January 20, 2011 onward to Villafranca del Bierzo   2 comments

It is Elsa’s birthday and I called before going in to my meeting this morning. I also missed her b’day a year ago, but a year ago, I dedicated the walk to her and I KNEW it meant something.

When we walked out of the Albergue, Miguel said goodbye to us–he actually allowed us to leave a little later than the official date. He was ready with broom and mop to start cleaning up and getting ready for the pilgrims who would arrive later in the afternoon.

Ermita de la Virgen de la Encina

He got teary eyed saying goodbye, remembered that he did his training in Grañon–we had shared with him that we spent New Year’s there–and urged us to stop at the chapel, la ermita, to see the Virgen de la Encina. We stopped to visit the ermita de la Virgen de la Encina–the candle holder Miguel had made had been set up by the Korean women earlier that morning. We did. The small chapel felt peaceful and we spent about 10 mintues just sitting there meditating. I prayed for Elsa, “tuned in” to folks back home and felt good. In my mind’s eye, I saw the full moon from last night. I had attempted to take a photo because it was so glorious, but my camera didn’t cooperate. In my mind, though, I saw it rise yellow and gigantic over the Gulf Coast, in Port Aransas. I yearned to be there. This year, I WAS there, doing the Reiki Training and enjoying walks on the beach. The yellow moon rising slowly over the water. A year ago, Becky and I continued exploring Ponferrada and tried to visit the Castillo de los Templarios. Becky had not been able to do so before because it was being prepared to be a museum. In 2011, it was now a museum with a medieval books exhibit. BUT, it was closed until 11 a.m. It was a little after 9, so we decided to continue walking; we would visit the old Castle believed to have been a Templar site, sometime in the future.

Campostilla outside of Ponferrada

Walking along the Camino we came upon another chapel. La Virgen de CAmpostilla.

Walking by Columbrianos we observed stork nests next to the church.

Stork nest next to the church

We stopped at Camponaraya for lunch. We had not bought any food so we stopped at a restaurant. El Reloj turned out to have great food; I had the day’s special: grilled fish and a great cauliflower drenched in a bechamel sauce, yummy! 


Restaurant in Camponaraya

The restaurant was full of locals, obviously this was a favorite spot with regulars coming in for lunch. As we walked  on, we saw another pilgrim ahead of us, but we lost him/her. 

At Cacabelos, another small town along the Camino, we decided we were  too tired and could not make it up the hill before dark, and that a bus would be the best way to go. Waiting for the bus allowed us to observe the old residents who were out for their evening walk. Everyone who passed by recognized us as pilgrims and wished us “buen camino!” We waited for 30 minutes until our bus got there. After a ten minute ride, we were in Villafranca del Bierzo. Walking to the albergue El Ave Fenix, Becky fell. It was not serious, and we joked about it, but the two older women who were walking by thought it was more serious.

Arriving in the albergue, we find  the two Korean women and Quentin have already settled in. Jesús the hospitalero greeted us.

Jesús Jato at Albergue Ave Fenix

Interior of Casa AVe Fenix

He, Hilario and another helper, take care of the pilgrims…and the dogs of course. They cooked a huge pot of soup, generously preparing a part of it without meat for Becky.  Sitting in front of the fire, I write in my journal and listen to Jesus Jato tell his story of how the albergue goes back many generations in his family. He is in his 70s and won’t walk or ride a bike on the Camino anymore. At one time he did bicycled  all the way to Rome too.  Got permission from the Pope! He talks of how the winter is much slower and that the summer is insane with the numbers of pilgrims seeking lodging. The albergue burnt to the ground and he tells the story with a bit of sadness, suspects it was arson. But it came back to life, hence the name, Ave Fenix. It rose from the ashes. Articles from magazines, newspapers and such are taped to the wall; we read about the albergue, about Jesus, about the healing, and of course, about his devotion to the Camino. It is indeed a healing space. But, it is very cold and we have to walk outside to go to the bathroom. Hot water in the showers! A message rings loud and clear: The Camino is not about tourism; it is about meditation and interior reflection.

I am in DC awaiting a snowstorm. I don’t know if I will get out tomorrow as scheduled. I trust the Universe to lead me where I need to be. Already many car accidents and flights cancelled. Yeswterday, my newest grandnephew was born, Alberto Herrera, welcome to this world! I receive you with good wishes and blessings for a happy path full of lessons learned easily and effortlessly.

MEDITATION FOCUS: Gifts are everywhere. Today I received many gifts that taught me that what happened a year ago reflects the gifts of life. I expect that tomorrow, the roads will be cleared; I will take a cab to Dulles, and I will get home on schedule.


Posted January 20, 2012 by normacantu in Uncategorized

2 responses to “January 20, 2011 onward to Villafranca del Bierzo

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  1. Really enjoyed this blog. What a lovely chapel. You have certainly been enriched by this experience. How lucky! Keep on telling us about your experiences.


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