My (our) FONCEBADON experience is very vivid in my mind ! It truly was a unique albergue experience: welcoming different pilgrims every day, communal dinner,breakfast, oracion/quiet time, sharing stories, meeting the village people, hikes before opening time, and not forgetting the clean-up.
Rafa welcomed us at the Ponferrada bus station, took us to San Nicolas de Flue where he introduced us to the hospitaleros/as, had ourown room for 3 days before starting our 2-week stay in Foncebadon. We went to Foncebadon on a Saturday to meet Miguel the hospitalero and be acquainted with the albergue, etc., took us around to meet Miguel and Luis, the tienda owners; introduced us to Monte Irago/restaurant/bar owners. We did some shopping in the afternoon, went back to Fonce. the next day to participate in the prep time -dinner orientation, Paul spent Sunday night there to learn more from Miguel; and went back Monday, June 1 to officially start !
Every 3 days or so, I`d make a shopping list for Rafa, send it thru a pilgrim staying in Ponferrada, and he`ll come the next day; the tienda which opened last year has almost everything - we order our daily bread, our last-minute we-need-more-chorizos -or-tuna-lechugas,etc. and most of all vino! Luis and Miguel were very helpful. Luis even made cakes for Paul`s birthday . Rafa , while busy coordinating Domus Dei, El Acebo and San Nicolas de Flue and working as an archivist for the diocese, was always there for us (Lily was fond of him, too.)
Our first week was chilly and windy; and because the roof was being repaired, the tarps were making loud noises(at some point we were worried it would rain and leak) but everything `was fine, a few complaints of being cold or `noisy, but in general, they were happy to have a bed/cama or leftover soup or pasta for lunch.
We had 33 pilgrims one cold and windy night ( 3 had to share 2 mattresses in the chapel) - and 6 pilgrims on our last night (it was a very hot day so pilgrims had to keep going). Many days the 4 albergues (a new one opened a few days we were leaving) were full.
Most pilgrims were always willing to help during prep time, communal dinners were always joyful, volunteers to read the Blessings before Meals in their languages were eager (now we have Korean and Japanese translations), the oracion/quiet time after dishwashing was always
humbling - pilgrims joined us to have that reflection time, sharing in their own language, one even sang in Portuguese.
One day, I got a text from Rafa (in Espanol) - something ``reserva14 camas para gentes rehabilitados`` and something I didn`t quite understand ; so I ran to Luis and Miguel - there were 2 counsellors plus 12 ``rehabilitated`` men and women coming , not to worry. They were very nice, friendly and polite , even brought their own food and made dinner for everybody !
Getting up at 5:30 in the morning was a little difficult, but got used to it, it`s a good thing Lily was fine being left alone in our room, slept in till 8:30, would have our breakfast and started cleaning up. She was in-charge of getting the wheelbarrow from behind the tienda and bring garbage bags to the dump, with Paul. We (Paul and I would take turns)were able to have short hikes on some days before opening time; one has to stay around to open up for the roofers when they`re `late`.
Pilgrims`experiences staying in an albergue where there`s communal dinner have been were positive, some mentioned Najera, too.
We walked from Pedrouzo to Santiago. We met some of the pilgrims in Pedrouzo, Monte de Gozo and Santiago - what a great feeling, a reunion !
Our Hospitalero Training was very useful `; some pilgrims, i.e. Dutch, Swedish, wanted the Meals Blessings in their language, but mentioned "the future``-. We could work on that.
I would go back to Foncebadon again ! Indeed, an unforgettable experience. Lily would `complain`there were no kids her age that stayed at Domus dei, but everyday, she made friends with pilgrims - young and old (there was a day when there were young Americans, in their 20s- singing,dancing, beading, nail polish), couples who remind them of their granddaughter; and for Paul, who would love to go back to do the camino himself !