My Least Favorite Thing About Spain

Public bathrooms!!! They are almost non-existent. Even public parks and playgrounds do not offer restrooms. If you are out and about and in need of a toilet, then you must go to a bar or a restaurant and order something to eat or drink to be allowed to use “los servicios”.

WiFi in Spain – Camino Edition

International Symbol of Service!
International Symbol of Service!

We generally found WiFi to be available at many – close to most, but not quite all – peregrino (pilgrim) places along the Camino (see separate notes for the rest of Spain). Many people we met along The Way relied SOLELY on WiFi for “keeping in touch,” mostly via e-mail (text messaging generally requires mobile phone service – see separate article on how we handled that kind of service).

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Things That Are Different In Spain

Beds– bed sizes do not seem to be as standardized here as they are in the states. Twin beds are sometimes the size that we are accustomed to, but sometimes they are considerably more slender. And mattresses tend to be much firmer, and sometimes, it seems, we end up sleeping on box springs.

Pillows– pillows are generally firm, but thinner and longer than those at home. They stretch across the entire width of a twin bed. Sometimes a double or queen size bed will have a single pillow that spans the width of the bed.

Bathrooms– often hotel and hostel bathrooms will have bidets, sometimes not. Often there are shower curtains or doors, sometimes not. Usually there is shower gel and hand soap. Sometimes there is shampoo, sometimes not. Almost always, the bathroom light switch is outside the bathroom, so you have to turn it on before you enter the bathroom.

Business hours– Some businesses have posted hours. Most do not. When they do have posted hours, these should be seen as just a suggestion, they may or may not actually be open during those hours. Most businesses will close for afternoon siesta. Afternoon siesta hours vary, it may start as early as noon or as late as 4 pm, and may last from 1 to 3 hours. Most businesses are open on Saturdays and closed on Sundays and fiesta days.

Breakfasts– eggs often appear on the dinner menus but are rarely available at breakfast time. Pancakes, waffles, and French toast are unheard of. Spanish breakfast is toast or pastry, coffee, and orange juice, and occasionally may include a shot of liquor to start the day off right!

Mealtimes– Spaniards eat dinner at 8:00. Unless a restaurant is specifically catering to pilgrims, it is closed from 3:00 to 7:00. Some of the bars that serve breakfast do not open until 9am.

Hotels – hotels are mostly small family run businesses. Sometimes the hotel is just on one floor of a multi-use building, so you have to have them buzz you in, then you take the elevator to the correct floor to find the reception desk. Checking in is a rather casual affair. If you have a reservation you just tell them your name, they ask for your passport and record your serial number and they hand you a key or show you to a room. You have to come back to the desk in the evening to pay your bill because there may not be anyone at the desk when you check out in the morning.

Architecture– there is not a lot of wood in Spain, the old growth forests were cut down centuries ago. What Spain does have, in abundance, is stone. So almost all the buildings are constructed of stone or bricks. Sometimes new buildings are put up on very old foundations. It some towns areal effort has been add to preserve the Medieval character, so they will preserve the ancient wall facing the street, but all the rest of the building is brand new.

Flowers- walking across Spain in September and October, I have seen lots of flowers in bloom. Some of which I have always thought of as Spring blossoms. The mountain meadows were full of purple crocuses, and today I saw Easter lilies in someone’s yard.

Wine– wine is cheap, as cheap or cheaper than drinking water, or soda, or beer. The house wine is almost always locally produced and usually quite good.

Accountability– many bars have TV sets showing the news throughout the day. I only understand a little of what  is being said, but I am sure that I saw some very rich and powerful bankers being taken off to jail.

Utilities– electricity is considered to be expensive here and therefore used somewhat sparingly. Many hotels hang their linens out on a clothes line rather than use an electric dryer.

Breakfast in España

In Spain you get breakfast or coffee at a bar. Spaniards don’t line up, they push up to the bar to place their orders. And you do not pay when your order is placed. They will only take payment after the food has been consumed. And they don’t seem to keep any written records. So on a busy morning, a bar keeper may be keeping track in his/her head of a dozen orders, remembering who ordered what and what their tabs are. They do a phenomenal job, and they do not receive tips. Most often, the bars are small mom and pop businesses run entirely by family members.

A basic breakfast of toast or pastry with coffee usually costs 3 euros. If you add orange juice it costs an additional 1.5 euros. Eggs are rarely available at breakfast time, and when they are it is usually in the form of a “tortilla”. In Spain the word “tortilla” refers to something totally different than the Mexican tortilla. The Spanish tortilla is a sort of frittata filled with sliced potatoes and sometimes a little ham or chorizo. The orange juice is called “zumo” after the machine that squeezes it. They just load the whole oranges into the top, the machine cuts and squeezes them on demand.

Sarria

Up to now everything has been prelude. Sarria is the beginning of the final stretch, the last hundred kilometers of the Camino De Santiago. Lots of people use Sarria as their starting point and only walk from Sarria to Santiago. So, as busy as the path has been, it is about to get a whole lot busier. Now, you may be asking ” What is so special about those last hundred kilometers? Why not walk the first hundred kilometers, or any stretch in between, if you can’t or won’t do the whole thing?”

The answer is that there is a prize awarded to anyone who walks the last hundred kilometers of the Way leading into Santiago de Compostela-a signed and sealed certificate, written in Latin, with a Latinized version of your name on it, and suitable for framing! Oh, and there is also some mumbo-jumbo about all your sins being forgiven, but I am not sure if that applies all the time or just during holy years.

So, those people who are goal-oriented (rather than process oriented), and those who are not over-achievers arrive in Sarria by bus or train and commence walking from there.

Me, I’m currently feeling like I am so over this. 6 weeks of walking was what I signed on for and I could care less about the Compostela. Trog, on the other hand, says he is not going home without his certificate. So, onward ho!

Uptown Sarria
Uptown Sarria

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Tidal Wave to Triacastela

Torrential rains stuck Galacia, according to the news. Which was no surprise to those of us out walking in it. We were pretty much soaked within 15 minutes. And then there was this catastrophic failure in the rain protection for my backpack.

Fortunately, Pony had planned a shorter day, so we were off the road and drying out before catastrophic damage to most of the contents of my backpack occurred. And the place she chose to stay also had the heat on. Continue reading “Tidal Wave to Triacastela”