Camino de Santiago, Day 22
León to San Martín Del Camino 15.5 Miles
This article is the nineteenth in our series of walking 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago with my husband Scott. Some articles will be only about one day of walking, and some may include a few days of walking, for the lengths will vary. To begin with the first article click here.
Quietly, we made our way down the steep stairs of our hostel. We stepped out onto the narrow street and into the darkness.
It was 7:30 a.m. sharp, the time Scott liked to begin our walk for the day. I did enjoy walking in the early morning hours and seeing countless sunrises, but waking up in darkness to get ready was a struggle. Luckily, Blythe and Jenn were ready to begin the day, bright and early!
The cool, fresh air made us feel better, as we were all feeling the effects of our wine tasting the day before.
Quickly, we stopped at the ATM to get enough cash for a few days, and then off we went.
Day 22 For Us, Day 1 For Them
Our friends were beginning their first day on the Camino, and so were many other people. León was a popular starting point for many pilgrims throughout history.
On our way out of town we passed the Parador Hotel. It was featured in the movie, The Way. It was near a wonderful old bridge we crossed over as we left town.
By the time we made it out of the city limits, the sun was up.
Later, we stopped in a small town for coffee and something to eat. The girls and I went into a small grocery to buy fruit for our snack later on. I knew not to touch the produce, from my previous experience of being yelled at by a store owner for touching his fruit. In this store, there were plastic gloves for us to put on before we touched the fruit we wanted to buy.
After our short break, we made our way out of the small town and stopped for a moment to talk with Ted and Eve from Texas. We introduced them to our friends from home and then we were on our way again.
The walk was not remarkable. We were on a path next to the highway going up and down rolling hills. It wasn’t strenuous, but we sure weren’t on the open meseta anymore.
Scott and I were disappointed. We wanted our friend’s first day to be scenic, with cute little towns every few kilometers.
San Martín Del Camino
After 15.5 miles, we walked into the town of San Martín Del Camino. We were all tired and luckily found an albergue with rooms available.
Cleaning up and washing our laundry was our first priority. Then we all met in the bar for a plate of meat and cheese and some wine. Playing cards and hanging out with our friends was a nice way to relax for the afternoon.
The highlight of the night, was when our hosts opened the window to get the huge pan of paella into the bar for dinner. It was too big to fit through the door!
There were pilgrims from around the world at our table, it was fun to hear different accents and languages and to wonder if we would ever see them again.
Day 22 15.5 miles
Camino de Santiago, Day 23
San Martín Del Camino to Astorga 14 Miles
Every morning Scott and I would awake with a great feeling of anticipation to see what the new day would bring, and now we had Blythe and Jenn with us, just as excited as we were.
On Day 23 the four of us met in front of our albergue and began our walk for the day. It was cold and we were wearing our layers of long sleeves, jackets, vests and buffs. For part of the morning, we walked on a trail near the highway and then eventually, along some dirt farm roads.
Something to See!
We were all glad to be away from the highway where it was quiet and not so windy.
Mid-morning, we stopped at a cafe for our meal. As we walked the one main street through town, we came to an amazing bridge. It was a long bridge with 19 arches. It only spanned the river part way, as the rest was overland. An old story says the bridge is famous as an observation point where one man jousted 300 opponents in Medieval Times.
Slowly, we crossed the cobblestone bridge, stopping to take pictures and enjoy the view.
Rolling Hills and a Rest Stop with Character
Most of our day was spent on dirt farm roads going up and down rolling hills. At one point (in the middle of nowhere) we came to a rest stop with clever rock art. A woman sold snacks to pilgrims and provided a place to rest.
After 14 miles we made our way across a crazy zigzagging metal bridge, and up a steep hill, where we arrived at the hillside town of Astorga.
It was a charming town, with plazas, cafes and ancient churches. We could just feel the history of the town.
After stopping and asking in a couple of different hotels (all of which were full), we found rooms at the Ciudad De Astorga Hotel Spa. The clerk said one available room was usually for only one guest because it had a low slanted ceiling. Scott and I were fine with a low ceiling, since we aren’t tall people.
We went to our rooms and got cleaned up. Someone had told me it was easier to wash laundry with it still on your body in the shower, so I decided to give it a try. It wasn’t my brightest moment, as I tried to pull wet, soapy clothes off my body without falling down in the shower.
Our rooms had big windows and we hung everything up to dry. Scott and I enjoyed the church bells ringing from just across the way.
Scott told me he had received his first blister that day. We couldn’t believe it had taken 23 days for him to get a blister!
The four of us enjoyed some wine and cheese and then set out to explore Astorga.
What a picturesque town! We walked around, did a little shopping and took pictures of some of the important sites in town. The Episcopal Palace was stunning, and we saw the Town Hall and the Cathedral of Astorga. It was hard to comprehend in our minds that the city dated back to 14BC.
We ran into Ted and Eve again, they were staying in Astorga as well and were on their way to the evening mass.
Dinner with Pilgrim Friends
Later, the four of us went to the main plaza to find a restaurant for dinner. We ran into Lou and Helen from Texas, who we had not seen since the beginning of the meseta. It was the perfect spot for dinner, right on the patio in the main plaza. Lou and Helen joined the four of us and we had a delicious meal involving pasta, soup and lots of wine. Lou and Helen were great company, telling stories of their trekking through Ireland.
The Town Hall sits at the edge of the plaza and we were able to see the famous clock tower at the top of Town Hall. As the clock struck the hour, two figures began striking the massive bronze bell.
Sweets for the End of Our Day
Later, Blythe and Jenn went to the store to buy fruit and snacks for our next day’s walk. Scott and I stopped in at the candy store next to our hotel and enjoyed some sweet treats. I told Scott, I may be the only pilgrim who gains weight on the Camino instead of losing it!
Day 23, 14 Miles