Postcards From The Camino Trail 2017: Week Four

Day 18: Herrerias to Fonfria – 20 km.

.. I was a bit anxious about today’s hike. Our guidebook described the first eight kilometers as “it climbs steeply through the chestnut woods and offers no respite along the way”. After that, even our ‘non-judgemental’ map showed today’s walk to consist of relentless ups and downs. To top that off, despite my zealous foot-care, I had acquired two blisters (one on each heel), both of which had become quite cranky. The opening climb was tough, as promised, but the scenery was among the most stunning that we have seen so far. About six kilometers in, I must have looked in rough shape. A man walking a horse came by and asked if I needed a ride to the top. Needed? Absolutely! Ego willing to give in? Not quite yet! I continued walking. Despite the unending climbs, the views remained phenomenal throughout the day. Oh, and I would be neglectful not to mention the amazing pound cake that we had at the top of our first climb (O’Cebreiro). It was just like my Grandma Weissmann used to make. It tasted like home, childhood and family in every delicious bite!

Day 20 – Fonfria to San Mamed Del Camino – 25 km.

Just when we thought that nothing on the Camino could surpass yesterday’s views, today’s scenery was literally jaw-dropping all day long. (So much so, we made very slow progress because we were always stopping to take photos!) Today was a ‘perfect Camino day’ with so many things that we love about this trail combined into one. The weather was gorgeous and our paths were tree-lined and shady for much of the way. We had breakfast at a small, quaint restaurant. Our lunch was at a ‘help yourself to whatever we have’ spot (coffee, tea, juice, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cookies…) all for whatever donation you would like to leave…with no one watching or judging. The concept is totally built on trust! We also stopped at a tranquil picnic spot for a snack. We ended the day at a picturesque auberge that was ideally suited to sheer relaxation! And if all that was not enough, we discovered that Jenny, Sven and Ida (the couple walking with the ten-month old baby) were staying here as well. We finally had the chance to ask them why they decided to hike the Camino. They answered, “We had five weeks off of work and thought about what we would like to do with all of this wonderful time together. We considered hiking the Alps, but then thought that the Camino would be a perfect choice.” How inspirational is that?

Day 21 –  San Mamed Del Camino to Portomarin – 27 km.

Today started exactly the way that we like our Saturdays to begin — SLOWLY! We slept in later than usual and had a leisurely breakfast before we began our walk. This was followed by many other casual stops along the way. At one spot, Richard lingered over coffee and the newspaper. He even tried to convince me that he can now read Spanish. He recounted (in detail) one story that he believed he had read. “It’s easy”, he exclaimed. “There are enough Spanish words that are similar to English that you can get the gist.” Or, he just totally made stuff up…which is the more likely version! Despite our relaxed beginning, we still covered more than 27 km. Quite accidentally, we ended up in a huge auberge with more than 100 beds in one room. Not as bad as you might think…but not without its challenges!

Day 22- Portomarin to Palas de Rei – 24.6 km

With just 70 kilometers left to reach Santiago de Compostela, we no longer wonder ‘where have all the pilgrims gone?’ They are now omnipresent and can be seen (and heard) almost everywhere. One of the reasons for this is that Sarria (a town that we passed yesterday) is one of the most common starting points for the Camino Frances as it offers the minimum distant that must be covered in order to receive the official ‘pilgrim certificate’ in Santiago. We love the excitement and energy of so many different types of walkers on the trail. But we do miss having long stretches of tranquil, stunning paths to ourselves (…if you don’t count the occasional cow). It was sheer luxury! Oh, and the cost of a bed has just doubled (Ten euros instead of five). That’s supply and demand for you!

Day 23 -Palais de Rei to Boente – 21 km.

.. A blogger that I follow, recently posted about the simple pleasures in life. This is also very true on the trail. With Herculean effort, I have endeavoured to keep my backpack both small and light. There have been many consequences to this. One major consequence is that my all-purpose trek towel (yup, the one I use after showering) is smaller than the average hand towel! I thought that I had been making do just fine. But, tonight, our auberge offered freshly laundered, ‘regular-sized’ bath towels for only one euro more. I tell you most solemnly…it was sheer heaven! Who knew that one small (make that ‘medium-sized’) towel could make such a difference? As an added bonus, I purchased two new pairs of trekking socks (for a fraction of the cost that they would be at home). The two pairs that I had with me, recently lost interest in this walk. The difference that fresh, new socks can make is truly magical! Richard, on the other hand, found his own ‘simple pleasure’. To each his own!

Day 24- Boente to Santa Irene – 25 km.

Today was the second last day for most walkers to reach the Camino’s official end point in Santiago (and the last day for most bike riders). The energy, excitement and uplifted spirits were palpable. When we were relaxing outside a small cafe in Calzada, a brass band rolled by, on a truck, and played some very funky, upbeat music. Instantly, everyone abandoned their coffees (and other refreshments) and began dancing on the trail. Very fun! We are now in Santa Irene, less than 25 kilometers from Santiago. Irene is my sister’s name (now deceased). I have thought about her often during this walk. That is inevitably one of the key attributes of the Camino. It strips away the ‘busyness’ of our daily lives and helps clear our minds to reflect on what is most important to us.

Post Cards From The Camino Trail 2017 – Week Three

When I left you last, Richard and I had just arrived in Leon. Since the city offers so many cool things to see and do, we were contemplating staying an extra day. That night, we stayed in the Monastery (five euros each). Richard and I had decided to make it an early evening. We were both quietly reading in our bunk beds, when a nun came in and asked if we wished to join the ‘Pilgrims’ Blessing.’ How could we refuse? (I did mention that she was a nun, didn’t I?) We quickly got dressed again and joined in. We were glad that we did! Simultaneously, the participants offered their prayers/good intentions in their own languages. That was followed by two fellow pilgrims who volunteered to sing a closing song. Their voices were outstanding. On the way out, the nun handed each participant a small individual scroll. Richard’s said, “A parent’s job is to give their children roots and wings.” Mine said, “He who loves money will never be satisfied with money.” Very fitting messages!

Day Twelve – Leon –

Richard and I mutually declared today to be a ‘slow start/low kilometer’ day. We planned to visit a few sites in the morning (Guzmanes’ Palace, Leon Museum and Cathedral) and then begin walking around noon. None of the sites opened until after 9:30 a.m., so we wandered randomly down the streets in the Old Quarter. That’s when we spotted a quaint hotel that was ‘postcard perfect.’ Instantly, Richard and I had the same idea. Within fifteen minutes (literally) we were checked in with spa appointments booked (when going off-course, you may as well go big)! We rationalized that the price for both room and spa were significantly cheaper than we could get at home! Feel free to call us ‘slackers’, but it was a wonderful, chilled-out day!

Day Thirteen – Leon to San Martin Del Camino – 26 km

Richard and I were both eager to begin walking again. Our path was relatively flat. Still, we both found today’s hike to be a grind. The highlight of the day was definitely Virgen Del Camino Basilica. We didn’t immediately recognize it as a church from the outside. What first attracted us to it was the stunning doors, and very cool sculptures. The basilica was built in 1961 on top of an old 17th Century church. On its facade the artist, Jose Maria Subirachs, created individual sculptures of the twelve apostles and of Christ ascending to Heaven. The small church is absolutely stunning. Inside it radiates peace, the power of simplicity, and an incredible sense of spirituality.

Day Fourteen – San Martin Del Camino to Astorga- 24 km:

Perhaps it was the combination of thirteen solid days of walking, plus our rest day (and massages), but Richard and I each felt stronger today than we had previously. When we reached Astorga by 1 pm, we both felt that we had enough energy to go further. Ultimately we decided to stop because we had heard such great things about this quaint town. Astorga offers many attractions that are worthwhile visiting. These include the Episcopal Palace, Ayuntamiento de Astorga (Government Buildings), Roman Wall (and Museum), Plaza Mayor (a cool place to chill-out and people watch) and of course the cathedral. In addition, Astorga is famous for its chocolates, and its puff pastries! We prepared our own dinner in our hostel this evening…and included an ‘Astorga pastry’…which was incredibly delicious!

Day Fifteen – Astorga to Foncebadon – 28.6 km (1400m elevation)

When we began this trek (two weeks ago today), it didn’t make sense to me why so many walkers were up, dressed, re-packed and out the door by 6 a.m. It was barely daylight. What was the rush? Now, I hesitate to admit, we try to leave as early as we can (today was a 6:15 a.m. start). This allows us to beat some of the intense heat. It also gives us more time to cover the distance that we choose, while still having enough time to enjoy our new location each evening. Today we wanted to challenge ourselves…and we did just that! We covered 28 kilometers. A large proportion of that was uphill with over 600 meters of elevation change. We have now reached 1400 meters of height…leaving us less than one hour away from the highest point on the French Way Camino (1500 meters). When we reached the top of today’s climb, Richard was literally dancing to ‘Johnny B. Goode’ on his iPhone. I, on the other hand, felt like I needed an ambulance…but I made it!

Day Sixteen – Foncebadon to Molinaseca – 20 km –

Today was certainly a day of contrasts. We started this morning with a short, brisk walk to Cruz de Ferro. This iron cross (replica of the original) marks the ‘roof’ of the Camino Frances (1500 meters). Traditionally, many pilgrims bring a stone from their own countries to place at the base of the cross. As we had not done that, we left our good intentions instead. In contrast, the remaining five+ hours of descending over one-thousand meters in elevation, on a very rocky, uneven, twisty-turny path can only be described as punishment for feet, ankles and knees! As a picture is worth more than a thousand words, here is what our steep, descending path looked like all day long! But all was not lost. At the end of this trail, no beer has ever tasted better, no lentil soup more perfect (sorry, Mom) and no bed more comfortable! Something tells me that I will sleep well tonight (and I did)!

Day Seventeen – Molinesca to Villafranca Del Bierzo – 30 km

We finally made it 30 km in one day! Despite the photo, we did not take a bus or taxi. Although it was good to know that there was a taxi sign seemingly in the middle of nowhere! No stony paths today, and great views all around. Although as you can see below, sometimes we were the view!

…….Day Eighteen  – Villafraca Del Bierzo to Las Herrerias – 21 km

Richard noticed in his trusty guidebook, that according to the author’s ‘suggested stages’, we only have seven days left to reach Santiago de Compostela. Yikes, we’re not sure that we want to be finished that quickly (although we do have approximately five-ish additional days to get to Muxia and Finisterre). According to our calculations, we have walked 417 official ‘trail’ kilometers so far (plus many additional kilometers for exploring the cities and towns where we have stayed). We have 180 kilometers left to reach Santiago and an additional 100 kilometers for Muxia and Finisterre.

Thank you for following. It is very motivating to know that you are out there. See you next week (internet willing)!

Post Cards From The Camino Trail 2017 – Week Two

When I left you last, Richard and I were in Burgos (lingering in a restaurant that offered free WiFi). Burgos is home to the only cathedral in Spain that has independently been declared a World Heritage Site. So, we decided to have a peek inside. Two hours later, we were completely overwhelmed and had barely scratched the surface of all that there was to see. From its incredible architecture, to its exquisite paintings and sculptures, to its intricate and lavish decorations, including heavy use of real gold (that seemed to go on for endless rooms) it was often simply hard to comprehend. An unsettling question was, “where did all this money and gold come from?” If any readers have visited this cathedral previously, I would love to hear your points of view.

Day Five – Burgos to San Bol – 26.7 km:

Never trust your guidebook completely. Seriously! Just about twenty-six kilometers into this walk, I was over it! Honestly. Done. Richard had it in his mind to continue an extra five kilometers to Hontanas when I saw a sign for a small hostel in San Bol five hundred meters away, but off of our path. Richard was skeptical. His guidebook called the hostel “medieval” and stated that “almost everyone” prefers to travel on to the next town. Never one to conform to the “almost everyone” mold, I started walking off the trail to the nearby albergue. “They may not have food”, Richard called after me. I was not deterred. When we arrived, it was an incredible oasis! It had a large garden with a natural spring pool where you could sit and soak your (very tired) feet in the cool water. You could also do your laundry in the outdoor spring (very National Geographic)! We were one of nine guests that evening. We were served a community dinner of homemade chicken paella, salad, crusty bread, wine and vanilla pudding….all for only twelve euros each (including our beds). If traveling this section of the Camino, I highly recommend staying here!

Day Six – San Bol to Itera de Varga – 22 km:

The annoying thing about my iPhone camera is that it does not adequately capture the steep climbs that we have faced so far. So when I start whining about today’s climb, for example, you’ll probably glance at the photo and think that the path was no big deal. Wrong! We ascended over 100 meters in less than one kilometer. Okay, it may not be Everest, but in the extreme heat, with our packs, it seemed huge!

Day Seven – Itera de Varga to Villalcazar de Sirga – 28 km

Where have all the pilgrims gone? In the last week, we have always seen at least a few pilgrims during the course of our walk, and we have always seen several pilgrims when we have stopped for breakfast and lunch. On today’s walk, we saw no other pilgrims walking on route or during our rest stops. Richard’s theory is that most other walkers leave before our usual 7:15 a.m. start time and are following more traditional beginning and ending points than we are. My theory is that they all took the bus today, and got off just before their destinations. That’s my theory and I am sticking to it! (And after a hot 28 km walk, a bus ride does sound lovely!)

Day Eight – Villalcazar de Sirga to Calzadilla de la Cueza – 22 km

We seriously need to ditch our guidebook. Its forecast for today’s walk was “flat, monotonous and hypnotic”. But we quite enjoyed it. (Who doesn’t love ‘flat?’) We also had the chance to walk on this very cool road that the Romans had constructed and trod upon. We also came across two young (very fit) parents walking the Camino with full backpacks…and a ten-month old (very smiley) baby in a pram. They are planning to walk all the way to Santiago from Burgos…and have been staying in regular hostels like most of the rest of us. Seriously, I can’t even imagine attempting such a feat. But, the three of them seemed to be happy, relaxed and content!

Day Nine – Calzadilla de le Cueza to Sahagun – 22 k

Last evening there was a debate between my upper back and my legs. I have been pleasantly surprised (shocked actually) how well my body has responded to suddenly being immersed in this intense fitness boot camp (…at least so far). But it was Day Nine and although my pack is relatively light, my back was voting for a ‘rest day.’ My legs, however, were feeling stronger than ever and were eager to continue. Being the consummate libra, I compromised…and had my backpack transported to this evening’s hostel in Sahagun. It’s easily done. Put five euros in an envelope, label the envelope with the address that you wish to pick up your bag later that day, trust in the Camino, and your pack magically shows up at your desired destination by noon! The funny thing was, that even though we walked slightly fewer kilometers than usual, my back was still equally tired at the end of our walk! I now blame my water-bag. Water is crazy-heavy!! This got me thinking that perhaps I should quit being such an overly prepared nerd and carry only the amount of water that I need for each portion of our trek. That would make sense, wouldn’t it?

Day Ten – Sahagun to Reiligos – 26.5 km:

Ask and the Camino answers! Today we had the choice of taking the regular trail, mostly alongside main roads, or walking an extra kilometer or two and taking the ‘scenic route’. The catch was that for seventeen kilometers straight, there would be no options to get food, water or any real shelter of which to speak. We had done something similar a couple of days earlier and we had ample (i.e. too much water and extra food) so we believed we would be fine. At the last town before our long ‘wilderness’ trek, we had full breakfasts and ordered two vegetable sandwiches to go. (Who knew that tuna and eggs were vegetables)? Richard filled up his litre bottle with water and added an additional bottle as an extra. With my new ‘sensible’ water plan, I only partly filled up my water system (3/4 litres). That would make my pack lighter and we would still have plenty of water. Half way into our trek, we stopped underneath a rare (and skinny) tree to eat our lunch. That is when Richard’s full litre bottle of water spilled and drained completely (up until then he had been drinking out of the back up bottle…that was now almost empty). Why is it that whenever I consciously decide to quite being such a Girl Scout, something calls me back to my roots?

Day Eleven – Reiligos to Leon – 24 km:

We have now arrived in the major city of Leon and are considering a potential rest day here tomorrow as there is so much to see and do. I will keep you posted as to whether we stay or continue on. Something else from this week that I want to mention before I close, was an encounter that we had earlier. Richard and I were alone on the middle of a trail, when we suddenly saw an older (our age?) local Spanish wonan who literally rushed up to us. “Did you know that the top fastener on your backpacks can be used as whistles?” Strange opening question, but actually we did not know that. “Make sure you protect yourselves — keep covered, have lots of water and pieces of fruit”, she continued. Finally she advised “Most importantly, you will need much patience to be successful in your journey.” How did she know that I am sometimes lacking in that particular area? Camino Angels are everywhere!

My sincere apologies for my extreme lack of proofreading on my Camino posts, and for my long delays in commenting on my favorite blogs. Reliable internet has been a definite challenge…combined with the additional challenge of sheer exhaustion at the end of each day. I will attempt to do a big catch up when I return home!

Shout out to Dr. Creighton Connolly on his 29th birthday 🎉 today!

Post Cards from the Camino Trail 2017 – Week One

Our days on the Camino have been incredibly full, with reliable internet being rare and illusive. Once a week, whenever the internet gods are with me, I will attempt to post quick postcards of highlights for that week. Here’s a sneak peek from Week One.

Getting There – July 19 & 20:


We had a direct flight to Paris and a second flight to San Sebastián, Spain so that we could have a two-night recovery from jet lag before beginning the trail. This literally involved over thirty hours of travel by car, ferry, multiple buses, skytrain, international plane, domestic plane, more buses and taxi! Also, as modeled by Richard (above), our travels involved much waiting (as well as a 9 hour time change).

Pre-Walk Rest-Up Days – July 20 & 21:

San Sebastián was stunning with amazing food everywhere (there are more Michelin Star restaurants there than anywhere else in the world)! Since their annual Jazz Festival was taking place while we were there we were able to see a free Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders concert with standing spots near the stage. Very cool!

Starting Point – Najera – July 22:

Last year we ended our eight-day Camino Trail walk in Najera, so that is where we decided to start from this year. Don’t we look fresh, energetic and ready to go?

Day One – Najera to Granon (29.5 km):

If you know me personally, you already know that for four solid weeks before our departure I had an ongoing sciatic nerve injury, dreaded ear-infection, plague-like virus and bronchitis. I was worried that I had not done enough prior training for this trek. Knock on iPhone, the first day was surprisingly okay! (Yes, these sunflowers are for you, Dee!)

Day Two – Granon to Espinosa del Camino (24.1 km)

One of my favorite things about the Camino is the fascinating people that you meet, and hearing their stories about why they are walking. Tonight we had dinner with a man, Johan, who began walking from the Netherlands on April 1 and plans to continue walking to Santiago de Compostela, Spain (over 3000 km in total). That made our 700 km goal seem like a piece of cake. Johan was walking to raise money for a friend’s son who had been diagnosed with leukemia. He had taken off time from work to do this. Very impressive!

Day Three – Espinosa Del Camino to Atapeurca (21.9 km).

Today was the most challenging so far. We spent much time climbing straight up (ascending over 200 meters). Although I usually walk at a faster pace than Richard, I was almost crawling and cursing (just a bit, Mom!) as Richard strode effortlessly straight up. Seriously, how does he do that?

Day Four – Atapeurca to Burgos (20 km)

After a relatively easy five hour walk today, we are now safe and sound in Burgos. As the day is not yet over, you can catch that write-up next week. Please stay tuned!

Celebrating a Milestone Birthday: 700 Kilometers on the Camino Trail

Richard and I now have our backpacks packed and are ready to set out for our 700 km Camino Trail walking adventure. For quite some time, I’ve had it in the back of my mind to write a post about our plans for this trek. I was delighted when Sue, from Sizzling Toward Sixty, gave me the nudge and asked me to write about this trip on her site.

As some of you may already know, my husband, Richard, turns 70 this September. For his birthday, Richard and I have decided to take the leap, challenge ourselves and celebrate together by walking 700 km on the Camino Trail in Spain. We both love the Camino and have done two separate eight-day sections previously. (You can check out posts on our last Camino experience here). We had always wanted to walk the full Camino Frances but kept putting it off. Finally, we decided if we didn’t do it now, when would we do it?

Ready for his 70th birthday trek![

In two days, we fly to Paris, then to Biarritz, then bus to San Sebastian then to Najera, Spain to begin this journey. We will definitely try to keep you posted on this trip….when we can find internet!

You can read more about our plans over at Sue’s site.

I hope to see you there!
Birthday: Camino

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Top Ten Lessons Learned on the Camino Trail: Personal Reflections

  1. I can go for days without any computer, tablet or phone connectivity. I can and I did. The world did not end. Who knew?
  1. I cannot plan everything. Even I (who previously thought that spontaneity was for slackers) have begun to realize that improvisation is often the most challenging and rewarding commitment of all.
  1. Music is a powerful tool. Numerous studies have repeatedly found music to boost mood, memory, learning, immune systems and performance (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3). After successfully using music to get me up the most difficult climbs, I am now a devout believer!
  1. I am an extroverted introvert. I love building connections with others (the Camino provides an ideal environment for this). I also need my alone time (once again, the Camino provides).
  1. The journey (heavily) outweighs the destination. Our deepest and fondest memories are not of where we ended up each day, but how we got there, who we met, and what transpired along the way.
  1. I need fewer material goods than I had realized. Excess stuff merely serves to weigh down the body, the spirit and the mind.
  1. I can achieve more than I ever believed I could. I simply need to start by putting one foot in front of the other (and one word down on my page)!
  1. On the Camino, kindness was the rule, never the exception. If kindness can be the norm on the Camino, can we also not make it the rule in our daily lives?
  1. There is incredible serenity in living life more slowly. (Just ask Eugene!)
  1. For some inexplicable reason, I have been blessed to meet and marry the most incredible person that I have ever known. This is a lesson that I already knew well, and it was continually reinforced on our travels. When the road became tough, Richard earnestly offered to carry my backpack with his. Although I never took him up on this, the offer alone made my pack feel much lighter. When my toes became battered and bruised, from too much rapid downhill, Richard lent me his hiking sandals and carried my boots. More importantly, without the distractions of home (and technology), we discussed our future, reminisced about the past, admired each other strengths and laughed…a lot!

For these reasons and more, we will be back.  In just over a year, Richard will turn seventy. It is our current plan, God willing, to return to where we left off in Najera and complete the remaining 600 kilometers from there.

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To be continued in September 2017! (In the meantime, I will go back to my regular weekly posts…now, what will I do with all of that free time?)

Days 9 & 10 – Bilbao: A Change of Pace

Our one-and-a-half days in Bilbao were exactly what we needed before the long flight home. Although my mind would not shut down (even when it was supposed to be in sleep mode) my legs instantly became heavy. I was extremely glad to have that first half day to humour the parts of my body that wished to do nothing but loaf.

That gave us one full day to explore the sights, sounds, and tastes of Bilbao. Sadly, it was a holiday Monday so many places, including the famed Guggenheim Museum, were closed (sacrilege, I know—but we still enjoyed viewing the museum grounds which in themselves were incredible). We meandered the many narrow streets, wandering through little parks and plazas, marveling at both the quaint shops and the striking churches as we went.

Grand old buildings stood beside sleek modern ones striking a vivid contrast between old and new. That scenery was in complete harmony with the local people who dotted the streets and parks, especially in the evenings. Young and old–traditional and trendy– met and mingled, chatted, ate pinchos and took their time. No one seemed to be in a hurry. Their restful, relaxed attitude was contagious, and just what the doctor ordered.

Serendipitously, we came across an amazing little restaurant, with absolutely the best pizza that either of us had ever tasted. “Yeah, right,” I can hear you thinking. But it was true. The absolute best – so much so that one bite alone was worth the entire trip to Bilbao (well…almost)! See photo below.

It was a lovely day and a half, and we were glad that we had had the extra time visit that amazing city. But…we already missed the trail!

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La Tagliatella. Calle Licenciado Poza, 55, 48013 Bilbao
+34 944 27 81 81      http://www.latagliatella.es/restaurantes/latagliatella-bilbao-licenciadopoza

 

Day 8 — Los Arcos to Najera (29.6K): A Change of Plans

Although we repeatedly told ourselves that we had no set goal as to where we would end up on the trail – that may have been true for the day-to-day – but we did secretly have an ultimate goal to arrive in Najera for our finish. Now with only 30 K to go, and relatively flat paths ahead of us, we were confident that we would achieve our target.

To add to our self-assurance, we had a fantastic start to the day. At a small breakfast café, with absolutely amazing pastry, we caught up with Mimi and Sarah (frequent roommates) as well as Steve and Kim (who we had met during our first night in Saint-Jean and were hoping to run into again). It was like ‘old home week’ and the conditions were set for a perfect day!

For no reason in particular, it turned out that the day was, in fact, not perfect. Nothing horrible – but nothing great. And Richard, who seldom complains, complained a great deal. The paths, while flat, were very rocky, and not a good match for Richard’s Canadian West Coast (sandy trail) hiking boots. On top of that, our route was mostly alongside a highway – definitely not Richard’s thing. Finally, as fate would have it, Richard’s Camino Trail Guidebook (which he both relied upon and adored) fell out of his backpack and could not be found. We also went for quite a long stretch without lunch. After the Eugene Levy fiasco we had not purchased a sandwich to go – so now we were left with our emergency Tic Tacs (aka breath mints)!

The day did improve. The Angels, as well as Mimi and Sarah, were at our Auberge that evening – and we ran into Steve and Kim again at dinner. The Camino unites its walkers in powerful ways, and that bond is incredible. Still, Richard’s sore feet, and my blisters, lingered.

You know that look when lovers glance at each other and history changes? We were always going to walk this trail for nine days. It had been solidly planned. Then, that evening in our auberge, as we prepared our things for the day ahead, I jokingly said to Richard: “Instead of walking to Santo Domingo tomorrow, we could take the bus to Bilbao one day early.” Then, without any other words spoken between us, that facetious statement became the plan. In the morning, we went through our usual trail-preparation routine, but instead of following the Camino shells to Santo Domingo, we had a leisurely breakfast…and then waited for the bus to Bilbao.

Perhaps it was because we already had our bus route to Bilboa sketched out in our heads, or because of the long list of things that we  wanted to see there. Perhaps it was our jointly sore feet, or simply the fact that we both knew the  end was near. Whatever the reason, I folded up my hiking poles and we boarded the bus. There was no turning back.

Auberge el Pegrino, Najera, c/San Fernando, 90, 26300, Najera, LaRioja, +34 941 896 027, 10 euros

Feature Photo: Richard and me with the Angels — Grace, Karen and Yvonne (Left to Right)

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Sarah and Mimi

 

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Steve and Kim

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Birte (we last saw here the day before in Navarrete, but wished to include her here)

Day 7 – Los Arcos to Logrono (28.2 K): Eugene Levy, the Sandwich Maker

It is said that the ‘Camino provides’, and that it gives each individual the lesson(s) that h/she needs. Although I have begun to chill a bit (well…at least for me), patience is still a virtue to which I can only aspire. Seven kilometers outside of Los Arcos, we reached a small town, Sansol (population: 108). We decided to do a quick stop for a coffee and washroom break. As we reviewed our map, Richard advised that it may be a few hours before we would reach the next town, Viana, where we could have lunch. “Probably prudent to get a sandwich to go,” I suggested aloud. As I can be a bit cranky when hungry, Richard quickly agreed. Back to the counter I went with my order.

Now, imagine if you will, Eugene Levy, in all comedic pantomime splendor attempting to make a sandwich as SLOWLY as humanly possible. This will give you the best possible picture of what ensued. First, he saunters over to the tomatoes, carefully examining each one. Then saunters back to the baguettes — examines the bread, reexamines the tomato, firmly shake his head, and saunters back over to the tomatoes, now choosing a slightly smaller one. He raises his renowned eyebrows and characteristically wrings his hands as if to say “I can’t work under this pressure”. I seriously expected Catherine O’Hara to waltz in anytime! Then he goes back to the bread, slicing slowly. Then washes his knife (for the love of all things holy…it was only bread!) and then even more slowly slices the cheese (insert more aggravating knife washing here) and then the tomato. I wanted to scream! I wanted to jump behind the counter and finish making the sandwich myself. Sensing my impatience only seemed to slow Eugene down further. I gritted my teeth and waited.

When the pantomime show was finally over. I paid for my sandwich, grabbed my hiking poles, nodded to Richard and literally flew down the eleven-kilometer trail, fueled by pent up frustration. Although I did that trail in record time (for me), I also acquired four new blisters. “Slow down, Donna,” I could hear the Camino whisper.

When we finally reached Viana (in plenty of time for lunch), there was a huge Bull Run Festival in progress. We bumped into our Camino Angels there, and because they were ready to leave, they gave us their show-side seats where we had a great view of the festivities!

BTW – The Eugene Levy sandwich was incredibly delicious (fresh baguette, generous layers of thinly sliced cheese, a perfectly chosen tomato, salt, pepper and superior quality olive oil).

Albergue Logrono, Capitan Gallarza, 10 (La Rioja), Tel:941254226, info@alberguelogrono.es,  www.alberguelogrono.es. We splurged for a private room, 30 euros.

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It was always exhilarating to see a new town on the horizon…even though I knew that it meant a steep climb was soon coming!

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Bull Run Festivities in Viana

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Private room splurge!

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Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, Canadian comedic actors. Photo credit: www.latimes.com.

 

Day 6 – Lorca to Los Arcos (29.5 K): A Loaf of Bread, A Jug of Wine, and Thou

(with apologies to Persian philosopher/poet, Omar Khayyam)

The Camino Frances is rich with intriguing surprises and delights. Today’s route was an exceptional example. Just outside of Estella, we reached the renowned Camino Wine Fountain, Fuente del Vino. It was built in 1991 and belongs to the Bodegas Irache winery. The adjoining monastery is said to have been the first pilgrim hostel on the Camino, and thus the fountain is meant to pay homage to the generosity shown to early travellers. The fountain is open daily between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. and is limited to a total of 100 liters of free wine each day (source).

A nearby sign reads:

“Pilgrim, if you wish to arrive at Santiago full of strength and vitality, have a drink of this great wine and make a toast to happiness.”

Although we were not travelling all of the way to Santiago, we were not ones to turn down strength and vitality (or free wine)! We filled up part of Richard’s small water bottle. The wine was surprisingly delicious….so much so that I accidentally left my hiking poles behind. Not a worry, the five-minute run back to get them (as Richard laughed underneath a shady tree…wine in hand) was totally worth it!

Because we were walking long days, without the vitality of youth, we (okay, maybe just me), did not always take full advantage of exploring many of the places of interest that each stop on the Camino offered. The Church of Santa Maria Los Arcos was the exception and is well worth a lingered visit, and a mention here. It was built and renovated between the 12th and 18th centuries and includes Romanesque, Protogothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture (source). However, even with little knowledge of these time periods or influences, the church’s intricate and breathtaking beauty serves to capture and humble even the most unsuspecting visitor who peers through its doors.

Church of Santa Maria Los Arcos, Plaza de Santa Maria,                        Tel: 948441004 – 649909514

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I should  approach Marc Lefebvre, the Mayor of Parksville, about having a similar fountain placed in our town. It would be great for tourism!

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Casa de la Abuela
Plaza de la Fruta 8
31210, Los Arcos, Navarra
Tel: +34 948 64 02 50
contacts@casadelaabuela.com
www.casaadeleabuela.com
Breakfast:3.50 euros includes coffee/tea, juice, toast, cereal, hard-boiled egg and homemade cake!                                                             Photo Credit:  http://www.alberguescaminosantiago.com