When reading tales of the Camino, you will often find references to grand communal dinners where people from different cultures and countries come together to share a meal and talk about life and their journey’s. We haven’t had one of those yet. Mostly by choice. Most evenings we have been too tired to be social and honestly, I’ve embraced our role as the “tired anti-social pilgrims”. We did get a chance to change that tonight though.
A Real Pilgrims Dinner
Our stop for the evening was the town of Villares de Orbigo. It was a short day, only 10.5 miles though we took our time with rest stops, largely due to the hills and arrived at 1:30. There is a large and bustling (and pretty!) town nearby where most pilgrims choose to stop but we have found more success in the small towns so we pushed on. There is only one Albergue, or hotel, or any type of lodging in Villares de Obrigo so it was a bit of a gamble, but it payed off. It’s a new Albergue, run by a Belgian couple. Cristina, was unhappy in her life as a teacher in Belgium and having walked the Camino several times decided to take her retirement and open an Albergue along the Camino. You can tell how much she loves the Camino and her Albergue in every tiny detail. The place was immaculate, with rich polished wood banisters, new bathrooms with plenty of room and privacy (a hard to find combo on the Camino!), and hand painted signs for each room. The rooms and kitchen form a rough square around a central courtyard which is filled with plants, flowers, and sunshine.
Cristina mentioned at our check-in that she was going to prepare dinner for the guests and invited us to join. She was happy to make us a vegetarian option so we were thrilled to join her.
After showering, napping, and a trip to the local store for plastic utensils and hair conditioner (I am only willing to go so far with this pilgrim thing. Dry frizz hair is my limit!) we joined the crew in the courtyard for dinner. This was our first chance to meet Cristina’s husband Stephan. He stays in the Albergue and helps with guests for part of the year, and returns to Belgium to work and check in on their adult children for the rest of the year.
Also at dinner we met Robin, a young man from Germany, who had spent the last year in New Zealand picking kiwis while saving money for the Camino. He walks an impressive 30-40km per day, double what we do. Also with him was Francy from Germany, who he had met along the way. They had been walking together for a while but she couldn’t keep up with his pace and they decided to split up after Villares de Orbigo. The conversation at dinner ranged from politics to agriculture policies including the importing of foreign goods into Europe and of course, Donald Trump. The Europeans love to ask us what the deal with Donald Trump is. And I have no explanation to give to them. Robin and I also spoke about video games for a while.
All of those could have been heated topics but the conversation never got aggressive and I learned a great deal from them. I think the night could have gone on much longer but we wrapped up at about 8, so that we could go to bed. Unfortunately Robin and Francy will quickly out pace us so our chances of seeing them again are practically zero.
That’s the way of the Camino. Everyone keeps walking so your associations with people are temporary but valuable. Except for Joanne and Kelly, their association with me is permanent and probably less valuable.