Thursday, July 31, 2014

Peaceful scenery

Hello, everyone.

We left Santo Domingo de Calzada, the town named for the road-building engineer saint, and walked through some pretty country as we passed out of La Rioja and into Castilla y Leon.

Around 11:30 in the morning we reached the village of Belorado. It has more than one albergue, and a lot of in-your-face wall murals, and it was really too early to stop for the day. We had a sandwich and studied the map booklet and decided that we could go another 7 km to Villambistia. This did involve passing Tosantos with its "troglodyte church."

Villambistia was a pretty little thing, with maybe a dozen houses and a church (didn't go in, not even sure we found it!) and one albergue. The Albergue San Roque is run by a lovely couple and their adorable small baby. As there is no grocery store and no bar or restaurant--no pharmacy, either!--in the very tiny town, we elected to eat the communal meal prepared by the hospitaleros. I remember pasta, and perhaps a dessert of yogurt, but the rest of the meal fades into the mist. At the end of dinner the hospitalero introduced us to his baby, Luca, who looked about two months old.

The next morning we headed on down the road, passing Espinosa which had nothing open yet anyway, and eating a bocadillo and coffee in Villafranca Montes de Oca. We saw a couple of gentlemen who were hunting for something along the trail. Perhaps, we thought, they were seeking snails. Certainly there had been a lot of snails underfoot the whole way, large and juicy snails at that!

We entered the formerly-untamed wilderness of the Montes de Oca by following a dirt road. There were crossroads from time to time, and there are windmills in the area. We saw a waymarker made of pine cones outlined by rocks at the side of the road.
There is a monument to the Civil War dead of 1936 there.

We also went down a really steep gully and crossed the arroyo and came back up the other really steep and rocky side.

We stopped briefly at St. Juan de Ortega, a monastery built by another engineer saint ( a follower of Santo Domingo de Calzada,) which is being restored, and continued on to Ages for the night. We had walked about 19 miles for the day.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

After Najera, my notes fail for a time

Hello, everyone.

When I consulted my little diary, I discovered that my entry on May 27 in Najera was followed by a break. The next entry was on May 30. So I have reconstructed a little more than usual to come up with what we did the next couple of days.
We walked. (Duh.)
Actually, we left Najera and walked, according to the map book, through Azofra and Cirena to Santo Domingo de Calzada.
Santo Domingo de Calzada is one of the saints that we don't hear about here in the States. He was an engineer and he built roads. This in addition to his prayer life and being a monk or priest...I am unsure about this part...and after his death he obtained miracles for people who came to his shrine at the church in Santo Domingo de Calzada.
The saint's church was also the bishop's seat for the diocese, so it's a cathedral.
Before we walked on the Camino, I didn't really realize what a good thing it was that Santo Domingo made roads. Then I spent some days walking--wading!--down goat paths that had become running streams and were full of uneven rocks in the bargain. Now I appreciate what a blessing a road is! Santo Domingo made roads and helping pilgrims his apostolate--that is, his life's work in honorof Christ.
There is a tourist information office in Santo Domingo de Calzada, and also there is a lot to see in the cathedral.

St. Anne, holding her daughter the Blessed Virgin, who is holding the Holy Child, Jesus

St. Veronica with the veil. Paintings of this veil are called icons of the Holy Face.

This was the first time I noticed an Adoration chapel along the route. I would have ducked in for a moment, but my sweetie was in Picture Mode and so I fended him off and didn't go in. (I was afraid he'd not see the sign and follow me in and start taking pictures. After a day of walking, it's hard to see signs.)

These are the representatives of the Miracle Chickens. They are housed in the cathedral for a year,
and then new representative chickens take their place.

The dean of the choir, I guess, had this chair. It is carved with the Miracle Chickens.
One of the miracles that Santo Domingo brought about was the rescue of a young man who had been wrongly hanged. (Note, please, that when you are strung up by the neck until dead, you are not "hung," you are "hanged.") He had been traveling with his parents on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, and the family had paid their respects to Santo Domingo en route. (Santo Domingo's relics were also something people went on pilgrimage to visit.) While in the town, he and his family had gotten crosswise with the innkeeper and he was accused--falsely--of stealing a silver cup. He was quickly condemned and was hanged. His grieving parents, plodding sadly out of the town, prayed to the saint, likely both to Santo Domingo and to Santiago, about their tragedy. The saint appeared to them at the edge of town and told them, "Go back. Your son is alive." Scarcely daring to believe, but unwilling to doubt, the parents returned and sought out the official. Said official was about to sit down to a well prepared dinner of roast chicken. The birds were already on the table, in fact. He looked at the parents and said, "I am sorry. Your son is no more alive than these chickens." At which word the chickens on the platter sprouted feathers and flew off, squawking the while! The official and the parents returned to the gibbet, where they found the young man being supported aloft by the saint.
He was brought down and released the the joyful family continued on their pilgrimage.
The tale not only illustrates the power of prayer, it also demonstrates the horrible things that could and did happen to ordinary travelers who were on a journey sometimes.
In memory of the miracle, to this day the cathedral of Santo Domingo de Calzada houses a pair of chickens. The bake shops in the town sell "miracles" which are puff pastry bird cookies with apricot filling. (Yum!) And the miracle chickens are carved, painted, rendered in silver, and represented by a pair of beautiful Leghorn birds in the church.
I read it and didn't commit either way at first. But I have been thinking. And one of the things I have been thinking about is the odd, strange, unbelievable things that happen. All you have to do is keep your eyes open and your ears alert. I have come around to a conclusion, therefore: I believe in the miracle of the chickens. Certainly I know that God watches over the pilgrims who journey to the tomb of Christ's apostle St. James.
I think that God also watches over the pilgrims who pay their respects to Santo Domingo, and probably also to the disciple of Santo Domingo, San Juan de Orbigo, whose shrine will be talked of in a later day's travel.
We stayed with the Cistercian Sisters at their monastery that night. There was one hospitalera, a lady, whose best language was Spanish. The albergue was "donation" and there was a bin there beside the sign-in book. She assigned us to a room with 3 actual beds and we shared it with a man who came from Colombia but was a teacher of Spanish at some college in the Eastern US. The hospitalera lit the fireplace in the sitting room and a whole circle of us lined up our chairs in front of it. (The weather was still cold.) A couple of people put their insoles on the mantle so the fire would dry them out. Fortunately they didn't smell bad. We ate the Menu del Dia at the nuns' Hospederia (fancy hotel) around the back side of the building, which was accessed by going around the block. The sitting was at 9 pm, and we barely finished in time to get back before the albergue doors were locked and the lights shut off at 10.

Monday, July 28, 2014

After the light day, a big one

Hello, everyone.

We left Logrono at our usual, crack-of-dawn time. Nothing was open, of course, but we followed our usual plan of finding cafe leche and a roll (or, better, a bocadillo) after walking for a little while.

Along the way we passed a ruin of an ancient pilgrim hospital (albergue) that was alongside the path.
When I saw the state of that one, I was really glad there was no chance we'd find ourselves sleeping there!
We kept moving all the way into Najera, which is divided in half by a river. The water is clear, there was green grass alongside, and families were enjoying their afternoon on the riverbank. We, on the other hand, were walking back and forth like lost sheep, trying to make sense of the directions in the Kelly guide in my Kindle, and finally we gave up and asked a lady walking a dog.
We were in luck. This lady, with the cute, little, purse-sized dog, was a member of the local Camino support club. She took us right over to the municipal albergue and enjoyed some cheerful teasing from the hospitaleros there.
I think I mentioned that the albergue de peregrinos in Najera sleeps 90. It also has a washer and a dryer, and a rental computer in the lobby. That evening, while I was on the computer, somebody with a guitar set up in the sitting area behind me and revved up a singalong. "Guantanamera" strikes again. But I was tired--my sweetie was already in bed--and as soon as I could I finished up on the computer and headed down the Goodnight Trail to my bunk.
We had walked 19 miles that day (about 30 km.) and had 595 km to go.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunshine on my shoulders

Hello, everyone.

We left Viana about 10 or 10:30 in the morning and, shortly after leaving the village, found ourselves walking in sunshine. It was wonderful. And the sun stayed out all the way into Logrono and for some while after we got there.

Bridge at edge of Logrono

Just past this bridge on the way into the city was a tourist information office, which had maps. We told them--they asked where we were from--that we're from Texas and discovered that they had encountered other Texans recently. It wasn't a huge surprise when we discovered ourselves bunking with some of the Aggie group at the albergue.
This albergue had a lovely, below-grade courtyard with lots of chairs to sit in, and a square water feature thingie. (More look-at pond than anything else, only about 4 feet across.) After we put our sleeping bags out on the bunk beds and tucked our packs into the cubby at the end of the row, I went outside and sat with my (ugly, torn-up) feet in the sunshine so the skin could breathe and dry out. Later on, my sweetie persuaded me to go wandering with him, wearing my shower sandals, in search of food and wine.
We discovered that we were wandering the shop streets during the siesta time. The folks in northern Spain take their siesta time very seriously. Almost everything was closed up tight. But we did find a place to have a glass and a snack.
 Logrono has lots of tapas/pintxos bars to eat and drink in. The wine was good, too, like almost all of the wine we drank in Spain. On the way back to the albergue, we stopped at a tiny hole in the wall grocery and bought some tea bags, so the next time we hauled shivering selves into an albergue in the afternoon we could make tea and get some warmth into the body core. Somehow the presence of ready to use tea bags in the pack warded off cold weather for the rest of the trip, too. (Okay, not really, but it felt like it!)
Pilgrims walking through Logrono

Friday, July 25, 2014

Onward and upward--well, onward, anyway

Hello, everyone.
As you probably remember, the last installment of our Camino tale had us arriving at Los Arcos.

When we woke up in Los Arcos, I put the very last bandages on my feet. The blister care situation was desperate! And it was 6 in the morning, we had to be gone by 8, and the chance a pharmacy would be open before 9 or 9:30 was nil. We had to decide what to do--walk the whole way to Logrono, about 18 miles, with no replacement bandages on hand? Wait around in Los Arcos for a pharmacy to open? Split the difference somehow? We were milling around the streets of Los Arcos and bumped into the bus stop--which had a chart of stop times and destinations. Also a small group of fellow pilgrims who had decided to give their injured knees a break by riding to Logrono.

We pulled our map out and looked--Viana has over 3,000 residents, according to the map. We figured that there would be a pharmacy there. And the bus be stopping in Los Arcos at about 8:20--earlier than any pharmacy would open. We elected to ride to Viana. This cut off some 15 km from the day's walk, and got us into Viana just in time for the pharmacies to open. We would walk from Viana to Logrono, about 7 km, and call it a light day for the feet.
The bus fare to Viana was 1,95 euro per person. The seats were comfortable and we got to see much of what we would have been walking through on the way as it went up and down a series of hills, past the Camino trail now and again, past vineyards to the little stop in the middle of the village.

Viana has sights to see: a really pretty church and the grave of Cesare Borgia. (Younger daughter had gotten my sweetie started watching the Netflix historical drama about the Borgias. My sweetie was very interested in seeing the grave.)
The story goes that Cesare, who was leading the defense of the besieged city, heard the enemy getting an attack together. He was unable to get the men of the forces in the city to go with him to defend the gate. (Guess his influence as commander had faded a bit.) So he went out there in the dark by himself. It is said that the attacking commander said "who is that madman?" At any rate, in the morning the body of Cesare Borgia was found, bearing 25 wounds from the fight.
The grave is in the courtyard outside of the Iglesia Santa Maria, a cathedral-styled church.
This is an eloquent Renaissance ensemble depicting the Crucifixion. You can see Longinus, the centurion, with his spear. Below the Crucifixion scene is a Nativity scene, but I'm not sure if it's the shepherds or the magi paying respects to the Baby Jesus in His mother's lap. Above the Crucifixion scene is a depiction of Mary with angels holding her crown above her head. At the very top, I think, is God the Father looking down. The interior of the church is also beautiful. I thought I'd put up a view of the vaulting instead of yet another retablo.
Vaulting of Iglesia Santa Maria in Viana, La Rioja, Spain

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On to Estella

Hello, everyone.
We stepped off at our usual (early) time on Saturday from Puente la Reina, walking on another brisk, chilly morning with clouds. I was wearing the pink fleece top from Caminoteca a lot, usually with a thin shirt under it. The day, according to my little notebook, was not really memorable until we got to our stopping point: Estella.
Estella has a prettily carved fountain at the entrance to the town, with a scallop shell and a poem and other carvings. You can see from the other photo that Estella is in a bilingual area: Spanish and Basque. The snack that you have with wine is not Tapas here, it's Pintxos. And the soups are called Sopa, not Caldo.
Estella also has a tourist information office! We picked up the little map they handed out. We stayed at the St. Michael Parish albergue. My feet were still painful and we were low on bandages for them, so after Saturday evening Mass, and the pilgrims' blessing, we tried to find a farmacia. There were none open--and we found three. All closed on Saturday afternoons. We did find a Camino hikers' supply store and my sweetie got me a new Buff to wear. (The old one having run away from me, I had no neck scarf.) This one has the map of the Camino route printed on it.

After giving up on the bandages idea, we decided to eat dinner and went to the main square. There were several eating places scattered around the edges of it, plus an "American style diner" by the bandstand in the middle. All of the eating places around the edge were reserved for soccer parties that night. "Completo" was all we heard from one after another. Eventually we gave up and went to the thing out in the middle. It turned out that we had to order at the counter and then sit someplace. Which meant that my sweetie, after we found an open table upstairs, went downstairs to order our "grilled ham and cheese sandwich" and "American style hamburger" and then climbed back up to where I was holding the table again.
Let's just say that the chef had a very confused idea of what a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a hamburger should be, and there wasn't nearly enough heat applied to the bun and the meat was some odd scraped thing that was pink but didn't seem to be actually raw. Enough said. My unofficial policy of trying to avoid "American style" food got some solid support that evening.
The next morning, Sunday, we stepped off about 7 after having some bread and coffee at the albergue. (One of the few times we ate before leaving.)
Right outside of town is the famous winery of Irache. (It used to be a monastery, but I don't know if there are still monks there or not.) Irache has a webcam that is pointed at the fountain spigot on the side of the winery building. The spigot taps a wine barrel, instead of water. As it was Sunday morning, and nobody was there at that time, the barrel was empty. I got about 2 drops in my palm to taste.
Then we walked along the lower of two paths (less climbing) toward Los Arcos. We were in forest for a ways, and then the path turned toward open country and we walked alongside a set of hills. This was when the weather went from unsettled to full-on ugly. We had just enough time to get our ponchos on before the light rain turned heavy. Then the lightning started--and our little line of walkers were the tallest things around. There was no help for it, though, as there are certainly no shelters of any kind in the fields, so we trudged on through the pouring rain and lightning. The storm let up just before we hit Los Arcos and we collapsed into our bunks in the municipal albergue. The hospitaleros, Jorge and Maria, were very friendly.
We had done 21 km for the day, according to the map book. (The Kindle guide said 19 km. Go figure.) 653 km to go.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Puente la Reina

Hello, everyone.

In the last post, I skipped lightly over the day we got to Puente la Reina.

The Alto del Perdon, with its bronze two-dimensional pilgrims, has already been discussed. (I did skip over the line of windmills. I'm just not that into windmills. Especially not the modern kind.) The very steep and rocky path down was, as mentioned, difficult. There were some spots where the path included steps, either alongside where the rocks just got too steep for words or instead of them.

Late in the morning the sun came out for a little while.
Those rays of sunshine were the best things I'd felt all day.
The green fuzzy looking plant in from of me here is (I think) wild fennel. The red flowers are poppies--as in "In Flanders fields the poppies grow/Between the crosses row on row...." Before we went on pilgrimage, I had always thought the poppies in the poem were like poppies in the US--carefully tended planting for beauty. Nope, they're not. They're WEEDS. (Thus, the poet was trying to depict forgotten dead soldiers.) And in some fields there were almost more poppies than wheat.
On the way into Puente la Reina, we passed a hotel that had albergue rooms in the building as well as regular hotel-guest rooms. They had a pool, too, although since the temps were in the general area of 50 degrees F, we wondered which two weeks of the entire year the pool would be usable. We kept on going to the Padres Reparadores albergue.
We wandered out in the evening to find dinner along the Calle Mayor and were served perfectly wonderful garlic soup, thickened with the bread hunks and everything. The server said it was homemade, by which I guess he meant made-here and home-style.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thoughts on lodging

Hello, everyone.
I promised yesterday to put up the first of the stork pictures. Here it is:
These are some of the storks nesting in Puente La Reina, Navarra. They made loud noises, too--they put their heads back and clacked their long beaks together. I guess it's stork love-talk.

I know someone is wondering where one spends the night on this trek. Answers differ, of course, but here is ours: Pilgrim albergues and a few nights in pension/hostels. If your plans for a town involve staying more than one night, you have to choose between staying in the pension to start with or staying 1 night in the albergue and the other night in the pension. The albergues enforce a one-night rule, as otherwise people would just move in and stay, and they all tell you what time you have to be gone the next morning. (It was usually 8 am.)
The pilgrim albergue at the monastery of Roncesvalles, as mentioned in an earlier post, was very luxurious: pairs of beds in cubicles, with cubbies to put the pack in. Cubicles lined up along both sides of a long room, shower and bath facilities at the end on the way into the room. Laundry facilities downstairs--we were told that they have both sinks for hand washing and a hospitalero who will, for 2 euro, run your load through the washer and dryer. I should have done that. It would have meant less fuss and bother in Zubiri the next night.
The municipal albergue de peregrinos in Zubiri was more typical of the albergues: bunk beds. There were some 8 or so bunk sets in a room, if I remember right, and Zubiri's albergue had multiple rooms. The bathroom and shower facilities were across the caliche "yard" area, in a separate building. There were also laundry sinks there--no shelf or table to put laundry on but with caution one could perch the wet clothes on the side of the sink. Drying was with the clotheslines strung alongside the building and along the fence.
Some of the albergues had washer/dryer setups--either coin operated or done by the hospitaleros. The Augstinas (religious sisters) in Carrion de los Condes had a nice, front-loading washer that they insisted on running themselves. (I don't blame them.) They provided the soap, too--you provided the dirty laundry load and some euros to pay for the use of the setup.
In the municipal albergue in Najera, which is near a lovely river, they have 90 sleeping spaces in one, very long, room. The bunks were lined up side by side in pairs, end-to-end down the center, and also set head-to-wall in long lines down the sides of the room. We had about 2 1/2 feet walking room between beds, and you had to put your pack in that walking room. The boots, as usual, and the sticks had been assigned to shelves (for the botes) and a 30-gallon trash can (for the sticks) in the laundry room.
In Santo Domingo de Calzada, we slept at the Cistercian nuns' convent, in their albergue that they had made out of part of the building. (Unheated stone building. I'll go out on a limb and say that I understand why their nun-uniforms looked like actual wool. They needed it.) The room we were assigned to had three simple beds, instead of bunks. I think some of the other rooms there had the standard bunks for pilgrims. The hospitalera did bed checks there, too, at lights-out time. This was something we'd not seen before. (All of the albergues had lock-up times, usually at 10 pm.) Of course, they also had a fireplace in the main sitting room downstairs and she lit the fire and kept it going with new wood, too--I think it all balances out.
In one albergue, in Arzua, we had a bunk set in a small room by ourselves. And when my sweetie climbed the ladder up to his bed, the entire setup racked severely!
By stopping about 1 or 2 in the afternoon most days, we were able to find places to sleep in the albergues most of the time. The only exceptions to that were El Burgo Ranero and Santiago. In El Burgo Ranero, even though there were multiple albergues, we got in late and at 3 pm they were all full. ("Completo.") We stayed in a pension that night: a clean, but small, hotel room with a complete bathroom (shower, not tub) and a "matrimonial" bed. We had a window, too, that looked out onto a patio for people to sit and relax. There were chairs and tables. When the blue norther came in that night, the wind moved the chairs and tables off-and-on until the storms blew on past, around 3 in the morning. (We had expected a blue norther to come in, as there had been a stiff south wind during the day as we walked. It reminded us of the winds we had encountered on the Route Napoleon through the mountains the first day.)
In Perejes  the albergue was a building from the 1300's. The hospitalero told me that the ceiling of the downstairs sleeping room we were in was the original floor of the building. There was a big beam that went through from one side clear to the other, and that was original too. There were no bunks there, just two rows of beds in our dorm room. By the time we got to Perejes, this qualified as luxury living!

 Sleeping in an albergue is not like sleeping in a hotel room. Usually the room is shared with between 10 and 90 people in it. One tries to speak softly, in case someone is sleeping nearby. And while people talk about snoring, most of the time whatever snoring there was blended into a general background noise.
One takes one's clothes to the bathroom to change.
The bathroom/shower is often shared between the sexes. Sometimes they will have separated bathrooms, but doors often give the outside world a good view of the room.

One dresses in the shower stall after washing off. Occasionally there is a dressing area inside the shower stall. Often the water from the timer-governed shower head splatters all over the tiny stall and the only place to put clothes is over the door. I got good at leaning my head on the  wall while putting one leg into my pants and holding the remaining pants fabric off of the wet floor at the same time. I also got pretty good at using my sleeping bag's stuff sack as a shower bag, putting my clean clothes, camp towel, and soap in it for the trip to the shower.

I think one of the lessons of the pilgrimage is to take these things, different as they might be from our normal life and previous travels, in stride. The Camino is not only about the walking, but the walking, and the adaptation to conditions, are certainly an important part of the Camino, along with going to the pilgrim Masses, settling down for a few minutes of adoration if the church has a Capilla del Santissimo, going to museums, eating tapas, and taking pictures of lovely views. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hello, everyone.
When we left Pamplona, it was very early in the morning. (Actually, it was very early in the morning almost every time we started walking. That let us get in a serious chunk of walking, yet still be done walking by about 2 pm most days. We weren't trotting down the road calling ahead for reservations, so getting where we were comfortable stopping pretty early was important.) It was so early that we got to the next little town over, Cizur Menor, before we encountered an open bakery to buy some food to eat. And that was a croissant, I think. Plus "cafe leche para llevar" as they say--coffee with milk to-go.
Then we went on down the trail, preceded and followed by the usual scattering of other peregrinos. (On the Camino Frances, whatever the case may be on other routes, one is rarely completely alone.) The day was cloudy, but then we'd been walking in clouds whenever it wasn't rainy thus far. We didn't think anything of it.
The trail got more steep, as we approached the Alto del Perdon. There was a lovely little church along the way--San Andres de Zariquiegui, the sello says--and we stopped for a moment. My sweetie took a picture.
  I was sitting on the bench outside (doesn't show in the picture, it's off to the left) and I looked around at the sky and saw weather coming in.
I was so discouraged. I could feel my feet shriveling up at the very sight of the onrushing bank of rain clouds. Shortly after we resumed walking, it rained. And then it hailed.
But! This time the hail was short-lived. It was only windy and rainy when we got to the pilgrims' monument at the top of Alto del Perdon.

And here is my sweetie:
See how he's petting the bronze dog?
The path down the other side of the mountain was a pile of jumbled up rocks, very unstable, looking to me like a trout stream deprived of its fish-and, fortunately, most of its water.
We slept at the albergue of the Padres Reparadores that night, in Puente La Reina. And that was where I lost my really-cool, pencil-sized flashlight that my son had given me. Though I didn't realize it until a night or two later! (The mind doesn't work the same way on an a trek like this, at least not if you aren't used to it. I had tied it--the flashlight, not my mind!--to the bed frame in case I needed to go to the pot in the night, the string slipped down out of sight behind the corner of the mattress, and apparently I didn't do a proper job of clearing the space on our way out.)
Tomorrow I hope to post the first stork picture of the trip, from Puente La Reina.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Hello, everyone.
We spent two nights in Pamplona. Along with eating the Sepia a Basque (Squid with garlic/parsley sauce) we went to two museums, took a picture of the place the future Saint Ignatius of Loyola was wounded in battle, and found the camino supply shop Caminoteca. Where we bought me a pink fleece top so I could stop freezing to death. Caminoteca is a sweet little hiking supply shop--a selection of souvenirs, of course, some clothes for hiking in, and various books about the Camino. It's just down from the Cathedral and is well worth the stop if you, like us, are needing to pick up a couple of things.
Before the other pictures of the city, my sweetie took this of my feet:
This was all from the two days walking in soaking wet boots. They began to heal with the day of "rest" and no-boots in Pamplona. We wore our shower sandals all over the city. We also learned the value of taking Bufferin at bedtime to bring down swelling.

Pamplona has a lot of neat things to look at. We saw a cool sculpture of the bulls running:
You can also see in the background that many of the apartments have potted plants on their balconies. The northern Spanish towns and cities were full of lovely flowers, and often people who had only an apartment balcony cultivated beautiful pots of flowers there.
The place where, so to speak, grace struck Ignatius of Loyola:
Grace in the form of a cannonball, that is.
The Museum of Navarra had beautiful art on display, including beautiful floor mosaics, wall frescoes that used similar motifs as the floor mosaics from later years, statues of saints, and various altar treasures.
The Cathedral and the Church of St. Nicholas are both beautiful.
The Cathedral Museum had a very good exhibit on the history of Western culture. I learned that the Poema de mi Cid was written approximately at the same time as Beowulf. They also had archeological excavations that had been done there, which had uncovered a Roman village, now displayed with a walkway and some videos.
Many of the artworks from various village churches have been gathered into the museums in Pamplona, so you can see, for example, a great assortment of statues of the Blessed Mother all together and compare the different ways she is portrayed. Even in the Middle Ages, not everything was alike. Different villages had statues to her under different titles, and the anonymous sculptors certainly had different ideas of her face and the Holy Child, besides the customary clothing that is shown with the various titles (like Our Lady of Le Puy.)
Statues of the Blessed Mother, usually holding the Christ Child, from many churches in Navarra

Detail from a retablo showing thte Blessed Mother and many saints

Another retablo
The second night we stayed in Pamplona was Thursday night. This was the evening that we discovered the work week ends on Thursday, at least in Pamplona. All the prices at the bars and restaurants changed. Many more people were out and about for the evening--and the place we stayed was on the most "happening" street in the city! The last noisy drunks didn't go stumbling home until 5 am, kicking empty bottles as they went.
My sweetie's watch sounded at 5:30 am and we got up to begin walking again, in our newly-dry shoes.
We had about 716 kilometers more walking to reach Santiago.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

After Roncesvalles

The next morning we woke to the light, about 6:15?, put our things back into the packs and our socks on our feet, went downstairs to put our boots on, and heard rain. With thunder.
It didn't have that pounding, rushing sound we associate with tropical downpours, so after we were booted and loaded up, we headed out.
Behold the fetching rain poncho! (My hat was under the hood to keep the eyeglasses dry.)
The rain was not bad at first. Then the heavens really turned the spigot to "flood." After a while the lightning came back (not that you could see it for the trees) so there was thunder to give variety to the rain sounds.
And then the hail started.
The village of Espinal, about 6.6 kilometers down the road from Roncesvalles, has a fronton court. (Handball court.) I had wondered why this was always mentioned in the guidebooks--then we staggered into Espinal in the midst of hail, rain, and more hail, and discovered that the fronton court was an open building with a roof, and no fence. By the time this batch of hail finished there were about 30 people huddling under the roof. And many of us had so much water in our socks and boots that we could remove the boot and pour water out of it. (I also squeezed water out of the toes of my socks.)
The white stuff you see on the roof across the way is hail piling up. The gray stuff on the ground around the tractor is water puddling. The water puddled a lot that day.
After a while it let up and we thought it would be safe to continue. Then about a half an hour later the rain started up again. It poured off and on all day. The trails were flowing streams, the water flowed over the toes of our shoes going up hill and over the heels of our shoes going down hill. We crossed over two streams that had a row of tall cement posts for fording that day.
Just before we got to Zubiri we had to cross a downhill slope that was nothing but rocks and slick mud. There was almost nowhere to put our feet. When we got to the bottom, I took a picture.
Somehow it doesn't look as impressive as it was to go down! But we made it into Zubiri about 2 pm, crossing over the Puente de Rabia, and settled into the municipal albergue. We had walked 22.1 kilometers: 13 1/4 miles. It was our first night in the bunk beds that would turn out to be standard sleeping arrangements for the Camino. It was my first night dealing with the blisters that would make much of my walk difficult and uncomfortable. It was also our first experience of slapping the dirty clothes in a sink, giving them a good squeeze, and hanging them out on a line to dry. (Or not.)
Fortunately the rain had stopped just before we got into Zubiri. To continue the good fortune, our boots that had been sitting on a picnic bench outside went inside before we went to supper, and our clothes were dry enough to bring in as well. It rained during the night, and people whose clothes had been left on the line overnight were in a real pickle.
We ate the pilgrim menu at the local bar: spaghetti in tomato sauce, chicken wings, soggy fried potatoe wedges, red wine and flan. This was my first experience of the standard potato side dish of Spain. I think they like their fried potatoes soggy like that, because they are everywhere.
In the morning, our boots were still very wet. We had no choice, however, and so we put them on. We started walking and discovered that there was no coffee shop, no bakery, no anyplace to get some foot to start out on. (The day before there had been a coffee shop close to the monastery. Cafe leche for two, and split a croissant with ham and cheese inside it--good start.) We walked down the trail and there was nothing in the way of a food place.
My sweetie had bought a small packet of Oreos and we ate a couple of those. (I hate Oreos. In the States they are always stale and horrid. The Spanish Oreos, however, were crisp and as good as two pressed wafers with Crisco icing inside are going to get.) About 9:30 or 10 we stumbled over a coffee shop and joined the mob scene as about 40 peregrinos tried to use the bathrooms and buy coffee and food in a place with about 15 seats. But we were grateful for the dry seat and the hot coffee! We met three Irish ladies, one of whom had lived in Dallas for a year. Later that day, they saw us again adn serenaded us with "Deep in the Heart of Texas."
And we walked on through another wet day, with a new perspective: at least there isn't any hail.
And I couldn't take any pictures at all, because when we had arrived in Zubiri I had discovered that my camera case was damp all the way through and the camera--and the case--had to dry out before I could take any more pictures.
They came up on us again from behind, and having seen my limping gait, gave me Compeed bandages for blisters. They were going to Pamplona to fly home, as their vacation was over. We thanked them, applied a Compeed to one of the worst blisters, and kept on. My pretty speckled Buff neck scarf was on my head that day. It decided it was embarrassed to be seen with me and fell off somewhere in the forest before we got into Pamplona.
We had walked  20.7 kilometers: almost 13 miles.
We knew there is a lot to see in the city, so we got a small room in Hotel Otona for 2 nights. This is a tiny hotel/pension over a bar on a street full of bars--all of which advertised pilgrim menus or daily menus. We had 2 twin beds, a shower all our own, and a TV. We took off our wet shoes and socks, napped, and wore our shower shoes for the evening. We ate Menu del Dia at a place that advertised Basque food. I had sopa de pesca, grilled squid, and yogurt for dessert. The squid was absolutely wonderful. It was big, too, and white, and I couldn't finish it all. (Many days later we learned that the white squid is actually a different variety of squid, called Pocha I think. It is white because they peel the skin off of it.)
My sweetie had paella, trout with country ham, and crema de arroz. He really loved the rice dessert. It wasn't thick like most rice puddings are.
We were too tired to stroll the city and drink and eat in this place and that place and the other one, so we called it a night.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

And then we were in Spain

I woke up this morning and realized that I'd forgotten to post the rest of the first day's walk. Sorry.

The border crossing into Spain is so remote and unmarked that we weren't entirely sure we had passed it until we got to the Fountain of Roland.

There was a French mile marker before the border.
Getting water at the Fountain of Roland

 The Fountain of Roland is along the historic route taken over the the pass. It is potable water. In the background you can see the caliche path, with some peregrinos walking away from the fountain.
By this point we had gotten back below the tree line.
We walked along this path, we walked on leaves under the (beech?) forest, and we walked on damp dirt. A lot of it!
Later on that afternoon, as we progressed farther down the south side of the mountains, we found that the wind became much stronger. It was so strong the last couple of miles into Roncesvalles that I had to lean sideways and hold my sticks at about a 45 degree angle on the lee side just to stay on my feet.
After we got into the monastery, about 4:30 pm, one of the hospitaleros--the people who volunteer to assist in housing the many, many pilgrims--told me that the week before a lady had broken her leg in two places and been flown out.
Roncesvalles is an ancient monastery, with a courtyard and several buildings and a church. We gave our passport information--in Spain you must do this everywhere you spend the night--and got our credenciales stamped with the sello, left our boots in the boot closet and followed the hospitalero up the three flights of stairs to our beds. In the new dorm at Roncesvalles, the floors are divided into cubicles with 4 foot partitions, two beds to a cubicle. And they are not bunk beds! Also there was a locker we could put our packs into. If only we had known what luxury this was. But we listened carefully to the orientation talk from "our" hospitalero, tucked the packs into the lockers, and headed over to the restaurant to make a reservation for the pilgrims meal. (You had to reserve and pay in advance so they'd know how much to make.) We relaxed for a little bit, until it was time to go eat. Then we went to the pilgrims' Mass and blessing and called it a night.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

After the setup, comes the plunge

And it was really a plunge into reality!
We started out in the sunshine, at the base of the pass, and for a while it was just pretty and nice. There was a slope, but it wasn't steep, and even someone whose training had all been flatland could do okay.
Then we turned a corner and started to really climb. Still on paved tiny-little-road, so we had to keep to the side and watch for traffic. The French government had helpfully posted a sign requesting that everyone walk in "file indienne"--apparently walk Indian style is their word for single file.
We walked up, and up. My sweetie walked faster than I did, so at some point in the day he just forged on ahead until he had to stop. (I found out later that there were more of those stops than I at first realized. He said that he felt like his lungs were being ripped out through his mouth and shaken hard, then dropped on his head. He did say to me that he regretted every single cigarette he had ever smoked.) That actually happened later on, when it was medium steep and went on and on and on...

The first part, up to Honto, was just steep and we were still energetic and joking. Like apparently everyone else that has done this, we stepped aside and caught our breath while taking a picture of the valley we had left. I reloaded water bottles at the fountain. We kept on, stepping around springs that were dribbling down the path. Eventually we got to  Orisson. (Around 10:30 or 11 in the morning.) There is a restaurant there. I got a sello--a stamp of being there--added to my credencial and bought a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches for later. (Cue sounds of spouse saying "I'm not hungry yet." And the answer: "There won't be Pizza Hut on top of the mountain when you decide that you are ready to eat. We need to think ahead about these things." So we bought the sandwiches, me thinking that we'd have a picnic with our sandwiches and water bottles in a hour or so.)
The ham and cheese sandwiches, so called, were just like the bocadillos we would be buying for the rest of the journey: a slice of cheese, a slice of the lovely country ham, and a short baguette. No mayo, no mustard, no butter. Just the essential elements of the beast. Handed to me in a paper bag.
If I had it to do all over again, I would have insisted that we sit down and eat a bowl of hot soup instead. The fluid, and the heat, would have done us more good.

And this collection of pictures gets us just about to the Spanish border.
(Did you see that I added my windbreaker on to the outfit? I was cold. When we stopped for a rest at the statue of Our Lady, I pulled the windbreaker out and put it on.) There was a serious headwind, too, and it just got stronger as we went.
You can see that I was using my walking sticks. These gadgets were a mixed bag for me--absolutely priceless on the first couple of days, then pretty much not used for the rest of the trip. But they paid for themselves on Day 1!
You can also see that there were a fair number of other people walking the same trail. That first day, we were rarely alone. We even got passed by excursion vans going up to see the scenery. And there was a steady trickle of people passing us every time we sat down to catch our breath. This became an enduring trait of the Camino--someone who is sitting down is looked over by all the passers-by. Greeted, too, usually, with "Buen Camino!" or "You okay?" It was comforting to be asked after by all those people. Later on, when we were happily warm and other people were sprawled out under a small bush alongside the trail, we did the same thing. (Well, I figured if they were tired but alert enough to say "buen camino" they'd be along in a little while. But all of us looked at someone who was sitting down on the ground. Because we all were becoming a brotherhood of suffering, though we didn't know it yet.)
I didn't take a picture of the Spanish border; I was tired, and it was too much trouble to take the camera out to snap a photo of a cattle guard.
Tomorrow I'll put up some pictures of the rest of the day.