As you know, we had a very special day yesterday, in Leon and at The Parador. Every day on The Camino has been special in its own way and every day we feel we have been rewarded. Certainly yesterday was a day we will never forget.
When we left The Parador this morning, we were eager to continue our adventure but probably individually anticipating that today would be a more 'ordinary' day. In some ways it was - in another way it turned out to be extraordinary and our 'reward' at day's end most unexpected.
Today was one of those times on The Camino where decisions need to be made or, at least, one needs to consider options, remain flexible and make a decision as the day progresses. From Leon the next most common pilgrim stop is Mazariffe, a walk of around 21 kms. On the one hand it did not seem far enough (especially after a shorter day yesterday). On the other hand, the next option was the small village of Villavente. Our guide book showed just one accommodation option - a Casa Rural about 1 kilometre out of town as you continue on The Way. Our book told us little about the Casa but we could assume it would not accommodate large numbers. A Casa Rural is typically a family property accommodating small numbers of guests and providing dinner, bed and breakfast. Our nearest equivalent is a country B&B.
Our book told us that the Casa Molino Galochas was a renovated mill house by a river - nothing more. But there was a phone number. We rarely ring ahead to secure accommodation, but we did not want to run the risk of walking an extra 10+ kms, for a total of more than 30, and find that we had nowhere to stay and would have to walk on another 4 or 5 to the next town.
We googled Casa Molino Galochas and came up with a Trip Advisor result of 7 recent reviews, all ratings of 'excellent' for the accommodation, the food and the hosts. We read those reviews written in English and were quite excited by the outstanding comments on this Casa Rural. Not wanting to get ahead of ourselves - we may not feel like walking on once we reach Mazariffe and, even if we do, they may not be able to accommodate us - we decided to settle that question first. With our limited Spanish and the owners' daughter's English, we were able to confirm that they had room for us, which we said we would take. So, we had options. We could always ring and let them know if we were too tired to walk on from Mazariffe.
As it turned out it was an easy day's walking - sun shining but not too hot, cool breeze, gentle and undulating terrain. We made good time to reach Mazariffe by 1pm (having had a later than usual start of 8.15am after breakfast at The Parador). We were both feeling fine and certainly with enough energy to walk another 10 kms. As well, we were keen to see the Casa, without getting our hopes up too much. We needn't have been concerned on that score.
Casa Molino Galochas is as special, beautiful and perfect in its way as The Parador. They are worlds apart, but both exude charm, grace and a sense of history - in the case of the Casa, it's the history of a building, once a mill house and literally built over a river, and of the family who have transformed it into a peaceful and delightful haven which they generously share with others, even dusty, tired peregrinos.
That's the story of how we came to this place. As we walked down the path towards the Casa, we started to sense that this was going to be something special. We were greeted warmly by Mercedes, (the owner with her husband, Maximo). She ushered us in to the main house, and immediately offered us tea or coffee. We sat in this wonderful room for around half an hour, relaxing, enjoying our coffee and cake, and taking in our beautiful surroundings. The house is indeed built over the river - viewed through the windows on either side of the living room, and through the glass panel built into the spanish tiled floor. As with the previous afternoon, we were almost speechless at our good fortune.
The last guests able to be accommodated tonight, we are not in the main house, but in our own little house - cabana - just a few metres from the main Casa. We have our own house! We hope the photos do justice to the Casa - and to our cabana.
We will have dinner in the Casa tonight with the other guests (whom we haven't seen yet - we wonder if we will reunite with peregrinos we've met before). No doubt we will find out more about the Casa which we can share tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow, the mountain ranges, still with snow covered peaks, have never been far from sight. Today we found that they are looming and we now seem to be heading directly towards some rather formidable 'hills'. We know there are a number of steep passes to come ... we're ready. At least, we think we are! But that's a few days away - best not to look too far ahead on The Camino. As today has reminded us, as you step out each day, you never know what The Camino has planned for you.
In the meantime photos tonight mostly of the wonderful Casa Molinos Galochas, plus a shot of each of us this morning in the cloisters of The Parador. The final shot is 'a sneak peak' at what may lie ahead along The Way.
Before we sign off, thank you to Glenda, Belle, Kat, Sandy, Jan, Sue, Bill and Lilly, Lindy, Rebecca, Marian, Jennifer and Phil, and Martin for your comments and emails.
Hasta Luego familia y amigos
Jenny xx and Jill xx