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Ages, Burgos, Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain

September 13th, Day 12: Ages to Burgos

Breakfast #2 : Tortilla de patatas

I don’t sleep late, and I’m fully awake when things start dropping off beds – first Gill’s harmonica, then a water bottle… it’s a morning of discombobulation. We gather ourselves and our things and head back to the restaurant where we had been the night before. On the way, we run into Ramon, who made an early start from San Juan de Ortega to catch up and say goodbye to Gill.

Buen Camino!

We have coffee and toast and sit huddled around- exchanging contact info and sharing pictures.

We are parting ways with Gill this morning, and despite tentative plans to meet up again on the 24th, we are delaying the inevitable. We are not satisfied from breakfast, and find another café at the end of the street, duck in and order tortilla de patata and another round of coffees. It’s quickly approaching 9 a.m. and we have a decent days walk ahead of us. Ramon says goodbye and heads out before Tammy and I. We say our goodbyes to Gill and make our way out of Ages.

The early morning walk out o Ages.

It is a beautiful morning walk. The sun seems as slow to rise as we are to start walking. A soft autumn light unfolds, and the farmland around us glows gold.  Farmers are in the fields, herding sheep and because of our late start, we share the path with only a few other pilgrims.

Despite our late night, I feel invigorated and excited to share the next few days with Tammy. We walk and talk – bouncing from topic to topic – life, work, relationships, our families. Tammy tells me of her mother’s passing five years ago. She is carrying some of her mother’s ashes with instructions from her father to sprinkle them in Finisterre: ‘the end of the world.’ I decide then that I will walk at the same pace as Tammy, so that we arrive in Santiago on the same day and make it to Finisterre to complete this mission. We come to a cross on a hill and there’s a winding descent through a couple of villages. We stop for a cold coke, and begin the long haul into Burgos, which takes us along a concrete, industrial path.

Leaving Ages.

When we reach the outskirts of Burgos, we are both put off by the city. We have been in such small, quaint villages leading up to now that being in a large, modern city feels strange. We sit on a patio outside an old, dingy café next to a major road, and decide we will blow through Burgos and try to make it to the next small village on the other side, Tardajos. It’s another 10 km. What we don’t realize is just how big Burgos is… It takes us close to an hour to actually cross the city, but once we do, we are met with a beautiful, charming old city.

This side of Burgos is filled with shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels and galleries, all which line cobblestone streets. We see a sign for the municipal albergue and make our way to inquire about beds for the night. Here we run in to Dima and Keren, our Israeli friends, and their walking partner, Martin. We tell Martin of our plans to possibly keep walking, and he tells us we would be silly to leave without exploring Burgos. We are already realizing that he is right, but find out there are no beds left at the albergue.

Not wanting to walk much more, or go on a wild goose chase for accommodation, we decide to inquire about a room at the hotel on the corner of the street. I saw a pilgrim’s rate advertised as we passed, so we inquire as to how much it will cost to stay for one night. We approach the hotel, and sliding doors open. A flower arrangement sits upon a large, circular wooden table. The lobby is pristine – clean marble floors, dark furniture and throw rugs. A bowl of fruit sits on the counter near check-in.

Our posh hotel for the night.

We have walked 24km in 85 degree heat. We are dusty, dirty and tired. I feel slightly out of place and I wonder what kind of price quote we are going to be given. A small part of me says it shouldn’t matter- to just take it this one time, no matter the price. I ask the lady at the check-in desk if they have rooms left for pilgrims, and if so, what the rate is. The polite receptionist quotes us a price of 67 Euro for both of us. We are used to paying 8-12 Euro a night for a bed, so this sounds like a lot to us. We thank the receptionist and walk to the sliding doors. I’m thinking Tammy isn’t up for paying that much and she thinks I’m not, but when we realize we’re on the same page, we hightail it back in and book the room immediately. I do feel slightly guilty, like we are cheating a bit, but one night of luxury is welcomed. We have a suite with a large bedroom, big bathroom, fluffy white towels, and a living room with a sofa, chair, table and mini balcony.

La Catedral de Burgos.

I take the longest shower of the Camino and even dry my hair and we head out to explore Burgos, which is now bathed in end of day light. We approach the cathedral from the back, catching the end of a wedding celebration. Church bells are ringing and colorful confetti decorates the gray pavement under our feet. We watch the young stylish bride and groom leave the church and walk the steps down to Burgos’ Cathedral, which towers over the square below, their photographer in tow.

After touring one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen, we head for dinner on the square- tapas and vino tinto. We find a small café on a corner, and we are the only pellegrinos in here. It is a local joint and we order chorizo, eggplant, cheese, sausage and bread. Two friends that Tammy had met near San Juan de Ortega, Eric and Serge, join us as we make our way to an outside table. We sit with them for a while, but I am overcome with fatigue from a late night last night. We say farewell, but walk the roundabout way back to the hotel. Burgos is coming to life. A fashion show is in full swing on one square, a gallery opening is taking place to our right, and in true Spanish style, patrons from restaurants and bars are spilling into the streets. The energy is fun and light… I could almost catch a second wind.

We head back to Hotel Palacios de los Blasones to enjoy a night of respite from the pelligrino lifestyle – one that includes a comfortable clean bed, wifi, fluffy pillows, and no collective snoring, yet ironically enough, all I find is that I miss the ambiance of the albergues and the and camaraderie found within them.

Ages, Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain, Tosantos

September 12th, Day 11: Tosantos to Ages

Sunflowers directing us on the way.

I woke up early this morning, showered, had breakfast and hugged Jose goodbye, thanking him for his warm hospitality and words of wisdom from the previous night. Gill is at the table with his book and map out. He has plans to meet his wife near Santiago in a few days time, and is debating when he will breakaway from the group that has been solidly forming over the past week. He decides to walk one more day with us.

Gill and I just outside of San Juan de Ortega

Tammy joins us and we head out to Ages. As soon as we step out of the albergue, we are met with wind and cold temperatures. Since the cafe is open across the way, we stop in for a cortado – for strength and warmth.

Ramon waiting for us near San Juan.

We walk a couple of hours to a village where we can get a substantial snack: tortilla de patata, and another coffee. We find a market and pick up some fruit, bread, cheese, olives and wine. We have some climbing ahead of us today – three sections to be exact. We decide to break the journey and have a picnic lunch somewhere near San Juan de Ortega.

Tammy, Gill and I set out again, and Gill, our storyteller, shares his tales of basking in Wales and his dishwashing days in Ireland. We all decide we will walk the Highland Way in Scotland next Summer. We spend the afternoon walking, talking, dropping back and moving ahead so we all have time with each other.
Shortly outside of San Juan de Ortega, Ramon is sitting on a haybale in the field waiting for us. The four of us find a picnic table in the little village, with consists of a church and a cafe, and sit for an hour, eating, talking, laughing, and debating whether to stay or head on to the next town, Ages.

Gill, Tammy, Ramon and I picnic-ing in San Juan.

I tour the beautiful, old church in San Juan, and Ramon decides he is going to stay put for the night.
Tammy, Gill and I move on to Ages, arriving late, but securing the last three bunkbeds in the municipal albergue. We get settled in, start laundry and head over to the cafe. It’s our last afternoon with Gill, so we decide to do it up. I walk in to the cafe, order a bottle of Rioja, ask for three glasses and head back outside.

The rest of the afternoon continues like this, the group growing over the following hours, sharing vino, food and music. A Frenchman breaks out his guitar and plays for everyone sitting together.

Ages is old and charming. I take an afternoon stroll down a country lane. I am surrounded by sunflowers, and in the distance a farmer herds his sheep. The afternoon seems endless, and we wish for it to be, knowing that saying goodbye to one of our Camino family members this early on is going to be difficult.

Pilgrims enjoying the afternoon in Ages.

Tammy and Gill leave to get ready for dinner and I run into Pedro, who I haven’t seen since Logrono. We share a glass of vino tinto before I reconvene with Tammy and Gill for our last pilgrim’s dinner together.

We eat, we drink, we savor our last evening together, and we talk to Gill about a potential reunion with our entire Camino family in a couple of weeks time. We crawl up to our top bunks, sleep finding us quickly.