Just Don’t Be An Asshat

There are Do’s and Don’ts of life. Things you shouldn’t do if you want to be a good citizen and get along with others you live along side. In crudest terms it might be just the ‘Don’t be an asshole’ approach.

Im not saying I’ve never been one but I generally try not to be. Respectful is my general philosophy. And here on the Camino there are some easy tips on ‘How not to be THE asshole Peregrino in an Albergue.’

Numero Uno: Don’t come into any Albergue dormitoro and assume you can make as much noise as you like. People are sleeping. Could be 3pm and they’re napping after walking all day. Or it might by 8pm and they’re still wrecked from walking 35 km. But there will be sleeping. Be quiet unless its a small room and you can see everyone is awake.

Numero Dos: Don’t come in loud and drunk at 10pm and decide that nows the time to organize your pack, call your Mom, recount the good times at the bar with your friend. NO!! Just NO!! We’re not all 20 on a gap year!

Numero Tres: Don’t pack your stuff in noisy plastic grocery bags and rifle through every one of those bags multiple times at night and then in the morning. Use cloth stuff sacks! Like a human. And don’t sit on your bed next to me opening your plastic wrapped breakfast protein bar after your very loud phone alarm goes off!

Numero Cuatro: And speaking of alarms – DO NOT set an alarm on anything but silent/vibrate. Then put it under your pillow to wake you up. Not Everyone gets up when you do. Especially if you came in drunk late. See Numero Dos.

I like to think of it this way. Imagine you have a colicky baby who never sleeps. But finally you get them to nod off. You put them in their crib for some blessed quiet. Ask yourself ‘What would I never do while standing next to this sleeping angel?’ And then don’t do that in an Albergue.

But I gotta go now, apparently. The Janice of Spanish Albergue’s has dictated I will not get 5 minutes of sleep this night. Stay tuned for our next episode ‘How NOT to be an asshole over cafe con leche in a Spanish cafe,’ And feel free to share this with anyone you may know who is even remotely considering walking the Camino. As a public service.

Still – Buen Camino

Here We Go

Waking up at 4 am to catch a taxi to the airport seemed appropriate. That’s Pilgrim time after-all, and Santiago de Compostela was calling.

A little Planes, Trains and Automobiles to get to Sarria via Lugo but its the journey that kicks off the adventure. And this one will be completely different than last time. For so many reasons.

Its funny but as much as I’m so much better prepared for this Camino than the last time, its still emotional starting out. First off, I’m missing Emilie today. She and I did this together over 36 days and I’ve never walked this before without her. I’m surprised it feels so strange. Yet it does

But this time I can speak to the taxi driver and the information booth in Espanol. I know how to navigate time tables and how buses and trains work. So the administivia isn’t an issue. I’m wearing my trusty boots that took me over mountains and across 800 km. So its like traveling with an old and trusted friend. And I have the boot charms I wore the last time to remind that I can do anything I set my mind to.

Then there is the sitting in the Santiago bus station seeing Pilgrims ending their Caminos. They look healthy and clear. Like they’ve been cracked wide open from the experience. I remember that feeling and the sense of freedom that came with it. Like flying.

But there is something else in the air. Pilgrims just starting out in new gear with that air of uncertainty. They’re all quiet, whispering, looking around. Checking and rechecking their gear. Clinging to the only things they have brought with them from home. This time I’m not concerned with my gear. Secure in the fact that I can get anything I might have forgotten along the way.

But for Jeff, this is all new and I’ve enjoyed watching him prepare. His head on a swivel as he’s taking it all in. He lifted my pack at the airport.

‘Wow! Yours is nothing compared to mine. Are you sure you brought everything?’

I just smiled. I wanted to say ‘Yes and No. I haven’t brought everything. But I brought everything I need.’ But I don’t say that. He will have to learn this lesson on his own.

And so our Camino has begun. And already its speaking to me. Differently than last time but just as loudly, nonetheless. Old lessons remembered and new ones to come. Important ones, I’m very sure.

Buen Camino🙏

Feathering Our Nest

There is only one thing that could keep me from wanting to take this trip North. Just one thing. And unfortunately it’s reared its soft downy goose head. No, I’m not raising birds…YET. But I don’t have to because people in Nordic places where they horde such things have an ample supply.

Now, I don’t want to say I live a life of luxury. Because I don’t. But I’m about to get a taste of it with our new top of the range dual-pillow-chamber-down feather bed. Yes, it came in! And we’ve picked it up, ready for the cool climes of rainy October nights. Ah yes. Flannel sheets and a feather bed, in which to sink like a baby or sleep, as if a butterfly in it’s cocoon. Nothing is better than that. OK, there are a few things but right now I can’t think of many right now.

Wait, What?! When we it ordered this summer (it was 7,000 degree Celsius that day) from our friends at El Corte Ingles in Campanar, we had visions that October would be like Seattle. I’d need to wear my Barbour coat, a jaunty scarf, and cute Hunter boots (Wellys to the Brits). Laughing while I splash puddles and run from my car to the door of whatever business was worthy of my custom. Nodding to my fellow weather adventurers as we say something stupid like ‘Can you believe this rain?’ <wakes from dream and slaps side of head>. Oh yeah, we live in Valencia now.

The first weeks of October here have looked like the last week of September. Rain? What rain. I need an umbrella from the sun. Coats, or even a jacket, are the jokes you laugh at. Maybe if I got up at 3 am and went outside naked I might need a light windbreaker. (If I didn’t want to get arrested). But other than that it’s been too warm.

I sit here and look at this lovely dual-pillow-chamber down feather bed and I want to pet it. I won’t deny it.

‘Be my friend.’ I want to tell it. ‘Let me sleep on you in October like normal people in northern Canada before the global climate change catastrophe. I promise, if you do, I’ll skip my little Camino. I’ll stay with you. And if you’re good and make it get cold, I’ll let you play with my Canada Goose Expedition coat.’

At the mention of the Expedition coat I know I’ve gone too far. It doesn’t speak back. It just sits there in it non-ecofriendly wrapping mocking me. Fine! I’ll leave it here and go. But one thing I’m bringing back with me from Galicia is RAIN!! No matter what I have to do, I’ll find some sort of Celtic witch up there who can conjure a spell to let me do it. Because when I get back – sweaty weather or not – I’m sleeping on that dual-chamber-down feather bed come hell or high water! Yes, I may be doing it alone as Jeff will never agree. Very well. That’s just more Nordic luxury nee’ fantasy for me.

T- Minus 6 days

It’s less than a week before heading North. My friend, who I was going to walk the last leg of the Camino with, has become ill. We are postponing our walk together until next Spring. But I’ve got plane tickets and train tickets so I’m going. And, Surprise!!, El Jefe is coming with me.

Yes. He’s decided that he’s going to give himself a taste of what it meas to go on Pilgrimage. Jeff has always been a much more ‘Outdoorsy’ person than me. He’s owned sleeping bags and tents, while I’ve had none. He’s got gear up the wazoo and he moved it all here in that slow boat from the US to Spain last year. But the Camino isn’t a camping trip. It requires some things that he didn’t already possess.

We headed to our local Decathlon. Decathlon is a local sporting goods retailer (they’re French actually). They are everything we wish we’d had in the US. Everything REI used to be before their prices and narrowing selection sent us to other outdoor retailers. But Decathlon will sell you riding gear, archery bows, darts, tether balls, every paddle sport you can conjure up. And so much more. They’re like Costco for us. If we go there for one small thing we will leave lugging gobs of new sporting equipment home and have me on the phone with the local riding club the next day inquiring after a membership and a horse rental.

Their quality is excellent and their prices can’t be beat. Now Jeff and I are fully kitted out and ready for our journey. We’ve packed and repacked. Edited down to just the essentials. I took out another pair of pants today. Kind of proud of myself for that. But I hate being ready this early. Walking by those packs – ready to go – makes me want to leave now. But our flight isn’t until 6am on Sunday morning. So what to do?

I did what I always do these days when I’m feeling out of sorts. I picked up my brush and started painting. Here’s my newest creation. I’m hoping to finishing it before we leave. Jeff sat on his computer and watched me paint it.

‘Do you like it?’ I asked him.

He turned his head to the side to examine it – like our Golden Retriever, Mr. Perkins, used to do.

‘Yeah,’

A very Jeff response.

‘Do you think I’m evolving as a painter?’ I’m not sure what I was looking for.

Again, the head thing.

‘Well, they’re all different.’

I don’t know what I was expecting. This is the same response I get when I ask his advice on multiple outfits when we’re going out. So that’s how my week is going to go this week. But it will be worth it in the end.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I was walking back from Espacio Creativo today and I saw this painted on the ground. And I’m taking it as a good sign I’m on the right track.

Sunday – Fun day

We needed to get out of the house. Sure, we do stuff all the time but summer has roared back in the last week, and it’s been hot and humid out. Our landlord told me it’s call ‘St. Micheal’s Little Summer‘, since the end of September and the beginning of October is the time of St. Micheal. I’ll take his word for it. Either way – it’s been too hot to really be out mid-day.

A Sunday at the beach on Port Saplaya

So this weekend morning we got up early, walked down to El Espacia Creativo and hopped on the bikes for a ride down to the beach and up to Port Saplaya. It wasn’t too warm on the way up and we sat at an outdoor cafe, enjoying a coffee and water before heading back in the direct sun to stop at our favorite hamburger/biker bar for lunch. Asier’s is the best burger in Valencia (sin gluten options) and it’s located directly across from the La Marina tram stop by the beach. They know us there and are always lovely and accommodating.

But that’s not our local. Everyone has to have a local and our local dive bar is just down the street from our house. I’m not sure why, but the owner and his wife seem fascinated with all things UK and Irish and the bar, and often their apparel, reflects this. Again, they know us there. When we sit down the guy brings una cerveza for El Jefe and dos aguas for me – without asking. And they have good olives (a must when choosing a dive bar).

They also have electronic darts, and of an evening we are often found there battling it out for dart supremacy. Our dive bar is filled with hipsters too. It seems that most of the patrons are direct from Central Casting. They’re all ironically dressed, tattoo’d/pierced, and gorgeous. There is a part of me that feels like I need to check my hair before we make our way down there. We are not inked up enough for this crowd.

Everyone there has been accepting of us. They comment and laugh at my unique dart throwing technique. Less of Jeff’s precision and more of how my brother’s taught me to throw a baseball. I sometimes even hit the dart board. And one other thing that the patrons of this bar are all about is Ping-Pong. Yes, there are Ping-Pong tables at the small park across the street. Well, really it’s more like a large triangular median between the tram and several opposing streets, but in the middle are Ping-Pong tables.

B.Y.O.P

Are we now the proud owners of our own Ping-Pong paddles and balls? If you know Jeff, he will always have his own gear, so yes, yes we are. And you can’t head down to the bar without lugging your own paddles and darts packed in their own cases. Is this strange? Not as much as you might think. Other’s have them too. So it seems Jeff has found his people.

And today after our bike ride we headed there and enjoyed a hearty game of Ping-Pong and some darts. Then we went up the Turia to see the new Downton Abbey movie. I love Downton Abbey. It’s probably ridiculous, but I do.

One year, back in the US, we gave up satellite TV for 18 months. Well, everything but Netflix. We wanted our kids to go outside. It mostly worked. But one the thing I forgot about was Downton Abbey. And when the next season came out I was bereft. What would I do? I was desperate.

After missing the season premiere, I took drastic action. We had a dive bar in Snoqualmie a few miles from our house. Finaughty’s is an Irish bar with authentically sticky floors owned by an ex rocker who, on occasion, had some pretty famous peeps come and play for the local crowd. Lots of signed memorabilia lined the walls. But on a Sunday night it was dead. Like NO ONE would be in there.

So we put on our parkas over our jammies – yes, it was snowing – and we piled into the SUV and headed to Finaughty’s. The bar tender knew us, but then Snoqualmie is a very small place so he knew everyone – including people who never went to Finaughty’s to play darts and enjoy a pint. So we walked in and ordered something and took it to the far end of the bar near a tv. Then I appealed to the bartender to give up one of the sports they were showing and turn it on to Downton Abbey. Huh? He looked at me like I was crazy but there was no one else in there to protest so he did it.

We sat there in our coats, nursing our drinks, first watching the previous week’s replay and then the current episode. We tipped him very well and left. Each week, we went back and each week he turned on Downton Abbey. But very slowly something changed. Soon, more tv’s were tuned in to the exploits of the Crawley family. More people came in and started watching it. Soon the bartender himself was engrossed in the action. Discussions around sports had turned to Lady Mary and Matthew and if Lord Grantham could save the Abbey from financial ruin. And Edith? Poor Edith. When Matthew died in the car crash the patrons shed real tears right along with us.

Did we go every week in our jammies and parkas? Yes, we did. Did anyone ever look at us askance for our entirely inappropriate attire? Not after the first few weeks. They were too engrossed in Downton Abbey.

So it was only fitting that after watching the movie today – with a deliciously predictable plot – that we stopped in at our local and enjoyed a cool beverage – one pint and two waters – a game of darts, and a good chin wag about the exploits of our old friends at Downton Abbey. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday evening on any continent.