Up before dawn, as usual, so that we enter Ponferrada in golden lamp light. By the time we reach the 12th century Knights Templar Castle, however, there is light enough to make out its turrets and drawbridges.
We breakfast in a cafe just across from the castle that looks as though it could be part of the castle cellar with its arched stone roof. Or a bodega. 🙂
We are back in wine country. The Bierzo region. There is harvesting going on. And leaves are beginning to put on their fall dresses. The effect is spectacular. A glorious feast for the eyes. And the nose.
When we arrive at Albergue de la Piedra, in Villafranca del Bierzo, the young hospitalaro offers us tea and coffee and directs us to tins of biscuits on the tables. He and his lovely bride receive us as though we are guests in their home. “de la Piedra” means “of the rock”, and it is so called because, well…
This photo is taken in our room!! The whole structure is built into and around a giant hunk of granite. And our windows open out onto a flower-clad balcony and the gurgling river below. That river will be our lullaby. But that’s not all. Oh no! Jan, David, Mike and I are in a little alcove for four that opens into another room where a whole host of our pilgrim family is also sleeping: Otto, Jose, Jorge, Kelly, Kathy, Catherine… There is singing. Of course. And goodnights a la the Waltons.
Otto keeps collecting stories. Sometimes the stories come looking for him. Like today. The words below are his. (It will be helpful to know that Otto’s much beloved late wife is named Maria Luise).
Today as I was walking alone, this 80 year old Spanish woman suddenly came out of her house and started talking to me in Spanish. I said no comprende. No espanole. She kept talking, she insisted on telling me something. Where is Jose when you need him I thought. I knew he was behind me. After a few minutes he showed up. Please I said …what does she want. She wanted to tell me that I reminded her of her husband who died years ago in a accident. So I politely listened to her story as Jose translated. When she finished I asked her name…she said my name is Maria Luiese ..I kissed her and she gave me a big hug…I know the door is open God but what are you trying to tell me…believe me you can’t make this stuff up…buen camino…Otto
Buen camino, friend.