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Laureen

    Travel Around the World

    Favorite Things – My Camino

    Marking the Halfway Point

    All my senses are on overload on the Camino. I don’t want to miss anything!  The scenery, the sounds, the people, the food, the wine. Amazing all.

    But this is an ordeal. Forty days and forty nights!  I’m halfway there and already I’m having trouble remembering things I don’t want to forget!

    So at the halfway point here is a list remembering my favorite things;

    Just below Orisson day one

    Day one as we climbed from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Orisson the  sview was breathtaking and I knew we were in for a real treat.

    The summit day two

    By the next day, soaking wet and exhausted reaching the summit and finding hot coffee there. Heaven in a cup.

     

    A very difficult descent one day outside of Pamplona as we came down off the Alto Del Perdon.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever walked.  Exhausting but I did it!

    Alto Del Perdon

    Being serenaded at 6:30am in Puenta La Reina is possibly my most favorite moment so far.  A beautiful way to begin our day.  We felt so blessed.

    Historic Puenta la Reina

    Roman bridge

    Walking on the 2000 year old remains of a Roman road and Roman bridge just outside of  Cirauqui made me feel very insignificant in the whole scheme of things.

     

    The section of the Camino that wandered through the vineyards for days, so beautiful and peaceful and historic as we went from ancient village to ancient village.

    Wheat fields and vineyards

     

     

    Tortilla potata

    Spanish omelette.  Also known as Tortilla Potata.  I am in love with this National Food of Spain and could (and do) eat it everyday.  I must learn how to make this.

    The Meseta

    The Meseta.  Geologically my favorite area so far.  Here the villages are in the valleys but the Camino rises and falls from the valley to the plateau and it is gorgeous.  Often providing a Vista of the trail as far as the eye can see.

    Salad Mixta

    Salad Mixta – my answer to daily veg.  I’ve learned to order the Mixta that does not come with the Pilgrim dinner because then it arrives chock full of so many delicious things like beets and asparagus and egg and olives.

    Burgos Cathedral

    The Cathedral in Burgos  in a word, stunning.  I’ve seen a lot of cathedrals in my travels and this one could possibly be the finest.  Just awesome and inspiring.  I highly recommend  a visit if you are in Spain.

    Monastery San Anton ruins

    I loved how the Camino unexpectedly passed right through the arches of the ruins of the 12th century hospital of  the Monastery of San Anton.  Meandering down the tree-lined street then coming around a bend it was such a beautiful sight to see.

    Early morning light

    There are other things too – moments both poignant and humorous.  Drinking wine from a fountain at 9am on the path.  Stepping aside to let a giant draft horse saunter by.  Walking before dawn and watching the sun rise behind you.  Getting lost and retracing our footsteps to get back on track.  Talking to people from all over the globe and learning their story.  Walking in silence next to my husband as the fog lays still in the fields and the birds wake up with a song.

    Halfway to Santiago.  A walk of a lifetime.

    Buen Camino!

    257 miles walked. 232 to go!

     

     

     

     

    Travel Around the World

    Signs Signs Everywhere the Signs

    My Camino

    Closing in on three weeks now and since day one I have spent a lot of time thinking about signs.  The Way is marked throughout the 500 miles with an astonishing variety of way-finding.

    Finding your way on the way is usually simple, sometimes humorous and rarely difficult.

    We missed a marker only once and found ourselves about a mile off the Camino. As back up we have an app that we can follow the route on our phones.  We try not to use it – and keep our noses out of phones.  But the day we took the wrong turn we

    The missed turn

    went to the app to see where we went wrong.

    Signage can be very amateurish and even cryptic in some places, and it was one of these that we missed that day.  But you get used to seeing the signs, so if you’ve made a wrong turn you won’t go along too far before you begin to suspect you’ve done something wrong because the yellow arrows have disappeared.

    Official signage is often very pretty blue tiles with the yellow Camino scallop shell.  These signs are most often found on the sides of buildings in the small towns and villages.

    Some towns and municipalities have taken it on themselves to create their own unique Camino signage. In Logrono they created a more stylized modern look using stone and metal.  In the teeny village of Redecilla Del Camino a long yellow stripe in the middle of the road through town bearing the Camino scallop shell guided you on your way.

    Sometimes the Camino runs parallel the highway and sometimes you have to cross a busy road.  Here the signage has the look of official highway signs, but still in the familiar blue and gold.

    Much of the directional marking is done with yellow spray paint.  It’s not clear to me who does this.  Locals trying to be helpful? Pilgrims who have noticed a need?  Sometimes you can barely make out the yellow spray paint.  Sometimes it’s unclear which way the arrow is actually pointing.

    As we climbed out of the valley and above the town of Najera we went through a beautiful section of red rock mountains.  The yellow arrows stood out against the red rocks.

    Sometimes pilgrims get creative.  Often we stumble across arrows or messages made from stones or sticks.  One place an entire labyrinth with a tiny cross in the middle was laid out.  A good sign.

    I still have close to three weeks to go.  No doubt there are still more signs ahead to amaze and amuse.  But these are the ones that have guided us along these past weeks.  On our journey full of
    hopeful signs for grateful life.

    Buen Camino!

    229 miles done. 259 to go! 😃

     

    Eat and Drink  --  Travel Around the World

    A loaf of bread A Jug of Wine & Thou

    Hikers Cannot Live on Bread Alone

    A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” —Omar Khayyam

    The sentiment in Khayyam’s words are not lost  on me. Particularly as I try to walk my Camino with an open mind for a simple life. Medieval pilgrims certainly would have been grateful for bread alone and may have subsisted solely on it – with a watery soup and wine thrown in from time to time.

    Tortilla Espanola

    But man I want a salad.

    As in most European countries bread is life.  In Spain the Panaderia on every corner is busy from the break of day.  This is true in the cities and in the small villages we walk through.  Some small towns we find the “Bread man” (my term) driving through the streets honking his horn.  Kinda like the ice cream man when I was a kid.

    Croissant with ham and cheese

    Boccadilla

    Along the Camino finding food is a bit of a challenge unless you are in a large city.  And finding food that includes nice fresh produce is even harder.  And dinner before 8pm? Forget about it.

    Likely for convenience and cost, the places that pop up for sustenance on the Camino sell baguette sandwiches called bocadilla, or the national dish of Spain, Tortilla Espinosa (an egg and potato torta/omelette), and coffee.  Sometimes apples and bananas.  This is what is considered both breakfast and lunch food.  It’s cheap and easy to carry.

    I’ve learned to pick up fresh fruit when I see it and stash it in our pack.  Clearly we are a long way from starving but a girl needs something to help her walk 14 miles each day.

    Eggplant Hummus

    A couple of days ago on a particularly uninhabited stretch of our walk I had  ham and cheese on a dry baguette for breakfast, tuna on hard focaccia for lunch and ham and cheese on baguette for dinner.

    That was the day I said no more bread.  No mas!

    And there was the one night we shared a can of tuna and a whole zuchinni while laying in bed.

    At the end of each day we can usually find what is

    One salad mixta from a very good Peregrino dinner

    called the Peregrino Dinner.  In every town we have found this except for one.  This meal is usually $10-12 Euro and includes two or three courses with choices.  The first course may be a choice of salad mixta, soup or pasta.  I always get the salad which 99% of the time is lettuce, tomato, canned tuna and maybe carrot and egg.

    But the second course is ALWAYS French fries with some meat.  You can choose chicken, pork, beef or

    This was an excellent salad in Burgos

    maybe veal or lamb.  No veg.

    Sigh.  I just want some nice zucchini or spinach or green beans or kale por favor!

    One evening we did encounter a Peregrino Dinner with a vegetarian option.  I happily ordered the vegetarian paella instead of meat and fries.  It was warm and yummy saffron rice with peas, beans, cauliflower and carrots.

    In our 16 days on the Camino our best meals have

    Catalan soup with pork and pasta

    come in the bigger towns.  No surprise.  I’m still dreaming about the Caesar Salad and Eggplant hummus we had in Pamplona or the beautiful Salad Mixta with fresh tuna, asparagus and beets I had with Catalon soup in Burgos.  And the best peregrino meal we enjoyed was a pork knuckle and the first course was fresh baby artichoke hearts with lemon in Puenta la Reina.  Happiness on a plate.

    Thumbs up for this Paella

    And so I’ve grown even more appreciative of fresh food with fresh ingredients and a variety of fruits and vegetables.  And when I can’t get it, well I am then grateful on those days for a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou.

    Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; – Ecclesiastes 9:7

    191 miles done.  298 to go!

    Buen Camino!

     

    Travel Around the World

    My New Favorite Saint

    Friend to Pilgrims on The Way

    This is Santo Domingo de la Calzada  – my new favorite Saint.

    Born in 1019 Domingo Garcia believed God had
    called him to be a Monk. But he was thwarted by the monks in San Millan who were not inclined to accept this illiterate man. Their loss was our gain.

    Domingo instead became a champion of the pilgrims and their safety and welfare on “The Way”. His life’s work became all about the pilgrims. He built bridges, hospitals and churches, many still available a millennium later for both pilgrims and non pilgrims.  He is revered by locals and celebrated by pilgrims and remembered fondly for his generous heart and humble service

    Thanks Dom. I am grateful.

    Buen Camino!

     

    Travel Around the World

    The Long Haul

    My Camino

    Day 14 and there is something happening that hadn’t occurred to me before – mental fatigue. Walking everyday, all day it begins to set in just how long this adventure is, both in miles and in days. At two weeks in I’m astonished at how far we still have to go. The days, weeks and miles unfold ahead in and endless fog and the end seems nowhere in sight.

    And so we settle in for the long haul. 

    After two weeks we have made some adjustments to help both the physical and mental strain;

    1. We are taking days off. Today we arrived in Burgos. Originally we had planned Burgos to be our first day off but it is actually our second. We plan to take at least one day a week off from here on. Originally we planned to arrive in Santiago around
    October 8th. Now we think it will be the 11th.

    2. I got rid of my pack. Arne has changed his mind about it being “cheating” not to carry the pack. I feel so much better now. The service picks up the pack in the morning and it is waiting for me when we arrive at our destination. We have lightened Arne’s load too, putting much of what he was carrying into my pack to take at least ten lbs off of him. 

    3. We are listening to our bodies. Most of our early aches and pains have gone, but we both have colds and the plantar fasciitis has continued  to give me trouble. Today, rather than take a chance of completely ruining my foot we called a cab to take us the last three miles into Burgos. My thinking is better I take a cab three miles than have my whole Camino ruined.  Tomorrow in Burgos I might go shop for some shoes that can provide me some additional support.

    With all that said, we are really thankful to be here.  Each mile has something new be it people or scenery or history or weather. Spain is a gorgeous place and all along the Camino the people are kind and supportive. We have met people from all around the world – Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Germany , France, England, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, and of course the USA (Nebraska, Ohio, Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Florida).

    We have found our comfort zone in our pace and in
    our style of accommodations. Still working out the food however (blog to come on that).  Rain has threatened but only materialized twice and Mother Nature has been very gentle on us and we are very grateful for that.

    Walking side by side with my husband we sometimes go thirty minutes without speaking.  And other times we talk about the future or reminisce about the past or laugh and sing and pass the time in idle chatter.

    Each day is good.  We have settled in for the long haul.

    179 miles so far. 310 miles to go.

    Travel Around the World

    Sleeping Along “The Way”

    My Camino

    Following my last blog I had a few people ask for an explanation about what an Albergue was. So I thought as we approach the two-week mark it might be a good idea to talk about sleeping along “the way”.

    First of all Albergue’s are like hostels, communal sleeping facilities geared to the pilgrims.  Many

    Historic 12th century “hospital” in Ventosa

    towns offer a “municipal” Albergue, often a pay what you can place. Historical pilgrims may have stayed in churches and monasteries, and many of today’s Albergues are still housed today in these facilities, formally called hospitals.  We have seen some of these original hospitals along the path and in the small villages.

    Today with increased demand many privately owned and operated Albergues have emerged. Some, like the one in Orisson, are so remote that both dinner and breakfast are included.  Others like

    Bunk room in Orisson

    the one in the large city of Logrono was a bunk and communal bath – no food.

    Something for every budget.

    So far for us on Day 11 we have stayed in four Albergues. Two we enjoyed, two not so much.  Although I want to have a somewhat authentic experience on the Camino- I also want a good night’s sleep. Even with my earplugs and eye-mask it’s not so easy to sleep restfully in a room full of strangers snoring, farting, tossing and turning.

    Bunk in Estella

    We gave it a try. But unless we have no alternative I think for the rest of the walk we will look at other accommodations. For instance we have stayed in two apartments, three hotels and two bed-and-breakfast/pensions so far. Some of these weren’t so great either, but at least I had a private room.

    Other  than the apartments and one of the  Albergues, breakfast has been served each day. Our first two nights while we were still in France we only

    Apartment in Los Arcos

    got dry baguette, jam and coffee. But since arriving in Spain breakfast has been bread/croissant with ham and cheese and sometimes other sliced meat.  Some places have also included fruit or yogurt and maybe cereal and milk. There is always coffee and tea.

    I desperately need protein in the morning to tackle the physical endurance. Bread and jam or sweet

    Apartment in Puenta la Reina

    rolls don’t do it for me.  So if I can’t get an omelette or one of Spain’s famous egg torta then I’m grateful for some ham and cheese.

    So far the mattresses have been good in all but one of the hotels.  I always pull back the sheets and check for bedbugs before settling in. Sounds gross but honestly bed bugs can be in even the finest hotels so I am cautious.  You should be too.

    Our least expensive accommodation so far was the Albergue in Logrono- bunks for two and no breakfast $28.  The most expensive so far was hotel in Roncesvalles – private room and bath (although this was the uncomfortable mattress) with hot dinner and cold breakfast $120.  Our average is about $75.

    If we are disappointed about anything so far it’s the

    Dinner in Orisson

    fact that the Camino is so popular this month finding accommodations of any kind means planning ahead.  Our fantasies of wandering into a quaint little village and finding a room just isn’t reality.  Arne has now been planning ahead about 5 nights.  And because the final 100km is the most popular (MANY people only walk this much) those last days as we approach Santiago will be even harder to find rooms.  So we are booking that now too.

    There are many people whose Camino means only Albergues.  There are many people whose Camino

    My sleeping bag. It’s very teeny and I use it in the Albergue.

    means only hotels.  There are people who do the Camino on a tour bus.  Yes really.  Not everyone has the physical ability but they still want the experience. These people will walk sections of the Camino over a period of time, starting and ending their day with the bus taking them to major hotels.  Many walkers carry sleeping bags and mats,

    Breakfast

    prepared to sleep outdoors if necessary.  And many walkers just join the path 100km (about four days) outside of Santiago.

    So as you can see the Camino is something different for everyone.  As we find what works best FOR US, we settle in to the walk.  We expect now to arrive in Santiago about October 11th – with some added days off now planned.

    Day 11. Total walked 133.  356 to go.

    Buen Camino!

     

     

    Health, Fitness & Fashion  --  Travel Around the World

    The Wall

    My Camino Day Nine

    This is hard. Harder than I imagined.

    I hit the wall. Of course I knew I would, but it came earlier than expected. Day eight. Bam! I was out for the count.

    We hadn’t planned to take a day off this early. We thought we could make it to Burgos, about Day 12. But the wall came sooner and had other plans.

    Sunrise as we left Los Arcos

    Clearly I trained for this. You all know I did. But it’s still hard. I made a mistake having a pedicure in Portugal. I needed those calluses. What was I thinking?  My toes have blistered and I’m painfully rebuilding those hard-

    The scenery on Day 8 was spectacular

    earned calluses.

    Yesterday on Day 8 we planned a long day, 18 miles.  We started before daylight and I felt good. For miles I felt great.  It was a cool and sunny day. The scenery was spectacular. All was well until after lunch. We ate lunch in the town of Viana at mile 13. We had five miles to go to Logrona.  The temperature suddenly soared. I was melting.

    Lunch with the local wine

    Each step began to feel like I was walking on a bed of nails or coals. Excruciating.  I had to keep going. I felt I might cry. I should have stopped. It was almost like hypothermia because I don’t think I was thinking clearly. I plodded along at a excruciatingly slow pace.

    Finally I plopped down and took a look at my feet. They were the size of footballs! Straining to bust out of my shoes. I peeled my socks down and found blistered heat rash all around my ankles.

    I should have seen this coming. I’ve had this happen before. I should have worn the cotton socks instead of the wool. Shoulda coulda woulda.

    The top bunk

    I removed the wool socks and hobbled on the final mile to our night’s accommodations. A disappointing  Albergue.  Cheap and exactly worth what we paid for it.  Since we were arriving late only top bunks available.  Arne dragged me up and I collapsed.

    I actually slept pretty well because I was so tired,

    Leaving Logrona Day 9

    but I think we have agreed we don’t want to stay in anymore Albergues if we can help it.  Some Camino “purist” will say you aren’t really doing the Camino unless you are sleeping in Albergues with other pilgrims.  These same “purists” also say you shouldn’t be carrying your phone with you.  Yeah right.  Like THAT is gonna happen.

    My Camino. My Way.

    There are many people who only stay in Albergues because that is what they can afford.  Since the Camino is so crowded right now many people are having trouble finding beds.  So we are trying to look ahead and book 4-5 days.  We talked to a man last night who was planning to take a bus today because he could not find an Albergue available in the next 80km.

    So as I nurse my wounds I also count my blessings;

    • I am lucky to have both resources and time enough to be flexible with my accommodations.
    • We can take days off – really many days as we have lots of time.
    • I am in pretty good shape and now have a better feel for my limitations.
    • I am walking with my best friend and the man I love.
    • He loves me back.

    So after the disappointing top bunk we are now in a lovely little boutique hotel taking two whole days to rest, read, sleep and drink wine.

    Enjoying wine with our feet up

    Eighteen miles on Monday. But it’s a new day and the wall will have to wait.