Meet Wendy and Barbara from Victoria, BC Canada

I met these wonderful ladies in the cafe in Grañón, and ended up hanging out with them again in the beer garden of their albergue in Tosantos. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Wendy shared her lunch (wonderful ham and cheese) with us.

Funnily enough there are three Barbaras in their albergue; the other two are from Brazil and US (N.Carolina)

This is the first Camino for both Barbara and Wendy, though Barbara was to have come here in 2011. Both are loving it. They send one bag ahead and carry light packs. Barbara walks more slowly than Wendy, but enjoys the solitude.

They seem to be following a similar pattern to me (20-25km a day, avoiding staying in cities).

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Day 13: Grañón – Tosantos (via Belorado)

Today was the day we left beautiful Grañón at 6:30 am, heading for Belorado. Quite soon after Grañón we left the beautiful La Rioja region (report later) and entered Castilla y León.

I had considered staying in Belorado and I have to say when we got there and I saw what a beautiful small town (pop 2000) it was, I was sorely tempted …

The waymarks through the town were wonderful

… but it was only 11am, and so after a cafe stop we pushed on a further 5km up a hill to Toscantos.

Marena and I agreed that if we felt the village of Toscantos was welcoming we’d stay. It was and we did.

There are two albergues here, a private one with a cafe (where I’m writing this) and the Francis of Assisi community where we are staying (another mattress on the floor in a church building). We will cook together tonight (I’m hoping the Pilgrim who’s an Italian chef has followed us!) and before that we have a tour up to the cave up the hill!

And tonight we will have prayers again …

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The Belfry in Grañón – what a blessing

I loved staying in the Church in Grañón.

I did have high expectations, but the reality exceeded those by far.

We slept on thin mattresses on the floor (but the ecopod in Orkney was great preparation!) and what made it really special was the love. The refuge of St Juan Bautista uses the church premises and was founded by pilgrims 25 years ago. It’s run on donations, run by volunteers who have walked the Camino before, and the pilgrims form the community for the evening- singing at the mass, making food and washing dishes together. It was wonderful!

What was even more of a blessing was the time after dinner.

In the tradition of Grañón we met in the balcony part of the church for a time of meditation. We sat in clergy type seats, each with a small tea light burning. We started in silence, a Korean trio of pilgrims sang, and read a psalm (each language took a different verse) then they dimmed the lights and each pilgrim was passed the Christ candle in turn and could share something (in their own language) … it was so moving!

I loved it!

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Meet Emma from London

Emma joined us in the My Way cafe in lovely Grañón. Emma lives in south London (near Crystal Palace) and is the first Londoner I’ve met.

This is her first Camino, and she’s doing a two week section before going back to work. Emma is a journalist and got interested in the Camino after interviewing a couple who did the Camino with their cat and dog (a pug). (Check them out on instagram pugandcat!)

She loved the wine festival in Logroño but her favourite part of the Camino was the summit in the Pyrenees and the wind turbines after Pamplona.

She’s been a bit unlucky in that she’s sharing a three person room tonight with pilgrims she met on the way into Grañón today, and one just found out she has head lice! (And got bitten by bedbugs somewhere on the way) … they are both experiences I hope I won’t have on the Camino!

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Day 12 Asofro to Grañón (via Santo Domingo de la Calzada)

I really wanted to spend the night in the church at Grañón because I’d heard it was worth doing. So Merena and I bee-lined here. In actual event the church has a policy of not turning people away … but arriving early meant we each got a mattress in the belfry.

The walk here was really a walk of two parts; to Santo Domingo and after. 24 km in total.

We set off early (6:40am) – and luckily many pilgrims were with us as my torch was playing up.

Our initial destination was Cirueña /Ciriñuéla about 8-9 km away. When we arrived it was like a ghost town for golfers. The only cafe wasn’t open and in desperation we persuaded the owner of Casa Victoria to allow us to use her toilet, but the coffee had to wait another 6km for coffee.

It was worth waiting for.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada was the complete opposite; very welcoming and full of history.

We found a lovely cafe behind the cathedral and I treated myself to what I can describe as an omelette baguette, which was delicious, and a most wonderfully welcome cafe con leche.

A funny incident at the toilets. There was a separate toilet for men and women, and the invariable long queue for the ladies. I would willingly have used the gents but didn’t want to come out to a guy using the urinal. A male pilgrim saw my predicament and offered to stand guard. Mission accomplished!

We went into a lovely church in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, but ignored the cathedral (under renovation) which charged 6€ to go in!

Then it was time to head up the long hill to Grañón.

We arrived at the church not long after midday (before it got too hot) and found a matresss for ourselves and then showered (again I used the gents which a young pilgrim from Vietnam thought hilarious) and did our laundry. The washing lines are across the street from the church behind the bus stop. I love how everywhere is different.

Tonight we have a communal meal. We cook at 5 … there’s a pilgrims’ mass at 7 and we eat at 8pm!

We are almost at the end of La Rioja region, and the scenery has already changed a lot. We have left the vineyards behind and here the grain has already been harvested. Today I saw the farmers gathering potatoes and we also passed a potato sorting centre.

Last night was cold (I used a blanket) and the start this morning was cool, but now when I’m sitting in the cafe opposite the church in Grañón, it’s 33C.

It was good to have pushed ourselves to get here early …

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Meet Dineke from the Netherlands

Dineke is a widow and walking alone.

I met her in the cafe in the street in Azofra. This is her first Camino and she started in Pamplona and is loving it.

Today she walked 30 km!

We had dinner with her in the restaurant on the street in Azofra and discussed life and death and everything in between!

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Meet Olivier; an angel in disguise

We met Olivier, a French speaking Belgian, somewhere near the summit of Mt San Antón, near Ventosa.

We were lost … but together we found our way on rural tracks (nine signposted) across farmland, between vineyards, until we got to Ventosa. There he got help/advice from construction a worker who walked up the toad with him. I had to stop to attend to a niggling blister but as we got to the centre of the village, there was Olivier waiting for us.

When we got to forks in the road we made decisions together and it worked out. At one point Olivier gave us an apple to eat … and when we could finally see Nájera (rather than the false goal of Tricio with his huge basilica) he strode off.

We spotted our angel in disguise once more in a café near Nájera church …

Buen Camino Olivier … thank you for sharing our adventure today!

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