Day 17: Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca

Villafranca Montes de Oca, tiny and lovely, a village of 200 souls with a church able to take at least treble that amount, like so many places both here and in Britain.

The Church here at Villafranca…….

For me the finest Church I know is in my own little village of Sedgeford, Norfolk, England. The Church is simple, not full of gold or gilded icons (many churches here have enough riches to solve 3rd world poverty, well at least enough to make a difference). But a Church is not the building it’s the people, the people that shake your hand, the people that give you a hug. The people are the Church. I love my Church, I love it when things go wrong, the wrong music maybe played for the displayed hymn… and we smile until we get back on track, and it’s like being part of a family. And because I can’t sing for the life of me I try and sit in front of Peter so I can go along with his harmony, (the secret is out now Peter!) my Church, my family…….

Summer time and the going is easy, is running through my head right now. But of course it’s not summer by a very long way; It’s raining, but not hard, and my walk today took me surprisingly little time, but then I had a lovely companion to walk with. The terrain from Belorado was undulating, but not so as the hills made me short of breath, so much better than the last two days and, although there was a little wind, compared with yesterday it was a gentle breeze, and The Way was sheltered and stimulating…… and the conversation rich, caring and interesting……

I met Eric at breakfast, we were the only two pilgrims in last nights lodgings in Belorado. He comes from Holland and is walking the Camino to raise money for three children’s charities, which I shall come back to. Needless to say, his English is quite a lot better than my Dutch, which is even less than my Spanish. Here is Eric…….

Eric has two children, and he and his wife have adopted four more children from orphanages from other parts of the world. He is so very proud of them all and showed me a photograph of a really good looking group of young people all with different skin tones, all with a smile of happiness and security on their faces. How I warmed to this truly generous man. He showed me a photo of his wife, she looked beautiful and serene, he described her as his soul mate, and before I knew it I was talking about my Bernard, my soul mate, and okay, I cried a little, but it was all alright. Tears don’t matter, especially if they are shed with a fellow understanding Pilgrim. The walk went ridiculously quickly, and as it is usual for me to walk alone, was a God-given gift to have had such good company.

We parted at Villafranca and he went on to walk to Atapuerca, what looks like quite a gruelling climb which We shall be doing that stretch tomorrow, (I say we – more of that to follow)……

Eric has promised to let me have his e-mail address for where to send donations to sponsor his Pilgrimage, I will pass it on to you my friends, in the hope that you will donate, if all my friends and followers gave just a £ or a €, it would make a difference, I HOPE we can make a difference.

The weather was kind and we had only a few splurges of sleety snow, although the snow ploughs and gritting lorries driving along the distant N-120 gave us a little food for thought!

The auberge that I am (I say I, again more of that to follow) is an astounding building converted from an old hospital for Pilgrims which was built in 1377, and it still retains a lot of its original features. I was one of the first to arrive today and was ushered into an empty dining room for my Pellegrino’s lunch……

I really should have booked in advance! Where to sit? Far too much choice …..

Sitting alone with no one opposition me, (by no one I mean Bernard) is harsh, harsher still when the restaurant filled with happy chattering voices….

An empty chair and empty table for the rest of my life….

My fellow Pilgrims began to arrive and the dining room was filled and became alive with chat and laughter. The menu was very varied, with 7 choices of starter and 5 main course choices, and as much wine as one wanted to drink, All for the price of 13€. I opted for the garlic soup, followed by Cod in tomato sauce, I just couldn’t manage desert and wonder if I’ll ever be able to eat again, or if I shall sit here forever like a fat little Buda and never move again. After lunch I sat and drank coffee in front of this very welcome sight…….

The walk, the food, the wine and then the siesta …… oh what a perfect day….

And my friends, it’s about to get better as Hatty is due to arrive at the Auberge at 1am tomorrow morning to walk with me for four days, oh the joy of a hug from one’s daughter – Christmas has come early……

Of course the clocks went forward in the early hours of this morning. I wear Bernard’s watch; on my last birthday before he died, he was mortified when he realised it was my birthday and he had no gift to give me. My watch had broken, his skin was too sensitive for him to wear a watch, so he gave me his and I have worn it ever since. I just now read that, “It is better to give with a warm hand than a cold hand…..”

But it is a rather complicated watch and I was much relieved when I realised that there were 31 days in March so I didn’t have to fiddle around trying to alter dates and days of the week, I had forgotten about the clocks losing an hour last night, but hey I did it…….

I know, I know, you are all, all “churched out”but just look at this

It’s actually in Santo Domingo, I just can’t get my head around the fact that this was built without the use of modern scaffolding or tools and that the stone masons that first laid the foundations for this Church would never live long enough to see it completed, and that that joy was probably reserved for their sons’ and grandsons’ who tended to follow the trade of their forefathers……

Lastly I get asked by friends and acquaintances and blog followers if I am Catholic. The answer is no, I’m not. I am a Christian; but to follow this Pilgrimage one doesn’t even have to be that. I meet Jewish Pilgrims, Catholics, Protestant, Agnostics and Atheists. I meet people just wanting mindfulness and peace. I meet people that seek the experience of being alone, and people that want company. I meet people just wanting to walk, to lose weight, to get fit. But the Camino pulls everyone in. The experience is like no other, it changes one’s outlook on life, it puts life in perspective. The Local Spanish people that one comes into contact with have a tremendous respect for those that Walk the Way. The bar owners decline tips, saying that they cannot take tips from Pilgrims, and they often send one away with a cake or biscuit for the journey…….

Thank you for your company today Eric, and thank everyone who follows this blog, for you are all with me on this road to Santiago……

Love Susan x

This entry was posted in Architecture, bereavement, children, churches, Country Life, death, friendship, HIstory, rain, snow, strangers, The Camino de Compostela, the way of St James, walking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Day 17: Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca

  1. bremmerism says:

    Hi Susan,
    I’ve read your article and I want to thank you for your kind and warm words. You’re such a warm person. I’m very proud and thankful that I was able to met you today during a part of a wonderful trip. I wish you have enough quality time with your daughter very soon. Love,


  2. Dear Susan, we are certainly with you and feeling your experiences through your wonderful commentary and pictures. How you manage to do so after each day’s progress is remarkable.
    So glad you will have your daughter’s company over the few days.


  3. Weishi says:

    Dear Susan:

    We are absolutely impressed by your stories and pictures from the Camino. We finished our Camino journey by spending 3 hours visisting the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, from where we will fly home tomorrow. Unfortunately we have not managed to drink coffee together again, but we will sometime in the future meet again on the Camino called life. 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful encounter and great inspiration. We will keep in touch and keep following your blog.:)
    Have a good and safe journey ahead.
    Buen Camino!

    Best regards

    Clear Water and Tim xxx


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