If you have been following my Blog, you will already know I am currently preparing myself for a 2,200 Km (approx.) bike ride, starting from the Canterbury Cathedral on the 30th of July 2016 and finishing in Rome, Italy, on the 1st week of September.
This is a pilgrimage known as Via Francigena or Via Romea Francigena. In the EuroVelo project this route is the biggest portion of route number 5, which actually starts in London and ends in Brindisi, Italy.
So, although I am still several weeks away from the start of the Pilgrimage, a friend and I decided to drive to Canterbury last weekend, to do some initial reconnaissance, as I had never been there before. That has also enabled me to get my pilgrim’s credentials (also known as pilgrim’s passport for Camino de Santiago pilgrims) and ride to the Dover Ferry Terminal as I have a per-determined time to arrive there on the 30th of July to catch the ferry to Calais in France.
The video below is the time-lapse of the entire bike ride between Canterbury and Dover, recorded by a GoPro 4 Silver mounted on a handlebar T-Mount (I need to do something to reduce the shaking in that mount).
They say Kent (the region where Canterbury is located) is the garden of England, and it is certainly a beautiful part of the country.
We followed the National Cycle Route 16, which proved not to be the most direct route to Dover and had some challenging hills to climb. Nothing too hard on a bike without any load other than the rider, but considering I’ll be carrying with me about 20 Kg in 4 panniers and on the rack, I had to make sure I know when to leave in order to arrive in Dover on time to catch the ferry,
I will not to an extensive written description of the route as you have the map and the video, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch through the contact form.
I’ve also created a Flickr album to store all the pictures I’ve taken along the way. Feel free to browse the pictures below or click on them to see them in higher resolution in Flickr.
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It is not that I haven’t recorded a Bike Vlog every week in the past 3 weeks… I did record them! Watch the Vlog and I explain my sudden disappearance.
This Vlog was recorded 2 weeks ago (Friday, the 29th of April), but I had some personal issues and had no time to work on the video editing.
So, I hope you can forgive me for not showing up in the past few weeks, as I will assume that if you are here is because you like to watch this old man talking (my children were actually relieved as they think I am making a fool of myself 🙂 )
Sorry for my sudden disappearance. It’s been quite busy on my professional and personal life right now, so haven’t had much time to dedicate myself to posting on EyeCycled.com during these past 2 weeks nor ride my bike. Still working on the posts and videos of the Devon Coast to Coast bike ride, though (rather slowly though).
Got some good news to share… The Via Francigena project is confirmed!
My request for an extended holiday leave has been approved by the company and I am booking my return flight from Rome this week.
I’ll be leaving the UK from the Canterbury Cathedral on Saturday the 30th of July and will have to arrive in Rome on the 8th of September, at the latest, to catch my flight back from Rome to the UK on the 9th.
This is a very exciting development for me and will be the longest bike ride of my life. I will have to do an average of 54 Km a day to cover the almost 2,200 Km from Canterbury to Rome, but I think it can be done and I am really looking forward to it.
Thank you for your support and stay tuned for more details.
Welcome to the DAY 8 post of my Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage by bike which happened on the 1st of June 2015. I did his stage of 50 Km or 31 miles from León to Astorga in 4h and 35m, of which 3h 22m were of actual moving time.
I left the hostel at 8:01am that morning and first rode to the Cathedral. I didn´t really need to go there, but I felt compelled to take one last look at the Cathedral. As I arrived I saw a cyclist’s couple looking at a map and when I approached them I recognised they were also from Brazil.
Marcelo and Alice are from a city in Brazil called Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, and were also doing the Camino de Santiago. We talked for a few minutes and left together to try to find our way out of town.
Little did I know at that time that we would later arrive in Santiago de Compostela together. Our friendship started at that point and continues to this day thanks to social media and the internet.
León is a reasonably large city and it took us about 1h and 20 min to reach La Virgen del Camino, which still belongs to León’s metropolitan area and is very close to León’s airport. We stopped at a place called Cafeteria Miravalles for Breakfast and 50 min later jumped back onto our bikes again and continued to ride on the already familiar N-120. We rode on the N-120 all the way to Astorga this day.
As we arrived in the village of Valverde de la Virgen we saw something interesting. Spain is filled with old bell towers (for the lack of a better name). In many of them you will find White Stork’s nests. In this particular one a pilgrim decided to stay overnight and slept with the birds.
Some pilgrims actually camp throughout the entire pilgrimage, especially those with animals, and don´t stay at hostels, like most do. I don’t know if this was the case for that pilgrim, but I thought he had chosen a very interesting place to sleep, if he managed to get any sleep at all, that is.
After Valverde de la Virgen we crossed through the villages of San Miguel del Camino, Villadangos del Paramo and San Martín del Camino until we arrived at yet another landmark of the Camino:
The 13th century medieval stone bridge over the river
Órbigo in the small town of Hospital de Órbigo, which owes its name to the old pilgrim’s hospital that once stud in that place. The bridge appears to be way too big for the river, but before the construction of the reservoir Barrios de Luna, the river had a great flow.
It has 19 arches and is fairly well preserved.
We did a small pit-stop right after the bridge for some rest and water and moved on back on the N-120. The rest of the way to Astorga was relatively uneventful.
As we arrived in Astorga Marcelo and Alice decided to stay in the Municipal Hostel straight away and I went to the town centre to find Fernando, as we had agreed to meet there and ride together the next day. Once I found Fernando we went back the municipal hostel and stayed in the same floor Marcelo and Alice were staying.
I do recommend this hostel. The overnight is 5€ and it’s clean and well organized. Most rooms have only 2 bunk beds (or 4 beds) and we shared the room with 2 pilgrims from Germany.
Be prepared for walking up quite a few stairs if you, like us, stay on the upper floor (the bikes stay in the basement). The view from our room was great though. The hostel had a fully fitted kitchen and a laundry with a drying area outside on the rear garden.
After a shower we left the hostel to explore the town. Astorga is great place, with an especially interesting architecture. I know I wrote this before, but although the town is small it feels big and welcoming and has a very long history as it pre-dates León by 875 years. According to Wikipedia, artefacts dated 2750 BC were found in the area of Astorga. The local Celtic people, known as the Astures and the Cantabri, inhabited the area around 275 BC, which later in 146 BC became one of the Roman strongholds in the region called Asturica.
As in many Spanish towns Astorga has a great Cathedral, but it also has the Episcopal Palace of Astorga, which was a building designed and partially built by Gaudi, the same architect who design the famous Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona. The building now houses a museum of religious art called “Museo de los Caminos”, dedicated to the Camino de Santiago.
As we were exploring the town, the 4 of us, Fernando, Marcelo, Alice and me, decided not to eat in a restaurant that night, but to buy food in the local market and cook it in the hostel’s kitchen. Marcelo is the chef and owner of several well-known restaurants in his home city and, obviously an excellent cook. We had a great time preparing and enjoying the food that evening, together with the other Pilgrims there, all accompanied by good Galician wine.
Well, that’s it for day 8. Please feel free to leave comments, questions or at least indicate if you liked it or not by clicking on the stars in the bottom of the post.
Welcome to the DAY 7 post of my Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage by bike which happened on the 31st of May 2015. I did his stage of 81 Km or 50.33 miles from the tiny village of Calzadilla de la Cueza to León in 6h and 24m, of which 5h 16m were of moving time.
I left the hostel that morning just after 8:00am as usual. The first 18 Km on the familiar N-120 were reasonably uneventful. Passed by small villages and towns such as Ledigos, Terradillos de los Templarios, San Nicolas del Real Camino at a reasonably good pace. Just before Sahagún, however, I’ve made a mistake which I am still puzzled how I could have made.
As I was approaching Sahagún on the N-120, just after crossing the river Valderaduey, I saw one of the typical yellow arrows that guide the walking pilgrims and decided to leave the road and take the pilgrim’s route.
Few meters later I came to a small bridge over a creek and there was again a clear yellow sign pointing towards a small chapel passed the bridge, the “Ermita de la Virgen del Puente“. I don’t really understand what led me to ignore the sign and just continue straight ahead. That mistake cost me 35 min and an additional 7.28 Km to what could have been about 2 Km had I continued on the N-120.
Proves that if you just let your thoughts wander too much while on a pilgrimage and don’t pay attention where you are going you will pay for it physically later. There is no mistake, however, that cannot be corrected, so once I realized I was heading the wrong way I took the LE-6707 and rode back to Sahagún. As I crossed under the N-120, there was no point of entry back onto the main road, so I had to ride into the outskirts of Sahagún to get back to the N-120. This was by far not the biggest mistake I´ve made (more on that in later posts), but it got me very pissed anyway. So, if you download the GPX file with the intention of using it to guide you in your pilgrimage, please make a mental note that as you reach the river Valderaduey you should just continue on the N-120 and you will be fine. If you are walking I recommend you follow the yellow signs to avoid the roads.
About 5 Km after I re-joined the N-120, I left it towards Calzada del Coto, crossing through this little village to take a dirt road identified in Google Maps as Via Trajana. There are no ideal road alternatives from that point onwards as the N-120 takes a turn south (and Leon is north) and it is forbidden to cycle or walk in motorways (the A-231 motorway runs parallel to the via Trajana a few Kilometres south). About 9 Km later at around 11am I reached the village of Calzadilla de los Hermanillos and stopped for late breakfast or early lunch, whatever you prefer to call it.
After Calzadilla de los Hermanillos I rode for another 4 Km on tarmac (not very good though) to the point where the road crosses the LE-6620 and then 14 Km on a dirt road all the way to a village called Reliegos.
Those 14 Km were somewhat challenging for me because the sun was hitting me hard and the stones on the path were shaking the bike all the time and making me change tracks from right to left and vice-versa very often. It was in one of these moments that I stopped for a few seconds thinking how much that situation reflected my life (our lives?). We are always looking for the easy way, a way with less stones. I decided then to capture these thoughts in a voice recording, originally with the intention to write about them, but I´ve taken the decision to expose myself a little and share the recording with you. Hope you won´t consider me a fool for doing so. There were several moments in this pilgrimage I felt emotional and this was just one of them.
After Reliegos, the remaining 24 Km to León were all on good tarmac on the LE-6615 and all pretty flat, but I was feeling tired from all the shaking of the previous 14 Km. It took me just over 2 h to reach León. In León I stayed at the Albergue del Monasterio de las Benedictinas (Carbajalas) which was 5€ a night and was very basic. The hostel is maintained by volunteers and you need the pilgrim credentials to stay. It´s essential one large room with slots of 6 bunk beds on the left separated by thin plastic walls.
The hostel is relatively large with 132 beds (66 bunk beds) and the number of bathrooms didn’t seem to be enough. In terms of hygiene it was also not the best in my opinion, but it was OK. If you expect to find a power outlet to charge your electronic devices (phone, etc) good luck. I didn´t find any near to my bed and the place somehow did not inspire in me the confidence to simply leave my gadgets unattended. There is Wi-Fi outside by the reception area, but no Wi-Fi in the room. There is also no lockers or safe places to leave your stuff, but I didn’t have any problems (nothing was missing).
I had dinner in the restaurant in the “hospedaria” which opens at 7pm. The pilgrim’s menu was 9€ and the food was OK (not exceptional though).
Before dinner I walked around the city centre for about 2h. León is a great place. I felt well there. Very interesting gothic architecture and lots of flowers. I walked around the cathedral, but I did not enter it, as I thought I was not dressed in a respectful manner for that type of venue given the mass was just about to start, but from the outside it looks very impressive in all aspects. I’ll add some pictures of my short walk around town on the bottom of the post. The next video is of the cathedral bells calling the faithful for the mass.
Well, that´s it for day 7. Please feel free to leave comments, questions or at least indicate if you like it or not by clicking on the stars on the bottom of the post. Sometimes I have the feeling I am wasting my time here, but I do enjoy the opportunity to travel back in time, in my mind, and relive all those wonderful moments in the Camino.