Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day 26 Camino de Santiago July 31 Astorga

Happy Birthday Martha!
    Martha is my "aunt" even though she is neither my mom or my dad's sister... You might have to be from the South to understand that relationship.  Anyway it goes, she is one of the most beautiful people you could ever meet.  Wish you could.  She's an angel on Earth.
     Okay Mert, if that doesn't get me into your will, I give up!Ha!
     Astorga has to be one of my favorite cities in Spain.  In fact, yes, I even think it is more enjoyable than Segovia.  Beautiful cathedral, though rather ill planned, a house built by Gaudi that is actually attractive, medieval streets, cobblestone, beautiful parks, perfect weather, Life is good...
     The day started like most - with me being the last to leave the albergue.  It's kind of nice, because then I have the entire day to myself to think, which goes something like this....walk myself to exhaustion,  beat my "self" to pieces for the first 1/2 of the day, then spend the rest of the day reassembling my "self", then a nice dinner, a walk about town, see a few people that I've met over the last 25 days and off to bed to do again the next day.   Simple and enjoyable.  Of all the things that my eyes will miss, it will be the 1000's of gardens with incredible flowers and vegetables.  Makes me think of Uncle Johnny, Dad, and growing up on the farm as a wee little kid.
    Not much rolling today and a long day to boot.  28K.  Started off going through a tunnel of over brush and trees. Walked over 50 canals today that if I could teach my pack to float would have been like rafting the Colorado, minus the Canyon... the river... okay, it would have been like Libertyland River.
    No blog of mine is complete without the picture of food.  Here was a cafe that was glorious.  I had walked for about 12k at a good clip and without stopping and saw a sign that said "homemade bread".  Done.  I'm there.  I don't care if they spread sheep dip on it.... it's homemade bread right!!??  One thing my ears will miss is no matter where you eat in a fine restaurant or a street cafe, if a person walks by your table, they will say, "Buon Provecho!"  Which you can probably guess means, "bon appetit".  My blog may be the only blog in the world where you can gain weight just by reading it.
  We crossed a bridge today that was built in the 13th century and is over 200 meters long with 19 arches.  A huge battle was fought here in 456AD... What you didn't know that??  Me neither...  Guess it was really important at the time, however.

As I was on the bridge I saw this man trout fishing.  I asked him in beautiful Spanish, "Hey!  Ya got any?"  He, unfortunately, thought I could speak Spanish and yelled back a whole bunch of words and the best I could make out is that his friend in the next picture caught a 3 kilo trout.  That's about 6.5 lbs.  Whoa!  That's a horse of a fish!


 If I see another trout stream and I'm in a good way, I'll ask if one of these guys wants to be my guide for a day.  Frankly, catching a fish would probably be too much for my little heart, so I'll be happy just wading in the river and casting over and over.    Yeah, I'm talking myself into it.


From here the trail starts to go up gradually.  Tomorrow it jumps but not so steep.  The next day is labeled" ridiculous" and the following day is "slightly less ridiculous".  So rather than worry about what will be here in a couple of days, I decided to enjoy the day as it is.  Flat - and with cornfields.  The largest corn maize in the world, is here in August.
    The trail was poorly marked from this point on.  In fact, it split at one point and all hikers felt like it was because the local bars in towns not on the Camino want a piece of the action.  I get it.  We keep many of the small towns alive.  Many a time I was scratching my head which way to go, and every blue moon I'd come across a sign like this, which may have been overkill, I dunno.

      Finally I got to the outskirts of Astorga, which is gorgeous.  It was like I had passed through every previous biome today - grapes, wheat, corn, sunflowers, hay.  I will miss the sunflowers.  And they will miss me...they told me so!  auuugghhh!    Did I mention the wildflowers??  The red poppies, blue and yellow daisies, and ...no..no... they don't talk.  Of course they don't talk... that would be crazy!

      Then to reach this promontory was awesome.  Made me think of a spot in Juneau where you can be at Gastineau Lookout.  He founded Juneau.  (He is Gastineau...not Lookout!!)  There are some serious bikers...or at least they are dressed for business.  I wonder though if it's like in baseball, some of the teams with the fanciest uniforms were pitiful.  In fact, I think I passed these bikers!!

 I walked through suburb after suburb and finally got a picture of the cathedral on the hill in the city.  Too bad...the albergues are always near the cathedral, so that meant I was going to be climbing another hill.   It's okay.  I'm looking forward to Astorga.  They are famous for their chocolate and for two deserts - mantecadas and hojaldres - both of which I've already tasted!!  Why wait for dinner, right?
They are not the best I've had.  The chocolate has rave reviews from a British lady.  Can't wait to try that.

 The albergue I'm staying in, which is behind this pilgrim who looks more like a 49er, has beautiful music playing so I asked the manager who it was and he said it was a 24 hour mix.  25 minutes later he brings me  CD copy.  I love it!!  In the park next to me is a band playing in the gazebo.  So cool.  No, really cool.  The park is on a promontory and the wind is blowing a nice refreshing zephyr.  (Never thought I'd get to use that word!)

This is a building designed by Gaudi for the Bishop.  Unfortunately, before the house could be finished, Gaudi had had a major falling out with the Church and the Bishop said, "I no gonna liva there!"    Bishops can be like that you know!
    The cathedral is big and attractive from the outside, though the interior is very narrow, only seats a few hundred, and is dark.  Other than that, it's gorgeous!!
     Okay, now to close out Astorga with the weird and weirder:
The dish the town is most famous for is Cocido Maragato which is the typical dish of the Maragatería. It contains goat's blood sausage, ½ a chicken, pork, a pig's ear, a pig's trotter, a slice of pig's snout, chorizo, chickpeas, cabbage, potatoes and garlic.  They lost me at the blood, snout, and ear ingredients.


The other is this warrior chic at a department store window.  I'm sorry, but if you are going to kill me at least have the decency to wear a bra or chain mail.

If I have to choose between fighting Russell Crowe-like gladiators and a topless Amazon.... Really, you have to ask??

It would be distracting.

Stay focused.
Stay focused.
Stay focused.



“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 
 Ralph Waldo Emerson