After four days of sightseeing, it was time to hit the trail again. We thought the rain was done but we thought wrong. We started out in our Altus raincoats and never took them off until our arrival in Astorga.
We left "the truck stop" around 8 and headed out of town. Immediately we were faced with a choice - the trail along the highway or the one through the rolling hills. We chose the road less traveled through the farms and it was all the better. As we walked through the gentle spring rain on a dirt road, common sense told us we should be hating it but we were loving it. The fresh air, the aroma of green pastures and even the occasional animal smells were a delight to our senses. (Photos 1 and 2). Our first stop at Santibanez de Valdeiglesia (gotta love that name) found the bar closed, but we were welcomed into the local albuergue for coffee and cakes.
Then on through the fields in the rain.
The surprise today was another enterprising entrepreneur who had set up shop in an abandoned cantina along the way. He offered real coffee, snacks and shelter from the rain for "donation only." We have decided that people do better this way because most of us leave more than is necessary and they don't have to make change (or report it). (Photo 3)
We made it to Astorga around 1:30, a little slower than normal, due to the rain and several stops, a journey of only 10 miles. We were greeted by another pilgrim sculpture (photo 4).
We checked into the 3-star Hotel Gaudi, located across from the Cathedral -- a double room for 65€ and very nice.
While Michelle rested and everyone in town was at siesta, I explored. Then when things reopened at 4, we went first to the Cathedral, which was started in 1471 on top of the previous Romanic Church. It was not completed until the 1700's and shows a wonderful blend of Romanesque, Gothic and later styles of architecture (photo 5) and a Renaissance altarpiece (photo 6).
From there we went to the Bishop's Palace, designed by Antonio Gaudi in 1889 but finished by someone else in 1913. (Photo 7) It was actually never used as a bishop's residence and in 1964 was opened to the public as the Museum of St. James Way. The most remarkable feature is the chapel, which combined the talents of a number of artists around 1910. (Photo 8). The Cathedral and Bishop's Palace are right next to each other and form a lovely plaza. (Photo 9)
The highlight of our afternoon was a tour of the Chocolate Museum. The preparation of chocolate was an important industry in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. The museum showcased the history, manufacturing and promotion of the candy as well as offering generous samples at the end of the tour.
Our walking tour also took us to the Plaza Mayor where we saw the Baroque inspired town hall facade (a modern building now supports it) (photo 10) and, near by, "the house that chocolate built," the home of H. Granell, who was instrumental in the industry. (Photo 11)
Tonight we had a lovely dinner of salad and sea bass, topped off with profiteroles for 10€. We do eat well!