Encierro by Bilbao Sculptor Rafael Huerta

Pamplona has a lot to offer. This Basque city is vibrant and offers so much in culture. For the pilgrim of El Camino Frances it’s a beautiful walk over bridges and cobble stone streets and a night of world famous pintxos (not to be confused with tapas or bocas) and beer or wine in prep of the next day’s journey.

Though the Running of the Bulls of Pamplona occurs in July, there are reminders of it in the city centre…then…there is the statue. El Encierro was designed by Bilbao Sculptor Rafael Huerta. This detailed life sized work of art captures a moment in the life of both runners and bulls.

Color,  Form, Texture  
This is what catches the eye; stimulates the senses.  Playing with abstract forms captured through a camera’s lens and watching the photo change from Color to High Contrast B&W ignites different senses, changes how one sees the subject.  
This is what experiencing abstract photography is.

When photographing subjects during my walks, I find myself attracted to the same thing; granted a variety of “same things” but still the same thing. This gets old. That’s when I know I need to rethink in a more creative form.

I like to study art and will go to the library and pull out those beautiful large art books showing work across the ages. I love to go to the museums and admire the work first hand. I find that it’s the smaller works or the less famous ones that really grab my creative mind. I see many of these works doing the same thing that photography does today…capturing life. (The cats though were either really different a few hundred years ago or the artists didn’t know how to draw/paint a cat). Anyway…

I will always find old doors, windows, people, buildings, animals, etc, fascinating subjects for my work. There’s always a challenge. To take this further though, to rethink how the final piece will be or look…playing with it…letting the creative juices flow…that’s were things get exciting.

The images in the video above were taken in and around Bordeaux, France during the Winter of 2019.



MarciaGPhoto youtube:


We only spent a part of day in Périgeuex (for our first trip). After walking the Red Line Tour we ended our day walking thru the typically narrow and windy streets of the medieval city towards the Cathedral of Saint-Front.  In 1998 it was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since it is an important site for El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  (see previous blogs on El Camino 2017)   The Cathedral is impressive, built in the shape of a Greek cross with domes—a lot of domes.  There is much to discover in this beautiful Cathedral.  One item that struck me as interesting as I first walked inside were the chandeliers.  They are beautiful but don’t seem to fit…yet… they do.  They once hung in Paris’ Notre Dame for Napoleon’s wedding.  They add an incredible elegance to the open space.  The space goes fro stone to beautiful art.  It allows the eyes, mind, and soul time to take it in.  It adds a calmness to the heart.

On the left of the entrance as one walks inside is a small chapel called Confessions.  This is where the simple wood statue of Santiago is.    

 ¡Buen Camino!

The shop above with the corner door is called Maison Tenant (now a men’s clothing store). It has an interesting entry with the door opening at an upward angle.  There is an inscription on the lintel: “Remember we all have to die one day.  He who enjoys speaking ill of those who are absent, let him know that this house is forbidden to him.  The greatest glory comes from displeasing the wicked.  This house, built in 1518 with the blessing of the Almighty.”   

Cathedral Saint-Front

Old chapel called Confessions dedicated to Santiago

Périgueux is definitely a town that needs more exploring as well as the countryside around it. We will be back!

The final trek of the Red Line took us to a public garden: Jardin des Arenes which was created over the 1st Century Amphitheater of Vesunna in 1875. 

Map of the Red Line

 The Amphitheater could seat 18,000 people and its façades were 3 times higher than the houses that surround it today.  

In the 4thCentury the Amphitheater was incorporated within the High Wall with the openings being walled up and towers built to reinforce it.  Around 1150 the Count of Périgord had his castle built here.  Today there are still signs of the Amphitheater circling the garden and play areas.  The floor of the Amphitheater lies 21 feet below (see above).  The castle was destroyed in the early 1400’s.

Unfortunately, we did not have time to explore the final point of interest: the first Cathedral of Périgueux:  Église Saint-Étienne-de-la-Cité.  We wanted to head into the city center (next post) and explore there as well as see the new Cathedral.  Périgueux is a city that we plan to return to.  Not only is there more to see but it is also close to other towns that have their own stories to tell.

Domes of Église Saint-Étienne-de-la-Cité

The Château Barrière was built in the 12th century on top of the lower part of a 4th century tower and wall.  Later a second noble man’s home was built beside it.  This wall/castle was burned down during the 1577 French Wars of Religion.  Some of the upper floors were restored, though, in the early 20th century and used by the Historical and Archeological Society of Périgord.

small6026 copysmall_wallmap6096small6119It’s a beautiful example of medieval architecture that can be enjoyed from across the railroad tracks at the Vesunna Gallo-Roman Museum and then following the Red Line and crossing a bridge one can walk around the ruins and enjoy finding both Roman and Medieval carvings.

Always a cat or two

In 1959 a Roman home, Domus de Vésone, was discovered during a construction project near the Tour de Vésone.  This home is from the 1st century A.D. and was perhaps an official palace.   The Vesunna Gallo-Roman Museum was built over it and opened in 2003.  Wooden walkways allow visitors to stroll thru what was once a grand home of ancient luxury and beautiful gardens.  Glass displays show common everyday items such as weaving tools, medical supplies, toiletries, etc.   It had a central heating system that ran hot air under the floors of the home called hypocaust and a central garden with a fountain.

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The entrance is on the left side where there is also what seems to be a rectangular pool.


View of the central garden from above.


View from below showing the gallery floors above.

Top: garden. Middle: dining room Bottom: looking down on the bath.

This is an excellent museum for understanding the workmanship and ingenuity of a Roman home…Yes…a rather wealthy Roman home.

Périgueux (pare-ee-go) has been an important settlement since 200 B.C. when the Gaul tribe Petrocorii established their capital, Vesunna, there along the banks of the Isle River.  The site was sacred for its spring.

When the Romans came in 16 B.C. they took over the area and created a city of their own.  Vesunna became City of the Petrocorii that over time changed into Périgueux and Périgord.  The City included a forum, basilica, amphitheater, arena, aqueduct, temples and mansions.  Since the 3rd century A.D. invasions of the Barbarians and later in 418 A.D. the Visigoths, the city was reduced to ruins.  Some of the old Roman buildings were used as supplies for new buildings while others ended up buried and almost forgotten.  From this a new city arose.  Today one can discover the glory of the past as well as enjoy a beautiful, vibrant city.


Roman wall uncovered in a neighborhood.small6114

A wall made up of various pieces from Roman buildings.


Along the railroad tracks is a park where the Tour de Vésone (Tower of Vésone) can be seen.  This 2nd century Roman temple was dedicated to the goddess Tutela Vesunna, a Celtic goddess of prosperity, abundance and good fortune.  In her images she carries  a cornucopia.  For the Romans she is the goddess of luck and good fortune.

The tower is all that is left or at least revealed of a larger complex.  This tower was the Cella or heart of the temple where only the priests could enter.  The interior was once covered in marble.


The temple of Tutela Vesunna.  The center is the tower.



The Tour de Vésone from different sides and angles.

Playing around for effects:

When I was in the Gallo-Roman Museum that is located in the same park as the Tour de Vésone there was an old etching of the Tour that showed it with different colored stripes.  So I decided to try and enhance these colors thru photoshop and filters.  Here’s what I came out with:


1. Original photograph.


2. Photo with saturated color.


3. #2 converted into Black & White


4. #2 with filters.  I used Nik Collection: Nostalgic 2


5. Black & White version of #4

Photography is my first love.  I fought digital photography for awhile, had a difficult time wrapping my mind into it.  When I finally did I jumped in head first and have been amazed by how creative one can become.  I use a lot of layers and play with the filters that are available imagining how I want it to look until it does.  I shoot in RAW or ARW where I end up with more options to play with.  Depending on the use of my photo depends on how much I play with the effects.  For the blog I do as little as possible with effects so the photo is as natural as possible…Photo Journalism.  For my artist side there are no limits.

Note:  We arrived to Périgueux by train from Bordeaux.  Not far from the Gare (train station) there is a tour trail marked by a red line.  This will lead you to several points of interest.  Afterwards one can go up the hill to the center of the Medieval section of the town were the Cathedral Saint Front is located.  For Pilgrims there is a small chapel with a statue of Santiago.






The photos from this slide show are available as prints or a book thru http://www.MarciaGutierrezPhotography.com


Today marks a year from the day that I began walking up the Pyrenees Mountains from St Jean Pied de Port, France.  A day where the rain that fell down baptized me.  A beginning of a 60 day journey across Northern Spain ending in Muxía.

1517_3x4My journey began with an open mind to what may come my way.  I love meandering through unknown terrain (or well known terrain for that matter).  I looked forward to the culture and history that I would be experiencing; the time alone with my thoughts; the sounds that would surround me; the people that I would meet; the food, wine, colors, textures, and scents of this wonderfully diverse country—Spain.

As I write this an image comes to mind of a day I was walking through a village and a chorus of birds where singing behind a high stone wall.  All I could see were the tops of the trees over the wall.  The variety of bird song was wonderful!  Many I had never heard before…I hear it now over the low traffic noise coming through my apartment window in France…


This is where my journey, my pilgrimage, has taken me.  As my husband and I walked across Spain we talked about the next chapter in our life.   Life had seemed to take us to a dead end.   Yet at any end there are other paths to take…just which one?

I asked him what his passion was.  “Wine” was the answer.  He was already attending a 2 year program on wine at a local University.  Where to go now?

Uncertainty can be a hindrance to move forward.  The Question to ask yourself is:  “In 5 years from now how will I feel if I don’t take that jump forward and do it?”

So during our pilgrimage, his second, my first, we asked ourselves and each other The Question.  When we returned home the research and work (lots of research and work!) began for the next chapter of our lives.

We have been attending French classes since February at the Allaince Français in Chicago to help, this will be my third language; my husband’s forth.   While he is attending classes at the Bordeaux Science Agro in Vinyard and Wine Management I will be attending classes at the Allaince Français in Bordeaux and exploring and taking photos.

Who would of thunk that this shy, dyslexic, creative little girl would have the fortitude to take this jump forward in her life?  Not me…but here I am; a woman in her 60’s not allowing anything stop me from getting the most out of life.

Our apartment is located across from a church called Notra Dame and across from it is a park with a marker for El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, 1140 km.   There’s a garden design of a shell in the grass and brass shell markers embedded in the sidewalk.  We are now living along El Camino!

¡Buen Camino!






After El Camino de Santiago de Compostela: A Time for Reflection

Thursday, February 22, 2018

It has been almost 4 months since I walked my last day on El Camino (November 7, 2017). My husband and I spent another month in Spain visiting the cities of Sevilla, Córdoba, Toledo, and finally Madrid. We were able to walk a small bit of El Camino de Plata from were it begins in Sevilla and found the pilgrim’s office and church in Madrid where we went to our last Pilgrim’s Mass and later returned to donate our boots and a few other items for other pilgrims to use.

We are now planning our next walk: either the Ring of Kerry in Ireland, a 2 week walk that ends in Florence, Italy, or part of El Camino Frances in Southern France. When? We don’t know, soon though.

In the mean time we are walking as much as we can. It is winter so snow and chill gets in the way…here we can choose our days and weather. My toes are still numb but not hurting and my knees have recovered. I still have two small red spots on my left forearm from the bite that I got from the Biting Midge on our second day out in September (there is a repellent for those little blood suckers though). And I have replaced my bracelets; the turquoise and the shell, which I wore on my right wrist with a tattoo of a shell whose design is from a photo that I took in Santiago to help the artist create it.  Amy Porter, as always, did a wonderful job. Thank you.

What I am finding now is that I am mellower. Issues that bothered me before don’t. As a friend once told me, “It is what it is.”   There are things that one can do to make a better change in life and, well, things that one cannot. So why get hyper about it.

As a pilgrim I was looking for Balance in my life. I want to be more grounded and be able to look at something in a clear more comprehensive matter.  I believe that the mellowness that I feel in my soul is giving me this strength.

The issues in life…for me adult bullying…will always be there. Balance will help me handle it better: not allow emotions to take over and know when to walk away. As we say in Costa Rica, ¡PURA VIDA! (Pure Life or Life is Good!). At this point in my life and what I thought about and discussed with the Love of My Life on El Camino through those 631.4 miles that we cross over in Northern Spain together I have realized that I have many wonderful friends and am involved with a very creative group of people. I am ready to continue giving what I can to my community with the gifts that I have to offer.

¡El Camino IS la vida!

¡Buen Camino!

A Poem:

One day when walking thru a small village there was a pilgrim sitting on a stone bench.  Her pack at her side and her staff against it she watched us.  I found her intriguing.  Later when I was sitting and having lunch at a food truck area I saw her again.  She stood on El Camino at the foot path that led to the food area and again watched us.  I looked down for a moment to take a bite of my food and then looked up.  She was gone.  I didn’t see her on the path to the food truck nor on the Camino road that went on for quite awhile before curving down a hill.  She couldn’t have walked that fast.  It was surreal.

Pilgrim (La Peregrina)

Long hair

Shades of grey

You sit alone on a stone bench comforted by the moss that covers it.

Deep lines on face

 That once was fresh

How long has the sun, wind, rain, cold and heat touched you?

Slow walk

With staff in hand

Thick and crooked it pounds the trail with each careful step.

Shell and Gourd

 Sway to a rhythm

That beats out the ages of long ago when the ancients walked this path.

Observed by one

…You watch.

The reason long forgotten

The answer no longer important.

Fading into the horizon

…She understands.

–Marcia Gutiérrez, 2017



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