Posts Tagged With: Albergues

To Sahagun

When I left Albergue Jacque de Molay I had one of those first thing in the morning thrills of freedom. The day was wide open, and exciting. I love that feeling! Zing! My legs felt strong, and everything I had was on my back. (Well almost everything. My daypack  in the vestibule waiting for Jacotrans.) I wonder why I don’t feel it more often. It must be all the endorfins. 

The Camino followed the Autovia for most of the day. I enjoyed the huge directional sign that pretty much described my Camino 3.0: Burgos to Leon!

We also passed out of Palencia and into Leon. The way marker looked like it predates the Autovia.

I love the layers of ancient and modern along the Way.

A little farher on, I ran into Tami again. She had ended up at the other Albergue in town for the night. (There are less than 100 people in the village. The Albergues are the only businesses.)

It was good to see her, and we walked all the way to Sahagun together. We’d only met a few days ago, but it felt like I’d known her a long time. She and I were comfortable saying hello and good-bye, and wordlessly knew when to give each other space. We both wanted to experience the Camino solo, but enjoyed each others’ company. She had walked the whole Camino multiple times. The rigor and beauty of the Camino challenged her and gave her peace, as it did for me.

Her more evangelical vocabulary of faith was different than mine, and yet we talked about God and I enjoyed her perspective. She talked about “knowing Christ,” and it made me think, “do I know Christ? I strive to follow him, and worship him, but do I know him?” Thought-provoking.

The last few kilometers to Sahagun were tedious. The Camino wound through a lot of indescript and abandoned houses with “se vende” signs. Just as I was going into “grind it out” mode we came upon a spot that had a strong spiritual energy.

It was a like a place out of time: a little Roman bridge that crossed a fast-running river. The weeping willows were leafing out and there was an ancient (locked) chapel on the other side. We stopped and took pictures.

There’s that saying that pets cross over “the rainbow bridge” when they die. I wonder if I’ll cross over one of the many beautiful bridges on the Camino when it’s my turn.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Albergue Espiritu Santu

I’d sipped my daypack ahead to Albergue Espiritu Santu in Carrion, so after “second Breakfast,” I went off to find it. I was thinking of treating myself to a night at the 4 star hotel San Zoillo, in a former monastery at the edge of town. But when I found the Albergue, I decided to stay. 


It’s in a former parochial school, and run by nuns. They’re a different order than the singing nuns that run Albergue Santa Maria. 

I rang the buzzer and Sr. Maria Antonia let me in. She was dressed in street clothes, and like many Spanish people over 65 she was less than 5 ft tall. She had a warm, authoritative way.  “Yes, they had my mochilla pequena. Did I want to stay?”  I was a little skittish about Albergue life after my Fromista experience, but Sr. put me at ease and the price was right: 5€!

She took my passport and credential as usual, but asked first if I was de Alemania, or German, like everyone does. I asked her about the convent and if there were many sisters in residence. She said there were just s few, in their 80’s and 90’s. There was not a shared vesper service as far as I could tell. Then she gave me a thorough tour of the campus and was very clear that the door was Cerrado! at 10:00. Yes! Comprendo! She showed me all the statues of Mary and then the Pilgrims’ meditation room/chapel and sleeping rooms upstairs.  


Camas, not bunk beds! Best of all, there was excellent wi-fi everywhere! I thanked her and settled in. It turned out that Tsmmi had already checked in and had the bed next to me.

Pilgrims were sunning themselves while their laundry dried in the warm corner of the former playground. There was a nicely equipped kitchen, and I decided to go buy some groceries and have salad for dinner. When I came back a young guy from Ashland, Oregon was organizing a dinner party so I added my salad to the mix. 

There were many cooks in the kitchen: French, Swiss, German, and a young woman from Seattle. They were all the age of my kids. Vino Tinto was poured as we cooked, and multiple languages ricocheted around the tight kitchen. 

Sr. Maria-Antonia came in and reminded everyone that they needed to be quiet and in bed at 10:00. Everyone nodded politely and thanked her. These young pilgrims were walking 30k a day, and they were tired by 10:00. The Oregon State student was walking the Camino in flip-flops. I guess you can do that when you’re 18!



I had arranged to walk around Carrion at 7:00 with Tammi, so I broke bread with the young-uns and then let them continue, which was fine because I felt slightly old.

Later, at 10:00, we were getting ready for lights out and Sr. Maria-Antonia came in with another Sister and said “Buenas Noches” to each one of us. I got a hug.


Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Dark night of the Snore

After my pleasant dinner by myself in Fromista, I walked across the street at 10:00 to the Albergue and pulled open the heavy wooden door to the courtyard. Or I tried to. Locked! What? I’d seen a sign that said “quiet hours” after 9:30, but didn’t realize it meant the door was locked. Albergues usually  close at 10:00. And usually, I’ve had dinner there and hung out, then gone to bed. This night was different because the Fiesta was on and the communal dinner was cancelled. I could hear and see the Techno concert going on at the other end of town. No doubt my Albergue guy, whom I’d met when I checked in, was down there.

I ran back across the street to the restaurant for help. The guy at the desk told me to talk to the hotel connected to the Albergue. I did that and there was no answer. I rang the doorbell over and over and an elderly woman opened the door. I explained my predicament and she was not amused. But after a few minutes her husband, who was standing in the background, said he would open the door. I walked back around the corner to wait for him, and no one showed up or opened the door. I wondered if I could scale the wall? I began to feel very foolish for even thinking that and for being in that position at all. It was like a flashback to my travels in college.

Just then, Mr Albergue walks up the street, smoking furiously. “Why are you out here? You should be asleep! You are Pilgrim!”

Thus ensued a huge argument between us in my bad, but loud Spanish and his bad, but loud English. Finally, he let me into the pitch dark Albergue and I found my bunk.

Unfortunately the woman sleeping next to me had what sounded like pneumonia and snored loudly and coughed throughout the night.  My white noise app was only of partial assistance.

Fromista had a few more things to teach me.


Categories: April 2015, Return to Camino, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments


I had a lazy afternoon in Hontanas at Albergue Santa Birgida. I hand washed clothes and hung them up to dry, but transferred to the radiators as it was abou 55degrees and drizzling. The hostel was a sensitively restored stone building with three dormitory rooms. 8€ for my bunk bed, 10€ for dinner & wine, 2€ for breakfast.  Beautiful up to the minute tiled private showers, in two shared shower rooms, but just two, also very new, beautiful toilets downstairs. It’s interesting to see how there’s flexibility in the building code that wouldn’t  happen in CA. For one thing, shared baths aren’t done culturally, except at camp sites or gyms.  But in a place that sleeps 30 would there be just two toilets?

The two brothers that own the place are there from April to Zoctober and then they go to Cuba in the off season.  Not clear on what they do there, but I found it interesting.

I was the only one there until 5 when Alan took another bunk. He was about 50, from Rouen, and spoke no English. But he had one those little brick shaped French/English dictionaries and we passed it back and forth over dinner and had a very fun time talking about the Camino and different types of wine, Californian and French, and how he thought French wine was vastly superior to Spanish wine.

It occurred to me that at home it would not be done to share accommodations with a strange man and would be perceived as dangerous, and for many reasons, rightly so. But it wasn’t awkward. It’s nice to know that a certain innocence, respect, and safety still prevails, on the Camino.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Burgos to Hornillos

Yesterday I walked 20k, from Burgos to Hornillos. I considered taking a taxi out to the outskirts of Burgos like I did when I left Leon in October, but the purist in me won out. After settling up my hotel bill, I crossed the plaza to touch the Cathedral and say a prayer, and then stepped onto the Camino.

The way out of Burgos took awhile, through city streets, past the University, and through a gate and a alley of trees that looked familiar.  I think it was one of the locations used in The Way.  When Martin Sheen leaves Burgos, the Dad of the young thief makes him carry Martin Sheen’s pack down a long alley of trees until they get to a gate at the edge of town. This looked like the place.

Then the Camino passed the penitentiary, and what’s known at home as the “corporation yard,” alongside the highway, the railway, and the autopista. As I was trying to find my way through several unmarked intersections, I ran into my first pilgrim. Gabby had just taken a 25 hour bus ride from Germany. We walked together the rest of the day.

By kilometer 10 we reached the village of Tarjadas and had lunch at the neighborhood bar aka pub. The energetic woman behind the bar was cook and bartender, and the place was filled with locals. My Ensalada Mixta was freshly made, and they had interesting tapas made with quail eggs.

After taking off my boots and letting my feet breath, I was relieved to find that there were no hot spots.  (I’ve become very protective of my feet.) Onward! Another 10k took us out into the countryside and up onto the Meseta. Looking back, towards the East, we saw a mountain range fringed with snow.


Everything was green and bursting with new life. Gabby shared with me the names of the birds in German.

Finally, we made it to Hornillos, and checked into Albergue Alzar. I like all sorts of accommodations on the Camino, but I have a fondness for the private Albergues. They’re usually run by a family or couple, and offer a communal meal.

After a restorative shower, the six pilgrims in residence gathered for dinner. Our hosts served paella, salad, wine, and dessert. There were two women from Valencia, a couple from Belgium who started their Camino at home and continue to walk several weeks a year, Gabby, and me.

One of the many things that I love about the Camino is this: it brings people together from many countries to share a communal experience. And last night the owners of the albergue were very involved in the dinner conversation, and it was fun to wade in in Spanish. Between us there were four languages spoken, but we had a lovely dinner party talking about our travels and sharing photos we’d taken as we walked.

I’m finding myself more interested this time in Spanish culture, and what it’s like to live along the Camino.

With jet lag and 20k under my belt, curling up in my sleeping bag on the lower bunk was wonderful. And my new white noise app and headphones, made even the more challenging aspects of communal sleeping easier this time.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.





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

More Reflections on the Albergue

Sleeping in an Albergue is a lot like taking a long airplane ride. You’re on a shared journey in a confined space. Everyone arrives, gets settled, and has to arrange their stuff just so in the equivalent of the overhead bins: the limited floor space next to your bunk.

I always make kind of mess, emptying my entire backpack on the bed so I can sort through it. Other people seem to have more organized systems, but I do have a bag for dirty clothes, and one for clean stuff, then my zip locks with my jumble of toiletries.

In the Albergue, I always make sure I have my iPhone, glasses, and water bottle within reach from my bunk so I can find them in the middle of the night. I seek out bunks next to plugs so I can charge my iPhone while I sleep. The newer Albergues come with lots of plugs. Medieval buildings do not.

There’s usually a shelf for your boots, and a big container for your hiking poles. Some places are very explicit about food, blister repair, and boots in the dormitory, and that’s usually a good thing.

In the afternoon, lots of people partially unpack and take a nap after the many kilometers on the Camino. In bad weather, everyone’s stuff is spread out to dry.

Then there’s a surge out to eat or drink. Some albergues have fully stocked kitchens, and many Europeans buy groceries and cook. The kitchen is a good place to hang out, share some wine and talk.

Later, around 9:00, pilgrims start returning and by 10:00 everyone is settling in. The “big light” usually goes out at 10:30.

There are always a few snorers. I’ve learned to listen to music, and sometimes I take a Benadryl. For some reason, in October there aren’t as many snorers as when I was walking in June. There have been fewer symphonies and arias.

The morning begins early. Before daybreak, the early risers start packing up, their headlamps flashing. There’s an easy etiquette that we won’t stare when it’s time to change clothes.

Our shared sleeping experience is over, and it’s time to pack all our precious carry on items back up into our backpacks and make sure we know where our passport, iPhone, and wallet are. It’s time for desayuno and to walk.

I’m thankful for these nights of shared sleeping. They have refreshed my trust in others, and I wish that more Americans could experience the easy sense of shared privacy I’ve learned to enjoy.

Some nights I’ve had conversations with the person in the adjoining bunk—sometimes they’re men—but I feel very safe. This trip has allowed me to let go of defenses I didn’t realize I had constructed.

Categories: Camino, Conversations on the Camino, October 2013, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Ponferrada on the Day of Discovery


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.





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

What a beautiful day on the Camino.


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.












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

Astorga Sabbath


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!




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

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