Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 22, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

1000 posts… and counting.

I guess you could call it a milestone. What started on a bar napkin on a flight from Halifax to Tampa 8 years ago (my very first story) has become my passion.

I have 1000 reasons to be thankful but mostly to you, my loyal readers who have listened to me rant for years about nothing.I have many new readers from every corner of the world who are experiencing the magic of the Camino.

A few days ago, I checked into my albergue. This is a bit of a misnomer. It was a modern hotel and I got the last room available. It was a private room and after a long day, I was overjoyed to have my own space. Living with 50 or more people every night has that effect.

It was also a great opportunity to get my laundry done. The laundry room was state of the art. Ultramodern washers and dryers, drying racks with fans blowing hot air underneath and sinks with washboards. When I got there, both wash machines were in use. Pilgrims generally like to wash their clothes by hand and hang them to dry. I am a lazy pilgrim and chose the modern conveniences.

I was next in line and put my clothes in the washer. I went back to my room and set the alarm on my phone. When I returned to put my clothes in the dryer, it was like Times Square in New York on a Friday night. It was utter bedlam. I think everyone on the Camino decided to do their laundry in this hotel, on this day. It was standing room only as people jockeyed to get in the queue.

I was just ahead of the curve and didn’t have to worry about my place in line. After putting 5 Euros in the dryer, I discovered that this particular brand of dryers actually didn’t dry clothes. I hung them on a line and retrieved them several hours later.

That evening, new friends from Germany and South Korea joined me for dinner. We found a lovely restaurant in the massive plaza in the center of town. We decided to sit outside. It was very quiet and we settled in for “tales from the Camino”. The wine was barely poured when the square started to fill. It was cool and overcast. We were a bit puzzled at this sudden turn of events.

Before we could exchange a hello, all hell broke loose. There was a motorcade accompanied by loud music. The unmistakable sounds of “ We Are The Champions” blared from many loudspeakers. Any discussion was quickly drowned out. On a balcony above the square, several young, lithe soccer players appeared. The crowd went wild. This team must have won a game or a league championship. The crowd was loving this.

Meanwhile back in the restaurant, we were trying to talk. Not possible. Every few seconds, somebody was making a speech or Freddy Mercury was coming back to life with yet another round of his epic anthem. We were eating dessert when the celebration ended. I don’t think I even got the names of my dinner guests.

As long as my health holds, I hope to keep writing. After all, Charlotte from Dallas Texas has a chicken undergoing psychotherapy and this story must be told!

YOU ARE THE CHAMPIONS and thank you for your support!!!

Have a great weekend.

P.S. I’m in the mountains and wifi is spotty at best so I’m posting this now. Cheers!

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 16, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with 5 comments

“….with a billion stars all around.”
Peaceful Easy Feeling. The Eagles.

A few mornings ago, I left my Alburgue (hostel) at 5:00 a.m. alone. Normally, there are always pilgrims (other masochists who like to start administering pain to their feet first thing in the morning)already out the door but not this day. With no towns or villages in the first 10k, I had the trail to myself.
But on the Camino, you’re never alone. I was joined by billions of stars including the Big Dipper. The moon was a stunning orange colour. Thousands of frogs were croaking.I walked through a stand of trees, the only ones for miles around. There, I was greeted by the cacophony of hundreds of birds. A brilliant sunrise greeted me 90 minutes into my walk. I felt in awe and very serene.

I was feeling particularly blessed on this morning having had the best sleep of the trip the previous night. Besides a great sleep, I realized unadulterated joy when I discovered that I had a pair of fresh, unsullied underwear in the bottom of my knapsack. It’s hard to believe that finding clean underwear could evoke such joy but on the Camino, you travel light and clothes tend to get recycled as laundry facilities can be hard to find.

Two days earlier, I had slept with 100 other peregrinos (pilgrims). After a night of enjoying the sounds and smells of a hundred people burping, farting and, of course, snoring (there were even arschlochs who kept their cell phones on, a no no in the albergues), and a 41 kilometre walk I treated myself to a private room in this small village.

When I arrived in El Burgo Ranero that afternoon, I was nearly dead. The last three hours of my 41k jaunt were in 30 degree heat. You’ll have to read my Camino book later this fall to understand my apparent lunacy.

Victor, a pleasant young man, checked me in and checked me out. This wild eyed Canadian was in desperate need of a cold beer. Realizing my plight, he scurried off and returned with two frosty Estrella’s. I could have hugged him. Actually, I did. He popped off the tops, we clinked bottles and I slaked my thirst. It didn’t do a lot for the three new blisters I acquired that day.

After a second beer and a shower, I was in bad need of sustenance. Victor told me that the best restaurant in this tiny village was on the Main Street. It turned out to be the best and worst restaurant in town as it was the ONLY one in town!

Walking very gingerly on achy feet, I arrived at my destination to discover that the owners, a youngish couple in their thirties, were having a full scale war. Their little son was crying as the two went toe to toe in an epic verbal war. Charming.

I was ignored for five minutes. I was deliriously hungry and the plastic flowers adorning my table were beginning to look appetizing.

The man and his son left and the female, dabbing tears from her eyes, approached my table. I pointed to the menu board on the wall and ordered chicken breast, along with a glass of red wine. I practically begged for the immediate delivery of some bread.

With hand gestures, she indicated that this entree would take one hour. I gathered that this would entail the killing, eviscerating and de-feathering of the helpless bird. It was obvious that what she really wanted was for me to leave so that she could compose herself or administer the same treatment to her husband as the chicken.

A wee bit exasperated, I pointed to the chalkboard once more and waved my arms indicating that she could choose my supper. Another interminable 10 minutes passed as delirium set in.

My gracious hostess (a one person staff this day), approached my table with a plate of cheese, fresh baguette and a bottle of the finest red wine on the planet. I could have hugged her but decided discretion was the better part of valour, concerned that hubby might return unannounced provoking World War 3 and possibly ending my life.

The cheese, bread and wine nearly brought me to tears, such was their exquisite taste. The second course was a fresh salad of chilled prawns, fresh tuna, tomatoes and onions topped with a salad dressing of Spanish olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Had I died right then and there, I would have died happy.

She then called me to the counter and produced trays of home made sausages of different varieties. I indicated that sausages were fine. She might have worried that I was a vegetarian! I can’t begin to describe how delectable these tasted when pan fried.

She insisted I have dessert… ice cream. I was too full and filled with bliss to say no.

I was running low on cash and wondered how I would pay after this feast. Oh yes, when she opened the wine bottle, she just left it on my table allowing me to pour my own.

It was easily the best 13 Euros I had spent during my time in Spain. She then walked me through a hallway to the back of the building so that she could show me her magnificent garden.

She kissed both of my cheeks and gave me the biggest hug imaginable. A potential nightmare turned into a highlight moment of my Camino.

One last thing. It will be a year tomorrow that our mother died. She was an O’Flaherty, of proud Irish stock. On Monday when I arrived at my albergue, I asked the desk clerk if there might be an errant ball cap lying around as my Tilley hat was drenched with sweat and quite disgusting. I wanted to sit outside with my friends and wanted a fresh chapeau to protect my bald head from the hot sun.

The clerk disappeared. “Only one hat, sir,” he said. Slightly misty eyed I looked to see a slightly oversized black baseball cap adorned with a bright green shamrock.

Have a great weekend.

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The Macdonald Notebook: Business & Politics in Atlantic Canada
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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 8, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with 5 comments

It it the end of day 5 and I’ve had to go down a notch on my belt. I guess when you’ve walked 162k and put on 228,330 steps, you’re bound to lose a few pounds!
So, I’m walking out of a town yesterday and someone whistled at me and said Buen Camino. NO ONE has ever whistled at me before. When this was repeated, I thought I had a secret admirer. I looked up in the window of a house and there was …. a parrot! So much for secret admirers.
The Camino is full of folks carrying backpacks and personal baggage. People are dealing with loss, emotional issues, health and relationship problems.
To survive the Camino , you must be adaptable or you probably won’t have a very good time. For example, snoring is the music of the Alburgues , the hostels where we share rooms with bunk beds. You do get used to it and after a long day on the trail, sleep eventually comes.
Today, exiting another town, a young woman in front of me was singing “What do you do with a drunken sailor.” Of course, I couldn’t resist chiming in. Katerina is a young woman from Slovakia and unless another candidate emerges, she will get my nod, hands down, as the most spirited person on the Camino. Her walking partner, a 60 something from Holland were the fastest walkers I’ve met so far. The wind howled all day from the west at 50k. I followed them for 10 breathtaking kilometres. Katerina swooped and soared like a bird. She sang and she danced and she begged 18 wheelers to honk their horns. Most of the 10k was uphill, into the wind but I scarcely noticed as I was mesmerized by her zest for life. When I finally caught up at a cafe, she told me she had come to the Camino to have fun. No kidding!
I don’t have wifi at my Alburgue tonight so I’m sending this now from a bar.
With the high winds, I had a very bad hair day, but then again, everyday is a bad hair for me.
Have a great weekend.

Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
The Macdonald Notebook: Business & Politics in Atlantic Canada
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