SEVILLE TO ZAFRA ON THE VIA DE LA PLATA.

This afternoon we leave Seville and head for Zafra. We will travel in style in our luxury motor coach complete with WIFI, water and snacks, both healthy and unhealthy!

Because we only 14 this year, we can spread out and each have an entire row of seats- a treat for the long legged among us who usually fight for the middle seat of the back row.

It will take us barely two hours to get to Zafra, a distance of 134 km or 62 miles.

But instead of looking out the window of the bus, come walk with me along the camino route, a trip if you will down memory lane.

Barbara and I walked the Via de la Plata for six weeks in 2004. We started in late September and arrived in Santiago de Compostela on November 3.

As you will see, the Via is very different from the other Camino routes.

We began from the Seville Cathedral where we managed to get our first Camino stamp, a two day ordeal which sent us on a scavenger hunt around the city from the cathedral to a distant restaurant and back to the cathedral. Eventually, the pilgrim office was open and willing to give us a stamp. However, we did have a phenomenal dinner at the restaurant so all was well. Without this stamp, we could not prove that we had started in Seville. And without proof, no Compostela. See below in yellow.

We will need to get two stamps per day to qualify for a Compostela, the certificate that proves we have actually made the walk.

The eagle eyed among you will note that the cathedral is not our first stamp.

When we walked this route in 2004, we flew first into Lisbon and made a side trip to Fatima to restock our supply of Holy Water which we transferred to our old travel size bottle from Lourdes. This well worn bottle lives in our first aid kit. It has come to the rescue many times and we don’t leave home without it.

After we had secured another few years of Holy Water, we took a series of buses down the coast of Portugal and back up to Seville.

It was a hilarious day-long adventure complete with lost bus tickets, jeopardizing my transfer from one bus to another.

But today, armed with Holy Water, passports and the obligatory stamp we are on the move.

Your bus will get you to Zafra in under two hours . Walking will take us six days.

The walking route is longer, 156 km, and we will average just over 26km or 15 miles a day.

The route out of any city is a long and ugly slog . This one is no exception. Eight miles of sidewalks, factories and being forced to walk in the wrong side of the road makes us long for the countryside.

However we are rewarded after six miles when we arrive in Italica, one of the earliest Roman cities in Spain.

Founded by Scipio Africanus in 205BC, it was also the birth place of the Emporas Hadrian and Trajan. It’s amphitheater is the fourth largest in the Roman world and its theatre could seat 25,000 people.

Up in the hill there are mosaics from rooms of the House of Exedra. There are many including a swimming pool and planetarium but my favorites are the birds from the House of Peacocks.

And it was good to see that the Romans had a sense of levity. Bathroom humor was alive and well in the latrine!

Now that we are officially out of Seville, we are looking forward to walking on a dirt track through “miles of cotton and sunflowers”. But the camino is full of surprises.

Wait. Are we lost? No it is late September and summers in southern Spain are hot. We spend our first days walking through parched and burned fields and through two national parks. All of the color seems to have been sucked away by the heat. Everything is a monochromatic palette of tan and brown. The ground is split and rock hard.

Even the critters and flowers and comply with this unwritten dress code.

One good thing. It is too hot for the snakes who are also brown. We see a dead one. I like to think that like Krook in Bleak House, he self combusted.

Another good thing. We are carrying plenty of water.

About the only color comes from Barbara and and me, garbed to stay cool in the 90 degree plus weather .

You, however, are cool in your air conditioned bus. It is spring and outside the world green and colorful.

You have arrived in Zafra and you are about to meet Fatima and Cati.

At Fatima’s cheese shop you’ll sample a selection of local artisanal cheeses made of raw goats milk. You’ll gently wash down your cheeses with Egxtremeñen wines. Cati, your local guide and wine expert will teach you about the wines from Ribera de Guadiana and also from the small Matanegra region, the only place in the world to grow the Eva-Beba grapes! Afterwards we will walk to a favorite local restaurant for dinner.

Barbara and I are already in bed but if you still have the stamina, the Good Friday procession in Zafra is about to begin. Attendance optional.

The other alternative is to head for your hotel. The Casa Palacio de la Corte, a 19th century palace, was the former home of one of Spain’s most prestigious and aristocratic bull farmers. And it is as colorful inside as it is outside.!

Hasta mañana and sweet dreams.

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