Monday, July 19, 2010

Post-Camino Summary

I got a flight home the next day. It was a small miracle because the 1st of July all of France goes on holiday and the gate employee who gave the standbys the bad news that we wouldn't make it out that day, said he didn't see any good prospects for the next three days. So, I went to a hotel and took a much-needed shower. (Twenty four hours in a train with no air-conditioning on a record hot day makes for a much-needed shower.) Next day, smooth as silk, I got a flight to Cincinnati where my husband picked me up, and I promptly plunged into the life I had put on hold for six weeks.
But to summarize my last day in Santiago, all the disparate characters who played a part in my camino showed up right on time. (This would make a very bad movie plot). As you can see by the first photo, Nora was there, having arrived a few days earlier. Truus and I arrived together, along with Mercedes and Maitreyi. And just as we finished the group portrait, who should happen by but Dilek. Then Elke and Ushie showed up, along with others whom we had met at various points along the way. Even the French woman on horseback that we saw at the Irache winery came trotting into town that very day.
Now I am home, trying to adjust to the busyness and STUFF I had left in May. I think about the Camino every day. In my heart I am already plotting a return. In a few years I want to go back and walk Le Puy to St. Jean.
Au Revoir. I'll be back for more reflections on the lessons of the Camino. I hope some new pilgrim will find this blog useful for preparation. If there is a desire in your heart to do the Camino, don't hesitate. Just go.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Coming Home

In true camino fashion I met my last camino angels as I was attempting to get to the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. I had to take a bus to a train to another train to a metro to the airport. On the train I met two camino friends, French retired teachers--Annie and Nicole-- who bought me a "petit dejeuner" (breakfast) at the end of the second very long train ride, and sent me on my way on the correct metro line to the airport. I would have probably figured it all out eventually myself, but what a comfort it was to have the guidance and the last camino goodbyes and kisses (cheek to cheek the way the French do!)
So here I sit waiting and hoping for a standby seat to Atlanta and then home. Was it real, or was it all a dream?
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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Sorry to be behind in my blogging. The last two days have been a breathtaking whirlwind. We arrived at Monte do Gozo as planned. We called it Peregrino City. There are blocks and blocks of rooms, bars, restaurant, mercado, souvenir shop, and clothes lines to hang your laundry. From the top of the hill we could just see the spires of the cathedral through the trees. Four kilometers away was the destination we had dreamed of for six weeks. That feeling of joy was surpassed the next day as we wended our way through the streets of Santiago, catching glimpses of the cathedral and then losing sight of it, until suddenly-- there it was. This photo of the cathedral is not a great one, but it was taken the first moment I saw it in front of me. Before we could enter the cathedral we had to go to the Pilgrim Office and obtain our Compostela. The second photo shows the line of pilgrims behind me waiting to go through the process. There was an equal number of pilgrims before me. When we reached the office, a row of young women behind a counter called the next pilgrim to come up and show their credential. They examined the stamps we had acquired along the way as we filled out a form, and then, convinced we had walked the required number of kilometers, put our names on our Compostelas. We hugged each other in joy. Our goal was accomplished.
It remained to go through the pilgrim rituals of going to midday mass, touching the hand of the small statue of Santiago, hugging the large statue of Santiago that looked over the sanctuary, and visiting the crypt or reliquary below. The day we were there it happened to be the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, so the bishop was there and actually gave the homily which my Spanish-speaking friends said was very good. We were also fortunate that someone had donated the money for the swinging of the botofumiero, the giant incense burner that, with great ceremony, is hoisted up and down and swung back and forth, lifting our prayers to heaven with the smoke of frankincense suffusing the air as a young man (priest or initiate) sang a moving song of praise. Unfortunately, to my way of thinking, the congregation burst into applause at the end, as if it were a spectacular show of some kind, instead of a beautiful religious ritual. That was our day yesterday. I have many decisions to make about getting home and much to process in my mind about leaving the Camino. I will write about that later.
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Sunday, June 27, 2010


We walked our next to last long day today in eucalyptus forests and among masses of blooming hydrangea. We are in a little town and just 25 km frm Santiago. We plan to go to Monte de Gozo tomorrow (Mount of Joy) where the pilgrims could get their first glimpse of the church spires of Santiago. There is now a massive albergue there, and we will stay there in our last albergue experience before descending the last 5 kilometers to Santiago early Tuesday morning.
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Saturday, June 26, 2010


Just forgot to mention that the little town of Casteneda is about 3 km before the town of Ribadiso, and about 26 miles to Santiago--closer than Louisville is to Brandenburg.
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Here is how the Camino works: you are presented with challenges and if you have faith and gratitude you overcome the challenges, and things work out better than you could have ever imagined. The fact that the regular albergues were full, forced us to find other resources, which led us to this beautiful Bed and Breakfast type room in an old Spanish home. The photos show our "sitting room" and a gorgeous hydrangea bush outside our window.
We have heard so many stories of challenges people have faced on the Camino which were the exact lessons needed for their lives. There have been so many opportunities to give a kindness or receive a kindness that means so much along the way. For example, one day I glanced down and picked up a piece of paper--just litter I thought--that had some maps and information on it. Five or ten minutes down the road, a woman was walking towards me with a very concerned look on her face. I asked if she had lost something and, you guessed it, it was that very piece of paper I had picked up. Her "bible" as she called it. Just a little thing, but there are so many little stories like that.
As you can see, I am feeling much better about our last days on the Camino, and excited about being united with many of our walking companions in Santiago. I hope we will find Dilek there. (She found a nice group of young people in Triacastela that she started walking with and we wished her all the best.) We also hope to meet Mercedes and Maitreya there. Maybe even Nora. Anything is possible on the Camino!
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Friday, June 25, 2010


I want you to guess what these buildings are used for. Just about every house that has some land attached to it in Galicia has at least one of these. I'll tell you a funny story about how I found out what they are next time.
God has sent aid to me in the form of two feisty German women. Ushie and Elke are walking with us now. For some weird reason, in these last hundred kilometers there are less albergues, private hotels and hostels, and fewer bars than just about anywhere on the camino, in spite of the increased numbers of peregrinos. People are forced to rush early to get a bed or they are turned away and must travel further. Elke says maybe that is part of the camino-- to make the "pilgers" suffer more. Anyway, she and Ushie have a special book of information on private habitaciones and they have been booking ahead. They are helping Truus and me to do the same. Otherwise, I think I would be in misery! Tonight we are in a very nice private double room with a giant window and a great view. Four days to Santiago!
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ventas de Nuna

I am about halfway to Palas de Reis. In the morning we passed through Portomarin. The ancient town is now buried under a reservoir, so the town we saw is relatively new. I must say, it was a refreshing change. It was tastefully rebuilt with modern streets and shops, and I believe they took the old church, stone by stone, and moved it to the top hill of the town. As much as we revere the ancient things, new can be wonderful, too!
There are milestones-or should I say kilometer stones- every half kilometer now, measuring the distance to Santiago. We just past the #77. (I just asked Truus what the number was, and when she said "77" she started to sing 77 Sunset Strip and we reminisced about Cookie and his big hair and getting your kicks on Route 66. Some things are universal!)
The weather has been hot. Everyone when passing, instead of saying "Buen Camino", is saying "Mucho Calor!" This is unusual for rainy, misty Galicia. But then unusual is the norm these days. The photo is of a terrace in Portomarin. Flowers, flowers, everywhere.
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Today we had a beautiful walk out of Sarria through ancient woodlands full of oak and chestnut trees that could easily be a thousand years old. I felt like Treebeard lives here! The numbers of pilgrims on the road has increased exponentially. It is like my 10K walk in Louisville but on country lanes. So, I tried to ignore the crowds and concentrate on the beauty around me that most everyone walking passed me was ignoring. The trees were awesome. Now I understand the song about being "under the spreading chestnut tree!"
I stopped short of Portomarin in a lovely albergue in Mercadoiro. I imagined the hoards and masses all heading for the city and filling up the beds like they did in Sarria, so I decided to grab an empty bed here. The second photo is of the lawn and view from this albergue.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Today's photo is a close-up of one of the many peregrino statues across northern Spain. It was in Leon, but it seems to express how I feel today. Very, very tired. I walked all over Sarria and the albergues were full. Even the cheaper hotels were full. I don't know where my friends are, but they probably got in to town before I did. So, I had to make a great sacrifice, and check in to the Alfonso IX, a 3 star hotel. In the last two nights I have had very bad experiences in albergues with snoring and rude people, so I am enjoying this luxury: my very own bathroom and shower with REAL towels and wee bottles of shampoo and fancy soap and my very own bed with REAL sheets and peace and quiet. Ahhh...
Now I am going to tell you the truth here and I am curious if other pilgrims have had this experience at this point. Once I reached O Cebreiro I knew I could make it to Santiago. Somehow the last few days have felt anti-climactic--just a real "slog". I am so tired of many things. I am tired of thoughtless people in albergues; I am tired of washing clothes in ice cold water; I am tired of bars with dirty restrooms where there is never any toilet paper or paper towels; I am tired of having to be aggressive in bars to get waited on instead of waiting in an orderly line; I am tired of speaking only pidgin English because there are hardly any native English speakers; I am tired of sour-faced Spaniards who are probably tired of peregrinos; I am tired of motorists who seem to be trying to see how close they can get to me without hitting me; I am tired of peregrinos who talk loudly and incessantly on the camino on a beautiful fresh morning when I'd rather hear the birds sing.
OK, since I am a good and grateful pilgrim, I will now tell you what I am NOT tired of: I am not tired of getting up with the sun and stepping out into a new day; I am not tired of seeing the mist on the mountains and the hills spread out like an emerald drapery below me; I am not tired of watching the snails and slugs slowing inch their way across my path; I am not tired of marveling at the creative color schemes of the wildflowers in the fields, or of hearing the tinkling bells on the sheep and cows as the shepherds and farmers drive them along the country roads; I am not tired of walking in the shade of massive Spanish chestnut trees or of eating the cherries that are just in season now; I am not tired of being outside six or more hours a day soaking up the beauty of God's green earth.
So what's wrong? Well, a tune came to mind as I was walking today that I think sums it up. It is the song of the Scottish soldier who is serving in a foreign land far from home. He sings, "because those green hills are not highland hills, oh the island hills--they're not my land's hills. And fair as these green foreign hills may be, they are not the hills of home."
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Monday, June 21, 2010


Enough with the pictures of castles, food and mountain views. Look closely at this picture of a sign in last night's albergue and see if you can figure out what it is trying to tell us. I have seen so many funny ones and now I wish I had made photos of all of them. In one albergue we were strictly forbidden to heal in our rooms: "no food, drink, or healing permitted!" (?)
Tonight we are staying in Triacastela, town of three castles, none of which has survived. The camino is really filling up with new pilgrims. Many start at O Cebreiro and many more will begin at our next stop, Sarria. I find myself guessing by the tan of their legs or the grubbiness of their ruck sacks if they are newbies or veterans. Mercedes said she and Maitreya had stopped at a nice place for a picnic lunch when some pilgrims saw them and said No, no, no! You must not stop! It will just make it worse. You must keep going! The pilgrims giving the advice had just started their camino a half hour ago and were ready to impart their wisdom to these old-timers!
All eyes at every bar are fixed on the world cup games, and that's not just the Spaniards. If Germany or Italy or Brazil are playing, their peregrino fans make a wayside stop or end their day early so as not to miss it. Right now Spain is playing Honduras, so no early bedtime this evening!
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

O Cebreiro

First of all, Happy Fathers' Day to all dads, and especially mine. Alex, remember to be especially nice to your dad today.
Camino lesson #4: Everyone's truth is not the same. We met the Dominican sisters again at a bar in La Faba, one of the small villages on the way to O Cebreiro. As we sat having coffee before the final 4km climb to the top, I asked them how hard the path would be. Mercedes laughed and said, "It depends on who you ask. If you ask one of the people who just got off the bus in Villa Franca, and still has the kitchen and bathroom sinks on their back because they think they need them, it is very hard. If you ask someone who went over the Pyrenees, and has already sent the 5 kilos they realized they didn't need home, it's easy!" With a wave of her hand, she said,"It's easy!" And it wasn't bad at all. I don't know if you can tell by the photo, but the views are magnificent, and we are very lucky to have a clear day to see it all. It is a strange experience to enter the town from a rocky dirt track and come upon a bustling town full of buses and tourists. There are a lot of senior citizens walking around with peregrino staffs and scallops, soon to hop back on the bus and go down the mountain again, I suppose. I asked Maitreya what it is like in Sarria which we will enter in a few days, and is the entry point for many peregrinos who want to walk the minimum distance to get a compostela. She said there will be many "sportifs", people in clubs who are very fit and fresh as cucumbers. She said when they walked the camino in 2007, when she and Mercedes came in to town, one of the "sportifs" got in front of them and started running backwards. He laughed out loud at them, called them "turtles" and asked them if they really thought they would ever get to Santiago. She said it really hurt to be called turtles and she cried on her sister's shoulder. But she is wiser now and doesn't let that stuff bother her anymore.
O Cebreiro is a pilgrimage point in itself. Here is buried the man who was very prominent in bringing the camino back to life. His name is Don Elias Valina Sampedro, and it was his idea to mark the camino with the yellow arrows that have guided us all the way. We will soon go to the church and pay our respects.
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Saturday, June 19, 2010


The photo is of a Spanish style tortilla. My friends thought I was crazy taking a picture of it, but we had a big discussion with Gabriella, my Argentinian-Mexican friend, about it: how it is pronounced in Spain, in Argentina (tortisha), and in Mexico and what it is made of. Here they are giant omelettes full of potatoes. I love them and wish I knew how to make them. Anyway, today was more of the usual routine of stuffing the sleeping bag, filling the water bottle, reviewing the guide book, finding the yellow arrows, walking, stopping for cafe con leche, finding an albergue, washing clothes, etc. All the days and pathways and albergues and castles are swirling and dancing in my head like sugarplums. Yesterday's village seems as far away in time as the one two weeks ago. The only time that seems real is today. The weather is good and we are one day closer to Santiago!
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Friday, June 18, 2010


This monument was placed at the Ponferrada albergue in memory of a Finnish bicyclist who was killed here in 2001. I have seen many such memorials along the way. We just passed a small town where once upon a time you could receive a "mercy compostela" if you were too weak or sick to make it over the Ocebreiro mountain peak. Although not the highest point, it is a very steep slope to climb. We hope to tackle it the day after tomorrow. From there it will be about 100 miles to Santiago. Every day we become more impatient to reach our goal. It is now within our grasp!
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pilgrim Benediction

I just returned from a pilgrim benediction, one of several I have attended over the last month. It is always in an old church and always conducted in as many languages as are represented in the congregation. This particular one had a prayer written by St. Nicholas of Flue. I don't know who he is, but I want to find out because I love this prayer:

My Lord and my God,
Take everything from me that keeps me from Thee.
My Lord and My God,
Give everything to me that brings me nearer to Thee.
My Lord and my God,
Take me away from myself
And give me completely to Thee.
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We made it to Ponferrada, a Templar city where the Templars built a huge castle and basilica. (The photo is of a small portion of the Templar Castillo.) And I'm here to tell you, the Templars live! Yesterday we stopped at a little place called Monjadin where there was an inviting shop with food and trinkets to buy. As I was looking at postcards, a bell was rung, the sound of Ave Maria started resounding from a CD and a "templar" came from a back room, stood in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary, his sword at rest, and began to say the "Our Father" and a peregrino benediction in Spanish. I would have loved to take a picture, but none were allowed. Comforting to know the Templars are still at work protecting us peregrinos.
Tonight we are at a wonderful new albergue. We are separated into a men's and women's area with separate bathrooms. What will they think of next?! There is a great big kitchen, and we decided we were tired of peregrino menus and wanted a homecooked meal. So Truus and I went to a supermercado and bought salad stuff and spaghetti and sauce and some very cheap vino tinto. All for 7 euros. A peregrino menu usually costs about 10 euros each. In the kitchen were many people doing the same, cooking simple meals from their home countries. Inevitably, there was much food left over, and it began to be passed around. A delightful French lady brought out several bags of sausage, cheese, yogurt, bread, and a good bottle of wine. She said she had traveled 2000 kilometers eating Spanish food and bread, bread, bread, and when she went into the supermercado, she could not restrain herself! It was like the loaves and fishes. Such an abundance!
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cruz de Ferro

We reached the Cruz de Ferro mid-morning of a foggy day. My guide book said to go with no expectations or you may be disappointed. Someone else had said it was ugly and people had just dumped trash from their ruck sacks there. I thought about that while I was walking up. A place where humanity unloads burdens and the ugly things of their lives shouldn't be beautiful. We turned a corner and came upon it unexpectedly. As you can see by the photo, the mists where a perfect setting. The feeling was solemn as pilgrims reached into their bags to pull out their long -carried stones and trudged up the mound. I, too, pulled out my little plastic sack which held my symbolic burdens and those of others whom I had promised I would lay at the foot of the cross. As I walked up that hill, I felt a wave of overwhelming emotion. Littering the ground and covering the lower portion of the pole were rocks with farewells written on them, little toys, messages, photographs, and thousands of tokens of unknown pain, sorrow and suffering. I laid my stones down next to a silver scallop shell that I will carry all the way to Santiago and home again. I took this photo and prayed over each one of them as Mercedes, one of the Dominican sisters that I told you about many weeks ago, chanted a Lakota song to the wind. "Lakota energy is good energy," I said to her. "Yes, good energy," she nodded.
We are now in a little town called Acebo, and tomorrow we hope to be in the city of Ponferrada. As we walked down the steep slope from the Cruz, the path was like Zubiri redux--awful and stony --but as we came to a turn in the path, the mist had cleared and a beautiful green valley lay spread out before us with the city of Ponferrada far below, bathed in golden light. A promise of sunshine tomorrow!
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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Rabanal is the small town before we ascend to the highest peak on the camino where the Cruz de Ferro was placed almost a thousand years ago. The ascent is not really too steep because we are already on a high plateau. The weather is bleak, however, and the temperature is predicted to be about 4 degrees Celsius, somewhere in the high 30's tomorrow. But the next day they are predicting sunshine and good weather.
I met up with Truus again, and we just found out that Nora has already climbed the mountain, so we may see her tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have walked with the most delightful young woman who is shown in the photo cutting up with Truus. We have had such fun today with her! Her name is Dilek, a Turkish name that means "wish. " She is Turkish-German, and we really are simpatico when it comes to things spiritual. She is really funny, too!
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Monday, June 14, 2010


Advice to future peregrinos: never plan to arrive in Astorga on Monday. This delightful town houses all kinds of interesting stuff from the most beautiful and well-preserved cathedral to a "Bishop's Palace", shown in the photo, that looks like a fairy-tale palace and houses a camino museum with tons of historical information on the history of the camino. And all of it is closed on Monday! I am on a strict timetable now and must be in Rabinal, a 21km walk tomorrow, or I would stay and see the sights. Oh, well, next time I'll plan better.
The day after Rabinal I will reach the Cruz de Ferro, the iron cross that marks the highest point on the Camino Frances, even higher than the peak of the Pyrenees. A few days after that we will enter the provinces of Galicia. I will be about a hundred miles from my goal. I can now believe that I will actually do this impossible thing, and like The Man of La Mancha, reach the unreachable star.
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hospital de Orbigo

This is a terrible photo of a famous bridge, Puente de Orbigo in the beautiful little town that was a major hospital for pilgrims in medieval times. It is one of the longest and oldest medieval bridges in Spain and it is a landmark on the Camino, but it is undergoing renovation right now. We just missed the fiesta de Justas where the town does a medieval reenactment and you can see the field in the photo where the jousting took place. It reenacts a famous jousting tournament in 1434 when a knight from Leon named Don Suero de Quinones, scorned by a lady, felt that his honor could be redeemed by defending the bridge against all comers. 300 broken lances later, apparently his honor was redeemed. I do not understand this any more than I understand letting bulls loose in the streets of a town to run after drunken young men. Perhaps some males could explain it to me. At any rate, this episode may have been the inspiration for Cervantes' Don Quixote who tilted at windmills for the love of Dulsinea. My SCA friends would drool at this setting for reenactments. It is a well-preserved medieval village.
To switch subjects, now, I want to try to describe to you what it is like to sit down and eat a "peregrino menu" with fellow pilgrims in a restaurant or albergue. Around the table is an assortment of humanity. Last night we had an Argentinian-Mexican, two Quebecoises, a Spaniard, a German, a Swiss man, a Turkish-German, and an American (me). You may ask how on earth we had table talk. Most spoke a little English and a little Spanish, and when there was a problem of understanding, the Swiss man, who spoke English, French, German, and Spanish, would translate as necessary. Believe me, we had a lively conversation! This is the magic of the Camino. It doesn't matter what your profession or position is in your life at home. You could be a banker, a judge, a butcher, or a student at a university. You are all pilgrims, peregrinos, and that is all that matters. That and the (usually unanswerable) question: why are you walking the Camino?
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Saturday, June 12, 2010


I was going to go to the pilgrim mass at the cathedral at 7:30 before leaving Leon, but I got there early and, not being willing to wait 20 minutes before hitting the road, I decided to just take a picture for you before heading out of town. I had spent a few hours in the cathedral yesterday, praying and thinking and admiring the amazing artistry of the human hand in the stained glass, the frescos, and the sculptures, but the churches here give me an overwhelming sadness. Maybe a few of the artisans did their work to the glory of God, but mostly these churches, and especially the cathedrals, seemed to have been built to the glory of kings, queens, bishops, and conquerors of one sort and another. All trying to gain immortality in this world, puffed up with importance, but ultimately, like all of us, our bodies at least, just dust in the wind. And where in all this earthly splendor are the teachings of that gentle rabbi, Jesus? He who taught us to simply love God and each other and not concern ourselves with earthly treasures? Oh yes, you can find a gruesome crucifixion scene or two. But the living Christ I do not find. In all of the Spain that I have seen, and admittedly this is limited, the churches are museums struggling to maintain their ancient walls, most busy for a wedding or funeral, attended on Sunday by a few old women and men. I have seen one newly built church which startled me into noticing that I had seen no other. Then I think of our little church in Brandenburg, bursting with life and bustling with energy almost every day of the week, busy with people about their Father's business. What a contrast! I put two photos here, one of the Rose window of the cathedral, (truly gorgeous on the inside with the light shining through). And one of the graffiti that was directly across the street that the travel posters never show. I was glad to get back into the countryside and the wee villages! One more little thing to tell you that made my heart glad: as I walked through a village I met a man with a huge scythe over his shoulder strolling in from the fields. He smiled when he saw me and said, "Vene a Santiago?" When I nodded and said, "Si," he held his palm out, checking for rain and looking up at the sky. (It was sputtering rain.) "Poco a poco," he said. "Si, poco a poco, little by little," I nodded. That's how you get there.
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Friday, June 11, 2010


I sat down to map out a realistic itinerary to Santiago last night. My guide book regularly has 25 and 30km days which are just not feasible for me. I want to get to Santiago no later than June 30th because it may take 2-5 days to find my way home on standby and my son may be coming home from Iraq on leave as early as the 5th of July. No way do I want to miss that homecoming! So I decided to take a train through the industrial sections of Leon as I had done for Burgos, and this will enable me to make that goal. I was able to see the cathedral and basilica in Leon.(The stained glass windows in the cathedral were breathtaking.) But my heart is just not in the cities and I am very excited to soon be in Galicia. The photo was taken outside a bar in Leon. I thought it was an interesting contrast of peregrino and football fan marketing. Capitalism makes strange bedfellows sometimes! Speaking of capitalism, we had an actual fast food American style lunch today. Not in McDonald's although there was a Micky D's in town (advertising McAuto which is, I guess, a drive-through). It was like a Subway but with Spanish style bread. You actually went through a line and paid for it and got a Coke and French Fries--fast! Sooo American! It downright made me homesick. Seriously, I am homesick. Being away from my home country and my hometown gives me such a different perspective on my roots. And I'm not just talking about fast food. But that story can wait until I get home.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010


Thus speaketh the prophetess OranMor: "O, people of the Land of Lincoln, here thou my words, I beseech thee. Have gratitude in thine heart for the machines of washing and drying. Take them not for granted. For I say unto thee there are those in other lands who have not these things, and when the time is ripe that the Lord doth send the rain, woe is unto them, for their clothing dryeth not. And also I say unto thee, praise the officials of thy land for the free public restrooms that dot thy landscape, for verily I tell thee that in foreign lands also there are none to be found. Consider, too, the wonder of vehicles with circular devices, for even though thou hast the blessed gift of feet to move thee where thou wouldst, to these vehicles a day's walk is but a few swift minutes. Again I say, be not a stiff-necked people! Incline thine head and give thanks, for thou art greatly blessed." Thus spake the prophetess...
What was that? Was I hearing voices, or was it just the endless wind of the Meseta? The photo was taken from the albergue where I stayed last night. This is the Meseta, the plains of Northern Spain. The rain was all over Spain today, but especially on the plain! And the forecast is for another week of it. I walked for seven hours and 22km in driving wind and rain. Many pilgrims took taxi's today. An hour into my walk I was telling myself I can't do this again. I can't possibly walk through this for the next week. I envisioned different scenarios for giving up and going home. But then I remembered the prayer on the patch on my rucksack that Natalie gave me. "I pray for whatever you send me, and I ask to receive it as your gift." I said those words again, and thought perhaps this rain was a gift, easier to handle than the hot sun. Although I was wet, my feet were comfortable and my core was warm, and my Tilley hat was keeping the rain off my head as well as it had kept the sun off. A kind of peace settled over me, and I knew I would have the strength to do whatever was needed. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Today I passed Terradillos, the halfway point of my pilgrimage.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Calzadilla de Cueza

Since it rained all day and there wasn't much in the way of scenery, I didn't take any pictures today. But here is one of a T-shirt I saw in a shop that all peregrinos can identify with. We have had some "dolor" today. Rain is probably better than hot sun on the Meseta, but still it depresses your spirits when you reach the albergue wet and cold. And who would think we would be unhappy that we can't wash our clothes because there is no place to hang them to dry? Such a little thing! The forecast is for more of the same for the rest of the week. We did have perfect weather up until now, though, so no complaints!
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Carrion de las Condes

I walked about 25 kilometers today; that's 16 miles to my reckoning. The skies were mercifully overcast which helped immensely, but it is a known fact that they make the last 5km longer than the first 5 in Spain! I am staying in an actual nunnery tonight, an albergue provided by the Order of St. Clare or Santa Clara, companion of St. Francis. As I was checking in, there was a camera crew filming something about the Camino, and the Spanish hospitalero and I had to redo the checking in scene three times, where he was fake-stamping my credential and explaining about how they have a microwave and where to wash your clothes. There I was dead on my feet, anxious to find a place to flop down, smiling and exclaiming about their wonderful amenities three times over. Hey, I had to come all the way to Spain to get my big break in the movies! Tomorrow there are reports of possible thunderstorms on the Meseta. I don't mind rain, but lightening on the plains--maybe not so good a place to be walking. We'll just have to wait and see what the morning brings.
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Monday, June 7, 2010


Two photos are attached today, one of the view from the top of the last hill we will climb until after Leon when we enter Galicia. The other is a view of the outside of the loveliest albergue yet. I want our backyard to look like this! Right now we are sitting there discussing our future plans. Truus and Nora had a hard time today on the Meseta and are talking about taking the bus to Leon. As far as I am concerned, that is not an option for me. I also have a deadline to be getting home, with my granddaughters coming to visit at the end of the month, so I need to start lengthening my walking day, if possible. It will mean getting up earlier and getting more kilometers under my belt before the heat of the day. So I am afraid I will have to part from my friends and turn over a new leaf in the book of my Camino adventures. Every day we face the unknown on the Camino, not knowing what the path will be like, what new people we will meet, where or how pleasing the food or the bed will be. We just go in faith that it will all work out. I ask again for your prayers on the Meseta, that I will be strong and able to cross it without tiring too much, and be able to find accommodations after a long day. Gracias!
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Sunday, June 6, 2010


We had a beautiful day for walking. The sky was overcast and the air was fresh--perfect walking weather. Some say the Meseta is the most beautiful part of the camino. Others say it is boring. I will hold off judgment for now, but this day we had a level walking path, sky as big as Montana's and birdsong everywhere. The overcast sky and the treeless rolling hills reminded me of the Scottish moors and the green waves of grain reminded me of Meade County. Then we came into a pretty little town with a castle ruin on a hill. The photo is of a magical spring we passed on the way at San Bol. The saying is that if you put your feet in the spring, all your foot problems will be healed. As it was a bit nippy and I didn't have any foot problems at the moment (milagro) I passed up the offer. We also passed through an old pilgrim hospital at San Anton. They say that the nuns there were able to cure the gangrenous malady called St. Antony's Fire by using the power of love. I believe in that.
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Saturday, June 5, 2010


We reached this town 20km outside of Burgos and the albergue is full. However they have an overflow room down the street and I get to sleep in a top bunk. 14 beds in a space the size of a normal bedroom. Two showers down the street for everyone-- about 30 men and women. And a place to hang the wash. What more could a pilgrim want? The photo is a view from my bunkbed. Time to go shower...
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Friday, June 4, 2010


It is true confession time. For those of you who made pledges of money per mile of walking, you now have 15 miles less to pay. We decided to take a bus to Burgos, avoiding the hills and the long and dusty path through the industrial suburbs of the city. Truus's back and Nora's feet needed a rest, and I also felt the need for a break before tackling the Meseta. We spoke with pilgrims who made the walk. (Many take the bus through this section, and there is talk of creating an alternate route it is so bad.) They all agreed it was grueling and exhausting.
So we are in the big city, experiencing "normal life" for a while. The Spanish lifestyle is so different. Even in the city, shops promptly close for siesta from 2:00 to 5:00. After that the streets slowly come awake again and by 8:00 the streets and plazas are teeming with teenagers, mothers and children, old women dressed elegantly, old men having lively conversations, the bars and restaurants full of chattering friends and families. It is the place to meet and relax together late into the night.
We went to visit the cathedral, and spent several hours there. It is under major renovation and the costs must be enormous, even as it was when first being built. The photo is of Santiago Matamoros, St. James the Moor Slayer. You can see some Moors under the foot of his horse. He always seemed to appear in battles where the Spaniards were winning in the reconquest of Spain from the Moors. This is how he became the patron saint of Spain. Interesting thing is, the reign of the Moors in Spain was a golden era of tolerance and a flowering of science and the arts.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010


We had a pretty short walk today of only about 15km. We found a luxurious albergue hidden behind a fine hotel and so far only about 8 women have arrived. The other pilgrims may have all stopped at the main one, so we might have it all to ourselves. The first photo is taken from the second floor window of an albergue: a typical scene as pilgrims start their day, wishing each other "buen camino", and then setting off at their own pace. The second photo is of the terrace at our "secret" albergue. We had cerveses and ensalada mixt there a few hours ago. Now is siesta time. We must prepare for the morrow-- three tall peaks to reach before descending to San Juan de Ortega. This town's name, Villafranca, came from the French peregrinos who returned to settle here after their pilgrimage; immigrants who liked what they saw and came to stay. The Montes de Oca which we will climb tomorrow, were once the wild habitat of bandits who would prey on the pilgrims passing through. Hopefully, times are better now. The only bandits around these days are the ones charging outrageous prices for bottled water!
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Circuena/Villamajor del Rio

I was out of internet range yesterday, so there is much to tell you. The first photo is of a bicyclist take a long drink at the fuente at the top of a long hill to the town of Circuena. All of us were exhausted at the top and the fuente was like an oasis to us. But our reward was a great view. As we entered the town, however, we found a ghost town of modern condos and a deserted golf course, victim of the financial downturn, no doubt. We were too tired to think of going to Santo Domingo, so we sought out the single aulbergue in town. Lesson #3:
Never judge by first impressions. The albuergue had a distinctly rundown look and a "cat" smell in the foyer. The hospitalero was a man who at first seemed a bit strange. I thought, well, a pilgrim is grateful for a roof and a bed, and we'll just make do. But it turned out to be a gem of an evening. Roberto (I'll call him, for I never asked his name) made us wonderful lentil stew in his humble kitchen and served it up in rustic wooden bowls with piles of bread and generous bottles of good wine. The peregrinos who gathered were French, Quebecoise, Australian, and German, and we had a lively conversation, finished off by nuts and fruit for dessert. But best of all, Roberto invited us to the little village church for a peregrino benediction at 8:00. Imagine our surprise when he himself arrived to unlock the door and lead the benediction himself. My heart went out to this man who was attempting to keep alive the old hospitality traditions in this dying town. Thank you, kind sir!
The following morning we left extra early to get to Santo Domingo for what I loosely call breakfast. As we sat down at an outside table at a bar in Santo Domingo, a milagro (miracle) occurred: I felt a tap on my shoulder and there stood Nora whom I had left many days ago in Los Arcos. How could this be? Although I had prayed for a camino miracle, I really felt I would never see her again. She would always be far behind even if she continued, I thought. But there she stood, many pounds lighter in her pack, feeling great and just having walked a full 21km. What are the odds that we would meet in the streets of Santo Domingo? As we screamed and hugged in disbelief, Nora shook her head and said, "Magic!" So, now we walk together, us three, and the second photo is of Truus and Nora writing in their journals at the albuergue in Villamajor del Rio.
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Sunday, May 30, 2010


We walked a short day and arrived in Najera about noon. This is quite a large town on a river and it seemed everyone was out for a Sunday stroll along the banks, lying in the shade or having cafe con leche at tables outside the bars. Sorry to call them bars because that has a certain connotation in America that is not quite right here. A bar is where you go for a glass of wine or beer, but also for coffee or a juice drink, or to eat a light meal. It is the meeting place of a town, a place to sit and talk for a long while. The photo shows a welcoming sign for peregrinos to stop and rest, and spend some money! And we did!
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We left Logrono this morning and it seemed to take for ever to get out of the city, through the suburbs and industrial parks. We had to walk a long way alongside a major highway. The city was so jarring after days of walking in the peaceful countryside. The photo shows a fence that separates the camino from the freeway where peregrinos have fashioned thousands of crosses from whatever is at hand and put them on the fence. So, of course I had to do the same. We are now in the little town of Ventosa in a beautifully restored albergue. Tomorrow I will take pictures of it. My friend, Truus, has had a bad fall today, and we are thinking of taking an easy day tomorrow and just going 10 km to Najera and getting a real private room for a day and relaxing. Camino veterans always recommend this and I think I need a day's break. We have another couple of German boys in our room tonight. I swear I should have studied German instead of Spanish!
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Friday, May 28, 2010


Don't you love the Spanish style doghouse in the photo? This scene was at the entrance to the town of Logrono. We are officially 395 miles to Santiago. It still seems impossibly far away. I am now traveling with a 64 year old Dutch woman. We keep meeting up with two delightful sisters who are from Dominican Republic but living in the US. They have walked the camino before, and they say they are walking this time in honor of the Black Madonna and asking for her help for them to start a school in DR. They are so much fun and know the best places for food and lodging. Everywhere they go they spread joy and laughter. I spoke with the older sister called Mercedes about her last camino. She is full of wisdom about the spiritual aspects of the walk. She said many people quit at Burgos. The contrast of being in the huge city and all its temptations causes many to question why they are doing this and they just go home. Burgos is about a week away. Today was the first day of overcast weather. There had been rain last night and the skies were cloudy. It was nice and cool for walking and never did rain but a few drops. It was also the first time we were turned away from an albergue because it was full. We found another one, but we are seeing more and more pilgrims on the roads. Lodging may become more of a challenge in the next few weeks.
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Torres del Rio

This little town is probably not on many maps, but tomorrow I should pass through Logrono, and a hundred miles or so along my journey. It has been gorgeous walking. The road was mostly smooth and winding through verdant fields of wheat and barley as well as endless vineyards and olive groves. But it has been a really sad day for me as I had to make the decision to leave my camino friend and walking companion in Los Arcos. As I was becoming stronger each day, it was becoming more difficult for her. She had a very heavy pack which I encouraged her to lighten by sending things home. We have had a few short walking days already, and Nora felt she had to stop after only 14 km. She felt she had to be careful of her heart. I had to decide if I should stay with her as she encouraged me to go on. I knew if I were to have any hope of reaching my goal in the timeframe I have, I had to move on. I did so with a heavy heart. I wish I had a photo of her to share with you, but they are all on the camera. I forget to get out the Blackberry at the important moments! So, again the camino is like life. People come and go, and we must value the moments we have with them.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I am humbled by all your comments and good wishes. I would like to answer each one but am limited in megabites, so will have to send out a general THANKS! This is a photo of me at the Irache Bodega or vineyards where the owners have been so kind as to have an open tap of their wine for peregrinos. They also have a web cam of all the folks who stop by so they can make sure there is no abuse of the privilege and so you might be able to see us indulge in a taste of excellent Rioja vino. Go to We had a beautiful day. You must be praying hard for good weather for us. We are now at an albergue at a little town on a hill called Villamajor de Monjardin. It is a donativo albergue which means we pay what we can and what seems right. It is quite primitive. There are 18 mattresses on a platform. A German man lies to my right, Nora to my left, a Brazilian boy beyond her. There are two other Americans here, two sisters from the Dominican Republic, a few Frenchmen, an Austrian, assorted Spaniards and Italians. We communicate with each other in a polyglot of what one pilgrim called "peregrino talk." It includes a lot of hand gestures! I don't believe I have ever taken out my Spanish phrase book. It is marvelous!
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Eating and Lodging

Several of you have asked about my food and accomodations, so here goes: The food has gotten much better the last few days. In the mountains, it seemed that all we had to eat was meat and potatoes, lots of potatoes. The food actually has been wonderful as we get into wine country, the Rioja area. The Spanish don't go in for breakfast much. Coffee with lots of milk and some bread or a croissant. It is just as well because you do not want to hit the road with a heavy stomach. Sometimes I will buy a bocadilla, a sandwich with bread like a French loaf, with some jamon, a kind of ham, and some fruit to take with me. But many times I am not very hungry. I have gone from 7:30 to 4:30 without hunger, only thirst. One blogger pilgrim said the Camino is a walking prayer and fasting, and she is right. We head for an albergue which is a special lodging place for pilgrims. Many times it is in an old monestery or church, or even an actual pilgrim hospital as they were called, where they have been lodging pilgrims for hundreds of years. Sometimes it is wonderful, as it was at Arre before Pamplona, and sometimes not so great. But always, there are bunkbeds and a mix of men and women from bunk to bunk. This is no place for modesty. After we arrive, we usually fall onto the bunk and sleep for an hour or two, then get up and wash and hang clothes to dry in the sun. There will be a special pilgrim meal at the albergue or somewhere in the town, at a special price. Some meals are great, others pretty bad. But a pilgrim humbly accepts what is offered. And it helps that the price always includes wine. There, too, sometimes fabulous, other times very cheap.
Someone asked how high the Mount of Perdon was. It was 2590 feet up. A molehill compared to the Pyrenees peak at 4757. I have walked about 50 miles, with about 450 to go. I met an English woman who had walked the camino about ten years ago. She said we will get stronger as we go and will soon be able to walk 50 kilometers easily. Right now 15 kilometers is hard. Not so hard on a level paved road, but on these paths many times it is like walking on a dry creek bed. So, we will see. Right now I am on a free internet at the albergue, and it is time for me to get off. It is a challenge using the keyboard. Everything is different. So, back to the Blackberry.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Puenta la Reina

Mission Accomplished! We took the hill. The ascent to Alta del Perdon was not bad at all. I can feel myself growing stronger each day. When we reached the top we could see windmills for miles all around us. The picture shows me at the iconic metal sculptures of peregrinos. I have another picture in my camera of cabelleros and their cabellos tethered to the sculptures. What a great feeling! The descent was not as bad as I had feared. My knee was fine. It just needed a day of (relative) rest. I finally met some Americans! A man from Santa Rosa, CA, and his 80 year old professor dad (like Indiana Jones) and a young man from LA with his side kick Mexican American friend, who was complaining about his back and feet. The young man (I didn't get his name but hopefully I'll see him again) was shaking his head about Colon. "He doesn't understand, it's all a mind game, man." I said to Colon, "don't call it pain, it's just an interesting sensation." Colon wanted to call a company that carried your mochilas for you. "My back hurts, man," he said.
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cizur Menor

Today's walk was just about 11 kilometers along city streets through Pamplona to the outskirts and a quiet little albergue in Cizur Menor. I have found a walking companion in Nora from Heidelberg. She used to climb the Himalayas until she had a stroke and is determined to do the Camino for a comeback. There are so many stories along the Camino: Compostela Tales, with a nod to Chaucer. The old town of Pamplona is very run-down. But then why would you want to fix it up when you have a herd of bulls and very drunk men tear through it every year? What Disney could do with this place...just kidding. Well, tomorrow we tackle the Alto del Perdon, the Mount of Forgiveness. We had a pilgrim mass this morning, and I stopped in a church in Pamplona to pray, for good measure. Your prayers will be appreciated, too, as Nora and I seek penance at the top of the mount in the photo. I hope to send a better photo from the top tomorrow!
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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Almost to Pamplona- Trinidad de Arre

I learned something today: lesson #2, there is no "easy day" on the camino. Just because the way doesn't go way up or down, has nothing to do with the smoothness of the path! I experienced many kindnesses along the way and begin to see familiar faces over and over. Helga shared her bocadilla with me when there was no open bar for a meal. A Spanish man talked an official into stamping my credentiale, even though they were closed. I was even able to be a "camino angel" when I found a wallet on the path and was able to return it to a grateful bicyclist. You should have seen his happy face! The photo is of a picturesque ancient bridge leading to a church which has cared for peregrinos for many centuries. It is so peaceful here in the courtyard.
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Friday, May 21, 2010

To Zubiri

Zubiri is a modern town supporting a Magnetite factory close by. Nothing special, but I was extremely happy to see it. The last two miles of my day's journey was like my imagination of purgatory. Imagine descending the path below with an extremely sore knee for about three hours. Tomorrow should be a fairly easy day to Pamplona. I think I deserve it!
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Thursday, May 20, 2010


Photos of the Pyrenees will have to wait. They are all on my camera. Here is a picture of the College of Santa Maria in Roncesvalles.

To Roncesvalles

It just about killed me. 29 km, all of it up except about 6 km. And down wasn't exactly a picnic. But the scenery was "to die for". The mountains reminded me of the Great Glen in Scotland. Sheep and horses and cattle dotted the hillsides and always one of the group had a bell on, so the air was always filled with the sound of bells. In my life I will never forget this day

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

St. Jean Pied de Port-the Journey Begins

I arrived at the St Jean Pied de Port station and walked with a bunch of pilgrims into town, looking for the Pilgrims information place. I soon had my credential, a scallop shell, and a room. The town is ancient, but very lively. I have met an Italian woman and an Irishman who has ridden his bike from Holland. I was actually able to help some non-French speakers to be understood. It is a struggle to try to understand a foreign language constantly, but thrilling when you succeed. Tomorrow will be a tough day. Pray for good weather. Bon soir.