Written: Tuesday, May 29 @ 21:50
After the very interesting dinner experience and some lessons experienced (don’t know if they are indeed learned yet) on the outskirts of Ponferrada, we made our way through town in the morning and headed up the trail. It will be up from here for a way. We have to climb back out of the deep valley we headed down into to since visiting the Cruz de Ferro. That was absolutely one of the most spectacular hikes I’ve ever experienced, though quite difficult at times descending the steep, rocky trails.
Ponferrada was an interesting city. I have never seen such pervasive graffiti. There was all manner of the stuff, mostly fairly crude rather than artistically interesting, from one end of the city to the other. It seemed that every wall surface had been tagged throughout. We couldn’t make heads or tails of most of it and lack the smarts to know if it is gang related or just a bunch of kids goofing off. In any case, it definitely seemed to be somewhat of a blight.
Back there where we waited those long hours for the kitchen to finally open up late on a Sunday evening, we did see a different side of the city that was quite marvelous in its own right. We watched a family gathering in the same cafe that preceded our arrival. It appeared to be a large, extended family that had a young daughter who had just completed confirmation. They were all dressed up in their “Sunday go to meeting clothes.” The family seemed to span at least four generations if not five. I’m sure it was a special occasion for them but didn’t seem to be all that out of the ordinary all together. We had a quite fine time observing the different generations and individuals interacting and were generally struck by the closeness all around. We have observed in other areas and certainly in this case, that Spaniards, in general, seem to be very loving toward their children and extended families. There was a lot of playing with and doting on the young ones as they scampered about doing young one things. After sitting and chatting for at least a few hours, everyone got up to leave, only to gather outside the cafe in the plaza and carry on in similar fashion for another 45 minutes or so. Nobody wanted to leave.
Anyway, it took us quite a while to get across town on Monday morning and through all the immediate suburbs. There was graffiti all the way through and into the suburbs. We didn’t get away from it really until this morning when we finally started climbing out of the valley. We knew we weren’t up to all that much of a day yesterday given the way we were both feeling. Kat was still in the early throes, and I spent the night turning from one side to the other with a tissue under my nose as it drained first one way and then the other. We figured we’d just head as far as we could and then turn in somewhere when our feet and other parts told us it was time. It took us forever to get out of the city, but we finally landed in the mostly small town of Cacabellos.
We pulled in at the first place with habitaciones privadas (private rooms). It was mentioned in our book as a 2-star hotel/hostel, the Moncloa de San Lazro, built on the grounds of an old pilgrim hospital. Wow! This was a marvelous place! After asking for a habitacion con una cama matrimonio (I’ve learned to ask for a room with a little bit bigger bed as Spaniards seem somehow to have an affinity for the Lucy and Ricardo two-bed thing), I was shown up to a wonderful private and quiet room at the back that was muy bonita! Turning in early, we got there just before siesta time and were able to spend a marvelous and refreshing afternoon in the lap of luxury. I took not only a hot shower but settled into a bath to shave as it was the biggest tub we’ve seen over here yet. The Moncloa is also a bodega (winery), and we enjoyed a bottle from their tienda (store) and a very refreshing nap. We stayed there for dinner, learning that bar food may be bar food the world over, but the restaurant in the hotel is not always the worst choice. Our grilled vegetables and interesting, though strange, onion salad were fantastic. Kat enjoyed a hearty vegetable soup, and my spring lamb was perfectly prepared and delicious, though Kat thought eating baby sheep was quite barbaric.
We awoke refreshed this morning to rediscover another interesting quirk to Spanish customs – the completely locked up and difficult to depart hotel. This happened to us the other night at that horrible place where we learned the lesson about always asking how much things were going to cost. We got locked in there as well with only an emergency exit available to us in the morning. We were screwed there because we didn’t pay the night before and had to wait around for the guy to finally show up the next morning. We had the same situation at the Moncloa this morning. We opted to not have breakfast as we’d first intended and planned to head out before 8 when we were all packed up and ready. We discovered, however, that we were locked into the part of the place where the hotel rooms were located and could only get out a back door, never to get back in again. I had sort of heard about the back door trick the day before, but had not connected the dots with the fact that we really wouldn’t be able to pay for our room till after 0900 the morning of our departure. This just was not going to work with our pilgrim schedule with an early departure needed to combat the heat of the day.
I groused and grumbled, pacing back and forth through the places I could reach. I probably sounded like an old bear with a sore tooth to the other folks staying there until someone finally avowed up a little after 8 to start the coffee machine. I assaulted the poor woman straight off and told her in my broken Spanish that I must pay for our room and leave for the day was getting hot. It took a couple of minutes, but she got my intent quickly enough and let me leave money for the room so we could boogie.
So, that was out last night and this morning. I still need to write about the wonderful times we’ve had making our way slowly along the Camino and the grand time we had trying to take a slight detour to a place that didn’t work out for us to stay tonight but resulted in a lovely afternoon with some marvelous Spaniards. However, it is now about 10:30 here, and I simply must get myself off to bed. I hope to remember everything and post another blog or two tomorrow night wherever we end up.