Camino de Santiago: Day 13, Viloria De Rijoa, Spain
Distance from Cireuña to Viloria De Rijoa, Spain 25.02 kilometers
Cirueña is one of those towns that you won’t miss, but is unforgettable at the the same time. A victim of modernity and the migration of young people from small villages to larger cities, the 2008 worldwide recession and (mis)calculating real estate developers creating a blight on the landscape. It was undoubtedly strange, but you couldn’t help feeling sorry for those still still hanging on and struggling to try and make things work.
It only took a few minutes walking to be out of Cirueña and we were back into big skies and undulating hills. This is a beautiful area that has been transformed over the eons by man and nature into a landscape that is at once welcoming in its simplicity, but intimidating in scale. We could see rain in all directions, and we were prepared, but somehow we managed to avoid any heavy showers and just plodded on, mile after mile, tiny specks on a huge canvas.
Eventually we entered the medieval town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where we had breakfast and wandered down the narrow streets and admired its beautiful 16th century cathedral.
Stopped in the village of Grañón, where there was a great little delicatessen/ grocery store that was playing Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra music (“Come Fly with me … “) on the stereo for the patrons sitting at tiny tables in the street out front. We joined some friends that had walked the Camino de Santiago a few years before and discussed the up coming section of high-plains known as the Meseta.
We drank our banana smoothies and listened to our friends describe hundreds of kilometers of empty farmland, industrial parks, distantly spaced, nondescript towns and busy roads right next to the trail. They were going to “jump it” by train and spend more time in other places beyond. This is a common thing people do and we explained that we weren’t sure what we were going to do. One thing we definitely needed to do was get going because we had reservations a few villages away at a very different kind of albergue.
Refugio Acacio and Orietta is located in the village of Viloria de Rioja. It was just beginning a cold rain as we arrived and stepped inside the stone building with a warming fire burning. We could smell incense burning and soft harp music was playing in the background. This simple albergue constructed from mud walls and stone floors is filled to almost overflowing with books and consists of a ten bed dormitory, a nice lounge with comfortable sofas, a wood burning fireplace and a functional communal dining area. It is sponsored by the author Paolo Coelho and, if you have read any of his books, it reflects his and Acacio and Orietta’s style.
We were served a simple dinner which consisted of what Orietta called “magic soup”, Portuguese black beans and rice and ever flowing glasses of Rioja wine. It all had a very peaceful, almost spiritual, feel, but it was just inviting and comfortable. We all lingered over dinner and talked about what brought us to walk the Camino de Santiago, shared stories of our travels and our lives, and just basked in a relaxing atmosphere in a very special place. It really felt magical.