There have been two places along my Camino where I have been absolutely blown away by the hospitality. The first was in Lagroño, where I stayed in a church albergue that offered us dinner and a blessing service in the church. The second was last night spent in Ligonde at El Albergue Fuente del Peregrino.
The house was a rustic, stone building supported by vaulted wood beams. The main floor consisted of two rooms off of which were the bathrooms and kitchen. The upstairs room contained nine beds and was accented by a mural mapping the remainder of the Camino. Everything was stone, and the steps were lit with blue lights, creating an ethereal atmosphere.
After everyone was checked in and settled in, we gathered around the wooden table. The hosts, a team from Agape, handed out prayers from previous peregrinos and gave us time to read them and lift them up in whatever way we chose. Then we wrote down our own thoughts and hopes so other peregrinos could lift us up as well. It was a powerful experience of giving and receiving across time.
While our hosts prepared dinner we were able to watch the Jesus film in the second main room if we chose to. I was surprised to find how refreshing this reflection on the life of Jesus was for me at this stage of the Camino, so close to the end. How often we say that the Camino will provide, the Camino will show the way, etc. Now I remember that He is the Way. “Yo soy el Camino.”
After the movie we enjoyed a hearty meal of pasta, salad, and dessert. Of course there was wine, too! Some retired upstairs while the rest of us continued talking around the table. Eventually, Nev broke out his guitar and we all began singing Beatles songs. Finally, the night drew to an end, conversation dwindling into slumber.
A grey, drizzly day of hiking brought me to Melide and my second night to remember. I made two new friends in. Melide. Mihai is an EVS volunteer working with the Culture on the Way project. I was able to meet up with him and do another interview. He was friendly and helpful with getting checked into the albergue. I hope our paths cross again in Santiago.
My second friend is Nicole, a peregrina turned bicigrina – a pilgrim on a bike. We helped each other find the albergue then, after the EVS interview, we went out for some octopus and beer! The texture is a little funny, but the way they spice it tastes amazing. We had fun sampling the cuisine and sharing Camino stories.
Any good Camino story will lead to conversations about life and spirituality, as our conversation did. It’s always powerful to me to put into words what I believe because it gives me a chance to hear myself and think through the core beliefs guiding me. It was a joy to talk about this God of resurrection and recovery whom I have met in my own life. There is hope in knowing that absolutely nothing can happen to me which God cannot make new again. This is why He calls me to endure suffering, because He can always restore me, but the patience of suffering is one more chance for someone else to know God, too. Even if that someone else is the very person causing me harm. This is possible because God is a God of restoration.
I will remember these two nights fondly as I finish El Camino in the next two days. Two more days of hiking should bring me into contact with the last four or five volunteers working the Culture on the Way project with EVS, as well as into the courtyard of Santiago de Compostela. My hope is to arrive in the afternoon of Thursday the 26th, to attend the pilgrim’s mass on the morning of the 27th, and then spend the day resting in and exploring the city of Santiago. Who knows, maybe I’ll even catch a bus to Finesterre!