Meet the Most Eligible Bachelor in Spain

It’s around 6 p.m. after day #1 of hiking the Camino de Santiago and we decide we are in desperate need of something to relax and medicate our sore, aching bodies and warm our wandering souls.  We find a stone building that houses a tavern and see some customers that are just leaving.  Don’t they say that a sign of a good establishment is one that has customers? Plus, Taberna del Pueblo is Spanish for village tavern so that may be just what the doctor ordered.

Spain-1030359dmvBonus points for having a broom parked outside to show that they care enough about their business to sweep. This should be worth checking out…

Spain-1030356dmvO.K., so the regulars don’t exactly greet us with shouts of joy and welcome us with open arms.  It is dry and warm in here so we decide to at least have a beverage.

Spain-1030349dmvI’ve seen some interesting bar decor in my day but this takes the cake.  This leg of a pig is featured front and center on the bar and our new friend, Damian, shaves some meat off, arranges the meat on a plate and we are offered some delicious, succulent ham as tapas to go with our drinks  (What we would call appetizers, the Spanish call tapas).  Tapas may be cheese, meats, olives, bread, etc. to snack on with your beverage of wine or beer and the first plate of tapas is often provided free with the purchase of drinks.

I’m guessing, from my research, that we were eating Jamon Serrano,  meaning literally “mountain ham.”  It is aged in the fresh mountain air of Spain for a minimum of 18 months with only natural Mediterranean Sea salt.  Most Serrano ham is made from Landrace breed pigs, or a mix of Duroc breed, Large White and Landrace. In Spain, Serrano ham is a part of life, served in bars, restaurants and found in virtually every home.  ~D’Arttagnan.com

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This member of our group is involved with the pork industry in Minnesota and is so intrigued by the pig leg adorning the counter of the bar that she soon makes herself at home and decides to try her hand at carving.  Our new friend, Damian, must be equally intrigued by this bold American and does allow her to wield a knife.  However, he does appear somewhat unsure of what he has gotten himself into tonight. Gloves and a hair net would be required to do such work at home, but when in Spain do as the Spaniards!

Spain-1030364crdmvDamian has some personal items of interest on display.  I wish I had asked if that was an old photograph of his family since we could have o-o-o-ed and ah-ah-ah-ah-ed ~  El es un nino lindo (He is a cute little boy).  On the far right are books that a friend of his has written and he was selling them in the bar in case we wanted some reading material in the albergue.  It also looks like Santa visits Damian at Christmas time, too!

Spain-1030357dmvBuen Camino!!  We raise a toast to day one.  It appears that Damian likes old movies judging by the posters on the wall.  I am standing by the bar while I take this photo so you can see that it is a very small establishment.

Spain-1030376dmvAs the evening progresses we become even more acquainted with Damian and Damian continues to be amused by this group of Americans.  He has become endeared to our hearts and I think  he was amazed that we found him to be such a cutie pie!  He may have received more than the normal amount of admiration typical of a Thursday night in the tavern.  He reveals to us that he is single, so I feel as though I need to do my part and spread the word across the world that we have discovered the most eligible bachelor in Spain.

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O.K., ladies, I know where he is so I can point the way to Damian of Rabanal, Spain!

Time to eat supper and go back to the hostel to rest up for day two of walking.  A chorus of snoring may be lulling us to sleep tonight and I hope I am in the choir and not part of the audience.

Astorga to Rabanal ~ Camino Day #1

The rain falls gently in a slow drizzle. This isn’t so bad and the March temps in the mid 40 degree F are mild by Minnesota standards since it isn’t snowing, there is very little wind and our constant movement means we aren’t shivering. We don’t stop for long, though, for then the chill begins.  We slowly climb in elevation from Astorga to Rabanal. With this stage we enter a  transitional area between the plains and the area of El Bierzo, with its reddish earth covered with trees and heather.

Spain-1030327dmvWe are still in the province of Leon during this leg of the hike and the tree lined streets of Murias de Rechivaldo are quiet except for the click, click, click, click from the walking sticks of the occasional Pilgrim passing through.

We had the opportunity to walk, for a while, with a group of Spanish doctors  that were walking around 30 kilometers per day for 8 days.  They walk different sections of the Camino de Santiago – French Way each year with the ultimate goal of eventually completing all of it.

Spain-1030429dmvHand painted, yellow arrows help guide us down the right path.  I’m glad some joker didn’t decide to play tricks on us and point us the wrong way.  (Note to self ~ carry a detailed map next time.)

Spain-1030399dmvRabanal del Camino  continues a centuries old tradition of caring for the pilgrims before they take the steep path up and over Monte Hago (Mount Rabanal).
Aymeric Picaud was a 12th century scholar, monk and pilgrim who wrote the first travel guidebook for the Way of St. James. This was the IXth stage of Aymeric Picaud’s classic itinerary and the Knights Templar are thought to have had a presence here as early as the 12th century ensuring the safe passage of pilgrims over this remote terrain – the Church of Santa Maria (steeple is visible in the above photo)  was possibly built by them.

After 21 kilometers and a day of walking in the rain while carrying backpacks that weigh around 16-18 pounds, we are relieved to arrive at our destination.  We are hoping to find an Albergue with a nice bed and shower.  Many hostels and albergues are closed this time of year so you take what you can get.  We see a promising view ahead…

Spain-1030390dmvAt this point we are just happy to be inside a dry building.  Our standards of what we consider luxury seem to be adjusting.  Hmmm…

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Our house mother, Isabella, stamps our Pilgrim Passports and checks us in.  We need two Pilgrim stamps per day and they can be obtained at a cafe, bar, restaurant, albergue, hotel or hostel. We each pay 5 Euro for the night and settle into our home away from home called the Albergue del Pilar.

Spain-1030341dmvOur sleeping quarters include one room with 32 beds (29 of them filled this night).  The room was approximately 20 feet by 40 feet with two long rows of bunk beds leaving a narrow aisle in the middle.  A mixture of ages and genders will all sleep together in this cozy room including a father/son from Korea, a group of bicyclists from southern Spain (Malaga), a young man in his 20’s originally from Iowa but lives in New York now, a young couple from Poland and India along with our group of lovelies. (AKA ~ Randy and the Hot Cross Buns).  I told you we were friendly!!

We put our wet clothing on the heaters available, take showers, and look forward to finding beverages and food to medicate and fuel our sore and tired bodies. Little did we know that we would soon meet Spain’s most eligible bachelor.  To be continued…