Simplicity is one of the appealing aspects of a pilgrimage. Our days principally involve walking or cycling, sleeping, and eating. After walking 25 or 30 kms the last of these is one of the great pleasures of a pilgrimage.
Spanish daily life is on a somewhat different schedule than we are accustomed to in Canada. Both lunch and dinner are later. Lunch is usually served between 1:00 and 3:30, and dinner is not generally available until at least 7:30 or 8:00, ie. almost bedtime for a tired pilgrim.
We usually have a moderate breakfast of cereal, yoghurt, fruit and coffee in our hotel room early in the morning. I generally start walking at 7:00 or 7:30, arriving at our destination between 1:30 and 3:00. This is the period during which the menu del día is generally served. I have generally not eaten anything since breakfast, so I am keen for a substantial meal. Without going to our accommodation to wash up, I drop my pack at a table and Ruth and I plunk ourselves down, order a beverage, and review the options on the menu del día. This is a fixed price meal, usually costing 12 or 13 euros (a bit more on weekends) that typically includes a beverage (beer, wine, radler, soft drink or water), a first dish (selected from a list of two to five alternatives), a second dish (also selected from a list of options), dessert and bread. It’s a lot of food, and somewhere towards the end of the segundo (as in Italy, typically a heavy meat or fish dish) I often regret having ordered such an enormous meal. The remorse dissolves with the dessert, and then we waddle off to find our accommodation. We generally just have a snack in the evening, and our appetite doesn’t fully return until the next morning, when the cycle starts again.
I suspect that this is not the healthiest way to eat, particularly as Spanish food is short on vegetables and long on meat, particularly pork. In addition, it’s probably not ideal to have most of your daily calories in one session at the trough at two o’clock in the afternoon. Like most pilgrims we assume that our daily exertions justify our overindulge in beer, fat and sugar. As one experienced pilgrim told us, “I walk Caminos so I can have cake for breakfast.”