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    The People You Will Meet on the Camino de Santiago

    My Camino

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    I can’t begin to count the people we have met. Hundreds. Thousands? Unique all.

    Hiking Skirt Lady – Cheerleader  Guy – Peter &Jane – Pennsylvania – Crazy Wine Guy – Dan & Louann – Japanese couple – Argentina – Gail from Sequim – Calgary Ladies

    It’s another amazing aspect of the journey we are on. You can’t begin to comprehend the array of nationalities, personalities, physical abilities, age and languages you encounter amongst the pilgrims on the Camino.

    The Marys – Guy with Dog – Bad Leg Australia – Denver – Super nice Italian Guy – The Brits with the van – Mexican partners – Nebraska

    We can’t remember everyone’s names so we give them nicknames.  “Hey look there’s little Japanese lady.  We haven’t seen her since Burgos.”  Or “Was that South Africa #2 we just passed?”

    So many conversations.  We learn a little bit about a lot of people.  Once again it’s astounding how each person’s journey is unique.

    Sisters from Sisters – Nathan – German tour group – Quebec – Lady/Man? With stuffed Tiger – South Korea – Brazil Guy – Obnoxious Vegetarian American

    A woman from Australia told us she hates the Meseta, it reminded her too much of the Outback. So she took a bus and skipped the entire section.  What??  That was my favorite! So beautiful.

    French boys – Finnish Family – New Zealand – Cute Irish couple – Richmond Virginia – Rogue River – Flower hat lady – Texas Gals

    For weeks we have encountered a British group of
    six walking, and one woman driving a van to meet them at the end of each day.  Another group of Germans also with a support vehicle following but they stopped at the halfway point.  They will return next year to do the second half.

    Old Slow Man – Toronto – The Dutch – Big guy with tattoos – Mexico – Catalan Girls – Guy with long hair – Salt Spring Island – Northern Ireland

    A conversation with  Spanish man who thinks too many tourists on the Camino take away from the “original” purpose – only to find out this guy is riding a bike.  Doubtful many original pilgrims had a mountain bike.

    Mutt & Jeff – Munich – Maia from Australia – Vancouver – Wilkerson WA – Chain Smoker – Guy in my Bunk – Ohio

    At the same time we arrived at the Cruz de Ferro the other day two huge tour buses pulled up on the road and out piled at least 100 Korean tourists.  We had just walked up to the 5000 foot mark while they came up on a bus.  Then they proceeded to walk down the other side making the trail crowded and making me irritated. I was exhausted and they were fresh and fast.  This seems wrong to me to see the Camino done this way, but I’m trying hard not to judge.  It’s hard though.

    Couple celebrating 30th Anniversary – Punk Rocker from Taiwan – Loud Woman on her cell phone – Utah – Munich – Blind Guy with Brother

    On our first day we met an older woman from Australia and she was walking alone.  She said she was slow but could go far.  I’ve thought of her every day since. Particularly on the days where I was struggling, when the weather was bad or the trail was tough. I hope she is still out there. I wish I had gotten her contact info.  I’m worried for her.  This isn’t easy.

    Spanish Six – Curly Redhead – Irish Hiking Club – Scotland – Tattoo Girl – Phoenix – Lost Lady

    In just a few days we will reach Sarria, 100km from Santiago.  We know the Camino will change at this point and we feel sad about it.  Here is where we will be joined by hundreds of pilgrims who only walk the final 100km.  I know the experience will be different starting here and I expect not as serene.  It will also be odd to suddenly be surrounded by fresh new pilgrims we don’t know.  I hope our comrades aren’t lost in the shuffle.

    Seattle – Grey Couple – Slow Walkers – Coug – Hawks Fan –

    What do others call us I wonder?

    We all are here for different reasons with different goals, life experiences and expectations.  But we all share one name in common;

    Pilgrim.

    Buen Camino.

    Miles walked 375. Miles to go 114.

     

     

     

     

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    The Highest Point on My Camino – Cruz de Ferro

    Meaningful Moment

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    It was ten months ago today that we left the United States and we marked the occasion with a very memorable moment on our Camino journey – reaching the highest point at 5000 feet in the Montes de Leon range.

    For thousands of years pilgrims have marked their own moments here, and beneath the iron cross a mountain of stones and mementos symbolize the collective journey.

    Throughout the Camino we have noticed stones placed on wayfinding, markers and crosses. I wasn’t

    Letting go of your sorrows

    sure why, so I googled and learned the placing of a stone in this manner is said to be a way of leaving your sorrows behind. And truly many pilgrims leave not only a stone but

    Wayfinding sign with stones

    perhaps a photo of a lost loved one.

    Even though we knew we would be walking the Camino before we left the USA I hadn’t heard about the tradition of bringing a rock from your home to place at the Cruz de Ferro.  So

    Cross with stones

    over the past months on our travels I have collected three items. I was going to chose just one but now I feel compelled to leave all three.

    First the stone heart I found on the beach in Portugal. We leave this to represent our love for each other and our sons.

    Our gifts to the collection.

    Next the coral I picked up on the beach in the Seychelles. I like the branches that represent our families back home whom we miss and love.

    Finally the shell from a beach in Thailand. To me it is symbolic, the empty vessel holding dear all our friends throughout our lives.

    Today at the Cruz de Ferro it was truly a sacred and emotional place for many pilgrim to let go of their sorrows. Pilgrims walk for many reasons including gratitude for surviving illness or disaster or in memory of a loved one.  Some people finish the walk for loved ones who have died on the trail.  It happens more than you might think.  So arriving at the iron cross means many things to many people and we certainly felt the healing power there.

    It may sound corny, but I feel gratitude for this journey we are on and thankful I can share it. Gratitude is my religion and today at the Cruz de Ferro our hearts were full.

    Buen Camino.

    Total miles so far 350. 139 miles to go.

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    The Scallop Shell “Vieira”

    My Camino

    Location: Camino de Santiago


    The Camino is many things including a walk through history, legends and lore. And the history and lore that surround the significance of the ever- present scallop shell is fascinating, religious, utilitarian and beautiful.

    Scallop in Spanish is Vieira.

    The shell I am carrying

     

    The connection between the scallop shell and the Way of Saint James is very deep. So deep that in France a scallop is called Coquille Saint Jacques, while in German scallops are called ‘Jakobsmuscheln’ (James mussels).  Not a coincidence. (taken from caminoways.com)

    You cannot walk The Way of Saint James and not be  surrounded by the scallop. It has become, in the

    Embedded in the sidewalk

    modern times, the “brand” of the caminos. But in medieval times it had many purposes and stories.

    One story is the scallop shell represents the numerous caminos that all lead to Santiago. The lines on the shell all pointing to one center.

    Another story is that before Christianity, pagan

    Artistically in the road

    walkers went to Finisterra to the sea (50 miles past Santiago) believing it was the end of the earth. The word Finis Terra meaning the end of the world.  To prove they had made the journey they returned bearing the scallop shell that is found there.

    Ancient and worn symbol in a fountain

    Because the Camino Frances is essentially a walk west to the sea, many associate the scallop shell and its shape with the setting sun.

    Medieval pilgrims began carrying scallop shells as symbols of their pilgrimage and the tradition continues today. EVERY pilgrim carries one. In addition to the symbolism, pilgrims of old times found the shell useful as a utensil for both eating and drinking. Today the shell has become a souvenir more than a eating utensil, although many pilgrims use their shell to drink wine from the

    Modern day graffiti

    fountain provided for the pilgrims at the Bodega Irache.

    This use comes partly from the Catholic story of the devil appearing to a pilgrim who was dying of thirst.  The devil promised to save the pilgrim if he would renounce God.  When the pilgrim refused, Saint James himself appeared and fed the pilgrim water from a scallop shell.

    A home and garden decorated

    The  people of Spain embrace the symbol and often you will find the shells on homes and fences and in gardens and art.  A constant reminder of how much history is present in every step of “the way”.

    Viera

    La vieira ilumina el camino.  Muy Bien.

    Total miles walked 339.  Miles to go 150! 😁

     

     

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    Day by Day

    My Camino. My Pace.

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    I’m absolutely confident now that I can finish this. Before we began I was nervous maybe I couldn’t.  But barring disaster I know now I can.

    As long as we just take it day by day.

    Pilgrim statue, Leon

    Despite a deluge of information,research and preparedness there is so much about this experience you can’t be ready for. In fact I wish I had spent less time reading Facebook comments and “advice” on the Camino page.  It’s better to be a little unprepared or unaware and just take it as it comes.

    There was a point a few weeks back when I felt like we needed to hurry – go farther each day, make good time, usually after I met someone who was doing

    Leon Cathedral

    both.

    But now I’m in a groove. I love our pace. I enjoy our routine. We take time to look at things, learn and absorb.

    I enjoy our days off. Like yesterday in Leon. It feels good to do laundry, sip coffee in bed, explore an unknown city, sit and people watch.

    As in the rest of the Grand Adventure, this adventure is about being our authentic selves. No worries, no hurries, no drama – and no pressure based on what other people say and do.

    Just day by day.

    Buen Camino

    Total miles walked 308. To go 188!!

    Fab Europe Travel

    Twelve Things You Learn About Yourself On The Camino

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    I didn’t realize what an education it would be. It’s just one of the many surprises – learning things about yourself while walking the Camino de Santiago. We still have a long way to go. But I’ve learned a lot;

    1. It’s a job. You get up every morning and you get the work done. Sometimes you are more enthusiastic than others.  But you do it anyway.  You go to work. You do the work. Then you relax. Then the next day you do it again. It’s the same each day but it’s also different and surprising each day.
    2. You realize you know more Spanish than you thought.  That forty-year old Spanish class from high school slowly resurfaces in your brain.  When you don’t have the skill to communicate you use all the languages you know with charades and miming and you manage.
    3. You learn to say good morning in a nine different languages.   Buenes Dias, Bom Dia, Bon Jour, Guten Tag, Bon Giorno, Konichiwa, AnYong Ha Say Oh, God Morgen, Cheers.
    4. You spend a lot of time thinking about and administering to your feet. The rest of the time you are thinking about your next meal and wondering if it will include vegetables.
    5. You check the weather forecast frequently. Less to find out about walking conditions and more to find out if you should wash your underwear and if it’ll be warm enough for it to get dry before the next day.
    6. You find yourself doing the sniff test. Hmmm. Sure, I can wear that one more time.
    7. You realize you have become the Pemco socks and sandals guy. You’re one of us.
    8. You accept it’s good hair day if all the soldiers stay in the ponytail all day.
    9. You learn you really only need sunscreen on the left side of your body. Think about it.
    10. You are proud of your sock tan line.
    11. You learn to sleep and change clothes in a room full of strangers, not all the same gender.
    12. You find yourself learning to cop a squat in places you never would have gone pee before. You learn you have no choice. You gotta go you gotta go.

    And number twelve in my opinion, is the single biggest issue on the Camino. The Spanish government desperately needs to address the lack of facilities. As we approach 300 miles we have never seen a public restroom. Never. Nada. Niente. Nunca. You buy a coffee and use the facilities; or when you have to, you pee in the bushes. Sometimes there are neither coffee bars or bushes. It’s both a problem and a public health issue. I really hope government will address it and do so soon.

    Buen Camino!

    284 miles done. 205 to go! 😇

    Fab Europe Travel

    Favorite Things – My Camino

    Marking the Halfway Point

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    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!

     

     

     

     

    Fab Europe Travel

    Signs Signs Everywhere the Signs

    My Camino

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    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! 😃