Walked: 0 Km (79.3km total, not pilgrimage walking)
To explain this I’ll have to backtrack to the day I began walking, four days ago. I left Madrid and went to Barcelona for a design hand-off with my backpack prepared for walking. After the meeting and grabbed the first train to Montserrat, to begin the Catalán Way.
After checking-in to the albergue in Montserrat I went for dinner, still in business clothes, and was seated with Françoise, a pilgrim. We struggled to communicate, given that we didn’t have any language in common, but it was fun.
We’ve walked together these last few days, and over time I’ve been putting together her story from bits and pieces I can understand. She worked as a waitress for most of her life, she lost her husband to cancer some years ago, and she found great relief walking.
She also revealed that she wanted to visit a small town some 30Km off the camino called Torá, where her mother had lived before she emigrated to France because of the Civil War. I offered to come with her and she was delighted, my Spanish would be handy. I would collect the information and then use Google Translate to let her know what we had figured out.
I did not capture any video, my reasoning was that this was a private quest, but in the end I saw Françoise more than willing to tell her story, so I share it here sans imagery.
Early in the morning I dressed up in my business clothes, I knew it would make no difference, but I was carrying them so I might as well make good use of them. I had spoken to the nun in charge at the albergue about our plight, and she let me know a fellow well connected to Torá would have breakfast at the albergue, and that we could speak with him to see if we could obtain any useful information. It turned out to be a dead lead, only letting us know the name of the priest in Torá.
The taxi picked us up at 10am, the driver was a fellow of extraordinary cheerfulness and great devotion, taking a detour of Cervera to show us all the important churches from the comfort of his spatious van. He spoke at length about numerous miracles he had experienced first-hand, sometimes as instrument and other as a witness. From his stories it was evident he considered his true calling to do good in the name of the lord, so at the end of the ride I asked him to bless us in our quest. I liked his reply: “It’s obvious you’re already blessed and will be successful, I have nothing to add to your blessings”.
When we checked in to the hotel I explained that Françoise’s mother was born here, and we were visiting to figure out more about her. The owner of the hotel took interest, and Françoise produced a letter sent by her aunt in which she replied to some inquiries that her mother had made in the year 1966.
In the letter she consoled her about her sickness (cancer, she would pass away shortly after she received the letter), and then went at length about a property they had in Torá. Apparently, in rural Catalonia houses have names, and this particular namesake was Cal Senadó (Senadó House).
The owner told us he had some friends who were very knowledgeable in local history who would know where this was, and he walked us to a park where there were some old folks sitting on a bench. After a lengthy discussion amongst them they came to the conclusion that since she belonged to the Trillá family (her mother’s last name was Trillá) that a building in the city center with her namesake (Cal Trillá) belonged to her family.
We went to see the Cal Trillá, it was an eclectic building of evidently wealthy means, but I sensed Françoise skepticism. There was no mention of Cal Trillá in the letter, if her mother were indeed related to the building she would have asked about it.
The owner of the hotel then walked us to the City Hall, where he introduced us to the mayor. We went into a small office where a lady produced her mother’s birth certificate. We connected some dots and figured out her mother and her siblings had been the first generation living in Torá, going to her grandparents would take us to a different town.
The mayor called an acquaintance who was in charge of the historical heritage of the city. He was an old school geek who knew all the houses and also had a good eye for detail. We showed him the letter and he immediately grasped Cal Trilla was not related in any way. He knew where Cal Senado was. Furthermore, he knew a Trilla who had once rented him a plot of land and was probably related, though he’d have to confirm it in his own personal papers.
The man took us to see the house: it was a humble home at the shore of the river. It made sense: the profession of her grandparents was listed as “payés” (farmer), her grandfather worked at the olive mill. Françoise was glad to see the house standing in very good condition. A man from Barcelona had bought the house and restored well beyond its original state to spend the weekends there. The renovated condition erased information from us, but it was evidently well cared land. Numerous healthy fruit trees made company to the house, and a particularly large and prosperous chestnut tree, likely planted by her ancestors, decorated the front. It had a pleasant vibe and the day was beautiful.
I sensed Françoise had her sense of closure here, and everything else was extra. We had lunch, explored the city, followed some more leads unsuccessfully (locals endearingly enthusiastic if you tell them your plight, but will tell you the most impossible things without a hint of doubt).
We’re staying here overnight, and I didn’t bring my charger (or my backpack), so I’ll leave it here. Tomorrow I’ll say goodbye to Françoise, she keeps on walking and I’ll remain a couple of days to work in Cervera.