The Road to Santiago.

October 12, 2002

Embalsa (reservoir) on the outskirts of Logroño.


Didn't wake up until 11:30. Since I'm staying in a Logroño hotel there was no pilgrim "noise" to rouse me and I forgot to set my alarm clock. I must still be exhausted. Maybe it was from my little crisis last night. Let me start from the beginning.

I reached Logroño on Friday in very good time. The albergue was closed and would remain so for three more hours. So, rather then spend the night there and go to a hotel on Saturday, I decided to go directly to a hotel. I found the local tourist information booth and got a map of the city and a list of hotels. I had two criteria on which to base my choice. First, it had to be inexpensive. And, more importantly, it had to be nearby because I was exhausted and didn't want to drag my backpack all around town. I found one that fitted both criterion. It was very small, but clean, with a nice bath, and the all-important telephone jack. The first thing I did was to pull out my laptop, hook it up, and dial up my email. For once I got a quick connection. Read the email and responded to the more urgent ones.

[Editor's note:  Dudley really enjoys the contact of emails so keep them coming. However, since he has limited time to spend responding to them, don't be dismayed if he doesn't answer right now. He will respond directly or indirectly at some point.]

Now, since I was in a great Spanish city, and off the pilgrims' path, I decided I would eat a proper lunch. Fortunately my hotel was near a street that had a wonderful choice of restaurants, cafes, tascas, and bars.

On the way back from lunch, I bought myself a lujo (luxury). I went past a small fruit stand that had beautiful boxes of strawberries. I bought a one kilo box for 2.50 euros. (That's about 2 quarts for $2.50.) Let me tell you about Spanish strawberries. They are the best I have ever tasted. They are the size of those tasteless California strawberries that you buy in the supermarket during the winter. But they taste as sweet as any native New England strawberry in peak season. (In fact I am eating them right now while I'm writing this — and having trouble keeping my keyboard clean.) By the way, strawberries are one of the best fruits for diabetics — lots of fiber and manageable sugar.

When I got back to the hotel, I inquired as to the location of the nearest post office. I wanted to send my excess stuff back to Madrid. The lady at the front desk reminded me that Saturday was a national holiday in Spain and I had better get to the post office that afternoon. I quickly ran across the street to a very contemporary style café/bar where I ordered a glass of vino tinto. I then started a conversation with the pretty, blond bartender. I think she thought the viejo (old guy) was hitting on her and was relieved when she realized that all I wanted was a carton box for mailing my things. She went to the back of the bar and returned with a perfect box.

Back in my room, I took everything out of my backpack. Things were strewn all over the room for sorting. If I hadn't used an item in the previous two weeks, it went into the box. The only exceptions were a pair of gloves and a sailor's watch cap, which I kept in case it got cold. The short-sleeved shirt and extra T-shirts went into the box. Extra batteries, anything that I could buy on the road — maps, printed materials, etc. — all went into the box. I taped the whole thing securely and added my name and the name and address of the hotel in Madrid. I got to the post office with time to spare. When the clerk weighed the box, it was 3 plus something kilos. Since a kilogram is 2.2 pounds, I had reduced the weight of my pack about 6-1/2 pounds. Every little bit helps.

Later that evening, I decided to go get a bite to eat. I got my notebook and reached for my glucose meter to measure my blood sugar before dinner — it wasn't there. Where could it be? On the desk? no. In the bathroom? no. In the backpack? no. Under the bed? NO! Where the hell could it be? Tomorrow was a holiday and the next day was Sunday — the stores would be closed. I couldn't go that long with out a glucose reading.

So I ran downstairs and asked the clerk where the nearest pharmacy was. (It's at a time like this when it's really helpful to know how to speak Spanish!). She told me that the local pharmacies would all be closed because it was after 8 p.m. She then pulled out a newspaper to find the open pharmacies. In Spain, in big cities like Logroño, the pharmacies are required to take turns staying open until 11 p.m. for emergencies (Boy, is this ever an emergency!). So there is usually at least two open each evening and each day the local papers publish which ones are open. Of the two open that day, one was about eight blocks away, while the other was way across town.

I practically ran the entire eight blocks, my anxiety level building as I hurried. When I went in the pharmacy, I showed the man the type of test strips I use and told him that I needed a meter that could use the same type. He didn't have any compatible meters but he went to phone and called the other open shop and found out that they had one. I asked him to tell them to hold it for me.

Since I was running out of time, I ran back to the fountain where all the cabs were parked. I jumped into the nearest one, showed the cabby the address, and asked him to take me there pronto. He did and I jumped out of the cab and ran into the pharmacy out of breath. They had a meter and it used my strips. It used Spanish dates and time, but, hey, I could live with that. So, I quickly pulled out my credit card only to find out that they didn't accept credit cards — NOW WHAT! I asked how much and she said 45 euros ($45). Believe it or not, that is exactly how much I had in my wallet.

Since I had no money, I had to walk back to the hotel. After asking a few questions, I quickly got a sense of where I was going from the locals. Passed a few ATM machines on the way. I took out some cash, but of course there are no cabs when you need them. So I continued on foot. It helped me clear my mind and allowed my blood pressure to come down. Where could that meter be? I could only think that in my haste it got tossed into the box for Madrid. When I got back to my room, I loaded the special batteries into the meter, set the time and date, and tested my blood — 104. Good reading!!! Running around in a panic is good for glucose control. (I'm not so sure it did my blood pressure much good, however.)

The next morning when I got out of bed my eyes immediately went to the distant corner of the room. There on the floor, on a carpet of similar dark blue, was my old meter! Now I had a back-up meter — in case of emergency!!!  (Some pilgrims might interpret this as divine intervention. I really should have had a back-up in case I lost it in one of the areas where there are limited options!!)

Saturday afternoon I went to the main square, el Espolon, to sit and people watch, as well as work on my notes. It was a beautiful spot with flowers, trees, and fountains. People were everywhere — either strolling or sitting at outdoor cafes. I think that it is the most beautiful public space I have ever seen, second only to the Buen Retiro, a very special city park in Madrid.

Statue of Santiago Peregrino.
Santiago Peregrino
Later on I found a church that was dedicated to Santiago. The statues on the front façade show the dichotomy of the Saint's reputation. The first statue is of Santiago Peregrino (Saint James the Pilgrim). This is that image that is celebrated in the present day tradition of Europe: pilgrims traveling through strange lands, helping one another, being helped by local folk along the way.
Statue of Santiago Matamoros.
Santiago Matamoros
The second statue is that of Santiago Matamoros (Saint James the Slayer of Moors). It is reported that during one of the crucial battles between the Moors and Christians during the 9th-century struggle for the dominance of the Iberian peninsular, Saint James appeared on a white horse with sword flashing and rescued the country from the Moslems. For this reason he is considered the patron saint and protector of Spain. At this church, since this statue has primacy, it is this role for which he is most revered.

New art/
New art
On the way back, I was struck by the juxtaposition of a modern statue next to an ancient route. Actually there is a lot of 20th-century art in public places throughout Spain. I take photos whenever I can for my stepdaughter. She's an artist and I'm trying to encourage her to come to Spain. Anybody who likes art must see the Prado for classical works and the new museum in Bilbao for modern art. But I'm digressing again. Hard not to when there is so much to see and contemplate.
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