Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category


“Be prepared.”

That’s a piece of wisdom that anyone who backpacks can appreciate. When hiking in the wilderness one has to rely on self-preservation. It’s You and Mother Nature. How you have prepared for the hike and how you handle any issues that arise is a difference between enjoying your adventure and telling the tale . . . or not making it.

This is harsh reality.

Walking the Camino is not a walk thru a city park. You will hit a variety of terrain from mountians, valleys, farmland, forests, towns, cities and industrial areas. Be vigilant and prepared with both mind and body.

When my husband decided to walk the 500 miles from St Jean Pied de Port in 2015 to Santiago I would have loved to go with him. I wasn’t ready though plus I knew at that time he needed to do this alone. Now I have had 2 years to get my self “up to speed” for the 600-mile hike that we plan to take. I have actually been quite surprised at how quickly my body has come back into shape after too much neglect.

I also have two really good pair of boots that I have broken in with the daily walks and weekly long hikes that we are doing.


 IMG_8138              IMG_8142

Those comfortable boots that you have loved for years?  Maybe not a good idea.


Taking care of your feet is something often talked about in the various articles and web sites on El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Good quality boots, good health practices and…moleskin for blisters.   When my husband was getting prepared for his walk the first thing I told him was that he needed to get a good pair of boots and to bring moleskin with him.

“Moleskin? What’s that?” He asked.

I showed him and told him that whenever he felt the beginnings of a blister that he was to put this on it and leave it on. I was thanked via text many times by him while he was on his first walk. He also encountered people who didn’t take care of their feet and suffered gravely for it.


My husband’s feet with moleskin…and no blisters


To me it’s common sense to take care of yourself and make sure that your feet are well cared for since they will be taking you on a long journey. It should be common sense…but common sense is not always there.

Which reminds me of a story…I am a storyteller…

Anansi the Spider decided that he wanted all the common sense in the world for himself. So he took a gourd and collected all the common sense he could find and placed it in that gourd and stuck a cork in the opening good and tight. He then tied a rope around the gourd so that he could carry it around his neck. He found this too cumbersome though and decided that he needed to hide the gourd full of common sense somewhere where it would not be found. He decided high up in the tallest tree would be a good place.

So one day he began to climb, up and up and up. But that gourd swinging around his neck between his belly and the tree just kept getting in the way. It was a difficult climb even with his eight legs.

Far below he heard a small voice, “If you put the gourd behind you you’ll be able to clime easier!”

“What?!?” Anansi didn’t quite hear what the voice said. He looked down and far below standing beside the tall tree was a small boy. His hands where cupped around his mouth and he repeated even louder:

“If … you … put … the … gourd … behind … you … you … will … be … able … to … climb … easier!” He called out again.

Anansi had heard the boy this time. He looked at the tree trunk in front of him; he looked his belly so round; he looked at the gourd full of common sense between the two.

“What?!?” He thought to himself. Here he had all this common sense…all the common sense of the whole world and a little boy still had more than he. What good was it doing him? Nothing.

So Anansi popped the cork and let the common sense ride the four winds. It was taken all over the world and some people ended up with a lot of common sense, some a little and … well others … ended up with none at all.


Take care of you feet. They will be carrying all the weight.

Boots1328   The boots that will carry me along


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Shells found throughout Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Like many of us, I collect shells. I have bowls and jars full of shells that I have collected along the coasts of California and Costa Rica when I lived there. When I was leaving California in the mid 70’s for the Army, I dragged a friend of mine to Black’s Beach that lies just South of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. I had seen bits and pieces of cowrie shells there along a line of rocks that protruded out of the ocean. We spent about an hour looking for a cowrie shell that was not broken, then we gave up and that’s when I found it.   I have carried it with me ever since.   It reminds me of my childhood, growing up and the value of a great friendship that still continues to this day…Love you Jeffrey.

In Costa Rica in 1992 while pregnant with my daughter my husband and I visited the family ranch in Guanacaste along the Pacific Coast. There I found another cowrie shell. This one joined the first and reminds me of my early adulthood, the man that has become my life partner and motherhood…Love you Guillermo and Geannina you’re the heart and soul of my life.

Cowrie1324_4x3 Cowrie Shells from California and Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Shells are the primordial reminder of where life began. They protect, are beautiful and some hold the sound of the ocean within them.

Throughout Europe the symbol of the scallop shell can be found on doors, windows, walls, statues, and embedded in the roadways. It has become a symbol of the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela.

The scallop shell is found naturally along the coastline and at the end of the Camino in Finisterre. Early pilgrims would collect one to prove that they had walked and finished El Camino to the end of the world. Modern day pilgrims will attach one to their packs. It has both practical as well as symbolic uses in the long history of the Camino. For more information on this please go to www.Followthecamino.com they have a very good article on the legend, history and symbolic use of the scallop shell.


Scallop Shell on pilgrim’s pack

When my husband finished his 500-mile walk to Santiago de Compostela in 2015 we bought each other silver shell charms. He added this to the chain that he wore around his neck throughout his walk and still wears. He added it to a wooden St. Francis of Assisi cross that I bought him at Santa Croce in Florence. When we bought the chain for the cross it was too long so we had it shortened and a bracelet made for me. I placed the shell charm on the bracelet and have worn it almost everyday for the past two years. (Had to take it off for a while when I got my tattoo)

This charm reminds me of the goal that I have set for myself. It reminds me of what I hope to achieve for myself and be a better person. I don’t know if I will be wearing it as I walk but I will have it with me. When I finish and return home I will be adding a new tattoo to my wrist, just under the one I have of a gingko branch and three-legged crow. I will add a scallop shell.



Note: Follow the Camino is the company that we are using to organize our walk.



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Today I picked out my stone. I have a collection of stones that I have picked up along mountain passes and beaches thru my lifetime. Quite a few of them are from California. Many have fossils embedded in the ancient and hardened sand. That’s what I chose:  A small stone the color of blue grey with white flakes thru it…ancient shells embedded in sand that time hardened. It’s flat and round. 1.75 inches across and feels good in the hand. I picked it up on a beach in Northern California.

I will carry it now in my daypack. Carry it while I go on practice hikes here in Illinois and carry it on the plane when I head out to Southern France. I will carry it across the Pyrenees Mountains into Northern Spain. Than about 553 kilometers or 343.5 miles into the walk near Ponferrada at the highest point of El Camino in Spain, 1,530 meters above sea level (5,020 feet) I will be standing on the “Roof of the Way” in front of an iron cross perched on top of a 7 meter (23 ft ) wooden post that is surrounded by stones, stones that pilgrims (peregrinos) have left over the years.


The iron cross, Cruz de Fierro, sits upon a point in the Leon Mountains that once had an altar dedicated to the Roman god Mercury. Now it is where pilgrims come and leave a stone from their home. The stone can symbolize a deliverance from sin or protection from the dangers encountered along El Camino. It’s what one wants it to be. For me it symbolizes the release of unneeded weight that gets in the way in life. It’s an offering to all that have traveled this road thru the millenniums.


“When I let go of what I am,

I become what I might be.

When I let go of what I have,

I receive what I need.”

                                                                             — Lo Tzu

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned,

so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

                                                                                            — Joseph Campbell



Photograph of Cruz de Fierro by Guillermo Gutierrez, 2015

Ramos, Sergi.  Camino de Santiago. 2014



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Santiago, A Coruña

In August 2015 my husband told me that he was going to do something stupid. “What?” I asked him.   “Quit my job and walk El Camino.” He answered.

“That’s the smartest thing that I’ve heard in a long time.” I told him.

Since the “down turn” in jobs and getting caught in the whirl wind of job after job after job in the world of Private Equity Firms where companies are flipped and people let go for no good reason we both were tired and going a bit insane.

My husband had wanted to walk El Camino (The Way) since he was a boy. When we first met he told me about it.  I, an avid backpacker at the time, was intrigued. Our plan had been to do this together…Someday.  Careers, a daughter, life and all its insanity just got in the way of walking The Way.

I was not ready to walk with him in 2015, bad knees and so out of shape. Besides this was a time that he needed—by himself.  So…in October of 2015 he left for Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port, France to start his walk and I later met up with him at the end of November, in Santiago de Compostela where he ended his 500-mile walk. To his discernment I was already planning to get myself in shape and walk El Camino with him in 2017.

So here we are…in two months (September 2017) I will be in France with my husband and walk the 600 miles to the End of the World, Finisterre.   We actually plan to continue on to Muxia then bus back to Santiago de Compostela and travel a bit more (by bus, train and plane) before we end up in Madrid.

It’s been a good year training and getting into shape. I loved my time in Spain two years ago and look forward to going back…this time seeing this lovely and culturally diverse country in a more intimate way.  I also look forward to enjoying the wine, pulpo (octopus), and olives! … And of course so much more!

This blog will be a chronicle of my time walking El Camino. I am more of a photographer than a writer so I hope to fill the pages with photos more than words. To do this I needed to get a camera that was compact and shot RAW. I ended up with a Sony.  It’s a great camera and though I do miss my DSLR and lenses, I am happy that I won’t have the size and weight to deal with yet still a good quality camera.

Some references:

Movie:   The Way   Produced by Emilio Estevez, Staring Martin Sheen


www.MarciaGutierrezPhotography.com (Photos of the trip will later be placed on                                                                            this site)



Ramis, Sergi. Camino de Santiago

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The beginning of the 19th century was a turning point for Spain. Napoleon was able to get both King Charles IV and his son, Ferdinand, to surrender any legal claim to Spanish rule and placed his brother Joseph there in 1808. Believing that the Spanish people would want a change in their government, he soon found how wrong he was. If Spain had learned anything from the French revolution, they learned nationalism: They were a unique nation with their own diverse culture and history. France, though allies for many centuries with Spain, was not welcome in this new form of thought.

Meanwhile, Napoleon had his sights on Portugal. He saw it as the gateway to the rest of the world and his way to follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great. He was also not pleased with the Portuguese trading with England and wanted England out of the Mediterranean. So he sent his troops over the Pyrenees mountain range, through Spain and on towards Lisbon. Along the way the French troops were to take over major cities throughout Spain.

The Spanish people revolted against the French. They were supported by the Spanish military; England who allied themselves with the Spanish rebel leaders; and the Catholic Church who had excommunicated Napoleon in June of 1809 where in retaliation Napoleon had had Pope Pius VII arrested and held him prisoner in his palace of Fontainebleau near Paris till early 1814. With this support, the Spanish rebels used guerrilla warfare against the French army.

All over Spain there were revolts against the French. Soldiers, farmers, tradesmen, women and children came to the call to defend their country and local towns. The Spanish painter, Goya, tired of how Napoleon would have his own personal painters create romantic scenes of battles, traveled through Spain and sketched drawings depicting the horrors of this war.

Small towns became strategic necessities for the French military. Girona, Spain, located on the Onyar River was one such town. Its location made it a key point from France to Barcelona. In June of 1808 when the French first tried to take control of Girona the military and citizens of this town were able to defeat them. There was a second siege from July 24 to August 16 with victory again going to Girona. It was the third siege though that Girona lost. Seven months from May 24 to December 11 of 1809 the citizens and military fought back the French. When it fell to the French there was a rallying call all through Spain that helped strengthened the Spanish resistance.

Every year, at the end of September, the town of Girona, Spain puts on a reenactment of the siege and battle between the French and citizens of Girona during the Peninsular War that finally ended in 1814 when the Spanish and English were able to push the French back over the Pyrenees mountain range and out of Spain.


Rothenberg, Gunther. The Napoleonic Wars. Cassell, London. 1999.

Streissguth, Thomas. The Napoleonic Wars: Defeat of the Grand Army. Lucent Books, MI. 2003

Howard, Emma. Spain. Compendium Publishing, London. 2007.




A warm thanks to the sponsors of the TBEX 2012 Costa Brava, Spain Convention and tours:

Costa Brava: Pirineu de Girona: Costa Brava Girona Tourism Board @ http://www.CostaBrava.com
Catalunya Tourist Board @ http://www.catalunya.com
Ajuntament de Girona @ http://www2.girona.cat/ca
Palau de Congressos de Girona @ http://www.auditorigirona.org/eng/pc.presentacio.php
Europe TBEX ’12 in Spain @ http://www.tbexcon.com (for more information on the Travel Blogger’s network, sponsors, and conferences)

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Cadaqués, Spain

In the Pedro Almodóvar movie Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), Pepa, played by Carmen Maura, is pregnant, has just been dumped by her married boyfriend and not really feeling so well about her life in general…so what does she do?  She makes gazpacho soup in her blender.

Though…she does add an extra ingredient:  a bottle of Valium to end it all.

As the movie continues with various characters moving in and out of her apartment and getting in the way of her original plans the gazpacho soup becomes a center point in the plot (or plots) of the story.  I love this movie and I love gazpacho soup (minus the Valium).

I first came across gazpacho soup in a small cookbook on Mexican Cookery by Rita Davenport and illustrated by De Grazía, one of my favorite Southwestern artists.  It calls for tomato juice; I used V-8, never considering using fresh tomatoes until I saw Pepa make hers.  The rest of the ingredients: cucumber, onion, bell pepper, one large tomato, garlic and parsley are all finely chopped and added to the tomato juice along with salad oil, wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.  Instead of parsley I would use cilantro and I found that a small can of finely minced clams added a really good flavor and texture to it.  I also would garnish it with chopped avocado when I was ready to eat it.  Letting it sit over night in the frig helped bring out all the flavors.

My husband just couldn’t get into eating a soup cold and I couldn’t get into heating this one up so making Gazpacho soup has been a special treat for me and sometimes to share with friends.

When I lived in Costa Rica I had to buy 10 small V-8 cans since they didn’t sell it in the larger ones.  It’s been years though since I have made gazpacho soup.  I really don’t know why especially since I now grow tomatoes every season in my garden here in Illinois and this year with the drought they have been really producing.  I will blend them for freezing instead for use in the winter for sauce.

Then I went to Costa Brava, Spain.  Whenever the menu had gaspatxo on it I would order it.  I was curious to see how it was made and tasted.  All were blended to a smooth texture making it difficult to know what, other than tomato, was in it.  One had a more vinegary taste to it and another something like Greek olives while others were blander.

     Gazpacho Soup in Cadaqués, Spain

So when I returned home I made my own using the last of the bumper crop of roma tomatoes.  Going by memory I added to the blender a peeled and seeded cucumber, a seeded bell pepper, 2 garlic cloves, a bit of cayenne pepper and salt.  From the garden I also added some fresh basil and rosemary.  Then I added tomatoes to fill up the blender.  I didn’t remove any seeds or the peels from the tomatoes. I also didn’t blend it smooth.  I like it a bit “rustica.”  I garnished it with chopped chives from the garden and eat it with Greek olives and toasted baguette.  It was great but even better the next day when the fresh garlic and cayenne pepper kicked in.

      Homemade Gazpacho Soup

Going through my many cookbooks I found several versions, one even called for adding water to it and cooking it before chilling.  I also found a version that used almonds instead of tomatoes for its base.

Personally, I believe gazpacho soup is what the maker wants it to be as long as it is served chilled and with a tomato base.  That’s what I encountered in Costa Brava and that’s what I do in my own kitchen…


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Arriving in Barcelona at 8:30 a.m. tired after a very uncomfortable and long flight we (Lanora Mueller and myself) took a cab to our hotel; Sheraton’s Four Points on Avenida Diagonal 161-163. (Very comfortable beds!) The hotel is located in an area of Barcelona called Poblenou, which is Catalan for “New Village.”

Right out the front entrance of the hotel is Rambla del Poblenou a tree-lined street that has a wide center for walking, eating, and sitting.  As with the other ramblas in Barcelona, this one leads from the sea towards the mountains.  Hungry and in need of euros, we walked along Rambla del Poblenou first looking for an ATM (there are several) and then a place to eat (there are many choices on each block).  The street is made up of interesting buildings that define the history of this beautiful rambla.


Ramble del Poblenou began as an industrial textile area in the mid 1800’s; suffered decline; was taken over by squatters and artists who moved into the abandoned buildings; and then in the 1990’s because of the 1992 Olympics it went through a new restoration that has helped define what it is today—a new village that has a vibrant community and a mixture of different architectural styles from the 1800’s to the 21st century.


This vibrant neighborhood with easy access to public transportation was a great place to begin our trip of Costa Brava Spain and ending it two weeks later where our last night was spent at La Bella Mar restaurant enjoying a glass of sangria and paella.




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