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Archive for the ‘Walking Tours’ Category

Mile 524.3: Lires

November 6, 2017

Had a late start…breakfast was not till 9 am. We headed out of Finisterre to Muxía We will be staying in Lires to shorten the distance. We headed up and up and up. The trail is marked a bit different. There are pilgrims that are heading to Muxía and others to Finisterre so there are double arrows painted on the streets using a M and F indicate direction.

The bay was beautiful and as we headed up we entered more and more into the countryside. There are a lot of donkeys here. Only one other pilgrim passed us. We were following a long road when we decided to take a break and sat along a wall near a mechanic shop. My husband told me that we needed to find a sign for a small town called San Salvador. I told him that it was just behind us. There was no sign for this town that faced us as we walked but I had noticed a sign in the other direction with this name on it. We backtracked and followed the road to a dirt track. It took us up through pine forests.

Sometimes the trail was wet sandy dirt and nice to walk on, other times it was full of big rocks. We walked through several small hamlets until we came upon a lumberyard. There was a yellow arrow tile on the corner of a wall that pointed in the direction that we had just come from so I continued to go straight but some men on the side of the road told me that I needed to take a turn right there.   I turned around and saw on the other corner a yellow arrow tile that pointed in the direction that I needed to go…the signage is rather tricky for those headed to Muxía.

Later in the forest we followed red arrows and red dots on rocks. The trail became rather rocky with loose stones when we came upon a marker that gave us a choice: straight through a forest or turn left to go along a beach trail.   We knew the beach trail was a kilometer longer but this was a “no brainer”…we took the beach trail. It descended down and was rough and rocky but when we came to the shore it was so worth it.

During the day we met few pilgrims: most headed to Finisterre and a few walking to Muxía. We met a young pilgrim who was deaf. He indicated that he could take our photo and we said yes. We indicated that we could also take his and he was pleased. He also wrote out on his phone asking were Lire was. We thought it was the one across the cove and showed him our map…he took a photo.   Lire is actually at the end of an estuary that was around a bend. The town is settled on a hillside and there are few ruins and many nice homes here, hórreos too…a lot. There are cormorants and herons and ducks. We saw fish swimming along the surface of the water some jumping. It is so peaceful here.

Tomorrow is our last day as we head on to Muxía.

El Camino brings one to peaceful places.

Mile 534: Muxía

November 7, 2017

Today was poetic.

I turned 61 years old today. Don’t feel 61 but then I don’t know what a 61 year old should feel. I have lost weight during this trip in spots that are hard to loose and some of my joints are creakier…but I feel good and I did something that I never thought I would. Today is our last day of this journey from France over the Pyrenees across Northern Spain and to the Atlantic Ocean.   I already look forward to our next adventure walking.

When we began our walk over El Camino Frances it rained for two days as we crossed the Pyrenees. Today it rained too. Not as hard and it didn’t sleet but it was wet and beautiful…how poetic.

We passed farmland and dairy farms, and small hamlets. We walked over soft sandy dirt and rocky roads, up and down through valleys and over hills. There is a new bridge for the pilgrims to cross. Before it was slabs of cement that pilgrims had to jump from one to the other in the water. Many bridges have been built to make the travel easier and safer for pilgrims along El Camino.

Though we could not see the ocean…the sound of the waves breaking were always in the background.

There were people we passed, few pilgrims going in our direction, many going to Finisterre. Dogs in their yards and cats everywhere (dairy country). One cat was comfortably lying in the middle of the road…in the rain. Guess it was waiting for the sun to come out. Another was sitting at a window looking miserable, the people inside ignoring it.

We finally made it to Muxía. The beaches are rocky here and beautiful, tomorrow we explore.

Yesterday when we were having lunch at the lighthouse there were three gentelmen next to us. We began a conversation with them. One asked me if our trip was all good. I told him no…El Camino is life. He agreed. Yet…in context the journey was good for it was a journey of development. Someone once told me, “What you want isn’t always what you need and what you need isn’t always what you want.”

This applies to El Camino too.

Mile 537.8: Santuario da Virxe da Barca, Muxía

October 8, 2017

Today we stood before a wild ocean of waves and stone.

It was nice to sleep in this morning. We were not in a hurry to go anywhere and didn’t have to get the suitcases packed and take down before 8 am for pick-up. No clothes to wash (will do that in Santiago.)   Our plan was to go to the Santuario da Virxe da Barca (Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Boat) were the ancients worshiped the sun and St. James saw the Virgin on a stone boat.

As we were walking up to the Sanctuary we passed the albergue and saw someone that we knew. She had started with us and the last time we saw her was in Ponferrada. She had a sore ankle so we helped her find the hospital there.   Later we met up again and it wasn’t as bad as she feared. It was so good to see her and to know that she had made it all the way to Muxía. She was waiting for a taxi with friends to go back to Santiago. She will be there for a few days so hopefully we will meet again….any way my husband and I gave her our e-mails.

The walk was short and easy. The church was closed, the gift shop open. (Go figure.) We walked down along the rocks that line the shore and watched the waves as they hit the shore. I could have stood there forever. There are four stones of interest: Pedra do Timón (the rudder stone); Pedra da Abalar (the axis stone); Pedra dos Cadris (the sail stone); and Pedra dos Namorados (the lover’s stone). None are marked but we found the sail stone and the axis stone stone.

After we walked up a hill were you get a 360 degree view of the area. I didn’t go all the way up and decided to take a side trail that led me to three large stones. Two were touching and one was not. There was a flat stone between the single one and one of the other two. I stepped on the flat stone and stretched out my arms to touch both stones. My fingers barely reached. I sent Reiki energy to the stones and I felt a serge of energy come back. I think the old church missed some of the Ancient’s sacred stones. I had felt nothing when I touched the sail stone. Now I feel a peace inside of me. I have also received what I needed from El Camino. Earth’s bones can hurt but they also can heal.

We left to have something to eat and rest. We went to a small bar where we could have some Caldo Gallego the standard soup made with the collar greens that are grown all over in home gardens. The lady gave us a plate of barnacles to eat with our drinks before we were served the soup. We had never eaten barnacles before and my husband ended up splashing himself. I heard a hardy laugh from the bar and looked up. A man was having a great time watching us fail in our efforts. I looked at him and smiled and shrugged my shoulders. He came over and showed us how to break them open so we would not splash ourselves. He was very helpful and left the bar laughing.

They were quite tasty.

Later we went back to watch the sunset. The tide was up and the ocean wilder than before. Again I took a lot of photos. It was windy, cold and beautiful. As the sun set we both felt at peace and are ready for new adventures.

El Camino will always be with us.

Donde el silencio esconde algo más que palabras.”

 “Where silence means more than words.”

 

¡Buen Camino!

Good Journey!

 

Pilgrim’s Passport:

1x4_8052

1x4_8053

Certification for Muxía:

3x4_8051

Footnote: The second day that we were in Santiago we were walking to the laundry mat and saw the young French man whose cart had broken. He had seen us crossing the street so he was standing by his table at a café waiting for us. It was so wonderful to see him. He told us that he was going to go to the albergue to find new shoes (people leave things there for others) and than he was on his way to Sevilla…walking. This is El Camino de la Plata (Silver). We too will be leaving Santiago for Sevilla in a week (by plane) so maybe we will meet again.

His name is Uriel like the angel.

3x4_2642

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Mile 466.4: Negreira

October 31, 2017

Today my right knee almost gave out…Ouch!

We began the day seeing the two ladies from Brazil at breakfast. When I asked the daughter if she wanted to walk with us her eyes went wide in shock…she is such an expressive and joyful soul. The whole room lights up with her. I have met so many people that I wish I could get to know better. El Camino brings such wonderful souls to us to meet…souls that represent the people we meet in our life and sometimes can develop a lasting friendship with.

We headed west out of Santiago. The markings are not as well defined when leaving the city of St. James. We followed large boot markings thinking that they were for the way out…turns out they were leading to an elementary school. Oh well. Finally we saw more of the yellow arrows and shells that lead us out of the city into a rural setting. We walked through valleys with beautiful residential homes on large lots and farms. El Camino is made up of asphalt streets and wooded trails. We met a man along one of the trails walking his two dogs. We talked a bit with him. Later we met a man pushing a wheel barrel with logs. He was clearing out the old wood from his land.

We met few pilgrims: a German who began his walk in Germany and told me to throw my trekking poles away; a young couple; a couple of ladies from Germany; a young lady from Quebec who began in France where friends live. (We had crossed paths with her for two days before we arrived to Santiago.)

My right knee was feeling weak and I was having problems walking so I was taking longer than usual. We were running behind and this was a long day. When we stopped for lunch the idea of taking a taxi just didn’t feel right…I was there to walk. I am better going up than down so after lunch I was able to go at a better pace. As we began to descend the lady from Quebec joined us and we were having a nice conversation when my knee jerked…and it hurt. This was something new and it worried me. My husband and I stopped at a bus stop and the lady continued on. I did some Reiki on it and the rest of the day I just took my time and was careful with it.

I am glad that I did not decide to take a cab to our next stop. The walk was beautiful and we went through a small village, Ponte Maceira, with a beautiful bridge. Most of the day we passed through beautiful areas.

Tomorrow a storm is approaching…

A Note: The bar where we had lunch had an arbor over the front porch that covered it with leaves and fruit from grape, kiwi, and chayote vines. We had seen the kiwi mixed with grapes in another patio that day but the chayote surprised us. This is a fruit that is found in Central America. So we asked the young man about it. He said that they also were not familiar with it and actually didn’t like it because it is too sweet for them. We asked him what they called it. “Patata de aire,” was his answer. (Air potatoe.) He asked me how I prepared it and I explained my favorite dish: Picadilla de Chayote (it’s boiled, pealed and chopped small with bell peppers and corn added and then sautéed in butter with herbs added).

El Camino can be rough on the body.

Mile 479.3: Santa Marina

 November 1, 2017

We are walking through the Wild Galecia.

Knee bothered me a bit…but was able to work with it. The trail was basically the same with forest and asphalt. Passed through different small towns. Stopped in bus stops and picnic areas to eat and rest. Not many other pilgrims…two young men from Belgium and Sweden (he has been walking for 4 months for over 2000 km), a woman, a couple and a man headed for Santiago.

We had a choice of trails and picked the “easier” one. It began well…flat. I then saw a man coming from around a corner of the trail where we were headed. He was going the opposite way to Santiago. He looked worn out. Then I turned the corner…¡Dios Mio! The road went down a bit and then there was a high incline up. This was just the beginning of how this “easier” road went for several kilometers…like a roller coaster. Actually it looked worst than it was but it was a long trek.

We could hear guns going off and saw a hunter with his dog looking for birds; two others had 4 dogs and were hunting rabbits.

It only drizzled a bit today. We enjoyed our time and the beautiful countryside. In one pasture we saw the native long horned cows again. There were calves playing with their mothers.

When we got to our next hotel the two young men were there having a beer outside. They were worried because there were no more beds at the albergue. We told them that we had a reservation and were staying in the casa rural next door. I thought that was sweet that they were concerned.

We ended the day at mass in a little church across from the Albergue/Casa Rural: Casa Pepa. We were the only pilgrims. The church was full of ladies and 4 men (counting my husband) and one little girl. It was a mass for All Saints Day. The cemetery was full of flowers and candles. The priest said that everyone is a pilgrim. I love the smaller churches they are so beautiful in their simplicity. This one had a beautiful carved alter painted in gold. The wall behind the saints was decorated with hand painted flowers. The alter had two containers with flowers growing out of them. The containers were paint cans…love it!

When we got to the part of mass where we shake hands and tell people to “Peace be with you” one man would not shake his hand with us and a lady behind us was not pleased with us either. The rest were kind and smiled. For a few we intruded for most we were welcome. It was a good mass.

We ended the night at dinner with the other pilgrims, many that we had met on the road and the lady from Quebec. We all have been on the road for a long time and the atmosphere is different…deeper. The couple that we eat with was not doing well in their relationship. They have dated for a couple of years so decided to walk El Camino. They are finding that their relationship is growing and doing better. They were surprised that my husband and I have been married for 35 years. I really liked them…I hope they find the love and happiness for a good, strong and lasting relationship.

El Camino can help one appreciate what is in front of them.

Mile 487.9: Olveiroa

November 2, 2017

Today we entered a town of stone hórreos.

It was raining when we woke up. The couple that we met the night before left early so we will not see them again.  Most of the pilgrims at breakfast did not want to go out in the rain.  I go by the saying that there is no bad weather, just inadequate clothes.  So I put on my vest and then my rain coat.  I placed my Bolivian wool cap on that has ear flaps and keeps my ears toasty, placed the hood from my raincoat over that and last my rain hat.  As I walked I felt like I was in a portable tent.

An older man that we had met in the alburgue walked with us for a while. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery but it was difficult to photograph. Finally the rain stopped about an hour after leaving for the road.   We just enjoyed the rest of the day and my knee  behaved.

There are lots of large dairy farms and hórreos made of stone instead of wood slats or red brick.   We saw our first stone hórreo in Negreira in front of the hotel. Later a lady who worked at the hotel Pension As Pias in Olveiroa told my husband that the bigger the hórreo the richer the owner. Her grandfather had built two but her uncle years later took one down and her aunt had a fit. They are used to store corn for the cows and potatoes for the people.

We ended the day with a wonderful dinner. The two young man that I had met the day before were there enjoying their meal too. They were staying at the albergue that we had passed earlier when walking through the town. We had seen a young woman who looked really tired and my husband told her that there was an alberge down the side street. She looked so relieved. We asked about her. She was able to get a room.

It rained all night and we heard some thunder. Tomorrow we will see the Atlantic Ocean.

El Camino is good…wet or dry.

Mile 499.5: Cée

November 3, 2017

Today I found out that my pack is a cat magnet.

In the morning it was still cloudy but blue sky was peaking through. The walk was up over a mountain and very nice. We saw few pilgrims. We stopped at the only bar for a drink and to get something to eat. There were three kittens: two black ones and a tiger striped one. They sat under the table as we eat and played with our boots then one went to my pack and played with the straps, the other two joined it. It was fun to watch them play.

The road was rocky in some places but most of it was wet sand and dirt and felt nice. We passed a small chapel called Nosa Señora das Neves (Our Lady of the Snow). There is a journal outside for people to make comments. The young woman from Quebec had left one in French. I left one too.

Finally we saw the ocean it was far away and matched the cloudy sky. We walked along a hilltop with large rocks forming islands in the grass and took a break on one. As we were descending we met up with a lady from Australia wearing a nice blue felt hat. She was coming to terms with her problems on El Camino and her friends and family are praying for her.

As we were walking a man was approaching us; it was Erik. Even the lady from Australia knew him. He didn’t recognize us at first and than he recognized me. He had gone to Muxía first and was headed back to Santiago. He was happy because his son couldn’t book an early flight for him so now he could spend more time there before going home. He had also found the boat that he wanted through the web for his next adventure. I am glad that we met up with him again. I had been thinking of him that day.

As we were descending down to the coast and Cée (say) we saw a man with three dogs…one was a pit bull. He told us that to own one he couldn’t have a police record and had to register the dog with the police. He got down on one knee and had the dog lick his ear to show us that it was gentle.

The lady from Australia wanted to walk alone so she slowed down to get some distance between us but we were seeing beautiful views of the ocean so she asked if I could take a photo of her, then we parted.

Dinner at the hotel began at 8 and we were hungry at 5. We cleaned up and decided to find a bar for a drink and tapas but it was raining hard so we went to the cafeteria/bar at the hotel that was only serving drinks. The man tending the bar turned out to be the owner, Pepe. We talked to him and asked if he had anything to eat…chips or something. He offered to make us dinner early, he loves to cook and made us a wonderful dish of tapas de seta (mushroom), scrambled eggs with setas, and fish. He showed us how to cut the fish to remove most of the bones. He then brought out a plate full of the biggest muscles that we have ever seen and my husband enjoyed them. Finally Pepe brought out an apple tarta. It was flaky and good. He was so fun to be with and so happy to cook for us.

El Camino brings happy people together.

Mile 507.4: Finisterre

November 4, 2017

We didn’t get to see the sunset but the moon was full and bright.

The morning was clear and bright with blue sky and clouds. Pepe made us toastatas (toast) and sang to us. He is happy preparing even the simple foods. So we left Cee to the next town that is on the other side of the beach and met the lady from Australia. We walked a bit together then parted. We wanted to see more of the town before leaving.

There is artwork of statues and murals in a park. People kept telling us that we needed to go another way for El Camino but we told them that we wanted to see the town first.   Later a lady leaving her house also told that we were going the wrong way so we told her that we were headed to the church. She told us which street to take…the one with the stairs…and kept an eye on us to make sure that we didn’t miss it.  When we got to the church we met another lady who lives across the plaza from the church and she told us about the church’s saint who sits and writes.

We left through a stony alleyway bordered by stonewalls that went up and up and up to an asphalt road that also went up and up and up. I heard some noise behind me and saw four men walking their bikes out of the stony alleyway. Two were able to get on their bikes and work their way up the road. The other two kept on walking. As they passed us they told me that this was for younger people. I told them that if there was an up there will be a down.

We walked over streets and roads that went behind homes. Some of the streets were quite busy with traffic so we had to be careful. When walking on a street pilgrims walk on the left side facing the cars coming but sometimes there are blind curves so we cross to the other side. We had to do this several times and the cars were fast, the drivers are not so concerned about the few pilgrims that they see here.

We stopped for lunch at a little bar along the beach and the lady made us calmari (squid). It was one of the best. She breaded it herself and fried it so well. We eat it with a mixed salad. Then it was time to go over the last hill and there was Finisterre (Fisterra in Galego).

We met up with the lady from Australia again and we talked awhile as we walked. I took some more photos of her and we parted. The walk along the shore was flat and curved. It was also hard since it was made up of stone slabs. We could see the lighthouse in the distance.  As we were walking on a side trail a pheasant cross our path.  It was a pleasant surprise.

Before looking for our hotel we went to the alberge where we could get our certification. Then we walked back up and up and up to our hotel, which is made of stone and beautiful. Later we went out for dinner. I brought my trekking poles to help me with the hills. My knee is doing much better but I will take no chances.

Dinner was good. I had my favorite: octopus with shrimp and a salad of tomatoes and cheese. We had white wine with it and asked for the cork. My husband told the waiter that I was making a cork jacket to wear when I jumped into the sea at the End of the World. I told him that I needed a lot more than what I had. He came back with a red cork with paw prints on it for me.   So now I have a special cork.

We did not get to see the sunset today, as is the tradition…it was too cloudy. As we walked home from dinner, though, the clouds parted and we saw two stars and a bright full moon. The sun setting represents the end of an old era for the pilgrim. The full moon though coming out from behind clouds has more meaning to me.

Tomorrow we walk to the lighthouse and the End of the World.

El Camino has its own tradition to share.

Mile 515.4: El Cabo Finisterre

November 5, 2017

Today I followed the path of the Ancients.

The coast line that we have been following for a couple of days is known as Costa da Morte (Coast of the Dead) because of the shipwrecks. It’s a beautiful area with sandy beaches and rugged cliffs. We followed El Camino today to the End of the World where there is a lighthouse. Once it was thought that this was the furthest point of land on this coastline. People have found something special here way before the Romans or Christians arrived.

First we went to the lighthouse. The trail here runs beside the winding road by the cliff. We walked up and up and up. There is a statue of a pilgrim along the way. This is where I began walking on the street facing traffic. The trail is narrow and there are bushes along the side but they only hide the sharp drop down. As I walked along the road with other pilgrims a car stopped beside us. I saw him driving up and down the road several times but paid him no mind. I was told later that he had stopped to watch the backend of the women and myself that were walking…pervert.

Once we reached the lighthouse we went to the side of it. There are stairs that go down to where there are several points of interest for pilgrims. Since I am not good with high places I did not go down. My husband did though and took photos.

We had a nice lunch at the hotel there and then headed up to the Monte Facho where there are three outcrops of rocks that were sacred to the Ancient people that lived here. We stood by these ancient stones and looked out upon the Atlantic Ocean. It was rugged and beautiful. I placed my palms on one of the rocks and sent Reiki energy to it. Then I felt heat come back to me like a liquid glove covering my hands. There is so much energy here.

We then walked to the other side of the mountain where there is an old hermitage of Saint Guillerme. There is a large rock there and what is left of the walls of the chapel and living space. There is an alter in the chapel with a slab of stone by it with an indentation where people can lay on it. The slab predates the Christian era and it was thought that to lie on it one would become fertile. Across the bay from this site is Monte Pindo. This was a sacred mountain for the Celts and is majestic to see especially when the sun is shinning on it. As we walked back down towards the road a rainbow appeared in front of Monte Pindo. This was a magical way to end the day and our time at The End of the World.

As we took the trail down from the mountain to the road again we saw the lady from Australia. I really love her blue felt hat. It has so much style and looks good on her. She looked happy and relaxed. She leaves for Santiago tomorrow and than home. May El Camino have blessed her as it has for us.

We ended our day in our room eating fruit and cookies that we had in our pack. We had stopped by the restaurant that we gone to the night before. The lady there had told us that they were open from noon till 11 pm and did not close during the siesta time. Turned out this was not true. We arrived there at 5 pm and they were closed. The same lady made up a story as to why and expected us to return at 7 pm. We tried to find food somewhere else but most of the bars and restaurants were closed or not serving food (or so they said). There were many that were full of men playing games together and they had food. We were glad that we had eaten at the lighthouse. Our feet hurt and my knee was sore. Neither wanted to walk down the hill and back for dinner. So we enjoyed the food that we had and drank water.

Tomorrow we head to Muxía (Moo-shee-ah) the Christian “End of the World.”

 El Camino has an energy all of its own.

 

Pilgrim’s Passport:

2x4_7827

1.5x4_7828

Certification for Finisterre:

3x4_7664

¡Buen Camino!

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Mile 418.1: Melide

October 26, 2017

Today was a new day with new adventures to discover.

We began our walk from the hotel. It is set in a river valley so we walked up through pine and oak forests. Most were not natural but still beautiful. There were also plantings of new forests of a tree I did not recognize. Here and there are eucalyptus trees. I have been seeing these in a few other places too…not native to Spain.

We saw our first squirrel…it was black and ran across the road in front of us.

Since our walk would be short today we decided to wait to stop and eat. We are in pulpo (octopus) country and I have been waiting two years to have good pulpo. (We had ordered some in Sahagun but it was really, really, really bad).

The trail was not too bad as far as ups and downs went but it was full of small stones that hurt the toes so we stopped a few times to give them a rest. At one stop I was sitting on a stone bench in front of a house next to a bar. There were two kittens on the other side of a gate and the lady of the house opened her door to feed them. They were not too sure about the two pilgrims on the stone bench but finally they came out to eat. We talked awhile with the lady. She takes care of the stray cats in her town. She was a very sweet person.

We later met up with a couple from yesterday, they live in Northern California and we ended up eating together at the Pulperia Ezequiel which is noted as the best in the area. Even the too tannic wine tasted better as we enjoyed our pulpo.

Medile is similar to other larger towns that we have passed. We went to the church to see when mass was and there was a small chapel open in the same plaza. Nearby was a cobbler shop where he made shoes and purses and wallets and other leather goods. It smelled nice.

I decided not to go to mass today. My husband went alone and it was good for him.

That night we eat a headless fish. Usually fish are served whole…from head to tail. The chef came out later to see how we liked dinner. He said that he changed the way of serving fish since he cooked mainly for pilgrims from different countries and many didn’t like seeing the head (and eyes). He had cut the fish in strips and fried the skin so crisp. It smelled and tasted so good. His name is Armando, he’s a young man who loves his work and has a bounce for life. His family owns the business: Pousada Chiquitin.

El Camino shows us the simple things in life.

Mile 426.7: Arzúa (Dombodan)

 October 27, 2017

Somewhere we have left the land of stone and slate to stone and tejas.

I awoke to a car passing in the street. Though the hike was to be short today (8.6 miles) we had crests and valleys to walk up and down. There are more pilgrims on the road now since many begin in Sarria: a group of Germans with two young girls and the cutest little dog called Gaston (I call him El Perro Peregrino); two ladies who are getting use to the roughness of the trail; A little girl whose boyfriend is carrying all their goods as she bounces and clicks her trekking poles. This is the first day since leaving O Cebreiro that I have not seen the French man with a cart. I think we may be ahead of him now.

The trail changed from asphalt to rock throughout the day. We stopped twice to rest our feet. Along the way there were rest areas with picnic tables and shade. The forests are a mixture of old oak, hazelnut, pine and eucalyptus as well as one that I don’t recognize. The old oak and hazelnut looks natural, the rest are planted.

The other day I picked up a black rock that looks like obsidian. Now I am seeing black rocks embedded in the dirt of the trail…maybe it’s jet, the black stone that is used to make jewelry here.

The houses are still made from stone but the roofs are now tejas instead of slate. Some of the stone has been covered with cement leaving a few details of the stone. Other houses are all stone…showing the beauty of the different forms and colors. Many of the homes as well as churches have open slits in the walls, either low or high. These were used for defense.

We had lunch at the Café Bar Santiago where the owner has walls full of letters from pilgrims…it tells how good he is to be honored so.

Except for a few steep hills, the walk was not so difficult. We made it to Arzúa in no time, had a beer (1906 Reserva Especial) and the bartender called our hotel for pickup. We are staying in Donbodan at Casa Brandariz. This is an ancestral home of the family that owns it. They had lost it in history but were able to buy it back. It was in bad shape but they had it fixed up…stone by stone…and now it is a Casa Rural and restaurant. Doña María del Carmen Costoya Gómez is an award winning chef and has the awards to prove it. The pleasure of dinning there is all one needs to know this is a woman with the talent and love for fine dinning.

Next to the home is a church with an old and modern cemetery. The old one is in front of the church with plaques like the ones usually found on the interior floor of a church. There are two small ones: for a girl of two and a boy with no age noted. They left this life way before I was born. Rest their little souls.

A lady was there with a bucket and scrub brush to clean them. We spoke with her for a while. Her daughter lives in South America and works for a non-profit that helps women. We talked about how there were many people from Galicia that had moved to Costa Rica during the time of Franco. She said that it had become so bad there during that time.

We dined in a room where once cows lived and enjoyed a meal that puts “Home” in a home cooked dinner.

El Camino brings the past and present together.

Mile 437.6: A Rúa (O Pino)

 October 28, 2017

We ended the day with our feet up near a fire in a large hearth that is in a house built in the 18th century. (Casa Calvo in O Pino)

The day went well. The trail was not so difficult with some ups and downs that were manageable but it was rocky and I needed to stop a few times to take off the boots and massage my toes. It’s hard to find a place to sit sometimes when one needs it. There was a wall but signs said not to sit on it so we found a rock. A pilgrim passed as I was massaging my toes and told me that she related.

We walked through forests that had been planted and gave us shade. We walked through small hamlets where many of the old stone houses have been repaired into new homes. We saw lots and lots and lots of hórreos, some with corn stacked in them.  There was a wall with thoughts of wisdom tied to it.

We came upon the French pilgrim without his cart…it had fallen apart so now he is wearing his pack. When we pass him we say, “Hola, otra vez.” He doesn’t know what “otra vez” (again) means so today he pulled out his French/English dictionary and learned a new Spanish word.

The new pilgrims are beginning to feel El Camino. The walks up are getting to them; their feet hurt…the little girl with her boyfriend (who is carrying everything for her) had bounced and played yesterday and now is tired and feeling the pain that this road can cause…they argue.  Yet…for most they understand and are enjoying the discoveries that El Camino has to offer.

Tomorrow we arrive to Santiago de Compostela and end phase one.

El Camino has a wisdom of its own.

Mile 453.4: Santiago de Compostella

 October 29, 2017

Today was a bitter/sweet walk. Memories of the past two months flowed through my mind…

El Camino is not too bad here: some ups and downs (which are more interesting that a flat road), we walked through small hamlets and forests that had been planted by humans. The trail changes from forest trails to stony senderas to asphalt and sidewalk. This was hard on the feet but as always we find a place to stop and rest them. Finally we came upon Monte de Goza (Mount of Joy) where there are two monuments to visit. One is more abstract with large panels on all four sides and honors the visit of Pope John Paul II and Francis of Assisi. The other is of two pilgrims looking over Santiago…and below there is the city with the Cathedral of Santiago to the side.

As we approached the city I had a “call of nature” and nowhere to go. When nature calls on El Camino and there’s a bar, you buy a drink and use the aseo or W.C. (which are kept very clean and nice). When there is no bar, well, the men have it much easier than us ladies. So here we were, just entering Santiago and no bar but there was a conference center with people going in and out setting up for some event. So…we walked in with packs on our backs and carrying our trekking poles. We asked two ladies were the aseo was and they directed us. It was big and nice and so needed. As we left there was a man standing to the side watching us…security. He didn’t look pleased and watched us as we thanked the ladies and left. I ignored him. My husband’s boot squeaked.  What was he going to do? Kick us out?

As we walked through Santiago headed towards the center of the old medieval town we could see the three towers of the Cathedral.  El Camino takes the pilgrim by the side of the Cathedral through a covered passageway where someone plays the bagpipes. Turn left and there is the front (which is still being repaired). Pilgrims and tourists alike are in the plaza.  I saw a group of people sitting on the ground by the cathedral, they waved at me.  It was the group of Germans that we had been walking with since Sarria.  I took their photo and then one of El Perro Peregrino.

We continued to La Oficina de Acogida Perigrino where we received our certificates: one as pilgrims, the other for the kilometers that we have crossed.

 Later we went to mass. This is not the special mass that is only held on Sundays in the afternoon. But it is still special and there were a lot of pilgrims there. A man from France was invited to come up and present letters that people from his small village had written to give to the priests when he arrived. It was so sweet. The priest also calls out a list of where the pilgrims that came in that day come from and how many started from where. Only two came in this day from St. Jean Pied de Port…my husband and I. Some began even further, most began closer to Santiago.

A woman in front of us started taking photos during mass and was told to stop by a pilgrim, she moved to the back and continued. I just don’t get the disrespect of some people…this is a holy time.

Overall it was a good mass and a good way to end our first phase of our trip. Tomorrow we have a rest day and look forward to washing our clothes, buying some supplies and going to our favorite café for coffee and ice cream.

On El Camino there are many good people who remind us that life is wonderful.

No Miles…Day off: Santiago

October 30, 2017

Today we enjoyed sleeping till 8 a.m.

We are staying in Virxe do Cerca located behind the farmer’s market. The building is old and of stone and once was a factuary. We stayed here last time and love it.

This was a day of wash and rest so we went to the launry and enjoyed conversing with a man who lives here and later two pilgrims from Australia who took the English route of El Camino. We then did some shopping for fruit from a fruit stand and creams from the farmacy. After dropping everything off we went to our favorite café for coffee and ice cream. It was once a casino and was established in 1873. Now it is called El Bistro del Vino. I love the wooden decore in it…it is a good place to relax.

Afterwards we went to the Cathedral to hug St. James whose bust is up behind the alter. It is forbidden to take photos there for it is a sacred area for prayer. I hugged him for Don José who I met before going to Astorga. I hugged him for my cousin in Puerto Rico who has no food or water or electricity because of the hurricane and is getting no help from the idiot in Washington D.C. because he doesn’t like Latinos.  I hugged him for the people who made our journey wonderful and the ones who are sick and need the energy to heal.  We also lit candles them.

We then went down under the alter where there is a small casket of silver where the bones of St. James lies. I prayed for everyone.

Even though there are signs as one enters these sacred areas that there is to be NO photographing of these shrines, someone has to do it (and with flash!). I politely told the man that is was forbidden. People are praying here. He was defensive.

We ended our day having dinner at the hotel. I have waited two years to have the pulpo with fava beans…the funny looking brown ones. I love fava beans but here all beans are called fava. So I began with the caldo gallego (the local soup) which was the best yet and than came the pulpo…with large white beans…oh well…it was a bit salty but tasted wonderful!

While we were eating two women came into the restaurant. One was carrying a folded up box. It was a daughter and mother from Brazil. The daughter began talking to us as if she knew us in Portuguese. She was so full of life and expressive and fun to talk to. The waiter also got into the conversation so here we were having a wonderful time kidding around in three languages: Brazilian Portuguese, Galego, and Spanish. Then just as they had come in, they left. It was a bit surreal. I thought they had come down for dinner. My husband told me that he had met them the day before when they were checking in. Okay…but…I still don’t know why they were in the restaurant. Glad they were though.

Tomorrow we begin our walk to Finesterra.

El Camino is always with you.

Pilgrim’s Certificates:

Pilgrim’s Passport as of October 29, 2017

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¡Buen Camino!

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Mile 374.6: Triacastela

October 22, 2017

I’m beginning to enjoy the scent of fresh cow manure.

It was cold when we left O Cebreiro. Our day would lead us down about 600 meters but El Camino led us up and down on a trail that hugged the mountains. The view was spectacular as we passed through small farm villages and cows in pastures. The steepest ascent was just before Alto do Poio where we ended at a bar that had great empanadas. (Big too).

We rested and began the descent to Triacastela where once upon a time there were three castles. Now there are none.

The descent began well with a slight incline. The scenery was, again, spectacular. Then the descent became more and more “fuerte” (difficult). There were many areas that were very steep but the countryside that we walked through was so beautiful that we enjoyed the walk. The scent of cow manure, the call of the cows, and the clang of the bells around their necks filled our day.

El Camino brings us beauty.

Mile 383.4 Sarria

October 23, 2017

Today I learned that the pilgrim towing a cart is French.

The day began chilly with frost on the pasture grass. We had breakfast in the café of the hotel that we were staying at: Casa David. It is a homey place and the people there are so friendly. It was such a difference from O Cebreiro where we felt that we were intruding on a family and they didn’t serve breakfast till 8:30 (we went somewhere else).

Breakfast was good. The lady was concerned because the toaster had stopped working and we told her that it was no issue…we liked our bread “crudo” (raw). I told her that at least it wasn’t the coffee maker that broke. She spoke Galegos to us and we spoke Spanish to her.

We walked out of town and passed a small building that looked like a small castle (maybe one of the three castles did survive?). The trail led us to a valley where the grass was grey with frost and roosters crowed and dogs barked. It was beautiful!…A hidden jewel that went on for miles and miles.

The trail winds and moves up and down. Not really a bad trail. There was a part that was so steep and the trail was made of small rocks, I wished for larger rocks that would make a natural stair to make the way easier: watch out for what you wish for. Around the bend was a steep incline by a fountain for drinkable mountain water, large rocks formed a natural stairway…it was more difficult to descend.

During the day I would pass or be passed by a young man who is towing a cart with his pack and other goods. I had passed and been passed by him yesterday too. I had greeted him in both English and Spanish…he didn’t seem to understand either. Today he was with a young woman. She speaks Italian to him and he speaks French to her. It is interesting how the Romantic languages can work with each other.

A lady in O Cebreiro told me that she spoke several languages because she had dated men who spoke those languages (all Romantic ones). “That is the way to learn a language.” She told me. “But not Basque, Basque is too difficult.” She spoke Basque, though, because she grew up with it.”

So the day went well and now we are in Sarria where many gather to walk El Camino to Santiago de Compostella. A pilgrim only needs to walk 100 kilometers (62 miles) to get the Pilgrim Certification in Santiago so many begin their journey here.

Over the past weeks we have lost pilgrims that began with us: injuries, time constraints (but will be back next year to continue), found that it was more than they imagined. Now we will have a new group of people on the road; they will be fresh and begin to learn what those of us who have been here for a while have learned: El Camino is no walk in the park…

El Camino es La Vida.

 Mile 399.2: Portomarín

 October 24, 2017

Today I heard different forms of music. Some were beautiful because they belonged here; some were intrusive because they did not belong here.

El Camino takes the pilgrim up a steep and high stairway to enter the center of Sarria. Yesterday we went up it to see the town. Today we went up it to follow El Camino. It is always more difficult with the pack on.

The trail led us to a monestary and past a cematary along a freeway in the sky and a railroad track. Then up, up, and up we went on a beautiful country road.

Again we passed and were passed by the French pilgrim with a cart.  I say to him, “Hola, otra vez!”  I don’t believe he understands “otra vez”  (again).

We have new pilgrims…they began in Sarria where it is about 102 kilometers from Santiago…the minimum to walk for a certificate is 100 km.   Birds sang and the wind blew through the leaves of the trees.  Along a trail between walls of old stone and moss we heard a bagpipe.  Around the corner was a young man in full traditional dress playing for us.  It was wonderful.  Later I met a pilgrim with a round ukulele. He played something for me…it was sweet.

There are a lot of new pilgrims.  A group of teens play their Rock & Roll rather loud and it takes away the bird song and wind through leaves.  A pilgrim asked one of the adults with them if she could please have them lower their music…she didn’t care.  Hopefully they will not be with us tomorrow.  This is a different camino…it is easy to see who has been walking longer…we have a dusty look.  It is also easy to see who is a pilgrim and who is there for only fun. (Though we pilgrims have fun too but we also respect the space of others.)

We saw a cow that is native of the area with long, long horns called cachega.  We are also in the land of hórreos (orr-a-o):  raised buildings (so the critters can’t get in them) where corn is stacked.  Some have been repaired while others are in disrepair.  We saw one that was now above the entrance of a house and another one was painted with designs.

Portomarín was once lower and closer to the river but it was raised up higher when the river rose.  There is a long, long, long, bridge that I had to cross and it was frightening.  I am afraid of heights.  But I made it only to find a high stairway to also climb.  I survived this too.  The church here is interesting…it is a fortress church with an area above where soldiers of the past could stand their ground.

We went to mass at the fortress church.  It was a special mass for a group of about fifty boys who would have rather been somewhere else.  They entered in small groups during the mass.  Some were disruptive.  I can’t help but think that if their chaperones had been nuns they would have been in better behavior and seated before mass began.

El Camino can be trying on the patience sometimes.

Mile 409.2: Palas de Rei

October 25, 2017

Today I walked on a yellow road.

The morning began with fog over the mountains.   We headed back to the steep stairs in front of the long, long, long bridge. There was an option…down the street. Though this was a bit more distance we took it. It led us to another bridge to cross the Rio Miño. Not as long or frightful.

Again we climbed up to leave the river valley. The trail was rocky most of the way as we walked over rolling mountain roads. My toes hurt (they have done fine on the forest trails) and my husband’s feet hurt also so we stopped several times through the day to take off our boots and give them a rest.

We past through pine forests, and walked along country roads. For a time we walked upon a yellow road not of bricks but of dirt and rock. (Interesting). There is a café bar called O Castro that my husband had stopped by on his first walk of El Camino. The mother of Doña Flor makes yogart from fresh cow’s milk. It is thick, silky and has the slight taste of sour cream…slight. It is the best that I have ever tasted.

The walk was long. At times we were in sunlight and other times in the shade of a forest. We past a pine forest that had burned (perhaps one of the many of the fires of last week?) We left El Camino at a cross to Palas de Rei. There are many crosses like this one: Mary holding the baby Jesus on one side and Jesus on the other side. This one was different. The styles do change and this one looked more Celtic but Mary seemed to be holding Jesus after the crusifiction instead of a baby. It was interesting.

Upon arriving to Palas de Rei we stopped by the church so we could have our pilgrim’s passport stamped. The lady there was really nice and we spoke of Saint Tirso whose statue is on the main shrine. He holds a saw because they tried to saw him in half and couldn’t so they cut off his head.

We took a cab to Balneario Rio Pambre a hotel and spa in a beautiful country setting. Tonight we sleep in a pallazo, the round homes of the area. Right now we are sitting on a porch, I am drinking 1906 Reserva Especial beer and watching the flycatchers circle around in the sky before us. The sun sets behind an ancient castle.

El Camino shows the beauty in simplicity.

¡Buen Camino!

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Day off: Ponferrada

 October 17, 2017

Today I made a friend. Her name is Osita (Little Bear)

Finally it rained and the fires are almost smothered. People lost their lives, homes and businesses. I hope they find justice.

We did our laundry today as we do on the mornings of days off. Instead of being entertained by the clothes spinning I went shopping at a pharmacy and market. I think we spend more on creams at the pharmacy than we do on wine.  It is nice to have clothes that are clean and fluffy. We hand wash in between but it’s just not the same.

We spent the day exploring more of this interesting town full of history. Found an ice cream shop and later had a coffee at a café across from our hotel. A man came in with a large pack on his back and his little dog followed. He spoke with the two men that are working the bar. He took his pack outside and told his dog to stay. The little guy waited by the open door for his friend. We were told that he is homeless and comes by some days to see if he can get a coffee and bite to eat. He was happy and conversed with the two men. His little dog waited. As we left I went up to the man and gave him some euros. Told him they were for him to get something for his little dog. He thanked me.

There is a bookstore in the plaza near our hotel. We went in and I was greeted by a little ball of brown fur. Osita is a Pomeranian and so playful. I scratched her and played with her (I miss my dogs so much). We spoke with the lady for a long time about books and the difference between the Spanish language in Spain and in Central and South America. She felt that the Spanish language in the Americas was more colorful. We bought a book of poetry, a play of two pilgrims that don’t know they are spirits, and a book written in the 1800’s about areas that we are walking thru.

We ended the day at a wine, cheese and dinner tasting. The wine was wonderful, the cheese divine, and the dinner wonderful. It started with groups of people who were friends and not open to the group as a whole. After a glass or two we were all good friends and my husband and I had interesting conversations with three men that we were sitting near. I think they had underestimated us and they were surprised that I spoke Spanish and we know a lot about Old World wines. I told the man, Nacho, next to me that of all the wines that I have tasted from Europe, Spanish wine was my favorite. We ended the night with the biggest Chupito that I have ever been served. A Chupito is a liquer that is offered at the end of a meal. There are about 6 or 7 different flavors. My favorite is the herb one. That is what they offered us but it had been heated or as they say queimada (burned) with coffee grains (there were 4 floating in the drink). Usually they are served in a small chilled glass, this was a large whiskey glass. It was really good and a fine way to end the night. I hit the bed at 12:30 a.m. We had to get up at 6:00 a.m.

El Camino helps bring people together.

Mile 342.9: Villafranca del Bierzo

 October 18, 2017

We started El Camino from Camponaraya where the vineyards begin.

It was a beautiful walk thru small villages and wine country. The smell of wine was in the air and we passed both the bodega and the vineyard of the wines that we drank the night before: Luna Beberide.

At one point I thought it was raining but no drops hit the ground. It was the sound of the electricity running through the wires above…rather disconcerting.

Than we turned a bend and there was Villafranca del Bierzo a beautiful jewel of a town.

El Camino brings us pleasure.

Day off: Villafranca del Bierzo

October 19, 2017

We slept in…something rare and wonderful.

Villafranca del Bierzo is a beautiful little town that is settled in a valley where two rivers converge. The streets are hilly; some are cobblestone; the buildings too of stone. There is much to discover here. We found a street called Sucubo (succubus) were an artist has added interesting tiles on the wall…his studio around the corner.

As the pilgrims approach this lovely town they pass the Iglesia de Santiago were there is a Puerta del Camino or Puerta del Perdón (Door of El Camino or Door of Pardon) where a pilgrim who is unable to walk to Compostela because of illness or injury can walk thru this door that is opened only in the Holy Years of Compostela.

 We ended our day in mass at the Colegiata de Santa María. Mass was held in the center of the church where you entered thru a small door. It was a good mass and the priest, Padre Angel, was the most down to earth priest I have ever met. He feels he is more a convert than a priest for he lived a difficult life before he went into priesthood. Now, as he says a small boy told someone; he is a priest in the church, a friend out of church, and a strict teacher at the school were he works. (I get the feeling that his students love him). He said the pilgrim’s prayer and gave us advice to buy our water as we walk through Galicia instead of using the tap. The fires have damaged much there and the water may not be as safe as it was before; eat dried fruit; and he told the ladies to eat as much chocolate as we like for we loose weight on El Camino so eating chocolate is not a weight issue right now…take advantage of it!

As the other pilgrims left, my husband and I spoke with Padre Angel. He loved to talk. He told us that money is nothing; but for a couple to walk El Camino together was a precious experience to share worth more than any material value.

El Camino gives us wisdom.

Mile 352.7: Ambasmestas near La Portela de Valcarce

 October 20, 2017

As I crossed the stone and cobbled bridge…the same one that we had crossed for two nights for dinner…I felt the weight and drag of my pack.

We left Villafranca del Bierzo, a jewel were two rivers (rios) come together. El Camino goes along the Rio Valcarce by a road that curves through mountain valleys. We have three choices to take for El Camino on this leg, the one we took that is fairly level or one to the left and one to the right of us. Both of these take the pilgrim up, up, up and down, down, down through the mountains. I’ll take a level road when I can.

The air is cool, the trees are changing color, and the clouds were low for most of the day but no rain. We passed through villages where people were gathering hazel nuts or making wine in their bodegas. Cats and dogs greeted us. I love this area: mountains and forests…fresh air and the sound of water…bird song and the bells on the cows’ neck. I hear it now as I type this on the balcony outside our room with pilgrim’s clothes drying and airing out around me. I am happy. I enjoyed a local beer with my husband. It was smooth and creamy. We walked the length of the town and enjoyed its peace.

Ambasmestas is a small hamlet…one main road…with a highway above it where the sound of traffic is hardly heard. It is a peaceful town that a man we talked to here told us there is no stress in life. Someday my husband and I would like to live in a town like this. It is almost 7:00 p.m. and people are coming out to enjoy the day.

A bus arrives and 21 pilgrims come out. They will be staying at our hotel. Dinner is animated with the pilgrims from the bus sitting at one large table. Another table has a lone pilgrim and the third my husband and I. The bus pilgrims are from various Latin American countries and they are thrilled and one emotional about the opportunity to walk some of El Camino.

 On El Camino we choose our path.

Mile 360.7: O Cebreiro

October 21, 2017

 Today we walked through forests where the Duendes (elves) live.

Breakfast was full so my husband and I invited the other pilgrim to sit with us. He is from Luxemburg and we had a good time getting to know him. The pilgrims on the bus left before us but we still made it to the next town before them. They walked ahead of us and the distance grew as we took photos of a castle on a hill and spoke with a man who was grooming his dog. He was so sweet and told us that El Camino is life; the same thing that Padre Angel told us. He takes care of the street cats, 12 right now, and showed us the stack of bags of cat food he has. I told him that when I lived in Costa Rica I did the same. I called them the roof cats because when I called them they made a rumble running across the roofs of the houses to mine. He wished us well and gave us a hug.

We walked on a winding country road…up, up, up…we had 600 meters to climb in 8 miles. The guidebooks say that this is the worst stretch of El Camino. It isn’t.  It’s beautiful.

The first day to Orisson was bad because our bodies were not use to a 600 meter climb in 5 miles, Zubiri was bad because of the sharp rocks crossing the path, and Molinaseca was bad because of the steep trail full of sharp and pointy rocks. Zubiri and Molinaseca were trails that went down. Climbing down is always more difficult than climbing up. Gravity pulls at you, your feet get more of a beating.

Today we walked up the asphalt on a winding country road until it split: bikes continued on the road, walkers turned to the left down a dirt trail that took us into the forest. Down? We lost some altitude before the trail began to go up. It was rocky but the rocks formed a natural stairs and the dirt was soft and damp. This was a true mountain trail, one that I know well. It was pleasant to go up. Not once did I have any problems with my feet…they were happy.

We crossed through several small villages and had a pleasant meal at a vegetarian restaurant. We saw cattle and sheep and dogs and cats. We encountered two traffic jams when the cows were let out to pasture. We stepped aside to let them pass but both times a few cows decided that we were more interesting. They have such sharp and pointy horns.

The view became more beautiful as we climbed higher and higher. Near the end a man from Denmark, Erik, walked with us. He has walked several of the routes of El Camino, two this year, and plans to go home and buy a small boat, fix it up through winter and sail from island to island and hike next year in his home country.  His life is hiking. Together we crossed from León to Galicia. He was a pleasant companion and I hope we see him again.

O Cebreiro is more a tourist center than a village. Here they have samples of the typical round houses called Palloza and the church is where Padre Elias Valiña Sampedro is buried who spent his life restoring El Camino.   He is the one who came up with the idea to use yellow arrows to show pilgrims the way. (So much for what a pilgrim told me in the beginning about Franco)

We had a pleasant mass and the priest had a pleasant voice. He had people read passages in their native language: English, Spanish (my husband had the honors), and German.

The night is cold, windy and chilly. Tomorrow we descend.

El Camino es la vida.

Critters Continued:  Fuzzy caterpillar; colorful worm; a lot of bright green lizards running in and out of cracks in the sidewalk; a single big, black ant; a black beetle; a copper beetle with red legs; a black slug (haven’t seen these since the Pyrenees (See October 20 pictures above)); another big, black ant; another black slug enjoying something a cow dropped behind; a snail.

 

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Mile 291.2: Villadangos del Páramo

October 11, 2017

Today we said goodbye to León a vibrant city with friendly people.

Last night we went to the Pilgrim’s mass at the Basilica de San Isidoro. It has been awhile (since Burgos) and I really missed it. Saint Isidoro is next door to the hotel/monastery that we were staying at. Saint Isidoro’s remains are in a silver chest behind the alter.

Mass went well. There was about half pilgrims and half local participants. At the end the priest asked the pilgrims to come up to the front. He then asked if anyone would like to read the English translation. No one came forward so I raised my hand and went up. I was wearing the wrong glasses though. My street/driving glasses do have close-up magnification but only at the very bottom. But I did well. The priest was really nice. He thanked me and I thanked him for the honor.

We had spent the day just walking around León and going off the “beaten path” into areas that tourists and pilgrims don’t usually go. Found a ferreteria (hardware store) where I could buy a bottlebrush for the water bottles. In front was an abbey and as we were standing there a man approached us and asked if we were lost. My husband told him that we were lost on purpose. He then told us that there was once a wall that blocked the street there and that the abbey was for cloister nuns. They were poor so they took in clothes to mend. People are so friendly here. We joked and talked to other people as we walked around. We felt at home.

We also found a plaza that is dedicated to Don Gutiérre. My husband’s surname is Gutiérrez. In Spainish the “z” at the end of a name means “son of.” Don Gutiérre had quite a noble life. He was a 14th century knight loyal to Alphonso the 11th. He helped put down the rebellion against the king on Calle Mata Siete. Afterwards he renounced all possessions and became a pilgrim on El Camino where he became lost to legend.

The following morning as we were having breakfast he came up to us to say good morning. His name is Padre Francisco and he resides in the monastery. It was really nice to see him again.

After mass Padre Francisco had told us all about a modern church that we would be passing on our walk today: La Virgin del Camino. So today we began our walk there. The church is modern and interesting in its mixture of simple and interesting artwork. We got our stamps for the day there, prayed and meditated, and continued on El Camino.

The path parallels a busy roadway. There is an alternative road that goes out more into the páramo (grassy high plains with some small trees or bushes) but our hotel was not along this pathway so we walked by the roadway. We were keeping good time and there were a couple of places to stop for a break. Then about 1 mile from our hotel the muscle that I had had problems with last week snapped…OUCH!!! (…and damn!)

So I had to slow down and limped my way to the hotel. It’s a nice hotel by the roadway. We had our room changed to the back so it would be quieter and since there’s really nothing much to see here we are spending the day resting…and there’s a bathtub! Hot water and Epson’s salts!!! …a sore muscle’s friend.

El Camino can be quite a challenge at times.

Mile 299.3: Hospital de Órbigo

October 12, 2017

The day was to be much the same as yesterday…but it wasn’t.

We continued on the same route as yesterday along a busy roadway but the trail curved away from the road and took us into a tree-covered path. Some parts were rocky while other parts soft with dirt or trampled grass. As cars and trucks passed by to the side, we enjoyed the shade and cover.

Except for an occasional pilgrim on bike, we did not meet any pilgrims walking. Guess most had left very early for Astorga or they were on the alternative route away from the roadway. It was rather nice to have El Camino to ourselves.

We took a break by a barn made of red brick. The bricks have holes that go thru from one side to the other and are solid on the other two sides so they lay them in such a way that there are parts of the wall that are solid and other parts with holes for the light to get thru. I sat on an old truck tire so I could take off my boots and we each eat a small, sweet pear. Birds flew around us and sang and I heard a thumping in the barn. Something from inside sniffed and wined. There was a dog inside to guard the barn. It was lonely. I felt so sorry for it. If anyone ever tried to break in I think the dog would be so happy that it would lick and kiss them.

We made it to Hospital de Órbigo in record time: 3.5 hours.   To enter Hospital de Órbigo we crossed a medieval bridge that had been built over a Roman one. It’s the longest one that I have seen with cobblestone road stretching over a river that is mostly dry.   Before we crossed we met our first pilgrims walking. They are from England and happy to meet someone from Illinois. They are keeping track of the states of the Americans that they are meeting and Illinois was a new one for them. We crossed the bridge together.

There is a story about this bridge…A story about a knight and his love for a lady…for a month he challenged any knight who tried to cross the bridge and won over all. He than went on a pilgrimage to Santiago and a year later married his lady.  Twenty-five years later he was killed in a battle by one of the knights that he had defeated.  Every year now in spring there is a festival below the bridge with medieval games.

We are staying at a beautiful Hotel Rural called Nuestra Señora de Lourde. The owner is from Portugal, Doña Dolores, and she has a big heart. She remembered my husband from two years ago since he was walking with a hernia.  She’s also a great cook. The hotel is more like a home with two open spaces for gardens: one in the front and the other in the back. Our room looks over the front garden. Unlike many hotels that close for the winter season, she stays open all seasons for the pilgrims. They need a place to stay too.  She only closes for Christmas.  Like I said…A big and beautiful heart.

There are not a lot of pilgrims here in Hospital de Órbigo. The tour books suggest having lunch here and moving on; what a shame. There are some really nice places to spend the night here. Even the inside of the albergue looked nice with a garden. I like shortening my day more so that I can enjoy both the walk and the area that I am spending the night in.

El Camino has heart.

Mile 312: Astorga

 October 13, 2017…Friday

Today we were denied entrance to the Astorga Cathedral during the time for prayer…

El Camino took us away from the busy roadway and into valleys and hills, thru villages and farmland. It has been awhile since we have had to go up and down hill. Took a bit to get the stamina back but it did.   Met new pilgrims to talk to and share the road with. Hope we meet again. At the Cruceiro de Santo Toribio we met a man who was tending the roses and trees that are planted near the cross. He surrounded himself with lady pilgrims and said a prayer for us. He asked us to hug St. James for him when we get to Santiago. His name is Don José.

(Note: There is a bust of St. James behind the alter. You go up some stairs and you can touch it from the back. Two years ago, during the Pilgrim’s Mass, a lady was up there (it is suppose to be closed off during mass) and while the priest was performing mass we could see two hands and arms in a bright peach long sleeved top reach out around St. James’ shoulders and touch his face. It was a bit distracting but interesting…not what one expects during mass.)

From the hill where the cross is the view of Astorga is beautiful. The Cathedral dominates it all. Astorga is in an area where the people of a unique culture are called Maragatos. It’s not known what their origin is, there are several theories, but these people have created a unique culture for themselves after being isolated from the rest of Christian Spain when they were surrounded by the Moors. A couple of days ago at the hotel that we were at the cook is from Astorga and she served us food from the area: chickpeas with veggies, a varity of meats; the last course is soup. It was so delicious. Before we came into Astorga today we stopped at a bar for lunch called Oasis that my husband had come to the last time he was here. The owner was so nice and personable. He father makes the tortillas (potatoes and egg baked in a pan). It was the best I have had…he used herbs and just the right amount of spices.

So it was with a satisfied stomach and expectations of new experiences that we entered Astorga.

Our hotel is right across from the Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace that Gaudi designed. They are both beautiful. The palace is closed though because of the holiday so we decided to go to the Cathedral and light a candle for my mother-in-law and pray and meditate. There is always a side door open for the hours that the churches and cathedrals are open for spiritual moments…no photographs allowed. So I put my small camera away. When we approached the side door people were entering the Cathedral. There were signs on the door that it was a time for prayer and no photos allowed. When we approached and tried to enter a man stepped in front of us and would not let us in. I told him what we were coming for and he looked at us with distain and told us to go to the front and wait with the tourists. He shut the door on us. Later we met some other people who had the same thing happen to them. It was so upsetting. We have been in many churches and Cathedrals during our walk on El Camino. Only one other was a bit strange…the pilgrim’s mass in Burgos at the Cathedral where the priest was only interested in the Polish and German pilgrims. There, when he was asking if there were any Polish pilgrims and no one answered a man said he was from Canada. The priest didn’t know how to take that. In actuality, there were pilgrims from all over the world at that mass, but we were not important to that priest.

My husband wrote an e-mail to someone on the Cathedral’s website since the manager in the ticket office was no help to us.

I think these big Cathedrals are forgetting that they are houses of God.

(Note: My husband received an answer from one of the priests at the Astorga Cathedral. It was a lovely reply. He said that this should never have happened and that it never will again. He also lit a candle for my mother-in-law and said a prayer for her.)

I look forward to walking tomorrow…

El Camino gives one time to meditate and be closer to God.

Mile 324.1: Rabanal de Camino

 October 14, 2017

We are leaving the area of adobe and tile homes to stone and slate one…

Was good to get out of Astorga. Found a modern church not far from the center where we had stayed…looked friendly to pilgrims. We gained some altitude…our phase is changing to mountains…Mountains of Leon.   Found it better to walk on asphalt when possible. Passed thru towns that were really interesting…a lot of old buildings made of stone, many in bad state but others have been renovated.

Saw a pilgrim in front of us who seemed to be having trouble walking. We stayed behind him just in case. At a rest stop right before the final phase there were 4 kittens about 6 months old. They seemed well fed and were friendly. The last phase took us up on a rocky trail that wasn’t so bad; smooth areas of dirt and rocks big enough to use as steps. There was a wire fence full of crosses that pilgrims have made and left. It went on and on and on.

Rabanal de Camino is a very charming town. Renovated stone buildings as well as lots of broken down ones. The hotel is really nice. Dinner was one of the best.   We went to church and the priest who is also a Benedictine Monk sang most of the sermon. He also spoke in Italian, English, German, and Spanish. Because the other monks are not here not there was no Gregorian chant, he gave a blessing to the pilgrims instead.

Before dinner we walked the town…lots of friendly cats…there’s a man who feeds them. It is a really nice town and people are friendly and grateful for the business that the pilgrims bring. We met 8 to 10 people who were sitting on stone benches and talking, this is called a tertulia…spending time in the evening with neighbors talking. They are all from here but some live in Madrid and were visiting. I was taking photos of a door and a man, Don Manuel, opened the door for us so we could see the oak beam. It was about 18 x18 inch thick and 250 to 300 years old. We had a wonderful time talking with them and learning about the area and history, as one lady said, “Gratis.” It didn’t cost us anything.

Note: Church is old and shows it age but it is beautiful in its simplicity.

El Camino brings people together…

Mile 334.1: Molinaseca

 October 15, 2017

Overall today’s walk was the best in a long time…

Day started off really well…trail was rocky in center but good smooth side trails. Feet did well as we past cattle, sheep and the sound of hunters shooting and past thru a ghost town where the stone houses were in various stages of disrepair. One house was rebuilt with solar and wind energy. There was a colorful retreat where the man who runs it wants to change the world (the question is to what?). Met our friends from Canada…haven’t seen them in several weeks. Leaves are changing color. It was a really beautiful day crossing the Mountains of León. Threw my rock at the Cruz de Ferro and released my heavy load. Walked to the highest point of El Camino. It was after all this that things went bad…

Trail was rocky like the one to Zubiri…slate and loose rock for the first part of the decent and this was only the first and shortest of two descents. I heard people catching up with me and I turned to see a couple coming quickly down the rocky trail. I stood aside and told them that if I walked as fast as they I would be laying on my face. The man told me that that would not be good. He was from Australia. Australians seem to be the hardiest of the hikers. Later my husband and I took the road instead of the trail and we passed the same couple…both looked exhausted and in pain.

We had to go back on the trail again and it was hard and I was not in a good mood but each step forward means a step closer to the end (of the first phase). People passed me who looked fresh and carried little. One lady told me that they were using a tour bus to help with some of the distance. “We are cheating.” She said. “No.” I said. “You choose your own path.”

In the end there was a switch-back trail that made the decent easier and there I was in Acebo where my friends from Canada were having lunch and many of the people who had passed me were enjoying refreshments. They welcomed me and I felt better. I knew, though, that I could not make the next leg of this decent…only 5 miles but at my pace I would be there till dark so we called a cab from La Casa del Peregrino where my husband had met Don Carlos two years before who runs it and lived once in Puerto Rico.

The cab driver told us that this is the worst part of El Camino and the erosion has been really bad exposing more of the rock. We drove down a steep, hairpin curved road that was not wide. There were many pilgrims on the road walking. I think this is the most dangerous area of El Camino that we have encountered…either the steep rocky trail or the curvy mountain road. I am glad that we took a cab the last 5 miles. Our feet hurt and my muscle is stiff.

Do I feel bad that sometimes we have taken a cab to shorten our day of walking or avoid dangerous areas? No. I have met people who have broken their bones, lost a tooth, twisted their ankles, lost their toenails, hurt their knees. There are pilgrims that begin their walk in the dark of the morning and end up falling. I have met pilgrims that don’t walk more that 7 miles a day or decide where they are going to end the day when they become tired and find a place to stay. For me, 13 miles is my limit, down hill is the worst and a road of sharp pointy rocks that do or do not move is a nightmare. I still have a long ways to go and so far I have walked most of it. The Way can be painful and hard but it is full of wonderful surprises, people and places to experience. I would not have it any other way…I will walk with my head, I am not here to prove anything to anyone…I am here to learn.

El Camino can be demanding…

Mile 350: Ponferrada

 October 16, 2017

 We have gone 350 miles from our starting point of St. Jean Pied de Port and we have walked 334.1 of those miles. I am only counting the miles that we walk.

We decided not to walk the 5 miles to Ponferrada today. Our feet hurt and there are new muscles that I am learning that I have. One at the bottom of my rib cage; it is sore and must have helped me a lot yesterday as I was descending the mountain. We need a rest before we begin our new phase.

The day began dark and smoky. There are fires in Spain. More than 200 that were purposely started. People do this so that they can later go in and scavenge what remains. All the fires began at the same time right before winds from a tropical storm hit…it is being called “Terrorism by Fire.” People are loosing their homes, their lives, forests and animals are dying, and an elderly man lost his life trying to save his goats. What type of person can do this just for a little profit? People are mad. Some one called it the “Law of Sancho Panza”…the guilty only get a slap on the hand. People are mad. Tonight there were protests all over demanding that the guilty be punished.

We spent the day exploring the Templar Castle, which is actually three. It was interesting to see and there is a beautiful exposition of illuminated books there.

“El libro es lumbre del corazón…”

 “A book illuminates the heart…”

Ash fell around us all day with the smell of smoke all around us. We enjoyed dinner with our friends from Canada. We had not seen them in several weeks and this maybe the last time. As we had dinner people in the plaza protested against the fires.

Tomorrow there will be rain.

Pilgrim’s Passport as of October 16, 2017:

2.5x5_5614

3.5x5_5615

¡Buen Camino!

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Mile 230.7 Calzadilla de la Cueza

Though San Zoilo Hotel Real Monasterio was restful, it was time to move on.

As we left the hotel there was a cart with two horses across the street and a group of women getting ready to climb onto the cart. We knew some of them. They decided to enjoy their journey to Calzadilla de la Cueza by horse and cart. (We later found out that one of the ladies wasn’t feeling well so she and her mother had decided to take the cart and others joined them.)

The driver tried to convince my husband and I to do the same. He said that there was nothing from here to there and no water sources. We told him we were ready and both carry 2 liters…not what he wanted to hear.   We wished them well and moved on.

El Camino is rather flat in the phase that we are on and still runs thru rather dry farm land…but nothing? So not true. It is full of texture and birds and old abbeys to discover. There was even a rest stop with shade (no water) and a food truck where the owner was roasting really good sausages that he added mustard and tomatoes to on a bun. The trail was not so rocky and for a while shaded (a bit) by trees. Later the trees were only on one side—the wrong side for shading the road.

We met some ladies that were riding bikes. They ride a few days and than walk. Told me that it gives an alternative to a sore bum to sore feet. They were not well covered though…tank tops and no cover for their heads. I hope they don’t end up too sun burned.

I know to pace myself when I walk but I am also pacing my rest stops now. When my feet begin to hurt I stop where I can and now take my boots off and move my toes. It makes a big difference. We kept a good pace and walked 2 miles an hour today. Made it to Calzdilla de la Cueza in good time.

We are staying in a hotel that is owned by a pilgrim: Don Cesar. He has 3 certificates on his wall and is so friendly…more fatherly to the pilgrims with a big heart.   Our pilgrim’s dinner was good: lentil soup, chicken and I choose the ice cream (drum stick) but should have taken the apple tart (the best I have seen). The wine got better with the meal. The company was even better! We sat with 4 people from France who are doing El Camino in parts so this is their second set. We really had fun with them even though the language can be a challenge. Hope we meet again.

El Camino always has something to share.

 

Mile 247.4 Sahagún

Today we received our first certification.

We halved our walk and took a cab to Moratinos where there are bodegas (the little buildings in the hillsides) so that we would get to Sahagún early to explore this town that is the halfway mark between Roncevalles (the official start for Spaniards) and Santiago. The road was flat and not so rocky. We had a rest and KAS de Limón in the only town we passed and a rest at a nice park with interesting and comfortable metal chairs to sit or lie on. The park is next to an old Abbey. There is also a marker there that depicts the exact spot of the geographical halfway point.

Upon arriving to Sahagún we freshened up and had another KAS at a bar in the plaza where our hotel was. We had decided not to go to the church where the certificate for the halfway point was given since it was an uphill climb. Instead we asked the bartender where the nearest market was. He spoke really fast (as they do here) but I understood; my husband got confused. We headed down the road and turned right as we had been told to do. We looked and looked and looked for a sign that said market. Saw an alley but no market no sign (turns out it was a large logo and a very small sign). Asked a pilgrim who had a bag of tomatoes and she too was very confused. Said she had followed a lady to it but now wanted to go back and couldn’t find it either. We walked away and than she called us back again. She found it. It was the alleyway…it led us to the front of the market. Kind of was a surreal event for all three of us.

After we went to an abbey to see about a mass where the Mother Superior blesses the pilgrims. Met another pilgrim who had the certificate for the halfway mark between Roncevalles and Santiago. She showed it to us, it was beautiful, and asked if we had gotten ours. She convinced us to go.

The certificates are handed out at the Peregrina (female pilgrim). It is an old church under restoration and is now a museum. We had to go up-hill a bit but it was worth our weary bones to do so. What is there is beautiful and interesting since it has Moorish influences and a statue of the Pilgrim Virgin that was done by a woman sculpture. The architecture is called mudéjar. It is a mixture of Christian styles of Romanic, Gothic, and/or Renaissance with Muslim style architecture or art.

3x4_halfwaycert

We also ended up meeting up with our friends from Oregon AND our new friends from France! Later we had dinner with the ladies from Oregano (one was celebrating her birthday).

El Camino brings good souls together.

 

Mile 257.6 El Burgo Ranero

Frog Hamlet.

Did really well today. Was able to keep my normal pace (2 to 2.25 miles an hour).   I took breaks and stretched my toes when I could (happy feet!) There were rest places along the way and even benches along the trail. The trail was tree lined and the trees were on the correct side so the shade went across the trail. The day was cooler for the most part.

We had lunch in a small town called Bercianos del Real Camino. I wanted a plate of “verdaderos” (veggies) for lunch without egg. Ended up with a plate of tomatoes and some zucchini scrambled up with egg…oh well. I could have sent it back but didn’t want to waste it. It is so hard to get just veggies sometimes.

As we were walking out of the town I was taking photos of doors, windows and walls (love the old stuff) and there was a house with metal bars on the windows and front wall that had little figures on it. I loved it and asked the two men sitting on a wood bench under a tree if it was their house. One said yes. They got a kick at me photographing the ironwork. In fact there were words along the rail: Bercian del Real Camino Frances.   As I took photos, my husband got into a conversation with them. People are curious about the U.S., what we think about our present government in Washington, and history in general. As we talked other pilgrims passed by and never noticed the ironwork that honored them.

The road was long and straight with a few curves up. It paralleled along a road that had little traffic. We walked most of the way on the asphalt rather than the semi-rocky trail…much easier on the feet.

At one point there was a deep ditch that crossed under the road. It was full of green plants contrasting the dry vegetation around it. A noise undulated from one side to the next…up and down the ditch…kind of a low fast serious of clicks. I stopped and listened. It was so calming; I could hear the wave in the movement of the sound.   I take it that that was the ranas (frogs) singing. That is what this little hamlet (burgo) is named after: ranero

Later my husband and I walked around town. There are a lot of old adobe homes here. Most in bad condition and some for sell. We went to the church and it was closed with no hours for the mass. We sat down on one of two ornate metal benches in front and soon an elderly lady came by. We greeted her and began a long conversation.   She, of course, told us that her husband is sick…he has no energy. She than told us that she came to the area as a young woman to work in a butcher shop near the train station. She met her husband and stayed. I asked her if I could take a photo of her with my husband but she said no. She was wearing her housedress and was not made up well…she also told us that she is 88 years old and is not comfortable with photos. I actually found her to have a lot of character and beauty so it was too bad that she felt too self-conscience. But we had a wonderful time talking about life in general and joking. She told us that in the past there use to be a lot of pilgrims lined up to get into the church but over time it changed so now mass is only in the late morning.   I feel that this is so sad. The church should be open for the pilgrims that want to come: if not for mass then at least to be able to come in and enjoy and pray in the church. She told us that El Camino was “Mucho Sacraficio” (A big sacrifice.)

I don’t think like that but I get where she is coming from.

El Camino brings us gifts.

 

Mile 270.3 Mansilla de las Mulas

October 7, 2017

It began as a cool, crisp day and the trees along El Camino were dense and on the correct side of the trail so we had shade most of the way.

There is a quote that says that it is about the journey not the destination. There is so much to see, hear, touch, smell, and feel along El Camino. The way here is much like it has been for several days: dry, dusty farm land, sunny, warm (though is it cooling down a bit), towns with restructured adobe homes and adobe buildings in various states of disrepair. We meet people, dogs, and cats along the way. Today we conversed with a lady that had a beautiful rose garden. She said that it has been so warm that the roses are still blooming. She didn’t seem happy that it was still warm so I said yes but you still have roses. She laughed and introduced us to her four dogs.

There is a small airport that we passed and there were two small planes that were flying in circles landing and taking off so this gave us opportunities to take photos of them. They flew over the road so I got a shot of one as it flew directly over me. The other plane had flown over before and it “waved” its wings at us. We were the only pilgrims paying attention to them. They noticed.

Over the past several days, as a photographer, I feel like I have had a “Georgia O’Keefe” moment with my art. The area is not a desert but it is dry and arid. There is so much texture and contrast. The lone tree is more dramatic and when we do have clouds I think of a piece of hers that is hanging in the Chicago Art Institute. It is big and of clouds…rows and rows of clouds. The adobe buildings…the old ones…have so much character, the people too. I also think of her friend, Ansel Adams.

El Camino shows beauty in simplicity.

 

Mile 282.7 León

October 8, 2017

Today I woke up in a room with antique furniture, lace, and a view above a porch covered in grape vines. I didn’t want to leave…

El Camino was calling us so we did.

We crossed a bridge over the Esla River and began a new day along trails that parallel roads and went thru new towns to discover. We were headed to León.

We passed a house with lots of cats. The owners told us “Más gatos menos ratones.” (More cats; less mice.) We lunched at La Torre Alberge in Arcahueja that my husband had gone to before. The owner makes everything himself and is a really good cook. I had the albondeges (meet balls) and they were “Rico!” He was great to talk to and we enjoyed both food and conversation.

A note here: while we were eating three young pilgrims came in for something to drink and eat. They were very careful in what they ordered because of price. Two went outside to a table and one was waiting for his drink. The owner took a plate and placed one of his homemade chorizos in homemade cider sauce on it and cut it up in pieces. He then added some more portions of other items on the plate. He gave it to the young man and told him to share it with his friends. It was “gratis” (a gift).

There are many on El Camino who travels with little. Compassion is a gift from above.

Most of the trail to León went thru small towns. There is a new pedestrian bridge and rest stops. The Friends of El Camino have done a wonderful job making the way easier for us pilgrims these past several days. A bench in the shade means a lot.

And then we saw León and its cathedral in the distance.,,

We stopped for a KAS on the outskirts, rested and began our journey into this beautiful city.

As we began our walk in the older part of León, passing thru the old city wall we met a man and three ladies. He was curious about us as well as giving us some history of the area. We were near a church that he said was once the church that the pilgrims came to and its old name is still above the door: St. Maria del Camino. We introduced ourselves and he is the president over the Federación Española Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago (Spanish Federation of Friends’ Associations of the Way of St. James.) He has walked El Camino several times and written books two books: one on pilgrims’ stories in the Hostels and the other one poetry of El Camino. We later found an interview with him in the magazine that they have at the Cathedral: Catedral d León.   Gracias Don Luiz Gutiérrez Perrino y los Amigos por sus dedicationes a los peregrinos.

Later as we walked thru León we met up with our friends from Oregon and a mother and daughter who we met before. We met later for dinner. One of the women from Oregon told us a story where she decided to bake a pie a day and give it away. Sometimes to a friend; sometimes to a stranger. She made over a hundred pies of different varieties. She has a blog on it; I hope she does a book. Her story and experience in giving is worth hearing.

On El Camino we break bread and learn more about each other.