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J48 - Thursday, December 3: La Bañeza – Puebla de Sanabria

75.3km – 9H23’
Altitude 933 m
Just like a street light, the moon illuminates the small road that leads out of Bañeza.  At daybreak there is a light frost which stimulates Serge and the team.  This stage resembles an ideal day: beautiful weather, 67 km on one road and beautiful scenery.  Until we reach Castrocontrigo, there aren’t many villages, nor are there many vehicles.  The pines along the road form a parasol.  At the entrance to Castrocontrigo; there is a tiny tourist office which is open (in this season they are usually closed).  Felipe, who as a guide traveled all over Europe, tends this information point.  He speaks perfect French, which he learned in Saint-Malo.  We seize the opportunity to ask him some questions: where are the children?  He tells that the rural areas are being deserted because there is no work but that there are children and schools.  Children start school between 9:30 and 10:00 in the morning.  Why is the corn left to dry on the stalk?  Because of subsidies from the European Community.  What is the difference between a bar and a cafeteria?  The cafeteria is, and I quote “nicer” but there is no other difference.  What are “Mesons?”  The word means “large table” and families can eat there… In the guide books it says they are also places where you drink and eat tapas or “bocadillos” (sandwiches).  He talks to us about this small southern corner of the province of Leon which is developing Spanish tourism with an accent on nature and old monuments, with the restoration of a multitude of old wind mills.  He explains that foreign tourists tend to go more to the north, between Burgos and Leon on the road to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. In this town on December 6 there will be an “alpine cross country race” which will be something between a trail race and a mountain race.  Lastly, we are surprised to see so few Christmas decorations.  Felipe explains that in Spain, Christmas trees are rare; the Spanish make Christmas cribs in their homes.
Felipe has a dog which doesn’t want to leave us and he accompanies Serge for 6 km.  We are beginning to be worried because all of René’s charm to get him to go home seems to be of no use.  Then all of a sudden he stops.  What a relief!   
Serge is delighted to have had this companion on the road for a few kilometers; it made him smile.  For the past 2 or 3 days we have had the impression that he is long suffering.  At the end of the stage he says that it was a very pretty road.
We are in a new province, « Zamora, » the roofs of flat stones and slate replace tiles and old stones decorate the  houses.  Once again there is a church in every hamlet.
At km 67, we change direction and head toward Puebla de Sanabria on the N525.  There is a slight descent and Serge lengthens his stride all the way to the entrance to the town.  This is our last stage in the first part of Spain.  Tomorrow we will enter Portugal by way of Braganza and join the Douro Valley before reaching Lisbon via the coast.  Then we will return to Spain.
 Hasta Luego España !

Town : Puebla de Sanabria (Zamora)

GPS : N°42.05762° W006.61545°