Most of the albergues you’ll stay at along the Camino de Santiago have bunk beds – an obvious way to maximize the use of space and accommodate as many peregrinos as possible. But I quickly grew to dislike bunk beds after whacking my head several times while sitting on the lower bunk. (Only a couple of the bunks had sufficient clearance to avoid this mishap.) Yes – even as short as I am, I suffered through numerous bumps and bangs – a rather amazing feat considering that I’m only 4’10”. (My father will tell you that I’m exaggerating and am only 4’9 3/4″, but he’s not the one writing this blog.)
My dislike for the bunk beds was only exceeded by my even more quickly developed dislike for the large municipal albergues. All those people crammed into those space (even if divided into separate rooms) generated a noise level which sets my nerves on edge. And I’m not even talking about the snoring, which wasn’t as bad as I’ve heard. I mean the general noise level of all the conversations reverberating through the spaces until “lights out” (especially bad at the Jesus y Maria albergue in Pamplona). So we developed a strategy to avoid the larger hostels, even if it meant rearranging our intended distances/destinations to stop short (or go ahead) of the major cities: a strategy I highly recommend.
I very much enjoyed the smaller, privately run albergues which facilitated more intimate interactions with our fellow peregrinos, to include more enjoyable communal meals and smaller common rooms to sit around and chat.
In Viskarret, we stayed at Corazon Puro, run by a lovely Hungarian couple. Me, Xina, and Emelia (from Denmark) were the only guests. We had a lovely meal, prepared by Barbara who joined us for dessert and conversation.
In Larrasoana, we stayed at the San Nicolas albergue, which had only been open for ten (10) days! Brand spanking new! We enjoyed another delicious meal and conversation with peregrinos from a number of countries. Some of these same peregrinos we would run into again and again at different stages, including Emelia. By the way, put together two tables of travelers (from places ranging from Canada, Brazil, Germany, England, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, etc.) and what language is everyone speaking? English.
In Obanos, despite being in an albergue (Usda) with more than 20 beds, Xina and I were the only guests – quite nice to have a place all to ourselves. (Most people continue on to Puente la Reina, but we were tired and stopped short.) In Villatuerta, we stayed at Case de Magica, known for its vegetarian meals. This is where the first included photo is from. See: no bunk beds!!
In Los Arcos, we stayed at Casa de Austria, welcomed warmly by Julian, a hyperactive 20-something from Germany – and very nice! They didn’t have a kitchen, but there were numerous cafes within easy walking distance even for me (this was the leg during which I suffered my initial foot injury). One of the amusing happenings on this leg was again running into Guy, from Montreal, at the municipal albergue when we went to pick up our bags which we’d had shipped ahead. He was sharing a snack with a young man out on the porch, and when we confirmed just how nice San Nicolas was, the young man made a choking motion toward Guy. Why? He thought Guy was exaggerating about its amenities and, after suffering through the municipal albergue in Larraosoana – reportedly even more horrible than we had been warned – he was very annoyed to find out that Guy was not exaggerating. Lesson learned: don’t stay at that place!
In Ventosa, we stayed at San Saturnino run by an older woman who seemed rather stern – at least at first – but she warmed up to everyone in the morning and was more talkative. San Saturnino had a wonderful central courtyard and was beautifully decorated. We did stay at the municipal albergue in Azofra – which doesn’t stick out in my memory for some reason.
In Santo Domingo, we stayed at Casa Santo which seemed nice at first because the numerous beds were divided up into multiple rooms, but proved to be rather noisy because of the central atrium. Didn’t like it, especially after the 20-something “Brit Twit” (no, I don’t mean all the other very nice and considerate Brits I encountered) who sprayed his stinky, scented deodorant all over his clothes (rather than washing them) in a room full of people with utterly no consideration for anyone who might have allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues (like me). He seemed to think it was not a problem, but I assure you it was. I had to leave the room and even go out to a pharmacy to buy cough syrup. Did he think his stinky, scented crap stayed in the immediate vicinity of where he sprayed it? Talk about a complete lack of common sense understanding of the dispersal of air molecules. What an asshole. (Yet another reason to not like large albergues.)
And, of course, I can’t say enough about Divina Pastora in Burgos. It’s very small (only 16 beds), but it’s quiet, intimate, and Alicia (the hospitalero) is sweet, kind, and caring. It’s located above a small church near the cathedral and one does wonder if he/she might have made a mistake choosing these accommodations upon feeling the church bell clanging the hour (yes, it actually vibrates through the structure), but the bell does not ring during the night so you can sleep peacefully. I look forward to returning to the Camino, starting in Burgos, and hopefully getting a bed at Divina Pastora.