A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Camino People (3)


I reached Zafra on Wednesday 20 January. To get there I walked the last few kilometres beside the railway line. An unpromising entrance: dog turds, rubbish dumps, stacked sections of railway track in the ill-kempt station yard. I tried to climb a locked metal gate, but eventually found the right way through. There was a long - a very long - street leading to the town centre. I was tired and wanted a shower, a beer, a bite to eat. I booked into the Hostal Carmen, and was given a lovely double room - with heating! This was more like a nice hotel than a hostal. The first thing I noticed above my bed was this picture - monogrammed 'FW', the initials of my father, who died just over a year ago, and to whom I dedicated this pilgrimage...

Later I found a groovy new bar - with gorgeous, soft red wine de la casa, and tapas to-die-for. The girl behind the bar was the owner of the place, and she was as welcoming as sunshine, smiling and open as summer sunflowers, black-haired and beautiful. She beckoned a regular customer from Barcelona to join me. We talked about this and that, about the Camino, the weather, the town of Zafra - and how it was just like a miniature version of Seville.

And later still, when I came to pay, she told me my Catalan friend - who had left some minutes before - had paid for me. I expressed my gratitude and astonishment. She winked, with an amused look on her face. 'Es España!' she beamed.

3 comments:

Lorenzo at the Alchemist's Pillow said...

That's a great anecdote. I am really enjoying the series on Camino People. The generosity of warmhearted strangers is much more abundant than we realize at times, and it is only by venturing out as you did on this camino that we can pick up on it.

I also like the fact that the new friend who paid for you, discreetly without saying anything, was Catalan. In Spain, people from Catalonia are all too often depicted as stingy and tightfisted, a grossly unfair caricature but quite widespread outside of Catalonia.

The Solitary Walker said...

Just shows how prejudices are so ill-founded, Lorenzo! We have the same ridiculous cliche about Scotland - yet most of the Scottish people I know and have met on my travels have been the most welcoming, warm-hearted people you could ever hope to meet...

backpack45 said...

Your fascinating series about the Camino people supports my sentiments--that the people are the touchstones of the trail. They entertain, support, intrigue, sometimes annoy, but always give our hikes more depth.