Some of you may wonder what a pilgrim hostel is like so I thought I’d describe our stay at the monastery in Roncevalles.
We arrived at the hostel about 2pm, we joined the line of pilgrims waiting to check in, we got our pilgrim credincials/passport stamped and then booked in, ordered the pilgrim menu for the evening and after leaving our muddy boots on the boot rack downstairs and donning our sandals we made our way up to the second floor of this 3 story monastery, no small feat with a day of walking already in our weary legs.
We had each been assigned a bunk and when we found our home for the night we greet our bunk companions, a shy little Italian man with almost no English and a young guy, also Italian I think, straight off the pages of Vogue magazine, he wasn’t much of a talker!
We roll out our sleeping bags, take showers, wash and hang laundry and once the chores have been taken care of we adjourn to the local hostelry for a cold beverage. There we are reunited with some pilgrim friends we have met in the past few days and stories are exchanged…where are you staying, how did you fare on the hills, weren’t the views breathtaking etc.
After telling stories and catching up with others for a couple of hours we return to the hostel to gather our belongs and sort things for the morning so that our early morning departure is smooth and disturbs other sleeping pilgrims the least.
This evening there were 2 seating for dinner and we opted for the second so we could attend mass in the monastery chapel and get the traditional pilgrim blessing. It was lovely. Afterward we joined pilgrims for dinner. Pilgrim menus vary from place to place but after a long day in the great outdoors a warm meal and so lively conversation is most welcome.
With lights out in the evening around 10pm the dormitory was starting to move from 5.30am in fact I saw two pilgrims leave the hostel with full gear and headlamps before sunrise. Most others were starting to move closer to 6am and if you thought you might like a lie in, sharp at 6am the dorm lights came on and two hospitaleros (hostel volunteers) walked through the dorms chanting in Latin, probably the most unique wake up call I have ever or will ever receive.
With a wash, the sleeping bag is rolled and last fit bits are packed and it is off to face the journey for day and the surprises it will bring.