Friday, 29 August 2014

Camino Portraits: Cesare

Cesare is one of the Italian guys we kept running into along the first third of the way towards Santiago de Compostela. We only walked together for a short while but he often appeared out of nowhere in the late afternoon and joined us for dinner.



He is a funny character and when he was around we were usually laughing our heads off in a matter of minutes. It was always funny to listen to his interpretation of events. He was able to make a hilarious story from any of his many everyday mishaps.


He also had a rather special attitude towards the Camino. Whenever he felt it was more convenient, he simply took a bus (usually this is the last resort for an ordinary pilgrim and most consider it cheating). He never felt bad about it and willingly shared it with everybody. I think he really enjoyed the look of disbelief on faces of other pilgrims.


Obviously he was on the Camino to above all enjoy the experience without the suffering that usually comes within the package. I really hope everything worked out for him and he was able to enjoy it to the very end.

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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Days go by quickly in good company

This was day 5 of our almost one month long Camino de Santiago adventure. Click on the Camino de Santiago label to see all related posts.


Even with a pretty basic comfort level at the albergue, we slept well during the night. Floor mattress I had to use did not have any effect on my sleep whatsoever. Actually, I would choose it over a too soft, overused, wrapped-in-plastic top bunk bed any-time. Well, that was exactly what M. got last night but she also did not complain - she was just too tired to bother with details.


After a simple breakfast at the albergue (coffee with some cookies and toast) we left our donation for the stay and prepared our backpacks for the road. As I already mentioned in the previous post, the albergue we stayed in operates on donation basis. Bed, hot shower, breakfast and use of other services are available free of charge. In return pilgrims are asked to leave a donation in the morning before they leave. I am pretty sure the hospitalero collects a very decent amount every day.



Again the weather did not look too promising. There was a light drizzle when we met our Italian friends on the outskirts of Estella. A few meters after the Way turned from urban area into vineyard country, we just had to stop by the famous wine-fountain (fuente del vino) belonging to Bodegas Irache. Technically it is in Ayegui, the village just next to Estella.


On one of the outside walls of their huge cellar they have built a fountain from which, besides of water, also flows red wine. Unfortunately during our visit, the fountain was dry. This might have something to do with the fact we arrived pretty early in the morning.
Nonetheless I still managed to squeeze a few drops out of it. It seemed to be pretty low-quality stuff and I doubt I would have filled my water bottle with it anyway. An admirable marketing approach nonetheless.



We were happy to walk with the Italian group again - it was so much more fun and kilometres went by pretty quickly. Regardless of some age difference we have soon realised we had quite a few things in common.


Even the weather got better after a while and it turned out to be the second day in a row with only some light rain. We liked it that way.



Once again we mostly walked on a gravel road that led us through wide fields with huge stacks of hay bales. We began to appreciate gravel sections opposed to concrete and asphalt. It is interesting how on such a trip ones body can instantly feel the difference between soft and hard walking surfaces.


At midday we stopped at a refreshment stand by the road. It was just a simple trailer with some plastic tables and chairs set in front of it. It was sandwiches and beer for most of our group. I decided to go for a Spanish tortilla (Tortilla Española) and some freshly squeezed orange juice (Zumo de naranja natural).
A Spanish tortilla is quite different compared to its Mexican relative with the same name. It is a simple egg and potato omelette with some onions and sometimes also red pepper.



It seemed like none of us would mind sitting in the sun for an extra hour or so but we had to move on. Since we experienced some problems the day before with accommodation availability, we decided to place a reservation for the seven of us. After a hilarious (yet unsuccessful) try in Italian, we finally succeeded in English.



Even though we did not walk as far as the day before, we still managed to reach Torres del Rio. We walked 29 kilometres. The last hundred metre climb into the village proved to be quite a challenge for a part of our group.


Stretching and massage was something we could not afford to skip. Only after a glass of good red wine, of course.



By this time we were still in Navarra region, but also getting closer to Rioja. Good wine for a really low price was easy to come by. I tried quite a few wines and soon learned the meaning of Crianza. A Rioja Crianza is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which it was inside an oak barrel. Usually Rioja Crianza is an indication of a fairly good wine and it often costed just over an Euro per glass. Now this is definitely a bargain in my book.
As I learned later on, I hardly took advantage of this enough while we were in and near Rioja.


Apart from good wine, dinner was also delicious. For the main dish within the Menú peregrino I choose a beef steak and really enjoyed it. For me it was one of the best steaks on the whole trip.



We started noticing familiar faces during dinner time. Even if we could not find a common language with some fellow pilgrims, this did not stop us from having some conversation during main daily meals. These large dining halls often felt like they were set inside the tower of Babylon. Fifteen different nationalities in a room of forty people was not an uncommon thing at all. Add some wine into the mix and you get one loud bunch of pilgrims.


After dinner we were off to bed pretty quickly again. A perfect end of another beautiful day.


Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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