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This was a sad day because it was my last day hiking with Dom and Caroline before I skipped ahead on a bus to Sarria. I met them on our first day on the Camino and had originally planned to stay with them for only a week. It was either the fun that I had with our little family we’d created over the last 3 weeks or the fear of just being on my own for so long which kept us together. Probably a bit of both, but it was still going to be interesting for the last week of the hike.
Because of our progress we’d had the day before we only had a short hike to Astorga, about 15-16 km. The weather was starting to get warmer, so I hiked in my shorts that day, thanks again to my good samaritan (see this story in my ‘Mansilla-Leon Day 21). Since the weather was starting to get warmer, we had to actually start wearing sunscreen and cover our necks and arms well. This was a bit of a change from the first few weeks of the trip where snow, freezing temperatures, and rain were the norm. Now we had to worry about sunburns? I thought Tennessee’s weather was fickle.
Astorga, what a great town! The only negative thing about the city is you have to walk uphill a good ways to the old part of town. At least we didn’t have as hard a walk that day. Against my better judgment, we stayed in an albergue near the end of town close to the cathedral called St. Javier. It turned out to be ok. No laundry service, but there was room for hand washing your clothes in the courtyard. Also available in the courtyard was a fountain to soak your feet in. Its great for pilgrims whose feet have swollen over the past weeks of hiking. Wi-Fi was available (when it worked), and breakfast was available the next morning for an extra small fee. As usual, hot showers and a roof over my head kept me pleased.
Once we had checked in to our albergue, we headed to the square where we saw some places to eat and chill. We ended up at this pizza joint right outside of city hall (it was just to the right if you’re staring at the front). This place was awesome! We ordered some tapas, beers, and pizza. The beers were quickly brought out in frozen ceramic mugs. Maybe it was the hot weather or the long hike we’d had the day before, butI kid you not, that was probably one of the best beers I’ve had in my life. I want a ceramic mug like that one to drink a beer out of.
After satisfying our thirst, we went to a nearby outdoor store to help replace a few items we’d run out of. I got some more travel soap, and a quick drying towel as well (because like my shorts earlier in the trip, I’d accidentally left them in an albergue somewhere). I talked with the owner of the store for a bit and we talked shop about gear, REI, and how long he’d been there. Bottom line, it’s a cool store and you can’t miss it on the way to the albergue. Just look for the huge backpack outside of the store (see pic below).
We toured around town for a bit then headed back to the albergue to relax for a bit. More of our pilgrim friends kept showing up, we took naps, read, just like routine. Since we were so close to it, Dom, Caroline, and I decided to tour the Catedral St Marta nearby and the Palacio de Episcopal (The Bishop’s Palace). both were well worth the peak. After leaving the Palacio de Episcopal, we ran into some pilgrim friends that had checked into the albergue earlier and we all made plans to grab dinner that night. Like I mentioned before, in order to catch my flight on time I had decided to bus ahead about 120km (70 miles) so I wouldn’t be rushed. This turned out to be a farewell dinner for me from a bunch of fellow pilgrims I’d only known for about 3 weeks. It was the same kind of farewell my friends gave me from back home! We all pretty much had steaks at this really nice restaurant connected to this amazing hotel (if I could remember the name of it I’d tell you, sorry). At the end of the meal, we raised our glasses to say a proper goodbye. We spent the rest of dinner taking pictures, and hugging each other goodbye since I probably would never see any of them again except online. It was an unexpected gesture which I will always remember.
Distance: 16.1 km
Accommodation: St. Javier Albergue- see the description above. Overall, I’d stay here again just because of it’s convenience to the nearby shops, bars, and restaurants.