November 7, 2002
Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo
Just as I was about to give up in despair, I came across
a beautiful restaurant in a big old stone house that had been recently
restored. It was too early for a meal so I entered the bar. It was beautiful
with wooden trim, a fireplace, and a friendly (not to mention attractive)
camarera (bar tender/waitress). In addition, there were two large
trays of empanadas (calzone-like meat pie) cut into small pieces
for complementary tapas. They were delicious and I had quite
a few. I decided that this would be my breakfast and my lunch and calculated
the appropriate insulin dosage. When I paid for my coffee, I tried to
pay for food since I had eaten so much. The camarera wouldn't accept
it. My faith in Spanish hospitality was restored!
Later, in a small village, I came across something interesting
— well, for me it was interesting. A modern fountain with a surrealistic
female torso in the center. Since el camino traverses villages
that are centuries old (in some cases millennia), a 21st Century work
of art is a welcome sight. I took a photo to email my artist stepdaughter.
|Puerta del Perdón|
Soon I found that I had reached the last hill before Villafranca
and began the descent to my day's destination. As I came down the path
from the hillside, I went by the 12th century Romanesque church, Iglesia
de Santiago, which was very important for the pilgrims of the past.
The side entrance was a giant wooden door known as the Puerta del
Perdón (Portal of Pardon). Those who were dying or too weak
to ascend the steep mountain to O Cebreiro, could pass through the door
into the church where they would receive their indulgence and therefore
be able to die in a state of grace. For the past three weeks, I have
been dreading climbing that mountain. If that door were open, I think
I would have stepped over the threshold and thrown in the towel.
After some wandering around, I found it but it was too
late to visit it. And the light was too dark to take a decent photo.
I wouldn't necessarily call it a palace, but a rather large house with
a big courtyard and several balconies. Considering the houses on either
side were much smaller, I can see how the term came to be. After Torky's
place, I went to Villafranca's Plaza Mayor where I knew there was a
restaurant that served dinner early for pilgrims. While waiting for
my food, I contemplated the most important of philosophical and metaphysical
questions: how to get to O Cebreiro?