Thursday, May 19, 2016
Distance: 10 km
8:30 – I spent the last 40 minutes reading up on local history while waiting for a cheese sandwich at the hostel. It’s now sitting in front of me (the cheese sandwich) and I must say that it’s a very average looking cheese sandwich – certainly not worth a 4 minute wait, let alone 40 minutes. But I suppose it could be worse. During the winter of 1809 a General by the name of Sir John Moore and his troops were caught in a raging blizzard very close to here. With no food and wet and cold conditions, the troops got a little cranky. The General’s reaction was “suck it up.” The men were not amused and to make their point they tossed a large chest of gold coins over a high cliff. The weather got even worse and within a month more than 200 of the men had died. Moore survived that horrible winter but before the year was out he had been killed by the French at the battle of La Coruña.
8:50 – Some pilgrims rent horses in Las Herrerias for the full day of climbing that I’m in for today. I’ve come this far on foot and with about 150 km to go, I’m sure I’ll be able to finish on foot. A day on horseback is tempting though.
12:00 – I have stopped for water in La Laguna. According to Camino Adventures, “La Laguna is the last town in Leon, however it looks and feels Galician. The stone houses (pallozas) with thatched roofs are typically Galician and you will see many between here and Santiago. There is a large horreo (corn storage) in the village. You will see hundreds of these for the next few days, however this is perhaps the best preserved between here and Santiago.”
Unfortunately I didn’t see the corn silo. I’ll get over it.
12:40 – About 2 km out of La Laguna I began to think that I had taken a wrong turn. I could see other pilgrims following a parallel path at a lower elevation. At least we were headed in the same direction. Except when we weren’t. When my path merged with a highway that appeared to run north-south, I knew it was a job for Google Maps.
13:00 – It didn’t take long to get back on track and I arrived in Cebreiro before some of the people I recognized from the bar in La Laguna. I don’t know how I did it but I apparently found a shortcut!
13:45 – The first four albergues that I came to were fully booked. There were a number of day-trippers in town and people who appeared to be starting the Camino in Cebreiro so for a while it looked like I might have to walk another 8 km to the next town.
14:10 – Just when I was about to start hoofing it I noticed a woman hanging out her wash. I concluded that she either had a very large family or she took in pilgrims. It didn’t immediately occur to me that she may have taken in laundry. Thankfully she had a five bedroom house and one room was available. We sat down at her dining room table and she studied my passport for a while before agreeing to let me “have” the last bedroom for 30€. “No-no breaksfast,” she warned.
Here’s another background note from CaminoAdventures.com: “Cebreiro is the first village in Galicia. It has just over 1,200 inhabitant and sits at 1,293 metres. Due to the location it has always been an important stop on the Camino Frances. There was a pilgrim’s hospital here in 1072 entrusted by Alfonso VI to monks from St. Giraldo d’Aurillac.
15:00 – I didn’t get a good look at the Church of Santa Maria la Real as they were conducting a rare mid-afternoon mass. The church is said to house a beautiful 12th century Romanesque statue of Santa Maria la Real, the patroness of the area. But that’s not the big draw. No sir, not even close. The Big Deal of The Day is a silver chalice that locals claim is the Holy Grail from which Christ drank from during the last supper. I have it on good authority that the church’s marketing plan was drafted by P T Barnum himself!
These thatched roof houses are called pallozas and they are similar to houses found in Celtic areas in Ireland, Scotland, and even Morocco. Although they have just one door, the family generally occupies one half of the building while animals are housed on the other side.
15:31 – I hadn’t had lunch yet so I headed to a bar called Venta Celta where they advertise a hearty pilgrim’s meal for a 9€. The cook/waitress/bartender presented me with a full bottle of wine but made it very clear that I could drink HALF.
The Galician cheese served with local honey was much better Than the soup or the fried porkchop that came with the meal. Think of the best New York cheesecake you’ve ever had, now make it a little more moist and drizzle it with something they call honey but which tasted more like caramel sauce.
Attention food importers: The local cheese is known as Queixo de Cebreiro and it would sell anywhere!