Spanish Stories

31. Jul, 2014


1. To manage without toilet paper

2. To manage without toilets

3. To pee in the bushes without wetting my boots

4. That a cold shower gets you just as clean as a hot one, but that a bath is a beautiful thing

5. To view snoring as a calming, comforting symphony

6. That I am stronger than I thought

7. That possessions turn out to be no more than a burden, especially when you have to carry them on your back all day

8. That black pudding is the same by any other name

9. That in the face of the pleasures of a nice wine, nice cheese, nice bread and good company, lofty ideals, philosophical aspirations and deep thinking are easily diverted

10. To recognize falcons, and nightingales and swallows and three different types of poppies

11. That family is everything.

12. To say –“a glass of red wine please” in Spanish

14. To go to sleep before it is dark

15. To stare down Spanish men

16. To bite the rind off cheese as hard as stone

17. To really look

30. Jul, 2014


It is a weird and beautiful thing to witness the Spaniards of Logrono going out for their Saturday night stroll. Wow- what they wear! They wear three different types of orange and dye their hair orange too. They wear embroidered pants and embroidered jackets and high boots all at once. They wear the tightest red pants over the biggestof bottoms. They wear thick woollen jackets and layered frilled skirts and white boots. The men wear spivvy suits and pink ties and green striped shirts and no one is in black - don’t even see it in the shops. Amazing.

Meanwhile, I sit here darkly in black; I have only got black shorts, black tee-shirt ( and a white one for best). No choices there and no match for the colourful extravaganza which is the Spanish dressed up.

There seem to be an inordinate number Two-Dollar-type shops around with padded bras, hokey souvenirs and little statues, and everyone is in there buying - men stand around with their wives on a Saturday night choosing padded bras in the Two-Dollar shop!

Little fat girls walk down the wet street in the most outrageously ornate white dresses for their Confirmation eating ice-cream and the mother, in embroidered, frilled and fringed suit walks beside proudly not even noticing the dress dragging on the wet ground. And Dad in his best, pink shirt, shocking pink tie and grey suit stalks behind.

And they all promenade around the streets for about two hours - just taking their time and walking and talking and generally showing off. The kids are all over the place - the naughty boys running about in unruly gangs. It’s like nothing else. Outside the church in the plaza they all kick balls and the fathers in their suits kick them back and the mothers stand about and smoke.

The teenagers show off with energy and abandon - the girls giggle and strut with much hair tossing and squealing. The boys lurk in nervous packs, acting as though they are not looking and comb their hair behind the church pillars.

It is all so relaxed but not. There are strict codes of behaviour and the mothers who look like they are paying no attention at all, are on to those kids in a second if they do anything wrong.

To me, it is all totally fascinating. I can’t speak to them but I could watch them for hours (and I do).

Hasta luego

PS My pathetic Spanish is a little bit better- can even say it’s raining now!!!L

29. Jul, 2014


I have walked a thousand kilometres and I have had not one single vegetable except lettuce, tomato and white asparagus - believe it or not.

It is almost impossible to get vegetables and yet every day I pass field upon field of amazing huge, luscious vegetables - carrots, broccoli, and cabbages as big as your head, beans, peas, spring onions by the mile. But when you get to read “Menu Del Dia” - the peregrino (pilgrim) special for eight euros, never a vegetable is to be seen. This is what we eat.

Before you eat you get up at 5.30 am and walk. After a few hours, maybe about 9.30, the first cafe will show up. You can recognize this cafe because firstly there are the ubiquitous red, green or white plastic chairs outside. These are of the Warehouse variety and come with plastic tables to match. The second way you can recognize the café to stop at is that there are all these packs dumped messily outside.  Inside are a variety of wrecked people knocking back cafe con leche and croissants or croissants con chocolate or tostadas. So we sit and we enjoy.

The best morning thing is the orange juice. I get it every day to ward off illness!!! (well that’s my story anyway). It is like a spell to keep me healthy. They have these amazing machines which squish the oranges down and produce a fantastic fresh orange juice every time. The guys behind the counter are pretty hot with the coffee machines too. That is all you get, never any other kind of coffee but I love that.

So, after that we walk some more. Sometimes we eat whole bars of chocolate to ourselves or healthy things like figs. But mostly we just walk.

So then it is cafe con leche (grande) again in a few hours, the packs are there again and so are the chairs. This time we go for bocadillos. This is a loaf of French bread with either cheese, salami or ham and NO butter. You can NEVER get butter.  You can never get lettuce and you can never get tomato, just cheese and chorizo or salami or ham. We  eat them anyway. I am now addicted to Kas Limone which is basically Schweppes lemon. I drink about six a day. Saves me having to carry heavy water bottles!!

So, finally make it through to the end of the day, drink mucho vino tinto and then get Menu Del Dia. Across the whole of Spain it is exactly the same. Amazing, they even have the same salt and pepper and oil and vinegar cellar thingys in a little set as well. Who sells these things? The food is pretty much the same everywhere and hardly imaginative – everything comes with chips.

I will miss out all the detail about what goes with the chips but it is not vegetables, and tell you only about the Postre (pudding). Every time it is yoghurt (plain - boring), Flan ( (creme caramel)  -the kind you buy in the supermarket that is like horrible sweet yoghurt, or Tarta Santiago - amazing almond cake. It doesn't take much to slide straight to the default setting and I have Santiago Cake every single day. The meal, which does not include vegetables but does include wine, bread, and Santiago Cake costs 7 or 8 euros. Hey, how lucky can you be? L

PS One day I will bore you to tears with the details of ensalada mixta and lomo con fritas (pork and chips to us).

PPS And then I will bore you some more with how much weight I gained while walking 30 kms a day!!!! (and eating whole bars of chocolate).


28. Jul, 2014

Well, I made it to Burgos without a falter. I am like a stubborn little oxen, trudging along day after day. It is amazing, and more amazing that I am loving every second (not counting the cold showers).

There is, of course, the challenge of all this communal sleeping and stacked bunks. I think having to sleep together like this with all those Europeans is an ‘experience ' -maybe one most people could live without. All these men fussing with their packs and sox and then the one who slept above me last night who just climbed up there like a fully-clothed mountain goat and began to snore.

The weather is wonderful, am starting earlier now, usually at about 5.30 to avoid the heat in the afternoon. I am burnt black on the back of my body as the sun is always behind us, but hardly attractive with the sox marks.

The Camino passes through towns and villages in a long winding path and there is a never ending trail of pilgrims who have been moving along it since forever. The villagers just go about their business and ignore this silent wave of struggling snails that pass relentlessly day after day through their towns. They haven’t particularly tried to make much of the tourist opportunities, sometimes they offer coffee and things but not much more. Anyway, pilgrims don't want to buy anything because you will have to carry it.

It is tricky to get the Spanish time frame working for you with the dead siesta time in the middle of the day. I have had some ugly afternoons in the heat when everything is closed and nothing moves, no children play, no cars drive around - all is still except sometimes for the struggling pilgrim -  trapped out of time between towns.

I am getting better at it and trying not to do days that are too long - I want to last. Today into Burgos was 29 kms and a good nine of it through the industrial wasteland of outlying Burgos. I had thought of a bus but never saw one and anyway, am taking pride in never having put my foot on a bus here yet. Many people do, there is a whole raft of ways that people get from one place to the next and many don’t really walk much at all. But there is a core of diehards (and die hard we will) who are walking it all. (Lots of people on bikes- they always look very clean and sleek in the morning but wrecked and sun-burnt in the afternoon).

I walk along, mostly alone, sometimes with people. There is very little English around me, and my Spanish is getting better. Lots of French and Germans (why are they ALL so ghastly) but lots of Spanish, so often I am just in a bit of a dream world. Still not having any profound revelations, just  -  is that pain in my left thigh going to turn into the massive collapse and should I take my boot off to get the grit out before it turns to a blister. I spent hours thinking about whether I should cut the sleeves of my expensive tee-shirt off with my nail scissors because I was so hot ( didn't in the end).  You know- real meaning of life stuff - not.

Anyway, Spain is green and red (lots of it in bottles) and amazingly different when you get up close and personal. The men are horrible, stare and all look wrecked. Lucky that!!!

28. Jul, 2014