My few days in Switzerland were absolutely fabulous. They were comprised of dinner at a fromagerie, with, my friend Julia, who I met in China and traveled to with to Bali. Saturday cheese fondue in Gruyere and then Lausanne for a walk around the lake. Sunday was my birthday and we spent the day walking through vineyards along Lake Geneva and dinner in Montereaux. Monday, I woke to a beautiful blue sky and was finally able to see Mont Blanc from my bedroom. Just in the knick of time since my flight to Madrid left at noon.
I arrived in Madrid to a perfect Spainish atmosphere – warm with a beautiful blue sky and the faint scent of cigarettes. My plan was to prepare for the Camino by mailing my suitcase ahead and buying some provisions. However, it was a holiday in Spain and nothing was open, so I walked around the city for a few hours and turned in early so I could leave bright and early for the train to Leon.
High and sight, I should’ve done a little planning and less sightseeing in Madrid, because when I got off the train, I had not a clue what to do and where to go. I needed to mail my bag, get some groceries and find a place to stay. Had I planned, these things would not have taken me several hours. But, once I completed them, I grabbed dinner, visited the city a little and went to the pilgrims mass, not that I understood anything. My spainish is non-existent thanks to the last four years of french. However, there was a sweet older man, who was so excited I was there. He walked me and a few other pilgrims around the cathedral, blabbering away in spainish that none of us understood. In the end he shook our hands and wished us all a “Buen Camino”.
The first night in the pilgrim albergue was not very good. I got the last bed in a room, which meant I was on the top bunk. I almost walked into the room and said, “Can we agree that if you’ve had more than two abdominal surgeries in two years, you deserve a bottom bunk?” And if anyone has me beat, I’d lay down my cancer card. But, the Camino doesn’t work like that. Then, I had a hard time falling asleep. This was mostly due to excitement, but it was also hot and the others in my room where going to the bathroom every five minutes. Then, most of the room was awake at 6 am, rustling their plastic bags and packing up to get out the door. So, after five hours of poor, restless sleep, I conceded and headed out as the sun was rising.
I’m glad I did, because it was quite poetic to see the sun waking up behind the cathedral and gracing the old monuments with a perfect light.
Getting out of the city area was typically ugly and I opted to take a longer,
alternative, more scenic view. It was at the fork that I made my first Camino Amiga, Margie from San Francisco, who broke away from the two friends she came with for the road less traveled, rather than that which was fastest. We talked and walked for hours and at lunch time, we easily threw together a picnic with the items each of us had. Canned chicken, cheese, nuts, fruit and chocolate. Not too bad of a meal for being on the side of a rural road, in the middle of nowhere Spain.
Eventually, we arrived in a little village of Villar de Mazarife. The first house in the village was an adorable albergue promoting a (rare) vegetarian menu. Bed, dinner, hot shower, wifi and breakfast for 21€. Done. Margie opted for the more expensive private hotel, since she pretty much had it with snorers and early risers.
I settled into my bottom bunk (three cheers) next to, of course, a couple French guys (Man, I just can’t escape them). After an amazing dinner of salad, pumpkin soup, veggie paella and a crepe, I tucked myself in for a solid seven hours of sleep.