We had managed more than a week’s riding. I couldn’t believe it. When we were both younger, we’d joined our local cycling group in Oxford, England. Apart from the Sunday rides, we’d occasionally head for mainland Europe, in particular France. We have fond memories, but these holidays were never more than seven day’s at a time. So now we were proud of ourselves for taking on what was proving to be a more daunting task. Having only each other to rely on was also a novelty.
Today we decided to take it easy and perhaps not go very far – an easy day’s ride. This bucked me up no end and I found myself enjoying riding along roads with cultivated fields of corn and occasionally vibrantly coloured sunflowers on either side of us. The road was quiet and narrow and it was good to be feeling more like our old selves once again.
The morning found us riding only 30 kms (some 16 miles) and arriving early in Burgos, a beautiful city and certainly not overrated. As we walked through the town centre searching of some lunch, a waiter hovered just outside a café and, I kid you not, literally pulled us into the dark confines of a small dimly lit room. Slightly amused, and reluctant to argue in a foreign language, we settled down and ordered a Spanish Omelette each.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the narrow streets and exploring a few of the older churches and checking out the Gothic architecture so peculiar to Burgos which has a unique character all its own. Eventually tiring of so much walking, we relocated our locked bikes. I noticed a young bearded man carrying the tell-tale backpack and asked him if he could give us directions to the municipal albergue. He pointed to the top of a nearby hill where we found a delightful building with a group of bedraggled-looking pilgrims stood outside. We joined the long queue to wait for the doors to open, which wasn’t very long fortunately. This building was one of the highlights of our trip so far.
Run by volunteers, it boasts numerous facilities and has a cosy, welcoming atmosphere. We were told we would be on the third floor, and I have a suspicion there was even one more floor above. The whole building is very spacious, with a welcoming area of long trestle tables and seating and even a vending machine on the ground floor in a common area.
In any other place we would have been turned away for arriving so early. But we were assured that the hostel had plenty of room and wouldn’t run out of beds.
The large dormitories were partitioned off into individual areas, each containing two bunk beds with individual lockers. Having claimed our bunks, showered and changed, we went in search of something light for supper. We didn’t have to go far as the café immediately opposite the albergue did a fair meal for a good price. This was also the first time we had seen any sign of rain as dark clouds began to loom threateningly.
Relieved to find that we could catch up with our washing, it came as no surprise that the washing machines were in high demand. We waited patiently until a machine became available and so that we could throw the dirty clothes into one before hanging them over a washing line we had spied earlier in a small alcove. The alcove was a sun trap and it wasn’t long before everything had dried out.
We seemed to have walked more in terms of sightseeing in Burgos than we had ridden today, and were certainly ready for our beds. While most pilgrims would go to bed early, specially as they’d want an early start the following morning, it was easy to settle down relatively quickly. One downside of staying overnight in a large city is that the locals come to life sometime after about eight o’clock and don’t seem to go home until the early hours of the morning. Burgos’s nightlife in the summer months can be as busy as during the day. Voices emanated from the streets below and could be heard even on the third floor. They only vanished at about three in the morning when a sudden downpour must have emptied the streets. Neither had we banked on the partitions separating us from our neighbours being so thin and nothing could stop the sound of heavy snoring reaching our ears. A restless night indeed.