Tom decided he wanted to lose the beard he'd been growing for the past two months,
....so that his face would match his passport photo.
So yesterday we found a barber shop close to our hostel called Vincenç Moretó Barber Shop with the absolutely nicest, friendliest barbers, who, even though they all spoke perfect English, patiently allowed me to practice my Spanish on them,
...and to snap pictures.
Next we took the Metro to Montjuïc, a beautiful park high on a hill overlooking Barcelona.
In the park is located the Fundació Joan Miró,
....a museum exhibiting thousands of works of my favorite artist, Joan Miró.
One of the museum commentaries stated that Miró found his inspiration in ordinary objects, the common everyday things of life. I felt that I could identify.
One of the big banks that you see everywhere all over Spain is called Caixa Bank.
We learned that the bank's logo,
....was designed by Joan Miró and is supposed to represent a little person dropping a coin into a box.
Now I love seeing the Caixa Bank logo.
After we finished seeing the Joan Miro museum we took a bus down the hill from Montjuïc and hopped off in a little neighborhood that looked like a promising place to find some lunch,
...and where we did in fact find a nice little restaurant where we had some great food.
Tom started off with a delicious goat cheese salad,
...while I had an equally delicious seafood pasta. After two months in Spain I'm finally getting the hang of how to eat prawns.
Next we both had salmon and potatoes with aioli sauce.
It was soooo good. We finished off our meal with ice cream, and the bill for both our meals came to 18€, about $20.
After lunch we took another bus back to Plaça Catalunya then walked down the crowded Rambla,
....to Barcelona's beautiful seaport, Port Vell,
.....where there's a walkway out over the ocean,
...and a shopping mall with a marquee written in English, that, if you step inside, you'll swear you've been magically transported back home to Anymall, USA.
Then we walked back from Port Vell via the Barri Gotic, old Barcelona.
...until we reached the pretty street in front of our hostel.
Yesterday was our last day in Barcelona. We loved the city, and we ended up loving our hostel, the Hostal Plaza Goya, our chic room with the light-up head board behind our bed,
....our fancy state-of-the-art bathroom,
...and the street view from our balcony.
This morning we leave for Madrd.
Yesterday morning our first order of the day was to snag some tickets to the Sagrada Familia, having failed in this endeavor the day before.
We got ourselves a two-day pass for the Metro - the Spanish subway system - as the Hop On Hop Off bus is good for sight-seeing but not especially meant for when you want to get somewhere fast.
We arrived at the Sagrada Familia at 10 am. There's always a staff member standing outside the cathedral gates whose job it is to inform the public of when the next available visiting time is. It could be five hours away, or two, or whatever random number the computer that runs the show dictates. Yesterday at 10 am the next entrance was at 2 pm. This time would not work for us because the previous day the computer at the Park Güell ticket office had assigned us a visiting time of noon yesterday when we purchased our tickets to see the monuments section of the park. So we couldn't possibly squeeze in Park Güell at noon and Sagrada Familia at 2.
We asked the sales person at the ticket office if we could purchase a ticket for 3 pm instead of 2 pm. He said he could only sell us a ticket for 2 pm but if we wanted tickets for 3 pm we could purchase them on our iphone.
Neither of us owns an iphone.
But we figured we'd game the system by coming back an hour later, our logic being that if at 10 am tickets were being sold for 2 pm, at 11 pm tickets would be sold for 3 pm or later. Besides, this would give us just enough time to zip across town on the Metro and see the Casa Batlló, another Gaudi building on our to-see list, get back to buy our tickets to Sagrada Familia by 11, then make it to Park Güell by noon.
Or so we thought.
Anyway, we metroed over to the elegant Barcelona avenue called Passeig de Gràcia where the Casa Battló, a home built by Gaudi in 1906, is located.
Notice Gaudi's roof-top chimney-cover creatures on this building, too, though I found these sculpture creatures not quite as spooky as the ones atop the Perdrera.
The commentaries I've read on Gaudi's work talk about the the tension he created between nature and art. From what I've observed of the creations of Gaudi -who's currently a candidate for canonization by the Catholic Church - I'd say the obvious tension in his work is between sex and religion
The block of the Passeig de Gracia where Casa Batllo is located is called the Block of Discord, as none of the buildings match.
We hopped back on the Metro and made it back to Sagrada Familia at 11:00, by which time the next entrance to the cathedral was now 4:30 pm, which was an even better time for us than 3 pm, as it would give plenty of time to visit Park Güell, eat lunch, and chill a little before visiting the cathedral. Our plan was falling right into place.
Until we entered the entrance gate, turned a corner, and saw that the line to the ticket office, which was non-existent an hour ago, was now hundreds of people - and probably hours - long.
We stood in line without moving for five minutes, by the end of which time our mutual desire to see the Sangrada Familia had withered considerably.
I recalled some words of wisdom once spoken by my daughter Maria when she was a teen-ager and which I've never forgotten: If you don't get to do something you want to do it doesn't really matter because there are so many other things to do.
So Tom and I decided we could most probably live out our lives quite happily even without seeing the Sangrada Familia and that we'd find other things to do.
Though we did get to see the clown hats atop a couple of the spires.
After our failed attempt to secure Sangrada Familia tickets we had to hustle to get to Park Güell for our entrance time - you have half an hour grace period after your appointed time, after which you'll be denied - andd got there a little past noon.
We saw more whimsical Gaudi structures,
More tension between sex and religion?
...and a beautiful panorama of Barcelona out to the sea. That's the Sangrada Familia dominating the skyline.
After we finished seeing Park Güell we decided to hop back on the Hop On Hop Off bus and relax while seeing the city sights from atop the open - air second story of the bus.
The bus took us on a once-around the beautiful Barcelona seaport.
We've decided that today we'll visit the port on foot.
Yesterday we walked from our hostel, around the corner past this building which is part of the University of Barcelona, I think,
...to the Plaça Catalunya, which from this view somehow reminds me of the Ohio State House in Columbus,
...and from whence we hopped onto the Barcelona Bus Turística, nick-named by English-speakers the Hop On Hop Off Bus.
The Hop On Hop Off Bus is such a brilliant idea you have to wonder why tour buses in every city in the world haven't yet hopped on board with it.
The idea is, you buy a ticket for a bus tour of all the places of interest in the city, but the bus stops at each place and at any stop you can get off and visit then return to the stop later, get back on the bus and get off again at the next spot that interests you. Or if you want, you can just stay on board and tour the city from the bus. The buses run every ten minutes or so, so when you're ready to hop back on the bus you don't have to wait at your stop very long.
The first stop we hopped off at was La Perdrera, the strange, amazing wavy-walled stone apartment building built on 1912 by Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudi
Though people still rent the luxurious units in La Perdrera, there are sections of the building that the public can visit:
...a model apartment as it would have looked in Gaudi's time,
...and, one of the creepier landscapes I've ever seen, the rooftop.
All these weird stone-creature sculptures actually serve a purpose: Gaudi designed and built them to cover the unsightly elements found on roof-tops: beneath them are chimneys, electrical boxes, stairway exits, etc.
I'm convinced that film director Tim Burton must have studied Gaudi's work.
Anyway, what I'd really like to know about La Perdrera is how much it costs to rent an apartment there.
After our tour of La Perdrera we hopped back on the bus and hopped off at the stop for Gràcia, an old district of the Barcelona,, to seek out some lunch.
On the counter of just about every bar in Spain sits a big hunk of cured ham, as shown here by a friendly barkeeper,
... that's shaved off in thin slices,
...and served with bread.
Tom and I found ourselves craving some Spanish ham yesterday, so we stopped into the bar of the above bar keeper and ordered us up a plate of ham with tomato-olive oil bread.
We scarfed down ever delicious bite and licked our fingers.
After lunch we hopped back on our bus then off again at Sangrada Familia, Barcelona's gigantic, fantastic, work-in-progress-for-the-last -hundred-years cathedral also designed by Gaudi and still being completed by architects, each of whom adds to the cathedral a bit of their vision. The Sangrada Familia has been called by some the Eight Wonder of the World.
It was quite breath-taking. And I must say, though I've seen saints, gargoyles and flying buttresses perched atop cathedrals, I've never before seen bunches of fruit.
We wanted to visit the cathedral but when we arrived at 1:30 pm tickets were being sold for the next available entrance time, which was 7:30 pm.
We decided to try again tomorrow, maybe a little earlier.
We hopped back on our bus and got off at the last place on our to-see list, Parc Güell, another Gaudi confection,
...where we'd hoped to visit the Monuments, an area of the park full of fantastic Gaudi sculptures, but we were once again denied. Tickets were sold out for the day and the soonest we could get in would be noon today. So we bought tickets for noon today,
We could walk around the rest of the park for free, though, and look at the Gaudi stone sculptures throughout,
which I though would make good sets for a King Kong movie.
...with Wretched stones lining the ceilings of the archways.
Gaudi's home, designed by himself, was in the park and as we were able to get tickets, we went inside,
The house showed some pieces designed and used by Gaudi.
A door knob,
a drawer handle,
the front door peep-hole.
Can there really be any question from whence "Beetlejuice" was born?
Yesterday morning we left Madrid for Barcelona.
We took the wonderful, fast spotless Madrid metro,
….from Puerta del Sol to the beautiful Madrid railway station Atoche,
.....where we stopped for breakfast at our favorite Atoche café, busy and crowded,
…and where we’ve stopped to eat every time we’ve arrived in Madrid, so that now we kind of think of this railway café as “our place”
We rode another clean, on time, oh-so-comfy 300 km-per-hour fast-train for the three-hour trip to Barcelona.
Our seats were in a "quiet car", with the following sign attached to the back of each seat:
Tom and I weren’t sure if that meant no talking, either, but we noticed that nobody else was talking, so we didn’t talk for the whole three hours either, just in case. The ride was quieter than church. It was kind of nice.
When we arrived in Sants train station in Barcelona, - with its fabulous business-disco decor -
.....we went into two-headed turtle mode and muddled around a bit before we got our bearings, figured out – that is, Tom figured out – the local public transportation and which metro to take from the train station to our hostel.
I'd booked us a room at the Hostal Plaza Goya BCN near the University of Barcelona on the edge of the area known as the Old Town, and we got our first view of this beautiful city when we arrived at our metro stop in the University district.
The Hostal Plaza Goya BCN,
...is located on the second floor of an old stone building on a lovely tree-lined street full of shops and restaurants,
Our room, for which we're paying about $92 per night, is pretty and modern,
...and has a balcony over-looking the street.
Our hostel is also close to the famous Plaça Catalunya and the walking street called La Rambla.
Our helpful hospitaliera gave us a walking map of the city, and after we were setlled into our room went out to have a look around.the Old Town
....past the campus of the University of Barcelona,
...to La Rambla.
La Rambla starts at La Plaça Catalunya and ends at the sea, but we entered it in the middle and walked a few blocks to the vast food market known as the Mercat de la Boqueria,
After we'd looked around rhe market we walked back to La Plaça Catalunya where we sat for a while, people-watching and enjoying the beauty of this city,
...and we haven't even seen the beautiful parts yet.
Yesterday I sent my kids an email with the website links to the hostal we're now at in Madrid and to the one we'll be staying at in Barcelona. I added that we didn't yet know where we'd be staying when we returned to Madrid on Saturday but that we'd let them know as soon as we had a place.
As soon as I'd sent the email it hit me: Geez-oh-petes, who at Tom's and my age plans on arriving in a foreign city in four days without yet knowing where they're going to stay?! It must be our left-over Camino mentality: you look for your lodgings when you come dragging into your town at the end of the day.
But of course we won't be pilgrims arriving in a Camino village, we'll be tourists arriving in Madrid and, as we learned to our dismay when we finally started looking for accommodations, our return date of October 31 is the worst night of the year to try and find a hostel or hotel room in Madrid.
This I found out when I went to the reception desk at our hostel and tried to book a room for our return and was told that the hostel was completely booked the whole weekend of October 31 because of Halloween. Apparently people pour into Madrid to celebrate Halloween and Puerta del Sol, the area where we were,
....is an especially popular area for Halloween partying.
The helpful hospitaliera at the reception desk called two other hostels in the area to see if she could find a room for us but both places were filled.
We then commenced walking around touristy Puerta del Sol inquiring at every hostel and hotel we passed if they had a room available for October 31 and November 1. Everything was completo. We came back to our hostel room and I looked on Booking.com for a reasonably priced room anywhere in Madrid and was informed by a pop-up message on the site that there was low availability in Madrid on the dates I was requesting.and the message suggested that I change my booking dates.
I've come to the conclusion that trying to find a hotel room in Madrid on Halloween is like trying to find a hotel room in New York City on New Years' Eve. You can't start looking four days before.
Long story short: I spent a long time on Booking.com abut did eventually manage to find us a room on Halloween night in Madrid, a hostel that appears from our city map to be half a dozen blocks from Puerta del Sol.
Now we two non-party animals are wondering what it's going to be like spending Halloween night in Madrid.
Which is at the moment a lovely city.
Puerta del Sol
Museum of the History of Madrid
A street scene that reminded me of Michigan Avenue in Chicago,
Parque del Retiro
Gran Via, which also kind of reminded me of Chicago.
The Centra de Arte Reina Sofia, which we loved, full of contemporary and political art.
...And the awesome, crowded little restaurant back in Puerta del Sol where we fininshed the day with a pizza,
....oh yes, and some doughnuts.
Julia made an interesting comment on the October 23 post about the Camino town of Lavacolla. She said that in olden times Lavacolla was the point at which people washed themselves before entering Santiago, and that she’d seen some old, old drawings of people washing in the stream at Lavacolla with the image of the cathedral off in the distance.
What Julia shared about Lavacolla (pronounced Lavacoya) was sort of along the lines of the off-color explanation of the Galician origin of the town’s name that the local barkeeper lady told us. Lava comes from the Spanish word lavar, to wash, and colla, according to our barkeeper, is the cleaned-up Spanish word for the naughty Gallegos word for the body part people stopped at the stream to wash. Again according to our barkeeper lady, after the gals washed their collas in the stream at Lavacolla, they’d then meet the fellas at the last town before Santiago, Monte del Gozo, for a little gozo on the mountain.
Bet they didn’t show that in the drawing.
As Tom and I were leaving the bar at Lavacolla the friendly barkeeper told us to come back again someday. I told her we would only if she promised to tell us more dirty stories.
Yesterday morning we left Santiago for Madrid.
As we walked through beautiful Old Santiago, the streets and cafés already filled with the Sunday morning crowds,
…our backpacks once again on our backs,
…it felt like we should be headed back out to the Camino, on our way to the next town, the next albergue..
But we were on our way to the Santiago train station, following the crowd of former pilgrims most of whom, like us, were headed for Madrid,,
...some to start their journey home, others, like us, for a few days of vacation. We’ll spend a day in Madrid, three in Barcelona, then one more in Madrid.
Like most of the Spanish train stations we’ve been in, the Santiago train station has a really nice waiting area, with a café
….and spotless bathrooms that smell of the best thing a public bathroom can smell of: Clorox.
The Spanish trains are awesome, clean and fast and with wide aisles and wide, comfy seats, so much roomier than airplane seats.
There are free movies, bigger-than-airplane bathrooms and a bar where you can buy food and drinks or just hang out.
And the Spanish trains are always run on time down to the minute.
Except on the occasions when they don't, one of which was today, when our train left 15 minutes late and the trip took an hour longer than scheduled,
After a 7-hour trip we arrived at Chamartin Station in Madrid dragging and famished, so we stopped for a snack, some particularly tasty tomato and cheese bocadillos,
....which we ate Spanish-style, standing up.
Feeling re-energized after our bocadillos, we .- that is to say, Tom - figured out the modus operadi of the local train system and we took a train to Puerto del Sol, the huge , Times Square-esque plaza in the heart of Old Madrid.
I’d reserved us a room at the same wonderful hostel we stayed at after our first Camino, the Bergantin, located on the third floor of an old building on a lively street off the Puerto del Sol..
Our room cost about $100 a night,
...because when we booked there was only one room left, a $100 triple. But we took it because we wanted to stay at the Bergantin.
After we’d settled in we went out in search of some food,
...and found a funky little restaurant around the corner from our hostel called La Taberna de Pompeyana,
..where we had the best paella we've had in Spain.
Then we headed back to our hostel, having made the transition from pilgrim to tourist.
On Friday afternoon the first order of the day for Tom and I after collecting our Compostelas was to find lodgings for two nights in this crowded pilgrim and tourist-filled city.
The first hostel we tried was full, as was the second, but the kind hospitaliera at the second hostel knew of a hotel where she thought there might be an empty room for us. So she called and found us a room at a lovely little hotel called the San Clemente on a quiet street a few minutes’ walk from the cathedral area
We got - you guessed it - the last room left in the hotel, though as it turned out our room wasn't exactly in the hotel; to get to our room we had to go down the stairs,
...through the breakfast room and out a door,
....across a terrace to a little annex,
...inside of which was our room.
....where one weary pilgrim could not resist immediately flopping down on the bed.
The price of our cute, comfy "garden room", as the hospitaliera called it, was 72€ per night with breakfast included.
And an awesome breakfast it turned out to be:
With our need for shelter taken care of, we turned our attention to our need for some food. We found a little restaurant down the block from our hotel where we split a salad
....followed by plates of great spaghetti,
...and where the server offered to snap our photo for us.
After lunch we walked back to the old town and cathedral area,
...and it was then, while walking through the beautiful streets of Old Santiago and around the cathedral that the rather strange reality hit us that our Camino was over and that when we left Santiago the day after tomorrow we'd no longer be pilgrims. It wasn't exactly a sad feeling, just a bit strange, and a bit unbelievable that we'd finished another Camino.
But there were many happy moments on Friday afternoon, joyful reunions when we ran into old Camino friends in the streets whom we hadn't seen in days or weeks and whom we'd been wondering about, and it was such a good feeling to see them again and to know that they'd made it,
We were especially excited to see Ken and Jen,
...an awesome and fun Australian couple, he 75 years old, she 73, who were my inspiration at those rough moments on the Camino when little grey grimlies would whisper in my ear that I was too old to be doing this.
Saturday, our last day in Santiago, we spent again strolling the streets,
....meeting up with old pilgrim friends,
.....friends Frank and Jeanette holding their newly-received Compostelas,
....and looking around the cathedral.
The streets of Santiago were so full of restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops and the cathedral area so full of vendors, hawkers, beggars, street performers, tourists and pilgrims that I thought to myself, it must have been just as lively here during the Middle Ages.
We visited the cathedral and saw the Botafumeiro, the famous giant incense burner that hangs above the altar and is sometimes lowered at the end of Mass then pushed by half a dozen servers and swung high across the cathedral dispensing incense throughout,
.....while additional incense is dispensed from hoses held by angels perched on ledges around the cathedral.
We ended our final day as pilgrims by attending the 7:30 pm Pilgrim Mass in the cathedral, where the first several rows around the altar were reserved for the pilgrims. And so we came together in community once more with our brother and sister pilgrims, one last time before we each returned to our own countries, cultures, and lives such as they would be after the Camino.
This morning we're leaving for Madrid where we'll spend a day before taking a train to Barcelona where we'll visit for three days before returning to Madrid for our November 2 flight back to Columbus.
I expect I'll continue blogging until we return to the States, though I may miss a day or two in transit.
So read on, if you'd like, dear friends, family, greatly appreciated readers, and fellow visitors - as we all are - to this most amazing planet.
Yesterday morning at the San Marcos xunta in Monto del Gozo, excitement was in the air among us pilgrims as we sat in the entrance area donning our boots, hoisting our packs onto our backs and grabbing our sticks for the final journey into Santiago.
One young pilgrim, all set to leave, her face beaming with happy anticipation, stopped at the xunta door, pulled in a deep breath, turned to her friends and said, "Let's go!"
I believe she spoke for us all.
As all pilgrims were required to be out of the xunta by 8 am, we left in a more or less spread-out group as the sun was just beginning to rise, all of us headed for the lights of Santiago, 4.5 kilometers off in the distance.
Now, in the movie "The Way" the pilgrims are shown climbing the crest of a hill to see a breath-taking panorama of the great cathedral of Santiago open below them.
That scene was totally video-shopped.
The approach to Santiago is about 2 1/2 miles through a busy urban area, the sidewalks full of pilgrims,
...still following the scallop shells, now in the sidewalks, to our symbolic destination, the cathedral of Santiago,
...And the streets are lined with tour buses.
Tom and I stopped at a bar along the way for some breakfast, our usual, tostadas, coffee for Tom, tea for me, and orange juice for Tom.
Which reminds me that I don't want to end this chronicle without giving a shout-out to the orange juice of Spain.
Now, I'm not an O.J. fan, but I can understand why the pilgrims, including Tom, were loving the orange juice in the bars along the Camino.
Called zumo natural, the juice you get in Spanish bars and restaurants is made in a machine generally located behind the bar. When a glass of zumo is ordered the server tosses several oranges into the machine and presses a button, which causes the machine to commence mashing and squashing up the oranges until a stream of juice sufficient to fill one glass has been caught in the pitcher below.
I've been told by those who appreciate their O.J. that it doesn't get any better than this.
After breakfast we continued on to the old part of town towards the cathedral .
When we arrived at the cathedral area we headed to our final destination of the Camino, not the cathedral, which is, as I mentioned, our symbolic destination, but to the Pilgrim Office,
...to receive the final stamp on our credential - pilgrim passport - and our Compostela, or Field of Stars, as the official certificate of completion of the Camino is called.
At the Pilgrim Office, when your turn arrives, you'll apporach the desk and hand your credential to the clerk who will verify from your passport that you have walked the required distance.
Meanwhile you'll fill out some paperwork which includes a box to check as to your reason for walking the Camino. The choices you can check are for religious, spiritual, or touristic or sport purposes.
As, even after having had 50 days to think about it I still wasn't exactly sure of my real inner reason for having wanted to walk the Camino a second time, I just checked the third box, touristic or sport.
Now, I'd heard a time or two from pilgrims along the way that if you're not doing the Camino for religious reasons then you'll be denied the Compostela when you arrive at Santiago. I didn't be'ieve that, though, and had considered it to be just another rumor among the so many one hears along the Camino.
However the clerk in the Pilgrim Office, when she saw that I'd checked the "tourist and sport" box, informed me that only pilgrims who did the Camino for religious reasons were entitled to the Compostela and that I'd have to buy myself a different certificate of completion - there's no charge to pilgrims for the Compostela - if I wanted one.
Not that the piece of paper is all that important, really, but I changed my mind and said I was doing the Camino for religious reasons,, which was fine with my friendly clerk.
However the clerk next to us, who'd apparently overheard the conversation between my clerk and myself, was perhaps not convinced of my sincerity. He asked me if I’d prayed while on the Camino. I told I’m I had. He wanted to know if I’d attended Mass while on the Camino. I told him I’d done that, too, as I’d been to the albergue Mass said by the Indonesian priests. Satisfied, the clerk said I was, then, entitled to the Compostela. But I had to check the correct box.
So I did.
And I received my Compostela.
It was a wonderful moment.
Today will be our last day on the Camino and we should enter Santiago by this afternoon.
Yesterday morning while we and our fellow pilgrims at El Albergue de Boni were packing up and getting ready to leave Tom and I started chatting with one of our dorm mates, a young Spanish organizational engineer. He said that he’d quit his job and was walking the Camino to have some quiet time think about what he should do next with his life.
“I’ve come up with ideas,” he said.
This youngster’s story was another variation of a common theme among pilgrims along the Camino: successful professionals who’ve quit their jobs after eight, fifteen, twenty years and have come to the Camino to find their souls.
A few days ago we talked with an Australian pilgrim, an advertising executive who’d worked in her field for twenty years, quit her job and was trying to decide whether to return to advertising or seek a new vocation. After five weeks on the Camino she was still undecided. “And now I’ve only got four more days ‘til Santiago to figure it out,” she sighed.
I hope she did. I hope everybody who came to the Camino to find something finds what they were looking for. As for me, all day long as I walked along the words of an old “Mr. Rogers” song kept going through my head:
Look what I found without looking.
Yesterday we managed to walk a whopping 23 kilometers from Salceda to Monte del Gozo.
After about an hour outside Salceda we came to a bar we remembered from our last time on this stretch of the Camino as being the most charming little place,
….where we’d had the absolutely best plate of sunny-side-up eggs and fries. We decided we wanted to re-live the experience.
So we did.
Later along the way we met up with some old Camino friends with whom we stopped for chats and photos.
We also met a young pilgrim couple from London who’d been doing the Camino since Leon with their cute three-year-old son in tow
I asked them what kind of stroller they had that could roll over the rocks and mountains. They said it was a mountain stroller with super suspension.
Who knew there were mountain strollers?
Several hours later it was time for lunch, so we stopped at a nice café in the town of Lavacolla where the barkeeper, a friendly Galician lady, told us naughty legends about the origins of the names of the towns of Lavacolla and Monte del Gozo and where we had our standard delicious cheese, tomato and olive-oil sandwiches – the cheese in Galicia is extraordinary – and split an also delicious ensalada mixta,
...with tarta helado –a slice of ice cream layered with chocolate shell – for dessert.
In spite of all the calorific fortification we’d taken on during the course of the day, by the time we reached the San Marcos xunta – as the municipal albergues in Galicia are called – at Monte del Gozo at the too-late hour of 6:30 pm I was dragging, sagging, and making a real effort not to start ragging.
The San Marcos xunta, located only about 4.5 kilometers from Santiago, has 800 beds at 6€ each spread out over about a dozen buildings on a campus that resembles an army post.
Though on the inside the buildings resemble college dorms.
Only one building was being used when we arrived yesterday, and about half the rooms, which have four bunk-beds each, were occupied, and mostly with young pilgrims;
…here sharing a community meal in the xunta kitchen.
The older pilgrims tend to spend their last night on the Camino in one of the hostels or hotels in the area rather than in the 500-bed xunta. Perhaps this is why when the friendly, jovial xunta hospitaliero saw these two tired-out, bedraggled-looking old pilgrims come schlepping in at 6:30 pm he led us down the long hall past all the occupied rooms and gave us a room all to ourselves.
Or maybe it was one last schpritz of Camino Karma.
Though we can hardly believe it, tomorrow - or maybe the day after, if we end up being slower than planned - will be our last day on the Camino. We're hoping to be in Santiago by Friday.
When we think back to the towns we passed through at the beginning of the Camino, St. Jean, Valcarlos, Espinal, Pamplona, Lorca, it seems like years since we were in those places; and yet at the same time it feels like the end of the journey has arrived so suddenly.
I guess maybe all life's journey's and progressions seem that way.
Yesterday we walked 16 kilometers from Casa Milia to Salceda.
Along the way in the town of Ribadiso we passed the xunta - the municipal albergue, as they're called in Galicia, - which was built by the Franciscan monks in the 15th century as a pilgrim hospital.
In 1527 the monks rented the building to a private individual after exacting a promise that the building would always be used to serve the needs of pilgrims.
Five centuries later that promise is still being kept.
We were hoping to spend the night in a really nice, off-the-beaten-track albergue outside the town of Salceda that we happened upon on our last Camino, but apparently since then the place has been discovered; by the time we arrived there were no beds left.
So we walked on to Salceda and kept our fingers crossed for some good Camino Karma and a couple of beds in the only albergue in town,
Karma came through and we got beds in El Albergue de Boni,
...a wonderful place, thanks to the friendly, welcoming, helpful hospitaliero, Boni, owner of the albergue, whose generosity of spirit and love of his calling is evident in the little touches - that mean so much - found at his albergue.
The dorm rooms were spacious,
...and each bed a small shelf next to it for us to put a few night things on, flashlight, watch, wallet, instead of having to put these things on the floor or on our beds. This little shelf was especially nice for the pilgrims on the top bunks as they don't have access to the floor and usually have to pile all their stuff on their beds. And in the wall next to each bed there was an outlet for charging electronic devices, a huge convenience. Also, in a room where another set of bunk beds could have been shoved in, Boni chose instead to put a shelf for pilgrims's backpacks, which usually clutter up all available floor space.
Next to the boot rack was a box of newspapers for pilgrims to use for stuffing into wet boots to help dry them out..
And the WIFI worked great.
And our laundry came out dry.
And the showers were gender-segregated and nice and had soap holders in the stalls.
And, for in the day room there were several massage therapists available to give aching pilgrims 10€ massages.
The massage therapists were quite busy all evening.
"Isn't this a great place?" We pilgrims kept marveling to each other.
It was a great place thanks to our wonderful hospitalier, Boni,.
....who has himself walked the Camino seven times.
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Kindle:
or in print:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library