Saturday, November 7, 2009

Molinaseca to Ponferada and Villafranca del Bierzo

We set off early and, incredibly after yesterdays walk, I find I'm OK. Just outside Ponferrada in Campo, near the roman cistern, we come across a memorial to an Irish pilgrim Joseph Carty. God rest him but I wonder if the descent into Molinaseca had something to do with his demise.

Memorial to Joseph Carty and Irish pilgrim who died just outside Ponferrada
Arrive into Ponferrada and go into a cafe near the Castillo and find Jozefien is there ahead of us! She's feeling a little blue. On that basis we declare it an official 'girly day'. So we go window shopping, drink coffee, loiter, lunch and phone our husbands for proper chats. Its disgraceful unpilgimly behaviour and thoroughly enjoyable.
I didn't realise just how much I miss perfume until, each looking like the wreck of the Hesperus-roots showing, nails wrecked & eyebrows fulsome etc, we walk into a Farmacia to get yet more Compeed.  I'm smelling the perfume samples longingly when the pharmacist, a stern but elegant older woman, sweeps her eagle eye over us, then marches off returning with one of those enormous display bottles of scent and instructs us with graceful hand gestures to 'twirl' in the middle of the pharmacy as she sprays us head to foot with perfume!
Oh it's  gorgeous to smell so good again. This gracious lady also gives us little perfume samples telling us that they are "light light" and, having heard Frances had filled her journal and was looking for another one, runs after us (in high heels) and gives her a lovely little notebook that she'd found after we left her premises...all for free out of the goodness of her heart (by the way the perfume was Clarins 'Eau Ressourcante'/ 'Rebalanceing Fragrance" and that it did!).
 Arrive into Villafranca del Bierzo find it's hemmed in by hills and full of tourists and pilgrims. The people here get a cardiovascular workout by just walking around the town-lots of ups and downs but very pretty even in the gray and overcast day.
Wrought iron balconies Villafranca

Frances is entranced with the place and takes loads of photos of the buildings
The town has wonderful examples of those glazed galleries and we wander up,down and around before dinner. We had told Jozefien about the effect of alabaster windows and as the Gothic church here good examples she heads of to go and have a look but I'm bushed and need a little rest.
This little house looked as if it was about to fall down but its inhabited and we can see the tv flickering.
Meet back up with Jozefien and she introduces us to Anne Matte, a Danish lassie who we've seen on and off for at least the last week or so but have not actually met before. Anne Matte left SJPP about 3 days ahead of us and she's such a tonic-so honest and funny with a wonderful outlook on life. We share desert and talk about 'the big one' tomorrow. Jozefien has decided that she really needs a rest day and Anne Matte that she'sjust going to walk up the valley as far as she feels 'comfortable with' and reckons that La Faba will be her max tomorrow. We are sorry we won't be walking along with them tomorrow but know they have to walk their own way as we do ours.
A jeep full of bags is parked outside the albergue its the same one we saw at Acebo belonging to the German/Austrian group who seem to on be a sort of package tour with the jeep carrying their bags and accompanying them throughout the day as support.
Its chilly and overcast and we are a little apprehensive as we stroll around.
Perhaps it was seeing the memorial to the Irish pilgrim who died but this evening it really hit me that we are coming closer to the 'end' of our physical journey and it makes me wonder about the big 'Camino crisis/experience' others have described. For me it's been more a matter of small daily epiphanies; friendship tested and found true, the unexpected generosity of strangers, the sweet honesty of Jozefien longing to see her husband, taking joy in little things and the grace of giving and receiving kindness -these precious little things, and others like them, are what define my journey so far.
Go to bed early as too give ourselves as much time as possible it's going to be an early start again tomorrow.

Moss and saxifrages 'caulking' slate roofs in Villafranca

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