Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Day 25 - 17 May - Vilar de Mazarife to Astorga

As the Pet Shop Boys famously sang:

Go West, on the pilgrim way                                  

Go West, walking miles each day                           

Go West, eating food, no pay                                

Go West, whilst drinking IPA

With twenty miles ahead of us we had the alarm set for six o’clock and were on the road out of Vilar de Mazarife twenty five minutes later. It was just about daylight although the sun didn’t rise for another half an hour. The fields of crops either side of the long, straight road out of town were all the more majestic for the early morning light.

It was six miles of straight road followed by straight path through agricultural land before we reached the first village of Villavante but there were no facilities available when we passed through, save for some benches on which to rest and consume our own provisions. However, two miles further on we reached the town of Hospital de Orbigo where we had coffee and croissants in the garden of a bar where cute and extremely decorative chickens mixed with the customers.

Hospital de Orbigo has a history and legend around jousting which all looked very nice and interesting but we still had eleven miles to go. Bye.

Beyond Hospital the landscape was changing and for the better. The high, flat plains were now rolling hills with a bit of forestry thrown into the mix. The villages of Villares de Orbigo and Santibanez de Valdeiglesia were, like Hospital, smarter versions of the renovation and dilapidation mix previously encountered although sadly without facilities for the walker, certainly pre-noon. Which meant another long distance between facilities - eight or nine miles - where our own provisions had to sustain us  Three cheers for Babybel cheese I say! The scenic value however continued on its upward trend with some pine forest thrown into the mix.

There was a really cute stop along the way where, what I can best describe as, a neat and tidy hippy type facility offered food and drink provisions, all available for a donation. 

It was lovely. But what sort of hippy facility doesn’t include beer? Must try harder.

Eventually we arrived at San Justo de la Vega where we had the first beer of the day before completing the final two miles or so into Astorga where the four-star Hotel SPA Via de la Plata awaited us. We deserved it.

Astorga is a nice town with lots of facilities, a big cathedral and a big house designed by Antoni Gaudi who was a big cheese architect in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They especially love him in Barcelona but I suspect his genius was less to do with artistic inspiration and more to do with alcohol, judging by some of the stuff I’ve seen.

Anyway -Astorga - we did of course try out a few of the towns bars where, unforgivably, some appeared not to be in on this tapas lark. We gave those bars a wide berth although initial observations suggested this might be the norm in Astorga. I was going off the place pretty quickly and, off all things, we ended up in an Irish bar where they were playing the Bachelors singing The Unicorn Song. Could it get any worse? We drank up before they had chance to start on The Fields of Athenry. Fortunately, we then happened upon a very smart and traditional Spanish bar which sold Mahou IPA (I love Mahou IPA). Unfortunately, the kitchen didn’t open for food until half past eight and it was only seven forty. “But you can have these tapas”. Bingo! 

Now, as I lay in my four-star bed at twenty past nine, suitably fed and watered, pondering these notes of the day's events, it dawns on me that Spain must be the birthplace of civilisation or, at the very least, civilised behaviour. With Mrs C here alongside me, I am a very lucky geezer. 

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