We get up in Acebo, and Dorcinda is angry. While I’ve slept through most of it, the Galician cyclists have been jerks all night, coming in and out, leaving the door open, lighting up the room with their phones, whispering loudly to each other. We decide to shell out 4 euro for breakfast, based on the promise of coffee, but even that is a mistake. The coffee machine is a keurig type that takes a long time to pour each drink. It stops working just as Dorcinda tries it, and her coffee turns out terrible. She gets back in line to get a new one, but this time it breaks more permanently. We leave, unsatisfied.
We walk with Brenda to Molinaseca, and the road is crowded this morning. We leave several pilgrims in the dust. Most stop to let us pass as we come thundering down the mountain, but a few are truculent and pretend not to notice us, forcing us into a traffic jam behind them. We race past them as soon as the road widens to allow it.
We have a coffee and breakfast in Molinaseca, which seems like a charming place. The first place we see, with a terrace by the river and bridge, looks really nice, but its closed. There’s another place nearby. There’s some confusion about our order – we try to order a single “special breakfast” for 4 euro for Dorcinda, but the waitress first brings a nonspecial breakfast (OJ and toast) and then brings two special breakfasts (eggs and bacon). I get depressed, wondering how I’m going to explain or argue with her, but Dorcinda just brought it back, and I didn’t have to say anything. Brenda eats two breakfasts by the time we leave. We’re the fastest pilgrims on the road but the slowest pilgrims in the cafe.
We walk the rest of the way to Ponferrada, and check into a hotel near the center of town. They put an extra bed in a double, and we stay with Brenda. We shower and write a little, since we’re early and everything is closed for siesta. After 4:30. We go to the castle, which is disappointing. There is a ruin, and new wooden exhibit areas, and little effort to link the two. The audioguide tells me that there were only nine knights when their leader petitioned the pope for recognition of a new knightly order. There used to be a fireplace room below the count’s thinking room, so he could make his important decisions in a comfortably warm room. There’s another book exhibit, which is neat, but, as with the rest of the place, there’s no real information, just, “here’s some copies of old books.” There’s one unusual book printed on black pages, which I’ve never seen before. I ask about it, and the curator has the knowledge almost at the ready. She double checks something, and tells me its the Libro de Horas Negros, 15th century, from Flanders, of Galenzzo Maria Sforza. On Pergamino negro. If you like that one, she says, you should look for Libro de horas de Durazzo, with purple pages, in another museum in Spain. I tell her I just might, even though it’s definitely outside the scope of this trip.
When we get back to the hotel, we see the not-so-great-Dane sitting outside, and greet him. Our hearts sink. He’s staying at the same hotel as us. Turns out he was with us in Astorga, and he stopped at the same podunk town before the Cruz de Ferro where we’d planned to stop the night before.
We worry about the rain some more, and go into a sporting goods store, but the selection is oddly incomplete (only women’s socks, for example) and very expensive. We go into a different shop, where I find a cheapish long sleeve shirt for the colder weather ahead, and we restock on toothpaste. A lot of interesting-sounding dinner places are closed, so we eat at a place in the square where people are gathered. It sucks. It may be our fourth-worst meal (after Ciruena, San Juan, and the place with the bed bugs). The waitress is a dwarf comedian with a slightly rude sense of humor, she mocks Brenda’s “vale” pronunciation, for example, and says de nada exaggeratedly, loudly, when we thank her for clearing away the first plate. The wine is bad, but not as bad as last night, and Brenda toasts “We are going to conquer the rain tomorrow.”