Day 18 – 4th October 2015, Ages to Burgos.
Alan and I left albergue San Rafael quite early, amidst the rowdy pilgrim rabble that were staying for breakfast. We preferred to venture out into the spitting rain to avoid the crush and find breakfast later. Porthos was nowhere to be seen. It was still dark but we took our time. At one stage we thought we had taken a wrong turning because the way markers were unclear, and like ‘Jack from Ireland’, we ended up walking through a field, but soon we saw a village in the distance. As we approached, we noticed some standing stone like monuments at the entrance to the village. We had reached Atapuerca, where the earliest human remains in Europe were discovered. Our ancestors, homo antecessor, lived in caves here and apparently they were cannibals! Its a good job the locals have not followed in their footsteps, otherwise the many pilgrims passing through would be the equivalent of fast food or like tasty morsels of sushi on a conveyor belt – ‘Yo pilgrim!’. Alan and I managed to walk through unscathed and found an excellent breakfast stop at the local panaderia called Las Cuevas (the caves). I recommend the apple tart!
The weather was still mizzling, when we came out so we trudged onwards and upwards and onwards some more. I must have experienced ramblers’ amnesia as I don’t really remember much about the trek between Atapuerca and Burgos in the rain, apart from the last section when we attempted to follow John Brierley’s alternative green route in the Camino guide book. This route was supposed to take us along the river, the peaceful and more scenic pathway instead of alongside the main road. We turned right after a bridge, like the guidebook said and ended up in someone’s allotment. I had not anticipated tip-toeing through members of the brassica family! We retraced our steps and used our intuition to find the right path, which was on the right at a second bridge (Brierley must have missed one!). This route did indeed take us along the river and through parkland, which made a very pleasant change from walking alongside the autopista. We reached a long promenade, lined with red lamposts on the final run into the city, which would have been lovely, had it not been raining and if we had not been so tired. The people jogging or interval training up and down the prom made me feel exhausted.
Eventually, we found the bridge that would take us into town and we wound our way through the damp and narrow streets towards the Hotel Nortes y Londres in the centre of the old quarter. Alan had clinched a superb value deal on booking.com. The name is a bit odd though, I mean why North and London? It is like a US satnav giving directions. I felt a bit self conscious squelching into hotel reception looking like an oversized, tangerine, drowned rat but the nice lady on reception didn’t bat an eyelid. I’m sure she must see this sort of thing all the time. We bumped into some rather squeaky clean, well turned out American pilgrims near the lift (no, not an elevator…it is called a lift), who flashed their million dollar smiles. The guy said “Oh you’ll love Burgos!”, with what I can only describe as forced jollity. I was non-commital but the wicked voice inside my head wanted to say two things, the first feigning a valley girl accent would have gushed, loudly back “OMG, you are sooooo right, like, I mean I’m sooo totally going to love it here…totally”, and the second would have boomed, like the voice of doom..”FAAAAAALSE PILGRIIIIMMMS!!!” (More on that terminology later on…) Not that I am judgemental you understand. Nope, the Camino teaches us to go easy on the judgemental thing. Talking of judging, hey now there’s a thought, how about a reality TV show called Judge Mental, or perhaps this judge could be the commentator on ‘Big Peregrino’? I’m sure he or she could rival Judge Judy in the ratings. Oh I digress. You can tell I am a tad overtired, while writing this post can’t you?
I must admit I was shattered so I actually took a nap for an hour. I could get used to siesta time. After that, Alan and I went in search of a launderette, oh the exciting things pilgrims do when they hit the big metropolis! We had a coffee while waiting for clothes to dry. Some time later we decided to pop over to the cathedral. We received our pilgrim stamps for our credencials and a Spanish tourist stopped us and asked if she could take our photo. Was this the ‘pilgrim paparazzi’? I declined to pay the full price of a guided cultural tour of the cathedral. I did not think it right or appropriate as it is a house of prayer and should be available to anyone who wants to take a few moments there in prayer or silent contemplation. I can’t say I found the cathedral a ‘thin place’ at all. Like St. Paul’s cathedral in the City of London, it seems to be bent on making money rather than stairways to heaven (cue Led Zepelin music…). I didn’t like all of the iron grilles and railings inside the main cathedral and side chapels. I couldn’t work out whether they were used to keep worshippers in or unholy rabbles and heretics (like me) out. It is true though that the architecture of the cathedral is magnificent and imposing though, so well worth a visit!
The rain kept coming down. I got a tad soaked through. It was not the best weather for exploring Burgos! Time for dinner soon…so we followed the hotel receptionist’s directions to, probably, the only vegetarian restaurant in town, but guess what? It was shut! I was thinking walking the Camino is hard enough but if you happen to be a veggie or vegan it is even tougher. Sort it out Spain! Perhaps the Coen brothers could write and produce a sequel to “No country for old men” called “No country for old vegetarians” and set it somewhere along the Camino, where the villages and plains look a little like the wild west!
Instead we opted for pizza and popped into a cafe not far from the cathedral. I wish I had noted down the name of it in order to tell you to avoid it as the waitress was very surly and rude. It is not the first time I have experienced or witnessed a bad attitude in eateries or the odd albergue, but you would think providing good customer service would be one of the top skills required in such places, but I guess things are different in Spain, or, to be more specific, some parts of Spain. Maybe being rude to peregrinos in Burgos is a local sport! Ok rant over, having said all that, my veggie pizza was very good so I retired for the night, away from the rain and content.
Find out what happened next in the following exciting episode…
Peace, love and light,