“I hate Zubiri,” I muttered for about the fifth time as we hauled through the town, trying to find an albergue, hostel, or pension that didn’t have a sign that said completo – full – posted on the door.
The problem, aside from the fact that we’d arrived so late in the afternoon, was that the small town of Zubiri is pretty much a mandatory stop along the Camino as there are no other towns around and there are not enough beds – or restaurants - to support all the pilgrims who start piling into the town every afternoon.
“C’mon, we’ll have to go to the municipal,” I said sourly after we’d been turned away from every other place. The municipal is the public albergue found in every town along with all the private ones. The municipals generally have more beds and are cheaper than the private ones and vary in the quality of the accommodations. Some municipals are quite nice while others are more on the primitive side. The municipal In Zubiri is the pits. We stayed there last time and I never wanted to stay there again. But we had no choice.
Except that we actually did. There was a ritzy-looking hotel on the edge of the town square. Don’t ask me why we didn’t even consider this place. I guess we were just in such a pilgrim state of mind that somehow the thought of staying at a fancy–looking hotel didn’t register.
So we dragged over to the Zubiri municipal, a huge ediface that was once a school and where the pilgrims were housed in bunk beds shoe-horned into the small class rooms. It could house 70 pilgrims. There would surely be room there.
. .But when we arrived at the municipal the hospitaliero sadly informed us that there were no more beds available but that for 8€ he could give us a mattress on the already-crowded gymnasium floor.
Now, Scoutmaster Tom, who during a tent camp-out would have found a mattress on the floor an absolute treat, was fine with the proffered arrangement. I, however felt my spirits going down for the count when suddenly a voice from down in the bottom of my soul rose up to the top of my head and this is what it said: “CHECK OUT THAT HOTEL, DUMKOPF!”
Tom had gotten into a conversation with some other pilgrims, but as the voice in my head was now sounding pretty insistent I sort of rudely interrupted. “C,mon, let’s check out that hotel,” I cried, dragging him away. The hotel cost 76€ - about $82 - per night including breakfast. I’d have shelled out $182 without breakfast. And the voice had warned me just in time. We got the second- last room in the place, and a man, a middle-aged American pilgrim, who came dragging in directly behind us got the last room. He said that his friends, a husband and wife, were just behind him and that they, too needed a room. But alas, there was no more room at this inn, either.
The hotel , called the Hosteleria de Zubiri, was pretty and cozy.
…..as was our room.
Now that we had a place to rest our heads the next project would be dinner. The two restaurants in the town had a crowd of pilgrims waiting around outside for a table, But last time we were here a local had tipped us off to a restaurant about a mile down the highway outside town.
So we walked the mile – oh, so easy when you’re not toting a 22-pound backpack – to a cute little not-crowded restaurant where we ordered the 12€ menu. We started with the standard – but very good, as usual - mixed salad. Next Tom ordered a delicious lamb stew while I couldn’t resist another paper-thin but mysteriously juicy filet, tasty veal this time, with the usual pile of fries on the side, for which the meat juice works wonderfully well as a substitute for ketchup. For dessert Tom had peaches in syrup and I had yummy rice pudding.
On our way back to the hotel we saw pilgrims laden with their backpacks and sticks, still wandering around looking for a bed for the night. I wondered where they would stay. I expected they’d have to taxi to the next town, Larrasoana, or maybe on to Pamplona where there'd be plenty of places to stay.
I wondered, too, how it must be for the residents of Zubiri who, from May to the beginning of November, can’t get into a restaurant in the evening in their town.
But walking in the balmy evening air with no weight on my back, a good meal in my tum and a lovely place to sleep, I decided that Zubiri is actually a nice little town. But I wondered what the poor crowded-out residents of Zubiri thought of me?
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
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