Mile 230.7 Calzadilla de la Cueza

October 4, 2017

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 then walk. They 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 take my boots off and massage 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; he has 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 Pilgrim’s 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

October 5, 2017

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 and no sign (turns out it was a large logo and with a very small letters saying “Market”). We 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 then 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.

Afterwards 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.


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

El Camino brings good souls together.


Mile 257.6 El Burgo Ranero (The Frog Hamlet)

Today we walked to a hamlet famous for its frogs and the song they sing.

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 (thanks to the Friends of El Camino). 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 series 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 then 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 has written 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.



Mile 177.2 Hornillos del Camino/Isar

September 29, 2017

Today I began to better understand Earth’s stones. It’s not something I can explain; rather it’s an understanding of the heart…

The night before we left Burgos we went to mass in the cathedral. The priest was leading the rosary and I felt calm listening to the lady next to me recite it. Mass was rather mechanical though…so different from the pilgrim’s mass in San Juan de Ortega. He seemed more interested in the Polish and German pilgrims yet we were a diverse group from all over the world.

I will miss the bathtub that we had at the Abba Hotel in Burgos. It was big and easy to get into and out. We soaked in Epson’s salts and our feet and legs were happy.

El Camino was rather easy today. We walked 13.7 miles and only had 150 meters to climb on an easy grade to the Alto Meseta. The area is dry and the sky sunny. I have been wearing gloves and keeping my sleeves down to protect my skin. I passed a wall with bushes full of clustered white flowers and heard something I have not heard in a long time…the humming of happy bees. On the meseta we saw a shepherd and his two dogs and sheep clustered under the shade of a lone tree in a pasture full of rocks. We waved and he waved back.

Did I say it was an easy walk? Well…to get down the meseta the climb is steep and rocky. It is called Cuesta de Matamulas (The Slope That Kills Mules). It is steep and rocky. I took my time as people walked passed me and though I had no mule for it to kill it did get to my right shin. The muscle tightened and made the short walk to Hornillos del Camino difficult. It is now rested and better.

In Hornillos del Camino we called the owner (Don Miguel) of the casa rural (B&B), La Consulta, to pick up us. This is located in a small town called Isar about 2 miles from Hornillos del Camino and is a very nice place to spend the night (dinner was fantastic!) We rested and went for a walk by bodegas that are carved in the side of a hill were the people make their wine. We met a couple who has been married for 50 years and he talked about history and asked us questions about our roots and family. They wished us a long and happy marriage like theirs. We passed people enjoying conversation and companionship in their front gardens and greeted them.

Isar has a long history and use to have 400 people living there. Now there are few.

El Camino is an experience of culture and its people.

Mile 190.6 Castrojeriz

September 30, 2017

Today began great! The walk was easy and except for my sore muscle…I did great! Lasted 10 miles before my toes began to protest the last 3 miles. (They seem to do this as soon as I see the church tower.) Getting better! For lunch, though, I had a salad and I think it made me sick. So I’ve taken meds for it and am skipping dinner. Hope I feel better tomorrow!

We were walking thru a Meseta with undulating trails. The area is farmland where they grow grains. The ground is now barren and there are stacks of hay and rocks. Lots of rocks! We also passed old fortifications: rock walls and towers that have fallen (except one).

As we walked along the bicyclists pass us. With those pilgrims that are walking that I have spoken with (or overheard conversations) we agree that they are missing a lot as they zoom by!

Today several of us pilgrims were walking by an open field and there was a strange sound. We all stopped. A pilgrim from Spain was making this sound and it was being answered by dozens upon dozens of partridges. They were too far to get good pictures but it was magical…all of us (about 10) stopping to listen and seeing these birds. He told us that hunting season has begun so they are being displaced. We also saw vultures enjoying something. It’s not the first time that we have seen them…they have quite a wingspan.

I brought my Mp3 player so I could listen to Jazz and Latin Rock…haven’t used it though: too much to experience in the sounds around us.

We passed thru a small town called Hontanas from the word fontanas for fountains.  Before you approach it all you see is a slight dip in the horizon and then there it is below.  Different from most towns that are built on high ground.  There is a small chapel there dedicated to a pilgrim from the 14th century, Saint Bridget of Sweden, who in 1341 went with her husband on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It took them 3 years (round trip). When they returned her husband died and Saint Bridget dedicated her life to her faith.  The small chapel is a nice dedication to a pilgrim of the past.

Unlike the other towns that we have come upon where the first thing that you see is the church bell tower, with Castrojeriz you see the tall hill with a castle on it.

El Camino teaches thru it’s history.


Mile 207 Frómista

October 1, 2017

I didn’t walk today.

Yesterday I eat something at lunch that did my stomach in. It could have been worst but it left me weak. I didn’t eat for more than 24 hours. Just drank still and gas water.

It was a long dry walk for those on El Camino. I took a cab to Fórmista and had a good conversation with the driver. He was really simpático. I asked him what they grow here in the farms and he told me that 80 to 90% was wheat, than there were grains for beer and sunflowers for oil. It’s been a long dry year…not even snow. I told him that were I live when it snows we say that it’s good for the farmers.

He would point out where El Camino was and I watched the pilgrims as they walked. Then we came to a bridge were there was a rest stop with portable water for the pilgrims. My husband was standing on the bridge! The driver stopped after the bridge so we could talk. That is the only place were El Camino crosses the road.

There is a hill that is rather steep to climb.  My husband made it up in 13 minutes. It’s 1 km in length and 18% grade. People are calling him the goat now.

I am feeling better…more strength and have been drinking water. I will be eating an apple for lunch from now on like we were before.

Frómista has a renovated church that is now a museum.  Construction began in 1066 and was sponsored by a noble woman.  I love to go thru these old churches and take photos.  Looking closer at the details is fun too.  The photo of the pilgrim was in the dinning room of the hotel.

El Camino knows.


Mile 219.7 Carrion de los Condes

October 2, 2017

Today was a new day.

El Camino from Frómista to Carrion de los Condes is pretty level. We only gained 50 meters in the end and with a very gradual climb. We also had a choice:  We could walk along the road way or take a side route that added 1 km to our day. The side route goes by a small river and unlike the other choice has trees. We went for the river.

Good choice.

The road was less rocky and was softer in spots with grass to walk on. We took a rest at the first bar/restaurant (it was closed) but there was a nice picnic area with tables and benches made of stone. I took off my boots so my feet could move and rest (another good choice). A woman came by and was watering some plants, she let me know that the water fountain was drinkable water. It was cool and refreshing. A man came by in his car and offered me some almonds that he grows in his yard. He opened each one for me and I gathered them in my hat. I know that this was difficult for him but he was happy to do it for me. He told me that he does this for the pilgrims “gratis” (free). He said that he was 82 years old and closer to being with Jesus. He looked happy. I believe that giving almonds to the pilgrims is his pilgrimage. He also gave me a prayer card with a picture of Jesus on it. I showed him the prayer card that I keep in my pack of the Guarding Angle over-looking two children crossing a bridge. He told me that Jesus is the “jefe” (boss). He is a gentle soul. I took a picture of him and my husband took a picture of us together. He kissed me on both my cheeks as is the custom and as we left as he was giving almonds to two ladies that had just arrived.

We walked along the river and made good time. I did need to stop along the way to rest my feet. They begin to feel like pins and needles poking in the toes. Guess it’s a pilgrim’s curse…taking the boots off for a few minutes and massaging and moving the toes helps so much! Since I hadn’t eaten much in 48 hours I was hungry. We had shared an apple and tangerine at the rest area and I had eaten a few of the almonds but I needed something more. I was feeling a bit weak, then we came upon another bar/restaurant that was open. It had a structure in front of it that was round and old and the bar was a new structure. The name of the bar is Palomar del Camino. The lady, Juliette, told us that the 3 brother’s that own it decided to keep the palomar (dovecote) there as a historical site and add the bar/restaurant for their new business especially since pilgrims do pass this way. Palomars are found throughout the area and were once a source of revenue.

The food was “rica” and we sat in the back porch where we had a nice view of the area and watched pilgrims walking El Camino Policito (what the man with the almonds called the other road that we had not taken.) For more information on this wonderful place for food and rest and history please go to their website:


So in the end the true El Camino meets up with the El Camino Political and as political issues go:  the road was rocky, next to the freeway, no trees for shade, places to sit, or water sources. It was a long 5 or more miles. Our relief came from the elements: clouds that shaded us and a cool breeze.

Saw our first pilgrims on horseback.

Once we arrived to Carrion de los Condes we still had about 15 minutes to get to San Zoilo, a monastery that has been converted into a hotel and museum. So we went to a bar for a cool drink. A woman passed by our table and we recognized each other. She joined us and later her brother came by. We had started El Camino together. She is in her 70’s and 10 years older than her brother. She began El Camino carrying a full pack but it was too much so she “walked with her head” and now has a nice daypack and sends her larger one ahead using one of the transport services. We had a wonderful time talking and getting to know each other better. I so hope we meet again.

We took a day off resting at San Zoilo Hotel Real Monasterio: A beautiful setting with museum and gardens.

Besides the personable service that we received from the ladies in the restaurant at the hotel, my most memorable moment was in the afternoon of October 3rd.   Our room overlooked an inner court garden. The balcony window was open and a little girl, 18 months old, who was a few rooms down from us was at her balcony and making noises so that her voice would echo through the garden court.   It was so nice to hear. Then a lady looked out her window on the other side and said, “So there you are!” The girl then started to call out “Hola!” It was very relaxing and musical to listen to.

As more pilgrims arrived, more wet clothes appeared in the balcony windows…


¡Buen Camino!



Pilgrim’s Passport as of October 4, 2017

Critters (continued):

Fuzzy caterpillar, lone ant, pill bug, shiny black beetle that is oblong shaped, lavender butterflies, yellow butterfly with dark border on its wing, yellow and striped butterfly, colorful worm, a rabbit (though not across my path), flies, pesky flies, very pesky flies…I have begun to give them names and treat them like pets…their still very, very, very pesky. Guess it could be worst like those biting bugs we encountered the third and forth day out.


Mile 143 Belorado

September 24, 2017

Today I was “gel’n.”

Yesterday I bought at a store that sells sporting goods for pilgrims a set of gel insoles. They have more padding to the front of the foot and toes. I think it helped but it was a long and strange day today and my feet still hurt at the end of it. Though I don’t blame them.

The road wasn’t so bad, mostly level with a little incline but it was hot, dry, and sunny (as it is said in Spanish: “¡Qué pega el sol!”) and we walked most of the way along a freeway. We did pass thru several small towns where we could get water and a rest. The bar that we eat at, though, got my husband sick. The sandwich was too oily and he ended up feeling clammy and now has a fever. Of course I don’t have any Alka-Seltzer in my first-aid kit! We stopped at a nice bar/restaurant along the way to have some Kas de Limón. This is a drink that I first had in Pamplona when we took a stop before walking into the city. It’s a soft drink that is low in sugar and is sour like lemon. The texture of it is like a fine fizzy mineral water.   We like it for a change with ice and lemon wedge. It really helps with the thirst. So we were looking for a place to buy some, hoping it would settle his stomach. We stopped at this nice bar/restaurant, the only one around and were told that we could not bring our poles and packs in with us.

This is the first time anyone has told us this (even the nice bars that we have been in before allowed us to bring in our poles and packs). The guy was rather rude too. So we left and there was a vending machine but it didn’t work. So we sat on a stone bench where a stone lion spouted out water into a shell shaped basin and rested. A woman from a group that is using a tour bus to pick them up fainted. I don’t think she had any water with her. It’s amazing how many people don’t carry water or enough with them on the walk. We carry 2 liters each…always. She was taken away in an ambulance.

When we got to Belorado we stopped at a bar and had Kas with ice and a lemon wedge and also mineral water. It helped but he has a fever now. Tomorrow we will stay at the hotel longer and take a cab either all the way or part. We are thinking with our heads.

El Camino can be harsh…

…but it gives you surprises:

When we arrived to Belorado El Camino the road took us to a plaza. There on the wall of one of the buildings was a mural. It’s beautiful and has so much to discover as you look at it. Sitting on a bench in the center park of the plaza was a young man and woman with paint all over their clothes.   I approached them and it turns out that the young woman is the artist—Alegria del Prado. Later when I was exploring the town I came upon the back of the plaza where she was working on a mural on that side. (She has a Facebook page)


Mile 151.8 San Juan de Ortega

September 25, 2017

El Camino has a way of revealing that which some don’t want revealed:

Since my husband still feels sick, this morning we decided to take a cab to Villafranca Montes de Oca and started El Camino from there. As we drove on the freeway I could see pilgrims walking. I felt uneasy. I didn’t belong in a cab; I belonged out there walking. By doing this we knocked off 7.5 miles from our trip, about half of what we had to walk. When we got out of the cab we were face to face with a high incline of dirt and rock. Up, up, up we went…good way to warm up the calf muscles…ya.

Monumento de los Caídos (The Monument of the Fallen)

 A few weeks ago a pilgrim who was starting his second time on El Camino was telling me that in the 1970’s the pilgrims had a difficult time walking to Santiago because there was no set infrastructure for the road for the pilgrims. They ended up having to walk on the roadways and freeways.   So Franco decided to have a special path made for the pilgrims that led them more into the countryside. That is how El Camino as we know it today was formed (or so this pilgrim told me).  He told me that Franco was very Catholic. I told him that I knew that…I’ve been to his tomb. It was built into a mountain and is the coldest (not meaning temperature) church that I have ever been in.

Today we passed a monument that also has to do with Franco. In 2011 when there was construction being done on El Camino the workers found an unmarked common grave of 30 people. These 30 individuals had been taken to the area during the civil war and executed, buried and forgotten. Eventually around 300 bodies in other common graves have been found in the area. Franco may have had something to do with making the journey for the pilgrim easier, but El Camino doesn’t forget the atrocities that happened in this country. Today the pilgrims remember and pay tribute to these fallen individuals. We will not forget.


We ended the day in mass at the church in San Juan de Ortega. This was a mass specifically for pilgrims and only pilgrims were in attendance. The priest was a wonderful man and his sermon was inspiring about exactly what El Camino is about and what being a pilgrim is. It moved me deeply…I cried.

I am not on a vacation…I am on a pilgrimage.


Mile 165.5 Burgos

September 26, 2017

Today began new and fresh…

It was a crisp beautiful day as we left San Juan de Ortega. We walked thru pine and oak forests. We walked thru a chain of small, quiet villages. We walked along a crest were sheep grazed and a labyrinth beaconed us to walk it. We did and felt calmer and ready for whatever the day had for us. We walked passed an archeological site were people are learning more about the first humans that settled in this area 800,000 years ago. We walked up a path made of rocks and I wished I knew more about geology so that I could read the earth’s bones. At the top was a cross and a quote:

“Desde que el peregrino dominó en Burguete los montes de Navarra y vio los campos dilatados de España, no ha gozado de vista más hermosa como esta.” (“Since the pilgrim dominated in Burguete the mountains of Navarra and saw the vast fields of Spain, he/she has never enjoyed a most beautiful view such as this.”)

Below us were a mine, more villages to walk thru…and Burgos.

It is recommended to go to Villafria and take a bus into Burgos because of the traffic. So we walked around the airport on a road with cars and found an old church where the bus stop was. We took the #8 to the Teatro and found that we were quite the spectacle among the people enjoying their day. Photos were taken of us, two women found us funny and two others asked if we were going to Santiago. I told them yes and they said that we were “Valiente” (Brave). I thanked them.

We will be staying in Burgos for two days so we can discover as much as possible what this city has to offer.

El Camino is inspiring.


¡Buen Camino!


Pilgrim’s Passport September 27, 2017

Mile 116.1 Nájera

September 21, 2017

My husband always says that you need to walk El Camino with your head not your feet. In other words do what you think best for your wellbeing. So today we had about 18.7 miles to walk from Logroño to Nájera, a town built against a red cliff. I don’t believe my feet would have survived. We took a cab to the next town, Navarrete, past an industrial area and a swamp and cut 8 miles off our walk. What were left were vineyards and mostly flat and rocky trails. I am beginning to feel that I am walking on the bones of earth. At least that’s what it feels like we are walking on…old hard bones.

The black grapes of Spain are being harvested now and fall is almost here. They are plump and juicy. I picked 3 grapes and let them explode in my mouth. The sweet juice was so satisfying. Instead of eating the skins like I did the other day (see Mile 97.5), I spit them out with the seeds. This kept the tannins from interfering with the sweetness of the juice. I picked 3 more grapes and was happy.

We came upon a Celtic refuge or lookout for the farmers called a chozo or guardaviñas; tall and conical made of stone there is a circular bench within. We passed a hill, El Poyo del Roldan, were Roland fought and killed a giant. We headed towards a town that was built against a cliff full of caves where the Moors once hid. The land, like the stone, is old and full of history and myth: the soil red with mystery.

El Camino has much to tell.


Mile 129.8 Santo Domingo de la Calzada

September 22, 2017

Today I was photo bombed by a young girl with a smile as bright as her shirt. I love texture and take photos of the ancient doors I see. They have so much character and so many lost stories to tell. A group of young people walked by as I was taking a photo of such a door. The girl saw me and posed. We laughed.

Yesterday in Nájera I wanted to take a photo of a stone carved shell that was on the wall of a plaza. A man was sitting on a bench under it so I told him that I was taking a photo of the shell above him. That I wanted him to know that I was not taking his photo and understood that some people don’t like to have their photos taken. I took the shot and than told him, “Aunqué usted es más guapo.” (“Though you are more handsome.”) He told me that Pilgrims should never lie. My husband told him that I was sincere. We laughed together.

 Today started out really well. It rained in the night and left the morning fresh. We had a 13.7mile hike ahead of us through rolling hills. So we left Nájera, the town built against red cliffs and traveled thru vineyards, freshly tilled land and a modern ghost town where dreams died with the housing bubble.

The walk was much better. We traveled over different road surfaces, most smooth but many rocky. Calzada means rocky or cobble stoned road. I was able to keep a better pace despite the rocks and we made good time. There were several statues that we encountered along the way in honor of the pilgrim.

El Camino is kind.


No miles today…at least none on El Camino

 September 23, 2017

Santo Domingo de la Calzada is named after Domingo Garcia who was born in Burgos in 1019. He wanted to enter a monastery but was not accepted so he became a hermit. He witnessed just how difficult it was for the pilgrims that traveled by his home so he built a bridge over the Oja River, a *hospital for refuge for the pilgrims, roads connecting Nájera to Burgos, and a little church. His burial site was placed in the middle of the Pilgrimage but over time became a part of Cathedral.

The construction of Iglesia Catedral de Santo Domingo de la Calzada was begun in 1158 and additions added throughout the next centuries. One (of many) interesting features in the Cathedral is the Gothic Henhouse. A hen and a rooster are the symbols of this city born to help ease the road of the pilgrim…of course there is a story here:

Hugonell, a German pilgrim, was traveling El Camino with his parents. They stayed at an inn in Santo Domingo de la Calzada where the Innkeeper’s daughter fell in love with Hugonell. Hugonell did not, though, feel the same way towards the girl so she placed a silver cup into his travel bag and accused him of stealing it. The punishment for theft was hanging. Hugonell was hung. His parents, grieving the loss their son, continued on to Santiago de Compostela. They then returned to Santo Domingo de la Calzada to visit the grave of their son but instead found him still hanging and alive.  Hugonell told them that Santiago brought him back to life and to please ask the Mayor to have him cut down. The parents went to the Mayor’s house were he was having dinner. The Mayor told them that Hugonell could be no more alive than the two roasted chickens that were on his table.  Well…those two roasted chickens stood up, grew feathers and began to crow.

Above the Henhouse is a piece of wood that is a part of the gallows that Hugonell was hung from.

Legends bring El Camino together.

*Hospital, in this sense, is a place of refuge with food, shelter for the night, and care.


NOTE: Because of the rocky paths I keep my eyes more on the road than the countryside that I am traveling thru. There are some very sharp and pointed rocks that I would rather not walk upon. So I remind myself to look up and enjoy the view before me; and to turn back and see the view from where I have been. There is a micro view though. A lot of critters cross El Camino: millipedes, black slugs, ants, small tiny spiders that walk sideways like a crab, shiny round black beetles, yellow and black striped salamanders (some of which didn’t make it across), a small snake who also didn’t make it across the road, orange spotted moths and orange spotted beetles, butterflies that flutter in front of the traveler, crickets that don’t move out of the way, and yesterday I saw my first lizard.

¡Buen Camino!

Mile 60.6: Puente de la Reina

September 15, 2017

Today I walked out of Pamplona. A beautiful city where people say they love to live there because it is tranquila (tranquil). We walked up the ridge where wind is used to make energy and a monument stands in honor of the pilgrims. Then I walked down a steep trail that is known as Quiebra Canillas (Break Hips) where with each step the rocks move and slide. As I was walking ever so slowly down Quiebra Canillas a singing man passed me as he was climbing up. He was going home to Pamplona and was so happy and talkative. He brought joy to the climb down.

You follow the smoothest trail in the rocky road.

Mile 73.6: Estella

September 16, 2017

Today I walked over a bridge that was built by a queen in honor of the pilgrims to make their journey easier when crossing the Argo River. The journey was smoother with ups and downs that were manageable.

We pilgrims walked on both modern trails and Roman roads where the stones must have been more level in their day. We came upon a garden with places to rest for the pilgrim and a young man selling fruit. We passed small villages with both old and new and crossed a medieval bridge. A walled garden with trees sang to us with bird song that I have never heard the likes of as the sky drizzled down on us. We ended our day in mass at the Church of San Pedro de la Rúa in Estella. The stone walls were grey, the statues primitive and colorful. The Father blessed the pilgrims and their journey.

Our journey is blessed.

Mile 86: Los Arcos

September 17, 2017

This morning I drank from a wine fountain. It is there for the pilgrims to enjoy though the wine tastes like vinegar. It tasted better though with each sip and gave some energy to the day ahead.

My husband and I passed vineyards, ruins of stone buildings, a castle, and a 13th century Fountain of the Moors. We walked beside a man who was born in the area and he told us about the long history of the area and the best white wine. We parted at the foot of a steep hill where he headed up to an old castle and we headed down to our own destination.

We made new friends with a couple from Canada who has traveled to many places. Together we talked and eased our walk and enjoyed the sheep whose shepherd and dog herded them along.   I hope we meet again.   There is a daughter and mother we have seen for several days now too. We greet and talk before they pass us. I don’t know their names nor where they are from but I do believe that they travel together a lot. Maybe next time I will ask their names…or not. If I know their names will I see them again?

The day was beautiful, the road not so steep. Yet it was rocky. I have my first blisters though they don’t pain me…yet.

I would not be able to do this if I did not have trekking poles.

Mile 97.5: Viana

 September 18, 2017

Today I tasted “El Tinto del Pais.” It is a black grape that is sweet and adds body to the wine of this region. It has an old history like the soil that it grows in. The Phoenicians that settled along the Iberian coast grew it. Tempranillo is its name for it ripens early. It is what makes the Rioja wine—it is a noble grape.

A man was beating a tree with a long stick. There was cloth spread out under the tree catching the almond nuts that dropped. We walked thru valleys and up steep slopes that would tire out a burro.   Saw old ruins of stone buildings and smelled the sage.

Mile 103.7: Logroño

September 19, 2017

Today was such an easy walk…only 10 kilometros (6.2 miles).   The trail was made up of both rocky roads and asphalt with only a few hills. We walked behind the yards of homes and talked and joked with the owners. A man lamented that his tomatoes would not ripen before the frost. It has been a dry year. I told him that green tomatoes were good too but he likes them red and in his salad. An orange cat greeted us and rubbed itself against my husband’s leg. This is the first friendly cat we have encountered.

We eat in a restaurant that opened in 1916 and is popular with the people of this city. I had pulpo (octopus). I have waited 2 years to have octopus again. This one had chili pepper on it…hot, hot, hot! That did not stop me from enjoying it though. The beer and milk helped. I told the waiter that I had waited 2 years to have this dish again but picante (spicy) was a surprise. He joked if I wanted it hotter.

Logroño is alive with activity. There is a wine festival…San Mateo…with music, food, and wine. Friends, couples and families are enjoying it all. Tomorrow we have a day to explore more.

Tonight we drink the wine of Rioja.

No miles today…at least none on El Camino

 September 20, 2017

Today we washed our clothes and mailed some postcards. We eat at the same restaurant from yesterday. I thought I was ordering artichoke, at least the picture looked like artichoke; guess I was wishing it to be. Instead it turned out to be pork that was cut thin, rolled and fried. It was good. We walked the streets and enjoyed the festive nature of the city. Found El Mercado (the central market) as it was closing. So I took some photos. There was a store that was so colorful with all the goods that he had so I took a photo. As I was walking on I heard some hard clapping and turned. The store owner was looking at me with an angry look. “No Fotos!” he told me. I looked to see if there was any sign that stated that no photos were to be taken and saw none so I shrugged my shoulders, smiled and walked on.

It bothered me though for a while. I try to be so careful and respectful to others and the places that I am at when taking photos. I usually have my larger camera and zoom lens with me. People look at me with anger. For El Camino I bought a small point and shoot that takes RAW instead of JPEG. I love it. It’s small, compact, great lens. I actually didn’t know that he was there. In the photo he is sitting in the shadows behind his cash register. I am sorry he was angry with me for taking a photo of his beautiful and interesting store in El Mercado.

El Camino may be difficult but it has compassion.  Tomorrow we walk again.


Pilgrim Passport as of September 19, 2017

***Mile 5: Orisson

September 10, 2017

Today I was baptized.

Pilgrims have a choice on the first day out of St. Jean Pied de Port to walk all the way to Roncesvalles (or any village near there) by the Napoleon Route or to split the 17 miles up into two days and spend the night in Orisson.

5 miles doesn’t sound too bad especially when looking at the map of the whole Camino. It’s brutal though. It’s the first day when beginning from St. Jean Pied de Port and it is the first leg to crossing the Pyrenees Mountains. St. Jean Pied de Port is at an altitude of 200 meters above sea level. Orisson is at 800 meters. That’s steep in just 5 miles.

You walk up and up and up and than down and again up and up and up. There are very little flat stretches only up hill grades that go from gradual to steep to “incredibly what did I get myself into” steep. Pace is so important. Even with practice I needed to stop frequently to catch my breath. I would set a goal from fence post to fence post or gate or cow (hopefully the cow moved more towards me and not away) and walk from one to another. We came across a short cut off the asphalt street made up of red mud (not bad to walk on though), rocks and grass. It switched back and forth and was rather steep in places but much easier to walk on—softer on the feet. Than back on the road, turned a bend and there we were. 3.5 hours, 5 miles, 600 meters higher.

I was baptized today. I walked a difficult road in the pouring down rain. I made it and now though I still have many more days to go and many more roads to walk I am a pilgrim and I feel blessed!



El Camino to Orrison

***Mile 17: Roncevalles where El Camino begins for the people of Spain

September 11, 2017

Today I walked in the clouds.

It was wet, windy and cold. I found out that my rainproof (Gortex) jacket has its limits. So does the rain cover that came with my pack. So I gained 600 meters today walking 10 miles in sloshy, wet socks with boots that had been waterproofed. I did well. Yesterday’s walk helped my body to adjust, just wish my feet would.   Walking down hill, though, can be a bitch.

Here I was high in the Pyrenees Mountains surrounded by clouds, the clanking of bells, and sheep. It was mystical in all that grey and dampness.

Today I walked in the clouds. I am wet, cold, and sore.

I am happy.



El Camino to Roncevalles and the church where they hold the Pilgrim’s Mass

***Mile 32: Zubiri

September 12, 2017

Today I walked thru forests and enjoyed the silent clear density within.

The rain stopped and we had blue sky. The trails were rocky and rough on the feet. We passed a man who had taken off his boots and walked barefooted…slowly over rocky paths and grass. Someone said that he had fallen and the boots hurt. We were than passed by a man traveling from Finisterre to Rome. He looked happy.

At one point I heard a man’s voice encouraging someone to walk a bit further.   As I turned a corner on the trail I saw Paul and Mary, a brother and sister who were walking El Camino together. Mary’s about 8 years older than her brother who had walked El Camino before. She wanted to experience life after retirement. I ended up walking with them for several miles. Mary would pass me as we went down hill and I would pass her as I went up hill. At one point I felt a sharp pain on my left forearm and yelled in pain. There was a large fly like bug with stripes, head down, on my arm and a spot of blood forming around it the size of a quarter. Paul helped me brush it away. I looked at the spot where it had bit me and it looked like a tiny vampire bite. The damn thing kept coming back for more and Paul kept helping me shoo it away.*

The last two downhill miles were the worst. Slate rock cutting into the trail making it difficult to maneuver. Downhill is always more difficult with the force of gravity pulling. It was rough on the feet and each step was agony.

Today I walked thru forests and enjoyed the silent clear density within. My feet hurt and I hope that I can continue tomorrow with less pain. The forests had an ancient wisdom to share.

*I later looked up what this bug was.  It’s called a Biting Midge, Leptoconos noei.

El Camino to Zubiri:  Beautiful but painful 

***Mile 45.3: Pamplona

September 13, 2017

Today I walked thru valleys that curved and flowed thru villages and farmland. The sound of clanking bells that hung around the necks of sheep, cows and horses was our rhythmic music to pace by.

The road was much better though there were patches with too much rock but nothing like yesterday. We walked up and down and up again and than down. The down hurts but the up is much better.   Kept a better pace. Feet hurt but they will survive. Calves are protesting a bit. We have a day off tomorrow.

The day was dry and sunny and warm. I still wore my vest and pulled down the long sleeves of my t-shirt. Sweat helps keep one cool especially with a breeze. We walked in and out of forested areas with sunshine hitting us then shade. Life’s small pleasures: shade and breeze on a warm sunny day. We met a woman and young man sitting along the roadside under the only shade there was. The heat was too much for them. I told her to wet her scarf and wrap it around her neck. She said she had no water.   We passed on and around the curve where there was a cool shady place with slabs of rock set up for a place to sit.

Today I walked thru valleys that curved and flowed thru villages and farmland. It took us to a medieval bridge that was built in the 12th century—Puente de la Magdalena—that crosses the river Arga and takes one into Pamplona. My feet protest, my calves tighten…I am where I should be.



El Camino to Pamplona and the gate to the city.


Pilgrim’s Passport as of September 14, 2017

Flying can be a stressful ordeal. I set my expectations low with service so when I get bad service it’s no big deal. When I receive good service it becomes a pleasure. This is based on travel experiences as a single woman, a mother and now a married woman who sometimes travels alone. That’s all I will say about this subject.

We flew from Chicago O’Hare to Charlotte to Madrid to Pamplona. Spent a day in Pamplona before continuing by bus to St. Jean Pied de Port.   A day in Pamplona was a good rest along with discovering this city that we will be returning to in a week “a pie” (by foot).

We will enjoy St. Jean Pied de Port for two and a half days (3 nights). Many pilgrims only spend a night there and never really get to see the beauty of the town. Also spending more time helps acclimate to the time and altitude while enjoying the town, food, wine and people. Our first hike is short (8 km/5miles) but we gain a lot of altitude (600 meters or 1,968.5 feet)

So St. Jean Pied de Port is our mile zero.

1386_3x4         1372_3x4

Pamplona, Spain is famous for its running of the Bulls, yet there is so much more to enjoy there.


Statue of the Running of the Bulls and entrance to the Bull Ring


Pintxos (peen-choes) and a local white wine

Signage leading the pilgrims into St. Jean Pied de Port, France & a hostel sign with the universal pilgrim’s greeting “Buen Camino”


Porte Notre-Dame with the church Église Notre-Dame du Bout de Pont (left side)


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