Monday, 26 April 2010
The swallows are back in the barns, the storks are hauling great loads of sticks to their nests (and dropping them at times on peoples´ heads), yesterday was, yet again, the big fiesta out at the Virgin de la Puente. Alas, this year for the first time in eight decades, without our old friend Paca Luna heading up the march. Still, the weather was fine, the snails were fat, the music was hot, and a good time was had by all out on the lawn.
And so it is spring on the Meseta. The pilgrims are bombing through in earnest, even though the hospitaleros continue to complain that their numbers are way down compared to previous years. But the big building projects continue, with or without pilgrims to justify them. Spain may be mired in an economic crisis, and Europe may be facing ruin very soon, but the locals feel perfectly confident that plenty of well-heeled tourists (and skint pilgrims, too) will be through here in the years to come. They´re counting on it.
Here in Moratinos the Italians´ albergue is well on its way, with staircases, thermopane windows, and all the wiring done, and the roofing well on its way. Bruno and Daniel moved out of the Peaceable a couple of weeks ago, to a place in Sahagún... Paddy was getting too squirrelly with the extra souls about the place, and the albergue project is dragging on into overtime, so everyone was glad for the change. No hard feelings. The left a lovely yellow Easter cake, shaped like a dove.
And at the entrance to town, on the threshing floor, the German/Italian couple who proposed a two-star hostel last year have finally go all their plans in order and started work on that place -- soon to be a bar, vegetarian restaurant, and lodging for sixteen. The backhoes started digging a week ago, and now the concrete forms are up... our streets are buzzing with vans and concrete mixers and people we only see on sunny weekends. The church was full yesterday. Add in the returning swallows and flies, and we´ve got a crowd on our hands! The place is heaving.
In St. Nicolas, three kilometers on, our friends at La Barrunta bar are well on their way with an eight-room hostel, bar, and restaurant. They gave us the big tour yesterday evening. They haven´t a thought in their minds that there might be some over-building going on here...
The neighbors all think it´s great. We have mixed feelings. But it´s inevitable, really. For another view of the situation, check out Modesto´s blog -- he´s lived here for more than half a century, so he´s a bit more entitled to opinions! (He says we are the first foreginers to come here and stay, so in a way it´s our example the others are following... they see it can be done. I am not sure this is a compliment, but hey. This is Capitalism, which trumps all government, laws, gods, and morals.)
I just finished walking the Camino, and now I see what an amazing value the Peaceable is to pilgrims, and how we really have left ourselves open for exploitation. Everyone in every town before us is charging at least 5 Euro for even a moldy old bed, 8 Euro for dinner, and 4 Euro to wash a load of laundry... we´ve been asking a donativo. If people are accustomed to paying, and suddenly someone says "donation, whatever you feel it´s worth," it´s no wonder they see us as an opportunity to save a few bucks. We are operating in an obsolete mind-set, which modern pilgrims just don´t understand. The only wonder is we have not been overrun by now. Still, with a few minor exceptions, pilgrims have treated us with great generosity and kindness, proving the dictum "You reap what you sow."
Speaking of kindness, Kim left us yesterday. She is off to follow her dream: shooting photos all along the caminos for a full year. She´s starting with a dip in the holy baths of Lourdes. We wish her well. We hope she comes back soon.
Meantime, with just the two of us here (or just the eight of us, if you count 4 dogs, a cat, and a canary), a good time is being had. We walk the dogs in the mornings, do some kind of housework, have a delicious lunch, park our carcasses in the sunshine, maybe blog a bit, maybe have a spot of dinner, read, listen to music, open up some wine, potter around in the garden, visit with the neighbors, take a walk... So much to do! So little time!
And from 3 p.m. on til about 8, everything is illuminated. It´s a strange trick of the light, but all the tulip and daffodil bulbs I planted two Autumns ago decided to skip a year... so now the chicken pen is surrounded by blooms, and the patio is dotted with spots of red and yellow and purple. And in late afternoon, the sun catches them just so... they are lit up like Christmas tree bulbs, chiarascuro-like. It´s delightful.