June 5, 2008 Atapuerca to Burgos

As I opened my eyes in the morning I was surprised to see François, Françoise and Pierre standing next to my bed. When they saw I was awake they said, “Merci, Monsieur.” “Merci? Pourquois?” Why, I asked myself, were they standing around my bed at this early hour? Pierre then described to me how today was the day the Allies had planned to launch their invasion of Normandy. The French, Pierre said, were very grateful for the help of the Americans and on the eve of the anniversary of the actual Normandy invasion the three French people wanted to say thanks to me, an American. I was humbled — not because of anything I’d done, but because of the sincere gratitude expressed by these people who’d benefitted from something my country had done many years ago.

The three French people left before me and I began the long walk into Burgos. At the airport I took the option to the left, said to be a little shorter than the one to the right. Still, it was a long slog through industrial areas. Finally I reached the old city and walked through the gates toward the cathedral. I chose to stay at the Meson del Cid, a delightful hotel above the western cathedral plaza. That afternoon I scouted out a place to purchase new hiking boots and, at the urging of several European pilgrims along the way, I also opted to buy hiking poles which were supposed to ease the strain on my feet and legs. Though the cathedral was closed I did get a stamp for my credential at the cathedral museum and toured the exhibits there.

Once again it was nice to settle into a comfy hotel and enjoy a dinner at a nice restaurant. Burgos is a beautiful and historic city — the site of Ferdinand and Isabella’s famous interview with Christopher Columbus as they considered whether to finance his expedition across the ocean to India.

As I fell asleep I looked back over the 285 kilometers (178 miles) I’d walked over the past couple of weeks. My feet had healed up some from the blisters and with my new hiking boots I expected to have an even better camino in the miles ahead.

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