Friday, July 18, 2014

Thoughts on lodging

Hello, everyone.
I promised yesterday to put up the first of the stork pictures. Here it is:
These are some of the storks nesting in Puente La Reina, Navarra. They made loud noises, too--they put their heads back and clacked their long beaks together. I guess it's stork love-talk.

I know someone is wondering where one spends the night on this trek. Answers differ, of course, but here is ours: Pilgrim albergues and a few nights in pension/hostels. If your plans for a town involve staying more than one night, you have to choose between staying in the pension to start with or staying 1 night in the albergue and the other night in the pension. The albergues enforce a one-night rule, as otherwise people would just move in and stay, and they all tell you what time you have to be gone the next morning. (It was usually 8 am.)
The pilgrim albergue at the monastery of Roncesvalles, as mentioned in an earlier post, was very luxurious: pairs of beds in cubicles, with cubbies to put the pack in. Cubicles lined up along both sides of a long room, shower and bath facilities at the end on the way into the room. Laundry facilities downstairs--we were told that they have both sinks for hand washing and a hospitalero who will, for 2 euro, run your load through the washer and dryer. I should have done that. It would have meant less fuss and bother in Zubiri the next night.
The municipal albergue de peregrinos in Zubiri was more typical of the albergues: bunk beds. There were some 8 or so bunk sets in a room, if I remember right, and Zubiri's albergue had multiple rooms. The bathroom and shower facilities were across the caliche "yard" area, in a separate building. There were also laundry sinks there--no shelf or table to put laundry on but with caution one could perch the wet clothes on the side of the sink. Drying was with the clotheslines strung alongside the building and along the fence.
Some of the albergues had washer/dryer setups--either coin operated or done by the hospitaleros. The Augstinas (religious sisters) in Carrion de los Condes had a nice, front-loading washer that they insisted on running themselves. (I don't blame them.) They provided the soap, too--you provided the dirty laundry load and some euros to pay for the use of the setup.
In the municipal albergue in Najera, which is near a lovely river, they have 90 sleeping spaces in one, very long, room. The bunks were lined up side by side in pairs, end-to-end down the center, and also set head-to-wall in long lines down the sides of the room. We had about 2 1/2 feet walking room between beds, and you had to put your pack in that walking room. The boots, as usual, and the sticks had been assigned to shelves (for the botes) and a 30-gallon trash can (for the sticks) in the laundry room.
In Santo Domingo de Calzada, we slept at the Cistercian nuns' convent, in their albergue that they had made out of part of the building. (Unheated stone building. I'll go out on a limb and say that I understand why their nun-uniforms looked like actual wool. They needed it.) The room we were assigned to had three simple beds, instead of bunks. I think some of the other rooms there had the standard bunks for pilgrims. The hospitalera did bed checks there, too, at lights-out time. This was something we'd not seen before. (All of the albergues had lock-up times, usually at 10 pm.) Of course, they also had a fireplace in the main sitting room downstairs and she lit the fire and kept it going with new wood, too--I think it all balances out.
In one albergue, in Arzua, we had a bunk set in a small room by ourselves. And when my sweetie climbed the ladder up to his bed, the entire setup racked severely!
By stopping about 1 or 2 in the afternoon most days, we were able to find places to sleep in the albergues most of the time. The only exceptions to that were El Burgo Ranero and Santiago. In El Burgo Ranero, even though there were multiple albergues, we got in late and at 3 pm they were all full. ("Completo.") We stayed in a pension that night: a clean, but small, hotel room with a complete bathroom (shower, not tub) and a "matrimonial" bed. We had a window, too, that looked out onto a patio for people to sit and relax. There were chairs and tables. When the blue norther came in that night, the wind moved the chairs and tables off-and-on until the storms blew on past, around 3 in the morning. (We had expected a blue norther to come in, as there had been a stiff south wind during the day as we walked. It reminded us of the winds we had encountered on the Route Napoleon through the mountains the first day.)
In Perejes  the albergue was a building from the 1300's. The hospitalero told me that the ceiling of the downstairs sleeping room we were in was the original floor of the building. There was a big beam that went through from one side clear to the other, and that was original too. There were no bunks there, just two rows of beds in our dorm room. By the time we got to Perejes, this qualified as luxury living!

 Sleeping in an albergue is not like sleeping in a hotel room. Usually the room is shared with between 10 and 90 people in it. One tries to speak softly, in case someone is sleeping nearby. And while people talk about snoring, most of the time whatever snoring there was blended into a general background noise.
One takes one's clothes to the bathroom to change.
The bathroom/shower is often shared between the sexes. Sometimes they will have separated bathrooms, but doors often give the outside world a good view of the room.

One dresses in the shower stall after washing off. Occasionally there is a dressing area inside the shower stall. Often the water from the timer-governed shower head splatters all over the tiny stall and the only place to put clothes is over the door. I got good at leaning my head on the  wall while putting one leg into my pants and holding the remaining pants fabric off of the wet floor at the same time. I also got pretty good at using my sleeping bag's stuff sack as a shower bag, putting my clean clothes, camp towel, and soap in it for the trip to the shower.

I think one of the lessons of the pilgrimage is to take these things, different as they might be from our normal life and previous travels, in stride. The Camino is not only about the walking, but the walking, and the adaptation to conditions, are certainly an important part of the Camino, along with going to the pilgrim Masses, settling down for a few minutes of adoration if the church has a Capilla del Santissimo, going to museums, eating tapas, and taking pictures of lovely views.