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A Window on the World


We were sitting in a remote village cafe when Albrecht rolled up his sleeves to show me the multiple red rows of bed bug bites.

“No more albergues for me,” he said.

Of course. A lightbulb moment. I knew at once that there would be no more albergues on this trip for me either. I needed sleep, peace, somewhere clean and time for all the blotchy bites on my face, neck and shoulders to heal. Late that afternoon I checked in to a small hotel in Caldas de Reis, peeled off my pack, lay on the crisp white bed and listened to the silence. It was the best 28 euros I’ve ever spent.

Later I drank beers and ate with my Canadian, German and Swedish friends. We soaked tired feet and legs in the public hot springs of this pretty spa town and when it got dark we drank hot chocolate in the bread shop and ate yet more pastries. And then I waved them goodnight and retreated to the calm of my solitary space.

All was well with the world when I set off next morning. And when my journey was hijacked it got even better.  A man called from the window of a school building as I was walking past and asked if I’d come in and meet the children. “It’s our window on the world,” he said. ” We invite pilgrims in to tell us about their countries. It’s our project. Please speak to the chicos in Scottish.”

Two Croatian girls came in too and I’ve no idea what they told the kids (in Croatian)  but I turned to stereotypes and mimed bagpipes, described shaggy Highland cows with long horns, did a little Scottish dance and – for the teacher – focused on whisky. And then the kids crowded round for photographs, we exchanged email and Facebook details, the teacher showed us his scrapbook of postcards from every corner of the globe, we all hugged and five minutes later we set off back on our journeys.

We hadn’t even taken off our packs, but it had been the most magical moment of the week. I’ve fallen back in love with the camino.



10 Comments Post a comment
  1. As I read this, I’m lying in a comfortable bed in a hostal in Leon. I had two sets of bites before the halfway point, when I decided I had to limit my albergue stays. I have been following good practices such as treated sheet, bagging my backpack, bagging sleeping bag, but they love me too much and I react to the bites. No one else takes those precautions and they don’t seem to get bitten!

    That classroom experience sounds like a great tonic!

    November 9, 2015
    • Oh Buen Camino, Clare. I remember Leon well and loved the cathedral and its teetering story of suspect architecture! It’s late in the year and the days are short. You’d have thought the bed bugs would have gone into hibernation by now!

      November 9, 2015
  2. You’ll soon be saying…”when I do another camino”!

    I remember that school and the teacher hanging out of the window. He already had his quota of Brits for the day so I wasn’t invited in – but what a lovely idea to bring a bit of the wider world into the classroom.

    November 8, 2015
    • Haha, you might be right, Maggie! Are you making plans for 2016 yet?

      November 8, 2015
      • Thinking el Norte in autumn, if I can wait that long!

        November 8, 2015
  3. As a former educator, it was heart warming to see that you stopped to speak with the children:) What a wonderful, real way to learn about the world. Very clever teacher there!

    November 8, 2015
  4. Viking Queen #

    I’m surprised at the bed bug thing. I must have been lucky on the Camino Frances not to experience anything like that. Maybe it’s the other Camino routes which suffer?

    November 8, 2015
    • Yep, you were lucky, and I’ve met others who’ve never been bitten. I think the Frances is the worst affected, especially after Sarria when it gets so busy. I vowed many times on this trip that I was FINISHED with the camino. But that has now mellowed to “… IF I ever do another one it’ll be with an insecticide-proofed sheet!”

      November 8, 2015
      • Viking Queen #

        Really? I had no idea! Well done and Buen Camino! Glad you are having those wonderful moments. May they continue.

        November 8, 2015

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