Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 30: Americans Have Style!

Dscn1762bSeptember 10: I woke up early, mostly because everyone in my room also woke up early. At 6:00 AM, it was still dark outside, but with the ruffling of bags and packing, my sleep was over. I wandered out to the backyard of the hostel by around 6:30 to eat breakfast, and I watched several dozen people through the gates walking out of the hostel and through the town. The stars were still out! Good grief!

On my own way out of town, I didn’t expect any stores to be open, but as it turned out, one store that had all sorts of stuff including a section of school supplies was open. I popped my head in and bought a large roll of paper. The roll was probably about three feet wide and I don’t know how long since I didn’t unroll it, but I suspected it would probably roll out a good 20 or 30 feet. I had an idea for the next day, and I needed a few large sheets of paper to pull it off. I wasn’t sure where or if I could find such paper along the trail so even though I didn’t need it today, I figured I should get it now just to be on the safe side. I bent the roll of paper in half and stuffed it in my pack. But I’m not going to tell you what it was for now. Nope. I’ll leave you in suspense. You’ll have to come back and read my next blog entry if you want to find out what I used it for. =)

The day’s hiking was completely uneventful. I did a short 21.9 kilometer day this time around into the bustling town of Estella. I wanted to do more, and I wanted to camp out for the night, but I stopped early for logistical reasons (in which my roll of paper purchased that morning would play an important roll) and booked myself into a youth hostel for the night.

I shared my room this time with six other Spanish-speaking men. For all the English on this trail, I was a little surprised to find myself in a room where not a single other person spoke English. But since I did know a little Spanish, I could still communicate a bit with the others.

Antonio asked me when I usually left in the morning, and I told him that I almost never left before 8:00 in the morning.

"So late?" he asked me.

"Why?" I replied. "When do you usually leave?"

"Six in the morning."

"But it's dark!" I replied. "The stars are still out!"

"Exactly! It's not so hot and sunny. You'll look like a...." at this point, he said I word that I did not recognize. Keeping in mind, this whole conversation was actually in Spanish, not in English.

"A what?" I asked. Antonio said the word again, and I said, "I don't understand that word."

He fumbled around, trying to explain what he was thinking. "A crustacean with red skin?"

I didn't know the word for crustacean in Spanish, but it was a cognate of the English word so I could figure it out, and I finally figured out the word he was trying to tell me. A lobster!

I laughed. He was saying I'd look like a lobster if I hiked in the sun too long--I'd get sunburned.

"No," I told him. "I cover my skin so it won't burn. Long sleeved shirts, long pants, hat with a wide brim, and a handkerchief around my neck. "I'll be fine," I told him.

I headed back out into town in the afternoon. I needed to resupply the food in my pack, and I decided that tonight I wanted to eat out for dinner. If I could find some friends in town, all the better!

Dscn1766bThe grocery store was closed when I arrived—as stores in Spain often are during the siesta time—but I noted when it would open again (about an hour) and continued on in search of dinner and/or friends. I didn’t find any friends (I guess they were enjoying their own siestas), but I did find an “American diner” in the main plaza of the town and decided that sounded good. It was decorated like an old fashioned diner from the United States in the 50s or 60s. A cute little place! I ordered a hamburger and a Coke, and let me say right now, it was one of the absolute worst hamburgers I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t know what they did it to, but it was absolutely awful. Disgusting little thing. I’m not sure it would even be fair to call the patty in the bun “meat”—it was more rubbery than bad calamari. And I think it tried to crawl off my plate.

Sorely disappointed, I left and headed back to the grocery store where I bumped into Vivian, the Australian, and a couple of others she was with that I didn’t know. The one girl she was with was from Germany, so I told her “Good morning!” in German, and she said that it wasn’t morning anymore. “Yeah, I know that,” I replied, “but that’s the only German I know.”

She seemed to find this amusing and whenever I’d see her for the next week or so, I’d always tell her “good morning” in German, then she’d reply to me in a long string of German explaining that if I talk to her in German, she’ll reply to me in German. =) The next time I saw her, I vowed to tell her “good morning” in Hungarian because I was pretty sure she couldn’t reply to me in Hungarian. =)

So far, I’ve bumped into Vivian at least once every day since I left Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port—five days in a row now. So far as I could tell, she’s the only person I’d actually seen every single day since Saint Jean, and I started wondering how long the streak could continue. Eventually a day would pass when we didn’t see each other. It was inevitable. But all the same, it was always fun to bump into her unexpectedly each day. =)

While walking through the aisles of the grocery store, I noticed a package of chocolate cookies that were labeled “American Style Chocolate Chip” cookies. I didn’t know what this meant. Well, the chocolate chip part was obvious enough, but what made a cookie an “American style” cookie? Being an American and all, it seemed like I should know. So I asked the others—non-Americans—and they all told me that they were chocolate chip cookies.

“I know that,” I said—it said that right on the packaging!—but what made it American style?! But they insisted it meant that they were chocolate chip cookies. Which made no sense to me since that much was already obvious because they wrote it on the packaging. It was basically the same as writing “big, large cookies!”—which I think everyone would agree sounds ridiculously redundant, but I guess it’s okay to sound redundant if you have American-style chocolate chip cookies.

I was also more than amused that I had to learn what American-style cookies were by asking a bunch of non-Americans, because they all knew what it was! I was also pleased that the rest of the world actually thought Americans had style. =) And I never did find out what they call French Toast in France. Hmm…..

After doing my grocery shopping, I headed back to the hostel for the evening and plotted out my next day’s adventure….

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One of the more elaborate cairns on the trail.

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Another hilltop village along the route. This one is Cirauqui.

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Through the streets of Cirauqui.

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This particular map was a delight to discover! It’s actually
made up of old tires and was created by a school group
from Cirauqui. The map was HUGE, but it kind of loses
its size in a photo. (Just know that every single one of those
black dots is a full-sized tire!)

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Another ancient bridge along the route…

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An entrepreneur set up a snack and drink stand along the trail.

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Graffiti on the trail! I really liked this one, though. =)

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Another old medieval bridge…

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Often time, you’d see lots of hikers picking berries on the side of the trail. =)

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A random message found along the Camino…

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The trail often times goes through tunnels under busy roads. =)

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Creepiest water fountain ever!!!!!

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A bridge in Estella.

4 comments:

tiggermama said...

yes, not sure i would drink out of Chucky. . .

sierramom said...

Pain perdu or lost bread. It's what the French call French toast. And they eat it for dessert not breakfast. ;)

Anne Bonny said...

The pictures you share are always so gorgeous!! The tunnels are amazing. I too would not be drinking out of PennyWise! lol

strollerfreak - Mel said...

Creepiest drinking fountain ever. But that map is the coolest thing ever.