As my noisy fellow peregrinos started the usual palaver of packing for the road, I quickly threw some clothes on and went for coffee. The last bar I was in last night was open and busy. It’s 6.15. After two cups I sauntered back to the, by now, empty albergue, shaved and grabbed my stuff.
Todays walk was a bit easier than the previous two. It was uneventful, if long, and I finally rolled into Trinidad de Arre. A sizeable, pleasant enough town although unremarkable. Took about 20 minutes to reach the other side and I found myself alongside a busy main road. The Camino is marked with yellow arrows and shells. It’s hard to get lost in the campo (countryside) but in bigger towns it’s easy to miss an arrow. I turned 180. There were no other pilgrims in sight but a local guy put me right.
I went through the burbs and a park where huge walls appeared left and right. Must be a castle at Arre I thought but the path took me through an ancient gateway and suddenly I was in Pamplona. Cool. That was quicker than expected.
The first thing I noticed was the type of people hanging around the bars in this end of town. Lunchtime drinkers in biggish Spanish towns are a certain type and have a certain look. Workers in the professional services usually. That’s not what I saw here in this part of town. No, these were a little more on the shady side. They looked like amateur murderers hoping for a contract, or crack den wardens taking a break. I liked it.
Just a couple of blocks further in and the ambience changed. Now it was all upmarket bakeries, souvenir shops and pincho bars.
At an earlier village I had picked up a tip for the albergue Jesus y Maria. Picking your albergue is a tricky business. They are definitely a mixed bag. Looks like Jesus himself is endorsing this one so that’ll do for me.
Nice place in an old religious building, maybe a former monastery or even a church. There were four long dorms, two up, two down, forty beds in each. I asked for a bottom bunk and slung my stuff in.
After blogging, tidying up photos and such, I hit the town. Keeping away from tourist central, I headed for the murderers district. What a disappointment. All the fire starters, shoplifters, and general lowlifes had moved on. It was too quiet for me, so after one drink I went back to the normal town. It was busy. Mad busy. This is a Thursday at 8.00 pm. Everyone in town was partying.
I walked into a random bar. Someone shouted my name. An Irish couple from earlier today. We had a couple of drinks and some pinchos. Everything was excellent. And cheap. Crazy cheap. I moved to another random bar. My name rang out again. Mario, from Rome, and his wife Greta. More wine, more pinchos. I left them and checked out the main square. This area was much more family orientated and there were tons of people dancing. They didn’t need a reason. Just another Thursday night in Pamplona.
I walked into what would be my last bar of the evening. You won’t believe it but someone shouted my name again. A bigger group this time. The Carrolls from Halifax, Amy from California and Tom from Chicago. I walk into bars all the time in Harrogate, where I live, and I am soundly ignored – except by the people I owe money to. That’s the Camino.
So. Camino food. In the sticks it can be pretty basic. The Pilgrims Menu is a very basic three course meal. It comes with wine, water, and bread, all for about 10 euros. Last year while I was disparaging it, an English pilgrim, who loved it, told me “they’ve been eating this for 800 years,” Yes, he’s not wrong, but in those 800 years we’ve invented nicer stuff. That guys idea of something different was beans under toast.
In a bigger town, like Pamplona the food is excellent. A pincho is a slice of bread topped with anything you can think of. Prawns, ham, eels, chorizo, vegetables, fish, anything. Three is all you need. Four for fat bastards. A bargain at about two euros a pop. Plenty of full service restaurants too. You will not go hungry.
I was in bed before 10.00. It’s supposed to be lights out at 10 but people were still moving around, organising stuff. The snoring, particularly in the bunk above me had started with gusto. I gave it 20 minutes, grabbed my sleeping bag and went in search of another empty bunk. Well, the second section on the next floor was empty. Forty beds, unoccupied. Best nights sleep so far. And, as a bonus, in the morning, a complete shower/toilet block to myself.
So, here’s a tip. Scope out your albergue before lights out. Look for nooks. Look for crannies. Look for sofas, secret passages. Anywhere quiet. Then just relocate if you have to.
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