This Camino I decided to have just two rest days and more short-distance days. Today was my first rest day, in Pamplona, and my legs were appreciative.
With 200,000 residents, Pamplona is a jarring contrast to the small towns I’ve been in all week. And kind of a shock. There’s an intersection near my albergue, where hundreds, if not thousands, of young folks and pilgrims hang out at night. The noise level is amazingly high and it’s an intense urban experience.
It was great seeing the two brothers who run Casa Ibarrola and they are still a lot of fun. My Spanish skills get a real workout (though they speak English and other languages), which is great. Sadly, there was a lot of late coming and going in the dorm last night, so I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, air-conditioning notwithstanding.
I went to Calle Estafeta last night, which is pincho Ground Zero and dug in. For 4-5 euros, you get a pincho of your choice and a glass of wine (and a healthy pour, at that). My favorite last night was a sauteed artichoke and sweet onion plate. While it’s financially feasible to go from bar to bar, having a pincho at each stop, the amount of wine you get would slow you down quickly. I cut myself off at two pinchos, determined not to court a hangover this morning, Sitting outside along the street lets you enjoy your pincho and wine and take in the passing scene.
As I sit writing this, I’m amazed how many pilgrims are showing up at Casa Ibarrola, sans reservation, looking for a bed. There are several categories of accomodation along the Camino but only one kind, the “municipal” albergues, don’t take reservations. This is a Holy Year, with special activities in Santiago, and there’s also a huge pent-up Camino demand, so arriving here mid-afternoon without a reservation is a formula for sleeping in a church pew.
In case you’d forgotten, Ernest Hemingway wrote a few popular books set in Spain. The Spaniards have not forgotten him and are still trading on his history here.
Sugar in all its fascinating forms are on offer here as well and I thought the following items were fun. Especially the “dentures” made of sugar – what a foreshadowing of what will happen if you eat too much!
I’m not sure what the shoes are made of, marzipan maybe, but I was assured that, for a hefty price, they’re edible.
As part of my rest day and health maintenance plan, I had a 30-minute leg and foot massage this morning. Wow! It was terrific and really ironed out some kinks in my quads and calves. I’m not much of a massage customer generally, but this was really worth it and I know my legs will be ready to go tomorrow. (No photos, to protect the innocent)
I also located and visited the local Decathlon store. This is an international chain of sporting goods stores, something like Dick’s in the U.S. I popped in there to replenish my supply of energy gel. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an edible, syrupy gel in foil tubes that provides quickly-absorbed glycogen. It was developed for endurance sport athletes, marathoners and bicycle racers, and provides a boost when muscle fatigue sets in. I find taking it 3/4 of the way through a hard or long hike gives me the boost I need to finish the day without exhaustion. Unlike some booster drinks, no caffeine is involved.
The area of Pamplona that I’m staying in has a lot of albergues and the Camino goes right through town here. But there are several large squares and it was interesting to get away from pilgrims and get a good look at urban Spaniards up close. Generally, they’re well-dressed and groomed, even the hip youngsters. And families are a Thing – with three, four, and even five children out for a Saturday walk with their parents. They’re a handsome people.
When I was taking “ALM Spanish” in junior and senior high school, one of the first food words we were taught was albondigas. Perhaps because spaghetti with meatballs was on offer every Wednesday in the school cafeteria. So when I decided to eat lunch at a plaza-side cafe today and a familiar menu item caught my eye, I had to order it.
The downside of a rest day is that it throws your daily routine off and I now need to start seeing to my backpack and stuff, reviewing my 24 Kms route tomorrow (yes, another long one), and getting ready for an early, possibly rainy, start tomorrow. And that’s no bull.