Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Homeward bound or I wish I wasn't

Sitting in, as they pronounce it so beautifully, Lishboa Airport. We had a slightly panicked jog from our arrival gate to our departure one. Between a fairly close window and the hour time difference it got the heart rate up!! A good thing as we face the last long leg of our journey home. 

I know I sort of dropped off the radar upon arrival in Santiago.  Easy to do in the flurry of activities that a pilgrim finds themselves sucked into.  

Find your room/ hotel. Check where your travel companions are. Meetup with people you  "lost" along the way. Arrange celebratory meals and drinks. Get one Compostella. Get another from San Francisco. Maybe even a distance one if your inclined. Attend at least one pilgrim mass. Visit the saints bones in the crypt and again give santiago un abrazo if one is inclined. All this takes a surprising amount of time. 

This briefest of times in one of my favorite cities included two special moments. I finally got to meet and hug two of my favorite Camino people . In the flesh at last. 

During the mad flurry of getting Compostellas I literally walked into Tracy Saunders as she was waiting to attend a wedding in santiago.  Less than fortyeight hours later, sharing an English mass in one of the tiny chapels behind the main altar in the cathedral, I finally met Johnny Walker!! Next year I WILL have enough time to actually do more than joyfully hug them both. 

Which reminds me, if you need (and who doesn't really?) decompression time after doing the Camino, go visit Tracy at the Little Fox House. It's a tiny jewel hidden at the end of the world. Check her FB page. Just the right way to gather yourself before you head back to a world that hasn't been changed by the Camino as you yourself may have been. 

And now sadly we are well and truly winging our way back.  One more security check here in Lishboa airport (lucky us!) and we're on our way.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

O Burgo or not quite there yet.

We're spending the night just on the edge of O Pedrouzo. The original plan was the municipal alburgue. 

Then at our first coffee break, who do we meet but Marcy from our Philadelphia Camino group! 30 seconds more and we would have missed each other. Thanks to her walking companion Klaus, we also ended up with reservations at a private alburgue! So tonight we celebrate.

The electrical difficulties of this Camino are preventing me from putting in pics now. No charger for my camera! Full up on pics on my iPhone. Now I'm using Rays!! Even trying to use Klauses charger didn't quite work. Sigh. But again, if these are the biggest problems, I am one lucky person. 

So tomorrow we walk into santiago. German, French, Danish and American. We have wine to share when we reach the praza de obradorio.  Now we need to pray that the rain holds off. We who are all tanned and healthy looking. Again we have walked for weeks, mostly in sunshine. So we cannot complain. Bon nuit. Schlaff gut. Sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite! Really!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sobrado dos Monxes

I wasn't kidding when I said the place deserved its own post. 

It's quite a slog, seemingly mostly down hill to Sobrado dos Monxes. Just at the point you think your feet can't step down one more time, you encounter the lake which is right around the bend from the monks. 

The facade is covered in lichen, much the same as Sangtiago de Compostella.  And small plants have begun to sprout from various nooks an crannies that will require quite an investment to remove.  

We entered thru a huge iron gate with the word Pax written huge above. Our hospitalero had lovely classical music playing as we signed in. 

I confess to a moment of doubt when I was informed that we'd have to wait an hour to shower, as the water heater was broken. If there is one thing you come to cherish after a hard day walking thru the forest, and the highways and the byways it's a shower and the opportunity to clean your clothes. 

They did get immediate brownie points for having a washer AND a dryer.  One hour later, the promised shower was available. Sobrado also boasts not one but two super mercados!!

So off to the store. Damian, Dominique and me. The original plan was a simple dinner of sausages, mashed potatoes and maybe a salad. But inspite of two whole stores, there were no fresh sausages to be had. So quick change by our personal chef de cuisine and it was decided we'd have tortilla Frances aka an omelette.  

The eggs had yolks the color I've never quite seen. Deep dark orange yellow. The resulting omelette was incredible and not one scrap was left. Roughly the same thing went down with tomato salad and the peas and carrots swimming in fresh butter. 

The room we ate in was once probably used by the monks. Now they live upstairs. The entire dozen or so. Benedictine monks. 

Vespers was a beautiful prelude to dinner. The singing did what that sort always does to me. It brought on the tears. (To my sons. Stop laughing!)

After vespers we ate and at nine it was time for Completo. This was done with much more subdued lighting. The singing was so sweet and so peacefull. Literally a lullaby by Benedictine monks. Perfect. 

As they departed the chapel, a bowl of holy water was offered by a younger monk. After the last of the monks had blessed himself, the young monk gestured to those lay people present to come forward. It was rather lovely to be included.  None of us said a word as we descended the massive stone staircase.

Off to our pilgrim room and to sleep.   

In the early morning we again all meet in the former dining room for our respective breaking of the nights fast. For me it was once again you hurt with muesli and dried fruit. And of course coffee. Coffee Via courtesy of Starbucks. 

Off thru the very quiet village and into the woods. No hint of the heat to come. By one o'clock it was quite warm. Especially for October. By three we were all roasting with very little shade as our lovely little trickle joined the Camino Frances. 

Walking into Arzua with Chantal (who was really feeling the heat even more than the rest of us.) I did what I did three years ago when walking the Frances myself. Music. Fast or funny music. Any thing to distract the mind and keep the feet moving  

So I entered the main Camino singing. "Let it Go" from my granddaughters favorite movie Frozen. Great choice when it's 25celcius. Add some baton twirling tricks I've learned after three Caminos and let's just say I think I embarrasses my spouse. But bleeeeeep it was so much fun. 

Camino calculations!

When you are walking the Camino mileage or kilometers matter. Whether you count them or not, like calories, your body will do it any way. 

Yesterday was from Baamonde to Miraz. Today was from Miraz to Sobrado dos Monxes. As originally posted this was supposed to be one etap (section) of 41km. In other words a marathon. Nope. 

Fortunately the blessed Confraternity of Saint James stepped in with Miraz, at about 15km in.  It's an especially nice alburgue with one of the best kitchen facilities we've seen along the way!!

 Even more spectacular was the centrifuge!! It rather like having just the spin cycle on the washer. So after hand washing you get to spin your clothes to the point of being nearly done. 
An hour in the sun and you have cleN dry laundry!  When you have only two sets of clothes this is a real treat. 

After a great breakfast with Sadie and Priscilla out hospitilleras, we were off for what is still our longest day. 25.5 km. over hill over dale. And over the highest point on this Camino. We did it. Almost wo lunch!!

Fortunately we found a lake 2km before our mine start refuge and sat for 2/2 an hour and gobbled up the remains of our food. Em salads Russ, potato chips, chorizo, queso chocalate and water! A veritable feast along the Camino. 


Dinner last night was the best omelette ever. Dominique made it for us with peas and carrots the likes of which I've never eaten. Followed with a tomato salad we were well prepared ( or so we thought) for walking to Azura. 

Sobrado dos Monches deserves an entire entry of its own.  We were privileged to attend vespers with the monks. Damian and I were the only ones from our group to go back for Completo. It was like having the monks sing us a lullaby.  Beautiful and amazing. If you ever ever have the opportunity...go. 

Monday, September 29, 2014


It seems nearly a week since we left Karmela at her little alburgue. But it's barely fortyeight hours. 

We went fro beautiful and ancient to beautify and modern. Gontan was as sleek and modern as they come. Comfortable too. The only complaint would be for one more pot. There was only one. One pot, 26 beds!  Yet Dominique managed to cook us up a delicious dinner for six. Dominique, Chantal, Damian, Gabriel, Ray & I feasted on pasta with chorizo and tomato. 

Well rested we pushed on to the municipal alburgue in Vilalba. As sleek modern and bright as Gontan was vilalba was not. It's got potential.  It's one huge,three story stone block. Looks some on the outside and striking in its own way. Then you step inside to this space that could be amazing. But for the fact that it's all ALL painted brown. Chocolate brown. Shit brown. All the walls. In every room.  Ahh well. And in the kitchen, one pot. One pot and thirty six beds!! Somehow Dominique still made amazing pasta for dinner. Pasta with fish and tuna and calamari!

Six hours later:

We are in Baamonde. Ninety six beds. One pot. One very small pot. I think Galicians have a wicked sense of humor. 

Dinner tonight out did every other so far on the Camino. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mountain hideaway

Last night we shared some thing probably few are lucky enough to have a chance to enjoy. Directly on the Camino del Norte is a little piece of Galician Heaven.  

O Bisonte. A private alburgue that our friend from Germany, Damian found. The owner/hospitialiero was Karmela. An artist and fascinating woman. 

The house is "two kilometers" past Mondenedo. Straight up!!! But that also meant we didn't have that part of the climb first thing in the morning. Gotta stay positive. 

We climbed. And climbed up a tiny local road. Up up up!! A quick call to make certain we hadn't passed and we  kept on walking. 

Then we saw it. No missing the bright red Bison. Or our friend Dominique, with his bright shirts, bandana tied over his bald pate and his even brighter smile. We'd made it. 

If you have walked in Spain you've seen the beautiful old stone houses. Slate roofs and half open doors. Naturally shaped wood over the doors and windows. A real feeling of being a part of the landscape. 

Our beds were in the attic. The beams were entire trees! Curved and smooth. The wood above was also simply a slab cut from a tree. You could see the slate tiled in spots where the tree slabs didn't meet.  

Our beds were simple iron with very comfy mattresses. Karmela left a fresh apple on each of our beds. Shades of things to come. 

Dinner was  pumpkin soup (homegrown pumpkin!), followed by pasta salad with ham and queso and tortilla de Espana.  The eggs too were from her chickens. Wine to wash it all down. We ate outside on a picnictable watching the light changing on the hills opposite. 

The only sounds during the night were the snorers. And an occasional dog somewhere up the valley.   

At 7:15 am we were all moving snd ready to begin our day. Karmela gave us a terrific breakfast. Cafe con leche, tostada, local honey, home made apricot jam, muesli, and fresh orange juice. 

Fortified we took the hills like champs and made Gontan by 1:00pm. Two vino tintos and two cerveza con limon (at two different bars - spreading our economic impact) we are settling in for a communal dinner. 
Tonight we cook in our alburgue. Pasta con chorizo, tomato salad olives and bread. Vino of course. Dominique will be our chef de cuisine. 

Friday, September 26, 2014


For having my own plug for charging our phones! 

Gratitude for fresh Zumo de Naranja! OJ !

Gratitude for company ! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ha so you thought you had your day planned!!

Gotta be a bit quick!! Tired as all get out. Our "just" 20km ended at more like 22 or 23 km!  Which matters to your feet and your head on a bright and sunny day on the Camino. 

We successfully ditched 1.5k at the Correo this morning.  Yeah!!  That also got us off to a late start. Like easily a half hour later. So at 9 am we left Ribadeo.  Beautiful city where we enjoyed a delicious dinner with a couple from Quebec. 

The way out was a little hard to follow at first. But it was a beautiful climb and the views and houses were amazing. 

Our goal for the day ? Gondan. Only to find pilgrims we knew trying to decide of they too could make another 2.1km!! The beautiful alburgue was cerrado! Closed! So on to San Xusto. We made it and have beds for tonight. 

So dinner was/is at the local bar (restaurant/coffee bar/bar) boccadillos!! Boccadillos means literally little mouthfuls/little bites. Well they must be some big folk that call these little. We had atun(tuna) with lettuce and tomato.  With Mahou cerveza (beer) delicious!! 

We were careful to make a break every hour today. Horray iPhone!! It kept is from pushing too far too fast and being toast. 

Tomorrow Mondeneda. We hope. 

La Caridad with none to spare.

Tonight we slept in the quiet sleepy(especially by Spanish standards) little town of La Caridad. Charity. Apparently male Perigrinos especially from Mediterranean countries are exempt from showing it. 

 They were a large group. Deep voices. And a seeming inability to pack their things with out talking about it. All this at just after 5am.

 They are gone now. My spouse has rejoined the snoring concert on the upper level. 

Me, I just finished packing most of my gear (a fair bit of his too)   Now, at 6:30 chillin for a few before we begin our walk to Ribadeo.  

5.5 hours later!

Chillin again half of today's walk in and we're in Tol/San Salvador having our usual cofee and Nestea. Bar nuts included! God I love Spain. Nine kilometers more before we find a bed. 

Most of the morning walking with a couple from Quebec. They have been walking the whole route since San Sebastian.  We parted here in Tol as I was hell bent on finding an Aseo (aka bathroom). They were just eating their sandwiches at the crossroads. Lovely couple to spend a mornings walk with. 

Boring a weather talk can be, gotta say its beautiful today. It was 55 when we started and is probably 70+ now with a cool breeze off the ocean. Wonderful. 

A few hours later!! The days walking is done and so are we. The albuergue was completo. No big surprise as it has only 12 beds. So we're in Hotel Rosmary. Immaculate.  In the center of town. Room with private bath. 35€!  We would have spent 10 for the alburgue. So this is a deal. 

So now a little about today's walking. Or a little more. After we parted from the Canadian couple, we ate at the nearby bar.

 From this point forward the "way" and I use the term very loosely, was on the road. Not next to. Not parallel. ON the road.   For most of the nine km.  An occasional side walk when in a village. Otherwise every truck or car that passed we would stand facing the road to make ourselves as small a profile as possible. As unpleasant as the mornings walk was lovely. This piece needs to be reworked. It's seriously dangerous.  

As dangerous as this bit was, crossing the Ria de Ribadeo was cool. Really cool.  The walkway was narrow, barely 36 inches. But the view was worth every hard foot fall on concrete!  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Had in Barcelona!

Ahhh such bummer of a story. I took such great pains to pack carefully. Made sure we had duplicated certain critical items. Things like phone chargers and adapters.   

So what happens when your in a hurry as the taxi company is calling (my second phone call in espanol)? You grab the phone grab the cord pull and run out the door. Woulda been nice to have taped them together as I'd read about someone else doing. But no. I didn't. So a room at 290 Mallorca Barcelona now comes with a free American adaptor. 

While Barcelona is a beautiful city with sh has a slightly darker side to her soul. She's considered the pick pocket Capitol of the world. We may not have had our actual pockets done or our purses, but our packs were pilfered when we went to fly to Asturias. They got Rays tiny bag of electronic goodies worth only a few dollars all told. A battery charger for the camera he brought. An extra card for pictures.  $25 bucks I. Amazon. Max. But priceless when your 3000 miles from home moving across the countryside like a snail, your back pack now your home for more than 16 days. 

But karma, she has a sense of humor too. We had a small plastic bag of sterilizer for our water bottles. Labeled with instructions. I've done this before w checked bags. No problem. Well about the time I discover we have no phone chargers, I find the One Step cleaner is gone. I now have the hilarious vision of some lowlife hood snorting cleaner.  Priceless.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Best laid plans!! God is so laughing.

Wow. No other words for today (and yesterday's time in the Camino del Norte. 

To begin we were having too much fun visiting with friends in Barcelona. Way to much fun. An evening on the beach with fire works and delicious food. We got to bed late. Spanish early (Laura was heading to a party after dropping us off!) at 11:30.  

While someone fell asleep instantly )and I'm not pointing any fingers ) I took a while to nod off. A little more than an hour later someone (again no names) wakes me up. No more sleep and a taxi coming at 5:15! Lucky me. Although I'm pathetically proud of my first two phone calls in Spanish. All by my self. 

The taxi was prompt, courteous and quick. Wish I could say the same for Vuelings check in lines. But we got thru and had an hour and a half to spare so of course we hunted for Jamon! 

The flight to Asturias was one and a half hours. The bus into Aviles was quick and believe it or not came with wifi! On the bus. Alsa, you rock! (That's the main bus line in the area)

In Aviles we grab another bus to Novellana. It dropped us at a tiny round about or circle kinda in the middle of nowhere! And we were off! As any experienced pilgrim knows, y'all don't start walking nearly 20 km at noon!! But we did! Brilliant us! 

The route where we began was to be polite, rather sparsely marked. And unfortunately for us a fairly strenuous one. It was supposed to be our third day by my original plan. But mi spouse wanted to cut a day or so to allow for a rest day of needed, or more time in santiago de compostella. So what should have been for Camino tested legs was done on tired,virgin legs. 350+ meters of elevation gain! Ha! We were spent. 

As always though Camino angels turn up just as you start to panic. We turned down a dirt rap as the arrows indicated. It was rocky. It was steep. It went on for ever. It ends in a small beach. There doesn't seem to be any way out. Except one. The way we came. Please God no!  Then there appear two people. Also pilgrims taking pics on the rocky beach. They showed us the tiny marker about 50 meters back and almost hidden in the weeds. The way continued and we weren't all alone. Yeah!  

Well it continued. Up. And up. And more steeply up. At one point when we finly saw a small. Country train stop w a shelter we sat and spent some precious roaming data to check a map. That helped in making choices. Choices that saved our tired hides. One arrow pointed us directly back down the hill. Nope. Not gonna do it. I'll take the high road thank you very much. 

When we meet our Camino angels later they told us what a great choice we made. They were completely spent from that last round of ups and downs. 

So we ended up in Cadavedo at around 6:00pm. Late. Very late by Camino standards. At least how I'm accustomed to doing it. Usually it's in town and in an albuergue by 3 at the latest. So we followed them to the hotel they'd prebooked. Ha! We got the last room. For 42 euros to was heaven. So, should you ever be in Cadavedo, definitely check out Hotel Astur-Regal. Small , cute, friendly and most important of all clean! And very good food. Or is that my hunger? Nah it was very good. 

Today's route was much easier with only one nasty climb after Canero. And that was rough but we did it. From there o. It was really quite nice and only rarely along the actual road. 

The final leg ony to Luarca was great.  Sunny as all get out, fresh breeze off the sea and gardens to die for. One person even left a basket of apples for pilgrims to grab if they wanted. 

The descent into downtown was steep. But worth it. All of a sudden you come around the corner and wham there it is. The beautiful little harbor sitting in the sun. Brilliantly colored boats anchored all about. It looks like some thing from Thomas the Tank Engine or a storybook  

Do we continued down lured forward by the hope of a beer, a bed and some food. 

On the way there is a lovely arch over the street.  There is also a sweet looking young local boy. So in my very best Castilian I ask him to photograph us. Por favor. "Si, ?Los Ustados Unidos? Is what I get for it! So much for my pride today. 

Tomorrow, Pinera. Now - DINNER!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Beginning again

We began our training again.  I can say we, because this year the plans include walking with mi esposa (?) and one of my bestest buddies, Joe.  These are the two guys I walked with on the Portuguese in '08.  The fourth from our party then seems to have fallen off the map.

Ray is, as always, a bit of a nervous nelly and a tad reluctant about the walk.  Joe is a little anxious too.  Me...nope.  Not that I don't have immense respect for the route we are looking at, the Primitivo, but I have the Frances under my belt.  It seems to be making a real difference in how nervous, or not nervous, I feel.  I know it won't be easy, but I know that it is nothing more than one step after another repeated over and over.

Experience is a wonderful gift.  The gift of getting older.