It is correct to think in terms of a standard code of conduct to classify a pilgrimage as such? The stages offer so much variety of overnight accommodations, from communal dormitories to individual rooms in multistarred hotels; there are pilgrims that take along only the stuff they can carry on their shoulders, others that use point to point baggage carrier services; some go for cheapest meal the euro can buy, some go for the best meal the local gourmandise can offer. Without prejudice, there is no right or wrong, and probably it is not correct to think in terms of standards. All boils down to the individual motivations, and the individual awareness of what these motivations are.
In total honesty, after almost 26 days on road, I am beginning to have doubts on what my real motivations are. As I continue to compare with other pilgrims, I can endorse almost all different answers on that subject: but what is mine? If I do not find my real inner motivation, I cannot even modify my behaviour to suit better the purpose. Of course, I do enjoy better hotels and fine dining when available, but is this really what I am after? Is it “correct” that I enjoy such treats sharing the benefits with “strangers” instead of with my own family?
At the beginning when the challenge of an endurance walking marathon was likely at the top of the fan of my possible motivations, I could not care less where I was sleeping, or what was I eating. With the rapid redimensioning of the physical performance target and instead in the sudden acceptance of the reality condition resulting from the pain in my legs, I found inner relief in contemplating the natural scenery around me and on the monastic rule of living with less. My rate of expenses per km, reached the minimum value at euro 2.04/km, and was determined to get it lower towards euro 1.50/km. Even this mental status was challenged once I started to build ties with fellow walkers who were looking for shared accommodations to attain a higher level of comfort at a budget price. I started to accept the fact that I was still a committed pilgrim, since I was duly walking the stages and carrying all my weight. The option of sleeping in a more comfortable room and eating better menus, was too appealing to be ignored.
Even tonight in Astorga, given the rather long stage, and the likely late arrival, I accepted to stay in a 3 stars hotel found on booking.com, and to treat my travel companion to a restaurant suggested by the hotelier. I am happy of the decision, but I am concerned that this trend will weaken my commitment to the Camino done according to the basic lifestyle and minimum confort.
On the lighter side, I have to accept that no better choice could have been done, since the Hotel “Casa de Tepa” is an absolute treasure. The resident owner of the mansion which is dated 1790 and hosted in its history even Napoleon Bonaparte, don Juan de Guillon graciously invited us for a tour of the rooms and the garden. The property warrants a stay of a least a week to enjoy the pleasure of an educated conversation with an exponent if the Spanish royalty, and savour the comfort of a personalized hospitality.
If I would have insisted in staying at the hostel, I could not have enjoyed such an exquisite hospitality by a old fashioned gentleman and heir of a bicentenarian family. Anyone planning to visit Astorga should not miss staying here for as long as possible.
On the stage itself, not much to say, apart from its length, and the almost 10 hours to complete it. We passed remarkable places like the Puente de Orbigo built by the Romans, the Cruceiro de los Tiburios overlooking the city of Astorga, and where I left some thanksgiving stones for people and friends I care for.