Holly commented that 18.50€- $20.75- seemed an awesome price for a bed, dinner, and breakfast. That's actually about the average cost of an albergue bed with a huge pilgrim meal dinner and breakfast. For example, at El Puntido, where we stayed in Hontanas the day before yesterday, we paid 5€ each for a bed, then 9.50€ each for the pilgrim meal, then a breakfast of toasted baguette slices with butter and jam and coffee or tea cost 1.90€, for a total of 16.40€, or about $17.82. Yesterday however, the municipal albergue we stayed in charged only 10€ - about $11.50 - for a bed and dinner.
We figure we usually spend somewhere between $36 and $50 each per day, or between $72 and $100 a day for both of us together, except on those days when we haven'r been able to get albergue beds and so had to spend more for a hostel or hotel room. Of course one could spend less than we do by not springing 7 bucks a day for laundry service, as we do whenever laundry service is available.. I suppose one could also find a cheaper dinner alternative to the pilgrim meal, though not for the amount of food you get, and when you're hiking all day long you do need some decent nourishment.
Yesterday it was back out to the Meseta, where we walked 20k's -about 12 miles - from Hontanas to the Itero del Castillo
We ran into several expressions of pilgrim graffiti along the way.
The above made us laugh, as what pilgrim young or old, exhausted at the end of the day, feet blistered and aching, would have the energy for dancing, let alone romance?
Then there was this one, which also made us laugh:
...as it was written on a bench in a shelter at the top of a long, hot slog up a steep mountain trail.
We were intending to walk to the town of Itero de la Vega, but along the way a guy on a motorcycle came zooming up to us and handed us an add for the municipal albergue in the town of Itero del Castillo, which is about one and a half kilometers off the Camino. We paused. We were a little concerned about finding a bed in Itero de la Vega as many other pilgrims were also headed to that town. A little while back I'd talked to a couple of women, Danish pilgrims who were planning to stay at Itero de la Vega.
"There are three albergues there so there's bound to be enough beds for everybody," I said hopefully.
"We've booked ahead, so no worries," replied one of the women.
Hmmm, thought I.
So we decided to try our luck off the beaten path, which we hoped would turn out to be be the road less travelled.
The road to Itero del Castillo.
Itero del Castillo
We arrived at the Itero del Castillo albergue to find a note on the door that said to go to the bar down the block.
When we, two pilgrims looking for beds, arrived at the bar, a crowded, lively place,
...it was like the "Be Our Guest" scene from "Beauty And The Beast": "Peregrinos! (pilgrims)" called one customer, "Si, si, hay camas! (yes, we have beds!) called another. Then someone led up to the bar to the bartender/hospitaliera, a young lady who looked maybe in her early 30's, who registered us and verified that the price of a bed and dinner was, indeed, only 10€. Then she had us follow her as she left the bar and hurried up the street to albergue.
She let us into the albergue, gave us a quick tour and told us she'd be back to serve us dinner at 8 pm. Then she hurried back to the bar.
The albergue looked as if no one had ever been in it before. It was charming.
The WIFI was lightening-fast and the bathrooms were gender-segregated with awesome showers.
The view from our room:
. And we had the whole place to ourselves. That is, until two more pilgrims arrived, a couple of nice young Australian ladies, but that was fine, as it's always nice to meet someone new and have have some company.
The Australian ladies were as charmed as we were by the place until a little later after we were all settled in. That's when we started to notice what was wrong with this albergue: it wasn't actually all that clean. The trash cans hadn't been emptied. There was an empty water bottle left under a bed. And worst of all, the floors looked as if they hadn't been swept or mopped any time in recent history. There were crumbs from some past meal under one of the dining room tables.
Now, on only one other occasion had we been in an albergue that wasn't spotlessly clean. This was on our last Camino when we stayed in a convent in Leon full of elderly nuns whom we figured must have been to frail to keep up with the cleaning.
And we would soon find out the reason why this albergue was lagging in cleanliness.
At around 7:40 our young hospitaliera returned to the albergue to fix our dinner in the albergue kitchen. She had her two little daughters in tow, a 7-year-old and an 18-month old. She then proceeded to attempt that daunting task so dismally familiar to every mother: trying to make dinner while caring for a clingy, cranky toddler.
Tom and I tried to entertain the baby while her mother labored in the kitchen, but the child wanted her mama. At one point the woman was holding her baby on one hip while stirring a pot over the stove. Been there, done that, thought I.
After our hospitaliera got our dinner on the table, the best she could manage under the circumstances, and fine by us - a salad, a plate of pasta topped with canned sauce , I'm sure, a loaf of bread and oranges for dessert - she told us to just leave our dishes on the table, she'd come back and clean them later. Then she told us she had to get back to the bar, she had to finish up the evening, close and clean the bar, then go home and make dinner for her family. The she grabbed her kids and hurried out the door.
Now we knew why the albergue hadn't been cleaned. The poor young hospitaliera was overwhelmed. She just didn't have time.
The Australian ladies decided that they wanted to wake up early the next morning and, to help out the hospitaliera, mop the floors and give the albergue a good cleaning, But they couldn't find a bucket and mop or any cleaning supplies.
The idea was tossed around to have me, the only one among us with enough Spanish for the task, go down to the bar and ask the hospitaliera for a mop and bucket and some cleaning supplies. But then we realized that interrupting the harried hospitalera at work and asking her to stop what she was doing to rustle up cleaning supplies wasn't really such a good idea and might be taken as something other than the kind offer it was meant to be.
"Well" I said, "maybe tomorrow she'll have time to come over and clean the place up.."
Yes, everyone agreed, maybe tomorrow she would
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
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or in print:
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of German Village,
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