CAMINO FRANCES – Big Cities (5)

ASTORGA (Spain)

We are now at our 5th big city of the Camino Frances. In case you have missed the other four cities, you can find the posts here:

  • Pamplona – one of the cleanest cities we saw on the Camino Frances and also the city where we started to walk from on our Camino Frances in March 2017. You can read about our first big city on the Camino here.
  • Logroño – thinking back to this city, we always remember the many tapas bars in one street! You can read about Logroño here.
  • Burgos – this is where we saw the first big cathedral, which was really beautiful. You can read about Burgos here.
  • León – a city we really enjoyed exploring. We also had the opportunity of watching the Easter processions. You can read about León here.

In this post, we are covering a short distance to the next big city, Astorga. It took us only about 50km and two days to walk from León to Astorga. Here are a couple of photos on the way to Astorga:

Day 17: San Martin del Camino (26.0km):

The road to San Martin del Camino was featureless, but the food at our albergue that evening turned out as one of the best meals on the Camino Frances

(You can read about the hiking of Day 17 here)

Day 18: Astorga (23.9km)

One of the longest and best preserved medieval bridges in Spain, dating from the 13th century. This bridge leads into Hospital de Orbigo and on our way to Astorga

(You can read about the hiking of Day 18 here)

Before we get to show Astorga to you, there is one more photo we would like to share. Even long before we walked our first Camino, I had a picture in my mind of what the Camino would look like. On this day, while walking between Hospital de Orbigo and Astorga, the road, as I imagined it for many years, turned out as the exact picture I had in my head.

When I think back at the Camino Frances, this picture always comes up in my mind.

One of the most beautiful days on the Camino Frances

Is Astorga a city:

I’m not quite sure if Astorga can be classified as a city … it only has a population of about 12,000 people. I would say this sounds more like a biggish town, but Astorga’s people are adamant that they are indeed a city. We don’t want to offend the people of Astorga and will therefore add them to our list of cities on the Camino Frances.

Astorga from afar:

On a hill is a stone cross, Cruceiro Santo Toribio, from where we could see Astorga down in the valley. This cross commemorate the 5th century Bishop Toribio of Astorga who supposedly fell to his knees here in a final farewell, having been banished from the city. They don’t tell us why he was banished …

Cruceiro Santo Toribio, with Astorga in the distance

Astorga:

We arrived in Astorga on Good Friday (Easter weekend), where … yes, you’ve guessed it, we saw more processions. The city was filled with people (and pilgrims) and towards the evening the town square was packed with people that came to watch the processions.

The Town Hall of Astorga is situated in the Plaza Mayor and while we were sitting at one of the outside restaurant tables, we noticed something very unique. It was nearly 15:00 and we saw many people looking and showing towards the clock on top of the Town Hall. As we also turned around to watch, two figures on top of the town clock moved together and strike the bell with their mallets.

Town Hall with its unique clock

We strolled through Astorga’s plaza and side streets to see what interesting buildings there are. It was in one of these side streets that we saw the biggest backpack ever! Raul’s two kids just had to pose with it in order to show how big it really is … definitely not a pilgrim’s backpack!

That is one BIG backpack

Two of the most prominent buildings in Astorga, sitting next to each other, are definitely the Episcopal Palace (which is designed by that man … yes, Antoni Gaudi) and the Astorga Cathedral.

Holy week monument

We were also informed by several sources that Astorga is well-known for their chocolate. Back in 1914 Astorga was one of Spain’s main chocolate producers, along with Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. Apparently their chocolate is highly regarded and Astorga chocolate are seen all over the region.

Chocolate Museum (Photo credit: Astorga Tourism)

We never got to the Chocolate Museum – I know, it’s almost unthinkable! But we had better things to do … like drinking a cold beer on a very hot day with our pilgrim friends!

A cold beer on a hot day is definitely better than any chocolate!

It was also time to say goodbye to some of our pilgrim friends that shared our Camino with us. The group of Spaniards ended their Camino here in Astorga and Monica (Sweden) decided to rest for a couple of days in Astorga. It was therefor only Carl (USA) and us that continued the next day. We had a last few drinks together to celebrate our new friendship.

Friends made on the Camino Frances

And as it was the case in León, we had a last opportunity to witness the Easter processions.

People gathers in Plaza Mayor to watch the processions

Here are our final photos of the processions:

Town Hall of Astorga with sunset

We left Astorga early the next morning. The Camino now became more challenging as we started walking towards the mountains.

Early morning in a backstreet of Astorga with their cathedral in front of us

To reach our next city, we had to walk six more days on quiet roads – blissful!

55 thoughts on “CAMINO FRANCES – Big Cities (5)

  1. That Good Friday in Astorga was so wonderful. I enjoyed the processions there even more than I did in Leon. Especially around 10 at night when some of the floats ended their evening by entering a church (in spectacular fashion to the applause of the gathered) across from our Albergue. The next morning I had to choke back a couple of tears when I left our room at the Albergue that we all shared, knowing that I would not again see Gloria, Raul, young Deigo & Gabriella, and the young man from Palencia.

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    1. Yes, I have to agree with you Carl … the processions in Astorga was definitely THE highlight during Easter. Oh, I remember now how they moved the floats into the church (I still get goosebumps when I’m thinking about that). It was sad to say goodbye to the Spaniards (Javier is the guy from Palencia) – Berto and I walked in a very quiet mood that day to Rabanal, still thinking about them. Thank you for continue reading our ‘trip down memory lane’ … it almost feel as if we’re walking this Camino again!

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    1. Haha 😁, hard to believe … I would normally make sure not to miss out on chocolate! We did taste the famous Astorga chocolate a couple of days later though (and it was really good)! Almost as good as the many cold beers we had after each day’s walk!

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    1. Absolutely Jo … we realised that immediately when we walked the Portuguese Camino the following year. I’m happy you’re walking along – not far to go now 😄. And after that, we’re off to the big(ish) cities of Portugal!

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  2. Oh no, mountains?! Perhaps you should have stocked up on chocolate when you had the chance. I agree, though with the choice of beer on a hot day. You have such a wonderful experience there, meeting people from all over the world who are united in a purpose. Many years ago I read the story of Shirley McClain’s experience. It seemed very special. Great photographs again. How were the feet at this point?!

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    1. It took us literally 10km the next day to see the mountains in the distance … and knowing that we had to walk over them, was a daunting thought! We bought chocolates the next day (and the day after that 😁). I still had a couple of blisters, but somehow managed to walk through the pain (and rather focus on the beauty around me).

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    1. We were normally so tired after a day of walking, that we had just enough energy to walk over to the nearest bar for a beer 😉. But in the bigger places, we tried to see a bit of the city (especially when there was a historic city centre). Thank you John for keep reading about our Camino experience … we’re almost at the end (of the Spain Camino, because then we move over to the Portuguese Camino).

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  3. I love the little town of Astorga and the Episcopal Palace designed by Antoni Gaudi. The Catalan architect’s work is radically different from anyone else’s work which is one reason why Barcelona is visited by thousands of Architects from around the World each year. Thanks for sharing and taking me along on the tour 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Gaudi was a very talented man – his buildings surely had a very individualised and unique style. We enjoyed seeing his work along the Camino. One day, we would want to visit Barcelona as well … Spain has just so much to offer! Thank you for walking with us Aiva, have a wonderful weekend 🌸.

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  4. After spending a few days in Barcelona this summer, I have such a newfound appreciation of Gaudi’s work. It sounds like I need to visit Astorga to see the Episcopal Palace … and to sample their chocolate. It’s too bad you didn’t have enough time to go to the Chocolate Museum, but I’d pick a cold bevvy over sweets on a hot day too. What a great picture of you guys. Cheers. Linda

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    1. We would love to visit Barcelona one day! The Episcopal Palace is probably the best of Gaudi we saw on the Camino – it almost look like a picture from a fairy tale book 😉. Chocolate vs Beer … on a hot day and after walking more than 20km, the choice was easy! Thanks for reading more about our Camino cities Linda, have a great weekend!

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    1. I don’t know about carrying…maybe more dragging! Over the next few days we had the opportunity to taste Astorga’s chocolate in other towns. But you’re right, we’ll have to go back to Astorga and tour their museum (and then eat their own chocolate in town)! Thanks, the early mornings were my favourite time on the Camino (and it also turns out to be the best time to take photos).

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  5. Wow you saw so many amazing places on your walk – I honestly don’t know how you walked so far. Id’ have been exhausted and spent all my time in the cities asleep haha! Your photos are also absolutely beautiful 🙂

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    1. Haha 😄, I must admit … towards the end, we spent more time in the backyard of the albergues drinking beer than exploring the towns/cities! Thank you Hannah for continuing to read about our Camino – as always, it’s much appreciated!

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  6. Enjoyed this one too Corna, had never heard of Astorga before. Amazing cathedral? Tick! Spanish street procession? Yup! The Episcopal Palace really is something, an absolute stunner, that Gaudi really had something going eh? A lovely shot of you and Berto and yes, the giant backpack is worthy of a fun photo. Do you know I think I have never been to a chocolate museum, despite my love for the stuff. Think you made the right decision.

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    1. Gaudi was definitely a master in what he has done – we especially loved this palace (story book picture)! Astorga is the kind of town (or city 😉) where you want to spent a long weekend eating chocolate and drinking wine … if we weren’t on the Camino, that is certainly what we would have done here! Thank you Leighton, much appreciated. Oh, btw … that beer drinking photo has a special place in our house 😀.

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  7. Magnificent photographs! I’ve never seen buildings like those before. Well, not in person. Maybe in books or online. How amazing it must be to see them in real life! That cross is pretty, though ‘banished’ makes ya wonder… haha.

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    1. Thank you so much Jessica! The buildings in Spain is truly beautiful … especially when you wander around in the old city centres and villages. The cross is lovely (and there’s a great view into the valley) … but like you, we all speculate about why the Bishop were banished 😉.

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  8. Wow, sharing this experience with a group of new friends from around the world – what a sublime treat, Corna. I adore the architecture, the squares, and the narrow streets. You continue to feed my longing to see more of Europe, and I am grateful! Wishing you & Berto a wonderful week ahead! 🌞

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    1. Ah, thanks for your lovely comments Lisa 🌸. Yes, it was truly special to experience this amazing journey with so many like-minded people. The cities (especially the old city centres) were really beautiful. And the villages along the way, even more so! Hope you have a great week too – enjoy life!

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    1. I agree Diane – the architecture is stunning! We have ‘oohed and aahed’ in almost every city (and cute little village) 🙂. Thank you for the compliment … on the Camino we were never too far away from a cold beer at the end of a long hiking day!

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