Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Town with Three Names

Hello, everyone.

We got up in Arzua at our usual time and stopped by a bakery for a roll and coffee and some Spanish-language pop music. I felt like I was at home! It was the first time I had heard Spanish-language pop since leaving Texas.

Didn't you hear Spanish music in Spain? I hear you asking. The answer is, mostly, no. Everywhere we went, the bars and restaurants were either playing American pop (new or old) and just weren't playing music at all. Johnny Cash was nice, just because, but I really didn't expect to hear no "international" pop for most of the trip. Which just goes to show that expectations can be wrong.

We walked along the trail and crossed over (well under) the N-547 several times, before crossing over the small bridge of Rio Burgo and entering O Pedrouzo. Also called O Pino and Arca. One of these names is Galician, I don't know which, and I also don't know where they all came from. We stayed in a pension room that night, not wanting to have our rest interrupted by excited folks who had just joined the trail recently and hadn't worked off enough energy to be quiet.

You see my sweetie's hat posing for the picture!

The next morning, we were up before the sun and the sky was gorgeous! I snapped a photo on the way out of town.
Dawn on the Camino! I don't know why the camera thought it was June 20th. I have that day as June 21.
 About 8:30 we found an open restaurant in the middle of nowhere and had our breakfast bocadillo and coffee. Then went around the airport--didn't see any aircraft landing or leaving--and on to Monte de Gozo.

Monte de Gozo was at one time an overlook. The pilgrims would take a bath in Lavacolla, then keep on walking to Monte de Gozo. (Getting their clothes dirty all over again!) From Monte de Gozo they could view the Cathedral of Santiago. You can't do that anymore.

There is a lovely small chapel there, to get a sello at, and a small stand that sells drinks, and a gigantic modern-art thing to look at--but the view of the city is entirely blocked by the trees that have grown up on the downhill slope.
The top of the pilgrim monument. They did remember to put a shell on it.
I think the sculpture on the side is Pope St. John Paul II. I'm not sure what the thing over the shell-y path is. (And yes, I couldn't resist showing that we were there! Everybody was taking pictures of each other.)
We walked through miles of outer city before reaching the old town. We passed sculptures of various kinds and lots of traffic. Eventually we passed over the ring-road into the Cathedral area. We looked around for places to stay, even though it was only about 11:30 in the morning. After all, we had arrived! But every place we had an address for was full up. "Completo, completo." It was discouraging. As we began walking out to find one of the albergues whose signs we'd passed on the way in, I said a quick prayer: "Jesus, take us where we need to be."

Five minutes later, as we milled around like lost four-year-olds on the sidewalk, we heard a lady's voice. "Peregrinos! Peregrinos!" We turned around and saw a lady about my age. She offered to let us stay at her place--it turned out that she had an apartment that she rented out, and it was free for a couple of nights.
God watches over the pilgrims, that's all I can say.

We went to Mass on the Sunday of Corpus Christi. As it was a feastday, the confraternity of men who cares for it came out in their red robes and swung the Botafumeiro.
We paid our respects to the Saint--there is a kneeler in front of the casket with his bones, and a jeweled reliquary behind the main altar of the Cathedral--and there was also an Adoration chapel. So I was able to give thanks there as well. Over the course of our walk to Santiago, I had gone from facing the tabernacle with a laundry list of concerns--worse yet, a distracted mental babble--to on that day just sinking into the gratitude.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Palas dei Rei

Hello, everyone.

We had a noisy night in Portomarin, because of ambient noises of one kind and another. I don't know why I noticed them so much this time. One was an alarm that sounded like a rooster.

Leaving Portomarin meant returning to the kind of hills and woodlots and small villages and farms that we'd mostly been going thrugh. No more views of the pretty river, sadly--we were heading away from it altogether.

My sweetie's feet were really bothering him now, because we'd had so many rocky surfaces to walk on. We could feel the contours of the rocks through our boots, and if we hit a rock wrong, we got a definite advisory from our foot. I dont' know if this was because the insoles of the boots were dead, or the boots were wearing out, or we were just a lot more noticing by this point. At times now, I was actually walking ahead of my sweetie.

Morning clouds have not lifted off for the folks in the valley yet.

Nothing says fun like giant metal ants in the patio!

Unless it's a hog's head with sunglasses on.
I find in my journal that I forgot to write for a key couple of days--these ones! And in my sweetie's journal, everything stops at Palas de Rei. (He was pretty tired by the end of a walking day.)
As you can see, Galicia is as green as the early part around the Pyrenees. Trail marker in distance says to go left.
 As you can see in the above picture, we were walking along the small roads a lot. There are some big highways through this area, and when the trail comes to it you have a confusing set of arrows that lead you in a spiral that ends in an underpass, and then carries on. The way through the small villages is used also by the dairy farmers taking their cows to and from the barn, so even though the village roads are paved you can't always see much of the asphalt through the dried cow pats. I did say dairy farmers: the cheese style that Galicia is known for is a really rich, really good creamy soft cheese. Almost soft enough to spread!

I learned a new word for drumsticks: "the hams of the chicken"
In Spain, while there are grocery stores, there are also frozen goods stores in many towns. They sell fish, and this one had chicken, too. This congeleria was in Arzua. The sale on drumsticks works out to around $1.50 a pound, give or take for the exchange rate.

If I remember correctly, Arzua was the place where the albergue put us in a "private" room. That is, the room was small and there was only one bunk set in it. Which racked terribly. And I finally got to eat some Pulpo a feria: octopus chunks, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with pimenton. YUM!!! We also tried Galician style tortilla de patata, which is a little bit softer inside. I don't know how the cooks manage that trick. Maybe they just run the stove a little hotter under the skillet, so the egg cooks firmer on the outside faster and lets the inside be still soft and almost like a sauce around the potato chunks.

The poster for the concert. I think Mr. Johansen was going to put out a DVD of the music. Notice the Galician spelling of the date: Xunio.

Arzua was also the town in which we got to hear the concert by the cellist Dane Johansen. It was delightful. Mr. Johansen, an American musician, was traveling the trail with his cello, a crew, and a load of audio equipment. (Obvious, he wasn't toting all that on his back on the goat tracks! It would have been impossible.) He had a project going, to play in the old churches and recreate the beautiful sound environments the way people would have heard it--so no artificial boost to the volume. I still heard him very well. One of the songs was a Spanish folk song (Catalonian?) which brought to mind the walking through hills and looking out over the valleys with their "ponds" of clouds below me.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not just another day on the trail

Hello, everyone.

When we left off with the Camino, we had stopped for the night at Paloma Y Lerma, a wonderful albergue some 6 km. short of Sarria.

Sarria is a decent-sized town. According to the Brierly map book, it has more residents than Astorga. Sarria is livelier, though. It's also a key point on the Camino route: it is just outside of the 100 kilometer distance circle from Santiago.
Cool shells in the railing along the river

It was around 8 in the morning. Not a lot of folks were in the old town area at that time.

Mosaic pavement at entrance to the Mercedarian (or Trinitarian?) monastery in Sarria

Why does that matter? Because a walking pilgrim must walk the last 100 km into Santiago to get a certificate from the Pilgrims' Office in Santiago. (Obviously, many people walk farther than that!)

People start walking the Camino Frances in different places. We started in St. Jean, in the French Pyrenees. Some people start from Roncesvalles, the monastery just on the Spanish side of the border along the trail. Others start in Leon, or Pamplona. And a great collection of folks with not very much time to invest in the pilgrimage start out in Sarria.

This produces a change in the atmosphere along the trail, as student groups on their school break and older ladies' caffeeklatsches join up, full of energy and talk, and enjoy their healthful walk in the countryside. Sometimes they leave their luggage on a bus and walk for an hour or so, to experience the path, then after their meal break they get back on the bus and go on. The pilgrim who has been walking for weeks finds himself tempted to resent this--he begins to think that these other folks aren't really pilgrims, because they're not quiet, they're not working as hard, and basically they aren't approaching it the same way he does.

We don't own the Camino. (I refuse to speculate about the inverse.)

We are where we are on the Camino because it's where we, personally, need to be. Presumably the noisy kids who are calling back and forth and blocking the path and spreading out all over the road (when the path is on the road) are where they personally need to be also. But I confess that I found it very tiring to be enveloped by the teenagers--we started calling them the Children's Brigade--who acted like teenagers on school break always do.

 After we passed through Sarria, we passed through many villages, and along many, many cow paths, and eventually reached the town of Portomarin. (27 km for the day) This town is on a hill, overlooking a wide river and a bridge. We stopped in Portomarin at our usual time--about 2:30 pm--and were glad to call it a day. We did see other folks, later in the day, who hadn't stopped until almost 6 in the afternoon, and they were having a lot of trouble finding a place to sleep. The influx of new pilgrims at the final part of the Camino means that there is a lot more competition for the available beds.
The church in Portomarin. If I remember correctly, it was moved uphill to keep it from being flooded when they built a dam on the river, and reassembled in its new site.
During our walk that day, we had gone up and down many hills, and through many woodlots, and over many rocky spots on the trails. The slopes didn't bother us nearly as much any more. And since we'd passed Sarria that day, we knew we were close to the end.
Crossing the bridge to Portomarin.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Hello, everyone.

As my friends know, I do quilting and sewing.

Progress photo of grandbaby's quilt
 As you can see from the picture, I am interested in larger designs that are made up of smaller ones--hearts made up of Log Cabin blocks, for example. I once made a wall quilt out of Log Cabin blocks that formed a gold (yellow) cross against a background that incorporated other liturgical colors.

When we walked along on the Camino, I was looking, looking--at colors, shapes, flowers, buildings, art, you name it. The emphasis on blue backgrounds and yellow arrows or shells on many of the waymarkers formed a unifying theme, colorwise, in many of the newer painted marks. There were also brass shells on sidewalks, stone patterns in pavement, and so on. We passed a house that had covered the low wall of the flowerbed with about 100 shells. There was also a building in the last part of the trail that had a 15 or 20 foot tall white shell on the side of it. The shells, the arrows, the cross of Santiago--they bring back to me the memories of the pilgrimage.

Trail marker in the Montes de Oca--rocks and pine cones!--at the edge of the mud road.

The yellow arrow, usually spray painted like this one, is probably the most famous trail marker on the Camino Frances.

This was both a boundary marker and a trail marker.

And when we got home I wanted to find a way to put some of the things I'd seen into quilts, or seed bead patterns, or other creative things. That was part of why I made the Cafe Press shop--using our photos to make gifts--and it was also why I have been trying to figure out how to make a scallop shell quilt block.

Initial draft of an applique scallop shell design
The first attempt you see here was built from a Dresden plate pattern. I used the neato cutting guide to cut different lengths of wedges, from 2 1/2 inches on up to 4 inches, and then sewed them together and folded the ends to make a more shapely shape. Then I attached it to a background and sewed a line down each seamline and down the middle of each wedge. A section of a circle and a rectangle completed the shell.

On the good side, the wedges are already set up to do a circle, or a half circle. On the bad side, they're too fat to really work well. And the edges on the sides are too square I think. So I'm not sure that it works really well.

Maybe I should try again, with a different shape at the start, and let the top-stitching do all of the tracing of rays on the shell. If I come up with something better, I'll do a follow-on and let you all see it. For now, I think a little more study and contemplation are required.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I didn't even know how close we were getting

After sleeping in the state-run alberge at Hospital de la Condesa we got back on the trail again. The first thing we discovered was that no, we weren't through with steep climbs. In fact, we had one before breakfast! The path just before Alto do Poio is just as steep as the path up to O Cebreiro. It's not as long, thank heavens, but it's certainly just as steep. And at the top of it was a bar and an albergue. All I could think of was that I was so glad we had stopped at Hospital instead of continuing on to this, the very next albergue on the trail.

After eating toast (huge pieces freshly sliced when I asked for it, and then toasted in the oven) and cafe leche, we continued on. At the far side of Triascastela, we went right toward San Xil, wanting the shorter route. (Triacastela is a lovely village. There are some little stores. They don't want you to bring your pack inside the door.)

It was a good thing that we had stopped at the very last grocery in Triacastela to pick up some sardines and some bread. We walked through a whole lotta scenic nothing for a long time after that. San Xil wasn't even a wide spot in the road. It was just a building that had nothing to do with serving food or anything like that. We did find a picnic table out in the middle of nowhere--it even had a soda machine, but it didn't sound like it was working--and we put sardines onto the bread and drank water from our bottles to wash it down and kept on going. We did see some people who had turned that way expecting to find a bar or restaurant with tables and food and drinks--poor souls. If I had had enough to give everyone a morsel I would have. The moral of the story here is to be prepared. This is about the only time we wished we had brought food along that we actually had brought food along. Not everything that is a "thing" in the map books is a place you can get food. Sometimes it's just a name so you know you're still on the right trail.

We stopped for the night at San Mamed del Camino, which may or may not qualify as a wide spot in the road, but it certainly was not a really built-up area. Among the scattered farms and houses was the Paloma y Lerma Albergue. More vegetarian food--very tasty!--very relaxing patio and yard, chickens to watch, and friendly hospitaleros. It was refreshing.

At the Alto San Roque, a statue of St. Roch--minus his dog.

View of the valley in the morning, before the early fog had lifted.

Capilla de San Pedro, a wayside chapel along the trail past San Xil.
The morning after sleeping at Paloma Y Lerma, we walked through Sarria, and the atmosphere of the Camino changed. This post is long enough, so I'll leave that for tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Up, Up, and--O Cebreiro!

Hello, everyone.

We left Perejes a little earlier than usual--happens when you get waked up suddenly to bright lights--and followed the trail as best we could for a while. It seemed like forever--not a lot of yellow arrows along that route, but a lot of normal town signs and road-number signs. It twists a lot, with ups and downs, and sometimes you're walking left and uphill, but you can see ahead of you that someobody else with a pack is going right and downhill. It was definitely an exercise in trust to keep going!

About 8:30 we encountered a truck stop, with cafe leche, bathroom, and ham-and-cheese bocadillo. I almost fussed about the price of the sandwich, but when it came it had probably twice or three times as much of the nice ham as the cheaper ones always did. I was glad I hadn't backed out of it then. And having breakfast on board made the ensuing hour or more of confusing, twisty roads and trails more bearable. A lot of this morning's early walking was on the roadsides of small asphalt roads, instead of on a trail alongside of the roadway. The many small villages are lovely.

I had been wanting a taste of pulpo (octopus) since the day before, and also really wanting to find a tee shirt to wear. (The lightweight woven shirts worn day after day were proving to be a little less comfortable than expected.) Ponferrada had not had any tee shirts that I liked--the shops had some black ones and some heavy ones, but nothing I could face wearing if the day got hot. I had also had an intention to pick up the Franciscan credencial in O Cebreiro and collect sellos (rubber-stamps) recognizing the 800th anniversary of St. Francis's pilgrimate to Santiago. But in the end, one out of three was all I got--and grateful for that one.

A Pieta in folk style.

View from ancient bridge.

We made it all the way to the top! It was about a 2,000 foot tramp up the rocky goat track.

Traditional Galician Celtic house. Note thatch and monster-sized stone lintels.

View from O Cebreiro

Cows checking out our snack of salted nut mix and sodas. (Linares)

The path the cows headed down en route to their barn.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Hello, everyone.

We had slept in Acebo and did a very short (16 km) day into Ponferrada. This put us in town before noon--but there are things to see in Ponferrada.
One of the regional costumes on display at the museum in Ponferrada.

We went to a museum there, before the Albergue San Nicolas de Flue opened, and then sat around at the albergue courtyard resting.

This albergue is a parish one, run by the local church. It had a big patio with shade and tables, and another patio that was paved with tile, a collection of round tables, and a square water pool. Oops, it wasn't just a pool. A number of people were sitting around and putting their feet in the pool and otherwise relaxing when, apparently, a hospitalero with a sense of humor walked by and turned on the fountain jets for a minute. You should have seen them all jump! And about a half an hour later, the hospitaleros were ready and set up their table for registration. (All the backpacks had been placed in something like a line, and when they came out, people went and stood with their packs.) As usual, the bathroom/shower space was "mixto" but this one came with two additional wrinkles: the one inside the main building--where the dorms were--had urinals outside of the shower cubicle doors (ick--these were in addition to the toilet stalls with doors on them) and there were additional showers in another building on the other side of the patio area. The patio was also decorated, besides the trellis and vine over the picnic tables, with a wooden sculpture. Think "totem pole" here and you'll get the idea. I think it was a Camino themed totem pole, but I kept thinking of Washington state Indian tribal poles.
Totem pole scuplture at Albergue San Nicolas de la Flue

Patio area at the albergue. On the wall is a tile mural of St. Nicolas de Flue.
Ponferrada has a nicely restored Templar castle, with explanatory signs. There was a diorama on display, too.
Looking out at Ponferrada from the Templar castle walls
We went grocery shopping for our dinner--we didn't want to try and find a bar to eat in, we just wanted to eat something--and found tomato juice! (I don't know why, but Spanish groceries almost never had any tomato juice for sale.) We got that, and also some meat empanada and olives to eat with it for dinner, and had a half bottle of the juice left to drink in the morning. We also bought another empanada package to eat for lunch the next day, plus some napoleons with ham and cheese inside for breakfast. No coffee, but we didn have the rest of the tomato juice, which we had put into the fridge overnight.

The internet provider for the albergue was the paintballnavarra one, which I could never figure out how to access the blog with, so I didn't do any update. Just sent email to family.

We went through Villafranco del Bierzo at midday. It is a lovely village with a pretty river, park, and a bridge.

We walked to Perejes that day. In Perejes the albergue (another government one, I think) had no bunks. Just rows of beds. The building was ancient, but in good repair. No washer--just faucet with rubbing board, and a line strung along the fence to hang clothes on. Perejes itself was basically a wide spot in the road, reached by a short side road and with no side streets that we noticed. We did find a bar patio to relax at.

The next day we hoped to reach O Cebreiro, which is a high point on the path. We went to bed at a good time, and then somebody got the bright idea to flip on the lights in the room at 5:15 in the morning. (No, it wasn't the first one up. They'd already left the building. It was some other inconsiderate person.) We left a little earlier than usual. Only about 23 km to reach O Cebreiro.

According to the map book, that meant we had 179 km to go to Santiago.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Correction, and moving along

Hello, everyone.

I noticed while looking at yesterday's post (after hitting the "post" button!) that I had somehow transmuted the name of Valdeiglesias, the village where we stayed, into Santeiglesias, which as far as I know is a nonexistent village. Sorry.

Valdeiglesias, besides having a church with a noted statue of a saint, and a wonderful albergue, had lovely rose gardens. Well, a lot of the villages in northern Spain had beautiful rose gardens, as well as the wilder trail sections descending from the Pyrennees having God's rose bowers to walk through, but my sweetie was inspired to photograph flowers in gardens from time to time, and he did so in Valdeiglesias.

I admired the roses so much in the Spanish gardens! I think they're so pretty because the nights are cool--not that I know. But my roses aren't as bodaciously lush at all, and our nights in the summer are about 79 to 81 degrees F. The days are about 20 degrees F hotter, of course. But I think it's the nights that matter.

The next morning, we got to Rabanal about 9 and ate Tuna and Tomato Bocadillo for breakfast. YUM. And a nice break from the unending round of ham-and-cheese we had been on. Or course we also had Cafe Leche to go with it. And the Bar owner is a Johnny Cash fan, so as we walked in we heard "The Streets of Laredo" on the music system.

About 11 we got to Foncebadon and had a bottle of cold water and contemplated a village that had, prior to the revival of the pilgrimage in the late 20th century, been basically a ghost town. Now it has some albergues and a bar. We kept on going, climbing rocky goat tracks to the Cruz de Ferro and discovering that some Aggies had left a 12th Man towel on the huge cairn of rocks at the base of the cross. As you can see, lots of other folks have left little tokens, too. Be very careful when descending the pile of rocks, they shift.

We carried on to Acebo for a 28 kilometer day. The last 10 or so was downhill on loose, slippy shale. I hated it. But when you're halfway down you can't very well wiggle your nose like Elizabeth Montgomery's TV character and fly to better footing--you just have to grit your teeth and step carefully. I didn't use the poles, because I had noticed that using poles on this kind of trail only meant that I had three things (at least) that had to be on secure footing instead of only two. We stayed at the Meson albergue in Acebo, grateful that we'd gotten down the mountain with no sprained ankles and looking forward to reaching Ponferrada the next day.
The smooth stuff on the edges is not flat. But taking a photo gives a pause to recover nerve before continuing!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

After Leon

Hello, everyone.

After we left Leon--late as you will remember--we walked to Villar de Mazarife. We stayed at a vegetarian albergue. San Antonio de Padua? It could be. (We didn't realize they were vegetarians when we got there, and it really doesn't matter much anyway.) The Aggies bumped into us again. The weather had been good that day, but it was kind of chill in the late afternoon.

And the cena they prepared! (Dinner, that is) I know one of our guidebooks had mentioned people not liking their food, but I tell you, the food was really really good. I guess some people prefer bland unseasoned stuff. Or they crawled under the table looking for their paper-thin overcooked piece of meat, maybe. (Sorry. But while the Spanish cooks were great with seafood and freshwater fish, their touch with meat left something to be desired.) Dinner was Ensalada Mixta, which included not only basic  lettuce but also some other greens and bits and pieces of other goodies; Gazpacho (a cold tomato-vegetable soup); vegetarian paella, and crepes with chocolate drizzle and cream. Wow! Yum. One of the men of the pilgrims eating asked the cooks to please come into the dining room and we all applauded them heartily.

The next morning, we got up early, as usual. We walked through rolling hills to Valdeiglesias and stopped there at a lovely albergue that had acres--oceans!--of space in the dorm rooms. They had a bar as well, and if anyone had wanted to play there was a chess board available.

The church was open, but we didn't go in because the ladies (and gentlemen) of the parish were working there. The village fiesta was the next day. The ladies were dusting and wiping with vigor, they had a crew of men squeegeeing the stained glass windows on the outside, and another man was on a tall ladder wiping the crystals of the chandelier. Each and every one of them. God bless him! They saw us looking in and said we could help if we wanted. My sweetie laughed and said that I'd just commented how they were doing the same thing we do at home. (Well, our parish doesn't have a crystal chandelier. And I've never heard of anyone asking the Altar Society to foodle with the stained glass windows. But we do have cleaning teams that come in every other week.)

Eating area at the (new) albergue in Santeiglesias.

Stork, hunting for his family's dinner. They eat frogs!
My sweetie met some lovely folks from Belgium in Santeiglesias. They're from the village of Chouffe, and it has a brewery. Now he wants to find an excuse (and the money!) to visit Chouffe. I think they have cheese in Belgium, too. As well as fabulous beers. Cheese. Yum. And chocolates.

We left about 6:30 the next morning and went to Astorga. Astorga is a biggish city--well, maybe a biggish town. The map tells me that there are about 12,000 souls who call Astorga home. It did look somewhat bigger than that. And the map while it shows some hills and such, doesn't mention that we got to tramp goat tracks and sheep tracks with lots of rocks. We stopped to see the Roman baths (ruins) at the entrance to Astorga.
Roman baths--well, part of them.

Cathedral of Astorga. You can tell they changed quarried more than once during the construction.
We toured the Cathedral Museum at Astorga and enjoyed it very much. Then, finding that the tourist information office still wasn't open even though it was after 11 in the morning, we headed on out of town. The restaurant we had bocadillos in was practically empty, and there was a big collection of flies flying in a spiral near the ceiling. I thought that it would do for the opening scene in a horror movie. But the bocadillo was fine.
One odd thing about Astorga: it didn't seem like anybody was working. There were a few restaurants open, but not much else was going on. No traffic to speak of, either.

We walked down the road to Santa Catalina de Somoza and called it a day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Hello, everyone.

I thought I'd take a break from walking--just writing about it so much has me dreaming about it and remembering it off and on all day long--and touch on a related subject.


Hiking socks come in lots of kinds--wool, poly, silk, cotton, blends. And it's really easy to guess wrong about which kind you will need in the end. I mean, you can read the comments and talk to people and walk around your neighborhood in them and still discover that the ones you brought aren't working out well for you.

I had thick socks with me as well as some medium thickness socks. When they came they were soft and felt great. But they weren't right for me, and even if they'd been right to start with, I mistreated them.

By the time we mailed things home, I was mailing home all of the thick socks. I didn't mail home the sort-of-thick ones, and I didn't mail home the medium thick ones. Why did I mail them home? Because I had put them throught the machine drying cycles and they shrank. I kept the medium-thick Thurlo silk blend socks, because they were the thinnest ones I had at that point.

How can socks shrink? you ask. I'm not quite sure, but it probably has to do with the special fibers that get used in hiking socks. Maybe also the way they knit them, for all I know. The ones from REI didn't stand up to the dryer, the ones from Amazon (including the Thurlo Ladies Long Distance Hikers) didn't stand up to the dryer--and I blame myself for this.

When I got home, I laundered them all one more time, using Pine Sol in the wash load, put them into a plastic sandwich bag labeled "ladies small hiking socks--do not put in dryer" and gave them to the Salvation Army. I couldn't even sleep overnight in them, they had shrunk so much.

At the end of Leon, before we hit Virgen Del Camino, we found a hiking store and I bought some new, thinner socks. They are blue, they were comfortable, and they are by Altus. I think this is the link (though the picture may be wrong, I didn't think they are that tall on the leg)
and they were (I think) 10 euro. They come in sizes, too. I told the nice man my tennis shoe size in US sizes, he looked on his handy chart, and I got the size 42.

Later on, when we got to Madrid, I found another pair, even thinner, in the El Corte Ingles department store. These are Nikes, I think, and they're wicking runners' socks. The right and left are not the same. And I don't put them into the dryer!

I should have packed thin socks to start with. You can always double up thin socks if you need to. You can't put thick socks on a diet. Who knows? Maybe if I'd had a double pair of thin socks on the second day, the one with all the flooding rain, etc., there wouldn't have been so many huge blisters. It is impossible to know for sure.

I didn't want to leave the post with no pictures at all, so here is one:
Relics of St. Juan de Ortega, engineer and priest
I didn't put this picture in earlier, but I thought it was pretty neat, so here it is. This is at the monastery of San Juan de Ortega, in a kind of side chapel. St. Juan was a major force behind the road through the Montes de Oca, back in the day. As it was a graded but unpaved road (not even caliche!) there were parts of the walk after Villafranca and before San Juan de Ortega where we wondered if we were on the same muddy track as the saint had laid out. Though there are windmills in the area and it's awfully wide for a medieval road!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Leon: Wow

Hello, everyone.

As you remember from my last post, we got to Leon pretty early. If we hadn't had something we needed to do, we would have kept on going. We did, however, have something we needed to do: mail home unneeded stuff.

Ancient walls of the city, which we passed through at the Money Gate.

Cathedral of Leon. Right hand door is for tourist entry only--pay admission, hours restricted to when it doesn't conflict with Mass. Left hand door is for worshippers; it opens 5 minutes before Mass begins.
Main center door of the Cathedral. Beautiful carvings, both the stone lintel and the wooden door. Statue in center is the Virgen Blanca, Our Lady holding the Christ Child.
Sign explaining the archeological digs. (See below.)

The archeological dig, showing a Roman encampment. The dig was later covered with glass tiles so people can see it.
We stayed at the Benedictine hostel in Leon. This is not only in the old city, it's next to a plaza full of ancient cobblestoned pavement. But we walked carefully and survived our approach to the front door. The dorms are upstairs here, and as usual we had an up and a down--my sweetie really preferred the top bunks. And I preferred the bottom ones. As we had arrived early on a Sunday, we left our stuff at the hostel and went back to the Cathedral for the 11 o'clock Mass. When we got there, we read the sign again, wandered in circles, and eventually found an old man who was telling everyone that wanted to goto Mass to just be patient and wait near the left hand door. Promptly at five minutes before the time, that door opened and all of us scooted inside to pray.

After Mass we  wandered Leon taking in the sights. We visited San Isidoro church, which was beautiful.  We found outside the church doors both a gypsy market (souvenirs and cheeses) and an archeological excavation of the ancient Roman VII Legion camp.

We kept hearing a BOOM! that sounded like cannon shots. We figured it was some kind of fiesta cannon-firing and started hunting for the post office and the library. (Post office to mail a box, library to try and post an update here.) After much wandering, and much map checking, we discovered a park area in the center of the city. The park was across the street from the post office--which would be open at 8:30 in the morning. We discovered the Zumba class there, all gathered in a crowd with the dance leader on a stage at the front. And as we were looking around at the scenery we heard a Whoosh! that sounded very unexpected and really scary. My sweetie said it sounded rather a lot like an RPG. I thought it sounded like a bottle rocket. At 1 in the afternoon on a Sunday in the park full of people and trees. Then we happened to see where it came from: an old man standing on the sidewalk with a wooden holder in one hand and a really big bottle rocket in the other. He lit off the rocket and it Whooshed! up into the air and then it exploded with the loud boom that we had been hearing. All around him, everybody else was just carrying on like nothing was happening. We decided that the locals probably knew what to do and copied them as well as we could.

The next morning we stayed around, eating Ham Toast at a little restaurant and generally twiddling our thumbs until the post office opened.

The post office had numbers for service, one set for mailing and another for picking up. We took our number and waited around with our little red bag of clothes, first aid kit, and so on, then mailed it. The package was 2.3 kilos--about 5 pounds. Then we found the Camino trail markers and got on the move. It was about 9:00.
Parador Hotel at San Marcos Square.

Santiago Matamoros--detail of front of Convento de San Marcos.
On the way out of the city we passed through the Plaza San Marcos. The present-day Parador is in the restored building of the Convento de San Marcos, the former headquarters of the Order of the Knights of Santiago. The plateresque facade on the building is amazing.