Seattle — the Emerald City

Seattle is called the Emerald City because it has a vast number of evergreen trees that remain green and beautiful all year long.

Hotel rooms in Seattle are very expensive. The moderately priced ones start around $200 per night. Since Theresa and I have experienced many albuergues in Spain, we were curious about American hostels and thought this might be a good time to test the waters. Green Tortoise is promoted as ‘Seattle’s Best Hostel’ and was close to Pike Place Market.

We opted for the HI Seattle Hostel in Chinatown because it seemed to be a quieter area and we could get a private room with bath for about $145/night. They also offered less expensive options like a room with a shared bath and also dormitory rooms with several bunk beds.

The building behind the arch is Union Station, part of a major transit hub that includes Amtrak, Link light rail, and Seattle Streetcar service. For a few dollars, the light rail can get you from the airport to Chinatown or to downtown.

We were somewhat apprehensive about staying in Chinatown. When friends and family heard we were staying there, they warned us that it could be dangerous, ‘don’t stay out after dark’, etc. We found it to be anything but dangerous. It was a warm and friendly neighborhood. The housing buildings looked new and modern. Streets are wide, clean and well maintained. Restaurants, tea shops, a dumpling house, bakeries, chicken and Korean hot dogs could be found a footsteps from our door.

On the block past our hotel was Hing Hay Park which translates into Celebrate Happiness Public Park. Built in the 1970s it features principles of feng shui and is a popular spot for martial arts practitioners, quiet morning meditation, a meeting place for local families and the center of many festivals and celebrations.

A stunning gateway steel structure resembles origami art.
Two elderly gentlemen were playing ping pong at 9:00 am on a Monday morning. The ping pong tables were made of concrete.

When we checked-into the HI Seattle Hostel, I was delighted to find that it has an elevator. Hauling my almost 50-lb suitcase up a flight of stairs would be devastating. We were greeted by Jessie, a delightful receptionist who checked us in. She provided the necessary details about our stay and how everything worked. It was easy to tell that she loved this building and the neighborhood. She said she has been a local resident for about 14 years and had nothing but praise for the neighborhood.

We enjoyed meeting Jessie — she is delightful, informative and a great conversationalist.

The hostel featured a couple community rooms, a kitchen and a laundry room. Breakfast is included and offered between 7 and 9 am. Guests choose from coffee, fresh oranges, bananas, granola bars, instant oatmeal and cereal.

Guests have access to a full kitchen.
Dining room had plenty of tables and a view of the Chinatown arch.
Laundry machines take credit cards and soap pods are included.

The HI Seattle Hostel is an older building and our room was basic, functional and immaculate. The bunk bed had a double bed on the bottom, a single on top. The memory foam mattress was comfortable.

Hosteling International: HI Seattle Hostel
View from my window: a pleasant neighborhood on a sunny Saturday morning.

Each bed had four electrical outlets a fan and a light. Very comfortable. A desk, a couple chairs and open closet shelving rounded out the room. Nothing fancy about the bathroom which had a tub and shower. Towels and soap included.

Our room’s window faced King Street. On Saturday morning we heard a lot of talking and activity across the street in a parking lot. There is a super big Asian market a block away and we thought maybe these people were going there to shop. However it appeared to be clusters of young adults, mostly men dispersed throughout the lot. They didn’t seem to be going anywhere and there was a lot of loud cars and vroom vroom action. Eventually I found a few friendly-looking faces and inquired about why they were there.

It was a car meet-up. They gather in this parking lot once a month on Saturday mornings to be social and show off cars and see what’s new. I was told they intentionally meet at this lot to support the shops and restaurants in the neighborhood.

The dude in the middle is the owner of this car and he obviously takes great pride in his vehicle.
Why take the time to open the hood to display the engine — just remove the hood … don’t even have to park, just keep rolling through the lot.
This not-so-new Honda Civic was fitted with scissor wing doors that rotate vertically at a fixed hinge rather than outward like a conventional door.

The Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a great option if you have limited time for sight seeing. This one hits all of the essential Seattle must-see sights.

Across the street from the HI Hostel Seattle is the Chinatown International District stop for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus.
What could be better than a birds-eye view from the top deck of the bus on a sunny day in Seattle?
Stops included Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and waterfront. In addition we had a great view of lush flowers hanging from light posts.

One lap around on the Hop-On Hop-Off took about an hour-and-a-half. Back in Chinatown, we needed a lunch break. We picked up Korean corn dogs, mango milk bubble tea for me and a strawberry smoothie for Theresa. We retreated to the Hostel kitchen-dining room.

A Korean corn dog has a crispy outer layer of french fries attached. There are about a dozen sauces to choose from and just about as many different corn dogs to pick from. Lots of people walking around eating these.

After our lunch break, we walked over to the Uwajimaya market and Kinokuniya book store. This place is fairly new, super large and offers a massive variety of groceries, liquor, cookware, novelties in addition to a food court with many authentic and interesting choices.

Uwajimaya market offers an endless assortment of goods.
The fresh fish section is almost as interesting as an aquarium.

“Rice is Nice’ t-shirt … a perfect souvenir from Chinatown.

At the Kinokuniya book store, I found the perfect gift for my squirrelly 10-year-old nephew Graham. It’s a Squirrel in Underpants car air freshener. I can’t wait to see whose car he hangs this in — mom Alisa’s car? Tony or Ellak’s, Grandma Susan would love to drive around with a Squirrel air freshener. Or perhaps he’ll hang it in his room.

The Kinokuniya book store was full of unique items like this Squirrel in Underpants car Air Freshener. I don’t remember seeing very many books there.

We walked back to our King Street hostel block and decided it had been a long enough day and it was time for a beer. On the corner next to the Chinatown gate is Joe’s Bar & Grill. Not many customers when we entered but it soon filled.

Some sort of Komodo dragon climbing the light pole oversees Joe’s Bar & Grill.
One-by-one an array of characters filled the bar stools. They were locals.
This guy wins the prize for most interesting head gear. Yes, that is a coyote he’s wearing on his head.
Aaron told us the whole story about his coyote hat that came from the family farm in Missouri. When asked if his coyote has a name he responded that he had too much respect for the animal to give it a name.
Lulu our waitress was a firecracker of entertainment who kept us laughing.
Lulu has waitressed at Joes for many years. This is one of her portraits that graces the wall. The other one is too obscene to post.

Hunger set in and we wandered down the block. There were a dozen or so restaurants to choose from but somehow we narrowed it down to the Shanghai Garden. The quiet, calm and peaceful ambiance was appreciated as was the attentive service. Being adventurous, we tried two dishes that were new to us.

Barleygreen with Pork Chowmein (above) and Happy Family hot pot with chicken, beef and squid got our thumbs up.

This happy surprise-filled day was so much fun but it wore us out. We were tucked into our bunk beds by 8:30 pm (10:30 pm Minnesota time). It was an unplanned but full day of adventure. Looking forward to whatever Seattle has to offer tomorrow.

JANE NOT IN SPAIN: Seattle & Alaska

We’re off on another adventure but this time it’s not in Spain. Theresa and I have just arrived in Seattle for a couple days and then we board a ship for Alaska.

More Thrills Than Chills … especially on this trip!

If I were a superstitious person I would have concerns right now. Joining us on the cruise will be my mother-in-law Sally who said this will be her 13th Alaskan cruise. Her twin sister Sue and friends Toni and Mary will round out our party of six. Theresa and I will meet them at the cruise terminal Monday around noon.

Adding to the superstitious concern is a schedule change to our cruise route. A few weeks ago the cruise line informed us that one of the four engines on our ship needs repair and there are supply chain issues delaying the repair. A second engine is due for maintenance. The route was changed to accommodate the two downed engines by eliminating some of the mileage because the ship will have to travel slower. But we were assured it is safe and they threw in a little bribe of $100 credit for each cabin.

The 13th cruise and two missing engines — no big deal! However, a big typhoon is hitting the Alaskan coast today (Friday). The cruise line informed us of another schedule change because of anticipated high winds in Skagway. Today’s CBS news said the Alaskan coast is flooding, they’re having 18-ft swells and expecting 60 mph winds. My husband David encouraged me to pick up Dramamine before boarding.

Adding to the drama, Theresa’s co-worker informed her that six planets are aligned — anything can happen now. Some believe that human affairs and terrestrial events are affected by the position of the planets and other celestial bodies. I would like to believe that peace will guide the planets and love will stir the stars.

To summarize, we have Sally’s 13th cruise on a ship that’s missing two engines in the midst of a typhoon while six planets are aligned. That spells ADVENTURE!

You’re welcome to join Theresa and I as we explore Seattle. Follow our cruise ship escapades by staying tuned to Jane (Not) In Spain.

Theresa and Jane have landed at the Seattle airport. No backpacks this time.

janeinspain.blog

Goodbye Spain!

We are definitely ready to go home. I wouldn’t call this trip a “vacation”, it was more of a journey. Our Air Europa flight from Barcelona arrived in Madrid early afternoon and we were settled in the hotel around 2:00 pm. It was a beautiful afternoon so we decided to take a final wander around Madrid.

We usually fly into Spain through Madrid. Puerta del Sol has become our home base when we travel to Spain. Over the years, we’ve covered a lot of turf in Madrid and it always brings a bit of joy to walk to our favorite places.

It’s time for the Gin & Tonic show.

When you order a ‘gin tonika’ in Madrid and much of Spain, it’s always a show. They bring out the glasses with ice, the bottles of tonic and the bottle of gin. Then they ceremoniously pour the gin. They are usually very generous with the gin because the tonic is the expensive part of the drink.

The afternoon dawdled by slowly. We went back to the hotel for some final packing and blogging before dinner.
Dinner started with tomatoes, cheese and olive oil.
Oxtail stew is a favorite!

Puerta del Sol in central Madrid is one of the best known and busiest squares.

Wednesday Morning! It was smooth sailing at the airport. It didn’t take long to check our backpacks and go through security. Now it was time to relax and enjoy all the memories.

Buen Camino and Happy Trails!

Returning to US: Required Covid Test

The CDC requires those traveling internationally to get a viral test no more than 3 days before traveling by air into the United States (US) and to show a negative result to the airline before boarding a flight.

Verified Antigen Test Kit for Covid Detection.

Before leaving the US, we purchased verified antigen test kits from American Airlines. We purchased and split a 6-pack for $160. Each of us carried two kits so we would each have a back up.

Now it’s about 48 hours before our flight and we’re back at the hotel so it’s a good time to take care of this.

NAVICA facilitates the documentation of test results.

We already have the NAVICA app on our cell phones. We downloaded it before we left the US. We opened the NAVICA app. The NAVICA app started the process by having us scan the QR code on the packaging … the one located under the “Do Not Open” sleeve.

emed.com is the site that connects you with a technician who will oversee the test and record the results. The whole process takes about 25 minutes.

The next thing is to go to the emed.com site. This is where we connect with the technician who is going to monitor the test. The site has an option to “Start Testing”. Then it asks simple questions like ‘what state are you from?’ Then it asks you to connect to the NAVICA site.

The covid test can easily be done from the comfort of your hotel room.

The app will tell you how many minutes it will take for the technician to connect with you. The technician will guide you through the process and tell you exactly what to do.

The eMed technician walks you through the test.
It’s a very simple test and easy to do.

Then the tech walks you through the process of setting up the test. In the presence of the tech, you swab your nose and insert the swab into the test slot.

This is what the test specimen looks like. It’s similar to a pregnancy test.

Next, there is a 15 minute wait while the test specimen is developed. You don’t have to sit there, you can move around but the test specimen has to stay in the presence of the technician. After the 15 minutes, the technician tells you the results and will email a QR code with the results.

The e-med technician will email a QR code with your test results.
The QR code needs to be added to your American Airlines VeriFLY digital flight portfolio.

The next step is to open the American Airlines VeriFLY app. Log in and indicate that you are taking a trip to the US. It will tell you everything that is required including the QR code with covid test results. Scan the QR code or send it from your NAVICA app.

After you have completed all the requirements for American Airlines VeriFLY, they will label your digital flight portfolio as a “Confident Traveler”.

When you go to the airport, all you have to do is show them your “Confident Traveler” document on your cell phone and you’re on your way.

Barcelona: Sagrada Família & La Boqueria

When it rains, it pours. And today was a pouring rainy day. Tomorrow we head to Madrid and the following day we fly home. However, we were notified that Renfe was anticipating a strike and we were advised to cancel our train tickets to Madrid and find another way there.

The choices we had we to take the Alsa bus which is an eight hour ride or find a flight. The thought of being on a bus for eight hours the day before being on airplanes for 12 hours was not appealing. We found a flight on Air Europa for about $50. We booked it without thinking twice.

Aerial view of Sagrada Familia

We had Sagrada Família reservations for 9:30. Navigating the metro always take a little time at first to figure it out. We did find our way and all was good. We found our tour group and had a little wait … in the rain.

Gaudi took the helm of the construction work on Sagrada Família in 1883. He died in 1926. Even though the construction is not finished today, work continues facilitating his philosophy and plans.

Tour guide telling us about the structure of Sagrada Família which means Holy Family.
The nativity facade. There is so much to look at in this facade.
The plan for the main entrance was to have a grand staircase and in the early plans they assumed the property across would be purchased. However, the owners are not willing to sell.
A view down into the crypt which is where Gaudi is resting in peace.
Pipes from the only Cavaliers-Coll organ in Catalonia was donated by the nuns and placed in the crypt beside the tomb of the basilica’s architect, Antoni Gaudi.

There is so much to see at Sagrada Família and one visit probably isn’t enough. After three hours we decided to head back to our neighborhood. Time for a visit to the Mercado.

St. Josep La Boqueria
We opted for seafood but also had an order of mushrooms and padron peppers.
Love the disco ball enhanced with forks and spoons.
A nice farm display of eggs.
Spiral potato chips.

The market is a bustling place and has countless booths with many delectable options for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Now it’s time to start preparing for our trip home.

Barcelona: Park Guell

Mallorca was a joy ride and I hope I get the opportunity to return some day. We barely scratched the surface of this fascinating island.

Sunrise in Mallorca came too early. Time to head out to the airport.
Ryan Air is taking us back to the mainland of Spain.

After Theresa and I completed the 2017 walk on the Camino Frances, David and I toured around Spain for a couple weeks. We spent some time in Barcelona so this isn’t my first visit. When I think of Barcelona, I think of Gaudi and his amazing work which can be found throughout Spain. Gaudi anything is high on my priority list.

Theresa and I are limited on our time in Barcelona. We have approximately a day and a half for touring. Sagrada Família is high on Theresa’s bucket list and it’s so amazing that I welcome the opportunity to see it again. Because it is so popular, we did reserve tickets in advance over a month ago from home.

After we landed in Barcelona and got settled in our Las Ramblas hotel, we headed for Park Guell which is a much treasured leisure area for the people of Barcelona. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi between 1900-1914 at the request of Eusebi Guell.

The original request was to create a housing development for families within an estate popularly known as Bare Mountain. The development had a series of restrictive requirements. Construction of the park was carried out during Gaudi’s naturalist stage when he perfected his personal style, inspired by the organic forms of nature.

Eusebi died in 1918 and his heirs offered the park to Barcelona City Council, which agreed to the purchase in 1922. It was not opened as a municipal park until 1926 and has since been the city’s most important and prominent park. casabatllo.es

This is the multiple flights of stairs we hiked to get to the entrance of Park Guell.
The Catalan Vault
The bordering wall of the esplanade, a space for community gatherings.
Portico of the Washerwoman.
The famous Hypostyle Hall (aka Hall of a Hundred Columns) finished in 1907.
I don’t know what this building is but I call it the Dr. Seuss house.
A brightly colored dragon or salamander.
A nearby Park Guell gift shop was over stimulating. So many colors that I couldn’t focus on anything and had to leave.
After all that it was time for a gin tonika.
Dinner on Las Ramblas,
We shared a salad and a seafood assortment platter.
Stop and smell the roses!

A total stranger gave us these roses. It was an older woman who had been dining with her husband. She laid the roses on our table and said, ‘these are for you lovely ladies.’ What a nice way to end our first day in Barcelona.

Mallorca: The Serra de Tramuntana

The most spectacular views in Mallorca are found on the North coast in the mountains in the Serra de Tramuntana.

Windmills were used by farmers to grind grain and pump water.

Windmills, dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries are still a significant feature of the landscape on Mallorca. The ones with the “arrow” feature are used for extracting water into a reservoir. Many are commonly seen in poor state of repair. Today their presence is so inherent to the island’s heritage that the Mallorcan government developed a project dedicated to their restoration and preservation. firstmallorca.com

Our bus tour started in the foothills of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.
Hillside terraces were made to help manage water and erosion.

The cultural landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana is an example of the Mediterranean agricultural landscape. The system of terraces and cobbled road network, common to many Mediterranean landscapes, is combined with an articulated network of devices for the management of water, revolving around farming units designated in the Middle Ages. Several villages, churches, sanctuaries, towers, lighthouses and small dry-stone structures punctuate the terraced landscape and contribute to its actual character. abc-mallorca.com

It was a two hour drive up the mountain.
The big tour buses shared the 2-lane road with many bicyclers who must have been in training. I can’t think of another reason for riding up this extremely steep road loaded with tour buses.
Incredible views with the Mediterranean in the background.
The snaking road is where we had been.
A lone goat climbed the rocky hills.
Our destination … Sa Calowbra

The Serra de Tramuntana mountains plummet dramatically into the Mediterranean. The tiny coastal village of Sa Calobra has two beaches trapped between spectacular cliffs.

We had a two hour break to enjoy Sa Colobra. We brought a picnic lunch and sat by the beach.
A view of the beach and restaurants at Sa Calowbra. I think there was a hotel and casitas in there too.
This boat will take us to our next destination … the town of Soller.
It was a beautiful day for a boat ride on the very blue waters of the Mediterranean.
There are many caves in the steep mountainside.
A number of boat cave tours are available to visitors. Very intriguing but no time to explore caves on this trip.
The lighthouse marks the entrance to Soller.
The harbor and village come into view. We had about a 30 minute stay in Soller.
Our next mode of transportation was a tram followed by the vintage train that would take us down the mountain. We went through several tunnels.
More beautiful views.
We passed olive groves and herds of sheep and other grazing animals. Our bus met us in Palma and returned to the hotels.
Back to our beach neighborhood.

It was still warm when we returned from the day of touring. I walked down to our beach and took a dip in the Mediterranean. The water wasn’t cold and it wasn’t warm. It was perfect. Soft sand could be felt under my feet and seen through clear blue water. Gliding through the gentle waves, I watched the sailboats off in the distance as the sun began to set. What a memorable moment and one of the highlights of my trip to Spain.

Beautiful sunset tonight.

Our time in Mallorca is nearing an end. Now what? Tomorrow we fly to Barcelona on another Ryan Air bargain flight. Our ticket to fly from Mallorca to Barcelona was $12 in addition to the $19 for a seat and another $37 to check my backpack. With prices like this, I am a happy traveler.

Mallorca: Touring Palma

The Oleander hotel was about three miles from the heart of Palma. It was very convenient to take the city bus. We caught it about a block from the hotel.

Sunrise from the balcony. Looks like a rainy day on the horizon.
By the time we reached Palma it was raining hard.
We were trying to find our way to the Cathedral.
Beautiful landscaping and gardens on the outside of the old town
Navigating the walled old town proved to be a bit challenging.
Finally we found the Cathedral. Now we have to find the entrance.

The 13th century Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma is massive. It is a Gothic landmark that overlooks the Bay of Palma. It was built on the site of a pre-existing Arab mosque. An admission is charged and they encourage visitors to purchase tickets in advance. We paid at the door and there was no waiting.


One of the features of this cathedral is the Gaudi canopy over the altar.

The building was started in 1229 and finished in 1601. Fifty years after a restoration of the cathedral had started in 1901 Antoni Gaudí was invited to take over the restoration project. Some of his ideas were adopted. He moved the choir stalls from the middle nave to be closer to the altar. He also made a large canopy. Gaudí abandoned his work in 1914 after an argument with the contractor. The planned changes were cosmetic rather than structural.* The project was cancelled soon after … and it looks like it. There is so much to look at it can be overwhelming to the senses and hard to focus on the design elements. *abcmallorca.com

This is a massive silver candelabra. It’s at least five feet high.
This is the relic of San Sebastián.

Relics are suppose to be an object or article of religious significance from the past. Many of these lavish holders contain bones from the Saints and its a way to honor the individual. I think I’d prefer a nice photo instead.

The cathedral had very ornate light fixtures.
The Bay of Palma is across from the Cathedral.
Beautiful beaches nearby.
The harbor is packed with vessels.

About those pearls … Mallorca has been producing man-made pearls since the end of the 19th century, and is still doing so today. Natural pearls are formed within the soft tissue of an oyster or mollusk, are very rare and can take anywhere between 5 and 20 years to form.

Would love to have gone to the pearl center of Mallorca but we didn’t have time. We did found a great spot for pearl shopping.

It was with this in mind that Eduard Heusch, a German innovator invented a process for creating man-made pearls. He obtained the first patent to create pearls and founded the company Societe des Perles de Indes E. Heusch & Co. Which is today known as Majorica and is located in Manacor. The patent belonging to Majorica lapsed in 1948 and since then a number of pearl manufacturing companies have popped up all with similar processing techniques. balearic-villas.com

The perfect pearl ring!

We rambled down the narrow streets of the old town part of Palma. We were lost and continued to ramble looking for a place for lunch.

It’s easy to get lost here. It was a maze enclosed within the old town walls.
We found a hidden treasure ‘hole-in-the wall’ for lunch.
Best tomatoes ever topped with a locally made cheese and covered in olive oil, seasonings and herbs. Fabulous flavors.
This little deli had the best seafood salad.
After lunch, we managed to find our way out of the Old Town walls and back into the streets of Palma.
Travelers fatigue was setting in so we headed back to our beach area. Here we see more of the German flavor with Pizza Berlin and you can also get Turkish Donar Kebap. Note: Turkish food is very popular in Germany because of all the Turkish guest workers hosted there.
We bought a small bottle of Tunel hierbas to sample. Mallorca is the only place we saw this liqueur.

Túnel de Mallorca is a herb liqueur made from rosemary, chamomile, mint, fennel and marjoram. Crafted to display the aroma of the Mediterranean. It is popular and traditional across all of the Balearic Islands. Often served over ice, this is a perfect after-dinner drink.

Hierbas is also popular throughout Spain. Many families have a ‘family recipe’ for their hierbas that has been handed down through the generations.

We didn’t have a ‘chupito’ so we used our recently purchased candle holders from the Cathedral of Leon as shot glasses. It’s definitely better over ice.
A rainbow at the end of a rainy day.

We have one whole day left and a lot of Mallorca left to see. Our best option was to sign up for a tour. Tomorrow we do the mountains.

Mallorca … We’re on Vacation Now!

Mallorca has been on my bucket list since Theresa and I started going to Spain in 2017, I just never thought it was a possibility. Now, we are headed there.

I didn’t know much about Mallorca (aka Majorca) but did some speed reading research to catch up before going there. It’s one of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean so of course it’s know for its beaches. Apparently, it is one of the most popular destinations in the Mediterranean. It’s known for secluded coves, limestone mountains and Spanish architecture. We have three days to find out what Mallorca is all about.

We flew all the way across Spain. The flight was just under two hours.
The first glimpse from the sky showed lots of beaches and some very steep shorelines.
Beautiful blue water.

We stayed at the Oleander hotel, Being a bargain hunter I wasn’t going to wreck a cheap flight with an expensive hotel. It took a few weeks of looking and our timing was good as we hit the start of off-season pricing. We got a room touted in this hotel as $180/night for about $67/night.

Our room had a balcony with a view of the far off sea. We were about two blocks from the Mediterranean.
The hotel had a large outdoor patio with a couple pools.

The odd thing about this hotel was that everything was German … much of the signage and tour brochures. Many of the guests were German and a couple of the front desk people spoke German to guests.

We walked to the beach and passed several restaurants featuring German food. I like German food but not on an island in the Mediterranean.
We did find a beach front restaurant with seafood risotto.
Finally … the Mediterranean.
Threatening skies. We took our time walking back to the hotel.
Street art. There were a lot of grocery stores competing for tourist dollars with the pricey restaurants.
People put their price stickers here.
The pool area at the hotel had a stage and entertainment. So we stopped for a drink.
It didn’t take long for us to realize we were watching drag queens.
It was entertaining that’s for sure!!

Our first day in Mallorca was full of excitement even though traveler fatigue was setting in. Tomorrow we plan to see the sites of Palma.

CAMINO INGLES: Returning to Finish 2019

There are many Caminos in Spain. Traditionally, people have walked the Camino for religious purposes but not so much anymore. I’ve read a report that said 10% and another that said 25% of all walking the Camino do it for religious reasons. It is believed the Santiago Cathedral houses the tomb of St. James, and people walk this path to pay homage to him.

St. James was an apostle who went to this north-western part of Spain to preach and convert people to Christianity. All caminos end in the city of ‘Santiago’ or San Tiago … San is Saint and Tiago translates into James.

St. James was martyred in about 44 ce in Jerusalem. Legend has it that his bones ended up in the crypt of the Santiago Cathedral. The dead apostle’s mojo has attracted pilgrims ever since.

There are many caminos all over Europe. Many connect to each other and they all end in Santiago.

In the modern era, people have all sorts of reasons for walking the Camino de Santiago. Many do it for adventure or exercise, for clarity of mind, for a sense of achievement, to meet people from all over the world or to enjoy and learn about the Spanish culture. In addition to religious reasons these are among the reasons for walking a Camino today.

The more pilgrims walk ‘off the beaten path’ Camino routes the better it is for the local community. It helps to distribute tourism income throughout the country. It also encourages people who live in less touristy areas to become entrepreneurs; open an albergue, a hostel, a restaurant, a laundry, etc. As a result, it gives people an opportunity to earn money in the place they live instead of moving to a bigger city in search of a job.

You get to know places that you would never think of going to or you didn’t even know existed … like Villementero (aka Animal Farm) or Reliegos with the meteor site and bar Elvis. We would never have discovered Morcilla had we not visited The Meseta.

Many people we met have walked Caminos multiple times — we know of one person who has walked Camino Frances nine times.

The Camino Frances, which is about 500 miles long, is the most popular because it has a good infrastructure and the most albergues. The Meseta, which we just did, is part of Camino Frances and stretches from Burgos to Leon.

Our next destination is on Camino Ingles which is a shorter and easier Camino.

We had a two day stay in northern Spain in the town of ACoruna which is near the start of Camino Ingles. ACoruna is located on the North Atlantic Ocean and is known for the Roman lighthouse called the Tower of Hercules. There are many beautiful beaches and seafood is plentiful.

The view from our hotel window in ACoruna … that spot of light comes from the Tower of Hercules lighthouse.
A beautiful sunrise in ACoruna. No need to get up early to capture this view, the sun doesn’t rise until around 7:30-8:00 am.
We’re in the land of tapas … prawns provided with a beer.
Galician Scallop Pie was something we had never seen on a menu before.
A local version of muscles in a unique sauce.

It was a fun day of sampling seafood, shopping, walking around the harbor & beaches and enjoying the cultural vibe of ACoruna. It was a short but sweet visit.

Breakfast at the train station. Catching the Renfe to Santiago and then a Mon bus to Ordes which is near Theresa’s starting point..

If you followed the ‘Jane in Spain’ blog in 2019, you will know this story. We were two days from finishing the Camino Ingles. We were staying overnight in the town of Ordes and we were just out for a stroll. The sidewalks were torn up with a construction project. Theresa was on the edge of a sidewalk taking a photo and the sidewalk crumbled under her feet. She fell, hitting her shins on the concrete and tearing ligaments in her ankle.

In 2019, sidewalk construction caused Theresa to fall.

Several locals came to see what happened and brought compassion and remedies such as sugar water. The police came and assessed the situation. They called an ambulance. We recruited an English speaker who was on his way to play soccer to translate for us. The three of us rode in the ambulance to a hospital that was two blocks away. They bandaged Theresa and put her on crutches. She had to take a taxi the last two days while I walked alone.

In 2019 … Ambulance takes Theresa away. Jose (on the right) offered to translate so he joined us in the ambulance.
In 2019 … Theresa in the ER
In 2019 … Theresa was well taken care of after the fall.

Now, Theresa is going to finish the two days on the Ingles and receive her Ingles Compostela. We arrived in Ordes late Sunday afternoon. She would start walking on Monday.

Return to the scene of the crime … they did finish the sidewalk construction.
We had a nice room at the Nogales hotel in Ordes. That is not overgrown tall grass outside the window, it’s the tree tops. We were on the 4th floor.
We finished the day with a salad & pork chop dinner at our hotel.

The next day, Theresa started her trek while I attempted to catch up on blogging. The problem is that not everyplace has a good WiFi connection and that can be frustrating.

Americano Cafe con leche with churros.
In the nearby town of Outeiro is Cafe Bar O Cruceiro which is the starting point. This is where we left off for the day … two years ago.
It’s a beautiful walk from Outeiro to Siguero.
There are vineyards along the way.
Siguero is a small but thriving village.
Most towns, villages and cities have crosses at their entrance …
… Siguero just has a decorative pillar.
The second day of walking for Theresa.
The Bosque Enchanted Forest was a beautiful part of the day’s journey.
I took the Mon Bus from Siguero and met Theresa in Santiago.
Mission accomplished! Theresa finished Camino Ingles and received her Compostela which is a certificate in Latin that documents the completion of a Camino.
Time for a celebration in Santiago!

Tomorrow we fly to the island of Mallorca. Our Ryan airline tickets cost $17 … but then they charged us $19 for a seat and I paid $37 to check my backpack. Final cost was $73 for a one-way ticket. Not a bad price.

Leon

Our first stop at the end of The Meseta is the city of Leon which has a population of 134,000. Leon’s finest treasure is its Gothic cathedral. We spent a couple days enjoying the city and our new found freedom from rural life on The Meseta.

Gothic 13-century Catedral de Leon featuring many towers and flying buttresses.
Santa de Maria de Leon Catedral is also called The House of Light.

The Catedral de Leon features 130 stained glass windows together with three rose windows which is only surpassed by the 176 windows of Chartres cathedral in France. However, the windows of Chartres cover a much smaller surface area. The windows of Leon reflect both scenes of nature and aspects of the supernatural. *Information from Fundacion Jacobea.

Gothic arches surround the cloister.
Many ornate designs enhanced the ceiling.
Fountains and gardens decorate this traffic circle.
A very amusing sculpture.

The word Lion in Spanish is Leon; in Spanish it’s a nickname for a fierce or brave warrior. This Lion is escaping from a hole in the sidewalk is very creative.

A sporting goods store featured a diorama of the Camino.
A small hat store was loads of fun.
This was one of my favorite hats from Bijoux Bridget.
The Monastery of San Marcos Parador in Leon.

We love Spanish Paradors … we just can’t afford them. They are luxury hotels usually located in a converted historic building such as a monastery or castle or in a modern building with a view of a historic or monumental city. Staying in a Parador is an immersion experience. Visitors learn about history or culture, they can be immersed in a city or immersed in nature depending on the location of the Parador. There are 97 Paradors in Spain and they are all run by the Spanish Government.

This is what I found to be one of the most interesting sites in Leon. The Monastery of San Marcos existed until 1837 when it was seized and abolished by Juan Àlvarez Mendizàbal (Prime Minister under Queen Isabel II). Monastic life of the friars of St. James came to an end after 700 years. The monastery faced several auctions and constantly changing inhabitants and uses. In 1936 it became a concentration camp where Franco imprisoned his political prisoners. It is believed that 20,000 Spaniards passed through the cells and approximately 7,000 died.

Not sure what this little alcove facilitated … the friars were cloistered so perhaps it was where they could converse with family through the small opening in the wall.

The monestary now facilitates the museum of Leon and is also a 5-star Parador. *mobi.parador.es

This is the hotel lobby of the Monastery of San Marcos Parador.


The San Marcos Parador was featured in the movie “The Way”. The Martin Sheen character treats his Camino friends to a night at this Parador.

Tomorrow we head north to ACoruna and then on to Camino Ingles.

Goodbye Meseta!

Our next stop is Leon and that means we are saying goodbye to the Meseta after being on it for 14 days! Most people blow through it in seven days and complain that it was too long and boring. But not us — we doubled down on the dare. It’s very exciting at first to see all the sunflower fields, the big skies, the wheat fields and the beautiful color palette. But after a week of it, the excitement fades and the walking did become a challenge.

The latter days of the Meseta looked like this. Oftentimes the path followed the highway.
If you weren’t paying attention you would think you were in South Dakota.

THE BEST OF THE MESETA

The Ruins at San Anton and the Castle at Castrojarez.

Walking into the ruins of San Anton was amazing. These gigantic structures were dramatic and emotionally very moving. They are in the middle of nowhere before Castrojarez. To think of the history and how the niches in the walls where they left food for the poor. Now in its deteriorated state, it is somewhat mystical and even a bit haunting.

Castrojarez with the Hilltop Castle Ruins

This is an amazing town with a lot to see. I would have loved to explore the castle ruins but it was a steep climb, we were tired and it was hot. it would have been nice to have another day here. None-the-less, it was an amazing view.

Villementero de Campos –– Animal Farm

We loved this place for its creative vibe, unique offerings and the locals who came and sang at night. The dinner made by Marcello was the best of gourmet, fresh food, healthy and local. Our global companions who joined us for dinner kept the conversation lively with talk about everything from Ricky Rubio to Camino adventures and the Meseta.

Thought provoking art work lurking everywhere.
The best of home cooking and local cuisine along with interesting dinner companions.
Where else could you sleep in a tube?
Enjoyed the local ambiance and folk songs.

The Sahagun Monastery

The Monastery was very welcoming and we felt at home especially when they gave us a private room and a private bathroom. Nice location. It was a very quiet and peaceful environment.

The Marist brothers at the Santa Cruz Monastery were very welcoming and their hospitality was gracious and genuine.
The street entrance to the Monastery.
Alexandro was from Madrid, spoke very good English and was very welcoming.

Bar Elvis

This place was such a dive but it rocked. The music, the ambiance and the people were incredible. Graffiti by people from all over the world covered every square inch. It was a party and we felt like invited guests.

Bar Elvis had a lotta character and good energy even though it looked like it should be condemned.
More instant friends on the Camino.

A Morning with Caesar and Jenneke

Best breakfast ever with a very accommodating host — Caesar, and the best conversation with a total stranger who instantly became a ‘best friend ever’ –– Jenneke. It’s always inspirational to meet amazing people and Caesar and Jenneke take top honors.

Jenneke and Caesar made our day!

Best Bike Rental — BIKENBABIA

The Meseta had a lot of bike traffic and being so flat and long, it was the perfect place for biking. After several miles and a few days of walking my legs begged me for a bicycle. On a whim, I started scouring the internet for a bike rental with no luck. Some places didn’t survive the Covid year and were no longer in business. Some didn’t speak English and some didn’t want to be bothered. I

I started asking around and someone told me to contact Bikenbabia. So I did … and lucky for me, they have a representative who communicates in English. Most of our text messages were done on ‘Whats App’. I was thrilled to be able to rent an e-bike. For those who are unfamiliar with e-bikes, it’s not a moped … you still have to pedal and shift gears. It assists with the pedaling and there is much less strain on the knees when going uphill. Perfect!

Bikenbabia’s service was outstanding. With a day’s notice, Jose and Mari delivered the bike to my hotel in Castrojarez. In addition to the bike, they showed me where everything was and how it worked. There was a spare tire, a small pump, a can of fix-a-flat, a tool set, a battery charger which were all stored in a pannier. They even included a water bottle. I took a short test drive and it made my legs very happy.

As with most walkers, pace is everything. Theresa and I rarely walk together. She is a very fast walker and I am a very slow walker. So renting a bike didn’t disrupt out routine except that I would fly by and reach the next destination first.

It was such a joy to ride this e-bike and it was perfect for the long miles of wheat fields. The only downside for me was that I rarely stopped to take photos, not that there was much to photograph. Even in the rain, I loved being on a bike rather than walking.

I had planned to ride the bike all the way to the end of the Camino (Leon) but changed direction when Therese decided that she had enough walking. There was an 11 mile stretch after Carrion and Theresa said it was time for a cab. I contacted Bikenbabia and asked if I could shorten my rental and have the bike picked up in Carrion instead of Leon. They were very accommodating. The next day, Jose met us at a coffee shop in Carrion and picked the bike up there.

I would highly recommend Bikenbabia for Camino bike rental.

The other thing I liked about Bikenbabia was that they took PayPal for the deposit. I paid cash for the rental itself but could have used PayPal. When I asked to return the bike early, they were very accommodating and refunded a portion of the rental fee. I think they were very fair.

And one more star for Bikenbabia … they service the entire Frances Camino. So if you would like to do the Frances but don’t have a month, you might want to consider doing it by bike or doing part of it by bike. I would recommend contacting them by email (www.Bikenbabia.com) and giving them plenty of notice. They have a variety of bikes and they know the terrain of the Camino. My e-bike had shock absorbers. It was an awesome experience and it exceeded my expectations.

For bike rentals on the Camino Frances, contact Bikenbabia! http://www.bikenbabia.com

THE WORST OF THE MESETA

The Hill From Hell

Shortly after Castrojarez, there is a very steep hill –– Alto de Mostyelares is the hill that can be seen off in the distance. It was full sun and hot that day but I don’t think that would have mattered. This hill was steep with no switchbacks. Going down was not fun either …. it had an 18% grade, was very steep and there were no switchbacks.

FINAL REFLECTIONS

It was a long two weeks but I don’t think I would have done anything differently. Each town or village had something special that made it worth a visit. It’s all a learning experience — culture, cuisine, history, agriculture, geography, language and humanity. If you’re walking Camino Frances, do at least part of The Meseta … it is a part of Spain that should not be skipped.

NEXT STOP … is Leon followed by a couple days on Camino Ingles so Theresa can finish her walk that was interrupted by an accident in 2019.

STAY TUNED! We purchased one-way tickets to Mallorca for $17. See what a $17 ticket on Ryan air buys … a seat on the wing?

Reliegos

We were packed up and leaving El Burgo Renaro around 8:00 am and the moon was just rising. What a beautiful sky and it was the perfect view from all of the public exercise equipment.

Next stop is Reliegos — land of the bodegas which are wine cellars built into hillsides. Some also function as taverns that serves primarily wine.

A bodega on the Main Street of Reliegos.
This sign marks the meteor site.

The claim to fame for Reliegos is being struck by a meteor in 1947. The 38-lb meteor is on display in the natural science museum in Madrid but the site is well marked on the Main Street of Reliegos.

A metal plaque in the street marks the place where the meteor hit.
Albergue Las Hadras is where we stayed.

Once again, we saw Las Hadras turn away quite a few people. It’s a small albergue that had a good vibe.

We had a bunk tucked away in a small alcove. Fortunately, this is the only time we (Theresa) got stuck with a top bunk. Because of covid, top bunks usually were left open.
This albergue did serve Vegan meals. The back yard of the albergue had a patio and some landscaping.
Very interesting … take a closer look!
It’s a packer cap on a pole. We think it came with the meteor. Go Pack Go!
On our walk through town we found only a couple restaurants and they were open only in the afternoon and early evening. Sorry … no coffee anywhere in the morning. We filled up on Calamari and vino tinto.
We walked by a hillside filled with bodegas.
Somebody had their onions displayed on the sidewalk.
The dark sky looked threatening all day.
The tour of bodegas …
In this small town, I’m thinking the bodegas must have been a family run operation.
This is Bar Elvis. We were told it was the town hotspot.
… And it was. Our new friends we met at Bar Elvis … Peter and Annette from Minnetonka! Annette just retired as an elementary teacher from Wayzata and Peter is a civil engineer. Behind Annette is Tara from Toronto, Jasmine from Zurich, (Theresa) and Chuck from Oregon.
It is mind boggling to be so far away from home and to meet people who live so close to home.

El Burgo Renaro

The monastery halls were quiet and it was a peaceful night’s sleep. Before we moved on, the Brothers had breakfast food set up in the dining room.

A quiet hall at the monastery.
A variety of bread, meat, cheese, fruit, yogurt and hard boiled eggs as well as coffee & tea were available for guests.

Our next stop was El Burgo Renero which was a wool producing town, the biggest business of Castila during the Middle Ages. Huge flocks of sheep, up to 40,000 were tended. They grazed in the mountains in the summer while the Meseta fields were occupied with wheat.

Back to small town life in El Burgo Renero, population of about 800. This is our albergue for tonight.

The town had a church that seemed to have a Mexican flare to its architecture.

More stork nests on the bell tower.

We were impressed with the community exercise equipment. There were about a dozen pieces of equipment outdoors, facing a field. We tried them all and it was a nice little workout circuit. Our albergue owner said the locals use the equipment in the winter when they aren’t out in their fields.

This unit was similar to an elliptical. Impressive equipment — every neighborhood should have this.

Somebody “yarn bombed” the whole town. Most of the trees were covered with knitting. There were little yarn pompoms on almost every door. This might have been somebody’s quarantine project. Very charming and gave the town a nice cozy feel.

Yarn bombed tree.

The tidy little town was very quiet during the day. The only noise came when a tractor or farm equipment rumbled through town. Not much car traffic.

As in many villages, Covid helped close down the little grocery stores. In this town, a grocery store on wheels came through and would park for a while and then move a few blocks away and stop. There probably was a time schedule. People would come down and do their shopping.

The grocery store on wheels helped fill in for the missing stores.
The mobile grocery store sold a variety of items, everything from bread to cleaning supplies..
We found a sunny little oasis for lunch.

We were going to be adventuresome today and try something on the menu even though we had no idea what it was. We discovered Morcilla de Burgos. It was very tasty but had a flavor we couldn’t identify. We asked the waitress what was in it and she said a lot of onions. We had this delicacy a few more times until I started researching it. I discovered it was “black pudding” which is another name for blood pudding. No wonder we couldn’t identify the taste! The “Burgos” version had a lot of onions in it. The morcilla de Leon had a bit of a different flavor. We’re glad we tried it but don’t think we’ll be ordering it again.

We had a dinner guest …
… and he brought the whole family.

Back at the Albergue … there was a lovely grass area with reclining lawn chairs and palapa huts for shade. Almost made me forget I was in the middle of farm land. They also had an outstanding laundry facility and lots of clothesline. It was a good day for doing laundry.

Sahagun

Sunday, September 19, 2021: This town is a little bigger than the previous few with a population of 2800. It contains some of the earliest examples of Mudejar architecture.

The city thrived with a diverse population including Muslims and Jews. Sahagun’s historic architecture illustrates the Romanesque-Mudejar style, which incorporated Islamic decorative motifs and was built primarily out of brick rather than stone.

We arrived early and found a nice coffee shop with good WIFI.

We stayed at a monastery called Santa Cruz. Brother Ivan from England welcomed us and the hospitalaro, Alexandro, showed us around and made us feel welcome.

Alejandro was very welcoming, helpful and a good English speaker.
The Santa Cruz monastery in Sahagun is run by Marist Fathers and Brothers, a congregation born in France in 1836.
This is the little chapel at the Monastery where they had a non-denominational pilgrim’s mass.

This is definitely a sign of Covid times … the holy water font is empty and it has a bottle of hand sanitizer in it.

We were so fortunate … we had our own room.

,,, with a private bathroom and we were on the first floor. The cost was “donativo”.

The arch of San Benito was originally the door to the church but now it is a main thoroughfare into the town. It was part of the Royal Monastery of San Benito which was destroyed in 1835.

The remains of San Benito monastery.
Time for lunch. We went to a nearby restaurant., Los Argos Perrilla.
Los Argos Parrilla had big meat on display.
The house salad was amazing.
We split a popular item, the house barbecue, which included a variety of grilled meat which was muy delicioso but way too much for us to finish.

The town had lots of interesting artwork.

Sahagun was a delightful little town … glad that we didn’t skip it.

Terradillos de Los Templarios

Saturday, September 18, 2021: Slow start today. It’s 7:00 am and dark out. Time to roll up the sleeping bag and load the backpack. This daily routine is getting old. I wonder how small the next town is going to be and if there’s any way to skip it. The days were becoming repetitious with fields that are endless and a big sky that is too big. Worst of all, there was nothing to see along the way. I would be so happy if there were some good ruins, an old church, a cemetery, a herd of sheep or even an irrigation canal. There was nothing but fields of sunflowers, fields of wheat, a few corn fields and some empty ones. Theresa and I are now in Taxi mode.

We were the last to leave today. We walked to the town’s only restaurant for coffee and to figure out how to find a taxi in such an isolated rural farm area.

In the reception area before entering the restaurant, I saw something unusual — several suitcases waiting to be transported to their next location. What’s unusual is that some people who are walking the Camino are opting to bring a suitcase instead of a backpack. There are courier services on the Camino that will transport backpacks, suitcases or other parcels to your next Camino stop. It costs about $5 a day and for many who don’t want to carry a backpack, it’s a great option.

Having a suitcase instead of a backpack is another good option. It probably holds more than a backpack and one wouldn’t need to be too concerned about its weight. I’ve heard of people breaking the handle off their toothbrush to save a fraction of an ounce on their backpack load. The suitcase option may make walking the Camino appealing to more people.

As we settled in with our coffee, we watched the room empty as walkers made their way out the door and down the road. A backpacked young woman entered the restaurant and sat at a table near us. Since we had already made up our minds to boycott walking today, we had nothing better to do so we struck up a conversation. Jenneke from Holland became an instant friend. She had just taken a cab from her last stop and was in desperate need of a rest day.

The man running the restaurant, Caesar, waited on our every whim. We didn’t order from the menu, we just asked for things. Jenneke wanted a fruit plate which reminded me how much I like that honey-dew melon and Theresa was in the mood for ham and eggs which I thought was a good idea too. And Caesar did not disappoint.

Jenneke, Caesar and Theresa

It’s amazing how we connected with Jenneke. I think it was because she is so genuine. We talked for hours about so many things. She is a fascinating person. The morning went by so fast. It was hard saying goodbye but we needed to get moving.

We asked Caesar to call us a taxi. His response in Spanish was something about a taxi being too expensive. Next thing we know, he’s loading us into his car and was going to drive us to our next stop. That is how life on the Camino happens. We did pay him but I’m sure it was far less than what a taxi would have cost.

Our next albergue –– Jacques de Molay

Jacques de Molay is the name of the albergue in Terradillos. This village seems to be planted in the middle of farmland with a bit of industrial sites along the highway. In addition, there was a little church that was locked, a small playground and three or four streets with various housing. Behind the albergue was a little park with picnic tables.

No pool today but there was a beautiful patio with a landscaped lawn area.
The outer wall of the hotel had a very large and shiney sign with an image of Jacques de Molay. He must have been somebody’s hero.

So who was Jacques de Molay and why was he so important that they named an albergue after him in the middle of nowhere? I did a little research and he was the last grand master of the Knights Templar. The order was dissolved in 1312 by Pope Clement V. Little is known of his actual life and deeds except for his least years as Grand Master, he is one of the best known Templars.

While most historians agree that the Knights Templar fully disbanded 700 years ago, there are some people who believe the order went underground and remains in existence in some form to this day.

The Order and its members increasingly appear in modern fiction, though most of these references portray the medieval organization inaccurately. In modern works, the Templars generally are portrayed as villains, misguided zealots, representatives of an evil secret society, or as the keepers of a long-lost treasure.*

We took a tour of the town which took less than ten minutes. I’m always fascinated with the dwellings made from mud and straw.

There are always a few newer homes and then some very old deteriorated, unliveable mud and straw dwellings.
The albergue’s restaurant was the only one in town.

The garden patio, restaurant and bar were an oasis that made the day a lot more interesting. The restaurant had charming and interesting bits of history and culture decorating the walls. We were fortunate to reserve a private room in advance. They started turning away walkers around noon.

We had the “menu del dia” –– meal of the day. Theresa was adventuresome and went for the Inky Squid which she said was very good and better than the Inky Squid in Pamplona.

We crossed another day off the calendar and only four more nights remaining in The Meseta.

* Information taken from Medievalspain.com; Wikipedia; Britannica.com

Calzadilla de la Cueza

September 17, 2021: Another isolated village in the middle of nowhere with a population of 54. There was a lot of tractor traffic and not many cars. We were surrounded by sunflower fields everywhere.

The view of Calzadilla from a distance.

There were two places to stay in town and both were sold out. Because of the reduced capacity due to covid, several without a reservation were turned away.

This is the part of the Meseta where those walking it are asking themselves, “Why am I walking this?” The miles of fields become monotonous and the days drag by. Several of the coffee shop/bars didn’t survive covid as well as a few albergues. There was an 11 mile stretch between this town and the previous one. To walk all that way in the sun and then find out there is no place to stay and you need to walk another 6-7 miles can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Fields and fields of sunflowers.
This is the view from my 2nd floor window … a tractor coming down the road. And the farmer waved at me when he went by.
A sunny day and a pool in the middle of farm country.

This albergue had a laundry facility with washers and dryers as well as a grassy lawn area with a pool. It was a good day to catch up on laundry.

Touring the town … not much to see.
This deteriorated dwelling was made of mud and straw.
Four guys playing boche ball with rocks in a field. I don’t think they were locals.
What’s for dinner tonight? Mushroom risotto and pork loin with potatoes.

We have the feeling that albergues were owned by the same family with one shutting down their bar and restaurant so both could conserve resources.

The other albergue at the opposite end of the street had a bar and restaurant.

Sunset is around 8:00 pm. After being outside in the hot sun and walking for miles, no one complains about going to bed early.

Carrión de Los Condes

Thursday, September 16, 2021: In the Middle Ages, Carrión was a wealthy and important town with as many as 10,000 citizens. According to legend, Charlemagne camped here in his campaign against the Moors, who had succeeded in building a castle in Carrión in the 8th century.

Carrion’s population is about 2,200. There are several monasteries that also function as Albergues. We stayed at Espiritus Santo which is run by nuns. Having attended a Catholic grade school, high school and college, I had plenty of encounters with the Sisters. I expected everything to be run strictly and in order –– and it was.

This is the church connected to Espiritus Santos. We walked the circumference of the building and could not find an entrance. The Sisters must have a secret door hidden somewhere.
Doors do not open until 11:00 am sharp. In the courtyard by the office entrance, backpacks were lined up neatly as we waited our turn to enter.
Lucky me … I got the corner bed with a big window.

We had to wait in line until the Sister in charge was good and ready to deal with us. It was a slow process. Not only did we need to show our vaccination cards but they also took our temperature. Then they processed us, recorded our passport information and took our “donation.” Then we given a brief tour and shown to our rooms

This is one of the dormitories at the albergue. It kind of looks like a classroom.

The nuns don’t do bunk beds. They would pop in frequently to check on things. Lights out at 10:00 pm and they made sure of that. A couple of nuns came up to turn the lights off personally. In the morning, everyone is eager to start walking. Some people get up as early as 4:00 am. Everyone has to be out by 8:00 am.

We wandered around town. The church of Santa Maria del Camino was part of a three city art exhibit called Lux.

The cities of Burgos, Carrión de los Condes and Sahagún are hosting the 25th edition of the Lux exhibit. The objective is to teach people about the sacred art found in the countless churches in the provinces of Castile and Leon. The title “Lux” refers to the characteristic light of gothic cathedrals, famous for their impressive stained glass windows. The different landmarks hosting the event represent different architectural styles, such as Romanesque, mudéjar and gothic.

This nearby old church is falling apart and it looks as if they structurally reinforced the facade which is home to three stork nests. These nests are at least as big as eagle nests. We got up close and it’s mind boggling to see the size of these nests.

The storks nests are the only reason these church walls are still standing.
Coffee shop chit chat with a gent from Ireland.

Even though it is relatively small, Carrion is one of the larger cities and now it seems like the wheat fields are getting bigger and the distances are getting further. It’s time for a taxi.

Vilementero

Wednesday, September 15, 2021: It rained all day yesterday and into the night. Today the air was fresh and the sky was cloudy which isn’t so bad — there’s no shade here so cool and cloudy is ok. Today’s distance is only about 6-7 miles so it will be an easy quick day.

I reached Villamentero and not to my surprise it’s in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by fields of wheat. Villamentero has a population of 11.

Amanecer is the name of the albergue we are staying at and it is surrounded by green bush trees with an opening that reveals a wonderland of sorts.

Enter into the nirvana oasis of Villamentero complete with baroque music (until 10:00 am) followed by the Macarena and other lively hits.

The man who runs the place, Marcello, has created his own reality … a combination of art, music, animals, and an array of creative places to sleep. Everybody who walked by stopped in for coffee, a beer or a bocadillo. It was very inviting and welcoming environment.

We renamed this place “Animal Farm” because we were surrounded by animals and farmland. Donkey’s, sheep, geese, chickens, cats, dogs, birds and more. It was a nice (crazy) change of pace.

Casetas which have two beds cost about $30 per night.

Many options were offered in addition to beds. There were cute little Casetas (cabin) for two.

Very cute and cozy on the inside. I wonder if he charged extra for a light bulb for the lamp?
Would you like to sleep in a concrete tube? It’s kind of like a culvert.

Sleep in a concrete tube?? What??? Looking at it through American eyes we thought this was just crazy. However, our friend Kate from Australia informed us that during hot summer days, a concrete tube is a very cool place to sleep — literally. There is no air conditioning anywhere, so that might be a good option. Marcello also offered teepees, tents and hammocks. We opted for the usual bunk beds.

In this town of 11, there isn’t a lot of sightseeing to be done in its half dozen streets. There is another Hostal in town so we wandered over there for a drink in the hot afternoon sun. It was a little more elite and had a swimming pool. They spruced up the patio with pots of flowers but you could still see the old barns and farm equipment off in the background.

Hot sun, a pleasant patio and refreshing drinks by the pool.
It’s hard to hide the fact that we were in a small rural farming town.
I dared Theresa to sit in this little ornamental concrete chair.
And of course she accepted the challenge. This is how you entertain yourself when you are surrounded by farmland in a town with a handful of buildings in the middle of nowhere.
Church of San Martin de Tours served a town of 11 residents.

Next, we wandered over to the church that sat on a small mound of a hill. An abandoned tractor missing its tires sat in the church yard which was a patch of dry grass that badly needed rain. We did not think that a town of 11 people would have a functioning church and it certainly would be locked. Wrong! The church was open and their was a woman attending it.

The ceiling featured a Mudejar style art which is a type of ornamentation used in the Iberian Christian kingdoms, primarily between the 13th and 16th centuries.

Mudejar art was typically done by Muslims living under a Christian King. The Mudejar builders were Muslim artisans who were permitted to stay and were employed to build the new churches and palaces in the reconquered territories.

Each resident could have their own pew.

We were impressed with the beauty of this humble little church. It makes me wonder how a village with such a small population can keep a church open. Well … in Spain there is no separation between church and state. Some funding probably comes from the state to help keep this historic site open. The majority of the churches are Catholic and they all contain interesting and beautiful artwork and sculptures … Spanish splendors!

Back at Animal Farm. The grey geese were always watching us.

Marcello was making a feast for the half dozen guests staying overnight. Most of the Peregrinos continue walking to the next town, Carrión, which is much bigger and offers an array of accommodations.

Dinner was amazing! A beautiful salad followed by five or six different local dishes. The platters were rotating around the table and the wine was flowing. Marcello is a man of many talents.

Sitting next to me is Inessa from Russia, Gabrielle from Paris, Antonio and Juan from Barcelona and at the end which can’t be seen are Theresa and Michael from Ireland. Everyone spoke some English and we tried to say a few things in Spanish. It was a lovely dinner.
Antonio and Juan from Barcelona … when they heard we were from Minnesota they were excited and I knew why … Ricky Rubio!

When you cross paths with English speaking Spaniards, the magic words are Ricky Rubio. Even though he no longer plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves, they like to associate him with his Minnesota years.

Rubio is a rock star with the Spanish because he became the youngest player ever to play in the Spanish ACB league at the age of 14 in 2005. In 2009 he was drafted with the fifth pick in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft by the Timberwolves making him the first player born in the 1990s to be drafted by the NBA. Currently he plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

If you want to strike up a conversation with Spaniards, it pays to know Ricky Rubio history and to be from Minnesota.

For desert, melon was served. This was a sweet type of honeydew-like melon. Very flavorful … muy delicioso!
Some of the locals came by after supper. We enjoyed listening to them as they took turns playing instruments and singing.

The stars were out and it was very pleasant to listen to guitar strumming and local folk music. A nice way to end the day.

Fromista

Fromista had been a breadbasket farm area since Celtic times until being destroyed by the Moors and later rebuilt in the 12th century. In spite of being a successful market town in the 15th century, the town declined until a revival in 1773 when the canal brought water and again allowed agriculture to thrive.

Rain, rain, rain. Nothing but dark clouds, precipitation, mud and more mud.

Welcome to Fromista!

By the time I reached Fromista, I was thoroughly drenched and full of mud. Time for coffee.

Mud and rocks for hours.

Off in the distance is Boadilla del Camino a town that was fortified in medieval times. Independence was granted in the 15th century and they were allowed to publicly torture and hang their own criminals.

The Canal de Castilla

The Canal de Castilla was built from 1753-1859, covering about 130 miles. The canal was used for ships that were pulled by mules on tow paths. Today the canals are used to irrigate agricultural fields.

The Turismo office is located above the canal. Looks like the canal wall has sprung a few leaks.

Not sure, but his might be some type of lock and dam device.

There are three churches in Fromista. This is the church of San Pedro.

Fancy bottled water served at one of the restaurants.
The Camino trail followed the highway — not as interesting.

More rain the next day. We were eager to move on. Our next stop is Villamentero de Campos … you won’t believe where we stayed — or maybe you will.