Saturday, September 26, 2015


I suggested to Angela last night that she take Kristine with her to mass from now on.  After we leave, Kristine will be on her own and won't be able to leave the albergue again.  She agreed but said that we would visit the sisters in the afternoon to discuss the idea for the prayer box so they went off after breakfast and I started the daily cleaning routine.

A tiny, elderly Mexican pilgrim hobbled in at around 8am and asked if she could please stay.  Her legs were painful and she didn't think she could walk any further today.  I offered her the last of the coffee from the pot and some breakfast and chose a lower bunk bed for her, taking her backpack into the dormitory. 
I told her to sit and take it easy, but the next thing she had taken a cleaning cloth and was wiping down the table and sweeping up the breakfast crumbs!  When I started wringing the sheets she came to help but she was too short to help me hang them on the wash line.

Pilgrims come and go all morning.  Some stop and rest, others have a cursory look and move on.  Most get a 'sello' and have a drink of water, dropping a few coins into the pottery cup.  We have two 'sellos'.  One is the TAU and is the stamp for the albergue. The other is left on the table for anyone to use and represents the Tau, sign of Malta, and the logos of Castile y Leon.
I have come to realise that only special pilgrims want to stay here, really want to stay.  Some run to get here in order to secure a bed.  They have marked San Anton on their 'must stay' list and we have had to turn bitterly disappointed pilgrims away when we are full.
 Others express an interest in staying but no electricity, no Wi-Fi and no hot water is too much for them and they move on to Castrojeriz.  I can understand this.  That was me, 13 years ago when I first walked the Camino and shunned all places that were described as 'basic' i.e. mattresses on the floor, no hot water or no electricity.  "Pass!" we said - and moved on to a more upmarket, modern albergue.  After a long, hot day of walking the least we wanted was a hot shower and a comfortable bed.

By choosing only the modern albergues we didn't stay in any albergues that offered meals, no candlelight dinners, sing-alongs or pilgrim blessings.  I didn't realise what I had missed until I returned home and started hearing other pilgrims' glowing accounts of communal meals, special 'oraciones' or blessings.  In 2004 I walked from Paris, a route that had no pilgrim shelters for at least 750km until we reached the south and then we started finding a few albergues close to Saint Jean Pied de Port. 

When I returned to walk the Camino Frances in 2007 I made a list of the most popular traditional pilgrim shelters and we religiously sought them out and stayed in every one of them - Eunate, Granon, Tosantos, San Bol, Bercianos, Manjarin, Ave Fenix, Vegetariano, Ruitelin, San Xulian - all chosen for atmosphere and tradition.  I reckoned I could have shiny new bathrooms, comfortable beds and bedside lamps when I got back home! 
I was just like the pilgrims that run to San Anton with a determination to stay here.

Angela and Kristine returned and we were able to sit and chat to the pilgrims that were staying the night.  I took wine left over from the night before and a few more plums to the niche under the arch and topped up a black shower bag so that I could have a lukewarm shower.  A couple of the pilgrims followed and also had a warm shower.
I checked the fridge and when I saw that we only had lettuce and tomatoes, I decided to fetch a large, red apple a pilgrim had given me from the ice-box.  As I started to dice it into the salad Mrs Bossy looked at me and said, "We could've shared that apple.  You didn't have to use it in the salad." 
"Id prefer to share it with all the pilgrims," I said with a smile.  After all it was my apple, given by a pilgrim and now many would share it.
We had a full house at dinner and half way through, we saw bicycle lights approaching the albergue through the gates.  I had set a place for San Anton and we had enough food so when the cyclist asked if we had a bed we said yes, and offered him some dinner. 
"Where are you from?" I asked the stock question as I prepared to sign him in and stamp his credencial. "I'm from the Netherlands, " he answered. 
"And what is your name?" I asked.
"My name is Anton," he said.
We all started laughing and had to share with him our tradition of keeping a place for San Anton!
Kristine was going to be walking the Primitivo when she left here but she was concerned that she didn't have enough warm clothing.  It had turned chilly and the temperatures at night and in the early mornings were very low.  I offered her my down, padded jacket and said I would give it to before I left.

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