Yesterday Tom and I set out from St. Jean Pied-de-Port for our first day on the Camino.
Now, probably 99% (or more) of all pilgrims on their first day take the Route Napoleon, which is 15 miles long and goes up,up,up 3,500 meters then steeply down to the next stop, which is in the town of Roncesvalles.
Tom and I, however took last time and this time the low road (which actually involves some pretty steep hills but not as steep as the Route Napoleon) around the mountain through beautiful countrysides and scenic little Basque towns (not to mention lamb traffic jams, behind which the morning commuters on the road must line up).
The low road then crosses the border from France into Spain and continues to the lovely town of Valcarlos.
Few pilgrims take the Valcarlos route because few have heard of it. The Camino guide books mention this route only briefly if at all, therefore only a few eagle-eyed pilgrims (Scoutmaster Tom among them) have discovered its existence, and so have to schlepp over the mountain on their first day - though the mountain route does supposedly have some breath-taking vistas.
But I figure we'll just catch the breath-taking vistas at the end of the trail in the mountains of Galicia.
So anyway, we walked the 8 miles to Valcarlos,
...where we stayed in the 10€-a-night municipale albergue, a clean, comfy, roomy place where only 8 other people besides us showed up, six other Americans and two nice Finnish ladies, and so the 2-shower, 2-potty ratio was much less crowded than at Beilari, our last Albergue.
Our hospitaliero there is a hard-working 22-year-old youngster named Michael who runs back and forth between taking care of the albergue and working at the town's tourism office. We chatted a bit and he told me that he went to school to be an electrician but that unemployment is so bad in Spain - 60% among kids aged 16 - 25 - that employers tend to only want to hire experienced workers. But how can one get experience if one can't get a job? He said that some young people work in their fields without pay just to get experience. I told him young people in America are sometimes in the same situation and so have to take unpaid internships with the hope of getting paid later. I guess it's hard for young people everywhere these days
For dinner we went to a cute little restaurant in town,
...where we ordered the the 12.50€ three-course "menu del dia". I started with another salad nicoise, called ensalata mixta in Spain, and involves a variety of veggies over the base elements of lettuce, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, olives and tuna.
For my next course I ordered that paper-thin but somehow amazingly juicy filet of beef that we ate so much of last time we were in Spain, with the requisite pile of french fries on the side.
Tom ordered paella, a rice and seafood dish, for starters and for his main course he had:
Dessert was a beautiful brick of vanilla ice cream layered with that chocolate shell that coats ice-cream bars:
Then we rolled back to the albergue, and by 9:30 the lights in the sleeping area were out and all the tired pilgrims, except for me still sitting alone in the dining room working on my blog, were tucked in for the night.
Everyone have a beautiful day!
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
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