23 kilometers, 5 hours. Through A Pousa, Ousende, Penelas, Venda do Rio, Pereiras, and A Castellana, where the suburbs of Ourense begin. Mostly downhill to the lowest elevation on the VDLP since Seville, at 100 meters in Ourense.
Different. If one were to compare the Via de la Plata with the Camino Francés in one word, different is that one word. To compare this day with the day before, again, different would be the word.
It was still beautiful and verdant, still Galicia. But after Xunqueira, and the few small villages below, the VDLP route passed through suburban communities with many wonderful country homes built of quarried stone. On the outskirts of Ourense, the route passed through industrial complexes and then urban sprawl, giving way to a clean, beautiful city of large apartment complexes and the city proper.
At those lower elevations, trees still held their leaves, and tomatoes hung on their vines. Ourense had not yet seen much frost.
Ourense is in a valley on the river Miño and was warmer and dryer than much of the rest of Galicia. More Roman-built structures, too: bridges, developed hot springs, and Ourense’s twelfth-century cathedral, mostly Romanesque with some Gothic features.
Fernando and I checked into the municipal albergue (hostel) in the center of town, near the cathedral, and after Hiromi arrived, we found a nice place to eat. The Mesón de Bedoya was only a couple of blocks away and had a menu del dia (menu of the day) for €10. Excellent food and much of it. I went with the lentil soup, followed by roasted chicken with potatoes, dessert, wine, and coffee.
As we finished our meals, into the mesón (inn) walked José, one of our Camino friends, a member of our sagrada familia (our little “holy family”) from my early weeks on the VDLP. José, and his friend Fran, lived in Ourense. José was such an awesome tour guide. He drove Fernando, Hiromi, and me out to some old abandoned monasteries and to vistas of the Ourense valley and the Rio Sil. Such a gracious man.
One of the monasteries dated back to the year AD 573 , but the other was much newer, built in the ninth century. Both were in stunning settings. The more recent one, Mosteiro de Santa Cristina, sat deep in the canyon of the Rio Sil, a grand, abysmal ravine. The other and older monastery, Mosteiro de la Piedras, housed tombs, then exhumed, which had been in the floor of the old chapel. Much of that monastery was carved from one giant stone and solid bedrock. By that time of day, it was getting dark, and we could see very little of the interior, but lo and behold, there were lights—you just drop a one-Euro coin in a simple control box, and on come the lights and accompanying music. The lights and music stayed on long enough for us to view the ruins through iron gates at the entrance and to take a few photos.
Later, back in Ourense, we met with José’s lovely girlfriend, Sandra, and toured the old city center. We saw the cathedral, the main plaza, and natural hot springs, before finding a couple of different bars for vino and pinchos (small and excellent tapas).
Such a fun day. I could have spent a week.
Costs: €6 for the albergue, €3 for breakfast, €2.50 for lunch, €10 for dinner, and €8 for pinchos and vino.