Anyway, the Spanish countryside was beautiful. Madrid itself is quite dry but not long after leaving it, we entered softly rolling hills and fields of beautiful red poppies and shrubs that looked like yellow broom plants. It was absolutely beautiful. I think we were all looking at the surrounding topography and wondering what we were going to be walking in/through/on etc. We had all read some of the descriptors, studied some of the topographical maps and researched what we could about walking along the Camino but we realized that we really didn't know for sure what we were getting ourselves into.
We finally arrived in Astorga and were met at the bus station by our tour guides. They were a father and son team, originally from the UK, (the son now lives with his wife and child in Spain). They were both named "Paul" which made things interesting at times. Anyway, we were taken to our hotel which turned out to be a former summer house for the Earl of Tepe. It was AWESOME! As a former home for members of the Spanish aristocracy, it was built for family comfort. There were sitting areas, interesting artifacts and an especially interesting bit of trivia. Napoleon actually stayed there. In fact one couple in our Texas Contingent actually stayed in the same bedroom. (Fortunately, neither Napoleon, nor his ghost were there at the time, but that was still pretty cool. At least since I'm sure that the sheets and even the mattress has been replaced several times since he left).
This is also where we met the other five members of our "Camino group." In addition to the nine of us in the Texas Contingent, (I really need to think of a shorter descriptor for us), there was a couple from Fresno, CA, Two sisters from Australia, and one lady from Canada. At first blush, they all seemed very nice.
After checking into our individual rooms, we decided to go exploring Astorga. WOW, what a cool place. The city has been inhabited since like 800 BC...(no, I'm not kidding, it was OLD. Ok, so there were no buildings or anything from that time but google it, they've found evidence of inhabitants from back then, seriously, google it, you'll see!) Anyway, it's a walled city. The wall dated to sometime in the thirteenth century, I think. I'm telling you, the place is OLD! and it's COOL! One of the first things that we saw were Camino signs. Now, you know how I'm normally totally cool and sophisticated and worldly and not easily impressed...(yes, I know, I'm actually the opposite of all of those things...)well, I saw those signs and was just giddy with excitement and anticipation!!! Seriously, GIDDY!
So, it was about lunch time so we went in search of two things, well three if you include the wine. Anyway, lunch was on the list, as was shopping for clothes to supplement what we had with us since we didn't exactly have hiking shorts/pants/shirts in our carry-ons. Well, being lunch time, it was also "siesta" time for the shop owners. Seriously, the only things open were restaurants and bars. Well, shopping could wait, we were hungry, (and did I mention...wine?) We explored a bit and found this really cool plaza. The building to the left is the town hall. There are two figures on either side of the bell that hangs near the top center and every thirty minutes, they clang the bell. Its FABULOUS!
We ate lunch at a little outdoor café in the plaza and decided to have beer instead of wine with our lunches. You know, one does need to sample all of the local wares and not limit oneself, don't you agree? After lunch, we walked around different areas of the village and after a couple of hours, found a shop that supplied a few things that we needed and a grocery store to handle the supplemental toiletries etc.
After a very nice hosted dinner back at our lodgings, we decided to explore a bit more before calling it a night. The next day our walking began...stay tuned