Favorite Albergues

Mansilla de las Mulas

My 6 kilometer walk from Reliegos to Mansilla de las Mulas didn’t take very long, even with a limp. It was perfect walking weather:  cool with a breeze, and big, fluffy white clouds sailed in a blue, blue sky.

Almost to Mansilla de las Mulas

Almost to Mansilla de las Mulas

Out in the country I saw this fire burning unattended. It was such an unusual sight for this urban Californian, I had to take a photo.  Way in the background you can see a little fringe of snow on the mountains.

Fire burning in a field, en route to Mansilla de las Mulas

Fire burning in a field, en route to Mansilla de las Mulas

Mansilla still had its medieval walls, and it seemed like it had walled itself off from the 21st century.  The stores on the Plaza Mayor sold fabric and craft supplies, children’s clothing, and toys.  All of them had dusty windows and were closed for siesta. I’m amazed how Spain is largely unspoiled by chain stores or fast food restaurants. Not a Starbucks in sight outside of Madrid!

Tired PIlgrims statue in Mansilla de las Mulas

Tired PIlgrims statue in Mansilla de las Mulas

My friend Nancy had recommended a place to stay in Mansilla called Albergeria del Camino.  I’d sent my big pack there from Reliegos that morning. It turned out to be a cute little hotel with just four rooms.   When I walked in the entryway the owner said, “oh you’re the one who belongs to this pack! I didn’t have a reservation for you, but I have one room left!”  He showed it to me and it was so cozy!  He said, “this is the best bed on the Camino!” It was the Spanish version of a Tempurpedic!  I couldn’t resist.   After a soak in my own tub, and blow-drying my hair for the first time in several days, I went downstairs for a late lunch.  The Ensalada Mixta was a cut above the usual pilgrim menu.  I had definitely kicked it up a notch by staying at the Albergeria.

Fancy Ensalada Mixta

Fancy Ensalada Mixta

Javier, the owner, recommended I visit the Provincial Ethnographic Museum of Leon about five minutes across town after lunch.  Wow!  What a fantastic place!  I wish it had more presence on the web so I could post some links.  It was a Smithsonian quality museum about the history and culture of the people of the Province of Leon placed in a former Monastery.  It had three floors of exhibits of all eras of history going back to before the Romans.  Fashion, furniture, photographs, jewelry, traditional farm equipment, looms, spinning wheels, and other artifacts were all arranged by century and theme.

IMG_5839Visiting the museum was just the right thing to do that afternoon. I’d fallen in love with Spain and I wanted to understand it better.  So many times I’d wondered, “What did this place look like before it began to crumble?  What did the people wear 100 years ago?  What is the terrain like a little off the Camino? What is that mountain range? I wonder what happened here during the Civil War?”   That afternoon in the museum helped me integrate something of what I’d learned and observed along the Camino. And lots of the exhibits were in English.

I wandered back to the hotel taking my time.  It was a luxurious feeling to not be in a hurry. Perhaps that was one of the themes of Camino 3.0.  Taking my time.  I walked out of town a bit, investigated the Camino route for my exit tomorrow.  It crossed another rushing river, and as I looked back, there was a nice view of the walled city.

View of city walls of Mansilla de las Mulas

View of city walls of Mansilla de las Mulas

Back at the hotel, my room faced the church.  The stone glowed in the evening light. I rested on my “best bed on the Camino,” with ice on my ankle and watched the stone of the church change color as the sun went down. One of my stork friends was hanging out on the roof.  Seeing the storks in their nests all across the Meseta was one of the joys of my Springtime Camino.

View from room in Mansilla de las Mulas

View from room in Mansilla de las Mulas

Eating dinner in the dining room I noticed that by staying at the Albergeria, I’d shifted uptown into a more affluent crowd of pilgrims. Lots of people on the Camino ship their luggage every day, and stay only in hotels, or travel in organized groups, but for the most part, I had been hanging out with the backpackers. Among that crowd in the dining room I felt like I was transitioning back into my regular life, and also teetering on the cusp of being a tourist.  It felt very comfortable and it also made me a little sad.

A group of five Irish women sat at the next table. They were very jolly, and we talked over dessert.  They walked together for a week on the Camino every year. That’s more of a European approach—to do it in chunks. Right then I wished I was walking with a group of old friends, too.

I was contemplating whether to walk all the way to Leon in the morning.   It seemed like a prudent thing to get a taxi into town at some point with my sore foot. What did it matter really? It would give me more time in Leon.  I’d finished the missing link of my Camino.  I went to bed feeling conflicted about it. Tomorrow was my last day of walking.  Just 18 kilometers to go.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.

Advertisements
Categories: April 2015, Favorite Albergues, Museums on the Camino | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Reliegos

New Albergue in Religios

New Albergue in Religios

In the post, “Signs of New Life,” I wrote about the insights that arose for me as I walked and rested along the Camino from El Burgo Ranero to Reliegos. Because my foot was hurting, I had to go slowly, and that made be more open to the Spirit.  Here’s a little more about the end of that day, and my next day of walking to Mansilla de las Mulas.

The new albergue where I’d sent my daypack was at the entrance to Reliegos, and I was relieved to see it come up so quickly because I was limping.  It was only about 2:00, early to stop, but it felt like the right thing to do. I had the whole place to myself. The beds were all regular beds, not bunk beds, and there were plugs next to every bed!   I asked for some ice at the bar, and went back upstairs to ice and elevate my foot. The bedroom was a nice spare place to relax and stretch out.

Bar Elvis in all its glory

Bar Elvis in all its glory

Then I did some laundry, hung it out to dry, and walked a little farther into Religos to see if Bar Elvis was open. It was one of those famous Camino spots and it was briefly featured in the movie, “The Way.”  Of course, it was closed for siesta time, so I didn’t go in.  The graffiti all over the outside was wonderful, though. I really liked this advice:

Good Advice for Life

Good Advice for Life

 

When I got back to the albergue,  a friendly young Peregrina arrived and claimed another bed.  Her name was Alice, from South Africa. She was a divinity student at Oxford!  Alice had just started her Camino in Sahagun, so this was her first night on the Camino. We became acquainted over dinner.  She was so smart and wise beyond her years.   We were the only ones in the dining room, and half way through dinner, I noticed that I was bending her ear.  I must have been feeling a little isolated not having talked to a native English speaker for several days.   Among other things, we talked about our call to ministry and her experience as a female divinity student at Oxford.

When I told her about my sore foot, she said, “why don’t you send your big pack tomorrow, and give yourself a Sabbath?”  She said it with such disarming kindness that I found myself saying, “Yes, I’ll do that!”

An Italian guy showed up later that evening and took another bed across the room.  We greeted each other and got into our sleeping bags, said “good-night.”  Once again I was thankful for the company of pilgrims, and for the trust we had in each other.  It was one of the best sleeps of the trip.

Big Sky heading towards Mansilla de las Mulas

Big Sky heading towards Mansilla de las Mulas

The next morning I followed Alice’s advice and left my big backpack in the vestibule for Jacotrans to pick up, and just carried my daypack.  We walked together to the end of the village.  I was limping, and she was full of energy and ready to conquer the world. I wanted to walk with her but she was way faster than I was.  So we said good-bye.  She was headed to Leon and the mountains beyond, without a poncho or a coat.  I hushed myself and refrained from going into “Mom” mode.  She could take care of herself.  I was glad to have met her. She was someone truly called to ministry.

Trees along the Camino

Trees along the Camino

Later that morning when I stopped to rest, and picked up my daypack to put it on again, I was shocked by how light it was.  I felt like I was floating down the Camino!  What was going on?   I felt like a great burden had been lifted off my shoulders.  It had, of course; the extra 15 lbs. were with Jacotrans.  But there was something more to it.  Alice giving me permission to leave the heavy pack behind was rather profound.  It’s what I needed to hear.  It was an absolution.

Like the day before, when everything in the landscape seemed to speak to me of God’s presence, that slow 6 kilometers to Mansilla de las Mulas carrying just the daypack spoke to me of God’s forgiveness, and how light it feels to live without the baggage I usually carry around.  I walked slowly and with joy to Mansilla de las Mulas.  Thanks be to God, and bless you, dear Alice!

La Virgen Peregrina

La Virgen Peregrina

Categories: April 2015, Conversations on the Camino, Favorite Albergues, Return to Camino, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eucalyptus in Espana

I shipped my daypack for the first time in 5 days, and really noticed the difference. I stepped lightly and it felt easy going uphill instead of going into grinding mode.

I left the village without wi-fi that shall not be named, in full rain gear. Once again, there was a fabulous sunrise at 8:45. And then a vertical rainbow to the West, in the direction of Santiago.

Today’s Camino wound through one Galician village after another, with lots of cows, dogs, and chickens. For the first time, many wayside cafe/bars were closed for the season. Then we went through Palas de Rei and continued on through green forests where the trees met overhead of the ancient sunken track of the Camino.

And then, suddenly, eucalyptus are everywhere! It smells like home.

Last night I picked out a destination from the guidebook for my pack to be sent that sounded interesting: a Casa Rural, 2 kilometers off the Camino.

When I got to the turn off, it was a long 2k walk to get here, and as I walked and walked I thought, “I hope this place is ok, because I don’t want to pick up the pack and walk back.”

It turned out to be a nice, and typically funky place where a family runs an Alberge and guest house,with dinner. The kids were watching cartoons after school and practicing flute. There’s a giant stuffed rabbit on top of the armoir in my room.

The Canadian couple from Quebec, Lisa and Harold, whom I’ve been walking with on and off for the last week followed me down here. Then, at dinner, another group of Brits and Australians showed up, who, as it turned out, knew the Canadian couple from 3 weeks ago, and as I sat down at the table who should be there but my friend from Hong Kong! I hadn’t seen her since Ponferrada, and we hadn’t exchanged contact information because I was intent on finding the glove I’d dropped. What a gift to see her again!

We plotted over dinner to all meet at the giant Albergue just outside Santiago on Thursday night, which sounds good to me.

20131020-212704.jpg

20131020-212747.jpg

20131020-212808.jpg

20131020-212833.jpg

Categories: Favorite Albergues, October 2013, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Ponferrada on the Day of Discovery

20131012-213329.jpg

Last night I stayed at another nice Albergue, in Molinaseca, Albergue Santa Marina. It was very new, spacious, and comfortable. 7E for a bed, 8E for 3 course pilgrim dinner, 3E for breakfast.

We had a snore-free night in our room of 15 pilgrims in our IKEA bunk beds. But at breakfast I heard from a German man how a female snorer in the other room kept everyone awake. He described how at another Albergue he tapped a particularly bad snorer repeatedly on the head with the tip of his trekking pole in the middle of the night to get them to stop. Remind me never to sleep in the same room with that guy!

It really is unheard of in the USA to sleep in the same room in bunk beds with 15 male and female strangers, let alone dress and undress together. You quickly learn to avert your eyes early in the morning and before bedtime. And to think about how modest you need to be.

In the middle of the night I find it unusually comforting to wake up and hear my fellow bunk mates breathing. My fellow human beings. It’s primal in a way, sleeping in one big room, something we share with the medieval pilgrim’s experience. We’re all in this journey to Santiago on our own, and together. We give up an element of our privacy to belong to the community of pilgrims along the Camino.

This morning I walked with a young woman from Hong Kong. She happened to be in the bunk next to me last night and we struck up a conversation.

This morning was cold walking into Ponferrada, and we talked about our journeys on the Camino, and our life journeys. It was fascinating to hear her firsthand perspective on the Peoples Republic of China.

What we shared was a love for the Camino experience, and the spiritual healing that we’ve found along the Way.

We parted at the Templars Castle, where she met a friend from Germany. I hope we see each other further on.

Tomorrow is a long walk, and the day after, too. As much as I’ve enjoyed the Albergue experience this week, I’m also enjoying having my own wee hotel room here in Ponferrada, at a new place called Hostel Nirvana. There’s a hair dryer! Which comes in handy when you need to speed up the drying process for your hand washing.

The Templar Castle in Ponferrada is a dead ringer for the Fisher Price toy castle our son played with endlessly. Fun to see the real thing.

20131012-213222.jpg

20131012-213236.jpg

20131012-213255.jpg

20131012-213315.jpg

Categories: Camino, Conversations on the Camino, Favorite Albergues, October 2013, Spiritual Growth, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

What a beautiful day on the Camino.

20131011-205203.jpg

Last night I stayed in Foncebedon, a tiny village in the mountains after Astorga. Because I was concerned about my ankles, I decided to taxi up the hill to give myself another rest day but still make some progress. I enjoyed sitting in the front seat conversing (barely) with the taxi driver, who was a Bono lookalike. He very graciously stopped to check that my trekking poles indeed made it in the trunk.

I got to Foncebedon early and hung out all day. It’s a tumble-down village of slate stone. Lots of it has fallen down or is in the process of falling down. It reminded me of the song our son played on the cello from the Suzuki method: “Moon over the Ruined Castle.”

But there are 4 Albergues which are bringing the village back to life. I stayed in Monte Imago, run by a small group of yoga enthusiasts. Their shared paella dinner was fantastic. And there was a cozy vibe. I slept straight through the night and didn’t hear any snoring.

This morning I had my pack transported to Acebo, about 10k away, to be conservative on the mileage. It’s still a little unnerving to hit the trail and know that my pack is sitting there at the place I’ve just left. It’s a good illustration of faith.

The pack transport firm, Jacotrans,hasn’t let me down yet—I put 7E in the envelope and write a destination, and it magically shows up further down the Camino.

So off I went in the fog, towards Cruz de Ferro, one of the landmarks of the Camino. It’s a cross on a tall pole around which pilgrims have left stones and momentos that symbolize what they would like to leave behind on the Camino, or something in memory of loved ones. And many other things in between. People bring stones from home and other small items. The fog

was so thick I didn’t see the Cross until it was right in front of me. I left a stone and said a prayer, though, I confess, the Cruz de Ferro did not move me as much as I expected. It was right on the road, not as isolated as I had pictured it.

The fog and sun made for beautiful light the next few hours. It was totally silent and there was a timeless feeling—I would not have been surprised to see people in medieval garb or even fairies.

I got to Acebo early, and my pack was there, but I wasn’t ready to quit for the day. So I repacked everything in the main pack and went on, another 10k . Ankles are doing well, and I felt so energized by the scenery and the experience of walking today.

The last 5k to Molinoseca were tough—all downhill on rocky ground, but I felt confident about continuing on to Molinaseca..

I’ve picked up a bit of a Camino tribe: the Hungarian sisters, the Finnish woman, Austrslians, and the 70 something siblings are here at the Albergue. I’m getting to like bunk bed life—as long as I get the lower bunk.

20131011-192218.jpg

20131011-192257.jpg

20131011-192320.jpg

20131011-192342.jpg

20131011-192404.jpg

20131011-205221.jpg

20131011-205243.jpg

20131011-205311.jpg

20131011-205333.jpg

20131011-205409.jpg

 

Categories: Camino, Favorite Albergues, October 2013, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Astorga Sabbath

20131010-091041.jpg

Yesterday I took a serious rest day, not unlike a Sabbath.

I’ve been staying at Albergue San Javier a block from the cathedral, in a 300 year old house that’s been converted into an Albergue: two floors of bunk bed rooms, a downstairs common area with an open kitchen, sunken seating area, and a back courtyard with a balcony overlooking it from the second floor. Laundry hangs above the courtyard. The place feels homey.

After Camino 1.0 I am taking the rest thing seriously to keep the ankles happy. Staying “home” slowed me down enough to have conversations with fellow pilgrims from Korea, Spain, Finland, Hungary and Denmark. I went to the grocery store and bought eggs, cheese, good Spanish wine for 2E and made lunch in the kitchen. It’s was a nice break from coffee bar food. I sat in the sun and read, and had a restorative foot massage. In the evening, I had dinner in the kitchen with two sisters from Hungary. At 10:00 I climbed into my cozy lower bunk and slept 8 hours. Truly a Sabbath. Slowing down has brought me deeper in touch with my fellow pilgrims.

This morning I’m eating another omelette and sharing the rest of my groceries with other pilgrim cooks. It feels good to see the rest of the eggs get cooked, and leave the spaghetti for someone else to boil up another day, and to give back to the Camino.

I’m going on up the Camino towards the Cruz de Ferro today, after checking out the ancient hospital where St. Francis stayed on his Camino in 1212!

20131010-090545.jpg

20131010-090618.jpg

20131010-091112.jpg

Categories: Favorite Albergues, October 2013, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Night in Los Arcos

I loved my day hanging out in Los Arcos yesterday—experiencing the fabulous church, sitting at the cafe in the town square for lunch and later, dinner with pilgrim friends. Gina, Caroline and I stayed at a cute auberge, and splurged on the more private rooms. They shared,and I had my own room at the top. The ceiling has the original heavy wooden beams. When I went to bed at 10:00 or so, I heard what sounded like a married couple arguing in Spanish. I rolled over, wondered where it could be coming from, next door? How? The building was stone. It didn’t sound like an auberge encounter. The whole place was close for the night. I feel asleep. At about 3 I heard a woman crying out in Spanish and screaming! I was still half asleep, and wondered what the heck?? In the morning I commented to Gina and Caroline about it. Only Gina heard any of it. She thought it was on my floor above her. The Irish woman on my floor heard nothing. As we discussed it on the trail today I realized how strange it was.

The Aubergue was in a building that had to be 300 years old. Who had lived there in all that time? Certainly, many, many people with lives I would never know. Were the voices I heard echoes of another time, of energy held within those walls? I’ll never know. I do know that Spain has an ancient and passionate soul. The voices were not scary. I slept well and felt comfortable in the room. They were human and very real. It was yet another lesson in the mysterious quality of Spain.

20130612-212646.jpg

Stairs in La Casa Abuela

20130612-212721.jpg

Afternoon in Los Arcos

20130612-224050.jpg

Albergue Casa de Abuela in Los Arcos

Categories: Camino de Santiago, Favorite Albergues, June 2013 | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: