November 3, 2002
Astorga to Rabanal del Camino
|Rabanal del Camino|
|I arrived in Rabanal del Camino and had to
search for the albergue because it wasn't where my guidebook said
it would be. It turns out that the municipal albergue was closed
but there was a private one available very nearby. The albergue
was inside a large, old, stone building typical of the area. Its entrance
was through an eight-foot tall wooden door that opened into a large courtyard.
In the back were four dormitories, showers, and toilette facilities. My
bed was in a 10' by 20' room which had eight double bunks. The anteroom
in front had a small kitchenette, two large picnic tables, and fireplace
with a big hearth. The fire not only added a pleasant atmosphere but also
a welcome relief from the chill.
Because I hadn't eaten since morning, I was quite hungry. I went to a nearby restaurant for comida (dinner) at 3:30 p.m.. Back in El Burgo del Camino, José had suggested that, when in Rabanal, I order some cocido margata for which the area was famous. Es comida tipica y muy delicioso. (It is an area specialty and very delicious.) It even has five different types of meat. Oh sure, that is, if you consider chorizo (pepperoni-type sausage), pigs knuckles, pigs' ears, and tongue to be meat. And the great vegetables it comes with? Fava beans, turnip greens, and boiled potatoes! I should have known that a food described as "typical" meant that it was the food that poor people eat on a regular basis — sort of like corned beef and cabbage, baked beans and salted pork, or chitlins and collard greens.
Full of food but not completely satisfied, I went back to the albergue and sat by fireplace to write some postcards. I discovered that in the courtyard the hospitalera had a small outdoor bar where she made coffee and mixed drinks. I had a café con leche to warm up followed by a copa (cup) of parcharon, which is a fruit liqueur made in Navarra and is popular throughout Spain. The ambiance of the fire, a good drink, and the interaction with the other pilgrims made for a very pleasant evening which more than offset my disappointment with the meal.
One pilgrim that I got to know was the Frenchman, who had yelled at the kids the night before. His name was Louis and he was traveling with his wife, Sylvie. I learned that he was just a few years older than I and, like so many people I know, was laid off from a computer company after a long career of loyal service. Now, he and his wife have a small bed and breakfast in the countryside in France. I told him that I had created a Web site for my friend who has a B&B in Newburyport, Massachusetts. We exchanged Web addresses and then compared cameras. Mine was an older, digital, single-frame camera and his was a new, small, compact, video camera that could also take stills — I was jealous.
(If anybody is interested in more information about either of these B&B's, just email this site and I will send it to you.)
Having had such a large and heavy meal so late in the day, I didn't need to have dinner that night. However, about nine, I went to another restaurant for a glass of vino tinto and a small slice of tortilla española. In Spain, tortilla means omelet. A tortilla francesa is an omelet similar to what we have at home. A tortilla español is a quiche-like potato omelet that is about eight inches round and an inch thick — it's delicious.
While sitting at the bar, I saw a man wearing a sweatshirt with the logo of the Confraternity of St. James, an organization from Great Britain. It turns out that he was there to check on a small albergue which is maintained by the group and is only opened through October. I chatted with him for awhile because he was an interesting chap. Also, it was nice to hear English again!
It was with some apprehension that I got my backpack ready before I went to bed. It was supposed to rain again and I wanted to get an early start before the trails got too slippery. What lay ahead of me I didn't know, only that it was supposed to be difficult. I'd been told that many pilgrims got stress fractures in their shin bones from going down the steep slopes after Rabanal.