Camino Diary Entry #20

240#20 True Pilgrim Dining? Santo Domingo dela Calzada

The dining room staff had obviously landed the job as penance – probably for being the youngest novices! Our delightful young girl from India (in the middle of the Camino in Spain?) started to serve the soup – packet chicken noodle from a stainless steel bowl! She was very chipper about it all and even when she didn’t have enough left for the Dutch couple, she kept smiling!
I took the opportunity to photograph Gwyneth ‘mid serving’ and passed her the camera to return the favour. For one who positions the camera, tells me where to stand, where she will stand and what is to be included in the photograph – I expected better! In fairness to Gwyneth, our  waitress did lean across the table and Gwyneth got a smashing shot of her armpit!
As if our lives depended on it, our waitress placed her hands on our table and enquired if we would like ‘the feesh, or thwl fired eckks’?
Funnily enough, the whole room ran with the fish. (I couldn’t be so sure about the permanent residents, whatever they selected was causing them to make the most unattractive, throaty coughing gagging noises which tended to encourage we pilgrims to make  startled eye contact )

242In due course the fish landed shortly after the ‘mixed salad’ – carefully rationed 1 x white asparagus each and 2 olives plus a good dollop of lettuce. The fish was fried (trout we suspect), complete with tail, eyeballs and bones!
A more than generous tong full of fries (looking suspiciously commercially pre frozen) completed the dinner.
244A bottle of vino was the saving grace with a very fetching label calling it ‘Annunciation’, perhaps they did have a sense of humor!
Dishes were whisked away and the crumbs swept off our tables, as we chewed on the last mouthful! Throughout the meal, a noise hailed from the kitchen – not unlike a bad platform call at the railway station. Repeating every 15 minutes and we are still not sure what it was about, but imagined it was a reminder to the nuns to pray for the pagans in their midst and afford themselves some protection from us.
Given the girth size of all we met, we suspect the nuns dine more on the fries than the salads!
As one would hope in a convent, we had a peaceful sleep and awoke to a very fresh but dry morning. Breakfast was close to a repeat of the dinner farce. I don’t think the nuns had been up at the crack of dawn to prepare for us – packaged butter and jam, orange cordial, yet more crusty bread and one very thin slice each of processed ham and cheese.
Without doubt I consume more of the meats and cheeses while Gwyneth has stoically and sensibly stuck with the bread and ‘olli oil’. All in all a good plan but after 3 meals a day proffering crispy crunchy fresh bread, she is the first to admit that the roof of her mouth behind her teeth is cut to pieces and every mouthful tender!
I have to hand it to the nuns – theirs was definitely the best coffee yet, and apparently likewise the tea, according to Saint Gwyneth.
No. 1 nun was most anxious we pay up for the previous night’s pilgrim dinner (11€ for 3 courses, wine and water) and for about the 51st time asked us our room number.
All sorted, we heaved our day packs on board, added our walking poles and wound our way back through the now almost familiar maze to the lift. As we waited for the lift I eyed up the stairs, but as Gwyn said “they were pretty big steps and you wouldn’t want to risk your knees”. The lift doors opened and there inside were two little old bent up men (yes we did recognize one of them!).Well, there was only ever going to be enough room for one more of us and totalling up the number of sticks in there already, plus Gwyneth’s two, deciding they already had enough to make a picket fence, I settled for risking my knees on the stairs.
We only had to supply our room number another couple of times in the checkout process and then we stepped outside to where the beer drinking boys were still recovering from a similar process. With raised eyebrows and a knowing nod of ‘wasn’t that a bizarre and totally ridiculous experience?’ , we headed off.

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