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)!
We woke up with another short walk ahead of us to Astorga. Nothing eventful occurred during the walk. It was, however, the day that the blisters first started to really hurt.
I know I’m just complaining right now but putting pressure on them with every step hurt so bad! I was walking around on my heels just looking like a huge idiot.
We had the opportunity to explore the town for a bit before our dinner. A couple of us went to a few places. Other than the chocolate store, we were just exploring. I actually had the chance to talk with a local. Lucky me, his English was pretty good.
After an amazing dinner, we all went back to the Albergue to relax for the night. Pretty normal day.
In between the cities of Hospital de Orbigo and Astorga at the top of a hill sits a run down building, a man, and a stand with free, organic food. This man, David, hiked the camino and decided to set up camp at the top of this hill and share his food and his life. His goal in life is really to share whatever he has. He provided pilgrims with all sorts of food-watermelon, bread, granola bars, nutella, rice cakes, peanut butter, oranges, and probably about 20 different types of tea… all for free.
David is such a free spirit and I love his life purpose. He gets food from a store (Iḿ not sure if he rides a bike or something, or if he gets food delivered everyday) but either way itś all organic and delicious. He sleeps outside under a canopy-type structure and lives in harmony with the world. That was one of his main points-to live in harmony with nature and his surroundingsm and share what you have with those in need.
As a pilgrim with food waiting for me at every stop, I wouldn´t say that I was in need of food so perhaps I shouldn´t have eaten from him, but I really appreciated his presence and encouragement. David was willing to give all he had to the passing pilgrims, an action that is very unusual, especially outside of the camino.
I’ve been a little behind on posting my journal entries to my blog. I’m hoping to get all caught up today!
Our second day on El Camino was to the Albergue de San Miguel in Orbígo. We had a short walk that day, and my body wasn’t sore from the day before so it was going to be a nice easy day.
After a few hours of walking, we finally saw Orbígo. The entrance into the town was pretty cool. We crossed over a nice stone bridge with a river running right underneath it. To the left of the bridge was a jousting arena! I immediately thought of the movie “A Knight’s Tale” and wanted to joust.
We checked into the Albergue, got all of our stuff settled, and headed out to lunch. After lunch, everyone gave me the nickname “the human garbage disposal”. I eat really fast and enjoy a lot of food….what can I say?
Later that day, we all went to the river and just relaxed. It was great. We took some pics, skipped some rocks, and just chilled.
Right before the night ended Jesse and I decided to joust. We both agreed to fall over when we hit each other. I took it waaaaay too far and completely wiped myself out…video and pics to come soon!
Hola a todos,
So today was a pretty lax day for us pilgrims. We hike about 17km or roughly 9 miles through very flat terrain. The skies had clouds today which kept the heat of the sun off our backs and let us enjoy the walk for the full 9 miles. We stopped at the Albergue de San Miguel In a town called Orbigo. So overall the walk was beautiful but uneventful as far as deviating from a normal pilgrim day, but the best part of today was the food at a local restaurant. Two of the best meals I’ve ever had In Todo mi vida! Very fresh, very well cooked.
The first meal was a second breakfast after walking which consisted of Spanish bacon, sun side up eggs, and French fries. All cooked to perfection and tasting good all you wanted was more. The bacon here in Spain is different then back in the USA, it’s thicker and meatier and at least twice as good, I didn’t think it was possible but there you have it.
The second was a three course meal of spaghetti with a light Alfredo sauce with bacon mixed in followed by a nice plate of French fries and cooked chicken, both better than any I’ve had back home. Finally I had ice cream for dessert, this was the only thing in the restaurant that was from a can.
I’ll be sad to leave such amazing food behind when I head back to the States and to a world of processed foods.
We left Leon with heavy hearts. The first day of the hike was easier than expected, and harder than expected. The walk was around 22 km. It took forever to walk out of the city of Leon. I had little expectation of how long distance walking would be on me mentally and physically. It was then I discovered second breakfast. We stopped at a little mom and pop cafe a few kilometers outside the city. It is a common site for copious amounts of lawn furniture lined with beer advertisements to welcome peregrinos to a well deserved rest.
I set my bag down, let my feet air out, and took in the wonderfulness that is second breakfast. This is also where I had my first introduction to cafe con leche. This frothy mixture of milk, coffee, and sugar would become my best friend on the trail. It is nearly impossible to hike the camino without caffeine. Im glad I discovered this fact very early. The second advantage to cafe cone leche is that it only costs around 1.30 in euro, which is still under 2 USD.
These short breaks usually last around 15 to 30 minutes and were the answer to my second wind. It is ALWAYS time for cafe con leche, beer, wine, or just orange juice if that’s what you fancy. Most restaurants offer small sandwiches, donuts, croissants, or even some bacon, eggs, and fries. Besides that, second breakfast is the only way you can use the bathroom without letting nature call in the bushes. In Spain, it is rude to use a place of business’s bathroom without having bought something. Second Breakfast, you saved my life on the Camino!
Starting the Camino has definitely been as much, or more, of a struggle as I imagined it would be. I expected blisters, but the full body aches that come with walking this much were more of a surprise. I never knew walking could hurt as much as a hard day of lifting weights. However, there’s been so many things that already make the walk well worth it.
The best part of the journey so far is the stunning artwork we get to see. The first day on the trail, we stopped at a tiny side of the road house in the Villar de Mazarife, the town where our albergue was located. I was a little sketched out by the town in general, but the artwork inside this house was fantastic. Done by a man who goes simply by monseñor, the paintings ranged from Renaissance era to Picasso-esque surreal. I fell in love with the color palettes he used in particular. We also got to visit his workspace, which was really fascinating. He passed away a few years, which made being able to visit his house all the more special.
I was also struck by the art in the albergues. Both the alburgues we’ve stayed at allowed people to put up their own drawings and paintings. The first one allowed people to draw all over the walls. The marks left were names, quotes, and some intricate drawings that make me angry about my lack of artistic abilities. The second albergue had an easel set up right as we walked in for any peregrinos that wants to paint something. The walls were filled with paintings past peregrinos have done. Some were classically gorgeous, while others were clearly a group effort, a show of teamwork and the bonding the Camino can cause. Our painting definitely fell into the latter category. It was so awesome seeing the relationship between the albergue owners and peregrinos reflected in these decorations.
It seems like every place we go to has something beautiful to see, and that’s not even including the walk itself. The vistas we see rival any master artist’s skill. There’s always some snow capped mountains in the distance, and they seem to egg us on. I love being able to see the real Spain, away the from tourist-y stuff of the cities. Not that I don’t enjoy that too, but being able to really experience Spain is wonderful. From the fields of farms to the tiny cities we pass through, this trip has already been so memorable.
Ok….I made it!!!! Through the first day that is. We finally hiked today around 24 km, and I´m feeling great. It´s so exciting to have one day down, and to know that it is not impossible. Gosh I don´t even know where to begin with this day.
It took us about and hour and a half to just get out of the Leon city limits, so at around 9 we were puting the city behind us. From then on it was these gorgeous rolling hills with snow capped mountains in the distance. The colors of the land were the most impactful. Tall green grains blowing up against fields of red clay waiting to be planted with the most adorable red and purple flowers decorating the road. I was literally walking with a smile on my face the whole day.
Once to the Albergue we cleaned and ate, but then went to go a tiny “museum”. It was actually the home of the late MonSeñor, who is a famous camino painter. His sister, Cristalina, now shows off the home and his work. I got to talking to her,and she was an amazing person. I want a pocket size Cristalina for the rest of the journey. She works as a nurse, but spends her weekends keeping up her brother´s home and showing off his art. She was telling me that his movement to this town helped to revitalize it as a top pilgrim location. The art was these great renaissance copies, but with surrealist venturing. I would put a picture, but my phone just won´t get wi-fi here.
But the best part was, Cristalina liked us so much, she took us underneath her brother´s shut down home to show us the 150 year old Bodega (which is where they used to make and bottle wine). We had to grab lamps and take these dark stairs under the house, and it was beyond worth it. Underground was just this huge cellar where they would stomp the grapes, and it would run down to the next room where they bottled it, and then the very end was a room to sit and enjoy.
So for now, I am beyond fed (I actually fear I might gain weight because they won´t stop feeding us and it is so good you can´t say no), I´m getting sleepy, and my other Pilgrims await to mingle with.
xoxox from Villar de Mazarife