a peregrino’s dream at the Parador

although the film “The Way” inspired us to book a room at the Parador San Marcos (for two nights!), we opted against the palatial suites seen in the film. after traveling on a budget for so long I, for one, couldn’t quite imagine splashing out more than 300 euros a night on a room (or more than 600 euros on a suite) — a spectacular room with views of the plaza, I’m sure, but what an expensive view…

even without the period furniture and amenities of a suite or plaza-facing room, our digs were pretty great. the Parador in Santo Domingo offered some of the period touches — square windows covered by thick wooden shutters, sturdy wooden furniture with decorative draperies, tapestries on the wall — and the one in León still had our most desired features: comfortable beds and a nice big bathtub that filled with steaming hot water. it also had a private-enough balcony overlooking a tiny courtyard and a governmental building — after walking for 20 days straight and covering more than 336 kilometers all we needed or wanted was someplace comfortable to rest and recover from our aches. and to sleep in as late as we wanted. that was fabulous, too.

highly satisfying and relaxing, our experience at the Parador was also interesting; they book rooms for plenty of peregrinos, to be sure (and even once offered free dinners to the first 10 peregrinos to arrive every day which, eventually, they had to relegate to a separate dining room because of “offensive odors”), ready for a little luxury after (perhaps) 20 nights in albergues with varying degrees of comfort or amenities, but it’s also without question an upscale (5-star) hotel aimed at wealthy travelers and business people. valet parking, pricey meals, concierge service, guests lounging in reception wearing designer labels of the understated, old-money school.

I don’t know why it struck me, but standing behind us as we checked in was a young-ish couple who clearly looked like they lived a roving rock-n-roll (in the I-play-in-the-band-on-tour vein) lifestyle who seemed very much of the old-money line. perhaps it was the parents who joined them, ready to pay for four nights’ accommodation, as we headed off to our room that exuded that vibe. like I said, quite the change from where we’d stayed the preceding nights — at a family-run guesthouse, in the last room to be had in town, at one of the only albergues in town. these non-peregrinos with whom we shared the hotel were having a monumentally different experience of Spain than us. in conversation, we learned that rock-n-roll couple was headed on to Santiago that same day — picking up their rented, valeted car and driving to the city that we were still nearly two weeks from reaching. it’s actually rather hard to convey how, at the time, such a means of reaching Santiago boggled my mind. “You’re just going to drive?! Who does that?!”

in a way, then, maybe it was better we got a view of the Junta de Castilla y León from a simple cement balcony with wrought-iron furniture, stepping out of a nice, comfortable, well-appointed but not overwhelmingly upscale hotel room. if we’d gotten one of those snazzier, rock star rooms that Martin Sheen books for himself and his traveling companions I wager I’d have felt out of place; a hostel-bunk-sleeping, backpack-wearing, own-food-making, modern-day rambler wholly out of place among those who have people to fetch cars and bags — not unlike how I felt staying at the resort in Key West where it seemed almost as if everyone was speaking a foreign language (one that came from one’s relationship with money).

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.