Saturday, June 9, 2012

Leon to Astorga

We awoke this morning to find the Plaza Mayor in front of our hotel converted to the weekly (or is it twice weekly?) market. The entire square was filled, primarily with sellers of fruits and vegetables, but also a rank ot trucks with fresh meats, cheese, and fish. Since we were not going to start cycling until 10 am, we had time to explore the market and take a few photos.
Pimientos frescos

The ride today was almost like another rest day. We did only 40 miles, with very little climbing, almost no wind,  and lots of cloud cover. There was one fairly long stretch as we finished our crossing of the meseta with almost nothing but trees, and then the remainder of the trip was a series of villages all very close to each other. Along the way I saw several fields with a crop growing on strings attached to very tall poles. I think this was probably hops -- it looked just like the hops fields in the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington. (Much of the this trip has reminded me of Eastern Washington, especially the wheat fields.)

We did have a very pleasant coffee stop in Hospital de Orbigo next to the medieval bridge (sombe original, some reconstructed) across the Orbigo river. This bridge figures in the Don Quixote folk traditions of Spain. It was quite cold today, so we had our coffee and croissants indoors.

We are in the town of Astorga, staying at an excellent hotel/spa. Since I have a massage scheduled in ten minutes, I will pick this up later.

The massage was wondeful!  Too bad that we don't have this option every day. For half an hour she worked on my habitually painful shoulder, as well as the quads. I feel great now, if a little tired.

Back to Astorga. It is not clear why this town sports a new and well-appointed spa hotel such as ours. This is the first time that Experience Plus has used it, but it seems great. The room is ultra modern -- it took me several minutes to figure out all the controls on the shower!

This town has another of the Gaudi buildings outside of the Catalan region. This one is a bizarre "Bishop's Palace," built for a local bishop. The locals so disliked Gaudi's design that the controversy brought construction to a halt for over 50 years. It was finally finished in 1963 and today houses a fascinating museum dedicated to the Camino pilgrimage route. There are an astonishing number of paintings and statues dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. Next to the Bishop's Palace is the Cathedral with its own museum. I had time to visit both before returning to the hotel for the massage.

In Astorga

Another Pilgrim in Astorga

It is almost time for our evening meeting and then we are on our own for dinner. Last night's dinner was a welcoming dinner for our new riders and was a marathon affair. We got the restaurant to seat us "early" at 8:30, and the food was still coming at 10:30. Just one delicious course after another. I have a feeling that I will be very unhappy when I get on the scale at home. But until then, life is great....

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