Friday, July 3, 2015

Meals and Meal Times

Hello, everyone.

It occurred to me to write a little about one of the least discussed discoveries of travel: daily schedules.

If we only drop in for a few days, in the care of a tour guide, we generally don't even have to think about them. If we travel in our own country, we already know and there aren't any big surprises.

But if we go somewhere far away, across national borders, and spend some time living on their schedule, we have to adjust to changes.

To put the matter in simple terms, we in the U.S. have grown accustomed to many things being ready for us when the thought occurs that we want them. And while we know that offices aren't generally open nights and weekends, we just assume that they are open from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. Every week day. And many offices even have the door open at lunch time, though there may not be much going on between 12 and 1.

We have internalized the idea that groceries are available at least between about 6 in the morning and midnight, and sometimes 24 hours a day. Ready-to-eat food likewise.

In places with smaller populations it's different. In places where everyone lives on pretty much the same schedule, it's different.

One of the key early lessons of the Camino for me has been that if I don't find out the local food customs, I may get to walk for much of the day on a few coffees and a hard-boiled egg. Plus lots of bottled water. (Nothing at all being open, or serving food, when I want to eat!) If I don't pay a little attention to the kind of country I'm walking through, I may find that there is no place to get food when it's time to eat.

There is no Pizza Hut, or Burger King, on top of the pass through the Pyrenees. The route we took last year has nothing at all for food at the very top. (Though an enterprising soul had put a little table with some water bottles, a few pieces of fruit, and a rubber stamp for credentials about 3/4 of the way up. And at the 1/3 way up point is the Orrison restaurant which will assemble a sandwich or dish out soup.)

In Portugal, finding food was so hard that I started just asking bartenders when most people eat. And no, even though they have McDonald's there, it's not open until 11 in the morning. In most of the places we were, being fairly small towns, there isn't even a bakery open to sell you a roll and coffee at 7 in the morning. In large cities you might find a few little coffee shops open, but the folks living there just don't live on that schedule.

You have to adapt to their way of doing things.

On a cheerier note, some food pictures from the last few days:

Tapas bar at Taverna del Obispo(?)
Pulpo at Petiscos Cardeal