I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Thursday, 24 January 2008

The Old Bridge At Puente La Reina

The Albergue Padres Rapadores lies immediately on your left opposite the Iglesia del Crucifijo (Church of the Crucifixion) as you enter Puente la Reina. I spent the night there very comfortably. In many ways it's a flagship for the excellent Spanish albergue system. For around €5 you can expect bunk-bed dormitory accommodation with mattress and blankets (you bring your own sleeping bag), heating (the adequacy of this varies - but there's often the option of making a log fire which is great), hot showers, a communal eating area/relaxation room, and a kitchen which is usually well stocked (except in Galicia) with pots and pans, cutlery and cooking utensils, and basic foodstuffs like salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (Its cupboards may also contain packets of pasta, tins of lentils and suchlike, left behind by previous pilgrims.) There may be Internet access too. You can't ring ahead and reserve a place in these albergues. You just turn up and it's first come, first served - priority being given to pilgrims on foot. Not that booking a place would be at all necessary during these late autumn and winter months - each night there was only a handful of pilgrims. Early next morning 20 November I set off under the stone arch connecting church and monastery down Puente la Reina's narrow main street (Calle Major). It had been squally in the night but now the wind had died down somewhat. I popped into the Iglesia de Santiago but left before morning mass got to the Eucharist bit. I walked out of town via the celebrated 12th century pilgrim bridge (see photo) over the river Arga. Some consider this bridge the most beautiful in Spain. Though perhaps not the houses behind.

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