After depositing Gail, the Doctor Nurse, at the central post office in Pamplona, I sat for a while in Runa Park on the left side of the Arga River. It being a Saturday, people watching was particularly good.
Mid-afternoon I strolled back to the excellent Casa Ibarrola, intending to curl up in the privacy of my capsule bed and engage in the eminently sensible tradition of the siesta.
As it happens though, I met Jennifer, a young lady less than half my age, no more than thirty feet from my goal. I could see my bed from where I stood when Jennifer asked if I happen to know the way to the post office. Clearly, I did know the way. The streets of Pamplona, however, are ancient and gnarled. The cobbled and stone-paved streets of Pamplona’s center are often only just wide enough for one car and two pedestrians to pass simultaneously (but pedestrians are the norm and cars the exception). One street appears much like another and one learns to navigate by remembering a shop sign, or a poster in a window, or a particularly nice display of baked goods. I’ve an excellent sense of direction and get about very easily, but even I sometimes had to stop and think which way to go. And goodness knows I never committed to memory the names of all the streets. How on earth was I going to explain that she needed to turn left at the “red” pharmacy, turn left again where a stone in the corner of the building has been nicked, cross the plaza where Hemingway loitered, traverse the arcade at the opposite side, turn left at the shop with local jams in the window, right at the restaurant with the octopus in the window, and so on?
I paused. I wanted to say, “Nope, no idea how to get to the post office,” but instead I heard myself saying, “I’ll take you there,” and off we went. On the way we passed by the very old and very famous bakery, Beatriz. Gazing upon the scruffy exterior, one would never guess that inside there were the most exquisite, traditional breads, pastries, butter cookies, and empanadas, pastry with savory fillings. I had passed by Beatriz several times already that day and each time there was a line out the door and down the street. In that moment, however, there was no queue at all so I asked Jennifer if she’d mind a quick stop.
The smell inside was divine and my eyes were overwhelmed with the selection of delicacies. Mindful that I was on a mission, I selected a roscón, in this case a small ring-shaped pastry made with honey. Jennifer made another selection and then she paid for both. I thought that a nice gesture on her part. Jennifer had no way of knowing that I had hoped for a siesta, but she was mindful that I had abandoned whatever it was I was doing to assist her instead.
We chatted as we walked on for another fifteen minutes. We talked about the things pilgrims typically tak about: shoes and feet, steep hills, good restaurants, and albergues where we had slept. I mentioned that I had stayed the previous night in Albergue Parroquial de Zabaldika (Be sure you roll the R’s when you say parroquial!) and that I had delighted in ringing the oldest bell in Navarra in the 13th century bell tower alongside the albergue.
Then, for no reason in particular, I said, “Unfortunately, I left my towel there this morning. I’ll have to buy another but I doubt I’ll find one as lightweight, with it’s own little pouch and a convenient hook for hanging.” Jennifer stopped and looked at me. “What?” I asked a little perplexed. “I brought two towels just like that and I’m about to mail one of them back home. You can have it,” she said.
It’s not too surprising, I guess. Good deeds rarely go unrewarded. I regretted the brief moment earlier when it occurred to me with some reluctance that I had spent a good part of my rest day walking to and from the post office. Now I had a replacement towel, which was a blessing, because, as I had surmised, there’s no way I’d have been able to buy in Pamplona a pack towel that weighs a mere ounce. Thanks, Jennifer!