Notes Bill Beahen’s Via de la Plata Journey September – October 2010

 These day by day observations are intended to provide specific information which may be helpful to future camino walkers. If there are no prices mentioned for albergues or restaurants you may assume that they are acceptably low.

For meals I ate very little during the day partly because I don’t like hiking on a full stomach and partly because often it is not easy to find food along this camino route. At dinner I always had the menu del dia or menu del pergrino, three course with wine for between 6 and 11 E depending on the establishment.

Albergues ranged in price from free to 12 E and all albergues in Galicia are 5 E.

Although conflicting opinions seem to continue to circulate, I found signposting excellent on the route. Therefore, I will mention only potentially troublesome segments.

On the question of language I concur with the generally expressed observation that a basic knowledge of Spanish is necessary to walk this route with confidence.

I did not travel with a mobile phone deliberately because I wanted distance from immediate contact with others. I still feel this way but the world is changing and often when arriving first at an albergue I found that the only contact information provided to obtain a key was a telephone number. This did complicate the process of gaining access.

In the notes below I use initials for place names after first citation where meaning is obvious.

Also, these notes should be regarded as supplemental to the very good guidance provided by Peregrino 2000 (Laurie) on the Confraternity of St James pilgrims’ forum.

The weather for the first week of my camino was very hot – high of low 40’s C by noon. After that week I still had very hot days but it gradually moderated until it was cool in the north.

All my observations about the magnificence and challenges of the route may be found on my other blog posts.

Sevilla – Stayed at the Hotel Simon which is right on the route of the camino and 50 metres from a good restaurant Los Coloniales. At 50 E per night it was well worth it. Sevilla is worth an extra day before starting off particularly if you are resting up from jet lag.

Day 1 – Sevilla to Guillena – 23 kms – Probably a good idea to start after dawn to spot yellow arrows through the urban and suburban sprawl. Roman ruins of Italica at Saltiponce are worth an hour’s visit. You can leave your backpack at the gate in a locked hut while you visit. There is no shade on route and can get very hot. The albergue at G. is bare bones with plastic covered mattresses on bunk beds, limited space and was dirty when I visited. Bar Frances by prior reservation is a good alternative at 20 E for a room – bathroom in the hallway.

Day 2 – G. to Castilloblanco de los Arroyos – 18 kms – Hot. Didn’t see albergue but other peregrinos said it was basic. I stayed at the home of Senora Salvadora, 43 Avenida Espana. 10 E for a private room or 20 E for shared double – bathroom in the hallway was very nice, clean, comfortable and quiet. Bar Isadora, Avenida de Paz, provides good lunch and dinner,

Day 3 – C. to Almaden de la Plata – 30 kms – Very hot. Final ascent to town is steep and tough when you are spent from heat, aptly named Mount Calvary. Albergue on the other side of town is clean and comfortable with separate bathrooms for men and women and a kitchen and dining room. Hospitalera is a dragon lady with control issues.

Day 4 – A. to El Real de la Jarra – 17 kms. Municipal albergue is right at the entrance of town but you must walk to the town centre to the Tourist Office to register, obtain key, have cello stamped and then return to the albergue. Premises are clean with a small kitchen and eating area. Bunks are divided into three small rooms. Ask at tourist office for computer access at another municipal office in the area.

Day 5  – J. to Monasterio – 21 kms. Leaving J. there is a bar on route in town which opens early and provides coffee and other refreshments (coke was always my preference) to peregrinos in need. At Monasterio the parish albergue which has been promised for some time is not yet near completion. I stayed at Hostal Pilar in town centre with private bathroom for pilgrims’ price of 20 E and was very comfortable. More basic accommodation at the other end of town in Hostal Extremurdura was 12 E.

Day 6 – M to Fuente de Cantos – 22 kms. Lovely albergue in converted convent with two bunks per spacious room.  Free internet in lounge area but it is very slow. Hospitalera will direct you to a good restaurant. The price is 12 E but includes ample continental breakfast.

Day 7 – F to Albergue de la Almazara – 40 kms. This very nice albergue is located in the countryside 7 kms before Villafranco de los Barros. Well marked just off the camino path. There are comfortable small rooms containing one bunk and one single bed, each room with a bathroom. Patios for each room and an interior courtyard add to the charm. Dinner is served and I had an interesting choice of hog cheek stew or calamari for second serving and was very happy with my choice of the stew!

Day 8 – A to Torremejia – 35 kms. Don’t stop at first albergue in town which is hot, crowded and dirty. Ask for the church on the other side of town and you will find a beautiful albergue beside it. Before I knew of the second albergue I booked into the Hostal Milenium for 20 E peregrino price with private bath which was very comfortable. Have dinner in the dining room of the Asador Puerta de Barros. Food was very good and ambiance was delightful.

Day 9 – T to Merida – 16 kms. Heard bad things about albergue before and after my arrival in M and I am glad I didn’t stay there. I took a room with private bath in the Hostal Serena close to Plaza Espana. It was comfortable and at 27 E was probably a decent price at this touristic city. I was there on Sunday so never found a restaurant open which offered a pilgrim menu. I had to settle for a combination plate which was overpriced and not very good. Internet available at a cybercafé just off main street on the way to the Temple of Diana.

Day 10 – M to Aljucen – 17 kms. Nice private albergue “La Boveda” on main street with three small rooms with bunkbeds and two bathrooms to share. Vending machines with soft drinks, beer and confections. There is a kitchen but this is of little use unless you are packing food because small store is open only in the morning. Sitting room. Only 2 places to eat in town – bar and Cafe Sergio steps away on same street. Chose latter and got good meal by waiting until 9 pm. Those impatient for dinner got served at bar at any hour but food was sub standard.

Day 11 – A to Aldea del Cano – 36 kms.  Albergue on far side of town was comfortable with three small rooms with bunks, kitchen and dining room. Obtain key and cello from bar next door which serves a decent dinner. Library in town centre has several computers for internet use.

Day 12 – A del Caceres – 23 kms. This is a beautiful city of 70,000 with lots of different levels of accommodation. Go to the tourism office in Plaza Mayor for advice on where to stay. I chose Pensione Cesar which I shared with another peregino for 15 E each pilgrim price. Bathroom was not private but was shared with only one other room. Advantage to this place is that it is close to Plaza Mayor for good restaurants, near old city for sightseeing and on the street leading out of town for convenience return to camino the next day.

Day 13 –  C to Casar to Caseres – 11 kms. There is a comfortable municipal albergue with no charge for accommodation. Key and cello must be obtained at town hall across the street. Two rooms with lots of bunks, adequate showers and toilet stalls. There is a kitchen, dining and sitting room. Can’t say about restaurants because I got the Gastro Intestinal bug here and was quite ill for 12 hours, ill for another 12 and residual lack of appetite for several days. Note on relations between cyclists and peregrinos of foot – generally they don’t mix well for many reasons but this night a cyclist I had never met got up 3 times to check on me as I was audibly ill and gave me special energy drink to help. Spirit of the camino can come when you least expect it.

Day 14 – Still in C de C due to illness. My companion peregrinos at this stage Noel and Gilberto got same GI infection on successive days and Cordula whom I met later described same symptoms at this time confirming my conviction that this was a bug and not food poisoning. There was a computer at town hall but it was malfunctioning while I was there or had mystery mechanism which I couldn’t master – either scenario quite likely.

Day 15 – C de C to Canerval – 33 kms. Small albergue here has had bad reviews in the past. My feeling is that the standard of cleanliness were not pristine but were acceptable. There are 4 small rooms with single beds, one room doubles as a sitting room. There is a small kitchen. Toilet was temperamental but functioning. Key obtained from hotel around the corner. Proprietor would not supply us with cello until we came back for dinner. We didn’t because the place was not inviting and menu was overpriced. We found only one other restaurant open on a Saturday night, food was good and obtained our stamp there.

Day 16 – C to Galisteo – 28 kms. I stayed at Hostal Emigrantes at entrance to town for 10 E each sharing double room with Noel. Good deal particularly as there were no other guests so essentially we had a private bathroom in the hall. Restaurant on premises served a good dinner.

Day 17 – G to Olivia de Plasencia – 30 kms. This destination a few kilometres off route was chosen to avoid a tough 38 kms day. There is a large albergue in this small town which is very comfortable. No restaurant in town although there is a bar. Very pleasant hospitalera, Monica (who was unique in my experience is speaking English and speaking it well!) provided dinner. The meal of soup, poached fish and peas was a welcome change from the regular fare of fried everything.

Day 18 – O to Aldenueva del Camino – 26 kms. Previous reviews of municipal albergue were positive but standards have fallen low. The albergue is located in the centre of town. When I arrived it was unkempt, filthy and had 4 beds jammed together in one room. I wouldn’t stay here unless I had no other alternative. Fortunately I had. On the way out of town on the camino route is the Hostal Montesol where I had a clean, comfortable room with private bathroom for 15 E and I had a good dinner in a proper dining room. The hostal was wifi and when I explained to the proprietor that I had no computer he lent me his personal laptop.

Day 19 – A to Calzada de Bejos – 22 kms. This very small village has a lovely albergue which Hospitalera Manuela runs with the help of her husband. Close quarters dormitory accommodations with bunks was available for 8 E or 2 private rooms with shared bathroom for 15 E each. I chose one of the private rooms which was large, tastefully decorated and double bed. Laundry service was available at a small fee. No restaurants or bars in village so Manuel provided dinner which was good.

Day 20 – C to Fuenteroble de Salvetierra – 20 kms. Here is the lovely parish albergue run by famed camino supporter priest, Padre Blas Rodriguez. Large room with many bunks and adequate toilets and shower stalls. This is the oft discussed spot where Americans supplied a bunkroom and flies an American flag. I don’t want to get into continuing controversy but will just state the fact then when I asked to sleep in this room the Hospiteralo volunteer told me I couldn’t as it was reserved for Americans. There is only one restaurant in town and it takes advantage of its monopoly by offering only one choice for menu del dia but food was good.

Day 21 – F to San Pedro de Rozados – 28 kms. Small albergue with bunks divided into two rooms. Only one bathroom. The only bar/restaurant in village served a tasty meal.

Day 22 – S to Salamanca – 24 kms. Albergue near Cathedral is apparently very good but is not open most of the afternoon On the advice of the tourist office near Plaza Mayor my friend Peter and I chose to share a double room with private bathroom at the nearby Pensione Lisboa. Good room for 20 E each which apparently is a very good price in this bigger city. Lots of good restaurants in the vicinity with inexpensive menus del dia. The one we chose served good food.

Day 23 – S to Calzada de Valunciel – 20 kms. Another small village with a small comfortable albergue. There is a kitchen and a sitting room. There are two restaurants on highway nearby which were only ones open on this Sunday. Neither looked promising so we chose the only one with a menu del dia which was not an inspired choice as it was overpriced, wine was an expensive extra and food was not good. Restaurant in town on street leading to the highway is apparently good but was closed for owners and staff to take holidays.

Day 24 – C to El Cubo del Vino – 20 kms. Care must be exercised when walking this route because arrows petered out soon into the walk. Basically many of the latter kms are walked along the east side of the N 630 highway when the natural inclination is to walk on the other side where there is a broad trail. At least, I think it is the east side – in any case when you see a large prison take the overpass to that side of the N 630 and walk on the side of the road until you reach the village. There is a very good small albergue on the other side of the village divided up into several rooms. Peter and I were lucky enough to get the one room with only on bunk. Genial hospitelaro and cold drinks in the refrigerator paid for on the honour system. No kitchen but very good meal is served at the only restaurant the Santa Domingo.

Day 25 – El to to Zamora – 32 kms. There is a modern, comfortable albergue in the historic centre of this city. Hospitalera most accommodating supplying a map and advice. However, the restaurant she recommended in Plaza Mayor never opened its doors so we chose at random and got very good value at only restaurant we found offering menu del dia. Several computers in the municipal library nearby for internet access but are automatically set to time you out at one hour so be careful to get your messages out before this happens.

Day 26 – Z to Riego del Camino – 37 kms. Be careful exiting this large city because it takes a long time and arrows are not frequent and not very visible. We left in dark and asked directions several times. Longer walk than expected this day because guides had an albergue in a town after about 31 kms but this was not so. As a result when we arrived at R there was a knot of 15 peregrinos and luckily there were exactly 15 beds available. No kitchen and only one small bathroom. Hospitalera warned only bar served meals but couldn’t handle this number of people. So a fluent Spanish speaker volunteered to investigate and came back with news that because the proprietor was forewarned he would feed us. When we arrived for dinner we were ushered into a storeroom/improvised eating area. Women arrived with soup prepared at home and began frying us up usual pork and French fries. Entirely satisfactory under the circumstances.

Day 27 – R to Tabara – This is the stage were pereginos split, some going straight north to Astorga to finish the camino along the camino frances route. The rest of us started north-west towards Orsense to continue along the V           ia de la Plata. Arrived at a modern municipal albergue with large room with bunks and we nearly filled it to capacity. There was a kitchen and comfortable dining area. Most of us chose to eat in town centre at a restaurant which catered to peregrinos according to its signage and provided us with a good dinner.

Day 28 – T to Santa Croya – 22 kms. We arrived at the private albergue Casa Anita and were very pleased with our accommodations which were in two large rooms with clean modern bath and toilet rooms. Cordula Raba was part of our group that day and was instantly recognized by the proprietor as the author of one of the popular German guidebooks for the Via de la Plata. She explained that she was updating the book and we got royal treatment- free wine on arrival and our laundry was collected and whisked away at no charge. Meal that evening prepared by the albergue was very good. Internet computer is available all the time at no charge.

Day 29 – S to Mombuey – 38 kms. Small albergue of 11 beds but clean and comfortable except it was had no heat on a cold night but blankets supplied. Dinner at restaurant on main road exactly at the top of the road to the albergue was very good.

Day 30 – M to Pueblo de Sanabria – 32 kms and a few more for those of us who got lost. Way was well marked until we reached the town of Asturianos about half way to our destination. After this was an area of forest recently burned out and what arrows remained where difficult to interpret. Then arrows almost disappeared altogether. Even Cordula who wrote the guide and had GPS was confused. A much faster walker she left me behind and I missed a critical stone arrow on the ground indicating we must cross an overpass over the highway. As a result I spent much time exploring options until I finally backtracked enough to find the elusive stone indicator. Private albergue “Casa Luz’ is wonderful with bunks in two rooms, state of the art toilet and bathroom facilities, kitchen and inner courtyard sitting area. Modern washing machines available. Historic city centre is a moderate walking distance up the hill and well worth a visit. Along the main street there are several restaurants but I found only one with a menu del dia which was excellent. Across the street was a bar advertising free internet and after dinner I was the only customer with all the time I wanted on the computer. So happy that I forgot there was a curfew of 10 pm at the albergue and when I arrived back at midnight my friend Phillip from Tunbridge Wells England had to let me in through the window of the front room.

Day 31 – P to Requejo – 12 kms. I stayed at albergue “Casa Cervino” at other end of town. This is a most comfortable private facility with a large room with bunks set well apart. It is clean, modern and has large sitting room and adequate showers and toilets. It is much better than what I saw of the municipal albergue in town. There were vending machines for confections, coffee, beer, soft drinks and bottles of wine paid for at the bar on the honour system. It is run by a family members of which live in an apartment upstairs and take great pride in their establishment. They directed me to a restaurant up the street at the “Hostal Tu Casa” where I had one of the best meals on the camino with exemplary service for only 6 E!

Day 32 – R to Lubian – 18 kms. Bit of bad luck on accommodations this day. This was the feast day of Our Lady of Pilar, a patron saint of Spain and a national holiday. As a result the highly recommended casa rural “Pachaca” was closed because proprietor was holidaying. I couldn’t stay at albergue because there were no restaurants or food stores open. My only choice was the casa rural “Irene” which provided shelter and dinner but has been badly reviewed by other peregrinos. I must say the room I was given was clean, comfortable with a nice easy chair and private bathroom. The price was 25 E including breakfast. The down side was that the proprietor was to put it kindly quite rough around the edges in the affability department and the dinner was poor.

Day 33 – L to Villavello – Albergue was way outside the town. It was the first of railway station albergues I encountered which are situated along the railway line far from town centre. I didn’t bother heading there because I knew there would be sign on door with phone number to obtain the key and I had no mobile. Instead I walked up to highway and checked into a nice hotel at 30 E with a “first” a full sized bathtub where I could soak and rid myself of ingrained sand in the skin of my feet which a shower hadn’t been able to budge. Restaurant across the street “Taberna Rural de Carteiro” was strongly recommended by villagers I stopped and they were so right. Great meal with a huge steak as close to a T bone which I have ever seen in Spain.

Day 34 – V to La Gudina – 13 kms. Large lovely municipal albergue with kitchen, dining room and salon on two floors. Dinner at “Oscar’s” restaurant on main street was good. There fast computers for internet access at the municipal library also on the main street. Pretty village.

Day 35 – LG to Camobecerios  – 20 kms. Here albergue was another of the railway variety way outside town. I booked in at the casa rural at one of the two bars in town. Very comfortable room with private bathroom, balcony with a view of the mountains. Dinner at the bar was reasonably good.

Day 36 – C to Laza – 14 kms. Arriving in Laza finding the albergue can be confusing. If you follow the arrows through town you will end up on the other side heading on down the camino route. Instead ask someone for the location of “Civil Proteccion” office where you will pick up your key, get your cello and receive directions to the albergue. In the basement of the CP office are several computers free for use.   Ask officer to open it for you but don’t expect too much because computers are old and very slow. The albergue by contrast is newish and very comfortable with several separate rooms containing two bunks each. There is a fully equipped kitchen/eating area and nice salon. For restaurant go to the church and as though exiting main door turn right on street, proceed short distance to square, turn right again and you will see bar/cafe. Dining room is on second floor and the dinner is very good with cook/server as attentive and friendly as you find on the camino.

Day 37 – L to Villar do Barrio – 20 kms. My next stop was Vilar do Barrio a delightful little town. Again I was wasted by dayś exertions and was rewarded by having some guy send  me four extra kms in a futile walk to an inappropriate albergue in a railway station far from town.

When somebody finally turned me around I went to a brand new albergue in the centre of the town only opened a few months ago which was delightful. It was Sunday and our options for dinner were very limited but our very friendly hospitalera sent us across the street to a private home, no. 17 where a wonderful elderly lady prepared us a very good dinner.

Day 38 – V do B to Xunqueira de Ambia – 14 kms. New albergue with two dormitories – comfortable – separate men and women shower and bathroom facilities. Kitchen and salon with vending machines. Good dinner can be had a B&J’ s restaurant – first establishment you will find on your way into town from the albergue.

Day 39 – X to Orense – 22 kms. The bad part of this day’s journey was that 90% was on highway and 10 kms was through a very unattractive industrial zone. So no great sights today. The day was saved a little bit by the last 3 kms through an attractive village and some peaceful paths in Orense. However, Orense is a far bigger a place than I suspected. It is in fact a city. As a result I got lost – must have missed an arrow somewhere and wandered all over following vague directions from the citizens. Albergue is in renovated historic convent with two large rooms upstairs full of bunks. There is a kitchen, dining room and salon and free computer for internet. Hospistalero will supply you with a very good map of area and indicate a restaurant with menu de dia which is cut above the average.

Day 40 – O to Cea – 23 kms. Very tough walk today almost all uphill at a constant gradient which was hard on my back. Albergue was fairly new with large and comfortable dormitory on the second floor. There is a kitchen, dining room and salon on the main floor with vending machines. Only one restaurant in town which delivers a decent dinner.

Day 41 – C to Castro Dozon – 22 kms. The 22 kms walk turned into about 30 kms for me as head in the clouds I got lost again and had to circle around to pick up the highway for an extra 8 kms because I couldn´t figure out where I went wrong. Then, and this is a warning to all who are planning to walk the Via, the albergue in Castro D is hidden from normal view. If you continue through the village on the camino path you will not find the albergue as practically all the peregrinos found out. You have to leave the path and walk along the highway to find the lodging.. There were no signs indicating the albergue was on the highway and we wandered around for various lengths of time lost. The albergue is supposed to be “provisional” but has been in operation several years. Facilities were acceptable but cold with no heating in evidence and no blankets provided. There was only one restaurant in town which was open but it served good food and is located about 150 metres from the albergue.

Day 42 – C de D to A Laxe – 20 kms. Here there is a huge, fairly new albergue with several dormitory rooms, kitchen, dining room, salon and vending machines. Pay attention entering town because you must take the first street to the right when you reach the highway and then the first street to the left. It is not well marked and if you just follow the arrows you will end up going through the village and on down the camino path. There is only one restaurant “Cafe Jose” on the highway which served a very good meal.

Day 43 – A L to Silleda – 10 kms. I stayed at the parish albergue behind the church at the town centre. There are double rooms and dormitory facilities, lots of toilets and showers, salon but no kitchen. All very clean and since it was not busy when I was there I asked for a individual room and got one of the doubles to myself for 5E. Hospitalera recommended the Cafe/Bar Toxa and it served a good dinner.

Day 44 – S to Punto Ulla – 22 kms. Stayed at Bar Juanita on the left after crossing bridge on entering town. Private room with bath was pristine and comfortable for 20 E and the bar served a good meal. For details on difficulties securing food and accommodations on wet day in a small village on Sunday see the previous blog entry.

Day 45 – P U to Santiago!!! Stayed at lovely Hotel Miradoiros de Belvis on Rua Trompos on way into city near the university. Big room with bathroom – full sized bath , free internet, small salon area. My price for 3 nights was 134 E which by internet search was best I could find and I was very happy with this place and location close to the cathedral and restaurants. Front desk staff will direct you to several good restaurants. I had dinner the first night at the Bodeguilla de San Roque, Laurie´s favorite place, and it was great. The smoked salmon on scrambled eggs and toast was a fantastic opener and the warm pork shoulder smothered in Galician cheese was to live for.

That is about all I can think of but anyone with questions can contact me directly at bill.beahen@rogers.com.

One more blog post to come on musings of a peregrino.

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One Response to Notes Bill Beahen’s Via de la Plata Journey September – October 2010

  1. Carole Harrison says:

    That’s fantastic, Bill. Such a comprehensive coverage of the albergues/accom en route. Thankyou. Combining this with Laurie’s info…… we’ll be totally confident walking the Vdlp next year. Thanks again. carole

    PS If not already done . . .would be really beneficial adding this to CSJ Forum.

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