Family Movie Night – Day 34 – VillaFranco to Vega de Valcarce

What is a family? How do people come together? How do unwritten relationships develop?

Do you stick together always? Can you choose to become unglued? How do you find that delicate balance between being together and being separate?

People floated into and out of my circle of Camino family members on an almost daily basis. I would walk with people for days, then lose them for the rest of the trip.

My journal was full of names and incidents which would have been forgotten yet had made it into my journal because of their importance to me at the time. But some names were beginning to appear again and again.

My Camino family was coming together  –  Andres, Juan Carlos (the boys), myself,  and Christina, the bright, friendly college student from Virginia.

The four of us began to run into each other more frequently.

We usually split up at the end of the day since we had already decided where we each wanted to stay, for whatever reason (“This place sounds cool,” ” I heard this place has good breakfast,” ” I need a washing machine,”  etc).

Anyway, since we were walking the same basic plan (last one to leave the albergue, frequent stops for coffee and/or beer) we stood a good chance of running into each often.

But how do I explain the fact that, even when there were two or three choices of routes to take, we all seemed to magically pick the same one.

The Camino was pulling us together.

My albergue the night before had been glorious – clean, quiet, bright and  spacious.  I had seen several familiar faces and I was one of the last to leave in the morning.

On my way out, I asked the hospitalero which route he recommended I follow – there were three options. His answer, short, sweet,  logical – “The easy one, of course!”

I took his advice, again an alternative route, which offered some stunning views, avoided traffic, and was not uber-challenging.


The route followed a river valley . The stream running on my left was peaceful and the bird songs were some of the most beautiful I had heard during the Camino. It was as if the Audubon Society played all their recordings at the same time.

After walking through such a Garden of Eden, I was surprised to stumble upon another place where the owners had decided to drop out of the rat race and start a new life on their own terms. Of course, at that hour of the morning, I was like a moth to a flame when I read the sign out front – “Fair Trade Coffee.”


As I drank my coffee and ate breakfast, I enjoyed the peace, the music and the  really good food.

I asked the owners how they ended up here and where they got fair-trade coffee.

He was from the Netherlands and enjoyed cooking for people. They had local family who had told them about this spot. They pointed to the truck stop across the stream, next to a highway. They said that most drivers go to the truck stop but they did OK with the pilgrims on this side.

As I was finally leaving the coffee shop, who should come along but the boys, Juan Carlos and Andres.

By this time I had forgiven them for introducing me to “Botillo” the night before, that classic local dish which was mainly a ball of meat parts and which had endured in my stomach long after the sun had gone down.

The marvelous bird songs,  great morning coffee, and dazzling blue sky and sunshine had put me in a wonderful mood.

I thought the sign said "Walk without dying." What it says is that the stream is "catch and release." Don't kill the fish. OK, so my Spanish still isn't that good.

I thought the sign said “Walk without dying.” What it says is that the stream is “catch and release.” OK, so my Spanish still isn’t that good.

Andres, Juan Carlos, and I walked together the rest of that day. We talked about every topic under the sun. They explained Spanish culture to me – history, language, geography, politics – with generosity of spirit and passion.

I learned they were brothers.

We talked about our families, our careers, our homes. I began to understand their deep love for their country.


When we arrived at our stop for the day, we were crushed to learn that the albergue had only one bed left  If I took it, where would the boys go?  The small village had only one albergue and there were no pensions in town. Heading up the mountain so late in the day to find a bed in the next town was out of the question.

I did not want to leave them without a place to stay – it had happened inadvertently weeks earlier and I still felt badly.  We needed to find a place for three people.

The young hospitalero at the albergue was determined to find a place for us in spite of the fact that he had a full house of pilgrims to look after. He made phone call after phone call on our behalf.

He was finally able to find a local who had some empty rooms we could share, the double for the boys, the single for me. The problem was, the price of the single was twice the price of the double – way over my budget.

Then, the boys decided to split the total cost three ways. It would reduce the cost for me, but would increase the cost for them. But they did it anyway.

The Camino was gracing  me with undeserved blessings, this time in the form of a true Camino family.

The side door led to our home for the night.

The last door led to our home for the night.

The rooms were in a four-bedroom house being renovated and we had the house to ourselves. When we went there with the owner, she discovered that the last person to stay in the house had left the double room unmade.

The result was that each of us would get a single.

St. Julian, patron saint of hospitaleros – You Rock!

After I settled in.

After I settled in.

Heavenly!! Soft, clean sheets, flowers at the windowsill. A huge double bed. A bathroom – with a bathtub!

The kitchen had a wood burning stove which seemed to be in good working condition.

The kitchen had a traditional wood burning stove.

We went to the only restaurant in town and Juan Carlos was excited to introduce me to the tiny little fish which were now in season. Eat the bones or not eat the bones? It was an ongoing topic of discussion.

Being an adventurous traveler, I ate the bones. This time, the boys’ culinary suggestion was spot on. That meal was one of the  memorable ones of the Camino.

The end of a delicious meal

The end of a delicious meal

After exploring the village on the way back from dinner, we made our way back to the house. They managed to plug the right plug, switch the right switch and, for the first time in weeks, we had television!

They found a classic movie channel and they were appalled to learn that I had no clue as to the stars of the movie, their legendary status in Spanish cinema or their legacies that continue today.

That night, the three of us stayed up late watching Spanish movie musicals. Can you imagine hearing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” for the first time, unaware that it’s a classic? That was me, unaware of this entire aspect of great movie history.

We knew we had a rough day ahead of us but we stayed up late anyway. When we finally retired, and I crashed into bed, I slept like a person who had already climbed a  mountain., No traffic, no snoring, no animal sounds – I was out.

La Hija de Juan Simon (1957). Starting out as a traditional flamenco singer, Antonio Molina’s amazing technique and good looks made him a star.


The Latest Pilgrim Accessory

Having trouble getting your pack weight down to 10% of your body weight?

No problem.

Your friends at DARPA are looking after you.

Move over, Robot Chicken. Robot Pilgrim is on the way.

Video? – Day 33 – Molinaseca to Villafranca

Still feel like a gorilla with a computer.

I’ve been working for many days on embedding this YouTube video into this blog. I still haven’t gotten it right.

Put on headphones if you’re watching this at work.

A special shout-out to my Camino family who inspired me and helped make the final days of my Camino so enjoyable and memorable. Still have many days to go, but everything is coming together at the end.

Video nerds – I still need help. This movie was done on Picasa 3 when Microsoft Photo Gallery became too unwieldy. Any thoughts??


Gorilla with computer


Dear Reader,

No, I’m here. And I haven’t forgotten about you. I’m trying to post a video on this blog and it’s a little harder than I anticipated. If I can’t get it to go, look for a link to a YouTube site instead!

Work in progress.


He always made it look soooooo easy.

He always made it look soooooo easy. What a show-off. Look at him – I think he’s mocking me!!







One Year in One Day – Day 33 – Molinaseca to Villafranca


Walking the Camino solo gave me time to think about the pleasure of choosing a family.

A Camino family.

As you walk, you pass, and are passed by, many pilgrims. Some of this occurs on the road. You stop for coffee and find yourself sharing a table with a stranger whose pack is close by. A conversation starts, and, presto, you find yourself walking together for miles.

Other times, your walking companion continues on, while you settle into a bar for lunch. Will you see each other again?

Maybe, maybe not.

Sometimes, you pass, and are passed, when you end the day.

In the albergue, you throw your sleeping bag on a bunk next to someone you’ve seen a few times over the past few miles. You talk and decide to have dinner together – maybe at a restaurant, maybe pooling resources and making a meal in the tiny albergue kitchen. The next morning, you get up and they have gone, their bunk empty without a trace that they were ever there.


There are people you keep running into again and again. At lunch, in town, leaving an albergue you discover you shared the night before. Since everyone is walking a similar route at a similar pace, it is not surprising that you run into the same people.

I had discovered that, although I enjoyed/needed people to talk to at the end of the day when settling into a town, I enjoyed walking solo. I liked getting lost in my thoughts for hours at a time. I didn’t have any particular problems to work out. I simply found that walking solo gave me lots of time to really see and enjoy my surroundings.

Walking solo made me available for adventures and experiences that would never have happened if I had been with other people, lost in conversation. The woman on the trail outside Leon? The old man and the cherry tree? Elisa and her gift?

None of those experiences would have happened if I had been with other people.

Not to mention my strange yet not uncommon “Saint-sightings.”

As I walked along, I came to appreciate the  pilgrim friends I was meeting again and again. I was comfortable with the idea that we could go separate routes and, when we met again, it would be like family coming together at the end of the day.  If we decided that we wanted to see different things, it would be OK to split up because we might meet again soon.

In a real family, there are actually few certainties. You can be fairly certain that your parents and your children will stick with you no matter what. But you can never be completely certain about your spouse, in-laws, others who have chosen, or have been chosen, to be part of your family. You never know for certain what is going on in the mind of your husband or wife, do you? You have faith that you do, you trust that you do. But you have no way of knowing for sure.


Your Camino family becomes a family of choice. People chose to be together. Knowing that the family has a definite end point – arrival at the final destination – your Camino family choses to stick together and to give each other space and support as needed. You allow each to accept or reject advice, conversation, insights, whatever, and not take offense.

I’ve come to the conclusion that every day of walking with someone on the Camino is the equivalent of knowing that person for one year. So, if you walk with someone for three days, it is the equivalent of knowing them for three years.

As I go through my photos, I am surprised at the number of times people who ended up being my close Camino family would be somewhere in my photos. Usually not center stage, usually in the background or a half profile here, their stuff on a bunk bed there. But circling the periphery of my relationships, nudging into my consciousness.

The Camino provided what I needed. Food, shelter, companionship, solitude, beauty, kindness, strength. All in the proper dose and at the proper time.

For me, my goofy, ridiculous, delightful, FREAKY Camino family was the manifestation of that providence.