Day in Salamanca 

May 14 – Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and to all mothers, grandmothers, mothers-in-law, stepmoms, godmoms, aunts, teachers, nurses, and anyone who has ever loved a child.❤️❤️❤️

Here’s another Salamanca story.  This city hosts the largest number of University students in Spain.  When a newbie comes to Salamanca for their first year, they are told that they must find the frog on the skull, or they will not pass their exams.  Like any freshman challenge, upperclassmen will not help them find the frog.  It took us a while, but we found it – the crowd of gaping, pointing tourists may have helped.  Can you see it above the door of the university?

How about now?

See it?  Good!  You will pass your exams!

We walked south this morning to see the old Roman Bridge.  It’s very quiet on Sunday morning, but we see policemen and military vehicles lining the roadway.  What’s up?  I’m wondering if there’s some sort of news event about to happen, when a policeman on a bicycle rides by, shouting the Spanish equivalent of, “Move over!  Out of the way!”  And then came:

Marathon runners!  Hundreds of them! After a few dozen came a man on a bike with a sign that read 1st Mujer (Woman).  Soon came the 2nd:

Do they announce the women in US races too?  The 3rd Mujer also got a sign, but the rest just ran with the pack. It was a beautiful morning for the race – dry and cool.  We walked against the tide to admire the Roman Bridge, which held up well under a thousand pounding feet.

After the race passed by, we admired the reflection of the Cathedrals in the Rio Duero.

…and admired the river itself.

We strolled down to the Convento de San Esteban:

…where St. Stephen is eternally stoned:

…and stoned again:

Interesting stone mosaic floors:

The cloisters around the courtyard:

The worship space is huge:

…with 118 seats for the choir:

…and my favorite part, the misericordia, or mercy seats, that give the choir members a place to rest their butts while appearing to be standing:

Back at the Plaza Mayor, the book sale was still going on:

…while the tourists drank coffee

…and an orchestra entertained the crowds:

There is one more thing you have to look for in the stonework of Salamanca.  A little rabbit – rub it for good luck!

Tomorrow we are back on the road.  308 miles to go.