Finding Conchas:

After cold coffee and breakfast, we packed up and left the clean little hostel in Boo. We had the option of walking an extra six kilometers today, or crossing a dangerous train 1-km bridge. We decided to go with the bridge to save ourselves from the six kilometers. We waited for the train to pass, which meant the next one wouldn’t pass for another thirty minutes. However, the first train was late, so we really had no idea when the next would be coming. On top of that, Antwon scared us by confiding that this type of train ran off of electric current that pulsed through the ground when it went by. With anxiety and adrenalin levels running high, we quickened our pace and made it across just in time.

Most of our path was uphill and still along a highway, but it was much nicer than the trek has been over the last few days. There are many fruits growing along the side of the road here, so we’ve been stopping to pick and eat them quite often. Our group has been impressed by our knowledge of edible plants, but it’s easy for us to recognize the plants because many of the same kinda grew in Hawaii. We’ve found many soft orange fruits that we can’t remember the name of and stopped by several mulberry trees. The road is also scented beautifully with lavender bushes, stalks of fennel and white jasmine blossoms.

When we finally reached Santillana, we were overjoyed to finally fill up on water again. We had drained our camelbacks about seven kilometers before the town, and we’re still thirsty. The camelback is an absolute necessity for a trip like this, because it allows a constant flow of water without having to stop and fish a water bottle out of our bags. However, our group has been getting a little frustrated because, on average, we’ve had to take a pee-break by the side of the road at least five times each day on average. Aria and I laughed about how every day, we’re becoming less and less pee-shy.

Santillana looked very small from far away, but once within the city walls, the town bustled with liveliness. We set our bags in cue at the albergue so we could freely explore. It seemed to be quite the tourist spot with hundreds of picturesque restaurants and cute boutique shops. The streets were paved with small chunky cobblestones that matched the material of all the building exteriors. Every street-block seemed to be covered in one giant stone building. The inside of each building was then segmented into stores, restaurants and hotels that were all separated by shared interior “party-walls.” White stucco and dark wooden bannisters contrasted the light colored limestone buildings and bright pink and red buds bloomed from the balconies.

We’ve been searching in every town for large shells, or “conchas,” that symbolize Saint James and the Camino. Pilgrims hang them on the outside of their backpacks for the duration of their journey. As we shopped around, we figured we’d succeed in finding some shells in this little touristic town. We dipped in and out of small leather goods stores, sterling silver jewelry stores, meat and cheese stores, fine wineries and sweet treat shops. Finally, we both found our shells, however, they weren’t the traditional rucksack-hanging sells. They were in the form of bracelets, a much more practical purchase for us.

We went to the first restaurant we found that didn’t have insanely high prices set for tourists. The menu del dia for 9 euros turned out to be the best bet. This enclosed a basket of freshly baked bread, an entire bottle of wine, a starter, an entree, and desert. I ordered the mixed salad containing romaine lettuce, corn cornels, carrots, purple cabbage, pickled asparagus and topped with large chunks of tuna. My entree drove my tastebuds absolutely insane. It was a huge slice of vegetarian lasagna made with extremely thick noodles, a layer of stir-fried vegetables containing cauliflower, carrots, spinach and broccoli, and layers of salty cheese selections. Over the top, they ladled a creamy carrot and squash sauce.

After some actual cheese flavored ice cream we were stuffed to the max and needed to sleep it off. When we returned to the albergue there were far too many people waiting for the doors to open at 4:00pm. There were only 20 beds and there were at least 30 people in line. We were the first people to arrive at noon, however, so I was not about to give up our spot. Many people glared at us as we cut to our bags at the front of the line and one guy even got quite snappy. Antwon wouldn’t stop making fun of the sassy attitude I had in response, but the French accent made, “actually honey, we were here first,” sound so much more hilarious.

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