Ermita de St Nicolas
An ancient pilgrim hostel built in the 1200s, St Nicolas is located midway between Castrojeriz and Fromista, on the Camino de Santiago. It is humbly tended by an Italian confraternity. Weary walkers are welcomed with a foot-washing ritual and an atmosphere of serenity unmatched by any other “refugio” on the Camino. St Nicolas is a reminder of the need in all of us to find shelter, peace and mindfulness. – Magda Lewis.
Yesterday was a tough walk, under the heat of the sun and through the arid Meseta.
From Castrojeriz the trail climbs upwards and then deflates itself into the plains which follow:
The flies were out in the numbers yesterday and seemed to hover at mouth level, no matter how fast or slow you walked.
Last year I remembered coming across a small Ermita (chapel) and seeing pilgrims getting ready for a white table clothed dinner – I arrived too late last year and wasn’t able to join the other pilgrims as there are a maximum number of 10 pilgrims admitted to this refugio – and this year I wanted to make sure that I would be staying at this donativo refugio (San Nicolas).
The view of the building as you approach:
The Ermita itself is well-signed:
Wild Rosemary and Sage grown in the attached garden:
The view of the back garden:
A close-up photo of the Ermita:
View from the other side:
The back building in the above photo houses the extremely good showers and washing clothes facilities.
The view from the bathroom window (Post photo).
I spent a wonderful time here yesterday; the hospitalero/a were amazing and I was lucky that the other pilgrims were also uber fab. They do only allow 10 pilgrims in so it is a case of first come fist served and given the fact that they only open at 3pm then I imagine that every day there is a queue of pilgrims waiting outside for the place to open:
If you do arrive early and get bored then you can go around the back to wash your clothes and hang them up to dry against the backdrop of such wonderful countryside:
When you enter you are firstly asked to leave your boots outside:
You then hand over your pilgrim passport to receive the stamp of the Ermita and are then invited to choose a bed to sleep in. They have 8 beds (bunk beds) and the remaining 2 pilgrims sleep on mats. The sleeping area and basically the whole of the inside space of the Ermita:
The same shot, but after the tablecloth had been set out for evening dinner:
We spent the afternoon chilling in the garden:
I felt the best that I had in the entire trip so far. Still without a cigarette too I might add.
At 8pm dinner was served, but beforehand we were asked to approach the alter at the back of the Ermita, where we were assigned chairs and where we each had our feet washed and kissed:
After the washing of the feet we held hands in a circle and then were all invited to eat together at the table:
The food served btw was excellent: pasta and of course al dente 🙂
After dinner I was asked if I could play and of course I accepted and played out some tunes outside, accompanied by Peter on the Ukulele and Silver on his mini 6-stringed guitar.
We slept, I had a dodgy stomach – not because of the food but because I have just had one these last few days – and in the morning the Italian hospitalero/a played gentle choral music to wake us from our deep slumber. Breakfast was served and as we left we were prayed for, for our onward journey on the Camino de Santiago:
Very special people and a very special day which I will remember for the rest of my days.
This morning I braved the very dry and very hot Meseta trail again:
I’m currently holed up in Fromista at the public library and where the internet connection is free and fast. Fromista is an ok place to stop for a siesta. The walk in followed a canal which gave some respite from the heat and general dryness:
The plan is to walk on this afternoon.