It was early morning of September 25th when we left Azorfa with the sunrise casting rays on our backs. When we crested the hill into the vineyards, I turned around to see it and smiled. J’Nell and I were now 2 weeks into our westward trek across Spain to Santiago de Compestella, and moments like these continued to be special.
Our first stop of the day was Santo Domingo de la Calzada, which has the legend of the Miracle Chickens. Whether or not you believe in the life saving poultry, inside the cathedral they actually have live roosters there! They also have a couple of El Greco paintings that were outstanding.
Leaving town at 1:30 pm via the bridge over a dry riverbank, it seemed we were the only ones on the Camino. A lot of people end their day with the miracle chickens, but we still had another 7 or so kilometers in the heat to Grañón.
We had not reserved anywhere, and when we reached the cool murals built into the town walls there, thankfully J’Nell had remembered that at the church of San Juan Bautista, you could stay there on mats for a donation.
Other than camping, I’m pretty sure I’d never slept on a mat. And I’d certainly never slept above a church before. But I’m very glad I did as it was a special experience, one of my favorites of the journey.
The people who run the albergue at San Juan Bautista make you feel part of the church and their family. And with the communal meal you help prepare, the Pilgrim’s Mass right underneath where you will be sleeping, and the group activities by candlelight, you also bond with all the people staying there. I highly recommend it to anyone walking the Camino.
While I was raised Catholic, I am no longer an actively practicing one. Other than weddings or funerals, I hadn’t attended mass in probably 20 years. But with the Camino existing due to it being a religious pilgrimage and with us visiting so many amazing churches, I felt I had to attend at least one Mass. I’m glad I picked Grañón for it, and also that I participated in the voluntary activities after dinner.
A group of about 15 of us gathered in the alcove above the back of the church by candlelight, and we each took turns reading a prayer (in our own language as they had it translated). Then the candle was passed to each person, and you got to say why you were walking the Camino (while there were only 2 other English speakers in the room, I could feel the emotion from everyone even if I couldn’t understand all the words). And lastly, we all held hands and and then one-by-one were asked to turn left and give that person good wishes on their pilgrimage.
The woman who I spoke to was younger than me from Basque Country, and I tried in my best Spanish to say nice things to her. When she teared up and hugged me afterward, it made my day. I would see her on the trail a couple days later, and she hugged me again and called me her Camino Hermano.
Grañon to Tosantos
I surprisingly got a good night’s sleep on the mat, and after our communal breakfast at the church we were on the road and walking by 7:45 am (early for us). We got a terrific sunrise behind us again, and I couldn’t stop turning around and snapping photos. One of my favorites is of the church where we stayed silhouetted from the rising sun.
The day featured a lot of open fields, haystacks, and what J’Nell would aptly call Sad Sunflowers (rows and rows of ones in various stages of decay … had we been there a couple of months earlier they would have been stunning). We then would then have to walk quite a bit alongside the freeway (though there was a patch of grass along with a metal barrier to separate us). In addition to the trucks zooming by, the path was very rocky and it not only aggravated my blisters but I started to get some pain in my Achilles (thankfully both would subside).
Belorado was the next town we would reach, which is the main stopping point for many people. We only had lunch there, and when we were back on the Camino, we hardly saw anyone during our almost 5k walk to Tosantos.
We arrived in town early, and after claiming our beds at the clean and cozy Los Arancones Albergue, did some laundry and had a couple of beers in the sun (it was probably around 80 degrees). After walking up the hill to see a shrine built into the mountain and finding it closed, we would return to our albergue and eat one of the best dinners on the Camino with two very cool retired ladies from Missouri.