Thursday, September 5th

Back to the same bar as last night. Same order, cafe solo grande. The Cathedral bells toll, first the warning, then the eight rings.
Felt like one of those fake pilgrims this morning. Woke at pilgrim time, and just lay there for a while. Slept well enough, despite the chronically creaky bed that someone else had. Always takes a long time to get to sleep. Last night it was trying to remember the words to Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song' that finally did the trick:
"I come from the land of the ice and snow
Of the midnight sun, and the hot springs blow"
Can't remember much after that, but probably neither does Robert Plant.

Had the pilgrim breakfast of champions. Half a baguette with the kind of strawberry jam they sell in tiny packets, 'Pico' jam, then a peach. Strange how pilgrims you haven't seen for a while just suddenly turn up. The French guy I gave wrong directions to on the way out of Conques is here, and he's still under the illusion that I speak French. Oh well. Wish I could.
I'm wondering if the real fake pilgrims feel guilty too. About taking the places of real pilgrims, about making a farce out of the entire thing. About using the refugios as just cheap accommodation. I don't know, but I hope they do. This morning there were quite a few of them leaving. Most of the fakes leave at the last moment, when the refugios close their doors at around eight.

Then, around to this bar, passing a closer one, as pilgrims were massing there for that essential morning cuppa, and as I don't have the pack today, I'd feel like an intruder. But I've come to look forward to that first cuppa of the day being at the first town I pass through with an open bar. Always itching to get moving in the mornings, maybe that's why I'm feeling kind of guilty. Should be on my way, should be walking.

Anyway, the hospitalero showed me the upstairs part of the refugio, and I've dumped my stuff next to a bed there. It's different up there. No bunk beds, and only a few beds in each room. Kind of a cross between a refugio and a hostal.

Still here. Dutchpilgrim and Dutchmother have turned up, they're staying a few days as well. Chat for a while.

I have to maintain the "whatever" attitude, although some times it's really hard to do. I still don't entirely have it, I still like to see a bed that's mine, even if it's surrounded by people that snore, whisper, have squeaky beds and can't lie still, who have flashlights at 6 in the morning. I'm kind of glad that I haven't had to unpack the bedroll yet. Maybe I will. Certainly, the number of pilgrims who stayed at the refugio last night in no way equalled the number I actually saw on the road yesterday, maybe they all start later, or from other places, maybe some just pass through without stopping, maybe they began from further away, certainly the bikie pilgrims do. Maybe a lot just rock up, collect a passport, and stay.
I think that maybe you have to spend at least one night in a refugio, have a really bad night's sleep, wake up feeling like creaky crap, to really get into the true pilgrim spirit of always feeling just a little tired. Maybe it deadens the mind a little, although maybe it helps.

Second Bar. The Jamaica, and for some reason there's a huge colour photograph of New York on the wall. A few pilgrims just left. Must have got a whiff of the superpilgrim I am, and sent 'em on their way.

The internet place is closed, but saw a peregrino who looked like he's just arrived. Lordy, to arrive in Astorga at 9 in the morning means you've walked from where, exactly? Or maybe he's a pilgrim who's decided to forego the totally buggered beginning. Like I did.

Cafe Paris

Wanders. Noticed people entering the west door of the Cathedral. Followed suit, a Mass, another one. Carrying the Pilgrims Guide. Stood up, sat down, quiet thoughts, although the woman next to me took her handbag with her when she went up for the wine and wafer thing. Never can trust these peregrino types. Curious bells are ringing during these part of the service, and I'm not sure of the significance of this variation on the ritual. Then it was over, and time a short look around. Some really impressive work. But amounting to yet more interpretations of the same themes, Mary, the Passion. Eventually out.

Looking for the Post Office. Knew I'd seen it yesterday, but it wasn't where I thought it was, beyond the Roman walls. But no, walked further, a few streets, passing the banks saw the 'telegrafo' sign, followed it. Finally to the Post Office. Sent another pile of stuff home. 60 cents for the bag, and another 17 euros for the stamps.
Then down here, the Cafe Paris, vaguely on my way to the Gaudi Palace.

Gaudi Palace. Museo de los Caminos. 2.50 euros

Images, pietas, crucifixions, resurrections, Saint Roques, Saint Iagos, Saint Miguels, more Saints than Mary's, more processional crosses, then more paintings, sculptures. Glad just to sit here and rest the feet. I think Saint James would have done the same if he were here, and I'm wondering if Saint James came to town, introduced himself here, would they have stung him for the 2.50 admission price?
Still, they have a copy of the Codex itself, and another 'Libre D'Or' pilgrim book, but from the 1600's. Couldn't read what they had to say, but probably something similar to what pilgrims today typically write, "thanks for the hospitality and friendship and the camaraderie, Buen Camino!", wondering if any left drawings instead of words, like many do now. The medieval pilgrims can't all have been literate, or maybe they didn't let the illiterate ones get anywhere near the books.

And up the staircase leading to the top floor. Modern Art, including a dancing Salome; images of towns along The Way, one painting of the back of a pilgrim complete with backpack and sandals, some more sculptures, including one Henry Moore wannabe.

And down to the basement, to the tombs, and the archaeological material. Roman, Graeco-Roman, Arabic coins, gravestones with Latin inscriptions, sarcophagi, broken pottery, mosaics, emblems, stone carvings, the brick vaulted ceiling. It's literally very cool down here, but I wish some of the explanations were in more than just Spanish. It's good, although again, a sense of boredom with it all. "Yes, this is from the third century." Yes, well, whatever. Next!

Next is the Santiago Room, again. There's the Codex, and displays of postage stamps from the Holy Years, Santiago Peregrino's, Santiago Matamoro's, even a couple of Santiago Peregrino Orante's (which is Saint James kneeling and praying), a Santiago Peregrino Leyendo (Saint James reading aloud), and a Santiago a Caballo (Saint James on a horse), and between the doors, San Roque showing his leprous leg, but instead of the usual faithful doggie, we have a small angel.

Found the Chocolate Museum. Closed.
By now, the albergue will be open again. Today's wave of pilgrims checking in, having passports stamped, claiming a bed. Wonder who the lucky one will be who lays their sleeping bag on the squeaky one.

At the Internet place. Finding out a few details about Madrid. The closest Metro to the Hotel Paris, where I'm staying for a night, is Sol. Then, the next night, for the Hotel Finisterre, the Puerta de Toledo, while the Bus Station Metro is the Mendes Alvaro. While the closest Metro for the Prado looks like either the Banco de Espagna or Alocha, which is also the station for the Reine Sofia (where Picasso's Geurnica is).

Been on a spending spree, a new black shirt. Must be the only black shirt in Astorga, but what the hell. In the 'Confecciones Duran', run by an old couple, with no English, and me, with virtually no Spanish. Shirt, is something like 'Kermis', Black is 'Negro', and Large is 'Largo'. So, between us, we got it figured out. By the time the guy had produced the largest black shirt, probably in the entirety of Spain, and removed the pins, including having to use pliers to remove the hard ones, and removed the collar cardboard, I felt virtually obliged to buy it. It fits well, anyway.
With the new t-shirt, and now the new shirt, I should be absolutely spiffy when Chris arrives at the Madrid airport on Friday.

Back to the albergue. Met a Danish couple arriving, they're trying to make sense of the answers they were getting from the local chicks, so I led them to the albergue. Said they'd walked 29kms, from Villadangos. Doesn't quite tally, but they looked buggered anyway.
Upstairs, to my 'private' room, read a little. Then back down again. And Danishpilgrim is making some kind of fuss "there's been a misunderstanding!" They've been given an upstairs room too, but apparently it has no beds. They want to move into Room 2, plenty of beds in there. I'm not sure why the hospitalero has given them a room with no beds, but that's just the way of it.

Sanctus Spiritus .
I've been blessed again. A mass, didn't realise it was nun's singing 'til I turned around to discover why one priest was taking the wafer and wine down the back. Yep, all singin', but no dancin' nuns, behind a metal grill. At the end, the words Compostelle and Camino were used, so I assume that was a blessing.

Then back to the albergue, and once again get accosted by Mr and Mrsdanishpilgrims, and they're quite agitated, wondering if I had any explanation for why the hospitalero here decided they couldn't move rooms, "He just said no". Hell, I don't know why. To me, the hospitalero here has been a legend. Don't ask me, bejaysus, I've even been refused admission into a refugio. But I suspect Danishpilgrims are Danishtourists. A pilgrim, in the true sense, is grateful for whatever they might receive; shelter, food, safety. A tourist expects, and demands a comfy bed, a good room with a view, preferably with hot and cold running maids. Maybe Danishpilgrims should just go and pay for a hotel room.

Making tea, in the communal room. And, wow, MissFrenchpilgrim has a sunburnt face, she resembles a tomato. Meanwhile, MissFrenchPilgrim's boyfriend has two gas campstoves going, must be cookin' up a real mess o'French delicacies. I've had the Pilgrim Baguette, with tuna, as the only hotplate that works in here has been commandeered by yet another Frenchpilgrim, and typically, is taking forever. But, I'm not complaining, I'm a pilgrim.

later still
Sitting outside, the mountains in the distance, and looking over The Way I think I walked in, unless my bearings are totally screwed up, but whatever. Brilliant sunset, all pastels, lines of the mountains, all blue, and reading Zen and the Art, the section about 'Gumption'. Finished Part 3, and began part 4, which I think is the Greek stuff, Pirsig's ideas on Plato and Aristotle.