IN THIS BLOG–I REMINISCE ABOUT MY WALK ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO A YEAR AGO
December 16, 2011
A year ago, I had hardly slept and awoke at sunrise, slipped out of Lisa’s apartment, piso they say in Spain, and walked to the train station to take the 8 o’clock train to Madrid where I would meet up with Becky Vela, my traveling companion who was flying in that morning from the States. We had been on e-mail pretty much up until she left Seguin, Texas, to come to Spain. Elvia had left my migraine medication and other odds and ends, like the tiny swiss army knife, at her sister Laura’s where Becky would pick them up.
Just as planned, Becky arrived at the principal entrance to Atocha, at the exact same spot where I had instructed her to meet me. But she was late. Waiting for her, I paced and fretted with what ifs…but it was wasted worry; she arrived and we went and got the tickets to Pamplona and waited by the large green space; rich tropical foliage and a pond with turtles entertained us. We looked at the turtles; we walked around, and we visited the various vendors that were set up for an artisan’s fair. I was tempted to buy another pair of gloves from a Peruvian woman who was selling Peruvian imports, some llama wool sweaters, hats, gloves and other such items. I decided not to and instead we sat and had a meal–Becky was a bit jetlagged but hungry. I ordered fresh orange juice. I vaguely remember Becky and I sharing a bocadillo de tortilla and some fried calamari.
Finally it was time to board. At exactly 10:35 a.m. off we went on Renfe’s finest to Pamplona. Once on the train we settled in for the long train ride. We talked non-stop; shared secrets; talked about hopes for the Camino; I told her about my Mom and my fears about something happening to her while I was gone. The jet lag got to Becky at some point and she slept a bit, but I think we were both so excited we mostly just wanted to talk…platicar. Becky told me of the hospitaleros like Roque whom she remembered fondly.
We arrived in Pamplona and went directly to the bus station where we had to wait again. At the Pamplona Bus Station the bright red and white signs greeted us proclaiming Navarra a land of diversity.
At the station we saw a man and a woman who appeared to be pilgrims. As we boarded the bus, the man asked if we were going to Roncesvalles, yes, we said, we are. You must be pilgrims, he exclaimed. We confirmed his suspicions and he ours. Are you going on to France? he asked. And when we said yes, he said he had hoped we were because then we could pitch in and share a taxi from Roncesvalles to St. Jean Pied A Port. and indeed that was exactly what we did. In Roncesvalles, we left most of our food and other heavy stuff with Pilar at the Hostal where the bus dropped us off. In a couple of days we would retrieve things as we walked back. And thus our adventure began.
We arrived in St Jean after 10 p.m. But they were waiting for us, and after stamping our Credencial we were led to the albergue and shown to our bunk beds in the long room. I was reminded of orphanage in Little Orphan Annie or some such movie with rows and rows of bunk beds. I jokingly told Becky, well, we are in France, where’s the french onion soup? With the cold–it was snowing and very cold indeed–we needed a hearty soup. The hospitalera, Janine heard us and said that there was a restaurant not too far. With visions of the soup, we braved the cold — we had not had any food, save some snacks, since that morning! But what we found was a pizzeria–Silvio Pizza! The owner was watching tv as we walked in and didn’t seem to welcome our business. But he grudgingly obliged and prepared two slices of pizza for us. We paid 12 Euros for the worst pizza I’ve ever eaten. I guess I’ll have to wait for the french onion soup, I surmised. Indeed I didn’t have it until Pamplona several days later. In Zuribi, Xavier a fellow pilgrim heard of my antojo and promised to make the soup at the albergue in Pamplona. And he did!