A Travel-Blog

For friends, family and anybody who may be interested in our adventure. Welcome!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Leon street

The streets come alive at night

Leon cathedral is spectacular (this doesn't do it justice)

A few too many guideposts?

We´re in Leon now, and luxuriating in a pension with our own room and bath- in the room, no less! And they have a computer with a USB port. And it´s pretty fast! What´s not to like? There´s been little walkinig today, as we took the bus into Leon to bypass the 11 miles of walking alongside the highway. It didn´t sound at all appealing and we wanted to give our feet a bit of a rest anyway. It´s been wonderful to wear Crocs all day instead of our walking shoes. The weather is gorgeous and Leon is beautiful. The cathedral is reputed to be the loveliest in Spain with 125 large stained glass windows filling the already stunning space with light and color. It truly is a wonder to behold. I´ve inserted a photo, although maybe if you Google it you will get a better idea of what it´s like. It´s called the Santa Maria Cathedral.
                                          Jed shares the road with a bicycle
                                          This humble grocery store was only open for 2 hours each afternoon. We loved the friendly proprietor, who treated us to some olives as we shopped for groceries- prosciutto, olives, baguette, pears, and chocolate. Great picnic fare for the road.
The best stork sighting of the trip. You can see 2 nests and 6 storks. The one on the left is carrying our new grandson.

Our German friends, Marco and Berndt, hanging their wash out to dry (part of a Pilgrim´s daily routine)

                           Jed´s feet got lots of attention from Emil and Johannes at the albergue

                                          Leaving town and trudging up the hill to the meseta

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Factoids and Observations

Pilgrim sculpture

A coffee stop

Courtyard at "Laura's" albergue
Did you know that storks don´t have a voice, and therefore communicate by clacking their beaks? I googled storks because we´re seeing so many of them these days. Fascinating birds-and huge!

We´ve had a taste of being the minority who only speak Englsish. It´s good for us, I think, to experience the alienation that many people feel when they can´t communicate in their native language. A couple nights ago at dinner at the albergue there was a French speaking table, another for the Germans, one for the Italians and one for the Spaniards. Then there were just Jed and I at another table until we were joined by a Brit and an Israeli. They turned out to be great company. The Israeli, David, was able to tell us a lot about the struggles in the middle East. Then, last night we learned about growing up in east Berlin from our friends Marco and Bernd, whom we´ve hooked up with in nearly every destination town for at least a week. It´s weird to think that if the Berlin wall hadn´t come down they wouldn´t have been allowed to travel here.

The towns and the landscape have been a bit boring the last couple days. This region doesn´t have stone for building, so the buildings are the old (and generally delapidated) adobe, or newer brick. The "Peregrino Menu" is also getting tiresome. It´s reasonably priced (about $13 each including wine) but the choices rarely vary -only the quality of the preparation. Even with good preparation, it´s generally bland and tasteless. Tonight we´ll try to find some tapas, as we´re in a somewhat larger town, and that might just be possible. Tomorrow we´ll be in Leon, and we´ll celebrate with a hotel room and a non-pilgrim meal.

The feet are getting much better, thank you very much. Mine have been good for several days and Jed says today was a turning point for him. We´re optimistic that the worst problems from now on will be the standard weary feet that are eager to slip into a comfy pair of Crocs at the end of a long day.

Yesterday was our halfway point for the Camino. We are now on the ¨downhill¨side, with less than 240 miles to go. This afternoon we met a young woman from Toronto who has been walking from France and will log over 1000 miles by the time she reaches Santiago. Hard for me to fathom why anybody would do that, especially since the less traveled parts offer much less by way of lodging and compànionship.

Tonight´s accommodations turned out to be much better than expected. We´re in a large albergue, but the hostelier, Laura, blessed us with a private room! It´s really just 2 single beds in a hallway, but it´s pure luxury not to be in a dorm with bunk beds. Ther are lots of new faces here, but many we recognize as well. Every evening is a kind of reunion with people we´ve met along the way. They say the Camino gets under your skin, and this is one of the reasons why, I think.

Well, Jed´s up from his nap and now he´s hungry. Walk, sleep, eat, sleep, walk, eat, sleep.......

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy to be Here

A spare and lovely landscape

Pruned plane tree; a unique and clever example

Look who's in the window of this straw bale house!

We arrived at this albergue about an hour ago, and I find myself thankful for the little things- a great hot shower, a plug in the link (to wash out a few clothes), a clothesline that has vacant space, and a small room with just 4 beds- none of them bunk beds. In addition, our roommates are a couple German guys we´ve been leap frogging for nearly the whole time we´ve been walking. We feel we know them, although their English is limited and our German more so. Somehow we make ourselves understood and we like each other. We´re all pretty happy with this place. The bathroom is co-ed, which has been typical, but at least the showers have opaque doors. We were in one albergue where the doors were transparent. That was a bit much for this uptight American. Speaking of Americans, we have now officially met 3 Americans. One was a woman from Hawaii who just moved to France. The other two were a nice couple who were born in Korea but have lived in the US for about 40 years. They live near LA.

One of the more common topics of conversation a step beyond ¨where are you from and where did you start walking and are you planning to go all the way to Santiago??¨is Why are you walking the Camino? Many people do it for the cultural experience (as we are), but there are many other reasons. A 54 year old woman from Spain is giving up on her dream of adopting a child from Russia after 5 years and about $16,000 invested in futility; an Australian woman is dealing with the tragic death of her son and the loss of her husband to Alzheimers; a Danish woman lost her husband to stomach cancer a year ago just as they were completing a boat they were building to sail around the world; a Dutch woman is on her own after leaving a husband who can´t seem to give up alcohol. Then there are some who are looking for changes in career or meaningful activity in their retirement. We also met a French couple who were walking the Camino to celebrate 40 years of marriage. Just yesterday we met two 30 something people from Berlin who met on the Camino and can´t seem to walk half a mile without stopping to smooch. Pretty sweet.

For the past week there have been many Spaniards on the Camino, as most of them have the week off for Easter. It´s been interesting and fun having them älong, but it puts some strain on the accommodations. Gives us a little taste of what it must be like in summer.

I think I may be able to add some pictures from this computer. I´ll try that later. For now, Adios.

OK; I´m back, and I´ve been trying for 20 minutes to download pictures. The computer keeps freezing up. Not only that, but I can´t get on to Comcast to check e-mail. It doesn´t help that all the error messages, etc are in Spanish. I´m giving up for now. I think I´ll check Google to learn a bit more about the storks that live atop the church bell towers in these parts. I have 16 more minutes of computer time, so I can learn quite a lot, I think!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anticipating Easter

Our favorite church (in Fromista)

Jed balances 2 coffees and a goodie

Camino waypost

Shepherd and flock

One of our very favorite albergues
Day 16 of the camino.....tomorrow is Easter and that´s a really big deal in these parts. Not to sound too sacreligious, but we were concerned about finding stores and cafes closed, so I just returned from the only little grocery store I could find with our provisions. Got olives (love those Spanish olives!), cheese, peanuts, chocolate bar, an apple and an orange. We´re pretty sure we can score a baguette in the morning.

Today´s walk was almost flat, and not too difficult (17 miles), so we took it easy and stopped for coffee and "refrescos" in little villages along the way. We also saw a wonderful little 11th century church, our favorite of the dozens we´ve seen thus far. Many stork sightings too- they build enormous nests atop the bell towers of many churches. Jed is still nursing blisters, I´m pretty sure I´m done with that (I can only hope!) We hope Jed is in recovery mode by tomorrow. Many miles yet to go! Tomorrow we should achieve the mid point of our walk- about 250 miles.

Gotta go. 2 minutes on the clock., and people waiting for the computer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Six ingredients necessary for the Çamino and one more

Albergue in Tosantos (where we saw the "six ingredients")
1.  Silence - listen to nature around you and to your inner self
2.  Don´t hurry
3.  Be alone
4.  Effort-let´s not make it comfortable
5. It is good to feel hunger and thirst-domination of the spirit over the physical
6.  Gratuity-Awareness of all things that are free-sunshine, smiles, friendship.  Some albergues are religious base, and ask only for donations, rather than a specific charge

Bonus-Roman Art-Enjoy the 8th-10th century Roman architecture.  Realize that overzealous cleaning can remove the essence of history contained in the ancient roads, walls, buildings, etc. 

This list was posted in Spanish in an old albergue run by a religious order, written by a priest who passed through here on the Camino many years ago.  The man in charge was a very kindly soft spoken man of God volunteer from Belgium who tended to my feet when he heard about the pain i was suffering.  I was truly moved with his compassion , and when we left the following am, I said, ´"we´ll be talking about you all day"
He laughed and replied "remember the rule of silence"


Blogging from Burgos

The Burgos Cathedral; a bit ungainly, but impressive in its age and size

Entering Burgos in the rain (avenue lined with plane trees)
Rain and hail just before Atapuerca

A late afternoon scene

Misty landscape
Burgos, Spain. I can´t say I knew a thing about it, but it´s a wonderful lively old city with an incredible cathedral begun in 1221 a.d. and finished some 500 years later. It´s unbelievably huge and incredibly ornate Quite a thing to behold- inside and out. The area around it is filled with open plazas and restaurants and shops in historic buildings. Very very nice ambience.

We began the morning in an abergue about 14 miles away in a town called Atapuerca, where the remains of the oldest documented human remains were recently uncovered (we didn't see them...). We arrived there last night soaking wet, as the skies opened and dumped hail and rain when we were about half a mile from town. No problem, an hour later we had showered and changed and were enjoying a beer at the restaurant across the street. The restaurant was soon flooded with pilgrims and the poor proprietor was frantically trying to feed the hungry masses. He was working alone because he said that the last few days had produced only a few pilgrim customers, so he was not expecting the influx. In true pilgrim style, everybody was in good humor and happy to wait for service. It was obvious the poor guy was doing all he could. Eventually his wife arrived to help out. It was a most enjoyable evening.

So...this morning´s weather was mist but not raining. Nice walking weather. We walked about 7 miles to a town where we could catch a bus to Burgos. What???? A BUS?????? I know it sounds like cheating, but the last 7 miles into Burgos runs along a highway in an industrial are and then unintersting commercial sections outside the old town. We- and many other peregrinos- thought it made more sense to save our feet for exploration of the town itself. Having seen the route now, we don´t regret our choice at all.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Old man in Granon

Our sleeping quarters in Granon

Communal dinner in Granon

A modern albergue the night before 

approaching town

I guess you could say we are procrastinating resuming the walk, as we are still suffering from blisters and sore feet. We had lunch and a coffee, hit the bank machine, and now found an internet cafe. We only have 5 mies to go to reach our destination, but each step is painful. We are maintaining our 15 mile a day minimum, and all is going reasonably well (except the feet). Last night we stayed in the abbey part of an old (still active) church. We slept on the floor on mats, and had a communal dinner with about 25 other pilgrims. Jed and I both slept very well, surprisingly.

The terrain has changed from vineyards to wheat fields. We are also out of Basque country, so all signs are now in Spanish. The weather is still just glorious, mostly clear and warm but not too hot. We start out with jackets and strip down to shorts and t shirts by the afternoon. We´re trying to be diligent with the hats and sunscreen.

We are finding that some of the pilgrims-espicially solo walkers- have some pretty heavy reasons for doing the walk. Divorce, marital problems, career changes, death of loved ones, etc. It´s sad to hear their stories and we hope they find what they´re looking for on the Camino. Sometimes we feel a bit shallow to be doing this just for the exercise and the experience.

Again, no possibilities for posting photos from this computer, so I think I´ll wrap this up and we´ll drag our sorry asses back to the road.  BTW, there are huge storks  in huge nests at the top of the cathedral. So cool!

Buen Camino!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pictures! A Few of my Favorites...

Pilgrim sculpture on a hilltop

Flock of sheep in the road

Sign in Basque and Spanish

A wall "deconstructed"; all kinds of materials found beneath crumbling plaster

A Gaudi building in Astorga
Farm building
Yard art in St. John Pied de Port

buen camino

Example of a bunkroom

Typically, we remove our shoes outside the rooms

One of several memorials to fallen pilgrims

We and our shadows
Buen Camino!
That´s the greeting we give and receive dozens of times a day as peregrinos (pilgrims) walking along the Camino de Santiago de Compstella.  Townfolk and countryfolk, as well as fellow pilgrims use this salutation. 
I´ll give you a typical day in the life of a peregrino...starting with wakeup at about 6 AM as fellow bedmates begin to arise and move about the usually cramped quarters.  The albergues require us to be gone by 8, so some can pack their belongings and be gone before daylight, while others use the communal kitchen to prepare breakfast and lunch for the road.  This is day 9 for us, and we´re usually walking by 7 30, and try to find a panadera for coffee and croissant before walking.  So far we´ve found that we walk through about 3 towns, hamlets or burgs a day, so we´ll walk for about 2 or three hours before finding a place where we can grab another bite.  If we´re lucky, we´ll pass through a town sometime around mid day, where we can sit down and eat a meal.  Otherwise it´s what we've bought in a grocery.  By mid afternoon we´re quite weary and anxiously looking at our guidebook map for a place to spend the night.  We´re lucky that this is not "prime"season, as the two or three alberges often are filled before dark.  We usually land at one between 4 and 5, after 15 to 20 miles of walking.  Some albergues are run by the locals, others are privately run.  The cost has been between 6 and 9 euros (1 euro= $1.43) and some offer communal meals which have been an enjoyable way to eat cheaply and meet fellow pilgrims.  We´¨ve stayed at three albergues run by religious orders, with volunteers in two week shifts doing all the work.  Funny, they were all Dutch.  The largest albergue housed 180 of us, many do 40or 50, and the smaller ones usually mean fewer in a sleeping room and less competition for the bathroom, which often has only one or two toilets and sinks. There always seems to be at least one loud snorer in the bunkbeds, but we came equipped with earplugs, which help a little.   Modesty goes out the window here, and we´re getting accustomed to that.  Of all the walkers, the statistics tell us that Spanish are most common, (not surprising) followed by French, then German, then KOREAN! Can´´t explain that one, but we´´ve seen many and can now greet them in their native tongue.  The US comes in at Number 8 here, and we have yet to meet an American.
Timés up, gotta go
One day´s destination

Writing from Viana

Approaching Ciraqui

Old woman in Ciraqui

Jed at the Guggenheim in Bilbao


This blog thing is turning out to be much harder than I expected! There are very few internet cafes along the way, and then there´s the Spanish tradition of closing everything for siesta between about 2:00 and 6:00 (give or take), so we arrive in a town that has internet- fiinally!....and it´s closed. Right now we are at an albuerge with internet access, but it´s a really slow computer and loading photos is a joke. I fear I may have to add those from home after the fact. Too bed, cuz I have so many I want to share.

Bilbao worked out great. We arrived at the Guggenheim about 2 hours before closing, which was just about perfect. It was well worth the trip, a truly impressive building inside and out. The city of Bilbao is quite delightful. It´s an old industrial city that has in the last 20 or so years undergone a transformation. The juxtaposition of the historical buildings with some great new architecture, and the riverfront and public spaces make for a very attractive city. We found a reasonably priced pension in the old town and treated ourselves to a liesurely dinner (starting at 9 pm- Spanish style...and hard for us to get used to!) Took the bus back to Pamplona the following day (Sunday) to resume our walk.
Today we put in 20 miles- our longest day yet. Both Jed and I are nursing blisters and tired feet, but other than that no problems. The weather has been awesome- warm spring days but not too hot. The scenery has been wonderful- small villages, olive groves, vineyards- but the thing that is hard to describe is the comraderie among so many nationalities as they experience this journey. You can now add Icelandic, South African, Dane, Mexican, Bolivian and Lithuanian to our list of fellow travelers. Still no US, although there have been rumors of a couple Floridians floating around here somewhere.
Momentarily I will have to suddenly end this blog as the computer will shut off- just a warning. So...a couple random notes. There are many single travelers, and I would say that the majority are women. That has been a bit of a surprise to us. But I think the Camino is a relatively safe place, so maybe that´s part of the attraction.
Typical scenery on the walk
Well, I just got the warning sign that shutoff is imminent, so I will sign off until we are able to find another internet opportunity.