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How much Spanish do you need on the VDLP

Dodger

Lone Walker, Camino Frances 2018 VdlP 2021/22
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
I have a very basic understanding of Spanish. I can ask for a menu, do you do dinner, etc & do you, where is inanition I can order basic food, coffee, tea, where is/are please, thank you etc I am attempting to understand some basic written words. Will this get me by or do I need more, I understand that is is a less travelled route with less English speaking. I will also have google as a fall back, thank you
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
As long as you are fairly comfortable (i.e. not too shy) using what you know, you will do fine. If you are shy about speaking Spanish you will still be fine, but less comfortable! Your needs are generally basic and obvious (food, water, bed, doctor, Camino de Santiago), and in an emergency, someone can be found to speak English. Even though the route is less travelled than the Frances, there will be other pilgrims, at least in the spring time.
 

Dodger

Lone Walker, Camino Frances 2018 VdlP 2021/22
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
As long as you are fairly comfortable (i.e. not too shy) using what you know, you will do fine. If you are shy about speaking Spanish you will still be fine, but less comfortable! Your needs are generally basic and obvious (food, water, bed, doctor, Camino de Santiago), and in an emergency, someone can be found to speak English. Even though the route is less travelled than the Frances, there will be other pilgrims, at least in the spring time.
Thanks, that what's I was thinking I had no trouble on the CF. I am not shy and only to happy to make a fool of myself. I am in the process of learning more words and stringing them together.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
Reminds me of a visit to the medical centre in Carrion with Pat, for a rather 'intimate' issue.
It was hilarious trying to use my 6 spanish lessons worth of spanish.
Though Pat was not amused.

The story...........

 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
Reminds me of a visit to the medical centre in Carrion with Pat, for a rather 'intimate' issue.
It was hilarious trying to use my 6 spanish lessons worth of spanish.
Though Pat was not amused.

The story...........

A whole book could be written around the subject! With me, a chafing of the inner thigh and a young farmacéutica in Astorga!
 
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Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
I have a very basic understanding of Spanish. I can ask for a menu, do you do dinner, etc & do you, where is inanition I can order basic food, coffee, tea, where is/are please, thank you etc I am attempting to understand some basic written words. Will this get me by or do I need more, I understand that is is a less travelled route with less English speaking. I will also have google as a fall back, thank you
Don't forget to use the "camera" facility on Google Translate to help with signs and menus and prepare/save phrases you'll use over and over again in your phrase book.
Also use your lips! Native English speakers tend not to - we were discussing this yesterday in a Zoom-German course I'm taking. Much hilarity ensued when one of the ladies thought the teacher had said "use your hips" - though maybe that would help too!
 

MikeJS

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francis (2011), Norte (12), VdlP (16). Sureste/Invierno (17). Olvidado/San Salvador/Primitivo (19)
There are some great translation apps out there now including some that facilitate near real time conversations. I use Say Hi and had a lovely conversation with a 90 year old lady in their albergue on the Primitivo. She thought the whole thing was fascinating.
 
I've lived in Spain for 35 years, and things have changed. When I first arrived French was still the main foreign language that was studied at school, but this started to change in the 90s.

These days, older people claim that they still have little or no knowledge of English, but that's simply not true. Younger people are far more likely to have some sort of understanding of English, but this could/should be much higher. I know: I've been preparing graduates for their state school teaching posts for around three decades.

I now feel more comfortable speaking Spanish than English, to be honest, but I doubt whether any of you are planning on doing a 35-year camino!
 

Simon B

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Ingles and Camino Frances. VDLP Spring 2019
I have a very basic understanding of Spanish. I can ask for a menu, do you do dinner, etc & do you, where is inanition I can order basic food, coffee, tea, where is/are please, thank you etc I am attempting to understand some basic written words. Will this get me by or do I need more, I understand that is is a less travelled route with less English speaking. I will also have google as a fall back, thank you
Very little is needed. I have walked about three quarters so far and my Spanish is very limited. Someone has mentioned below google translate which is extremely helpful tool. And in the end everybody is so helpful and nice you will get by.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
Relax and enjoy the walk. You will be fine. Many people speak English but to me that matters less than the fact that most people will be pleasant and that requires no translation. Yes, you will look and feel silly at times. And, yes, you may get something to eat that you have no idea that you really ordered. But, that is the fun of going into someone else's world. Just keep that iphone or Android translator handy.
 

Glenshiro

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy - León, Camino Frances (2012 - 2019)
With me, a chafing of the inner thigh and a young farmacéutica in Astorga!
Relieved to see I'm not the only one who's had this problem - in my case, a young pharmacienne in Condom after walking three days in temperatures >35°. Fortunately, she cottoned on quickly to my mixture of schoolboy French and mime and swiftly diagnosed the problem.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Caminos Francais: 2002, 2012, 2019. (Future Ingles, Primitivo, Portuguese in 2021)
While working in Venezuela (Maracaibo), our local grocery store owner specified the deli would be happy to supply us a nice portion of "torcineta". "Bacon?", she sniffed. "No! Torcinata, no "bacon"!

So imagine "asombro" when my Camino-in-Spain omelettes could be cooked with "jamon" (yes, yes, I know: ham!) or, alongside, ("bacon").

And to further furrow our English-speaking, well-intentioned-pilgrim-courtesy-it-is-your-lovely-langauge-no-disrespect-intended (as opposed to -- and I have seen it, folks, and heard it, too -- "just-raise-your-voice-in-exasperated-Bermuda-shorts-wearing-American-tourist-manner"), herewith:-

a. el tocino
(m)
She ordered eggs and bacon for breakfast.Pidió huevos con tocino de desayuno.
b. la tocineta
(f)
Every Sunday I make scrambled eggs and bacon.Cada domingo hago huevos revueltos con tocineta.
c. la panceta
(f)
I fried a few strips of bacon.Freí unas lonjas de panceta.
d. el beicon
(m)
I love the smell of frying bacon.Me encanta el olor del beicon cuando se está friendo.
e. el bacon
(m)
He made himself a bacon sandwich.Se hizo un bocadillo de bacon.

Perhaps this qualifies, if only just, as a sidelong glance in the Humor column?
 
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jpflavin1

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I have a very basic understanding of Spanish. I can ask for a menu, do you do dinner, etc & do you, where is inanition I can order basic food, coffee, tea, where is/are please, thank you etc I am attempting to understand some basic written words. Will this get me by or do I need more, I understand that is is a less travelled route with less English speaking. I will also have google as a fall back, thank you

That is good enough. I start every question with "Perdon por favor". As long as you are trying, all will be good.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
You will be fine. Been there, done that.
 

P Rat

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino VDLP/Sanábres April 2019
Camino Mozárabe when we can again...(2021?)
you'll be fine and your efforts will be appreciated.
Funny thing happened to us in Galicia (a whole different sound to the Spanish we had heard in the previous weeks!) when we met a very nice local in some small village. He wanted us to pick as many cherries from his orchard as we could carry, bless him, but when I asked if he spoke English, he countered with 'no, pero habla latin?'...Nope. German? 'on, habla griego?'...Nope. Sign language had to suffice. Things like this made our day.
 

MariaSP

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Inglés (2019)
I have a very basic understanding of Spanish. I can ask for a menu, do you do dinner, etc & do you, where is inanition I can order basic food, coffee, tea, where is/are please, thank you etc I am attempting to understand some basic written words. Will this get me by or do I need more, I understand that is is a less travelled route with less English speaking. I will also have google as a fall back, thank you

Being able to speak some Spanish has some perks, as Richard discovered on the Vía de la Plata... 😉
A conversation with Richard
 
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Raggy

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2017, 2018, 2019
It's all been said here already, but it might help to think in terms of three "modes" of communication:
  • Essential transactions - Pilgrims on the VDLP (or any camino) repeatedly have transactional conversations within a limited range of contexts - mostly finding accommodation, ordering food, and getting directions. By memorizing a few dialogues and some basic vocabulary, you can convey your needs and get the outcome you want in most cases. Point and gesture communication works too.
  • Emergencies - A concern for many of us is how we would get by in the event of a medical or security problem. The vocabulary for anatomy, medical conditions, and treatments is specialized. Having to communicate across a language barrier can feel like a "loss of control" in an already stressful situation. It's a good idea to install the AlertCops app on your smartphone - apparently you can reach English-speaking police that way. Google translate can help with medical vocabulary. It might be awkward. You might need to make an embarrassing mime in front of a large audience in a pharmacy... but rest assured that if you need help, people are going to help you.
  • Belongingness / friendship - You won't be surrounded by English speakers in a big crowd of pilgrims. The towns that you pass through are not geared up to serve English speaking tourists. To be able to chat in Spanish with folks you meet, learn about their lives, share stories, and express your inner feelings is a game changer. The more Spanish you speak, the more likely you are to have serendipitous encounters along the way. The good news is that Spanish people are very forgiving of bad pronunciation, sloppy grammar, and other errors. Although I've never studied Spanish formally and I only knew one tense until quite recently, I managed to get into some pretty interesting discussions after a few weeks on the VDLP. At least, I think they were interesting discussions. I often found myself piecing together clues to work out what people were telling me, and I am not sure how much of what I was saying was getting through.
Bottom line - You won't regret hitting the VDLP with some basic phrases and a "have a go attitude." You will get still more from it if you brush up your Spanish.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
I've read on this forum that you have a good chance of finding an English speaker in pharmacies.
There is much truth in this. But the Law of Sodde states that:

Rule no 1 - when you urgently need assistance the only language spoken behind the counter is a little known variant of Eskara,

Rule no 2 - if you are a shy middle-aged person with an intimate problem the assistant will be of the opposite sex and at least half your age,

Rule no 3 - if you are in dire need of something there will be a notice in the door which says "De vuelta en 10 minutos" that sign having been hanging there for all of the 45 minutes you and six other people have been queueing outside.

All of this is a calumny of course - the service in Spanish farmacias is generally first class.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
While working in Venezuela (Maracaibo), our local grocery store owner specified the deli would be happy to supply us a nice portion of "torcineta". "Bacon?", she sniffed. "No! Torcinata, no "bacon"!

So imagine "asombro" when my Camino-in-Spain omelettes could be cooked with "jamon" (yes, yes, I know: ham!) or, alongside, ("bacon").

And to further furrow our English-speaking, well-intentioned-pilgrim-courtesy-it-is-your-lovely-langauge-no-disrespect-intended (as opposed to -- and I have seen it, folks, and heard it, too -- "just-raise-your-voice-in-exasperated-Bermuda-shorts-wearing-American-tourist-manner"), herewith:-

a. el tocino
(m)
She ordered eggs and bacon for breakfast.Pidió huevos con tocino de desayuno.
b. la tocineta
(f)
Every Sunday I make scrambled eggs and bacon.Cada domingo hago huevos revueltos con tocineta.
c. la panceta
(f)
I fried a few strips of bacon.Freí unas lonjas de panceta.
d. el beicon
(m)
I love the smell of frying bacon.Me encanta el olor del beicon cuando se está friendo.
e. el bacon
(m)
He made himself a bacon sandwich.Se hizo un bocadillo de bacon.

Perhaps this qualifies, if only just, as a sidelong glance in the Humor column?
As somebody one said - "In Spain they eat every part of the pig . . . except the oink!"

Personally I try to avoid speaking English in the presence of English people abroad - they're so embarassing - so can empathise with your feelings about shorts wearing countryfolk (the English were not designed by God to wear shorts - it is said by some that it was the sight of the 8th Army in shorts that finally defeated Rommel in the North African desert).

But I must quote from an Irish-Canadian friend who lives in British Columbia:

First time out of America tourist in Vancouver speaking very slowly as if to a child: "You - Canadians - speak - really - good - English!"
My friend: "Thank you Ma'm, so do you!"
 

Rick of Rick and Peg

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
"You - Canadians - speak - really - good - English!"
In a Mad magazine parody of a modern Tarzan movie.
Explorer: Why, you speak English as good as I do!
Tarzan: Twice wrong. Use well, not good and I speak it better than you do.

Anyway it was somewhat like the above. It's been 50+ years after all.
 
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Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
Agreed, though in smaller villages I think el Mercado works. Then again, if you're a super big eater el supermercado may be a state of mind and just as appropriate.
If you say mercado the local could understand something similar to the Mercado de Abastos de Santiago(to give an example) and there aren't mercados in small towns.
Supers there are everywhere.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, Via De La Plata, Camino De Madrid, The Oberstrasse, Camino Ingles, Camino Portugues
Interesting responses to this question. I realise things are different now that we have mobile phones and google translate. When I last walked it properly in 2008 we didn't have those and I found I needed a lot more Spanish then I did on the frances especially in extremadura. I think the people in the hotels and pharmacies speak more english than they used to, maybe because of the pilgrim traffic.
 

geraldkelly

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés, Vía de la Plata / Camino Sanabrés, Camino del Baztán, Camino Aragonés, Chemin du Puy
Going by your description you'll be fine (and apologies if other people have already said this).
 
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Ronald H

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I have a very basic understanding of Spanish. I can ask for a menu, do you do dinner, etc & do you, where is inanition I can order basic food, coffee, tea, where is/are please, thank you etc I am attempting to understand some basic written words. Will this get me by or do I need more, I understand that is is a less travelled route with less English speaking. I will also have google as a fall back, thank you
None!
 

mwextine

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (September 2013)
I have a very basic understanding of Spanish. I can ask for a menu, do you do dinner, etc & do you, where is inanition I can order basic food, coffee, tea, where is/are please, thank you etc I am attempting to understand some basic written words. Will this get me by or do I need more, I understand that is is a less travelled route with less English speaking. I will also have google as a fall back, thank you
My cousin and I walked VDLP in 2017 and had a similar or lesser Spanish "skillset". I was initially planning on walking by myself but was glad to have a companion. It went fairly smoothly. We did have two encounters with livestock dogs and I would not want to do that by myself.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
Donde esta : bano, albergue municipal, el bar, farmacia, el mercado

There you have it! And, as mentioned several times: many folks speak English, yet appreciate attempts to speak Spanish.
Buen Camino,
Arn
This is a perfect Spanish lesson: Where is : the bathroom, the albergue, bar, pharmacy, the food shop (alimentacion). Great advice. Most of what you need.
 

Rick of Rick and Peg

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
Donde esta : bano,
Pre-camino, when really rusty in Spanish, I had this asked of me in Spanish (in the US). The toilets were down a corridor at the entrance/exit to the building so I pointed down to the doors and said "Casa afuera." Eventually I realized what I said, and as the woman was on her way, I called out "Casi afuera, casi afuera!" Amazing that I wasn't laughed at for indicating to use the "out house" ("house outside" anyway).
 
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4 Eyes

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF from SJPP 14, VDLP from Seville 15, DN&P from Irun 16, Portuguese from Lisbon 17, CF from SJPP 18
Pantomime helps in a pinch.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Another fantastic reason why I love this Forum.
I set out to walk the VDLP (from Merida) in 2013. By day 5 I was in real need of medical assistance. My Dutch & French companions helped organise transport. In Salamanca it took two doctors to diagnose my problem. Never have I been more aware of my mono language skills, Now regardless of where I am I always try to use the local lingo - the smiles & laughs of the locals break the ice and get the results I needs. Cheers
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Norte (2017-18)
Portugues (2015)
Frances (2014)
Thanks, that what's I was thinking I had no trouble on the CF. I am not shy and only to happy to make a fool of myself. I am in the process of learning more words and stringing them together.
I got an ebook on Amazon of the 1000 most useful words in Spanish. Each entry has an example of usage. It helped me immensely even though I mostly rely on DH as his Spanish is much, much more fluent than mine. (PS if your experience of Spanish is based on Northern Mexico, you will learn new meanings for words you already know. Like "tortilla"!)
Buen Camino
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Norte (2017-18)
Portugues (2015)
Frances (2014)
Relieved to see I'm not the only one who's had this problem - in my case, a young pharmacienne in Condom after walking three days in temperatures >35°. Fortunately, she cottoned on quickly to my mixture of schoolboy French and mime and swiftly diagnosed the problem.
I had this awkward conversation in Fatima. After several repetitions the pharmacist made a motion indicating the panty line and I said yes. The 8 euro cream was very helpful. Also that we were in a hotel that night and I could "air the problem out" a little. I will say no more, I'm sure many of y'all know what I'm talking about and why it can't be done in an albergue! ;)
 
Year of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
Re Spanish.

On my 1st Camino, (the CF) I was rather clueless, and had about 20 Spanish words, but coped of course.
Google Translate helped.

But having has 2 instances, one in a medical centre (for a rather delicate matter) and another with a Physio, where the phone signal dropped out totally, I make sure I don't use Google Translate for my Plan A.

Thankfully 'Ow'! Seemed to translate fine with the Physio with much laughter all round.

On our last Camino with 'she who must be obeyed', I was instructed to make sure that I learnt the spanish phrases for.

We need a doctor
We need an ambulance on the X road at km Y.
We might be a bit late arriving, please keep our beds / room!

and other essentials like, "Could I have another pillow please" :rolleyes:
Travelling with a Princess requires a degree of calm... :cool:

I keep my own mini dictionary on my phone now for all the regular phrases that I might need, as a reminder.

Like "Do you have a bed / room available for tonight please"

Or "This is my phone number, email address etc".

I think it's good to practice those phrases that you're going to use a lot.

Like, "Could I have some bacon and eggs with Toast please"!
 
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taigirl

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2019
I have a very basic understanding of Spanish. I can ask for a menu, do you do dinner, etc & do you, where is inanition I can order basic food, coffee, tea, where is/are please, thank you etc I am attempting to understand some basic written words. Will this get me by or do I need more, I understand that is is a less travelled route with less English speaking. I will also have google as a fall back, thank you
Make sure you have Google translate on your phone. Download the Spanish dictionary so it can be used offline.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Donde esta : bano, albergue municipal, el bar, farmacia, el mercado

I better say "el supermercado" or "el super" instead of "el mercado".
In Spain it's more common to ask for los servicios than el baño. Or el aseo.

Also useful - estoy perdido (or perdida for a woman) dónde está el camino?
In English - I'm lost, where is the Camino?

Learning some Spanish before your trip is like physical training for the Camino - it's not strictly necessary, but it will make your Camino more enjoyable.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
My Spanish is pretty good. But it's Mexican Spanish, which on the one hand is usually well understood in Spain, but on the other hand sometimes gets me confused looks or outright laughter. Such as when I call a pen a "pluma."
How about when you ask for jugo de naranja?😄
 
Year of past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
As a peregrino who linguistically stepped blindly into his first camino, I have to agree that it is a challenge. I vowed that for my second foray I would be more prepared, and learned a little "essential" Spanish. But I discovered this a double-edged sword. I could prepare my brain to ask, but understood nothing in the reply, which seemed to compound the mutual frustration.
 
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JillGat

la tierra encantada
Year of past OR future Camino
C. Frances SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia (May 2016)
C. Frances (Sept 2017)
Camino Portugues (June 2019)
If I'd known the Spanish translation for duct tape, it would have saved me a lot of trouble. But it would have also cost me a good story. (It's "cinta Americana" by the way)
 

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Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, Via De La Plata, Camino De Madrid, The Oberstrasse, Camino Ingles, Camino Portugues
Pantomime helps in a pinch.
Reminds me of when my partner needed Aspirin but in suppository form so I had to go to the pharmacia and describe in very poor Spanish what I was looking for. So there I was bending over and pointing to my bum and saying "Asparina!" over and over until they finally understood! This was in Fuente De Cantos if I remember right....
 
Year of past OR future Camino
cf (2), de la plata, cp. (2003 -2018)
In a Mad magazine parody of a modern Tarzan movie.
Explorer: Why, you speak English as good as I do!
Tarzan: Twice wrong. Use well, not good and I speak it better than you do.

Anyway it was somewhat like the above. It's been 50+ years after all.
Used to be a great fan of Mad Magazine! I live on my own, thank God, so can cheerfully shout " Hoo! Ha! ", "Melvin's in trouble" every time I have a culinary disaster, which is often enough :) AND I can have enough domestic problems in the form of fiery toasters, blaring smoke alarms to prevent me from ever tempting the Almighty by showing my nose outside in Thunderstorms! Strange tho, I was in the Royal Navy for many years and remember uncanny electrical storms at sea, especially in the Pacific. Amazing sights!

Walk soft, stay safe.

Samarkand.
 
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P Rat

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino VDLP/Sanábres April 2019
Camino Mozárabe when we can again...(2021?)
There is much truth in this. But the Law of Sodde states that:

Rule no 1 - when you urgently need assistance the only language spoken behind the counter is a little known variant of Eskara,

Rule no 2 - if you are a shy middle-aged person with an intimate problem the assistant will be of the opposite sex and at least half your age,

Rule no 3 - if you are in dire need of something there will be a notice in the door which says "De vuelta en 10 minutos" that sign having been hanging there for all of the 45 minutes you and six other people have been queueing outside.

All of this is a calumny of course - the service in Spanish farmacias is generally first class.
it wouldn't be the first time either that above said sign has been there all week...
 

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