Just after 10:00 we gathered in the lobby with suitcases in hand, packed up the vans, took our group photo and we were off exactly on time at 10:30am. The drive to Astorga (250 km east of Santiago) was very pleasant and the scenery was magnificent! From lush green fields, to eucalyptus forests, rolling hills, tunnels, amazingly high bridges, through the Bierzo valley (one of the popular wine regions) to the Leonese mountains, every turn was breathtaking.
By 1:45pm we arrived in Astorga at the Casa de Tepa, our home for the night. This is a beautiful Manor Home owned by the Earl of Tepa for 225 years. The present Earl lives in Madrid and is the Spanish Ambassador to the Pope. I had the pleasure of meeting his brother who spends most of his time here in Astorga.
All elements of the house are original and each room is unique in design, size, and furnishings, absolutely stunning. I was given the Napoleon room complete with his portrait adorning one the walls. Napoleon was a guest here in the 1800s and they honour his visit by naming a room after him. My room has a little sitting area that overlooks the courtyard with it’s inviting gardens and chairs. I love it, and would love to stay longer!
Once settled, overcoming hunger becomes the next priority. The centre of town is a stones throw away and several patio restaurants surrounding the plaza and Ayuntamiento beckon (Town Hall – started in 1683 and finished in 1704). We chose the one that ‘spoke to us’ and sat down. Most of us ordered the Menu – pronounced ‘men new’ which is a 3 course set menu and includes water, wine and bread for only €10.70! This is the main meal of the day so we did as the Spanish do and had a great meal.
After lunch we went in different directions depending on our interests. I walked over to the Gaudi church and museum and the Cathedral to take photos and took it easy until dinner time. It feels like I have a cold coming on.
At 8:00pm, Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. briefed the group on what to expect over the coming week and gave us our Credencials (Pilgrim Passports). Over the course of the next week, we need to collect stamps at each of the establishments along the Camino in order to collect our Compostella or certificate in Santiago. These can consist of cafés, bars, restaurants, hotels and churches. The minimum requirement is 2 stamps per day, however the competition was on – who could collect the most stamps?
Dinner was a “light” meal of salads, ham, cheese, bread and wine. I retired early and was fast asleep by 11:00pm.