Pilgrimage – Days Fifteen-Sixteen

Notes for a New Day will recount some rather older days during the next few months – journal entries from my pilgrimage on Spain’s camino in 2013.

We stopped for a real breakfast at the Arroyo Vineyard on our way out of town. Everything is so much fresher here. Eggs with golden orange yolks, and bacon that has never known nitrates, freshly squeezed orange juice. We spent most of the day walking along the Rio Valcarce, and are staying in an albergue in Vega de Valcarce.

An easy, comfortable day of walking was followed the next day by an intensive day of entirely uphill walking.  We traveled perhaps 24 km, and every step was hard-earned. Early in the day we passed a small stable where three horses were being groomed. One of the cowboys, surely the original Marlboro Man, asked in Spanish, then in English, if we wanted a ride to Cebreiro. I laughed, wanting to say yes, but landing on no. After hours of climbing I realized that I would have been feeling very sorry for any horse that carried me up those steep, rocky, muddy paths (but six years later, I still regret not accepting a horseback ride next to an impossibly handsome vaquero!  I’m sure my husband understands).

This is the day that we finally enter into Galicia, a distinctive region with its own dialect and a strong Celtic influence.  I am eager to hear the local form of bagpipes. [A memorable Galician bagpiper is featured prominently in YoYo Ma’s film Music of Strangers. If you haven’t seen this, please find it and fall in love with the joy of music all over again.] As promised, the hilltop town of Cebreiro was heavily fogged in. The views may have been incredible, but we were not to find out. We stopped for an early lunch at a charmingly rustic and very old place – an old barn turned restaurant? A much-needed fire was burning in the grate and two women were cooking  large amount of pork. We asked for soup and were served the traditional Galician soup of white beans, greens, and potatoes….but it was awful. Grimacingly awful. I don’t know what they did to the soup (made it with dirty dishwater?), but it became clear they had little use for the IMG_0062.JPGperegrinos – at least the American ones. We were grossly over-charged, but enjoyed an hour of escape from the cold fog and some rest, before continuing the climb.

Lunch was forgotten when we settled into the albergue in Fonfria. A comfortable sitting room for reading, and for many, a chance to watch the French Open finals. Nidal in three straight sets, so not a particularly exciting match, but a happy experience for my son and the other pilgrims who joined in watching with him.

Lots of Canadians, and more Americans then we’ve met anywhere else, including someone from Potomac, Maryland – so close to home. We met a talkative young Slovenian man who was happy to tell us about his country when asked. He is a welder, traveling the world to work on large oil tankers and cruise ships, but I think he should have been working for his country’s embassy because his love for Slovenia was so very evident.

There were perhaps thirty of us at the long dinner table tonight.  Galician soup again, but much, much better this time. [I’ve linked the recipe if you’re interested.] Lively conversation all round. We are strangers, but we know something about each other that only other peregrinos can know.

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