So last night, in Grimaldi, the man who owns the hotel asked me which way I was going today. I showed him the route and he tells me my route is out of date and there is now a better one. His route, which is the latest version, was not only better, it was shorter than the one I had. Today has been a doddle.
Basically the route was in two halves. Off road to Galisteo than road to Plasencia via Carcaboso.
Palencia is actually 10km off the pilgrims route but is such a lovely town it's not to be missed.
After a couple of slightly iffy off-road days the 22 km to Galisteo once again hit the “A” grade, it was fabulous. The trail was narrow, slightly challenging in places, but comfortable and great fun. The landscape was also excellent and the dehesa, which someone told me finished at Cáceres, was much in evidence today.
Particular highlights include another sighting of a massive brown bird. Interestingly this time I saw a kite and a stork shortly after and the brown bird was at least twice the size. It was on its own, didn't have the white undercarriage of a griffon vulture so maybe it was an eagle, a golden or imperial eagle. Who knows.
The other highlight was a herd of cattle being noisily assembled by two men on horses. They looked like proper gauchos.
Galisteo, where I stopped for a coffee and mid-morning snack, was also a bit of a bonus. A pretty, compact little hill top town whose walls, Muslim I'm guessing by their light weight construction, were still intact.
The final photo stop was a magnificent and ornate bridge over the Rio Jerte to the northwest of the town. On a plinth in the middle of the bridge, bearing the coat of arms of the bridge’s patron, was a nest of storks, two parents and two large offspring. They had decorated the plinth in a way only large birds can.
The second half of the route was road cycling, a nice quite road and fast. This meant I arrived in Plasencia early, which was just as well because the Parador I'm staying in is stunning. I was told later that the three best Paradors in Spain are Santiago del Compostela, Leon and Palencia. I’m not going to argue, I've stayed in the other two.
Because the Plasencia is part of the Ruta Vía de la Plata Association I was again well looked after. I was by taken around by Isidro Rodriguez the town's councillor responsible for tourism and a member of the council's tourism staff. They were great fun and described Plasencia with the humour and passion of people who are proud of where they live. It is lovely and as well as some amazing buildings clearly works as a place as well, definitely not just a tourist destination.
The most impressive building, a real must see, is the cathedral. Actually there are two cathedrals, a Romanesque and later Gothic/Renaissance cathedral. As money poured in from new world colonisation the building of the former was abandoned and construction of a bigger, more lavish affair started. Rather than knock the old one down, or try to integrate it into the new one, the two cathedrals remain cheek by jowl next to each other. It's amazing, arches are left half finished and with nowhere to go, and the jagged raw edges of each building left facing each other across a metre wide no buildings land.
So today's been great and an easy one. It's just as well because tomorrow looks tough. Early start because I've got my first really big climb.