ABANDONED!

Why to ensure that ‘the shoe fits’ before embarking on your Camino!

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#WordlessWednesday

And We’re Back (Home That Is)!

When I left you last, Richard and I had finished our full Camino and had just spent four interesting (and restful) days in Finisterre. Since we had padded this trip with extra days, we had almost two full weeks left before our scheduled flights home from Paris. What to do? Some of you suggested Portugal, others suggested places in France, while still others said that if they were us, they would head home early.

What suggestions did we finally decide upon? A combination of all three! Here, in photo format are our post-Camino adventures.

Porto, Portugal

We arrived at sunset, giving us a spectacular ‘welcoming view’ of the city. For the first night, we stayed at the Miradouro, a hotel that was strangely trapped in the 1950’s. We half expected Carmen Miranda to walk into the bar at any moment! The next morning, we set off on a city-tour bus…which we quickly abandoned, being much more comfortable exploring on foot.  We loved the bright colours, the water views, and the ‘unexpected’ which seemed to appear around every corner.

Food, Drink and Port Wine Tasting

Porto was an amazing place for eating, drinking, and to visit one (or more) of the many famed port houses. While there, we had breakfast at the famous Majestic Cafe. We also took in a tour of Taylor’s, participated in some port wine tastings, and ate…and ate…and ate!

Transportation: The Good, The Bad….and The Cranky

In the past 35 days, our only transportation was by foot. We quickly discovered how advantageous that had been. You get up and go whenever you like, you stop whenever you like, and there is very little ‘hurry up and wait’!! In a few of our travel photos, you are able to see Richard’s rare (but very expressive) cranky face! Totally understandable, as both of our fights were delayed, giving us much airport wait time. Oh, and this is the perfect spot to insert this glimpse that we caught of a girl who had just finished the Camino Trail and was awaiting her bus. I just loved the contrast of her backpack and her handbag….I never could figure out what she did with the handbag during her hike!

We’ll Always Have Paris

For our final stop, we stayed two nights in Paris. As we have visited before, we were able to have a relaxed itinerary of cafes, strolling along the Seine, photo ops at the Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Luxembourg Gardens and Notre Dame. Oh, and it also included Richard demonstrating his ‘modeling’ talents at the outdoor Dalida Photo Exhibit. This was followed by meeting a great friend (who we know from Beijing) for drinks and dinner. It turned out to be an amazing day, and a perfect end to our time away.

We are now back home safe and sound and are looking forward to catching up with family and friends here. Thanks so much for following along. We have greatly appreciated you joining us! Please join us again tomorrow for a special guest post by Hugh from Hugh’s News and Views!

The End of Our Camino Experience: Arriving in Finisterre

Day 32 – Arriving in Finisterre – 17 km.

As we walked our final kilometers to Finisterre, we became poignantly aware of all of the lasts that we were experiencing. Our last morning in an auberge (desperately trying not to wake those around us), our final glimpses of stunning Camino scenery, and the end of our trail breakfasts. We had a good seven kilometer hike before we spotted an open ‘restaurant’. As good fortune would have it, we eventually found a very rustic, ‘by donation’ spot that we absolutely loved. Although basic, they do have a Facebook page — which is one of the many delightful contradictions of the Camino. Shortly after we resumed our hike, we ran into our ‘2017 Camino Angels’, Tundie (from Budapest) and Caroline (from New Zealand). We had first met them in San Bol, and then saw them each day until we stayed the extra night in Leon. They were just leaving Finisterre and were headed to Muxia (the more common order). They said that they were hoping to see us again. We were delighted to see them as well!
Other than knowing that Finisterre had long been considered ‘the end of the world’ (and predetermining that we would burn a sock or two here), we had few expectations for this destination. As soon as we spotted this city in the distance, we were delighted by its bright colours, and brilliant ocean views. After spending our first night here, we knew that we would want to spend extra time in this fascinating place.

Aug. 24 – The final 3.5 km.

Although we arrived in Finisterre early yesterday, and considered that to be our last ‘walking day’, there were still 3.5 kilometers to go to ‘Cabo Finisterre’ and the famed ‘Lighthouse Faro’ where the Finisterre Camino Trail officially ends. We had a very relaxed, ‘backpack-free’ hike there this morning. If you look closely at the attached photo, you’ll notice the ‘0.00 km to go’ on the sign post. That means that we have now completed 720+ kilometers of the Camino Trail in a thirty-three day time span (two of those days, plus today, being rest days)! The feeling was bittersweet. Then suddenly, everything just came together. As we looked around, there was a marker honouring the 2008 visit of Stephen Hawking (whom I greatly admire). There was also a ‘Peace Pole’ planted by the International World Peace Project. There are currently many ‘Peace Poles’ around the world. They are intended to be an internationally-recognized symbol of the “hopes and dreams of the entire human family, standing vigil in silent prayer for peace on earth.” What more appropriate message could there be for the end of the Camino? As planned, we also followed the pilgrim ritual of burning something in the fire pit (me, a well-worn pair of hiking socks, Richard a note). The symbolism behind this is letting go of things that no longer serve us, including fears and behaviors that are destructive to ourselves and others. We didn’t realize it until now, but our 700+ kilometer trek was very similar to the moral of The Wizard of Oz. Viz., We all have more presence of mind, more bravery, more physical abilities and more compassion/understanding than we realize until we get out there and do it! Richard and I have decided to stay in this inspiring and thought-provoking city for two more nights.

Aug. 25. Finisterre – Continued.

We already miss our walking routine. So many things that we love, and thrive upon, were automatically built into our time on the trail. Time together. Time spent in nature. Time getting lost in our own thoughts. Fitness and excercise. Meeting interesting people. History. Culture. Spirituality. Mindfulness. It was all naturally there…without trying to find a way to fit it all in. Our challenge now is to to maintain as much of this as possible as we return to our ‘regular’ lives. As we begin to readjust to life off of the trail, we have enjoyed being able to immerse ourselves in one city…and Finisterre has been a perfect place to do just that. This morning, we took a long walk on a quiet, tranquil beach. We then wandered through a busy and colourful Friday Market. After lunch, we had a long siesta. Research indicates that the Spanish are one of the top fourteen longest-living nationalities–and some of that is attributed to regular walking, olive oil consumption, and afternoon naps. Why would we not follow suit?

Aug. 26 – Final Night in Finisterre –

.. It is a common tradition for pilgrims to splurge on something (often a seafood platter) at the end of their Camino. When we arrived at the ‘0 km’ marker in Cabo Finisterre the other morning, we knew what we wanted our ‘reward’ to be. Overlooking the famed lighthouse at the ‘end of the world’, is a small and very unique hotel. Yes, it was significantly more expensive than any of our other room costs in Spain. But, it was quite in-line with average hotel prices in Vancouver. And, if you add up all of our accommodation costs on the Camino and divide by our number of nights here, it was really one heck of a steal! (Yup, I can justify just about anything!) We had a lovely (and reasonably priced) lunch. For dinner, we made the five-kilometer round trip to the nearest grocery store. We then had a sunset picnic on the point with views that left us speechless. It was a perfect ending to an unforgettable adventure.
As we still have almost two weeks left before our booked flights to Vancouver (via Paris), our dilemma is what to do next. Head out to France and stop in some unique places along the way? Take a side trip to Portugal? Return home early (our tickets are changeable)? As amazing as the world is, as everyone knows, there’s truly no place like home! What would you do? Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted.

The Camino Trail 2017 – Reaching Santiago…Then Heading to Muxia and Finisterre

Day 25- Reaching Santiago de Compostela- 25 km.

Last week, I published my Camino post one day earlier than usual. I wanted to open this new entry with arriving in Santiago. Arriving here can be an indescribably moving experience, and the thought of it filled me with anticipation. Above, are photos of our two separate entrances to Santiago. The first is after our 110 km trek in 2010. The latter is from earlier today. Sadly, much of the exterior of the cathedral is currently undergoing restoration. This definitely damped the quality of our arrival photo. It also may have been a sign of things to come. After twenty-five days of extended periods of peace and tranquility on the trail, the loud, chaotic, ‘hurry up and wait’ pace of this diverse, bustling city was a bit overwhelming…and not quite the arrival experience that we had imagined. Richard and I responded in the best way that we knew how. We had a 5 p.m. dinner, ordered a large pitcher of Sangria and retired early (to a private hotel room…with our own bathroom). Tomorrow would be a brand new day!

Day 26 – Rest Day in Santiago de Compostela.

And today was much more enjoyable! Although the crowds and fast-pace remained, somehow none of it seemed to be quite as daunting. We began the morning by waiting in line, for almost two hours, to receive our ‘compostela certificate’ as well as our certificate of the ‘official’ distance that we had walked so far this year on the Camino Trail (604 kilometers). In line, we met a very engaging couple from Western Australia. It is remarkable how good quality conversation can make time pass so quickly! We then attended mass in the cathedral. This service included the famous swinging of the botafumeiro (large, metal incense burning container). As this feature is quite expensive (more than 400 USD each time that it is operated), it is not included in every service. We were very grateful to have been able to witness this ceremony both at this mass, and during our 2010 visit.We also stopped by the Camino Museum, had wine and tapas for dinner and attended to the mundane…but very, very necessary washing of our hiking shoes. Seriously…check out the before and after photos!

Day 27 – Santiago de Compostela to Negreira – 21 km.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” said every fiber of my being as I got up this morning and prepared to continue walking. “But we already have the certificate,” protested some of my body parts even more loudly. I’d love to say that today’s walk was a breeze…but it just wasn’t so. Beautiful? Yes. And we passed some amazing scenery, quite unlike other views that we had seen before. In the suburbs of Santiago, we even fantasized about living in one of the gorgeous haciendas that we passed. Sadly, none of that was distraction enough from the LONG, 2.8 kilometer climb from Augapesada to Trasmonte. But, we did make it. (With me questioning why we had ever decided to take on this portion of the trek, and Richard barely breaking out in a sweat!) When we arrived in Negreira, we chose an alberge next door to a large grocery store so that we could prepare our own dinner. I just couldn’t eat one more piece of bread or heavy meat. And Richard would have a tantrum if there was any more tuna hiding in his salad, pretending to be a vegetable!

Day 28 – Negreira to Santa Marina – 21 km.

The author of our guidebook, John Brierly, suggested that today’s route end in Olveiroa, and thus consist of 33.8 km (36.9 when accounting for the climbs involved). However, he is also the same author who wrote that after completing this stage he stumbled up the stairs, saw “surreal images” (hallucinated?) and passed out in pure exhaustion. Not wanting to recreate his experience, we stopped in Santa Marina for the evening. We had plenty of time to chill out and meet more great people. Sadly, again we could not find reliable internet, so I needed to handwrite this post to be transcribed later.(Definitely not my favourite thing to do!)

Day 29 – Santa Marina to Dumbria (23.3 km).

Since we were both wide-awake quite early this morning, we began today’s hike an hour before full daylight (6:45 a.m). The walk was indescribably peaceful, and remained that way throughout the day. Part way through, our path divided towards Finisterre and Muxia. We wished to end our trek in Finisterre (long ago considered to be the ‘end of the world’…and a traditional spot for Camino pilgrims to burn their hiking clothes)! So, we headed towards Muxia — definitely the road less traveled. It was one of our favorite hiking days so far. When we stopped in Dumbria for the evening, we passed on the ultra new and modern auberge (only six euros) because we wanted to have wi-fi. We stayed instead at a local pension (40 euros) that said that it offered wi-fi. And it did offer wi-fi until their restaurant closed (5:30 pm)…giving us less than two hours of internet use during our stay. That’s Camino karma for you!

Day 30 – Arriving in Muxia – 22.3 km.

Although we plan to finish our Camino in Finisterre, when we arrived in Muxia, we were overwhelmed with the feeling that we were at the end of our walking journey. This small fishing port (population 5,000) quietly radiates that it is special. Its scenery is beautiful and its beaches are stunning (and surprisingly uncrowded…at least when we were there). As a pilgrimage site, Muxia holds much significance. It is said that the Virgin Mary came here by boat to visit Saint James. When near shore, her boat crashed. Its pieces became petrified into stone (believed by many to be some of the same stones still seen here today). Regardless of one’s belief, this site can’t help but fill you with wonder and respect for all of the history that came before us.

Day 31 – Muxia to As Eiras – 15 km.

We loved Muxia and found it to be both peaceful and fascinating. Before heading back on the trail, we once again visited the famous rock formations. One of the rocks, said to be formed from the sail of St. Mary’s ship, is also said to cure arthritis if you pass under/around it nine times. And one of us (the one without arthritis) successfully completed this ritual in proxy for the other. If that’s not true love, what is? When we made our final stop before Finisterre, we jinxed ourselves by bragging (just to each other) that except for two small blisters each, long since healed, neither of us received any illness or injury in our 700 kilometer walk. Shortly after saying this, Richard fell out of the hammock, that he was attempting to relax in, and received a large bruise and scrape. Seriously, I’m not a talented enough writer to make this stuff up!

Just 17 kilometers left to go!
To be continued…

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?)