Tag Archives: Hospital de Orbigo

Camino Day 26 – Hospital de Órbigo to Astorga: up and down

Wednesday 13 September 2023 – Our hotel room was small, but exceedingly well-organised, and therefore as comfortable as was reasonably possible. It was clear that the place had recently either been converted or upgraded; everything worked, there was a place for everything and, though small, it wasn’t cramped or uncomfortable.

Breakfast was a brief affair, dispensed, like everything else in the hotel, with a brisk efficiency. Astorga was our target today, some 17km distant, and a place of sufficient pith and moment to boast at least one launderette, for which a need was building if we were to be welcome anywhere not in the open air.

We were on the road just after 8am, having taken a final view of the dogshit bridge as the dawn broke.

After we cleared the town, we had a choice of route; this time we opted for the main drag, which was perfectly decent going

and before long we were passing the next village, Villares de Órbigo.

It offered the possibility of a coffee stop but was such a short distance from our start that we decided to press on to the next village.  It was clear that there was a communal sense of humour at work in Villares

and the village had an attractive centre.

We pressed on along a track which was littered with pilgrims

past some polytunnels, which were the first we’d seen on our walks.

The track led uphill, the first significant hill work we’d had to do for several days, and obviously enough of a gradient for an enterprising soul to set up a refreshment stop just after the summit called “Over The Hill”.

But once again we pressed on towards the next village

which was rather wonderfully called Santibañez de Valdeiglesias. It wasn’t entirely devoid of nice touches

but did disappointingly prove to be devoid of establishments prepared to serve coffee.


Onward, then.

We passed this little vignette

before the track changed from straight and level to up and down.

This was actually a good thing, as the gradients and curves stopped it from being the rather tedious progression that had been so tiresome yesterday.  On the other hand, every time it approached a crest,

I expected to be able to see a fantastic view revealed, or at least something worth looking at. Most of the time, though, what we got was

the next down and up.

We did hit a couple of decent views, though.  One was of a refreshment stop

called “Casa de los Dioses” – The House of the Gods. Well, they didn’t have ambrosia (which would have been wrong, since ambrosia was the food of the Greek gods); but, since I was by chance in possession of Twinings finest Earl Grey and they had hot water and cold milk, we could indulge ourselves in the next best thing. It was a delightful place, self-service and funded by donations; they had fruit, chocolate, cakes, tea, coffee, juices and a variety of similar items, all presented in a very hippyish sort of way. While we rested, we chatted to Lara, a German lass who had been walking with Rocky but took ill in León and had to rest for a couple of days, which is how come she wasn’t well ahead of us.

The path took a left turn at a crossroads

(see what I did there?) and presented us with some nice views

before we reached another cross, Crucero de Santo Toribio,

at which point we had some fine views over Astorga and the nearer town of San Justo de la Vega

which has a pilgrim statue

and a coffee stop. From there it was a short walk to the outskirts of Astorga.

Astorga lies in the area of the Maragatos, a small ethnic and cultural community with distinctive customs and architecture. The town is at the junction of the Camino Francés and Vía de la Plata, an alternative path of the Camino de Santiago. It has a long and chequered history, predating the Romans, who founded a city here in 14BC and called it Asturica Augusta.

There was a confusing sign on the walk into Astorga.

At least 5km before, we’d been promised that the distance was 269.5km.


In order to get into Astorga, we had to cross the railway; the local authorities had taken it upon themselves to create an extraordinary construction to enable this.

I counted 335 paces necessary to walk up one side, cross over the 20 or so metres of the track and walk down the other side.  I suppose a parent with pram would appreciate it, but it seems odd that there was no shortcut via steps.


We found our way to our hotel, the Astur Plaza, a decent enough establishment adjoining Astorga’s Plaza Mayor.  However, our room wouldn’t be ready for two hours.


The hotel boasts a bar and restaurant, so we thought we’d take an uncharacteristically (for us) early lunch there whist we waited. Food, however, was not being served for 45 minutes.


We eventually had a decent lunch and got into our room, which enabled the single most important part of the day – the laundry. That task done, we went for a walk. Obviously.

Unsurprisingly, for a city with Astorga’s historical record, it’s an interesting palce to wander around.  There’s the inevitable pilgrim statue,

an Irish pub,

and a few more things of greater significance. Outside the Church of San Francisco,


underneath the glass housing, lie the remains of a Roman house

with some well-preserved mosaics.

Nearby is a park, the Sinagoga Garden, which offers a fine view over the old city walls and the mountains in the distance.

There is a splendid town hall, with a great baroque frontage

and a clock with a striking mechanism for ringing the bells,

which merely adds to our conviction that Spain doesn’t really do church bells very well.

Heading from there towards the cathedral takes you past a splendid mural

which includes a great trompe l’oeuil of Charlie’s hat, if viewed from the correct angle.

There are a couple of other noteworthy murals, on the opposing walls either side of what I think is a demolished building

and just by these is another nice little trompe l’oeuil.

Before you reach the cathedral you stumble across the “Gaudi Palace”.

This striking building was designed by Antoni Gaudi in the 1890s as a replacement for the old episcopal palace which had burnt down.  It is now, among other things, home to a museum about the various Caminos de Santiago.

And then you get to the cathedral. It’s another huge building; it’s not possible to get far enough away from it to do it justice in a photo; you will have seen its dominant presence over the town in photos above. I’ve put some photos in a Flickr album, as I did with the Burgos cathedral pictures – click the image below to look in more detail.

Santa Maria Cathedral, Astorga

Let me share a few of the images here.

Visiting the cathedral marked the end of our sightseeing in Astorga and we retired to the hotel to prepare for the morrow. Here are our stats.  We are now up to 530.8km (very nearly 330 miles), which (given a 780km overall length) puts us two-thirds of the way along. Since today was day 26 of 39, this seems a credible thesis.

Our task tomorrow will be to get ourselves to Rabanal, which is about 20km away and about 300 metres higher than Astorga; we are starting the first of the two climbs needed to get us towards Santiago. Time will tell as to whether doing all this flat stuff across the Meseta has left us soft or whether our fitness has been maintained by the walking we’ve done over the last ten days or so. And you, also, will be able to tell, but only if you keep tabs on our progress through these pages, so I hope you come back to find out how we got on.


Camino Day 25 – Villar de Mazarife to Hospital de Orbigo: a straightforward day

Tuesday 12 September 2023 – The prospect of a shortish walk, just 13km or so to Hospital de Orbigo, and the desire not to arrive before check-in was likely to open at our destination, led us to have a relaxed start to the day. Iñigo cooked us some eggs to go with toast and endeared himself to us even more, should that be possible, by producing some tea for our breakfast that he called “Twings”, but which proved to be Twining’s finest Earl Grey. We even imposed upon his hospitality by having two mugs apiece. We have no shame.

Once his other guests had buggered off, we had a chance to chat to Iñigo about his background and that of the extremely charming guest house that he runs. He’s Spanish, but his wife is half-Swedish; he loves Sweden and I think has taken some of the décor elements from Scandinavia. They live in Mallorca (with him presumably spending the season in Villar de Mazarife) and run an interior design business, hence the assured expertise behind the beautifully-judged shabby chic nature of La Santa’s décor. The place had fallen into ruin through 40 years of neglect and had largely to be rebuilt – a project that took four years – but they kept to the original floor plan and have created a place that we found it a pleasure to stay in.

We started out at about 0930 on a journey that was about half-and-half paved roads

and farm track.

The tracks on both surfaces were somewhat straight

and reminded us that we were headed towards a reasonably substantial range of mountains which we will have to cross in order to reach Santiago de Compostela. They also ran through a very wide-ranging system of irrigation channels, substantial enough that they register on Google maps.

So we passed quite a variety of irrigation tactics.

All this to water largely a single crop. It’s amaizing.

The route, frankly, was not all that varied. Worse still, it didn’t lead past any refreshment stops for the first two-thirds. So even a resting place

and a (very fine) weeping willow

offered any kind of photographic interest. Indeed, there was a little frustrointment* when we came across this:

which was a clear 10km on from the one we saw which said 301km. Perhaps the designers suffered from discalculia? **.

The tedium was relieved when we reached Villavante,

which was more interesting and also enabled us to get a coffee.  The albergue we stopped at had a very charming pair of flower vases by the door,

and the village generally had some noteworthy features.

The Martini glass water tower

had swallows’ (or possibly martins’) nests all around its stalk

and there was a garden which provided its own booty pic.

As I was taking the shot of the water tower, a tractor drove past demonstrating just how much attention has to be paid to watering the crops hereabouts.

We passed a water mill, the Molino Golachas

which is now a decent-looking b&b, if the internet is to be believed; and eventually reached Hospital de Orbigo, via a bridge.

Not just any old bridge, either – a medieval one, and very extensive, too.

The surface charm it exuded was swiftly dispelled by the fancy footwork needed, in crossing it, to avoid the very significant amount of dogshit lying around; there was so much it almost looked as if there was a competition between the town’s dog-owners as to who could find and remedy a few square inches unfouled.

When we arrived at the hotel, we discovered that we had, after all, left Villar too early, for there was half an hour before we could check in, which was a bit of a nuisance; but check in we eventually did, into the Don Suero Quiñones, named for, yes, that’s right, one Suero de Quiñones, also called Él del Passo (“he of the pass”), who was a Leonese knight, nobleman, and author in the Kingdom of León. He gained fame for his Passo Honroso, a pas d’armes (passage of arms), at the Órbigo River in 1434.  This was basically (I summarise, here) a jousting contest and he beat everyone. Amazingly, the town celebrates his feat of arms to this very day

with an event lasting two days. For this, there is a vast space reserved alongside the vast bridge

and indeed the whole town is given over to it with special parking, camping, VIP areas for people in 15th-century dress and so forth. It must be a huge amount of fun, but it leaves enormous areas of open space unused for the other 363 days.

You can find some photos of the event on this page, and there’s a longish YouTube video featuring some actual jousting if you’d like to watch it.

I was particularly amused by a piece of fencing alongside the bridge.

Someone, somewhere, cocked up. (“You had one job…”)

The town itself is quite handsome

and there are a couple of buildings in it which feature courageous design decisions,

as I discovered on a post-prandial walkabout.

Despite having to wait to check in, the hotel seems a decent one. We had a good lunch there and the room is a model of efficient modern design; and we have extra pillows! So we can reasonably hope for a comfortable night before we depart tomorrow.

The target, when we leave, is Astorga, which will mark the start of our crossing the aforementioned hills. We have two climbs, actually, both to about 1500m, but the second one will be the harder, and is not for a week or so.

The blue dot is us, and the green markers are the course which we will be taking between here and Santiago.

Stats, then: Relive reckons we did 14.8km today, which takes us to 513.3, or 319 miles. There is a considerable disconnect between this figure and what the official mileposts (kilometreposts?) are telling us.  If the length of the Camino is 780km, then we have 267 to go, not just a few shy of 300. Only time will tell.

In the short term, though, we have just 17km to deal with tomorrow which is another relatively short walk. The weather forecast is for cool but dry conditions; let’s hope Accuweather is right. I’ll update you when I can, so please stay in contact with these pages to see how we get on.


* A combination of frustration and disappointment and (c) swpics.co.uk
** Look it up. Do I have to explain everything?