Saturday, April 23, 2016
Distance: 21.3 km
7:20 – I’m about to leave the Municipal Albergue (hostel) in Najera. If you read the last set of trip notes, you’ll know that I spent the night with 199 other pilgrims in one big, low-ceilinged room, sans ventilation. I was actually quite happy with the Albergue and this wasn’t even a surprise. I’ve theorized that people who stay at the “pay-what-you-can” Municipal Albergues are generally seasoned travellers. The people who stay at the mid-market hostels, pensions, and upscale inns and B&Bs might be very nice people but they’re generally new to this style of travel and not very organized. If you encounter one in a hostel that he doesn’t really want to be in, he’s generally not a happy camper.
8:20 – After a very forgettable breakfast sandwich at a local bar, I’m about to hit the road for Santo Domingo de la Calzada – or “Saint Domino’s Calzones” as I like to call it.
8:25 – I’m hungry. There could be a second breakfast in the next town.
11:20 – Cirueña appears on the horizon as I pass a sign pointing out the optional detour to the monasteries of San Millán de Yuso and San Millán de Suso. The thought of a 20 km detour is pretty far down my list of priorities right now.
12:05 – I stopped at a swanky golf clubhouse on the edge of Cirueña simply because a sign said: “Welcome Pilgrims – Free Wifi – Pilgrim Menu.” I got a few looks when I walked up the circular drive and a lady muttered something in Spanish that wasn’t “thank-you” even though I was holding a door open for her at the time. I followed her inside but turned around and walked right back out.
12:06 – About 100m down the road I noticed a second sign pointing to a less formal bar that was attached to the elegant clubhouse.
The wifi didn’t work but the lobster salad, pate on toast and baked Brie pinchos were A-1.
Some would say the only drawback to this place was that Bieber was playing back-to-back-to-back on the sound system. I cannot count the times I’ve heard The Brat of Stratford in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Switzerland and now Spain. I’m sure he’s getting much heavier airplay here than at home.
13:58 – I just spent 20 minutes at the front desk of the main Albergue in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. I’m now sitting on a bench out front, using their wifi to research other options. The man handling the check-in process was downright rude and a woman who I assume was meant to be helping him was more interested in chewing gum and painting her nails. He was totally exasperated with her and seemed to be on a “work to rule” campaign as a result. If you remember the Carol Burnett Show from the 1970s you’ll probably recall the ‘Mrs. Wiggins’ character. Well, this is where she ended up. The final straw for me was a group of four people who were behind me in the line, and with whom I would be sharing a small dorm had I checked in. Not once but twice they tried to weasel their way in front of me. When I gave them the “WTF look” they said they didn’t realize I was in line despite the fact we had been standing elbow to elbow for the last 15 minutes.
14:20 – I found a very nice Parador online and then realized that it’s about 100m up the street from where I was sitting. I’m now sitting in the lobby. I think I could handle this place for a night.
14:25 – The girl at the front desk has assured me that each room has “a very nice ensuite bath with a teak bench, a backlit magnifying mirror, and of course a sink, toilet, shower, tub and bidet.” “What was the second last thing?” I asked. “A tub,” she replied. It’s been awhile since I heard that word, let alone used one, so I wanted to be absolutely sure that we were talking about the same thing and not a plastic footbath that your grandma might fill with Epsom Salts. “You mean a bathtub that you sit in?” I asked in a skeptical tone. “Yes, a tub, as in bathtub,” she replied. “All yours! Your very own,” she said, turning to her colleague. I detected a wink but I didn’t care. My mind was already filled with thoughts of a hot shower followed by an even hotter bath and what that might mean for my aching knees, calves and feet. And just to prove that she’s a first-rate closer, the girl added: “And there’s no overflow drain, so you can fill it right up and practically drown in it.”
If no new posts appear by mid-week, you’ll know what happened.