My 36th birthday!! Javier and Virginio kissed me happy birthday as soon as I came out of my room this morning. I helped myself to a big ol' piece of breakfast cake with sugar sprinkled on top! We also had bread with butter and apricot jam, fruit, cafe con leche, and two kinds of local cheese, plus a Tang-like orange drink. It was great fuel for the road.
Late in the morning, we passed kilometer marker 76. As a bicentennial baby, that felt like a serendipitous moment, so I got Qassab to take my photo.
My feet were still feeling a little sore this morning, but I was okay once we got going. I wrapped one toe in moleskin along the way as a precaution...best to head off a blister before it starts. I am glad I did not skimp on socks! I am mostly wearing Smart Wool, which are $15 a pair, but they have been great so far.
Today we walked a total of 23K. I spent the morning having a deep chat with Paulette from Canada. Her first marriage was similar to my parents', and we had a meaningful conversation. Then I shifted gears and walked a while with Qassab (His name, by the way, is pronounced "Ga-sob," but he told us we could call him Q or "Butcher," which is what his name means in Arabic. Paulette suggested we shorten it to Butch.) We listened to one Indian song on his iPhone, and then I treated him to the sounds of O.A.R., Bare Naked Ladies, David Allen Coe and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Late morning, we passed what would be our hotel for the night. It's gorgeous, something that belongs in an architecture magazine. They renovated a farmhouse and managed to get a perfect blend of old and new. Stone walls, lots of glass, open views to the east, several sitting areas and a patio with comfy outdoor sofas and a hammock. Virginio made sure I got one of the nicest rooms with a sofa and a jacuzzi tub. My friend Page said one of her friends called this way of walking the Camino the "partial princess package." It is indeed, and I love it!
Lunch was outside in the town of Palas de Rei. We shared tortilla, more pulpo gallego, and tuna empanada. I washed it down with a birthday beer and had fun reading my Facebook birthday posts, courtesy of the restaurant's wi-fi (pronounced "wee fee" in Spanish).
The afternoon leg was less than 6k, which went by quickly and was nicely shaded for the most part. I can't imagine better weather for this...cool mornings, sunny days and clear skies. I will say, unless it's muddy, I'm not sure you really need hiking boots for this...the owner of Spanish Steps insists a well broken-in pair of boots is the most important thing to pack, but I think a good pair of trail runners would be fine and probably more comfortable. There are a few rocky bits where I'm glad to have the boots, but I'm not sure it's worth the comfort sacrifice. Maybe it's just the brand I have? Anyway, for the most part, my feet are holding up fine, though my calves and shins are sore.
We all enjoyed several hours of free time before dinner. Virginio has a PhD in the history of travel (the Camino was the subject of one of the world's first guidebooks), and he gave us a short lecture on the history of the pilgrimage.
Dinner was outstanding! The first course was a "cazuela" (clay pot) of mushrooms baked with tomato sauce and cheese. It would have been a great meal on its own with a salad...but it was followed by a main course of roasted chicken with roasted apples and herbed rice. They dimmed the lights for dessert, brought out a torta de Santiago with candles and sang happy birthday to me. So sweet!! My family sent my birthday cards early, so I packed them in my backpack and enjoyed reading them this evening. It was special day...I can't imagine a better way to spend my birthday!