Burgos was a beautiful and welcome city. The cathedral is grand and rightly takes up the center of attention, in a city with many noteworthy sights.
I entered at the end of the day, sweaty, tired, and happy. Walking into the plaza, I found friends from the Camino who had arrived earlier. I asked them for advice on where to stay and for some general prices. They gave me information and, armed with a map from the tourist office, went to find a place to stay for two nights.
The first place I stumbled upon was too “posh” for a disheveled pilgrim like me but I decided to ask for their price in order to get a base line for my search. Imagine my surprise when they gave me a price lower than my friends were paying at their hotels!
I decided to stay at the posh place.
Great decision. The room was more charming than any I had stayed in for a long while.
I took a LONG hot bath, unpacked, and went out to find dinner, returning to where I had found my friends earlier. Because it was the plaza in the center of the city, in front of the cathedral, it was ground zero for pilgrims – not only did the Camino pass right through the plaza, but the municipal albergue, for pilgrims looking for overnight accommodations, was also within throwing distance.
I didn’t find the same friends but did find others. Dom and Jean were having dinner with L., whom I had met a few days earlier when, after making herself a steak dinner in an albergue kitchen, took up my offer for my extra pasta. I had made dinner for myself that night in the albergue and, as usual when cooking for one, had quite a bit more than one person could eat. The “etiquette” is that extra food is offered for any pilgrims who have neither time and/or money to make a decent meal for themselves – the food is never wasted and the offer graciously accepted by anyone hungry.
Like I said, L accepted my offer at the albergue, even though she had just made a steak dinner for herself. I had been a little put out – the offer had been intended for those hungry, not those who had just eaten a steak dinner – but an offer was an offer and maybe she was still hungry. One other hungry pilgrim took me up on my offer and wolfed down the food so I was glad I had made the offer.
So now I found myself in Burgos, sitting down to eat with Dom, Jean, and L.
I didn’t know them very well and I asked where they were from and why they were walking. I guessed that Dom and Jean were from Ireland, an easy guess because of their accents. I guessed L was from Hawaii. Her Asian ancestry and all-American accent immediately took me to the islands.
But, no, she was from British Columbia, BC as they say, in Canada. Did I detect a very subtle note of unhappiness that I had assumed she was Hawaiian because she was Asian? Had I made a terrible prejudicial faux-pas??
When I lived in Hawaii and people mistook me for Hawaiian, I was nothing but flattered. A lovely place, with nothing but good memories and vibrations for me, had I now offended her by suggesting she was from there?
We all compared where we were staying in the city and, when I mentioned where I was and how much I paid, L announced that she would NEVER have paid that much for a room, that she could stay four nights on the Camino for what I had paid for one.
Yes, I knew that was true. the albergue would have been one-fourth the price.
But I had planned on Burgos being one of my rest towns.
I hadn’t wanted to sleep in a creaky bunk bed and to share a bedroom and bathroom with 20 people. I wanted my own bed, my own lovely, clean bathroom. I wanted to use someone else’s full size towel, not my hand-towel size microfiber one. I wanted to sleep on clean sheets, not in a sleeping bag. I hadn’t wanted to have to leave at 0800 the next morning. I wanted to sleep until maybe 0900 and have a leisurely breakfast the next morning, sans heavy backpack, muddy boots, and dirty hiking poles. And I knew I had done well with the price.
So why did her comment so quickly and completely make me feel so badly about myself?
I decided that I didn’t need to go through dinner with a person who made me feel uncomfortable – was this Big Tess talking in my ear (remember my saints? If not, go back a few blogs and read up on my traveling companions).
I left and had an ice cream sundae for dinner near my hotel.
Had I offended L by assuming she was from Hawaii instead of from Canada? This still gnaws at me.
Why did her comments about my choice of hotel instantly make me feel like a person who is incapable of making good choices?
Why did I let her make me feel like an idiot? This gnaws at me still, also.