FONFRIA

Leaving Laguna with a slight hangover but with the early morning sun beginning to come up.

Left the albergue feeling a little fragile but it doesn’t take long for the fresh mountain air to take over, fill your lungs as you climb through the last of the steep climbs, and force out the last remnants of alcohol which may be left in your body. The sweat from your forehead must have some proof left in it.

Up and up and then, as the muscles begin to ease, you know you’re levelling off and then begin to descend.

The views are breathtaking. The sun, which is always on your back or left-hand side of your face, lights up the green fields and forests and my thoughts go back to home. Though we are in the mountains I get the feeling that I’ve been here before, it’s an odd feeling of peace and relaxation even though I’m working hard.
Photos don’t do this place justice.

When you set off to your next stopover you have no idea what you’re going to get. I know some people put things on blogs or on Facebook telling of their experiences but, much like Tripadvisor you can’t always rely on the third-hand review being accurate.

Believe me now when I say. STOP AT FONFRIA. Albergue Reboleira is outstanding. The albergue itself is beautiful but wait until you join in the communal peregrino meal.

“WOW!” is the only word you hear as each person enters the huge roundhouse where dinner will be served. Everyone uses that word, no matter the nationality, it is just “Wow!”.

The woodwork is magnificent, the woodburner very welcoming and the table – here comes that word again. The table, which holds around 50, curves around the back of the building in the perfect arc mirroring the outer wall of this, slightly African-looking house.

Tall pointed roof rises up, huge beams supporting a form of thatch. It’s just beautiful. Slate brickwork everywhere, huge pieces of wooden furniture and the warmth of the fire make it instantly welcoming.

We all take our places with our mouths and eyes wide open. Heads tilted back to look at the majesty of something so simple yet as intricate as the cathedrals I have seen. The cathedrals win in terms of being in awe of the man hours and fine detail taken to construct but this eating house wins in terms of bringing you back to basics. Two elements, stone and wood, brought together to create something which can match any cathedral in terms of honour to be given to the craftsmen.

The meal began with huge silver soup tureens filled with Galician soup – a sort of peasant style vegetable soup.

The diners were of multi nations.
The people opposite me were Italian, the Danish girl sat beside me. Oh forgot to tell you. On the Camino you say goodbye to people many times. Just like that episode of Father Ted when he gets trapped saying goodbye the a lady over and over again, I walked out of my room earlier and there she was, sitting with her feet up in the lounge area. Anyway, back to the table. On my left, an older German lady seemed to think I needed looking after. She ladled my soup for me, broke some bread and gave it to me. She topped up my soup and spoke in German.

Although I didn’t understand the words it felt like she was saying “come on, eat up your vegetables or you won’t grow up big and strong”. I missed my mum at that moment. I smiled at her and could almost see my mum’s face there in this stranger. I say stranger but I have heard many people say “my Camino brother” or “my Camino mother”. I think at that moment I found my Camino mother. Haven’t found my Camino brother yet – don’t think I will though.

As we all sat talking, as if in tongues, we all knew what each was saying. I hope I was that lady’s Camino son, if only for a moment of closeness to someone who wasn’t with her.

The night swept by all too quickly, the food was eaten with masses of gratitude to the cook/owner and her helpers.

One of the American ladies stood up and asked for a volunteer to go down and bring the staff up to show our appreciation.

She nodded at me and I was only too willing to make an idiot of myself as usual – I really don’t care though. These were my family at that moment and I have made a bigger fool of myself with my real family to worry about this.

The sound of the applause rose into the thatch but it couldn’t soak it in. Great cheers and whoops went up from everyone. It was indeed a memorable meal. I’ll not forget it for sure.

Like a warm Christmas party breaking up we all walked back up the hill to the albergue and off to bed to sleep with a smile on our lips, good food in our stomachs and hearts gladdened by the closeness of strangers.

Fonfria is in my heart.

About CJ

Setting out 1st September to walk El Camino. I am walking the French Way and starting at Logroño. My wonderful wife is joining me at Sarria to finish the walk with me.
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2 Responses to FONFRIA

  1. janeyfos says:

    I love this post, so heartwarming! And you are looking fab Campbell!! All our love, Stephen Jane & Zoë xo

    Liked by 1 person

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