18 May: Merida (last day)

For the first time in twenty-one years, as of today, we have no single-digit-aged children. Ella-Rose has turned ten. Our family traditions stipulate the Birthday Person chooses breakfast and more importantly, when someone turns ten we go out for dinner at a restaurant. Churros with chocolate  was the breakfast request, and so yesterday we had sussed out a place that would do them at 8am. Unfortunately when we turned up, we were informed, “No hay churros.” Even if you don’t speak Spanish, I am sure you can work out what that meant! So we settled for coffees and Cola Cao and found something almost as good later: 

Then there were housekeeping chores to complete. Grandpa has a 22kg suitcase full of gifts for family and friends that he will meet after the Camino and there was no way any of us was going to carry that, so we toddled off to the post office, and with the assistance of a very genial lady who could barely lift the bag onto the scales, we sent it on its way. This particularly helpful lass noticed our backpacks and asked if we were pilgrims. Affirmative! Well, it turns out pilgrims are well cared-for and Grandpa got a sizable discount for this transport service. In fact, it was so reasonable he considered packaging himself up and meeting us in two weeks!

Then downstairs to the pick-up-packages department. You may (or may not) remember that a few days ago we had a very very very long day in the pouring rain. One detail I failed to mention that day was that one of my hiking poles broke. One section just snapped right off! I’ll write more about these poles another day, but for now, suffice to say that the sellers jumped into action and sent replacement parts to the Post Office here in Merida. We were told two days ago that they should arrive today. And indeed they did. Happy happy.

Grandpa and Uncle have money. They both had notes of larger denominations than I’ve ever seen;-) Knowing it can sometimes be difficult to get change even for a twenty in some smaller places, we decided to change these big bucks into smaller ones while we had access to a bank. Simple yes? No. Banks do not change money. They are only banks, after all! But the money changer (BBVA – in case you should ever need to know) does. 

Finally it was time to head to the albergue. It’s a small one – only 18 beds and there are eight of us so we thought it prudent to drop our packs and pick a bunk before wandering around for a final day seeing More Roman Stuff and Visigothic Bits and Bobs.

While waiting for the hospitalera to come and open up, we chatted briefly with the other pilgrims who had already arrived. Vincent from New York living in Barcelona. Katherine and Robert, Hungarians from the Czech Republic speaking Slovenian. Antonio, Manolo and Pepe from Malaga, one of whom carries a football flag on a long stick! And Jesus. A couple of French guys would arrive later.

It’s been good to have a few days here in Merida. It would have been Roman Ruin Overload to try to see everything in one day, but spread out over a few it has been most interesting. Being international museum day today, all the museums were free (and full). The Roman Art one was spectacular from the crypt right up to the multi-storey mosaics on the walls.

What an estupendo museum, so light and airy and designed in a style sympathetic to the objects being displayed.

Grandpa has this thing about buying icecreams and so of course that had to happen on a day that approached thirty degrees! Fortified, he agreed to traipse into the Visigothic Museum too…and actually it was very interesting to everyone – and deliciously cool!

By this stage it was still only early afternoon and we knew we had to wait until 8pm for dinner (hoping for more luck than our breakfast excursion twelve hours earlier!!). A quick perusal of the map reminded us we wanted to visit the ancient aqueduct…..

At least sixteen storks topped the structure and even more flew in the thermals above. Young ones peeped out over the edge of nests, parents fed them, all clattered their beaks together communicating in their unique way. We observed them, speculated a bit about the behaviour we were seeing, shared knowledge we thought we’d picked up somewhere and then checked with the Fount of All Wisdom, Wikipedia. It was quite an instructive time. We’d done the same earlier in the day about Polycarp (with the exception of observing him, of course) – pooled information (actually Levi had remembered the most!) and checked with Wikipedia. Polycarp, at the grand old age that Grandpa is now, was martyred for not denying his faith. He was bound and burnt at the stake, but the flames would not touch him and so he was stabbed to death (no wonder Levi remembered the details!!) He also happened to be Bishop of Smyrna and is revered by Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches to this day, along with Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches. It was quite an educational day!

It was also the day of the Birthday Dinner….


 (I bet you can taste the garlic through your computer!) 

 Happy Birthday Ella-Rose! (We’ll never forget the face you pulled after that sip!)

(Forgot to set Strava so I’m not sure how far we walked today, but the Men’s Fitbit readings indicate around the 15km mark) 

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