This has been a good day! Both of us are feeling much better for the two days´ rest, and a night of luxury - from which we dragged ourselves away at 7.15 this morning, without staying to enjoy the legendary Parador breakfast. "Are we staying in any more Pandoras?" asked Caroline casually, to which the answer has to be, "Yes and No".
Last night, outside our window, the paseo was in full swing till well past our bedtime; but this morning, as we walked out of town by the light of the waning moon, the only sound to accompany the click of my sticks was birdsong. A long but gentle climb up an earth track brought us to a sudden - had we not read about it in the guidebook - view over the pretty old village of Los Santos de Maimona. There we found breakfast at Rosa´s bar. Fortified, and making our way back to the Camino, we immediately met up with two of our Dutch friends. Piet and Henny don´t believe in rest days: they seem to spend their entire retirement on one or another Camino; and it turns out they only drink bottled water, so perhaps there´s a lesson for us!
The way was very easy all through to our destination, Villafranca de los Barros, where we arrived at our B&B (Casa Perin) at 1.30. After a pause for wash and brush up, and a look into the church just opposite, where a boistrous wedding was going on - some of the smartly-dressed guests popping out for a cigarette or to chat on their mobiles - we sought lunch: this turned out to be our first Spanish fish (rather good too), in a place called Los Gemelos.
In my halting Spanish, I told the waiter that it had been hot on the Camino today (22), to which I think his reply was: "You ought to be here in the Summer, when it´s 40 degrees!"
Our path was undulating, but without any steepness, and passed between enormous groves of olive and almond trees. Some of the olives were biblically old, as in my photograph (which also shows one of the many San Isidro hermitages, built after his body was taken from Seville all the way to Leon, a huge journey! - so much for no photographs on Extremadura computers!) and some only just planted. [Agnes would say, this sentence needs breaking up.] In between many of the olives were vines, looking so clipped back as never to be likely to produce grapes. Yet everywhere we have been offered the local wine, and - when we´ve felt up to it - enjoyed it.
Nearer to Villafranca we have seen much more industrial wine-growing activities - alongside other industry too, with huge factories and smokestacks. The contrast between them, in the distance, and the ancient olive trees, in the foreground, is remarkable.
Caroline has been most excited to find (for the first time here) orchids of many hues, some even growing bravely in between our tracks. Irises too have flourished all along the way.
So, with the sun shining uninterruptedly, but with a pleasant breeze in our face, we have been very happy to be back on our walk - and to be a day ahead of schedule. Caroline: "I don´t yet feel that I´m on a pilgrimage." Henny: "But it makes you clear in the head."