The Road to Santiago.

September 17, 2004

Photo of Plaza Major.
Plaza Major


The sound of trucks unloading dumpsters jolted me awake. Six a.m., for God's sake! It's still pitch dark in Spain at six a.m. So, I got up, closed the windows, and went back to bed. No good; still too much noise. So I got up, turned on the light, and rummaged through my mochila (backpack) to find some ear plugs that I'd stowed for later. I turned out the light and fell blissfully back to sleep. By 9 a.m. the sound of jackhammers beneath my window penetrated my dream state. But it's okay because I had to answer the phone anyway.

It was an automatic phone call from my Spanish phone service offering me some fantastic deal. I don't respond well to an English message let alone one in Spanish when I’m sleepy. So I responded in a universal expletive and crawled back to bed. Too late! I was now wide awake so, reluctantly, I arose!

First thing after showering and getting dressed was to go to breakfast. I ordered the desayuno especial (breakfast special). When the waitress asked if I wanted anything else like toast. I said no. The coffee came right away. So I sipped slowly waiting for my eggs and bacon. Soon my coffee was done but still no eggs and bacon. When I questioned the maitre d', he called the waitress over. She thought I had asked for "expresso" instead of "especial." So much for my Boston influenced Spanish accent.

I called my contact in Spain at the Eli Lilly Corporation to continue discussions regarding them being a potential donor for my cause. We talked about the drastic increase in diabetes among Spaniards due to the change in a more sedentary lifestyle from an agricultural to a modern technological society. My contact suggested that perhaps we could set up an interview with the Spanish media along the way to discuss my walk and cause. I suggested the city of Gijon, which was about two-thirds of the way along the camino. They'll try to set something up.

I decided not to spend the day in my room so I took my laptop and went looking for a pleasant but quiet place to write for my Web site journal. I headed to the Plaza Mayor, and although this plaza is a hub of activity, I was able to find a quiet place to plug in my computer’s power cord. It was in the café Meson de la Corrigedor (House of the Sheriff). In gratitude I purchased a half bottle of vino tinto (a Rioja) and an order of grilled peppers (pimientos de Padrón) [see day one].

It was a nice place to work except there was a large bull’s head staring down at me. He had those eyes that seem to follow you around the room. His name was Esclavo (Slave). How is it, you ask, am I on speaking terms with a stuffed bull? Well, his visage is graced with a plaque that highlights his brief but illustrious career. He weighed 490 kilos and was born in February 1995 to the ganadero (rancher) Don José Escolar. He met his untimely demise on 1 September 1998 at the skillful hands of the valiant José Maria Berjarano in the Plaza de Toros de Villa del Prado, Madrid.

When I got back to my room I found a shipment of test strips waiting for me. They were made available to me through Roche Diagnostics, the manufacturer of my glucose meter. Normally I test my blood glucose levels prior to each meal. But in special situations, resulting from unusual physical activities or different types of food, I need to test more frequently. I certainly would never try to trek across Spain without a good supply of test strips, so I was glad they had arrived in time. (They can be purchased in all cities throughout Spain, but the camino tends to avoid cities.)

In the late afternoon, I collapsed with fatigue again and slept until 9 p.m. My internal clock was still off. However, I wanted to get in the mood of Madrid, so I decided to go back to the Plaza Mayor to see what was happening. The Plaza has been the heart of the city for centuries. Itís been the setting for important public events, proclamations of the kings, and bullfights, and is still very active today, with restaurants and bars along the edges of the vast square. In the middle of the plaza, watching over the activities, thereís a statue of King Philip III. Street artists are an entertaining, modern-day addition. I was particularly impressed by one performance artist whose medium was paper ó toilet paper!

Before I turned in for the night, I called my Spanish friends who live in Aranjuez. They invited me to come for lunch the next day.