Day 21, El Acebo to Cacabelos, Spain, Sept. 29


18 miles, 1,300 ft. descent, 8:15 am to 5 pm  I buy NEW BOOTS.

The view down the mountain into Ponferrada from the Leon mountains is spectacular.
It feels schizophrenic to walk from the “time stood still” village yesterday into a town with two nuclear power plant stacks today, only 11 miles away.
Walking down into Ponferrada, an medieval town with a large cobblestone shopping area, I find a sport shop.  But their boots feel narrow and the toe box seem small.  Yesterday an Australian couple recommended Keen boots and sandals, which had solved their foot problems. While perched on a stone water trough for animals in the mountains, I had been dipping my feet in the icy water while enjoying the sunshine. And getting a little siesta as other pilgrims walked by in amusement. They stopped to rest and chat about life. Which is one thing I love on this trip.
Coming into Ponferrada, I take a detour route to visit a Roman spring. It is still encased in the Roman’s quarried stone and kept as a historical site. Plus I avoid an area of ugly suburban sprawl, instead entering through vineyards and older, charming homes with vegetable gardens and a few horses.
Surprising me as I come around a corner in Ponferrada, is a spectacular castle of the Knights of the Templar.  After the crusades to Jerusalem were over, they came here to guard the Pilgrim Way of St. James and protect the pilgrims from bandits and landowners who tried to make they pay to cross their lands. It looks like a movie set with a moat, flags flying and turrets.
In the pedestrian shopping area window shop, passing stores of the latest fashion, and catching my reflection of a hiker with a pack and shade hat in the window. Fashion is the farthest thing from my mind. I am after new boots.  Finally there is a shoe shop of cheap shoes and in the back are cheap hiking boots. They have lots of flex in the sole, a high top and I get the size 10 for only 31 Euros. The women helping me speak no English and my little Spanish is not helpful, but it works. My size 8 boots, with the heel now worn down, go in their garbage. 
Leaving town through the modern suburb on the street El Liberty with a plaza named Marteo Luthero King Jr. reminds me America’s struggles for freedom and justice affects the whole world. Stop for a siesta on a park bench beside a cemetery. Pass through many vineyards and popular groves. Flat walking on shaded sidewalks through sleepy villages and flat countryside.
Nine miles in my boots and I feel much, much better.
All locals give or return a greeting of Hola or Beunos Dias. Heads tip up, instead of down, in greeting. 
Stay at an old farm, now a very nice touristy accommodation for conventions, but I am charmed, tired and willing to pay to stay. The farm implements, from threshers to spinning wheels are displayed. Plus I get to see how the farm houses were set up. Big wooden and stone walls encircle a barnyard,  gardens and outside living area.  Plus they restored the traditional round stone dwelling with thatched roof. Food is local and hardy. Empanada of pie dough filled with potato and ham, served with local wine when checking in and again at dinner. More boiled potatoes for dinner, a salad and thick pork steaks and flan for dessert. Visit with two German pilgrims at dinner. They just met and are from adjoining villages.  While the room is very nice, I don’t sleep better than in a dormitory and miss the companionship.
 

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