Camino Primitivo Albergue Review

Recommended stages on the Primitivo

One of the key skills one must have in life is to master the art of cut and paste. This year I decided to share my opinion of the albergues I stayed at, so before putting them up on Google or whatever, here they are. I like to stay in public albergues whenever possible, but sometimes my daily stage did not finish at a village with a public albergue, so I stayed private. I only saw one parochial / church albergue housed in the monastery at Cornellana, but my daily stage did not stop there.

Oviedo

This albergue which is run by the Asociación de amigos del Camino Astur-Leonesa is housed in the old seminary. So basically, it is a plug and play albergue, the infrastructure is all there, all that is missing is the future priests cramming for their Theology exams! The rooms house 2 bunk beds and are equipped with lockers and a handy sink in which to brush your teeth! Oh, and it is right downtown, so you are literally steps away from the Cathedral and the old part of town, right where the Camino starts. I shared a room with Vicente from Valencia whom I would continue bumping into throughout my Camino.

The old seminary is now an albergue in Oviedo

Grado

The public albergue is run by volunteers of the International Fraternity of the Camino de Santiago and it is housed in the old horse auction building – which explains all the iron rings attached to the wall next to the building. But do not fret, it was remodeled in 2016. It was a great little albergue, and the volunteer hospitalario Guy was great!

La Espina – El cruce (Private)

This is as basic and as homey as it gets. It is run by Carmen who had a space above her tiny supermarket and opened an albergue! It has one room with 10 beds which I shared with three American teachers. The village is pretty basic, so it comes in handy that there is a supermarket below the albergue where you can buy groceries and make your own dinner! Apparently, this is a good place to stop if you are planning to take the “Hospitales” variant (which coincidentally I did).

Campiello – Casa Ricardo (Private)

This has to be one of the top albergues I have ever stayed in! it is a restored farmhouse with great facilities: kitchen, bathrooms, patio and a great restaurant/bar and supermarket on the other side of the road. The sleeping room is relatively big but with brand new bunks and exposed stone walls it offered a great night’s sleep.

Berducedo – Camino Primitivo (Private)

After the exhausting (but highly recommended Hospitales variant) I unfortunately skipped the municipal albergue (there had been rumors on the Camino that there was a lack of beds in Berducedo) to go to the private Camino Primitivo . Camino Primitivo was a horrible experience despite good facilities, a despicable albergue only focused on squeezing every last euro from the pilgrim. You cannot order a la carte for lunch, you have to order the full 20 Euro menu (which was good, but way more than what I wanted), when I had an issue with other pilgrims over the washer/drier they did nothing to help our situation and worst of all: they had just done a fly treatment and the whole albergue was full of dead flies -and they did nothing to clean them up. The owner was simply rude, so I refused to stay there for dinner and went to the lovely Araceli instead where I chatted with a bicycle pilgrim (if such a thing still exists) and had a great meal.

What good laundry facilities look like

Castro – Albergue Juvenil de Castro

This restored schoolhouse run by a lesbian collective was a great acquittal of the Berducedo fiasco. These women were generous, funny, hospitable, and when I told them a sad story (they asked for it), affectionate. I loved it. They also had a simple but delicious “meal plan”: they had a refrigerated showcase full of prepared foods; if you order a small plate you can choose two foods and it costs 3 Euro, the big plate with up to three combinations, 5 Euro. It was freezing that evening, so I had a big plate of spaghetti Bolognese. I loved my stay there.

Vilardongo – O Piñeiral (Private)

Another private choice, but what a place! This is a luxury albergue with amazing facilities (at regular albergue cost) each bunk bed has a little curtain to separate it, and since the place did not fill up and nobody came above me, I had a bit of a private “suite” for the night –nice!! The food was excellent, and they even had a little room with a yoga mat, where I was able to do some much needed yoga.

Castroverde

This is a Xunta de Galicia (i.e., public) albergue and it was impressive! Modern installations in a minimalist setting. It even has a stream running through the back yard where I was able to dip my legs to rid them of 8 hours of hiking worth of inflammation! Public albergues lack kitchen equipment to encourage you to eat in the village which I did for lunch, but a classic tuna empanada (pie) was the perfect dinner, and it needed no cooking!

Guntín

This might be the smallest albergue in the Xunta’s portfolio, only 12 beds! It is so small; the bathroom and showers are in a modern annexed outhouse! This albergue is literally in the middle of a forest but fortunately there is a great private albergue, O Candido across the trail. The exposed wooden beams in the ceiling really made this a rustic experience!

Boente – Albergue Boente (Private)

Once you merge into the last 100 km of the French Way, there are plenty of albergues. Pro tip: if you are a seasoned pilgrim doing more than the last 100km, try to stagger your stages so you only walk with the turistas for a few hours in the morning. What I mean by stagger is that you do not sleep in the main recommended end-of-stage towns. By doing this, you get a few quiet hours in the morning (the day trippers don’t get up early) and quiet afternoon. Boente is 6 km away from Melide, and it is far away enough that I had the albergue all to myself!! It also had a tiny, freezing pool where I had a quick dip to remove inflammation.

Monte do Gozo

This is the largest albergue in the Xunta’s portfolio, only 5 km to Santiago. It has 400 beds in a number of pavilions that are opened as needed. They only had one opened when I arrived, exhausted from a 42 km day. It is a Xunta albergue, so it is fairly standard and basic. Since the Monte do Gozo is a massive complex with an open-air auditorium, a private hostel concession, etc., there is a big industrial brewery where I had a great meal -and a beer! Before hitting Santiago the next morning!

Zog’s, Zoggys, Chez Zog’s, The Zog, Zogmeister, Zoggy Woggy´s, etc.

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WordPress, the platform that hosts this blog has recently updated their software, making it easier to see the posts I have written. I was surprised to see that I cite Zog’s often but have never had a dedicated post. Here it is.

The reason I have not written about Zog’s before is that it is my hideaway, my cocoon, an extension of my living room, and I did not want to blow my hideaway, expose my little secret, or God forbid, bring in droves of tourists, camera in hand. But last fall when the Romance Studies Department could not find a suitable venue for their Pre-Halloween Halloween party, I sacrificed my closely guarded secrecy of Zog’s to offer it as a venue. Our department’s Social co-Chair Jordan organized a great party. Normally I do not participate in these activities (see below, under Sartre) but, since I was the facilitator of the venue I had no choice but to go. I just dusted my old Sheikh outfit (that my dad bought in Jeddah in the 70s when he met King Fahd. So now that my whole department knows about my watering hole, I guess there is little left to lose.

When I first moved to Chapel Hill in that distant June of 2012. I quickly had to stake my territory, run some recon ops, and establish myself. There were (are) two bars around the corner from my cottage, one on top of the other. The ground level bar had big windows, and a glossy, wannabe fancy air about it. Zog’s was literally an open (yellow) door with some creaky wooden stairs leading up to the bar. The choice was obvious. I have never regretted it. Of course I have had to go to other bars in Chapel Hill for social obligations, but I always go back to Zog’s. Most memorably, my dear friend Stjepan, before moving to Japan asked me to go to his favorite bar, a well-known Franklin Street purveyor of libations. Yes it was a pretty place, with an impressive bar, but it was, how can I say? Fratastic? The last thing I want is to have to drink surrounded by the kids I teach all day long, or a bunch of posers, or to pay more than I should for a refreshment. You guessed, I have never gone back to that joint.

At the end of the day it is not so much about the quality of the drinks – especially if it is only a Tanqueray and tonic when it is hot, or a neat Maker’s Mark the rest of the time (IMHO the best value in Bourbon) , or the music, or the atmosphere, although all those things matter, you can get used to different styles. It is always about the people. In this case awesome owner Mandey and her little brother James, and the rest of the staff, Michael, Reese, Josh and Jedd. I love them all. Top, top human beings, nice people, caring, funny, professional, and very good at their jobs!

Unfortunately I only go a couple of times a week, and I mostly read, but I have had some nice conversations, especially with James, as we share a passion for orchestral music. With Jedd I chat about Jung, spirituality and other silly stuff. With Josh we mostly talk about comedic techniques, with Reese we talk history, archaeology and love. And with Mandey, I can pour my heart out while she pours me a drink! Of course I also chat with other established regulars, Jeff – who has a drink named in his honor: the “Electric Jeff” – although I would rather drink sewer water than that neon green drink. The darts league people on Thursday nights, and a few other regulars.

It is a bit of a rule that I always go after shows, concerts, plays, etc. I need the time to digest whatever I have seen or heard and Zog’s is the perfect venue for that. Of course they have two pool tables, darts, fine cigars and a ton of local art for sale, occasional bands, they are dog friendly, cat friendly, even bunny rabbit friendly. But I go because it is my favorite bar.

Although I do not agree with everything Jean Paul Sartre said, I do agree with him in that “L’enfer, c’est les autres” which has been loosely translated as “hell is other people”. (Those who know me even a little bit, know that I am mostly against translations). So unless I am going to have a decent conversation, I would rather just read and drink.

La Navata

La Navata is a tiny village outside Madrid, near the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains, where Hemingway’s For whom the Bell Tolls is set, the village is so small it is actually dependent of the bigger nearby village of Galapagar, home of Nobel Prize winning playwright Jacinto Benavente and of the current top bullfighter José Tomás. La Navata itself only has a train station, two bars, a kiosk, a hairdresser, a pharmacy, a small supermarket, and an old, small, stone chapel, San Antonio de La Navata.

My parents bought a weekend/summer house here in 1974, when I was 9 years old. In the early 80’s we added the second floor. If I have a home, this is it. This is my “happy place” where I take my mind when I need to relax. This is where most of my childhood memories were made. This is where I learned to ride motorcycles and to drive – my granddad Antonio patiently guiding me round and round the dirt garden, before we put in grass, in La Petra, our old Citroen 2CV. This is where I made my first and oldest friends, where I learned the little tennis I play, where I have done most of my stargazing, reading, bicycle riding, gardening, hiking and barbeques, where I kissed a girl for the first time (quite sloppy if you must know), where I started tinkering with all things mechanical – although mostly motorbikes, where hiking and skiing trips started, and where great summer (and I guess also winter) parties were hosted.

I used to come here for the weekends in winter, reading by the blazing fireplace, and spending the summer in the pool, the garden and the porch, going indoors only when absolutely necessary.

La Navata is about a fifteen minute drive from El Escorial, built by Phillip II, it houses a palace, monastery, school, mausoleum for all the Haubsburg and most Spanish  Bourbon kings, and one of the most important – and beautiful  – libraries, in the world.  Growing up I spent a lot of time in this place, walking around the palace, gardens, surrounding hills, and the town. I still spend a lot of time here, specially with my friend Patxi, with whom I founded the Asociación A. de Amantes del Escorial in the early 90s.

In 1992 I got a job at a photo equipment supplier near here and I lived in La Navata for about a year. It was a lot of fun, living in this big old house alone, cooking, reading by the fire, and going into Madrid for the weekends doing a reverse weekend commute!

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El Escorial

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The view during a bicylce ride

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Caf’é con leche at the clasico Marcelino bar, at 10 am they have barely opened!

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Jacinto Benavente at Galapagar´s Plaza

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San Antonio de la Navata

Life in La Navata is very quiet. I start off with a refreshing wake-up swim in the pool, which makes breakfast a cool joy on the porch. Then there is a walk into the village to buy bread for the day, the newspapers and any other groceries, I stop at the bar for a nice café con leche. There are always chores and gardening and pool maintenance to be done before a pre lunch swim. After siesta things actually slow down even more in the heat of the afternoon and I can read, or hang out with the fam. Nowadays with my nephew and two nieces things are a bit more chaotic, but always fun. The afternoon swim is normally the longest one and then I have time to work out in my homemade gym, or run or go for a bicycle ride before dinner. After dinner we sit around, chat, enjoy a mojito made with old Cuban rum (which is unavailable in the US) and mint from the garden, or a gin tonic, or whatever we can  find, sometimes accompanied by a cigar.

Mallorca

My family used to go on holidays to Galicia, the Northwest coast of Spain. Atlantic water temperature and Atlantic waves. When my little sister Rocky was born we decided to switch our holidays to Mallorca island on the Mediterranean, where we found a little “cala”, inlet on the south shore of the island. Warm, beautiful, tranquil, crystal clear water.  We have been coming to the same place for the last forty odd years, Camp de Mar. First we stayed at the “Gran Hotel”, old world style and panache, real furniture, “sit down dinner”, even a springboard on the beautiful pool! Unfortunately, after falling into disrepair it was razed and turned into a gaudy monstrosity.  So we rotated through a series of rental homes until in the early 00s we found the Dorint. A resort built on what used to be an old farm where we used to go on nice summer evening walks eating the carobs off the ground. Some of my fondest memories are of excursions around the island, walking the old streets of the capital, Palma de Mallorca, with it’s beautiful squares and Gothic cathedral. I loved coming to the island when I had my own business and customers to visit. For many years when I had the money I rented a rag top Jeep to drive around the island and to go to the village to pick up freshly made ensaimadas, the local pastries, enjoying the sun and wind in my face and hair (I had hair then).

For the last few years my parents have been bringing their grandkids on holidays here. The rest of us come and go as time and money allow! I have been able to come for the last three years and I love it.

There is something magical about these islands. The light, the sea, the warm, dry days and nights, the intoxicating sweet smell of night. Not surprisingly it is, and has been home to Phoenicians, Romans and Moors, Chopin and George Sand, Agatha Christie, Rubén Dario, Joan Miró, and more recently Michael  Douglas, Claudia Schiffer, and of course Rafa Nadal.

Our life here is very quiet. Wonderful breakfasts with local pastries, quiet beach, pool, siestas, and nice meals. I enjoy the gym, swimming, running on the local forested hills, evening walks with the family after dinner and the bar at night. But most of all I am getting a ton of reading done for my Ph.D. exams next spring! On Sundays I go to the village to the 1248 church for mass (granted it was pretty much re-done in 1703, but still).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA View from Andratx village Andratx village View from the Dorint Hotel OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Camp de Mar Beach SAMSUNG Dorint Hotel Camp de Mar Hotel entrance, Dorint