Friday, October 2, 2009

From Estella to Villamayor de Monjardin

I woke up early - we had to be out by 7 am!! Packed up and got coffee and a couple of crackers downstairs in the communal kitchen, before I headed out following the stream of pilgrims through the dark, emply streets of a sleeping town. As we walked through the gate, we moved from the narrow streets of old-town to modern suburbs, and before 8 AM I was at the famous wine fountain at the Irache winery, were I sacrificed one of my waterbottles to be able to fill it with about a glass worth of the free red wine flowing from the fountain to be enjoyed later in the day - I just couldn´t start drinking at that early hour and with about +8 km ahead of me to my stop for the day!
The walk went fast it seemed - especially because I had started so early. My goal for the day was to get to Villamayor de Monjardin, so I could give my knees a bit of rest. I was there by 10 am, and first I stopped at the Albergue Parroquial, but decided to check out the Dutch Albergue I had read about, before deciding, even though it wa tempting to get rid of my backpack, which the parroquial offered to store until they re-opened at 2 PM.
I am glad I did, because the Dutch Oasis Auberge was so nice, right on the plaza of the little mountain village, across from the lovely church. As I approached I was greeted by the Dutch hospitalier and was told to just go ahead and choose a bed, take my time to shower and do laundry, and make myself at home until it opened at 4 pm, at which time we would do the paperwork! What bliss!! "Oh, and if you encounter other pilgrims during the day, just tell them the same, and let them get settled."
It was just so nice to be able to get all the chores out of the way in peace and quiet, no rush, no long lines, no wet bathroom floors, and lines at the laundry sinks! Yes, life on the Camino really is simple and quite basic, you are happy when you have a bed secured, can bathe and wash your clothes, and hang them out to dry in a sunny spot! I was done before 11 am!!
Then I went in search of food, and the bar at the plaza was closed - after searching the few streets I returned to the bar, the one and only in town! It did say it would be open at 9 am, but obviously not! A few other pilgrims had stopped also, waiting for the bar to open, and sure enough, a few minutes later the owner showed up, and we applauded - and he jokingly turned around as if he was leaving again - but he did open, and soon I was happily consuming a much-longed for café con leche and a bocadillo in the warmth from the sun, which just then was emerging from it´s hideaway behind clouds.
I enjoyed just sitting and listening to the talk among the pilgrims as they wandered in to get refreshments before most of them continued on, most likely to the town of Los Arcos, where I would go to the next day.
Back at the Oasis it slowly filled up, first 2 Danes came, then a couple of Finnish ladies, a loud Italian - first I found him annoying, I will admit, but he grew on me as I got to know him a bit better. He was actually a nice guy, just loud, boisterous, well - Italian!
In the late afternoon we sat outside, enjoying the sun and I did a little sketch of the church and the view. We were enjoying seeing the little village coming alive - there was a fiesta going on, and earlier in the day there had been a wedding at the church.
As the last beds were filled, we had ourselves a nice, very international group of pilgrims - about 20 or so, and we had communal dinner in the cozy dining room with a fabulous view of the church and the country-side below. The food was really great too, a really well-prepared and delicious home-cooked meal, good wine and good company! Afterwards there was Christian Meditation, a bit difficult with the fiesta going on outside, but very nice.
The night was not as restful as one could have wished for, the fiesta went on until the early morning with loud music and fireworks throughout the night!
At 6 am the lights went on, and it was time to get up, pack and go down for a fabulous breakfast - by far the best I have had so far! There was everything you could imagine and then some - not just a cup of coffee and a cake or croissant, but eggs, granola, yogurt, rye bread, toast, etc. You have got to give it to the Dutch - it was fantastic!

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