Isabel from the albergue del Pilar

By Mark

When we were presented with the task of interviewing a local person at one of the towns along the trail, I could think of no one better than a woman that we met in Rabanal in the early stage of our Camino journey. Isabelle Pilar’s family owns and operates an albergue out of an enormous house with a great courtyard that used to serve as the family’s household and barn. As we sat at the main bar and relaxed after one of our toughest days of hiking, we talked to Isabelle and asked her some questions. The backdrop of the bar was covered with all sorts of money from all over the world, keepsakes that pilgrims had donated to the albergue, and pictures of the albergue staff with peregrinos who had come through over the years. Since Isabelle was in just about every picture, we knew she was important! We asked her if she was the owner and indeed she was. She was full of energy and was dancing around and humming along to the music that was playing in the background of the courtyard. We noticed that it was all in English, and I asked her if she knew how to speak it. She replied no, but that her daughter knew a little bit. Isabelle said that she loved serving all the pilgrims and providing them with food and place to stay, but that it was tiresome work and she was getting old. We then found out that she and her family were selling the entire albergue and barn so that they could begin to retire and live a more relaxing life. Judging from all the running around we saw her do in the short time we were there, it wasn’t surprising that she needed some more help that probably wasn’t available. After about another hour or so of relaxing in the courtyard and eating the chips she kept giving us, it was time for us to turn in. If we weren’t so tired, I think we could have withstood a bit more pampering and her referring us as guapos (handsome)!

Rabanal, España

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