I stumbled into the tiny village of Campobocerros a short while later, unsure if I’d hung my hopes on yet another town with no inhabitants. But I found a bar that was open, and asked inside if there were any rooms. “No,” they told me, “but go over there, allá, they should have rooms.”
I walked into what must’ve been the happening spot in town, if you could call it that.
This bar had a lovely patio and a few tables out back, with a view over the forested, rolling hills lit up by the evening sun. The small kitchen served jamon, chorizo, cheese and bread; there was a sad, seldom-working video poker machine; and 4 rooms to rent. Apparently, these rooms were usually empty, except for the few seasonal hikers like me who blundered off course every summer from the Camino, most other peregrinos choosing to just pass by the town.
After setting myself up in my luxurious room – A balcony! Private shower! – I headed downstairs to enjoy the tranquility of the peaceful, country evening and my view of the setting sun. I sidled up to a table on my own, and began to write in my journal, silently sipping my beer, writing, thinking, and relaxing. There was virtually nobody there – just a few young, rougish looking folks at one of the outdoor tables and the bartendress inside.
But my tranquility didn’t last long.
“Oyé,” I heard from the table next to me. “Why are you drinking alone?”
Oh, I knew this drill. Although the reason I was drinking alone is because I actually really preferred to be alone, I’d since learned there wasn’t much use fighting it—this particular wish was bound to be misunderstood by pilgrims, locals, and Americans alike, so I began to just banter back in my hesitant Spanish. When it became clear that I wasn’t actually from Spain, they quickly invited me to join them, and I accepted.
They were already a few cervezas deep, and in jovial moods. From what I gathered, they were all either from this town or a nearby one just like it. Delfi, the girl, spoke some English, and was amazingly sweet and friendly. We had some things in common, like both being avid environmentalists, gardeners, and former park rangers, and conversation was easy. The other two, who I dubbed Joker #1 and Joker #2, were more caustic in their joking, but I tolerated it just fine – especially as the cervezas kept flowing.
Eventually, beer-sodden but belly-empty, Delfi decided she’d slake our hunger by taking me to the house she’d grown up in and teaching me how to make Spanish tortilla. The house was AMAZING. All the floors and walls and ceilings were crooked and at angles to each other, as rooms were built on over the centuries and the different parts of the house settled at different rates. It was all stone and wood and filled with charm and mystery.
The Spanish tortilla, however, was less mysterious, and turned to be a tortilla frances – i.e., French tortilla – which turns out to be, in all actuality, an omelet – or, as we called it growing up, a “pancake egg.” The magic technique that makes it a tortilla frances, however, appears to be flipping it not just over but right… onto the floor. !!!
Defli and I were hysterical at this. Stone floors are hypoallergenic, so we scarfed it down anyway, and returned back to the bar patio to hang out with her cousins, aka Country Boy #1, Country Boy #2, and Uncle, since the first set of cousins we’d been sitting with (apparently, everyone in the town is related) had gotten past the point of “drunk” and had made their way onto “stupid.”
I wasn’t sure how I fit in with this new crowd, and, at first, kept relatively quiet as I assessed the guys. I could hear the Jokers heckling us from across the patio, the majority of which was unintelligible to me, until I picked out one phrase: Mentirosa Inglesa! “Lying Englishwoman.” Unable to help myself, I shouted back in Spanish, “Get it right! That’s Mentirosa Americana!”.I’m a lying American, dammit!
My new friends burst into laughter, and I knew I was in.