Pilgrims' Progress, 31.05.2011 - Storks and frogs ... but still no donkey!

Leaving the watermill huddled in the back of a car with a gorgeous Frenchman called Pioc, and his saddle, it was with great difficulty that Philipa was prevented from galloping to Brittany on the back of his horse – however, rather meanly, Judith caused Philipa to set her face to the west and continue to Castrojeriz, where we found that we had booked into a hostel on the edge of town opposite a massive and deserted collegio. A general consensus from the pilgrims was that this is a strangely oppressive town. We were very glad to leave early and climb steeply up to the Meseta as the sun rose behind us. It was astonishingly beautiful.

We have walked across open farmland for the last week, dropping down into towns and villages. We have walked some of the way with a wonderful Irish singer, and had some convivial evenings with a Norwegian called Radar, a Jesuit priest, a Swedish doctor and a Danish painter. While Philipa is spending much time chatting up the locals, Judith has really enjoyed the Romanesque churches, at Estella and Villalcázar de Sirga.

Judith won the Spanish language learning competition before we left Cambridge but Philipa’s miming skills, punctuated by a few really useful Spanish words, is proving more effective. Mealtimes can be especially difficult, i.e. Judith has asked for ‘teeth’ instead of ‘stamps‘ and Philipa ordered garlic soup only to find prawn eyes staring up at her from the bottom of the bowl. Also as Judith scoffed a ‘bistec’ (which reminded her of Charlie Chaplin eating his shoe in The Goldrush) a bloody bullfight appeared on the bar TV. “Disgusting!” says Philipa.

On Friday 27th May we reached the halfway point of our walk at Terradillos de los Temparios, a sleepy village of mud and straw walls and, surprisingly, the last resting place of the last Grand Master of the Templar Knights [Jacques de Molay].

At Sahagún we saw the first brick church towers with multiple arches, as usual inhabited by storks and pigeons, and thousands of swallows flying though. Judith was very happy indeed. She has added to her obsession with storks a new interest, in noisy frogs.

Now we are having a rest day at Léon and this evening we will go to vespers at the Benedictine convent, and afterwards Judith will sample some more of the local wine. Philipa will have her usual hot milk and go to bed!

While Philipa and Judith are making their pilgrimage they will be sending news bulletins. You will be able to read these here on the parish website in the ‘News’ section – printed copies will also be available in the churches. You can track their route

Photos are being posted to the Photo Gallery, Pilgrims' Progress.