Camino Day 21, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Villafranca del Bierzo.

We could see our breath as we left the albergue this morning, by far the chilliest start of our Camino. It was cloudy, so it remained dark through the first stop, Ponferrada.

Ponferrada a was a stronghold of the Knights Templar and the city still retains their fortress. We were able to admire the castle from the cafe as we had breakfast. Later we looked at the clock tower in the main plaza and entered the ancient, Gothic church to pray morning prayer for Our Lady of Sorrows. We were delighted to discover the chapel that had two statues of Our Lady of Sorrows, John and Mary at the cross and the pieta. The church also venerates a statue of Mary, with an interesting history. The statue was hidden in a tree trunk to protect it during the Moorish invasion. It was forgotten and only found later by a knight templar chopping firewood. He is remembered by a statue in front of the church.

We continued through some villages and started walking through orchards and vineyards. We were able to enjoy glass of the local tinto (red) wine (Bierzo region). It help restore us for the rest of the long day’s journey. We pressed on to get a head start on our next day, ending the journey at eight hours. Many pilgrims are in town and finding an albergue was difficult. We ended up at a newly refurbished former Franciscan monastery. We are happy to be in a room with only the three of us and a private bath. After resting we went to dinner at the main plaza.