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We had such a great night at the casa rural, that we decided to sleep in till 6:45! What a treat, no really it was. We had a full day ahead of us, 24 km with no towns in between so I made sure and charged up my iPhone the night before just in case I needed some musical assistance to get through the day.
It was another long day on the long Roman dirt roads, but at least this time there were a few hills, twists, and turns to make the hike a little more eventful. The most eventful part of the hike was towards the end. About 6 km outside of Mansilla was a small town called Reliegos. The only thing I remember about this town was the bar we stopped at for lunch, Bar Elvis, which was featured in the movie “The Way.” It is nearly impossible to miss this building because the entire outside is covered in Pilgrim graffiti. But, it was the food, drink, and atmosphere inside which made this place a real treasure. We walked in and grabbed a stool at the counter. The owner had his iPod playing a mixture American oldies music. The only artist I can remember that stuck out to me was Johnny Cash, my favorite. The owner wore a beret and had a well trimmed go-tee and was fun to talk to. All over the walls, ceiling, beams, floor, and furniture were messages written by pilgrims from all around the world in all different languages. Some of the messages were poems, some were encouraging words, and some were friends writing taunting messages to their friends who had slowed down to hurry and catch up. This was the kind of bar where the locals would come in and walk behind the bar and serve themselves then place their money on the counter and sit down. This place was amazing! You absolutely have to stop at this bar!
We got the owners attention and ordered our lunch. I ordered my usual jamon y queso bocadillo (ham and cheese sandwich) and a small beer. He then stepped over to the far side of the counter and cut off strips of smoked ham right off the bone, and cut fresh cheese from a cheese wheel. Then, he pulled a loaf of bread out of a burlap sack and place the slices of fresh meat and cheese on the bread. It was the most raw sandwich I’d ever seen made in front of me. He didn’t take cheese out of a plastic wrapper or reach into a plastic container to fumble around and pull out single slices of ham, this was all fresh. To this day, I still think it was the best ham and cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten.
After a satisfying meal, we eventually made our way to the municipal albergue on the far edge of town. The albergue was actually a group of buildings that surround an inner courtyard covered in cobblestone (if memory serves me). The albergue had wi-fi, full kitchen, and a laundry service and a space to hand wash your clothes for free.
We checked in and joined the others sitting in the courtyard, kicking back and reading, rubbing our feet, and having a cervesa or 2. I asked an Australian pilgrim sitting next to me where he got his beer, and he told me that I could just walk to the bar next door, order the beer, and bring it back to the albergue with me. I just had to promise the barkeep that I’d bring back the glass. It worked and soon other pilgrims followed suit.
The hospitalero was great as well. She was more than happy to sit down and work on people’s feet, fixing blisters, toenails, and giving advice. She jokingly offered a stick for a man to bite down on while she asked if he wanted her to chop of his foot at the ankle or knee because his feet were in such bad shape. 2 offers for amputation in 2 days, what are the odds? The hospitalero actually ended up taking care of several peoples feet, one after the other. She had been well trained and gave great advice to those who had other aches and pains common with pilgrims on the Camino.
For the rest of the day, we piddled around the town getting a few supplies, and taking naps till it was time for dinner. A large group of us, who’d been running into each other the last week or so, decided to all go to dinner together while others stayed at the albergue and made family style meals. It was the kind of dinner I’d been waiting for since I started on the trail day 1. There were at least a dozen of us and we all sat together at this long wooden table. If memory serves me, sitting at the table were Americans, British, French, Australian, and Dutch all sitting together. Wine was brought out, orders were taken, stories were shared. I’m damn near to tears just thinking about this dinner. Ask yourself, how many times do you get the chance to sit down at a large table, eat dinner, and listen to conversations in at least 4 different languages at the same time? It didn’t matter that I didn’t speak Spanish or if Caroline could speak French, there was almost always someone around to translate, like our friend Dom.
After dinner, we went back to the albergue and in the courtyard there were several people sitting around sharing bottles of wine and beer and cheese and having a great time. A few of us joined in the festivities until late in the night and had a great time telling jokes and sharing stories from back home. What a great night.
Distance: 24.5 km
Accomodation: Municipal Albergue- Albergue description above.