This time there really were three Day 0 before my camino started properly.
The first was the day I finished my packing and left the house with my Scouse Spouse to spend the night in Liverpool. The flight to Dublin was so early that I would have needed a taxi to make it, and the taxi would have cost more than the hotel room, so of course we went to Liverpool instead! I quite like leaving before I leave, taking my pack somewhere so I can’t keep taking things out and putting other things in. As soon as I lock the door behind me, that’s it, and I can concentrate on enjoying my travels, even if I only get the train half an hour. We spent the afternoon wandering along the river, had a drink by the docks and practiced eating tapas, as you do.
The second Day 0 started at an ungodly hour, but Liverpool greeted me with a smile as I walked to the bus station to go to the airport.
My Pacerpoles had already arrived in Spain, so I took my backpack as hand luggage. Dublin airport was Pilgrim Central, every other pack seemed to have a shell on it! After a few hours waiting it was time to board the flight to Santiago, full of excited pilgrims and Spanish tourists going home from Ireland. At five in the afternoon I was in Santiago old town, sadly too late to visit Pilgrim House, so I found my room – private room with shared bathroom, central and cheap – and unpacked before I went out to see the cathedral and hunt some tapas.
On the way back to bed, I even saw the shadow of the ghost monk!
Even though my room had normal bedding, I decided to sleep in my sleeping bag to give it a good try before I hit the albergues. I have been sitting in it at home, but never spent the night in it, and I guess I was just excited to see if it was as good as I was hoping (and expecting, quite frankly, for the price of it). I had to giggle at myself for choosing to sleep in a bag when I didn’t need to, and fully expected that I would be wishing I had the bedding back sometime in the next two weeks. The trial run went well; I was a bit cold in the middle of the night after a quick trip to the loo, but I felt certain that wouldn’t be a problem in a full dorm with windows closed. Oh joy.
The third Day 0 started with eggs and bacon on the corner between the street where the Pilgrim Office is and the start of the camino Finisterre – yum! Then I had to pack up and leave the room, which I would be coming back to, and went for a wander around in the sunshine. I went to the Alameda park, saw the two Marias, patted the Big Tree, even sat down to people/pilgrim watch outside a new bar with the trees integrated into the building – this could be one of my new favourite places in Santiago.
Then it was time to walk up to the bus station to catch the ALSA bus to Astorga, a journey of 4.5 hours which is normally no problem – I just watch the landscape and look at my guidebook – but this time I was sitting next to a man who not only kissed and cuddled his mobile phone, but started licking it … So I listened intently to my audiobook and changed seats as soon as one became free on the other side of the aisle!
Arriving in Astorga I made a short pit stop on the square, drank a clara in the sunshine and looked for a taxi to take me to Rabanal. The driver and I had a good conversation about life, politics, religion and walking in basic Spanglish, and I even got some gossip before he dropped me off outside the Descanso de Gaia, where I had booked another private room with shared bathroom. The room had a door out to the balcony as well.
I picked up my Pacerpoles, assembled them to make sure everything was in order, then went to albergue Gaucelmo to say hi and leave a little donation for being one of the best albergues on the Camino Francés in my humble opinion. I had a lovely chat with the hospitaleros, and then went to El Refugio to eat. They have been putting photos of their new, upmarket menu on their Facebook page and I was determined to try it.
The comedor – dining room – at the Refugio was full of pilgrims, as expected, all chatting and laughing and eating and drinking and all in twos and threes and groups. It felt like coming home. The food didn’t disappoint, and neither did the pilgrims – before long I was invited to join a table of solo travellers who had met along the way, and though they had been on the road for a long time I wasn’t embarrassed to admit I would be starting the next morning. Kilometres aren’t everything, but an open and inclusive attitude is, and it felt good being back.
Just before ten everybody left to get ready for bed before lights-out, and I went back to my room with the lovely bedding and went to sleep in my sleeping bag.