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.
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.
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