By now, I’ve stayed at 11 different places on the Camino. Some places practice “transactional” hospitality. That is what we’re used to at home: you pay a fee and receive services, and its very business-like. I’ve shared a 30E hotel or private auberge room with my pilgrim friends, and its very predictable, and safe, with privacy
Then there are the “Pilgrim Pleasure Domes,” like Hotel Jackue in Puente la Reina. They built an Auberge in the basement of a hotel. It had dorm rooms and private rooms, and nice bathrooms, a communal kitchen, laundry machines, and all the amenities of the hotel: the bar, beer garden, masseuse, and a 13E Pilgrim dinner with good wine. Our group had a proper dinner party that night, and stayed up talking in the easy chairs.
I’ve also stayed at family run auberges, where the proprietor lives in the building and is front desk clerk, laundry person, and travel guide. The place in Los Arcos was one of those, and the place I’m staying tonight in Belorado. They are very friendly, carry your backpack upstairs for you, and have a genuine interest in the Camino. The guests are pilgrims, and there’s communal space arranged do people will talk. They’re often in funky, renovated spaces, and very charming.
Orisson was a fancy version. They could charge more because they were the only Auberge on the mountain. They served a communal meal, and asked us to introduce ourselves, which helped us get to know each other. That’s where I met so many pilgrim friends.
Then there are the true Auberges, run by the municipal government or an International Pilgrim Organization. They have a special brand of hospitality. The ones run by Pilgrim organizations have volunteers who come from all over the world to work for two weeks at a time as hospitaleros. They meet you at the front door with a warm welcome, and know what it’s like to be a pilgrim. My first encounter with one like this was at Roncevalles, after the epic walk over the mountains. I had a tough night sleeping with a snorer in the room and the hospitalero helped me move my mattress into the Common Room, where I could sleep. He also gave me the wise advice, “snoring is part of the Camino.”
I’ve been reflecting on all these kinds of hospitality along the Way, and how we can cultivate the warm hospitality of the hospitaleros a and the family run auberges at church. We are called to extend more than “transactional” hospitality, we’re called to be transformative agents of hospitality in Christ’s image. The Camino is teaching me so much, day by day.