48 kilometers, 8 hours and 30 minutes. Through Los Santos de Maimona and Villafranca de los Barros. Vast square kilometers of vineyards slowly gave way to mostly olive trees. Fairly flat and straight to the north.
Our sagrada familia (a name that Eric gave our group, meaning “holy family” in Spanish) chose to split up that day. José, Fran, Fernando, Eric, and I decided to do two stages, and Nina, Carlos, Lara, and the Italian couple decided to go to Almendralejo, a shorter distance. Probably a good choice. But I needed 30 kilometers average to arrive in Santiago in time for my flight home, so I wanted to do more than the shorter stage. Also, Almendralejo was off the Camino proper by a short distance.
Café con leche must be just right. In Los Santos de Maimona, the first village we passed through that day, we looked for a café so I could get a café con leche. Eric didn’t want anything but was good enough to stop with me. There was only one option, and we walked through the door just after an elderly man made his way out, saying his goodbyes.
The café was in a newer building that looked old. We entered the room, all white and dated—not in a good way. Many men stood at the bar or around the room, and some were seated at the tiny patio through a small door at the back. All about our age and older, save for one man that looked a little younger and had long, curly black hair.
I ordered my café con leche and began to check out the scene. Eric was taking a photo of me at the bar, to get a shot of the men with their drinks. A water or coffee, with a shot of one kind or another. Tiny little shots of liquor. At 9:00 a.m.
The café con leche I received was not impressive. I took a look around for an espresso machine. There was none. Note to self: check this first! I sweetened my coffee and tucked in, not expecting much, and stood against the bar to absorb the atmosphere. There were so many voices and so much noise; I could only focus on the tweets of the tiny birds, one in a cage at each corner behind the bar. They were loud and very different from the men. They stood out in the crowd.
Café con leche must be from an espresso machine, with steamed milk, and sweetened to the customer’s preferences. Nothing else was the same. On Camino, one occasionally came across the poor substitute I had. Pass it by. Worst yet was the coffee vending machine. My advice to would-be travelers: Keep walking. There is better. Keep walking.
Stayed at Albergue de Via de la Plata in a renovated old building in front of the church. Run by a couple who were not terribly friendly. Everything was an extra cost, which got to the Spaniards. Though I found that a glass of wine was only one euro.
Costs: €3 for breakfast, €12 for the albergue, €1 for the café con leche, and €9 for dinner.