Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Progress report: Najera

This morning the sun was out! it was wonderful. We left about 6:30 this morning and there were no bakeries open in Logrono at that time. :-(
We stopped at a vending machine and bought a Coke to share, then walked on through the nature park that encircled the lake and headed on down the road to the next town. (Starts with a V) There we found an open bakery and got cafe leche and ham-n-cheese croissants. There were 2 young magnolia trees planted amongst the little tables. _The morning suddenly felt so good, I started humming that song from "Oklahoma" about the fabulous day. (Hey, I am easily amused.)
The sun stayed out. About an hour later, I slipped between two olive trees and shucked off my fleece top and put on a blouse--that melon colored Columbia one with the button-up sleeves. It felt so good--the fleece was pretty wet with sweat by that time.
We kept on, passing all the lovely Irish folks who had been quietly laughing at us for our shivering and misery in the cold and rain and wind. It was a sunny day, most of the paths were the compressed-caliche type of surface, and we were happy campers.
We hauled into Najera about 1:30 pm and the sun was still out. We were still happy campers. (By the way, the A&M group is here too.)
There is a lovely river with banks of rocks in it in this town. There are mesas in the area, including one close to the town buildings. They are constructed of layers of red rock (Think Colorado Springs, but without so much of the  extravagantly tortured shapes.) 
We have bought a replacement Buff scarf. (The pretty green with spots like a trout one slipped off my hair on the approaches to Villatuerta, I think--it was the approaches to Pamplona, basically, we were scurrying ahead of a storm, and I think it just was embarrassed to be seen with me and slipped off.) It has Camino designs on it. And I firmly intend to use hair clips with it!
We had a Pilgrim menu tonite--mine was chicken thigh which came de-boned and grilled--and for dessert we were offered a tart con chocolate. Oh my goodness. It was so lovely, my sweetie took a picture. Think of three layers of genoise, separated by 2 layers of light, fluffy chocolate mousse, and with a drizzle of chocolate syrup on top. (I could remember the name of the syrup at the time, but there is a rousing singalong going on behind me right now and I had about one lovely glass of great Tinto too much. Sorry.)
We walked about 19 miles today in the lovely sunshine and warm air. For the first time I begin to understand why anyone would think this is fun.
Tomorrow we will do a short day, to Santo Domingo de las (I forget) but it´s about 13 miles.
The day after that we should be in Burgos, which is the city that El Cid was from and is loaded with history.
I´ll try to post again there.
Hasta laters.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Progress report: Logrono

Hello again! We are in the great wine city of Logrono. (That is spelled with an enye but I can´t find it on the Spanish keyboard.)
We stayed two nights in Pamplona, to see the many, many sights, to get a new fleece shirt for me, and to rest me feet. Well, that last was "sort of rest" really, because I trekked all over this city in my thong shower shoes. Don´t do that, friends. Shower shoes with thongs are for showers. (Ouch.) Still the stay did my feet, damaged by the wet walking of the previous two days, some good, and we got some great bandaging from a Farmacia.
I believe I mentioned before that the Cathedral Museum of Pamplona is very good.
When we left Pamplona, we walked to Puente la Reina. We stayed there the night and I got to eat my first garlic soup. It was wonderful. (And hot soup really hits the spot, I wish more bars and restaurants were serving it!)
The next day, we walked mostly in sunshine and it was great. That was Estella. We did go to Saturday evening Mass, and the priest gave a beautiful pilgrim blessing to everyone that came. This was at the end of the regular Mass. The day was the great fiesta of their patron saint: La Virgen de Puy, and it was also the big soccer championship game on the TV. So none of farnacias were open, and most of the restaurants were booked up with soccer parties. :-( But we got to eat inside when the rain hit, and between rain showers we walked back to the albergue.
Toward the end of the day´s walk, rain broke out--heck, a thunderstorm broke out--and with hail to encourage us and a need to rest, we made it into Los Arcos. There we found a washing machine--yay--and a working clothes dryer--even better!--and then after clothes were clean we went out to a bar and had some great snacks and wine. Then we went downstairs and had the Pilgrim´s Menu. Which unfortunately had no soup in it. It did have spaghetti. So we had spaghetti, milanesa, and flan for dinner. And of course went to bed early. We had not found an open farmacia in Los Arcos and didn´t want to hang around until one would open.
This morning we looked at my feet and punted: there was a bus stop in Los Arcos, so we hopped the bus 15 miles down the road to Viana and got off. There we toured the church of Santa Maria, took pictures, bought a ton of bandages from the farmacia and drank some hot cafe leche. Then we walked the 11 km or so to Logrono. THE SUN WAS OUT!!! Ity was wonderful.
The city is lovely, there is a weir dam on the Rio Ebro and a stork nest on a tall pole nearby, they have a pilgrim/tourist information office at the beginning of the city, and we´re staying at the municipal albergue there.
We have encountered the Texas Aggies student group again! And there is a rent-a-computer in the albergue, too, so I was able to do an update on happenings before Burgos.
We definitely love our sunshine a lot more after the last week. (But the Irish and Germans and north-French hikers have been happy as clams.)
I will update in a few days when we get to somewhere with a computer I can use...pictures will still wait until we can get home and work with them I think. We have both had to change out camera batteries now. We love the spare batteries.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Progress report: Pamplona

Howdy, everyone!
We made it to Pamplona!
Day 1: Over Route Napoleon, facing increasing headwinds the entire way...well, worse, gusty increasing headwinds. The last 3 km we think the gusts were near 60mph. The trekking poles paid for themselves. (I didn´t fall off the mountain, in other words.)
Stayed at the monastery of Roncesvalles. Lovely, modern dorm facility, we were on the top floor. Ate the pilgrim menu, which was a lovely HOT! potato soup (and I was so ready for hot soup) and sweet pimiento peppers stuffed with chicken and to finish off, flan.
Day 2: Storms, rain, hail, wind. Feet got wet about 8 am and stayed that way. Arrived in Zubiri and called it a day. Feet sore, blisters, but what can you expect when you walk in water and get water dumped on you etc. etc. Saw more gorgeous flowers (between the raindrops) than you can shake a stick at.The trekking poles paid for themselves again, while we walked over slick wet caliche covered granite rocks sticking up in the paths in more than one place.Also the poles came in handy when crossing little creeks by way of the cube shaped concrete stepping stones, I planted the poles on the next stone and stepped across the little gap.
Day 3: Light rain on and off, got to Pamplona and got a hotel room for 2 nites. Ate the world´s most wonderful squid a la plancha. Bought a bottle of Tempranillo wine for Euro 1.99 and it´s very good. (We´re sipping on it.) The food is wonderful here.
My sweetie bought a great map of the city, with 3D sketches of some of the buildings and enough streets so a person can find things.Also--it´s been pretty cold--we bought a fleece sweater for me at the shop Caminoteca near the Cathedral. (It´s a pilgrim supply shop, hiking gear, guidebooks, hat pins, etc. etc.)
Went to the Museo Navarra and it was great. Loads of historical art work to look at. Some modern stuff too, but I´m not so into the modern stuff.
Went to the Cathedral and its museum and oh my goodness it´s great.
Tomorrow we´ll leave really early and probably get to Puente la Reina.
More news in a few days, possibly from Burgos.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

We're off! And a few thoughts to fly on

By the time you read this, we will be en route to St. Jean Pied de Port in France. I expect that I will be able to post from time to time, from internet cafes in cities, but not every day. Pictures will probably wait until our return. I therefore decided to mention something that doesn't require photos today. (Spearing my knuckle on the rose bush this morning only helped that idea along. Now I am holding ice to my swollen hand to get the huge "ball" to go down!)
Two years ago, when my sweetie first proposed that we make this pilgrimage together, we didn’t know very much about it at all. So, this being the Internet age, we looked it up online.

We found books at Amazon.com. Our family gave us other books for Christmas. (As well as Buffs for each of us—Lycra neck wraps that can either be hats or neck scarves or face covers.) One was from National Geographic, The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide, by Andrew Skurka. Another was a map book, from pilipalapress.com--water resistant paper, too.

We found books at our local Barnes and Noble, too—well, one that we bought there: DK eyewitness Travel: Northern Spain. It has pictures, but it really doesn’t consider most of the Camino route to be in its area of discussion. There is information about Santiago de Compostela, with pictures and diagrams of various parts of a cathedral, etc.

From Amazon, in paper and Kindle formats, all that I could remember or find on the shelf: 

To the Field of Stars, by Fr. Kevin A Codd. A Camino memoir.

Seven Tips to Make the Most of the Camino de Santiago, by Cheri Powell

Hiking the Camino: 500 Miles with Jesus, by Fr. Dave Pivonka. A Camino memoir.

1001 Most Useful Spanish Words (Dover Language Guides Spanish) (Kindle format). Because I have such a small vocabulary. British English seems to be the author's normal speech form, not American English.

Grandma's on the Camino: Reflections on a 48-Day Walking Pilgrimage to Santiago, by Mary O'Hara Wyman (Kindle format). A Camino memoir.

Walking Guide to the Camino de Santiago History Culture Architecture from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela and Finisterre (CaminoGuide.net eBooks), by Gerald Kelly (Kindle format)

The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook, by David M. Gitlitz & Linda Kay Davidson (liked it so much in paper that I bought it again in Kindle to carry)

A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean * Roncesvalles * Santiago (Camino Guides), by John Brierley (We also have the map-only book he put out. Yes that means we have accumulated 2 water-resistant paper and 1 Kindle map books. Plus the Gitlitz & Davidson which has some map information in it also.)

I have learned from every one of these books. From Father Codd’s book, I learned that many of the churches along the way have Adoration chapels. (Capilla de la Santísima)
From Ms. Powell’s book, many helpful suggestions on packing.
From Ms. Wyman’s book, that I would need trekking poles. (Yes, they are talked about a lot—but this lady fell on her behind, with flip, twice on her first day, and again on the second day, but after she bought poles in Pamplona she didn’t fall down any more. Since “Grace” is not my middle name ;-) I learned from her experience and bought the poles.) Also, she found freezing rain and icy slush in mid to late May on the meseta--warm South Texas it isn't!

An especially informative resource on the web is http://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/ The Camino de Santiago Forum, with about a bazillion different discussions to read. 

It's going to be an adventure.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

So excited, and yet so discouraged at the same time

We packed our packs today, to check weight. We had almost everything packed. (Still lack the freshly-sprayed sleeping bag liners, which needed to dry and air a bit.)
My pack came in at 20 pounds! I was so discouraged.
On the good side, my sweetie figured out that the trekking poles come apart, and now they will fit securely inside the pack for the airplane flights. I put each pole set into a sock and used my hair elastics to encourage it to stay together. I'll tuck socks and undies in around them for the flights. I tried to tell myself that the poles were why the pack came in so much heavier than I expected.
But 20 pounds from two skinny aluminum poles? I don't think so.
Last time I did a test pack, of course, toiletries and laundry items weren't included. How could the shampoo, conditioner, All detergent to wash the clothes the first few days, clothespins, various chargers, sink plug and so on be so heavy? I guess that long list answered the question. (I had also added to the clothes a windbreaker and a long sleeved nylon fishing shirt and a pair of fishing type shorts. And I had packed 5 or so pairs of socks.)
The camera isn't included, as it's in the underseat bag. The Kindle, with its map book and guide book and Bible and a number of other spiritual books, also will be in the underseat bag. But the flashlight, and its 3 batteries, do add to the pack weight. Actually, there is more than one flashlight running around, but the one that adds weight is the headlight. Which I have used in our yard and it's really great for finding dogs in the dark. Their eyes glow really bright when the beam hits them.
But the time grows short, and I'm so excited!

On another subject, here is a picture of the pants that I shortened by 6 inches for my sweetie.
When I took the picture, I remembered why all the change had to come out of the lower part of the legs: there are pockets that take up much of the upper part of the pant leg.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

There and back again, in one day--plus a sewing report

Yesterday we didn’t walk. I drove to San Antonio, instead, to pick up the youngest, and that took the day. (It actually took about half of the day, but the weather was going south in a hurry, so as soon as possible I picked her up and we skedaddled down the highway to home.) We got home around 1:30 a.m., talked with my sweetie for a little while over a drink, and called it a day. There would be enough to-do things to work on in the morning.
One of the to-do’s being done was the Aggie bag. Between Sunday, yesterday morning for a little while, and this morning, I finished sewing the bag. It had its share of surprises and adventures, like most first time sewing projects, but it went together without too many odd elements.
To review, it has boxed bottom corners and strap handles. There is a pocket on the outside of the bag, not divided, and a pocket on the inside that is divided. There are also a couple of loops for attaching things, one inside and one outside. There is a strip of hook-and-loop tape along the top for a closure, and a decorative button on the outside pocket.
The bag’s purpose is to hold two cameras, one Kindle, and two cell phones while we fly at the start of the pilgrimage. It is intended to fit under the seat in front of me on the planes, and it may have ongoing use after we return from the trip.
Fabrics, and a Plan
 I started out with these fabrics. The plan was to have a maroon pocket on the outside of the bag, and a maroon lining, with the blocks being the main bag fabric. I measured and discovered that I would have to use a different lining fabric than planned—as the one with the tiny gold pattern wasn’t big enough. So I used a different maroon fabric for the lining, and used the other fabric for pockets. I lined the pockets with the silver gray. I attached the first pocket piece (lined) to the right side of the block fabric, and attached the second pocket piece to the right side of the maroon lining fabric. (This pocket was intended to stop at the “bend” created by the boxed corners, so the pocket piece was sewn on a little ways up from the bottom, with the raw edges enclosed so it wouldn’t fray.) I divided the inside pocket into three, so that devices tucked into it wouldn’t slide all over the place. On reflection, I should have done something like that with the outside one, too.

Then I sewed the squares together, right sides in, and keeping an opening in the bottom of the lining of the bag. 

I began pressing seams open and marking corners for the boxing stitches. This is where the lack of dividers in the outside pocket snagged me. The pocket folded to the wrong side, covered over by the main fabric as it was, when I pressed and marked the boxing stitches. When I sewed the corners into their spiffy boxed shape, the pocket was inside out. Instead of having a maroon pocket with a silver lining, I ended up with a silver pocket with a maroon lining. And, not having realized this before trimming the fabric, I decided to let it stay that way.
The finished bag