NOTE: First this wouldn’t post at all, and then posted without my having completed it . . . sigh. So I think I’ve managed to finish it
Monday, September 28, 2015. Lourenza to Mondoñedo
After yesterday’s climb etc., today will be fairly short, only 8.5 km, though by the time I am finished following the directions to the Cathedral (and the monastery where we are staying) from four or five local residents who mean well, I probably walk half again that much. Seminario Santa Catalina. Since there is no bar on the way, I hope there is a bench of some sort, and I come upon Ria eating her fruit at a nice little concrete U-shaped sitting place someone made for the pilgrims.
I reach the proper area of town after a man says in British English: “Just go straight down there. Do not turn. Do not listen to anyone else. You will find the Cathedral.” And he’s correct. The next challenge is to find the actual monasterio where we will sleep. When I finally find the little door in the giant stone building behind the Cathedral, there is Ria, waiting for the man who is working the reception cubicle to finish whatever work he is doing so he can take her credentials. Priest in lay person’s clothing – moss green crew-neck sweater with white shirt underneath . . . he sits in his little booth at the entrance to the Seminario, waiting for people like Ria and me to come, giving out simple monastic rooms (with bath, thank you). When I arrive, I guess he figures he can do it all in one fell swoop. He leads us up and up and up to the fourth floor (well, actually, he sends us on the elevator while he must have his angels lift him to the highest floor, because he is there just as we arrive in the ascensor).
The Cathedral is a National treasure . . . truly Gothic with a stunning rose window . . . quite lovely inside and out. A 13th century cathedral declared a national monument in 1902. It’s referred to as the “kneeling cathedral” because it is relatively short and has perfect proportions, with frescos among Galicia’s oldest.
We do our usual unpacking, sorting, showering. The priest checked with one of his monastic spirit guides (probably a woman) to see if laundry can be done for us and yes, it can, so we sort and assemble a “small bag” of dirty clothes and Ria delivers it to the priest in his cubicle down on the ground floor.
A bar in the large and beautiful Praza de Cathedral gets our business all afternoon and evening, though it isn’t open early enough to get our breakfast money tomorrow. We have arranged for desayuno at the monastery, and that little meal didn’t need any wandering to find. Just downstairs from our room at the Comidor, the little man, again in his green crew-neck sweater and white collar and cuffs, was the only other person to have breakfast at 8:00. Does he live in that little booth? But for Mass and all the prayers all through the day and evening?
We visit the Cathedral at 4:00 when it opens again, and it is a simply beautiful Baroque church. Rose window, a gold but not too garish altar, and the simplicity I love in churches. Ria wants to go into the Museum, and the sign on the door says it is open at 4:00, but it is 4:20, and the door is locked, so we give up and wander around the streets instead.
There is a big deal about Il Rei de Mondoñedo, and some sort of tarta (not the Tarta de Santiago) famous in this place. After enough advertising about the tarta, we must of course go back to the bar, have a glass of wine and a slice of this famous treat. The waiter says it’s pumpkin tart, but the filling surely tastes like pecan pie, with that delicious syrupy middle. Criss-Cross pastry dough and one each, red and green, of the candied fruit we love to buy but hate to eat. Ria puts hers on her plate, as I do, but I eat the cherries. Not sure even what kind of fruit the green ones are.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Mondoñedo to Gontán (remember, not Gondán)
The walk out of Mondoñedo is uneventful, and though I know there is a bit of up and down, and do encounter one steep hill, nothing seems unmanageable after that long steep stretch between Ribadeo and VillaMartin Pequeño. More road walking than I’d like, but then I’m back to the farm roads, the cows, and the peaceful walk I always love. Some interesting things along the route, however.
About an hour from Gontán, where I am to meet Ria, she texts me and says she has gone on to Vilalba, because it’s still too early for her to stop walking. This means she will be at least a day ahead of me for the rest of the Camino, but I know we will meet in Santiago on October 9, where she has reservations at the San Martin Pinario. I made them for both of us at least a week or 10 days ago.
So I walk on . . . and meet John, from Ireland originally, but living in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. We talk briefly, I reach Gontán’s albergue, and he walks another half kilometer to Abadin, where he has a reservation at a pensione. He paid a company called Camino Ways or something like that, to plan his trip, reserve his rooms all the way from wherever he started on the Norte to Santiago, and his biggest concern is getting to the designated town on the proper day for each stage. I’m happy I don’t have that kind of schedule or pressure.
I settle into this albergue, fairly new, and there is a great deal of exuberant talking among several little groups. An older woman is loudly giving injury advice (and creme) to a young American man. I will discover later (because I will continue to meet some of these people again and again for a week or more) that the advice-giving woman is Karen (Danish) and the young man is Ivan from Oregon. He’s done something to his ankle or foot and Karen has a whole bag of injury remedies, for herself, but she is willing to dispense to anyone who needs it. A sort of domineering person with a great heart. She has also been walking with a Spanish woman who speaks no English. Karen speaks no Spanish, but she says they seem to understand one another The Spanish woman has a bad knee, so Karen doesn’t want her to walk alone.
Well, I see there is another group gathering . . . as I said, the Danish woman with the commanding voice and her sweet Spanish friend Loli were in Gontán tonight, along with a darling little braggart named Sonja. All the men were around her. Kind of had that Amanda Rieux look to her, but younger . . . dark skin, dark curling hair, very exotic and beautiful looking. She said she was from Colorado but not really. Said she lived in Telluride, Breckenridge, Aspen (oh, all over), and was a massage therapist. I began to ask whether she knows my friend Sharlie’s daughter, who is a massage therapist in Telluride, but Sonja said quickly, “Oh, I haven’t been there for a very long time.”
Then later she said she had to switch from being a hair dresser to being a massage therapist because she couldn’t stand her hair clients always talking about characters on TV when she didn’t watch TV. However, when we were in Vilalba the next night, she went on and on about how Modern Family is SUCH a good show, SUCH a good show. Another person who knows all the shows, but oh, no, doesn’t watch TV. Amusing. I’d guess her age to be something around mid to late 20’s, but I’m a terrible guesser these days. I had Erika pegged at about Ashley’s age, 37, but she is 46!! So who knows about Sonja.
I showed her the Dance Montage 2015, a favorite You-tube video and she said she was a professional dancer for 15 years. Let’s see . . . hairdresser. Massage therapist oh, so long ago in Telluride. Professional dancer for 15 years. Lived in all the very high end places in Colorado. Now in Paris. Boyfriend? She talks about the “bourge(oise)” but is living and going to school in Paris at the moment, studying languages. Boyfriend is French. But she loves to flirt with all these men, and there is one who looks like the nerdy perfume counter guy on Love Actually. the one who played Mr. Bean, but this guy is mooning over her. She says she brought all the wrong clothes, didn’t even intend to walk this Camino, etc. in her fashion hipster clothing, black tights under tiny cut-off shorts like Hanna wears on the Gili islands. Hanna wouldn’t wear these things on the Camino. Strange young woman, Ms. Sonja.
The American young guy named Ivan, from Portland, is very nice, and walks with me tomorrow as we enter Vilalba. Others I can’t sort out, but they will be sorted out tomorrow, I think, and the next day. The group is like a chem slide . . . some staying, some going, others joining, over the next few days. As I went to sleep, I heard Sonja giggling loudly to the beaming psychic applause of all the men, who spanned two decades in age (at least!)
I must say that though initially I found Sonja really charming, the more I talked with her, the more I listened to her conversations with her groupie group, the more I realized that I was having the first uncharitable thoughts about a peregrino. Ah, sigh. Wish I had a photo of her, but I don’t. As she drops off the chem slide and others stick, I will show you some of the wonderful people in the “Week Five-Six” group.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015. Today the very next town is only half a kilometer from Gontán, On the way to Vilalba . . . bus to Martiñan from Abadin, where I had breakfast, if you can call it that. Actually this WAS breakfast, because the nice woman behind the bar actually made me fried eggs.and I get a fried egg breakfast. Great start for the day. Weather is good, the walk looks very manageable, and I begin.
The walk is through countryside, with no hills. How can that be? No horrid climbs? No ankle breaking downhills? As I walk, I begin to notice posters on trees, announcing a new albergue just on the west side of Vilalba. Looks great. I WAS headed for an albergue before Vilalba, another one of those that had no food, no bar, no restaurant. So I’m very happy I have another choice.
I arrive at a place where a farmer’s wife has put out a table for pilgrims. Peaches, apples, fresh bread, cheese . . . for 1 Euro each. I buy a bag of eight small peaches to carry with me (sigh, another bit of weight, but still . . . ), and Sonja and her crew gather around the table. (again, my computer won’t load the photos, but they weren’t great anyway). While we are all choosing our treats, a car stops and passes out very nice brochures for the new albergue, so I know I will see every one of these people in the town.
It’s as though we had all been airlifted from one sleeping place to the next. And I sleep again to the tune of Sonja’s flirtatious giggles.