Today we find ourselves in the city. After over two weeks of rural paths and small villages and towns, (with the exception of our last rest day in Logroño) it is certainly a change of pace. Many guidebooks and Camino resources warn of the shock to the senses and unsettled feeling pilgrims experience upon reaching the city and I have heard other pilgrims around me expressing wariness of the big city. I must say I am enjoying the variety.
The one thing that did change however was that we are no longer living in the more adapted Spanish timetable which caters to the pilgrim community, where it is possible to get breakfast at 6-7am and dinner at 6-7pm. In the city we had to seek out restaurants nearby the hostels to get a pilgrim menu, as most places were either not yet open or only serving tapas. We did find a small bar restaurant but it was only pilgrims dining this early, the locals don’t come out to play until much later.
After dinner, a visit to the extraordinary gothic cathedral (the 13th century Catedral de Santa María) and a stroll around town we sat in a cafe in the square in the shadow of this imposing edifice and they came in their droves. Groups of young people, families, couples, the very very young and the old wandered about, eating ice cream, greeting friends or neighbours, or found a seat at a cafe to enjoy tapas and wine. A small boy on his little bike chased a pigeon, while the skating fraternity set up cones to display their skills. Older ladies dressed in their Sunday best walked arm in arm through the square while a young goth played violin under the arch of the city gate. It was a spectacle, a feast for the senses and I was enthralled.
This morning after a slow start to the day we decided to have breakfast at one of the cafes on the Espolón, it was almost 10am and the streets and squares were almost deserted, businesses were closed and the cafes were just starting to set up their seating outside. We chose a seat and we along with a number of other patrons waited, nobody was in a hurry, there was no complaints when after 20 minutes no one had come to take our order, no one got up and left, this seemed perfectly acceptable that a cafe full of patrons would wait while one waitress served and prepared the orders for everyone. I can’t imagine that happening at home but here it appears to be the norm. A couple of weeks ago I may not have been as accepting of this ‘delay’ had my pace of life not been slowed the walking pace of the Camino. Breakfast was worth the wait!