Day 8: Najera – Grañon: 17.4 miles
Saturday, September 17, 2016: Departed: 8:15am, Arrived 3:15pm
We made our latest start of the Camino this morning. We actually still got up pretty early at 6:30am, but having the private room without the normal commotion of other pilgrims, and having done our longest day yesterday, we were in no hurry to get going. I took advantage of the wifi to get caught up on this blog and some work in the morning. We finally hit the trail to find a day much like yesterday, unseasonably cool with over-cast skies. We grabbed a quick breakfast at Azofra, and when we reached Cirueña, we had to put on our ponchos to continue walking in a light, but windy rain. We walked through yellow grain fields, with Santo Domingo’s tall cathedral spire, visible through the mist in the distance. Kind of lousy weather, but it was very beautiful all the same. We got a lunch of tapas in the main square, and we’re glad to see the rain let up, and that being a Saturday, there was some event going on. We’ve been surprise at how charmingly “dead” some of the towns / streets have been as we walk through. Perhaps we’re walking through too early, or during the siesta.
We walked on to Grañon, and were happy to find that the first albergue that we inquired at had beds available: Casa Sonrisa. One of the real joys of the Camino is not just the uniqueness of each town you pass through, but the variety of places you end up sleeping at. Because of the popularity of the Camino, most albergue lodging is utilitarian bunk / dormitory to fit many people in; although many towns also have smaller hotels and pensiones for those who like more comfort or privacy. The albergues may be massive dorms from a converted church nave that hold hundreds of people, or it could be a house re-modled to fit bunk beds in a variety of smaller rooms holding a max of 20 or so people. A bed generally cost around $12, although some are based on donations. Most of them have wifi, although some don’t which I actually find refreshing, even though I often need it. Most of them have a “pilgrim’s dinner” that costs around $11 which is a solid meal of a few courses and wine and bread. The meals have been some of my favorite times, since that’s when much of the interactions with people from around the world takes place. At this last one, a polish man sang a song in Polish and encouraged others to do so in their language. I thought about rocking out “Wagon Wheel” to represent NC.
In my line of tour work, I’ve probably accumulated 2 years of nights sleeping in hotel rooms around the US, and while they are clean, efficient, and private, they are about as cookie-cutter and anti-social as they come. Here, it’s a magical thing to still be able to just walk up to a place offering lodging, without reservations and consulting Trip Advisor or Hostel World, and be placed into a uniquely created room, sharing that room and bathroom with complete strangers who promptly become familiar souls.