Although it had all the amenities,we missed the ambience of those earlier refugios attached to monasteries. Although unlocked , it was forlorn and quiet.
But Villadangos did not totally disappoint. Although it was 4 o’clock and past closing time, a cheerful young waitress at the Bar Avenida sat us down in her back room for a robust meal, starting with a salad of tuna, peas and cubed potato – salada rusa ; followed by fried chicken and chips; crisp fresh bread ; and flan , all washed down by a pleasant glass of rose .
Fortified, we strolled through quiet back streets towards the Church of Santiago . Nearby, four old ladies sat together on a bench . Carol joined them for a chat. They got on like a house on fire and one of them, Laureana , who had the key to the church, proudly offered to show us through it – an offer we accepted with alacrity.
What an amazing gem! Inside, dominating an ornately carved and painted wall above the altar,was a wooden statue of St James ,patron saint of Villadangos , in his Moor-slayer guise, astride a white charger, sword raised, in the act of trampling a hapless Moor. Visibly moved by Laureana ’s faith and pride in her church , Carol offered to light a candle for her in the Cathedral at Santiago . Laureana looked heavenward, clasping her gnarled, weathered hands together in a gesture of gratitude .
We returned to the refugio to find a Spanish cyclist had arrived. Over his meagre dinner, he told us that he also was heading towards Santiago .
“I am cycling about 120km every day,” he said.
“I do not have much time, so I have to cycle fast.”
“Is the camino good for cycling ? ”
“In parts ,but dangerous on the busy main roads.”
“How far tomorrow? ”
“I think maybe only 100km.”
That’s dedication. He was in more of a hurry than I was. Maybe his riches were greater in Santiago. There were only the three of us in the refugio on that quiet night
and we looked forward to a sound sleep. Around midnight came the explosion of fireworks. Obviously another celebration, but why start so late?
We arose before dawn and found that the cyclist had already left.