Where are we?

Just in case anyone is keeping track, we had a easy walk today and rested in Burgos. Sent from my iPhone

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Bar hopping

We tend to stop at bars quite often. It is not that we are always seeking alcoholic beverages but rather that bars serve as a central focus for peregrinos. They are the major source of food and bathrooms, not necessarily in that order. The pilgrim schedule does not match well with that of the rest of the population of Spain. Pilgrims begin their walk early in the day when everything is closed, except bars. They eat lunch before comida (the main meal of the day in Spain) which means before restaurants are open but bars are open. They eat dinner before cena, the evening meal of the day and, again, before restaurants open at 8:00 or later in the evening. So we buy bocadillas (sandwiches) for the road. We buy coffee, juice, or beer (depending on the time of day). And we use their restrooms (servicios). And maybe have a slice of tortilla español just because they taste so good. Many bars offer pilgrim menus in the evening consisting of three courses plus bread and wine for about 8€. It’s not that we never seek alcoholic refreshment. We began a evening tradition with our friends from Sweden, Eva and Per, of after cleaning up at the albergue going out to a bar before dinner for beer and potato chips (interesting because none of us are in the habit of eating potato chips) and conversation. We like supporting the bars because they provide an essential function for walkers of the Camino.

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They are an essential part of the Camino for food, drink, relief and for connecting and reconnecting with fellow pilgrims. We are always encountering people that we have met before and who have come or gone on different schedules and whom we have never been certain that we would see again. We are also meeting new people with new stories that we may or may not see again. The stops at bars tend to be longer than they need to be as we sit and rest and eat and drink and share stories over the table. Then we we visit the servicio one more time, hoist our packs, and continue our walk along the the Camino and to the next bar.

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Sent from my iPhone

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I have been told by a couple of you that my photos appear sidewise or upside down. Yesterday I had my first access to a computer and I understand what you meant. Some pictures were sidewise, some upside down and some were even correct. It is odd because I take all pictures with my cell phone in the same position. It is odder still because when I went to my blog site (posterous) as the owner and went to edit and fix the photos, upon entering edit mode all of the photos were oriented correctly. I don’t know what to do about it now. It will take more exploring than I have time for so I guess I’m making it your problem . Sent from my iPhone

Speaking in tongues

As I prepared for the Camino I read a lot of postings on the Internet as well as a couple of guide books. It was said almost everywhere that although you did not need to know or speak Spanish that knowing a few phrases could be useful. This was generally followed by a few dozen useful phrases from English to Spanish. Having walked about a third of the way I think I can categorically say that you don’t need to be able to speak or understand Spanish. Nor, for that matter, do you need to know French or German or Danish or…even English.

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We met Jutran (our phonetic spelling of her name) on the road from SJPP to Orisson. She appeared before us as a pink backpack cover holding an umbrella overhead to protect her from the rain. She was struggling! She would climb up the mountain a couple of steps and then stop and rest. Her appearance was “Camino challenged.”
as we passed we said “hi” and words of encouragement and she laughed and said unintelligible words back. She is Korean and it turns out knows probably 30 or so words in English…less in Spanish. As we worked our way up and around a curve at our very slow pace we looked back and down and saw her barely moving way behind us. She would be lucky to make it to Orisson, let alone Santiago. Later in Orisson, over the table, we talked more with her. June managed to learn her story. I don’t know how. Her mother died several years ago. Her father died 2 months ago. Her son was conscripted into the Korean army. Her daughter left for college. Her husband is a busy banker and not home much. She decided it was time for her to do something that she had wanted to do for herself for a long time. She decided to walk the Camino. We don’t know how she learned of the Camino. We have run into her several times since Orisson. I’m sure she will complete her walk. She is walking without being to speak or understand English or Spanish. I have mentioned Sawa (though not by name). He is from Japan. We met him over the table and on the Camino many times. He enjoys interacting with us but probably knows 5 words of English and 3 Spanish…max. We wonder if he feels very alone but he is always cheerful and seems to be always happy to see us. He is walking the Camino without understanding English or Spanish. On the other hand most of our over the table conversation is in English with lapses into Spanish. Often there are side conversations in French or German or whatever. Some of our best times of sobremesa have been when the host of the albergue joined us for the meal and much of the conversation was in Spanish. We talked of many things and laughed a lot. So you can, indeed, walk the Camino without knowing Spanish. But the conversations over the table that include Spanish are richer and more enjoyable. Sent from my iPhone

Sobremesa

The difference between the two albergues that we stayed in the last two nights is striking. The one in Ventosa was only a couple years old and looked it. The bathrooms and showers were new and spotless. The had a washer and dryer or if you preferred to hand wash (and save euros) the had plenty of clothesline space. There was incense burning in the foyer where we checked in. The was a lovely, restful courtyard. There were 3 rooms with 4 bunk beds each and ours had only 6 people in it. They didn’t serve meals but had a small, surprisingly well equipped store. The staff were friendly and helpful. There was only one restaurant in town and we made it there just before comida ended (3:00 PM) for a very good meal of some regional foods with great service. That evening we ate a simple soup with things from the store and talked with others traveling as they prepared and ate there meals. In the morning we were awakened with the sound of Gregorian chanting and, again, incense. We met and enjoyed talking with a Danish couple, Per and Eva, and together we decided to walk as far as Cirueña the next day and we called ahead to reserve beds.

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When we entered the town of Cirueña we walked past a golf course (the first we’d seen in Spain), past the golf club and its very nice restaurant, and past dozens of beautiful, expensive looking condos and apartments with a central common grounds with a swimming pool and…almost no people. All of these brand new buildings were mostly deserted. It was like walking through a ghost town. We walked past so many blocks of these homes that we thought we were leaving town and were sure we had missed a turn to our albergue when we came to the old part of town. We found our albergue in a old but recently painted building. It turns out that it, too, was about two years old. The man who owned and ran it was cooking but told us where to put our packs and where the showers and bathrooms were. There weren’t separate sections for men and women. The showers and toilets were each in there own small room/stall off the main room with one sink and a laundry sink all in a small space. It was all immaculately clean. We showered and went with Per and Eva to a bar down the street for beers and chips and to talk over the table about the day, other walking days and about ourselves. Back at the albergue we gathered in the kitchen for a communal dinner. The kitchen had, as June put it, a man’s touch. That would mean disorderly. It was very clean, just jumbled. Our host had been making blackberry jam (I’m glad someone is putting those gazillions of blackberries that have followed us across Spain to use) and had the pot cooling on the windowsill. He served us a mixed salad in big wooden bowls. He then took each of our bowls, scraped the olive pits out, filled the same bowl with lentil soup with chorizo, made sure we had enough bread and wine. And we enjoyed that course together. For dessert we had yogurt with his fig jam that we spooned on. And we talked and ate and drank wine and talked. Often in English as Per and Eva speak English fluently, but often in Spanish to include our host. There was one other man there from Japan but, unfortunately, he did not speak English, Spanish, nor Swedish. We interacted with him as we could. After hours of talking and laughing we went to bed. This morning we were served toast, butter, more home made fig jam and coffe con leche. There was music playing but it was more lively — Strauss waltzes. We told our host about the Gregorian chants the morning before. He said that was good to go to sleep but pilgrims needed lively music to make them feel good for the day’s walk ahead. He said he enjoyed sitting at the table with his guest, many times not understanding the conversations in foreign languages but seeing them laugh and talk and enjoy themselves. Other times, like this one, he could join in with those speaking Spanish. I noted that the time of sobremesa was special. He agreed.

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Today we left Rioja and entered Castilla y Leon. We stopped at Viloria de La Rioja and a pleasant albergue. There will be a common meal served and I’m sure we will once again have a great time sobremesa. Sent from my iPhone

La RevoluciĆ³n

Last night we stayed in Logroño. We had been warned. Many were staying in Viana, just short of Logroño for various reasons the main one being that there was a celebration of some sort scheduled in Logroño and it would be noisy. We stayed in a municipal albergue which was large (80 beds) and crowded. We ate in two tapas bars in the plaza. The first had bad service (with attitude) and mediocre food. The second had great service, good tapas, good Rioja wine, in a nicer setting and cost less. After that we went back to the albergue and to bed, though it was early. I was aware of a little street noise but went right to sleep. At about 4:15 AM I awoke hearing singing (not that good) and looked out the window to see a group of young men walking down the street singing at the tops of their lungs. June heard these rowdy young men all night and said it sounded like a revolution was going on. She felt, I guess, that she needed to save the Republic. As we left this morning street crews were busy cleaning up after the celebration (battle). We started off this morning with a double rainbow arching over our path. The photo does not catch the breadth or the doubleness of the rainbow. It was beautiful and held promise for the day. The end of the rainbow seemed so very close that I was tempted to go the end to get the pot of gold. But then I thought, “how would I carry it?” and walked on. It was a very close call!

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We had decided last night to stop in Ventosa, a short 20 km day. I began to think we were wrong on planning such a short walk as the day was cool and the path was a nice one for walking. Actually it was the coldest day we’ve walked with a little misty rain off and on. Not at all bad for walking. We could cover a lot of distance on such a day But we stuck with our decision and are very happy we did. June started having a new type of foot discomfort. Also for both of us it was a day in which our bodies and spirits just were not into the walk so we stopped in Ventosa. Not much decision making here. There is one albergue and one restaurant. It turns out both are excellent. The Albergue San Saturnino is small (26 beds), fairly new, spotlessly clean, serene and friendly with laundry facilities, a small store, and free wi- fi. The only restaurant in town was excellent in terms of friendly service, good food and nice Rioja wine. This picture is approaching Ventosa. We have been surrounded by grape vines all day.

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As portended by the rainbow, the day was a good one with a great ending. Hopefully June will recover from her battles of the Revolution last night. Sent from my iPhone

Learning how to pant

I’m not sure if it is innate, but we grow up with a notion of how to pant. That is with sufficient exercise, say walking up a steep hill, we open our mouths wide and exchange large quantities of air. I’m finding that is not a very good plan for dealing with exertion, especially when it is warm. For one thing my mouth drys out. Also I tend to lose a lot of water that way and become dehydrated. And finally the occasional bug flies into the mouth agape and that is just disgusting. The first two cause me to drink more water and after not having enough yesterday that means I need to carry more. Today I filled and carried both of our 1.5 liter Camel Back hydration systems. That’s 3 liters and, since “a pint’s a pound the world around,” that’s about 6 pounds of water that I’m carrying. So I am trying to teach myself to pant through my nose. It is sort of like yoga breathing only not so relaxing. It is not going well so far. I’ll keep you posted. Today we walked from Los Arcos to Logroño, about 28 km. That means that we have only about 635 km (395 mi) more to go. It feels good making such progress. It also means we entered Rioja, one of Spain’s best wine areas. I’m not sharing any interesting stories tonight. I’m tired and frustrated by lack of Internet access. Again I will wait to send this posting until I get access.

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Sent from my iPhone