Villafranca, Spain

September 26, 2022

Dear Family & Friends:

The last two days have been long and hard walking days, which brought us into our destination villages after 6 pm. After a shower and dinner, I was too tired to work on my blog. So, this a long, catch-up message.

Astorga to Rabanal del Camino, September 23, 2022 (12.3 miles)

Our first day on the Camino de Santiago as “Papa’s Pilgrims Team” was really fun. Most of the route paralleled a small asphalt road with very little traffic. The scenery was bucolic, especially as we left Astorga and approached the mountains. The terrain was largely flat with some uphill as we approached Rabanal. When we reached Rabanal, I had two taxis pick us up and return us to Astorga because we did not have accommodations in Rabanal. Two taxis picked us up in the morning and returned us to Rabanal where we resumed our journey from Rabanal to Molinaseca.

Papa’s Pilgrims did great and enjoyed their first day on the Camino de Santiago. Elle led the way for the entire segment, followed closely by Amy, with Lori a few steps behind. Lisa and I walk at the same slow pace and lagged behind the jackrabbits. Remember the story about the “Tortoise and the Hare”? There was a lot of talking and laughing the entire segment. Some of it centered around the giant duffel bag Lori brought to Spain. I told everyone to pack light for the Camino. Apparently, Lori didn’t get the memo. Folks from home who saw the photo of her duffel bag had some funny comments: “Is Lori moving to Spain?” “No fair. Lori brought a Vespa.”

After we returned to Astorga, we toured the Chocolate Factory, which covers the history, science and technique of chocolate making in Astorga.

Tomorrow will be a solemn day as we visit the Cruz de Ferro, also known as the “Iron Cross.” More on that tomorrow.

Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca, September 24, 2022 (18.5 miles)

This was a long, hard emotional day. The Camino ascends to its highest point, 4,938 feet. The entire day was made up of steep ascents and deep descents. We departed Rabanal at 9:15 am and did not arrive in Molinaseca until 6:20 pm.

We spent a lot of time at Cruz de Ferro, which is located at the high point of the Camino. The Cruz de Ferro, also known as “The Iron Cross,” is considered the most ancient monument of the Camino. Pilgrims leave stones at the foot of this monument to honor loved ones who have been lost or as a symbol of leaving their cares, burdens, guilt, loss or broken dreams behind them. The mound of stones beneath the cross is 23 feet high and nearly 100 feet in diameter. We left stones at Cruz de Ferro, each for our own reasons. The entire time we were at the Cruz de Ferro, I felt like we were standing on sacred ground.

Elle led the way and has been our chief trail leader, navigator and route finder. It is so much fun to have her with us on this trip.

Molinaseca is a beautiful, small village built along the River Rio Meruelo. It looks like a medieval village which has been frozen in time.

Tomorrow, we walk to Villafranca.

Molinaseca to Villafranca, September 25, 2022 (20.8 miles)

This was another long and tiring walk. We descended from Molinaseca to the valley floor and then crossed the valley to the point where it rejoins the mountains of Leon. When we reached Panferrada, we toured the ancient Castillo de los Templarious Castle/Fortress. Most of the route was alongside busy public streets and through residential districts. However, the last 10 miles took us into the mountains where we enjoyed rolling foothills densely populated by vineyards, pine trees, poplar trees, oak trees and herb-covered hills. The views were outstanding. Three miles from Villafranca, in the middle of nowhere, Lisa’s left shoe fell apart. She had to tear off the sole of the shoe and hobble into Villafranca. Fortunately, she has a spare pair of shoes. Then, when we entered the Village, her new prescription glasses fell off her head and were immediately crushed by a passing car. Poor Dee.

When we entered Villafranca at 7 pm, we were greeted by group of dancers performing for the local residents and tourists. We love our hotel and plan to take a rest day here in Villafranca. We enjoyed a great dinner in the Village and collapsed in our beds in the hotel.

Miles walked: 370.5

Miles remaining: 112.9

Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

Leaving Astorga

The storks migrate to Africa in the winter and return to their same nests in February

Rabanal to Molinaseca


Molinaseca to Villafranca

Lunch with the locals


Lisa’s shoe should & glasses

Fantastic dinner in Villafranca