Yesterday we set out from Villafranca Montes de Oca and climbed the Montes de Oca, the Goose Mountains, a steep 650 feet to a height of 3600 feet.
It was a sunny, windy day, great for backpack-drying the clothes that didn't quite dry on the line yesterday.
We walked about 16 k's - about 9.5 miles -passing through a pasture full of friendly cows along the way,.
...until we reached the town of Agés
Now according to the guidebook Agés is a town with a population of 60 people, though the sign at the town entrance says population of 20.
The town has a church dating from the 16th century which, beautiful as it is, looks as if it could fall down any day now
Small as Agés is, though, it has the most awesome municipal albergue, with a great cafe on the first floor.
When we entered the albergue and approached the registration desk, the hospitaliero was busy with pilgrim before us, with whom he was in the midst of some long back-and-forth in Spanish that I couldn't follow.
When the pilgrim, who appeared to be a middle-aged man, was finally registered he sat on a chair across from the registration desk to take off his boots and put them on the boot shelf, as we pilgrims all do before entering the dorm area of an albergue.
Note the stacks of newspaper on the top shelf. The newspaper is for pilgrims to stuff into our boots to help dry out the insides of the boots if they get soaked in the rain.
Then it was our turn to register. I told the hospitaliero that we'd been at this albergue two years ago and had really liked it. He seemed pleased to hear that. He told us that just a bed was 8€ and he asked us if we wanted the "completo" package at 22€ each that included a bed, dinner, and breakfast.
When we said yes, we'd like the completo, the hospitaliero turned to the Spanish pilgrim who was still taking off his boots and joked in a mock-reproachful tone, "See? These people stayed here two years ago and when I asked them if they wanted the completo they said, yes, yes! right away!"
The Spanish pilgrim good-naturedly retorted that he didn't care, he still didn't want the completo. But after that the hospitaliero treated us like best friends for the rest of our stay. But maybe he treated everybody that way, he was such a friendly guy.
The dorm room had 36 beds, but the room was so spacious that we didn't feel at all crowded.
And once again we lucked out with gender-segregated bathrooms, though there was only one sink in each bathroom, which made for a bit of a crunch this morning. when we all wanted to brush our teeth, though all teeth eventually got brushed.. But the sink did have a soap dispenser and paper towels with which to dry our hands, amenities practically unheard of in the albergue bathrooms, where if you want to wash and dry your hands you have to cart along your own soap and towel.
Camino confession: Most of us don't bother. We just rinse our hands in the bathroom sink and shake them dry. On the trail I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer for the job.
We had dinner in the pretty albergue dining room.
Now, I'm gonna put it right out there: that dinner was the best pilgrim meal I've ever had on the Camino. I know that's a tall order to prove considering that just about every pilgrim meal we've had could be tied for first place. But what made this dinner soar above the rest was not the salad, though it was certainly a work of edible art,
...nor was it the Cornetto I had for dessert,
....which was of course delicious and fulfilled my goal of while on the Camino having myself a Cornetto - a confection one can find in any bar along the Camino but not in the U.S. - in honor of "The Cornetto Trilogy", which you fine film buffs out there will understand
No, what made this meal so exceptional was the entree, the house specialty called Pork in Sauce. And what a sauce! And the meat was so tender, it just fell apart with the fork. I asked the hospitaliero how this meat was cooked and he said it was simmered in wine and a puree of vegetables. Boy, was it good.
At one point during dinner the hospitaliero, who spoke only Spanish, came into the dining room with a telephone in his hand and called out, "Is there a Polish pilgrim in here?" As I appeared to be the only one who understood what he was saying I called out the translation in English. An American pilgrim popped up from his seat and cried, "There's an Polish pilgrim at the albergue next door!"
When I translated for the hospitaliero the expression on his face seemed to say that this situation had risen o a level beyond his pay grade. He then shoved the phone at Tom and said, "Ingles", which means "English".
Tom took the phone from the hospitaliero and began speaking to the man at the other end of the line who spoke English with what sounded to Tom like a British accent. Turned out the man wasn't looking for a Polish pilgrim but for a reservation for the next night. So Tom told me and I told the hospitaliero, who waved his hand distainfully and said, "No, I don't accept reservations! No reservations at this albergue!
Now there's a hospitaliero after my own heart.
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