We’re on the bus headed to Astorga. My face is pressed against the glass, as I watch the pilgrims walking by on a narrow strip of dirt so close to the road. I wish I were there, walking with them.
We arrive at Hotel Ciudad de Astorga. If we were walking, we probably would not be staying at such a modern hotel, but since I’m spending more time than usual in the room, it seems a good choice.
On the Camino, you have your choice of accommodations: donativos (a straw mat on the floor for a donation), albergues ( pilgrim hostels: bunk beds, dormitory style or private rooms), casa rurales (similiar to a bed-and-breakfast) and hotels (two stars and up). Some pilgrims like to reserve ahead and some like to walk into a town and be spontaneous.
Astorga is a lively town (population 12,000) full of historic buildings. In medieval times, because of its convergence to so many of the pilgrim routes, it boasted 20 pilgrim hospitals.
Last time we were here, we missed seeing the Bishop’s Palace (Palacio Episcopal), so we head there first. After a fire in the early 1900s, the bishop asked his friend, Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, to redesign what would be his home. Unfortunately, the neo-gothic palace, complete with turrets caused such an uproar that the bishop never had the opportunity to live there.
I never get tired of the watching the two figures strike the bell every hour on baroque facade of the government building in the Plaza Mayor. It’s a great place to people watch, so we head there to have a leisurely late lunch. We enjoy a three-course menu del dia, complete with water, bread and a bottle of wine for 12 euros each ($14.40). The pilgrims all start arriving and sharing stories of their day. We are so glad to run into our friend from Arizona. He seems like a different person; he met an older woman from France who he is walking with and seems so happy to have the company. I feel like the little girl in the class that is the only one not invited to the birthday party; hoping I can walk again soon.
Do we get back on the Camino tomorrow or do we bus somewhere else? I’m eager to walk, but all morning my knee has been throbbing. Just as we sit down to talk, I could swear that I hear a voice whisper in my ear to go ahead and walk and that I will be just fine. We make our plans to start walking again and I sleep so well, with no apprehension as to what tomorrow will bring.