Today we had a choice to make and it was a “no brainer!” We could either take the “pilgrim autopistas” alongside the main road all the way from Fromista to Villalcazar de Sirga or take the scenic way that follows a tree-lined riverside path. Between Fromista and Poblacion de Campos before the two routes divide, we did get a taste of the “pilgrim autopistas.”
Taking the scenic route added only 1.3 km to our walking day and was well worth it. While we were walking the quiet route along the river, we could see on the other side of a broad expanse of farmland a steady stream of peregrinos walking along the road. Obviously, very few peregrinos chose to take the scenic route.
While we were in Poblacion, we picked up a couple of oranges, yogurt and a pastry that would serve either to top up the meagre breakfast of toast and coffee we had at the hotel before leaving Fromista or it would be our lunch. A shady wall by the Villovieco bridge provided a good place to have our picnic before crossing the bridge and following the path along the rio Ucieza.
Also in Poblacion, we saw Barbara from Portland, Oregon, whom we met when we were leaving Burgos. She stayed the previous night in Boadilla del Camino and walked along the Canal de Castilla in the early morning, the same stretch we walked yesterday afternoon. She told us how beautiful it was with the morning mist over the water and showed us her photos. It was so atmospheric and very much like photos Tania took two years ago along the same stretch. The scenery was lovely when we walked along the canal, but the morning mist added something extra.
We were aiming for the Hostal Infanta Dona Leonor in Villalcazar de Sirga where we had made a reservation on Bookings.com. We took a wrong turn and ended up in a village we thought was Villalcazar. “Oh no!” We were a little worried, because the first impression we had of the village was that it was crumbling to pieces. It wasn’t a place we wanted to stay. We were relieved to know we were in the wrong village and that we had another 6.9 km to go. Whew!
Eventually we came to the Emita de la Virgen del Rio (Hermitage of Our Lady of the River) where we turned towards Villalcazar de Sirga.
We found our hostal and settled into a beautifully decorated attic room with private bath. We’ll need to stay in an albergue dormitory soon or we’ll become spoiled!
The magnificent Templar Church of Santa Maria la Virgen Blanca that was built in the 13th century is the highlight of this town. It houses the tombs of nobles and royalty and has been declared a national monument. It was made even more special since it was decorated for a wedding. Guests were beginning to arrive even as we were touring the church. Along with a group of other peregrinos outside, we waited for the arrival of the bride. She was beautiful and heartily applauded!
While having our pilgrim’s menu at the bar opposite the church, we sat at the open window which was almost as good as being at the wedding reception itself. It was being held under a canopy just outside the bar. Lots of kissing was going on – both cheeks, of course!
In this Provincia de Palencia, the absence of wood and stone make earth the natural building material. Initially air-dried bricks and eventually kilns sped up the process, but obviously homes built this way lack the long-term durability of stone structures such as the 13th century Templar church that is still standing.