Sorry I cut out so fast yesterday. I looked up from the albergue computer and the hospitaliera was standing next to me pointing at her watch. That´s hospitaliero-ese for "Time to get your pilgrim tucches outta this albergue pronto!" Granted, it was 9am, kind of late to be still hanging around the albergue, but I´d asked this same lady the night before what time we had to be out and she´d responded, sweet as pie, "Oh, whenever you want.¨" Now there she was the next morning standing over me and giving me the old Hospitaliero Watch-Point. I don´t get it. Although, I must admit, this wasn´t an isolated kind of incident in this place, I´d been noticing since the night before that the staff at this twisty, funny-shaped albergue, "El Palomar" (I miss-called it Las Palomas" yesterday but it´s actually called "El Palomar"), had been acting kind of mood-swingy, loving you one minute, giving you the stink-eye the next. I finally just summed it up to the staff´s mood having been possessed by the construction of the albergue: prone to sharp turns and, like the bathrooms, all over the place. So in my haste to be done on the computer yesterday, Marianne, I didn´t answer your question: Nope, Toma and I never feel tempted to spend an unscheduled night anywhere, since we´re kind of on a timeline, getting crunchier by the day, it seems. Anyway, most albergues, except maybe in the big tourist cities, won´t allow pilgrims to spend a second night. And even when the exceptions are made, most albergues still require that pilgrims be out by 8:00 am (though there also are exceptions to this rule in many private albergues) so that the albergues can be cleaned before they reopen again in the afternoon. Finally, we pilgrims generally aren´t too interested in hanging around very long anywhere. We have wings on our feet - even slow feet like mine - and we want to get back to our walking! (Oh, wow, sorry for that bady mixed metaphore! But you know what I mean, right?) I also didn´t get around yesterday to telling about a Camino event from the day before: While we were walking along the way a young German pilgrim we´d been chatting with earlier came up to Tom and offered him a puff of his marajuana cigarette. (Tom graciously declined). This was our first sighting of a Camino Toker. I thought, "Okay, we´re on the nice, straight, level Meseta, but I sure as heck wouldn´t try tackling one of those mountains while stoned!": Anyway, yesterday we walked 16 km from Ledigos to the big city of Sahagun. For 7 euros we found another very nice hotel, the " Viatoris" , with an albergue section for pilgrims and my personal favorite, laundry service, along with my other personal favorite, a working computer. They had a pilgriim dinner, too, for 10 euros. Tom had his usual starter, salad, while I started with my new fascination: a plate of thick white asparagus served with a kind of relish and mayonnaise. (Trust me, it´s good!) Next I had two juicy, thick pork chops with round fries and Tom had the fish (Hake - not sure what kind of fish that is, but it´s on the menui all the time, Tom likes it), and the round fries. For dessert we both had rice pudding with cinnamon. Everything was delicious! The big room we stayed in was beautiful, but Tom´s bed was too short for him so he didn´t sleep to well. Anyway, we made the command decision to to take our second and third Camino Whatevers: this morning instead of walking we took the train from Sahagaun to Leon, (our second Camaino Whatever) cutting out 57 kms. We did this because between Sahagun and Leon the albergue beds were so few and far between that we´d either have to walk too many kms per day or take a couple extra days than planned to get to Leon, where we were planning to take an extra rest & sightseeing day. (Thus contradicting my earlier thesis that all we pilgrims like to do is walk. I guess now and then we do like to stay and have a look around!). Anyway, we´re now here in Leon, and though so far we´ve walked only from the train station to our hotel (no albergue tonight -our third Camino whatever!) the jury is already in: Leon is my favorite Spanish city! It´s just beautiful here. And our 55 euro hotel is also lovely and overlooks a beautiful square, across form a big old church. (Sure wish my camera worked - but one of my quests in Leon is to buy a new camera). So I guess now it´s time to go out and have a look around town. A beautiful day to you all! Love, Patti 8)
Yesterday we´d planned to walk 26 km from Carrion De Los Contes but had to pull the plug after 23 km. It´s not that we couldn´t have done the last 4 km to Terradillos de los Templarios, but by the time we´d walked the 23 kms and reached the town of Ledigos it was almost 6 pm, about as late as you ever want to roll into albergue, especially since most of them serve the pilgrim meal around 7 or 7:30. The reason we´re always the last ones to arrive is because I´m the slowest walker on the Camino. I also carry the lightest backpack. These two plgrim life-style choices, along with keeping my boots tightened and doing a few yoga stretches at night and in the morning, are my attempts at avoiding joining the ranks of the Camino injured, which includes almost everybody at this point, (I´m not exaggerating) whether they´re in their early twenties or past retirement age, and cutting across all genders and nationalities. Injured toes, blisters, shin spints, painful knees, tendonitis.... somebody could write a book entitled, "Injuries of the Camino: What, Why, And How To Prevent Them." But I don´t want to talk any more about injuries lest I jinx myself and Tom - though I suppose, technnically, Tom did recieve an injury on the Camino, his cut knee, but that was more an accident that could happen anywhere as opposed to the repetitive stress-style injuries the pilgrims are suffering from, and which either of us could wind up with any day, though not yet, so far, knock on concrete (with a walking stick). Still, one of the drawbacks of carrying the lightest backpacks on the Camino -Tom´s is about the second lightest - is the reason they´re so light: we carry only one change of clothes. (Exception: we each have three extra pairs of socks, since socks are critical!). This means that every evening we have to wash out a full set of clothes for each of us, (why I´m so in love with the laundry services when we can find them) and if our clothes are not dry by morning we have to pin them to our backpacks to dry while we walk. If they don´t dry we don´t have any clean dry clothes to wear that evening. So, the first thing we do upon checking into an albergue is to get out of our grungy clothes, take a shower, and put on our clean clothes which we wear for the rest of the evening, sleep in, and walk in the next day. (Exception: I usually don´t wear my hiking pants to bed, I have a light skirt I like to sleep in, and Tom usually slips out of his hiking pants and sleeps in his skivies, as do most of the guys.). On the other hand, at least we don´t have to walk around with backpacks full of dirty (heavy!) clothes. Anyway, yesterday our 23 km took us again across the Meseta under the hot sun along a path between endless brown fields where there was little shade and no water fountains or towns for 17km from where we started. We were prepared for the sun, though, since that morning as we were leaving Carrion De Los Contes we stopped to follow our noses to a bakery shop where the baker, after she´d given us our cream doughnuts and complimented me on my good Castillian Spanish (heck, I can order a cream doughnut in any dialect!), pointed upwards and said, "no lluvia", so we knew what we were in for. So then, 23 kms later when we reached the town of Ledigos we checked into a private albergue, ¨Las Palmeras" (or something like that) for 8 euros each. This was the funniest little place (well, not really so little, about 54 beds, supposedly), it reminded me of a house from a story book, with rooms, hallways, doors, bathrooms, showers going off in every direction, there were so many doors, we pilgrims were wandering around all evening trying to figure out where we were! Not one section matched another, everything looks like it was just a quick, half-finished add-on job, cobbled together done by the owner´s brother-in-law, or something. But it was nice, we stayed in the attic, a cute loft with fiberboard walls and timbers (also not quite finished) which we shared with five other pilgrims, but it was nice because we had real beds, not bunnk beds and a couple of bathrooms scattered about. The meal at the albergue was good, too: 9 euros for some kind of noodle soup followed by two huge pork chops with a mountain of french fries, ice cream for dessert.
Yesterday we walked 20.5 Km from Fromista to Carrion De Los Contes. Marianne: no, we did not get to go inside the famous church. Per usual, we got into town too late. But we did stay in an albergue right next to it. Anyway, yesterday the weather was great Camino weather: sunny, bright blue skies, thousands of clouds floating above us, the big, white marshmallow fluff, animal-shaped ones, not the ones that rain on you. Funny, up until now I never was a weather weeny - if it was sunny I walked to my car, if it was rainy I ran to my car - now I´ve become a real weather obsessive, along with my fellow pilgrims. Itś like, you´ĺl see this young guy in the albergue buried in his I-phone and you´ĺl ask, "Ḧey, whatś the weather forecast for tomorrow?" Everntually, without looking up, he´ll reply, "Ummm...haven´t checked yet." But you´ll get a better forecast when you start out the next morning and you pass a little old Spanish lady or gent taking their morning walk. After wishing you "Buen Camino" they´ll point to the sky and say "luvia", (rain) or "no luvia", (no rain) or "luvia mas tarde". (rain later). Then you´ŕe prepared. Yesterday the Camino ran parallel to a rural highway for most of the day, but it was nice, there were fields and trees on either side of the road, and we had a nice (dry) dirt path to walk along, though there was quite a long stretch of concrete sidewalk, too, hard on the feet and worse if you have a problem with stick-tock. That´s the tock...tock...tock...tock sound walking sticks make when hitting a hard surface, as opposed to stick-thud, the sound of sticks on dirt. Some pilgrims like stick-tock, they find it a comforting sound. Tom thinks it´s a good idea, he says it lets people know youŕe coming and wards off dogs. Other pilgrims can´t stand the sound of stick-tock, it drives them crazy. Me, I never noticed it until I head other pilgrims discussing the subject and it doesn´t bother me. But later in the day two Camino singers were following me for a while. The road was level and soft under our feet, but I kept wishing a rocky hill would pop up so they would be too out of breath to sing! Okay, I know, Iḿ sorry, that was a Camino my bad and Iĺl probably be punished for it with a blister. On the other hand maybe I´ve already been punished for this future transgression when my camera stopped working a while ago, back at the House of Smiles. (By the way, we learned the reason that the owner of that albergue isn´t Camino registered and doesn have a stamp is because along with welcoming pilgrims he also feeds and shelters the homeless in his albergue and he doesn´t want there to be any distinction between pilgrims and homeless. Talk about spirit of the Camino). Anyway, my camera breaking was such a cataclysmic even that I figure Iḿ entitled to at least a dozen more Camino my bads, though I´m not going out of my way to commit any. We stopped for lunch at a cafe in the tiny village of Villarmentero de Campos. The cafe was sheltered behind a line of trees, but behind the tress it was basically in the middle of a field with pretty stone tables in the yard and long wooden tables on the patio and inside. Inside the cafe Bob Marley music was playing and there was a big painting of Bob Marley on the wall, surrounded by graffiti that the owner encouraged his customers to write, giving us a marker for that purpose (I wrote that I like the Bob Marley motif). We arrived at Carrion de los Condes unable to get into the albergue that was written up as the best in the guide book, so we ended up staying at what was probably the really best one. For 5 euros each we stayed in a convent run by two sweet nuns, the Espiritu Santo Convent. It was so nice, a big room with real beds, not bunk beds, so neat and clean with pretty spreads on the beds and all the blankets we wanted. We really liked it there. We had to scramble to find a place to eat dinner, and when we finally found a restaurant it was full of our fellow pilgrims, I think we got the last two seats and it took forever to be waited on, but the food was good as always. I alote a huge plate of spaghetti with meat sauce followed by steak and fries, and I let Tom eat my ice cream. Tom had salad, fish with fries, fruit salad and my ice cream. 11 euros each. Today we are going to try and take on 26 km to the town of Terradillos de Templarios. We´ll see if we make it. My you all meet your goals for today, however great or humble they may be. If you don have any goals, just have a wonderful day anyway! Love, Patti 8)
Yesterday I stopped along the Camino to tighten my boots. Tom had moved on ahead of me (he walks much faster than me) so I was standing alone by the side of the trail, my backpack and sticks on the ground, getting ready to fiddle with my shoes. A young Spanish pilgrim stopped and asked me if I was all right. I told him that I was, that I just needed to fix my boots. He offered to untie and re-tie them for me. ( I thankfully declined). Later that day Tom and I shared our sun screen with an Italian pilgrim and her elderly uncle. This sort of thing goes on all day long along the Camino, pilgrims looking out for each other and helping with each other´s needs. Yesterday the weather was cool and windy on the Meseta, intermittent sun and clouds, but the rain held off so it was a nice walk. It was kind of a short trek, we walked only 14km from Itero de la Vega to the town of Fromista, because for the next 20 km past Fromista the albergues tend to be very small with few beds. So while yesterday was not an altogether typical day for Tom and me on the Camino, our typical day goes something like this: We usually wake up between 6 and 7am, hustle our gear together, eat breakfast at the albergue if it´s offered, otherwise we grab something from a nearby bar or cafe or even snag a couple of pastries from a bakery if there´s one nearby. Then we walk for about 4 hours until we´ve reached our designated lunch-break town. After lunch we walk for about 3 or 4 more hours until we´ve reached our destination town. Then we find beds at an albergue, take a shower, do our laundry, eat dinner, drop exhausted into bed, then the next day start all over again. Most of the pìlgrims who are doing the Camino do it alone, leaving behind their spouses, partners, family, etc. Married couples (like Tom and I) are much less common, though you see a few more young couples who are partners rather than married couples. There are also some other forms of "two units", such as sisters, mother-daughter units, two friends, etc. Sometimes you see people who are doing the Camino with a small group of friends. But most pilgrims have come to the Camino alone. They often find Camino buddies, another person with whom they´ll walk for a while, then split off and maybe find another buddy. There are also Camino families, single people who sort of join together into a group (like Martin Sheen and his Camino family in "The Way") then sometimes move apart and find new families. This breaking apart and re-joining mostly happens because people just naturtally walk at different rates, want to take rests at different times, etc. But even people who are with their spouses, partenrs, Camino buddies or families tend to walk apart while they´re on the Camino. Tom and I don´t walk together, mostly because he walks much faster than me, but also because I prefer to walk alone on the Camino, as does Tom. Not that we don´t often pass other pilgrims whom we´ll walk with for a little while, then we´ll wish each other "Buen Camino" and one or the other will move on. Periodically Tom stops to wait for me, then we´ll walk and chat together for a little bit, then we separate again. The Camino is generally a quiet place (which is why the whistlers and singers are so vexatious!). Finally, it often takes so much physical exertion getting over the difficult passages that it takes all one´s concentration - and breath! - with little left for conversing. In the evening in the albergues is the time and place we pilgrims all reconnect with each other, usually over dinner. So that´s a pretty typical day. The albergue we stayed at fin Fromista for 8 euros last night, "El Estrella de la Camino", was a lovely place, with a rose garden terrace and a glassed-in cabinet for us to leave our boots in. Inside it resembled a hotel more than your standard albergues, with nice, sunny sitting rooms with computers, - useless, non-working computers, of course (I found a bar this morning that had a working one - yaya!) - but the rooms were nice, anyway. The dorm rooms were nice and roomy, too, so we weren´t all on top of each other. Only draw back : the bathrooms, though they looked spotless and well-cared for, smelled like doody. I don´t know whether it was a plumbing problem or a doody problem, but the essence of doody was definitely in the air. But then they a had a laundry service - 7euros - so all was forgiven! Plus the 10 euro dinner was really good, except that they didn´t serve wine ( I didn´t miss it, I think the others did) but instead gave everyone (except me) a shot of grappa (a strong grain alcohol product) after the meal. Anyway, Tom had the salad for openers and I had a plate of white asparagus (they eat it white over here) with a few other veggies on the side. Next we both had marinated pork chops with hot, home-made fries (served with every meal!) and for dessert we had ice cream bars, delicious, right down to the last lick of the ice cream bars! Our dinner partner was Francois, a retired soldier from the Belgian army. His last assignment was as a driver for a colonel in Kosovo. Apparantly all the armies invoved in Kosovo, American, Belgian, Russian, German, maybe a few more, worked together and Francois was sort of lent around to work for the other armies sometimes. He cracked us up`with his observations and comparisons of the different armies. He was astounded when he entered the American camp: It wasn´t a camp, he said, it was a city, complete with Mac Donalds and evey brand of fast food rrestaurant! He could hardly believe the mess hall either; how th esoldiers didn´t help themselves to their food, but had someone behind a glass picking out the food with a tongs, (he´d never seen our American cafeteria style!) and the unbelievable portions. There was a lot he liked about our army , though, like the discipline and how well the chain of command was observed. Anyway, it was a fun, laughter-filled evening. This morning we started the day in a bakery where we scarfed down toasted baguettes with butter and jelly and for dessert a chocolate-filled croissant for Tom and a slice of apple-cake for me. So now we´re all fueled up to hopefully cover 20.5 km from Fromista to the town of Carrion De Los Condes. May you all cover all the territory you need to today! Love, Patti 8)
By yesterday morning the rain had stopped and everyone´s rain gear had dried out but our boots hadn´t quite. As a result there was a wave of boot anxiety running through the mega-mall albergue at Hontanas, many pilgrims worried about having to go back out on the Camino in wet boots. I was suffering from a different kind of boot anxiety. The the woman in the bunk above mine didn´t know what she was going to do because her boots had fallen apart the day before in the rain and mud. Which made me start to obsess over what I would do if my boots fell apart. I bought my boots a year ago and I´d been breaking them in ever since; what if I´d over-done it and mine also fell apart on a rainy day on the Camino? I worried over the scenario much of yesterday morning as we walked along the Meseta through the intermittent sun and rain. Finally I formulated a plan: if my boots fell apart I would catch a bus, taxi, horse,whatever, to Leon, about 300 km from where we are now, - where I´d heard there was a big sporting goods store. But what if they didn´t carry a pair of boots in Leon to fit my big narrow American feet? And what if i found a pair of boots that fit but weren´t comfortable? And what if I found a pair of boots that fit and were comfortable but I couldn´t use them because I didn´t have a chance to break them in first? And who even said my boots were going to fall apart anyway? Finally I decided to try and take to heart the pilgrim saying: Worrying is praying for something you don´t want. We walked on to the town of Castrojeriz where ate our lunch, Spanish omelet sandwiches made for us that morning at the restaurant of the Hontanas albergue, sitting on a bench in the rain. We made a note to ourselves not to pack a lunch in the morning anymore. Because from now on if it´s raining we want to eat lunch in a cafe, and if it´s not raining we could always buy picnic ingredients in our lunch destination town, but if we pack a lunch in the morning and it´s raining in our lunch town and we can´t find a friendly albergue that will let us pop in and lunch-crash, then chances are we´ll end up again eating our lunch on a bench in the rain. Which, by the way didn´t kill us, and was ´way less annoying than the whistling pilgrim we crossed paths with later that afternoon. Nothing worse than a Camino whistler, they´ll drive you nuts, though I´ve heard Camino singers can also drive you batty, but we haven´t passed a singer yet. We finished our 20.4 km´s and arrived at the small town of Itero De La Vega where we stayed at a really nice little family-owned albergue/bar/restaurant, Puente Fitero 8 euros each. There was also laundry service here (Give your filthy, reeking clothes to the hospitaliero and have them returned smelling like springtime! I´m getting spoiled! Even though I think the hospitaliero kind of gouged me - he charged 9 euros, translates into about $13.50, for my lad of laundry, but then I did sort of put him out since I gave him my laundry late, right when he was in the midst of trying to get dinner together. But I didn´t care about the 9 euros. I´d have paid double!) The beds in the albergue were a tad close, but there was a big, really pretty courtyard where the pilgrims all congregated for a beer before dinner or just to sit and talk and strike up immediate friendships with fellow pilgrims they might never run into again. (But of course we´re always happy to meet-up again with fellow pilgrims down the road). Once again I had the impression of a college campus, and over dinner that night (9 euros for salad, pork filet & fries for me, chicken filet & fries for Tom, ice cream for dessert for me, flan for Tom - delicious, as always) one of dinner mates made the same observation - the albergues felt like college dorms. We had such good dinner conversation last night with a Belgian guy about our age who we´ve sort of been hanging with for the days, Chris, and the three Austrailans, Roger, his wife Liz, and their friend Martin, whom we roomed with one night back in Viana. Of course, Tom always gets the politcal discussion going, and this group made for good discussion, we just sat there talking for so long. (Unfortuantely we happened to glance at a Spanish language TV yesterday morning so we could figure out, even in Spanish that the US government has been shut down. Our fellow pilgrims from other countries are also concerned about this turn of events). Well, the sun came up anyway this morning anyway and the weather looks not to bad so hopefully we´ll be spared the rain - and the mud! I wish you all the gift of a sunny day today. Love, Patti 8)
Yesterday along with the ultimate pilgrim experience we almost had the ultimate supreme pilgrim experience. After having an awesome breakfast in the bar at Rabe De Las Calzadas, having the bar owner make us sandwiches and sides of olives and cocktail onions to take along for lunch and grabbing a couple of cream-filled pastries for the road I went to pay for everything and found I didn´t have my wallet! I immediately emptied my pockets and my backpack on a bar table. But it wasn´t there. So we left all our gear in the bar and told the bar owner we´d be right back . He was standing behind the bar engrossed in his smart phone from which he didn´t look up but he waved his hand and said, "take your time, relax." -¡ We were very relaxed. Not! We hot-footed it back through the town, up the steps and through the garden gate - which, fortunately wasn´´t locked - back to the little albergue attached to our hosptaliero´s house, and luckily, the mini-albergue didn´t even have a lock on the door! And there was my wallet on the floor of the albergue-room! I was so jubilant that setting out for our first day on the Meseta (the vast, empty Spanish plains) in the pouring rain with wet laundry pinned to our backpacks didn´t even seem all that bad. At least for the first few hours. But by the time we reached the town where we´d planned to stop to eat lunch my mood was such that I couldn´t forgo (in so many words) making the observation that, retrospect it would have made more sense, instead of along sandwiches, to have planned to eat at a cafe where we could at least get in out of the rain and dry off. (I´m afraid I didn´t express myslef that politely, though). Tom replied, "The Camino will provide.¨ Yeah, right, thought I. But then as we approached the town´s little albergue the light bulb went off in my head: I popped into the albergue and asked the hospitaliero if we could maybe eat our lunch on the table of the albergue´s common room. "Of course," replied the awesome hospitaliero, "you can´t eat your lunch out on the street in the rain!" So the Scoutmaster was right: the Camino provided! After lunch we slogged on in the wind and rain over the muddy, unchanging plain until we reached our18.5 km destination, the twon of Hontanas. On the Camino we pilgrims still exhcanged "Buen Caminos", but none of us were our cheeryusual, walk-next-to-each-other -and chat-for -a while selves. We all just gloomed on. Except for the Scoutmaster. He was his usual, upbeat self. To anyone he recognized as understanding English he´d call: "In the Army weused to say,, if it ain´t raining, it ain´t training." One girl called back, "If it´s not sunny, that´s not funny!" so even the driving rain can´t quench witty repartee on the the Camino! the mud was bad, though, it stuck to our boots and threatened to pull them off our feet. I was feeling anxiety because my boots and rain pants were so mud-covered. I couldn´t stop thoughts like, "How will I clean my rain gear? What if they won´t let me in the albergue because my boots are so mud-covered?¨" Of course, that kind of thinking was ridiculous, since every other pilgrim on the trail was just as wet and muddy as me! The town of Hosanas finally seemed to just pop up from out of nowhere on the plain, but what a town! What I actually mean is, what an albergue! It was kind of like an albergue mall. It had a bar, restaurant, mini mall, laundry service (which everybody, of course, jumped on!) and lots of sinks to wash our dirty gear in and lines to hang them on. It was a massive place, and the staff was so don´t-worry-about-the-dirt laid back that I felt as if I´d arrived at my El Dorado. All this at a cost of 5 euros per person! Dinner in the dining room was 9 euros and delicious: salad for starters, then Tom had the chicken stew and I had the very tasty beef stew, then ice cream for me and blueberry flan for Tom. We sat with a couple other pilgrims, and they agreed that they were feeling down on the Camiano today, a combo of the rain, mud, and unchanging landscape. But we were all feeling good at dinner, thankful for such nice accomodations and fellowship. I guess it´s as Tom said: the Camino will provide. So now for us it´s back out ont the muddy Camino, but may your day provide you with all you need. Love, Pattti 8)
NB: Again I´ve mixed up my days! It was on Saturday that we left Villafranca de Montes de Oca de Montes and went to Ages. Then:
On Sunday we left Ages and walked 22 km from Ages to Burgos. The first part of the walk was nice, up a high mountain where the view would have been spectacular if not for the rain and mist, then through forests and fields. Then about 10 km outside Burgos we had to schlepp along an industrial highway of factories, big box stores and office parks. Back to life, back to reality! But we made it to Burgos and - tada! - a cash machine! One thing puts Burgos on the map: It´s cathedral. Built in the 13th century, it´s one of the largest cathedrals on the planet and, many say, one of the most beautiful. It´s mind-bogglingly massive. You could easily spend a day or more visiting it, which is why most pilgrims spend an extra day in Burgos to tour the cathedral. But because of the cathedral Burgos is really more a tourist town than a pilgrim town. The area around the cathdral where the albergues are is full of hotels, souvenir shops and upscale bars and restaurants, and we could find only one place that served a 10 euro pilgrim meal, and that only after 8 pm, practically past our bedtime! Still, the meal was great. Tom and I both started with the salad, good but no tuna for the pilgrims. For our next course Tom chose the fish, which he really liked, and I had a burger that definitely goes on my best burger list. It was bunless (served with another side salad instead) but huge, juicy and rare, my ideal burger, served with those hot, delicious home-made fries that accompany almost every meal in Spain. For dessert Tom had ice cream, I had vanilla pudding with cinnamon. The food was good, so all the pigrims were happy. Which brings us to the second wonderful edifice to be found in
Burgo¨: the municipal albergue. It´s located almost across from the cathedral and had an old stone facade, but inside it´s a a modern 6-story building with elevators and in the lobby six big numbered vertical drawers that pull out like morgue drawers and contain shelves on which the pilgrims leave their boots according to their floor! This building also reminded me of a new college dorm, with a big beautiful common area where there were washers and dryers, kitchen areas and big long tables to eat at or just sit at. Our dorm was on the 6th floor in a room with 24 bunk beds. All of the beds were full, mostly with young biker dudes and dudettes (on can do the camino on foot, by bike, or on horseback). There are many young (and some not-so-young) bikers on the Camino, and although they cover many more miles each day than the walkers and the trail must demand much more exertion for them, it never ceases to amaze me how peppy they always are at the end of the day, chatting and bouncing around in their undies. In truth, pilgrims walking around in ther undies is not an uncommon sight. I think it´s just that in such tight quarters as we all have to operate in it´s just too hard to get the modesty thing going on. Still, as I´ve mentioned before, though a pilgrim might occasionally snatch a roll of TP or a few grapes, I´ve yet to see a pilgrim ever disrespect another pilgrim´s personal space. So, the next day, Monday, yesterday, we spent the morning visiting the catherdral then we ate our standard park-bench picnic lunch. On our way out of the city we came to a third awesome edifice of Burgos: a pay porta-potty, but this was no oridinary porta-potty: it was about three times as big as our American variety, a tall shiny metal cylinder, that looked like a space capsule or maybe a time machine. When you put your 30 cents in a door slide into the walll and opened with a whirring sound. Inside was a spotless bathroom with touchless sink and hand-dryer, too. When you were done you pushed the handle and the door whirred open again. It flushed itself after you left. The porta potty of dreams. We walked another 20 km to the town of Rabe de las Calzados where we seriously lucked out. There were two albergues in this tiny town and both of them were filled to the max. So the hospitaliero made a phone call and five minutes later a boy arrived and walked us through the town, up steps, through a gate and gardens until we came to his house, where his mother put us up in a little over-flow albergue she runs. For 16 euros each (for beds and dinner, but we gave her 20 euros each, we were so grateful!) We had a five-bed room and bathroom all to ourselves. So-so water pressure and no hot water, but the rest was great. She made us a delicious dinner, home-made vegetable bisque, potato quiche - I found out this ubiquitious quiche is called tortilla espaniola, so that´s what I´ll call it, too, from now on - delicious salad from her garden, and now I can´t remember what the other side was, but it was all very hot and good, I forwent the strawberry yogurt for dessert, I was so full (unusual!) but Tom had it. The only down side was that it rained all night so the clothes we washed out didn´t dry and it´s still raining this morning so today we´ll have that ultimate pilgrim experience of walking in the rain with wet clothes on our backs. We stopped at the village bar for the best breakfast we´ve had on the Camino, more tortilla espaniola, but a cut above the rest, fresh tomatoes, cheese, really fresh bread, toasted and hot, tea and coffee. And the bar owner showed me where the village public computers are and said I could use this one for free, so now´I´m all caught up and it´s time to go walk in the rain again, 20 km to the town of ...well I´m not sure the name and Tom has the guide book, so I´ll know for next time. Have a wonderful, dry day, everyone! Love, Patti 8)
Sorry I skipped a day. It´s sometimes hard (putting it mildly!) to find a working computer! I´ll try to catch up now. Anyway:
The pilgrims have been stealing the TP. I´d suspected it for a while, but now I´m sure, because when we arrived in the afternoon at the luxury hotel/albergue in Villafranca there were in each of the two ladies´room stalls four rolls of TP stacked on a fancy TP- stacking tower (Tom assures me it was the same in the mens´room) and by the next morning there was not a sheet of TP in any of the stalls! (And there were not that many pilgrims in the albergue!) In the morning the French lady in the stall next to mine discovered the lack of TP too late so I gave her some of my private stash. (I never enter a stall without a roll of TP squashed in my pocket). When I lamented to her the theft of the TP, the French lady, who I guess is more enveloped in the spirit of the Camino than me, disagreed that the TP had been stolen, but believed that it had rolled off according to natural progression. Maybe. But I´ve caught young theiving pilgrims snatching grapes from the gorgeous purple bunches that hang in the vineyards along the Cammino. I think to myself, "Not cool, little pigrim brothers and sisters. You maybe think you are only taking a few grapes, but it´s stealing all the same from the farmer who raised those grapes by the sweat of his brow and needs every one of them to make a living to support his family. Instead you should do as the Scoutmaster and his wife and help yourself to the tons of wild sweet, delicious blackberries that grow everywhere along the Camino. " Of course, I´ve never said anything to the pilfering pilgrims. Mainly because my next thought always reminds me that before I try to pluck the grape from my fellow pilgrim´s hand I should dispose of the watermelon in my own hand. Metaphorically speaking.
On Friday the weather turned from scorching hot to a cold, wiiiinnnndy rain. We left Villafranca de Montes de Oca and walked 16 km to the town of Ages. After 12 km we stopped for lunch in San Juan de Ortega, a pilgrim guide watering stop-over town which, as far as we could see, consisted of a church, the municipal albergue, and a little cafe. So we joined our fellow pilgrim herd for lunch where we had ham and cheese sandwiches on crusty loaves, a diet coke for me and a roll of cookies. The cookies in Spain come in rolls, kind of like giant rolls of pennies. My favorite to date are the lemon creme-filled, but this cafe only had chocolate filled, still we were happy. Until after paying for our lunch we realized that we were almost our of cash. I asked the cafe owner if there was a cash machine in town. He said no, the closest cash machine was in Borgos - a day-and-a half-walk away! I then asked him if there was a bus from the town to Burgos, but he said no. So after lunch we continued on in the rain until we blew into Ages where there also was no cash machine or bus to Burgos. We reviewed our financial situ and concluded that we had enough cash for two beds in the Ages municipal albergue at 9 euros each, a picnic dinner of bread and chesse, or something, enough for breakfast and maybe a light lunch, and two euroes left to write my blog (which the alberugue computer devoured then maliciously delivered nada! Happens ofter here. Grrr!). But we lucked out because the first floor of the municipal albergue was a sort of deli/bar, where for 2euros 50 each we were able to get a big slice of potato quiche, a hunk of bread and a side of mild peppers that went very well with the quiche. The dorm room on the second floor was spotless and spacious with wonderful (gender segregated - always nice!) bathrooms. The dorm was kind of like a big gym divided into two areas. Our area had dozens of beds but there were only four other pilgrims there besides us. I think that night was about my favorite albergue night because we hit it off so well with out dorm mates: Phillip, a young German medical engineering student; Andy, a young Londoner and enthusiastic foodie who owns a restaurant and pub called "The Grove" (In case you ever get to London); Jerry another Londoner who´s retired; and Pat, a retired Irishman. We talked and laughed (Who´d have thought that blisters, aching knees and shin splints could make for such lively and entertaing conversation!) into the wee hours, ´til almost 9:30 pm! Then the next morning it was up for the cafe´s breakfast: a large plate containing a giant croissant, a thick slice of bread, a sweet rolls and a chocolate croissant, (always a carb-a-rama around here!) orange juice, coffee for Tom and tea for me. Then it was out once more into the windy rain. Destination: Burgos and a cash machine. More to follow! In the meantime, I wish you all a day full of good, good things. Love, Patti 8)
Yesterday was a short day, we walked only 11 km from Belorado to the town of Villafranca Montes de Oca, which is kind of too bad, because for some reason the sun decided today to quit being a demon, hung up its devil horns for a while, and even allowed a nice cool breeze to blow. But we reliquished the pleasant weather anyway because we read that in Villafranca there was a luxury hotel, San Anton Abad, that set aside a section for pilgrims to spend the night, and we definitely wanted to check it out. The site of the hotel and parts of the current building date back to 1377, when it was built as a hospital for pilgrims and the poor. San Anton Abad turned out to be probably the most upscale accomodations we´ll enjoy on the Camino. For 5 euros we could have shared bunkbeds in a very big 20-person room or for 8 euros we could have shared bunkbeds in a very big 8-person room, but we sprung for the "luxury suite": for 10 euros we got to sleep in non-bunk beds in a long room lined with non-bunk beds. It was a pretty, sunny room, the walls hung with floral paintings, very pleasant. Each bed was in its own semi-cubicle with a bedside table. Since Daddy and I are married the hospitaliero gave us a two-bed cubicle, which gave us the impression of having our own private room. Sort of. Outside our room there was a big glassed-in sitting room with tables and chairs that looked out over a terrace, a church stteple and the mountains in the distance. Even the clothesline area was pleasant, located on a big meadow behind the hotel. The lobby of the hotel was just beautiful, done in stone and pink and yellow stucco and stonework with a big stone fireplace, a skylight for the ceiling coats of arms hung on the wall, heavy burgundy curtains and pieces of Spanish folk art all around. There were giant floral arrangements and out on the terrace there was a peahen (a girl peacock) strutting aroung. Thereś also a big painted screen behind the reception desk that depicted a baroque musical evening. So you can imagine all of us pilgrims milling around the lobby and the sitting area, "ooo-ing" and "ahhh-ing". The hotelś pilgrim was a little pricier than usual, butr the food was sumptuous. I wanted to try the garlic soup since I seen it on so many menus but couldn conceive of the concept of garlic soup. Having tried it here I concluded that garlic soup is, in deed, a concept better left unconceived. For my next course I had meat-stuffed eggplant with the ubiquitous french fries - very good- and for dessert, my usual favorite, rice pudding with cinnamon. Tom had the salad, baked fish with fries, and ice cream. He really liked his meal, and the other pilgrims we talked to gave their meals rave reviews. The bread was the best we´ve hjad so far. So I fivweOne exception: the womenś shower stalls (the bathrooms actually weren´t coed for a change!) left something to be desired on a number of levels, but then the water was hot and plentiful, so whatś to kvech about? But hereś the quandry: The town of Villafranca Montes de Oca is hands down the pits-iest place we´ve seen in Spain so far! Besides the hotel the town basically consists of a highway with about two feet of sidewalk on either side, a kind of rough truck stop ( used the menś room there. The ladies' room was occupied and I didn´t want to hang around in there, so I zipped into the menś. Why not? Theyŕe both the same. Except that the menś room really smelled like a menś room. Maybe the ladies room did, too.), a grocery store, and a beautiful church that also appears to be centuries old. And thatś about it. Which begs the question: who comes to the luxury hotel part of the hotel? One of the mysteries of the Camino. Have a beautiful sunny day, but may the sun where you are not be as hot as the sun on the Camino! Love, Patti 8)
Though we started out from Granon yesterday morning with great expectations, we had to throw in the towel - the very sweaty towel - after 15 hot, hot, km and stop for the night in the town of Belorando. This town seemed a bit run-down, but it is one of the pilgrim guide watering stops, so I´d guess there´s plenty of pilgrim business to help the town along. We stayed at a really nice family- run albergue called ¨Cuatros Cantones" where for 9 euros including breakfast we stayed in a very spacious, airy third floor loft with white stucco walls, exposed timber beams, and a skylight, where we shared the 18-bed room with only 10 people. The showers were spotless and the commodes well-stocked with TP (not always a given, especially in the municipal albergues.). The overall decor was very traditional Spanish, the stairways and halls done withpretty Spanish tiles, bright yellow stucco walls, and in the landings there were wood credenzas and wooden dish cabinets holding colorful dishes and vases. It was a very nice place. The family cooked a pilgrim meal for us, 7.50 euros, good but , we decided, not the best we´ve had. For starters I broke my vow to stick with the salad (Tom had the salad - I guess we´re back in tuna country. Marianne: canned tuna. With oil.) I opened with the paella mainly because I´d decided that while I was in Spain I´d eat paella, but I´ve come to realize that my own rice casserole is as good as or better than any paella I´ve eaten here, so now I´m kind of over the paella. But other than that we really liked this place. Oh, and for 3 euros they did our laundry for us, a servide that always warms my heart. Anyway, as for our day on the trail yesterday: Dad´s knee was thankfully, better. Now the ¨Only Rock On the Dirt Lot¨story has become the ¨Pit Bull Bite¨ story of the Camino. (Tom was bitten by a pit bull a few months ago. Believe me, a malicious pit bull is way worst than a malicious rock!). Any time Tom stopped to talk to one of his pilgrim friends (and he has lots -as you can imagine, his personality seems to transcend culture and language!) he showed them his ripped pants and bandaged knee and told his story. Everyone was sympathetic, we pilgrims always sympathize with each other and try to help each other´s hurts in any way we can. I guess we all know that any of us might be the one who´s hurting next time. It amazes me, all the pilgrims who are working their way along the Camino in spite of physical ailments: everything from arthritic knees to Cystic Fibrosis to good old fashioned old age. But as you walk along whenever a pilgrim passes you they smile and give you a "Buen Camino¨, and you ¨Buen Camino" them right back. "Buen Camino" is the Camino version of "Have a Nice Day". Even the people in the towns often stop and smile and offer us a "Buen Camino¨, and even the children do, too. (I wonder if they´re taught from a young age that that´s what you say to the pilgrims?). Anyway,I guess when you´re hearing "Have a Nice Day" all day long, you kind of can´t help having one. Add to that the beautiful natural wonders all around you, especially when you´re at the crest of a mountain and the panorama opens up all around you: mountains, fields, vineyards, and the piilgrims walking ahead of you look so small against this backdrop. "And I think to myself: it´s a wonderful world." May there be something wonderful in your world today. Love, Patti 8)
My husband Tom and I will be walking the 490.7-mile Camino de Santiago from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago, Spain. We leave Columbus 9/11/13 and return 10/30/13. God willing.
The sequel to "Equal and Opposite Reactions" in which a woman discovers the naked truth about herself.
by Patti Liszkay
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A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
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or in print:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library