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.

Shout out to Jenny & Chris at Skads Travel!

It’s WEDNESDAY! Chris and Jenny are my favorite co-workers and I miss our Wednesday morning “staff” meetings. Wish you guys were here! I’m way over in Reliegos, Spain … Last night Theresa and I walked down the street to Bar Elvis where we met a nice couple from Minnetonka, Minnesota of all places!! It’s a small world!

Peter and Annette from Minnetonka! Annette just retired as an elementary teacher from Wayzata. Behind Annette is Tara from Toronto, Jasmine from Zurich, (Theresa) and Chuck from Oregon.

WHAT’S UP WITH THE LOW AIRFARES TO HAWAII?? Every now and then I check my emails and have been seeing really low airfares especially to Hawaii. If I weren’t in Spain right now I’d be on a plane to Hawaii. However, my source does say there is a, “fare war to Hawaii through December BOOK ASAP! The state of Hawaii has requested tourists stay home until November. No testing is required for vaccinated travelers.” WOWZA!

I can’t wait to get back to the office so I can find out what you guys are hearing about low airfares. As you well know, Hawaii is pretty high on my bucket list.

Today’s discovery! I don’t know what this is but it has a lot of carmelized onion and it is mui delicioso! We’ve left the province of Castile and have entered Leon which has new cuisine to explore.

Time to hit the road again! Just wanted to take a few minutes to say Hola to mi amigas Chris y Jenny at Skad’s Travel. A big hello to Will & Kathy too!

Buen Camino from Juana en España!

Itero de Vega

Monday, September 13, 2021: The plains of the Meseta were flat and easy to walk … until today. It was another hot sunny day and the trail started out flat but off in the distance I could see a pathway going up a large and steep looking hill. Surely that was not our route.

Alto de Mostyelares is the hill that can be seen off in the distance. I had assumed the road would go around it, not over it. No such luck.
Look carefully and you can see a diagonal path going across the hill. That was our route. It instilled dread just looking at it from a distance.

This hill was a nightmare. Walking it in full sun with no shade and it was a fairly warm day. Very few places to stop and catch your breath. When we walked the entire 500 miles of the Camino Frances in 2017, I don’t remember anything this traumatic.

Saw this marker half way up the hill. Wouldn’t surprise me if someone died trying to walk up this thing.
Theresa forges up the hill — time for a rest.
There were several monuments at the top.
There was a nice shelter at the top and a little picnic area shaded by a tree.
What goes up must go down at an 18% grade. On the middle left of photo you can see where it looks like the road abruptly ends. You cannot see the steep drop down the hill. There were no switchbacks either … just straight down. Very difficult to walk down.
Onward to Itero de Vega. Grateful for a flat trail.
Welcome to the Muni at Itero. Population of Itero de Vega is about 177. Not much else to see in this town but didn’t have the energy anyway.
We had a delightful dinner with the United Nations here … (from right to left) Bernard, an Inn owner from Munich, (Jane), William and his father Colm from Dublin Ireland, (Theresa) and Hi from Paris originally Vietnam. Everyone spoke English. We solved all the problems of the world and more!
Colm was modeling his stylish rain gear.

Next stop is Fromista which is about 7 miles away. It had been the breadbasket of the farming area since Celtic times until being destroyed by the Moors and later rebuilt in the 12th century. Buen Camino!

Castrojarez

Sunday, September 12, 2021: This is one of my favorite walks so far! We started packing up around 6:30 am when it was still dark out. We started walking a little before 8:00 am when the sun was just starting to come up.

It’s always exciting to see what’s around the next bend.
There was a tower standing in the middle of nowhere … Ruins?
Monasterio de San Anton: This massive 14th century ruin with the ornate arch going over the road was very dramatic and a bit overwhelming. It made you think, ‘What was this?’ And ‘why or how was it destroyed?’

So the story goes … the road to Castrojarez leads to the ruins of a church complex started by the Order of St. Anthony, a 11th-century order of nuns dedicated to the 3rd century Egyptian hermit whose relics it held. A man brought his daughter to the relics and she was healed of a particularly pernicious disease reminiscent of leprosy. This disease became known as St. Anthony’s Fire, which caused a terrible burning feeling, loss of circulation and eventually gangrene. This disease was in fact like ergotism, caused by a fungus that grows on rye bread. The order developed a reputation for healing this disease, though serendipitously, pilgrimage was an excellent antidote to the disease a vigorous exercise and plenty of wine helped to overcome it. Hiking the Camino de Santiago by Anna Dintaman and David Landis.

The ruins were privately owned and inaccessible to everyone until 2002 when an entrepreneur decided to commit himself to a project of creating a refuge for those walking the Camino. For almost a year he shared his ideas with the owner and they wrote a formal contract leasing the ruins for 35 years. The commitment was to create a hostel for pilgrims walking the Camino and to consolidate and restore these ruins. A lot of effort was used to clean up the shambles and make it useable.

Mendizabal is the new name … now you can stay there! It’s rustic, mystical, haunting and not for everyone. I would love to see it lit up with candles at night (there is no electricity) but don’t think I could stay here. It’s a bit too eerie for me especially when thinking about all the history that happened here.

When walking through the ruins, you see little alcoves filled with big drippy candles and many slips of paper with hand-written prayer intentions. In the Middle Ages, these alcoves were where nuns left food for the poor. Now, three sheds have been set up to receive, stay and dine in with another as a bedroom with six bunk beds donated by the Spanish army and another shed that serves as a restroom.

Since 2002, the ruins are open from May to September. In those years they have welcomed more than 15,000 Camino walkers (also called Pilgrims) even though they only have 12 beds. They offer everyone who stays overnight a bed, dinner and breakfast and charge absolutely nothing. They maintain the site based on the donations freely left by pilgrims and visitors. Every year, they explain the history of the convent and the Antonians to more than 20,000 visitors. It is a fascinating place to explore however, even though the space was sacred at one time, the energy is now sad and dormant.

This must have been an amazing structure in its day. It is about 3-stories tall with a blue sky that doesn’t quit.
The entrance to the Albergue is on the right.
The ruins of San Anton were definitely worth the walk.
First coffee stop of the day … at the outskirts of Castrojarez.
This is they first church of many in Castrojarez.
Impressive 13th Century Gothic Church of Santa Maria del Manzano in Castrojarez.

Legend has it that’s Mary appeared to St. James from an apple tree and he was so startled that his horse reared up and came down heavily, leaving hoof prints in the stone outside. We did not see any hoof prints.

In Spain there is no separation of church and state. Maria del Manzano is also used as a ‘church art museum’. They charge 1 Euro to enter. In the main altar area they had a display of vestments and other chapels featured artwork, statues and sacred items. I’m just glad the doors are open and we can see these amazing structures, sacred spaces and intriguing artwork.

A Sunday mass service was held in one of the smaller side chapels.

As we strolled through the art exhibit at Santa Maria del Manzano we heard a small choir preparing for a mass service. The locals were starting to arrive and many brought a handful of flowers probably from their gardens. They had a special wooden rack for holding the flowers. Very nice way for the parishioners to contribute to the service.

Ancient castle ruins overlook the city of Castrojarez.

This is the view when entering Castrojarez. High on top of the steep mesa is Castillo de San Esteban. The Romans used the castle, said to be founded by Julius Caesar, to protect the roads to Galicia’s lucrative gold mines. The city changed hands frequently until coming under Christian rule in 10th century.

A better view of the castle ruins. There is a steep pathway leading up to it but it was full sun and quite hot the day we were there … no way.
View from the Albergue’s dining room where we had dinner.
This was gazpacho with a side of grated hard cheese.
Another favorite … Chorizo cocktail weenies. I don’t think that’s what they call this specialty but we figured it out.
Another beautiful sky.

Hontanas

Saturday, September 11, 2021: This is the entrance to the “Muni” in Hontanas which is a small village with a population of 70.

Our bunks were in a small isolated alcove. This is what you get for $10 a bed. The top bunks were pretty high but, once again with Covid and reduced capacity, they were not putting anyone on top bunks.
The nearby church was very contemporary and had a little meditation area with bibles in many languages.
This village had several fountains for water.
Another water source.
This very old water source has the Camino shell near the spigot. Many pilgrims fill their water bottles here.
This very nice home had a unique water fountain …
… unique but a little strange.
Sangria time!
The little cafes, albuergues and hostals depend upon business from those walking the Camino. Last year was hard on everyone. In this town, the grocery store closed and there were several dwellings for sale.
“Meal of the Day” is a good deal especially if you’ve walked several miles and are really hungry. They usually cost about $12 and include two courses with several items to choose from plus wine, bread and desert.
One of the courses I chose was St. Anton’s Pot. It was a savory combination of chic peas and several types of meat.
Small but well maintained town.
The sun setting over Hontanas.

Next stop is Castrojarez, a village built on a steep Mesa topped with the ruins of a castle.

Tardejos and Hornillos

Thursday, September 9, 2021: Tardejos has a population of about 850. The town’s church had a giant size stork nest on top. The stork took off flying over the buildings.

As I was walking away a woman came and unlocked the church doors so I stopped in to check it out. The churches always have interesting things — sometimes its hard to figure out the logic but I assume the congregation knows the rhyme and reason why.

Very ornate and filled with statuary.
Not sure who the guy at the top is … wild guess St. Peter?
This model of the church building was on display.
Wagyu beef found its way to Spain. Prior to traveling to Spain, I saw Wagyu beef on sale at Fresh Time for $40/lb.

I entertain easily … watched a truck with cages of firewood being delivered to local businesses. The crane would move the cage to the sidewalk. Then it would release the cage and all of the wood spilled out. Somebody probably had the job of moving the wood inside or stacking it neatly.

The entrance to a park and picnic area in Tardejos.

The Village of Hornillos is quite possibly an ancient city. There are some ruins prior to entering the town which are the remains of a hospice for lepers.

The town fountain features a rooster on top because of a story that says Napolean’s troops stole all the chickens in Hornillos while the townspeople were at Mass. The soldiers killed the chickens and snuck them out of the town in their drums. When confronted by the townspeople, the soldiers denied everything, but one rooster miraculously came back to life and gave a nightly crow from within the drum, proving the soldiers’ guilt.

This is the “Muni” a municipal albuergue that we stayed at for about $10 a bed. All of the accommodations are at reduced capacity (due to Covid) so it can be tricky finding a place to stay.
At the albuergue we stayed in an alcove with lower bunks across from each other. They don’t put anyone on the top bunks anymore due to Covid.
Outdoor cafe was a very nice place to sit in the sun, drink coffee and do some blogging.
View of the village.
View of the Meseta sunset from the church in Hornillos.
The homes are all connected with no yards. I like the flower decor. Some have courtyards or grass areas on the inside area.
Salad Mixta, Croquets and Cerveza … yum!
This brave man from Boston was doing the Camino with his 2-year-old twins and making good time too. He was staying at our albuergue and we crossed paths with him in the lounge. We invited him to send his wife down to give her a break from the kids and he said he didn’t have a wife. He was going solo.

Moving on! Next stop is Hontanas which is named for the numerous springs and abundant water in the area. Buen Camino!!

The Meseta

Due to time constraints, Theresa and I skipped the Meseta when we walked the Frances in 2017. We are excited to discover this unique piece of Iberia.

The Meseta is a geographical area within the region of Castilla and Leon – the largest region in Spain. The Camino Frances crosses The Meseta between the cities of Burgos and Leon. The flat land glimmers with golden wheat and flocks of sheep. There is an endless horizon and wide open space. Sun is full strength — there are very few trees and very little shade.

The Meseta – endless horizon and wide open space.
First stop is Real Monasterio de Las Huelgas, which translates as “The Royal Monastery of Pleasures.”

My Camino guidebook says, “The Monastery was built in 1175 by Alfonso VIII who transformed one of his palaces into a luxurious convent where widow noblewomen could retreat from the world in decadence. Today an order of nuns live there and guide visitors on tours.” The Santa Maria la Real de Huelgas” guidebook says the word “Huelgas” was misinterpreted and it actually means, “Idle”. The Monastery of Idle?

The convent was built first and then a church followed in the early 13th century. There are three chapels fashioned by Muslim artists.

A beautiful walkway wrapped around the cloister. We were allowed to take photos outdoors but not indoors. In one of the chapels is a statue of St. James that has jointed arms that move. One has a sword in it and was used during rituals to tap the kings on the shoulder when they were dubbed as knights. Only St. James is worthy to knight a king, even if it is a statue.

The oldest part of the church is the Romanesque cloister.
We’ve barely started walking and it’s time for lunch.
This is Templade salad filled with shrimp, bacon, mushrooms and cheese. We’ve seen this on a few menus in the Meseta but have never had it before in Spain.
Back on the road again. The Camino leads us through a park.
This is one of the churches we passed on the way.
Fellow pilgrims, Jorg from Munich, Charisa from Italy and Max from Belgium. We were all heading for Tardajos.
A long road ahead
A lovely assortment of weeds adorned the trail.
This weed had strange white things …
… taking a closer look – they are snails. Very odd but interesting.

This is our final destination … LaFabrica. It was an old flour factory turned in to a Hostal. It features exposed stone walls and wooden beams.

Our room had unique decor and an extra large bathroom.

We enjoyed a very nice dinner at the Hostal’s restaurant. A nice couple from Germany joined us. They were also walking the Camino. A nice finish to a long day.

The Bus to Burgos

It’s a 2-1/2 hour bus ride from Madrid to Burgos. The people of Spain take Covid and mask wearing seriously. Everyone wears masks! They are required inside all buildings. When walking around outside, over half the people are masked. You don’t see anyone with their nose hanging out either. As of today, 74.6% of the entire population of Spain (over 12) is vaccinated. The US is at 54.3%. I feel safer here in Spain than in the United States. Last week at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas, countless people were walking around with their mask around their neck or their nose hanging out. Selfish. We all share the air.

Mask wearing is a must in Spain and no one complains about it.

Burgos is a small historical city with a very large Cathedral and a beautiful river walk that leads you to the city gates.

The Burgos Cathedral was finished in 1260. It is now a National Monument and a World Heritage Site.
Burgos has a beautiful walk that follows the River Arlanzon. It is part of the Camino. This is where we will start walking tomorrow.

No Agenda Today!

The first day in Spain is to acclimate. Let the body recover from the stress of leaving home, the long flight and the time change. Absorb the energy of Madrid and lean into the culture.

This is a favorite breakfast spot. Glad to see that most of the shops and restaurants survived the pandemic and are open for business again.
“If you’re not drinking wine, it must be breakfast,” Chiquita restaurant.
Jet lag makes it hard to decide what meal you should be eating. This hearty plateful covered all the bases.
Sounds of a street musician playing glasses accompanied breakfast this morning. How do people learn to do this kind of stuff?
A wall full of espadrills beckoned us to a nearby shop. Interesting display.
Time for a stroll over to plaza Mayor
Mercado de San Miguel is a gourmet market featuring the culinary talent of a number of internationally renowned chefs.
Lots of seafood …
Octopus appetizers Yum!
I think this is a brontosaurus.
Swordfish coming out of the ice? Whatever it is, it has no teeth but that sword-like nose could do some damage. Sign next to is says … “Do Not Touch — They Bite Sometimes.”
The top shelf features Crabby Patty … I’ve seen them on Sponge Bob.
Ibérico Belotta Ham is a Spain specialty that sells for $140 per pound. Why?? See below.

Iberico Belotta hams come from pigs that feast on acorns. The favorite pastime of Iberico hogs is rooting around the pastures of the dehesa, (wooded farmland) foraging for acorns as well as herbs and grasses. All this running around and feasting makes for exquisitely marbled raw meat packed with natural antioxidants — a key ingredient for extended curing of the ham.

Iberico ham is considered as the most cardio healthy of all animal fats. It is low in calories, rich in vitamins B1, B6, B12, antioxidants, and has the ability to lower bad cholesterol levels and its high content in Omega 9 makes it unique.

The ham is sliced thin and often served with bread. The ham melts in your mouth and has a rich flavor profile that has been described as nutty and sweet, to earthy and floral.

Puerto del Sol at night … seems less crowded than in previous trips. We used to see street peddlers selling jewelry, toys and trinkets. They are all gone. The police presence has increased noticeably.
Ruth Badger Ruttger found a necklace she couldn’t resist.

Madrid is a fun place to visit but now it’s time to move on to rural Spain. The next stop is Burgos which is the start of the Maseta.

Welcome to Spain!

So we survived the flight and sailed through Immigration and Customs just fine. It was 9:30 am in Spain, but my legs knew better … in Minneapolis time was about 4:00 am. Onward to Puerto del Sol in central Madrid. We took the Renfe train which is faster than the Metro subway system. The cost for a Renfe ticket is $3.50. Surprisingly, the train was not crowded like it should have been. On previous trips we have ridden both Renfe and the Metro at various times of day. Remember, we were here in Madrid exactly two years ago. This seemed very odd. Perhaps, like in the United States, many people are now working from home.

Much of the day was spent sleeping. We crashed hard. We were revived in time for a walk around Puerto del Sol and dinner at Cafe Europa just off Sol. A lovely welcome to Spain.

Cold sangria! Very refreshing. We did some people watching as we munched on croquets, calamari and salad mixta.

Global Travel: The New Normal

Our last trip to Spain was exactly two years ago and it was a lot simpler all the way round. Just as 911 changed travel in 2001, Coronavirus is changing the way we travel now. There are several new procedures required and I’m thinking that some will fade away and some will become the new normal for travel. If any of you are planning to travel international in the near future, I hope this is helpful.

Accommodation Reservations are a Must. On the Camino, hotel rooms and albuergues are plentiful but now they are limiting their capacity because of mandated COVID restrictions. It varies from province to province but some are as low as 30% of their normal capacity. We’ve read that many of those walking the Camino are sleeping outdoors because they can’t get a room or a bed anywhere within reason. After two or three days of this, several have called it quits and gone home. Theresa and I spent countless hours planning walking distances and finding hotels, hostels or albuergues where we could reserve a room or beds.

Travel Requirements are Volatile: It’s necessary to keep a constant watch on the entry requirements for countries you wish to visit. The more countries, the more requirements which can change without notice at anytime. We restricted our travel to “Spain only” so we could avoid crossing a border and having to deal with multiple requirements. Spain’s only requirement at the time of our travel was to be vaccinated. Just a few days prior to our departure, Italy decided to require all visitors to quarantine for 14 days while France requires a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to arrival.

Days before our departure, the European Union (EU) made a recommendation to its 27 members to restrict non-vaccinated United States citizens from entering their countries. Each European country then decides whether or not to accept the EU’s recommendation. This volatility will continue until COVID is contained … and then what happens when the next COVID variant arrives? Consult your crystal ball because nobody knows!

Digital Vaccination Passports: Theresa and I have been vaccinated and now we have to prove it to Spain and American Airlines before being allowed to board the plane to Spain. After purchasing our airline tickets we were encouraged by American Airlines to enroll in their VeriFLY program which acts as a digital vaccination passport. To complete VeriFLY, we needed to receive a QR code from the health department of Spain. To fulfill the above is a two step process.

1. Download Spains SpTH app. This process is probably similar for other countries too. Follow the directions to fill out a request for a QR code. The typical information like name, address, passport #, etc. can be completed at anytime. But the covid information can only be completed within 48 hours of departure. It asks the typical covid questions, like “have you been exposed to anyone with COVID in the last 14 days”. It also asks for the date your COVID vaccination was completed and what type of vaccine you received.

After completing the form correctly, you will receive your QR code. The trick question for us was the “which vaccine did you receive?” We couldn’t find “Pfizer” on their list. It turns out that Pfizer goes by several names and here it was listed as Comirnaty. Completing these forms can sometimes be a problem solving experience.

This is what the required QR document from Spain’s department of Health looks like. The VeriFLY app will ask you to scan the QR code which completes the VeriFLY process.

2. Download the “VeriFLY” app from American Airlines. It would probably work best to add it your your cell phone as opposed to a computer. However, if doing it on a computer, you could print out the QR document and take it with you to check in. VeriFLY is available for all of the countries American Airlines travels to, not just Spain. The other airlines probably have similar apps. It will ask you to take a selfie photo and complete some of the typical info. Similar to the SpTH app, much of it can be done in advance but you are not able to complete it until you have the QR code from SpTH.

A Confident Traveler: Once again, when you complete the VeriFLY form correctly, it will reward you with a digital credential that has your photo and a VeriFLY QR code. It proudly boasts, “A Confident Traveler” over your photo. When you check in for your flight, you provide your VeriFLY digital document to the airline rep and boom you’re done.

Be a Smart Traveler: The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service that allows US citizens traveling or living abroad to receive the latest security updates from the nearest US embassy or consulate. For us, that would be the US Embassy in Madrid. The embassy will be able to contact you in case of an emergency. If your friends or family back home are having difficulty reaching you with urgent news, the US embassy can try to reach you.

Coming Home to the US: The United States requires its citizens to take a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test within 72 hours of returning. This means the airlines will want to see the results before you board your flight home. We’re flying American Airlines and they offer a verified PCR tests for purchase and it was reasonably priced compared to other similar tests. So we bought a 6-pack of tests rather than take a chance finding an appointment somewhere in Madrid or having the results not be accepted by American Airlines. It ended up costing each of us $85 for three tests. They recommend having a back up test so we each carried two tests with us to Spain.

This is what the Verified PCR test kit looks like. It is a medical test and is also referred to as a home test. There are two QR code’s: the one on the sleeve is for downloading the NAVICA app. The other one on the right (peeking out under the sleeve) is for starting the test.

Verified PCR Tests: After ordering and receiving the tests, the next thing required is to download the NAVICA app by scanning the QR code on the package. The test is actually a Zoom call to a technician (whom you find through Emed) who watches you take the test and verifies the results by emailing you a QR code. The QR code is proof of your PCR results for the airlines and US customs.

This may sound complicated but it really isn’t. The directions on the package are easy to follow. I downloaded the apps and did a test run at home just to learn how it works so it will be easier to accommodate from a hotel room in Spain.

My suggestions: If you are planning a trip to Spain or elsewhere, reserve some time a day or two before you leave to complete the digital forms … like 2-3 hours. Sit down with a cup of coffee. You don’t want to be rushed. If you are like me, human errors happen when completing digital forms and I rarely get them right the first time through. Be a problem solver! If the form keeps indicating errors, look at it as a puzzle you’re trying to solve. Usually it’s something very simple that is easily overlooked.

If you have trouble filling out online forms, get a second pair of eyes to help. The younger the eyes, the better. High school and college age students seem very astute at this and for many of them it is very intuitive.

So How Did it Go? Departing MSP: Check-in at American Airlines was smooth and easy. A delightful ticket agent name Gabby was impressed when I flashed my VeriFLY credentials. She was knowledgeable which helped us navigate this new procedure. We have TSA pre-check so there was no waiting in line. The experience at MSP airport was easy, fast and smooth. Might I add that MSP has some of the best restrooms ever seen at any airport. The flight boarded and left on time. Flight service was good. All passengers were masked and did what they were suppose to do. No incidents.

Breathing easy: One noticeable difference on this flight was the plane’s super pure cabin air. Even with a mask on, in a cabin full of people, you could tell the air was different. It felt fresh and light … like being at a lung spa. When allowed to take the mask off for a glass of wine and dinner, it was very noticeable. According to the American Airlines email received prior to the flight, “HEPA filters refresh the cabin air every 2 to 4 minutes so you can breathe easy.” And that statement was true. It made the flight a much more pleasant experience.

Arriving at the Madrid Airport: Going through Immigration is always slow and this airport did that really well. At the start, they only had two immigration agents working to accommodate our flight of several hundred passengers. It took 45 minutes of going through the line maze. The hard marble floor was not kind to the feet. Eventually two more agents arrived and the line moved slightly faster. Next step was to take the airport’s link tram to Customs. The tram ride was really long but it did get us to the correct place. The custom agent wanted to see the SpTH QR code document. After he dismissed me, another agent appeared and went through it more thoroughly. She wanted to see my vaccination credentials in addition to the QR code … they take this very seriously. This is when being totally prepared pays off. We were now done with the entry process and on our way.

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Hijacked by the Pandemic in 2020

Almost two years have passed since Theresa and I returned from walking Camino Ingles and volunteering as greeters at the albuergue in Ribadiso. We had planned to return to Spain in September 2020. And like many others, our plans were hijacked by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

We waited patiently for travel to Spain (and everywhere else) to resume. I guess that’s a lie because we were not patient at all. In fact, when we gave up hope of returning to Spain in a timely manner we decided to do a domestic Camino. During the fall and winter months we spent many evenings plotting a trip to New Mexico. It wouldn’t exactly be like a Camino in Spain, but there would be lots of hikes in beautiful nature and visits to many mystical, spiritual and Native American sites. We were surprised when we discovered that New Mexico was closed too due to high levels of COVID.

Now what? We decided to make a plan to go somewhere in the fall of 2021. Our 1st choice would be Spain, 2nd choice New Mexico and if neither of those two became available, the default would be to do a Minnesota road trip. It was looking like Minnesota would be the likely winner. But magically in July, Europe opened its doors to the United States. I was still a bit apprehensive about traveling to Spain. Then we found a round trip airfare for $505 and that was the deal maker.

Walking the Maseta: We decided to take it easy this time. On our first trek across Spain in 2017 (the 500 mile one) we skipped a small segment called The Maseta. We weren’t alone. Many consider it to be hot, flat and boring. There are long views of big skies, flocks of sheep and rolling fields of grain. Being slow walkers, we needed to cut it so we would arrive in Santiago to meet my husband David. We’ve always wondered what we missed and now it’s time to find out. In addition, we want to walk the last two days of Camino Ingles, which Theresa missed in 2019 due to an ankle injury. After completing those two goals, we have seven days to explore Spain — Bilbao? San Sebastián? Barcelona? You’ll find out when we get there.

Long-time friends Theresa and Jane happily anticipating their next hiking adventure in Spain.
Meet my family … Jane, Kyle, Owen, Quinn & Emily, David
My husband David
Our youngest son, Owen.
Middle son Kyle
Daughter-in-law Emily and Biscuit
Oldest son Quinn

Travel in a Covid World: Tomorrow I’ll write about the new normal and how global travel has changed in a short two years and what’s required to leave and re-enter the country.

Gotta mask up if you want to travel abroad.

Ribadiso: Our Last Day

15 October 2019

Today is our last day as volunteer Hospitaleras at the albuergue in Ribadiso. As hosts, we enjoyed greeting hundreds of guests from all over the world while staying at this historic albuergue that has been welcoming visitors since 1523. Now it’s time to say goodbye.

We’ve gotten used to candlelight breakfasts.

This is the main dorm. It has three levels. After we get the straglers moving, we usually do pre-cleaning by removing debris and sweeping. It usually takes between 15-30 minutes. The paid staff comes in later to do the real cleaning, disinfecting and floor mopping.

Terry and I said goodbye to Maricarmen, one of our Xunta supervisors.

Farmer Alfonso is finally fixing the fence so the cows can’t escape.

Home Sweet Home! We spent a couple hours cleaning our cottage and washing linens and towels. Thankful there was a washer & dryer here.

We stopped next door at Meson Rural to say goodbye to our friends. Sylvania poured us a Gin & Tonika.

A toast to Ribadiso and our two weeks in paradise.

Even little Chisco came by to say goodbye.

This is Lolo our cab driver for the past two weeks. He said next time we return we need to speak more Spanish and he will learn more English. He gave us a ride to the bus stop in Arzua. From there we took the bus to Santiago where it was raining hard. We had a few hours to kill at the bus depot before catching our all-night ride to Madrid. From Madrid we fly to Boston and then to Minneapolis and back to reality.

It’s been an awesome five week adventure in Spain. Meeting and sharing so many experiences with people from all over the world has been enriching, enlightening and inspirational. It’s time to head home now but I have a feeling Jane will be in Spain again.

Adios Amigoes!

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Ribadiso: Monday Monday

14 September 2019

Today it is more than just cold rain, it is a downpour. It rained most of the night and the Rio Iso is rising. The water is moving much faster than before. Most of the pilgrims have stopped walking for the day

Dark skies all day long accompanied by rain most of the day.

The river is rising.

The water used to be so clear you could see every rock on the bottom. Now it’s muddy and murky.

We showed up for our 1:00 pm shift and it was still raining hard. Ana the Albuerguesa sent us on our way. It is too cold. We spent most of the afternoon at Meson Rural drinking wine, blogging, backing up phones, catching up on news and talking.

Terry and I have been together for almost five weeks. One would think we would run out of stuff to talk about …. never.

Here’s another nook at the Meson Rural. This is the indoor grill. Looks like they stoke it with charcoal. It has a very large vent over the top.

Taylor from Long Island, New York said her realtor license expired today and she was happy about it. Didn’t like working 24/7. She’s walking the camino to discern her future. She graduated from Art & Design school a few years ago. When she returns to NY, she would like to start out doing retail window display design.

Ken from Toronto, Canada is done for the day. Walked in the rain and cold and has had enough.

This would be our last day working with Ana. I made a batch of Mahnomen Porridge, a Native American recipe from Mahnomen tribe from Minnesota. We packaged it up and made a thank you card to go with it.

Mahnomen Porridge: Wild rice, roasted hazelnuts, dried blueberries, cranberries and cherries, maple syrup, cream. Serve warm.

Cow rebellion: Rosella, Agnes and Elsie rebelled and made an escape. They left their pasture, crossed the river and walked through the Albuergue. Freedom! And where did they go — straight to the neighboring Pension’s fenced in garbage. It smelled so good they were licking the wood.

In the meantime, poor Bernadette was all alone. She did not leave the pasture, would not cross the river and did not approve of the others going. She paced around the pasture and moooed a lot. She was quite upset.

The great escape: Elsie takes off over the bridge

Agnes hides behind a tree.

Rosella makes a run for the weeds.

The three renegades went through the weeds, crossed the river again and ended up where the grass was greener.

Terry comforted Bernadette who stayed behind.

Alfonso and Chisco got everything under control. The gals are all heading to the barn.

Today’s Cutest Couple: Bernadette and Rosella

As you can tell, things have gotten slow at the Albuergue. Time to go home. We leave for Santiago tomorrow.

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Ribadiso: A Cold Rainy Sunday

Ribadiso Albuergue

13 October 2019

Fall is definitely settling in here. The days are getting shorter. It’s dark at 8:00 am and dark at 8:00 pm. It’s windy, cold and rainy. Not a good day for pilgrims to be walking today. Sunday morning is very quiet at Meson Rural.

One of my priorities today is to call my son Owen, it’s his 20th birthday. He is going to school at NDSU in Fargo. It’s about 3:00 am in Fargo, so I better hold off until later today.

First Pilgrim to Arrive Today: Pablo from South of Seville, Spain. He said he walked in rain the entire way form Palais de Rey.

Melissa from Seattle on a rental bike. She said the bike was rented through Cycling-Rentals.com. The bike was at her first stop when she arrived. It came in a box with directions on how to attach the pedals and adjust the handlebars which were packed for shipping. It also came with a helmet, tool kit and the panniers. When she reaches her last destination, she leaves the bike as is with the helmet and panniers in a garbage bag next to it. Someone comes and picks it up. She said they also rent e-bikes which I think would be a great option for this terrain.

Melissa said biking is about as fast as walking because she stops often to take photos or look at the scenery. She said while riding, her eyes are focused on the road mostly.

Cutest Couple: Rose and her brother Clarence. Both are from California. Rose has walked four caminos and Clarence has done two. She’s already planning her next one.

The Ladies from Taiwan: Ching Lee, (Terry), Maria, (Jane), Teresa. Agnes is taking the photo. We may take a lot of photos of pilgrims staying at the albuergue and passing through Ribadiso, but we are also in a lot of photos. Many pilgrims take our picture or want us in a photo with them. As the saying goes … there are no strangers on the Camino, only friends who haven’t met yet.

Teresa from Taiwan wanted a photo with the American Theresa. Very sweet!

Even though it is a damp cold with mist and rain today, people are still in the icy cold water of the Rio Iso. It’s good therapy for tired feet. Our numbers are dwindling … it was just a week or so ago and the river was full of pilgrims.

Farmer Alfonso had the cows in the pasture across the river from us. Three of the four cows crossed the river and came on to the Albuergue property. Bernadette our favorite cow does not leave the pasture and gets upset with the other cows for leaving.

Dinner tonight is spaghetti with a sausage meat sauce and Parmesan. Of course it is accompanied by a bottle of wine, some good bread and salad mixta. A hearty meal to end a cold, rainy day.

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Ribadiso: Fiesta National de Espana 2019

Ribadiso, Albuergue

12 October 2019

Happy National Spain Day! Today is a national holiday that WHAT?? Commemorates Christopher Columbus?? I guess we still kind of have remnants of that in the US too but they are trying to call it Indigenous People’s day or something like that. We were a little disturbed with the origins of National Spain Day but after some research, we feel that the people of Spain get it about Columbus and are trying to switch it to more of an indigenous day similar to what is being done in the United States. From our observations, it is also a day when they celebrate the Spanish military and those who protect the public. It’s a day that families celebrate together at home but in Ribadiso, it was just like any other day.

Today is a very rainy and cold Saturday morning. As usual, I went over to the Meson Rural to blog. There were only a couple people there and they had the TV on with a typical news type show. The segment I caught showed a line art depiction of a coffin being removed from a floor tomb inside of a big church or cathedral. The line art animation showed the hole where the coffin had been, being filled with cement and covered to match the rest of the floor.

Terry happen to arrive at Meson Rural and I asked her who was being removed from their burial site at a big fancy cathedral. She thought about it for a moment and said it was probably the Spanish dictator Franco. It was controversial because he was buried at the Valley of the Fallen which is a Catholic basilica and a monument memorial. It is a national park north of Madrid where the remains of 40,000 people are registered. Many thought that Franco did not belong there. Also, his followers were becoming a distraction at this sacred place. I’m not sure why they were showing this on National Spain Day but the bartender at Meson Rural assured me it was not part of the Spain Day Festivities.

The next thing that came on TV was the royal family of Spain; King Phillippi the 6th with Queen Letzia and daughters Leonor and Sonja. They took their seats in a special viewing station on the parade route.

The opening highlight of the ceremony was when a paratrooper leaped from a military plane. He parachuted down with a giant spanish flag. It was a beautiful sight … the paratrooper flowing through the air with the Spanish flag until …. splat — he collided with a street lamp. The crowd gasped as did everyone at Meson Rural.

That poor man! They showed him and the flag tangled. He struggled to pull a tool or knife from his gear to free himself. But was unable to do so. The stoic King and Queen did not lose composure. They smiled and clapped politely. I wanted to laugh really hard but I didn’t know who was around me and how they might react.

The paratrooper remained hanging from the light post. The ceremonial ground troops found another giant flag, unfurled it and the show went on. They marched down the street carrying the giant flag that the king would ceremoniously raise on a flagpole. We later saw on an internet news posting that they brought in a cherry picker to get the paratrooper untangled from the street lamp.

After the flag was raised all of the military was on display. The airplanes, the helicopters, the tanks. There was even a military boat on a trailer with it’s crew in place and ready for action. The part we enjoyed the most was when the Guardian Civil rolled through. They had a police dog riding front and center on their vehicle in a place of honor.

What an honor for this police dog to have such a prominent place in the parade.

Eventually, the bar staff shut the TV off and started playing music. Time for us to return to the albuergue.

First Pilgrim to Arrive Today: Marcia from Salavador, Brazil.

Pilgrim dog had to carry his own supply of dog food.

This is Diego from Matzalan, Mexico who obtained the beet from an English speaking farmer. Diego is a doctor and analyzed Terry’s ankle. Because the pain is still persisting and its coming from the inside of her ankle, there is a possibility of a fracture or break. There is nothing more to do but rest, ice, elevate and have it looked at when she gets home.

Three chicas with matching headbands are from Mexico: Graciella, Alexandra and Dulce (Sugar).

Melissa, Jose, Diego and Quique from various parts of Spain. Very tired and hungry from a long trek today.

It was a slow Saturday. Less than 30 pilgrims staying at the Albuergue. We retreated to the cottage early. Tonight’s gourmet dinner was a concoction of mashed potatoes, sausage and cheese.

It’s a joy to relax at the table with no worries and to gaze out the window at the green pasture, the rapidly moving river and just ponder whatever comes to mind.

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Ribadiso: A Trip to Melide

Ribadiso Albuergue

11 October 2019

It’s Friday morning and we leave next Tuesday. Our time in Ribadiso is running out. This morning we are going to visit the little town of Melide which is about six miles away. We had stayed in Melide three years ago when we walked Camino Frances.

Two camino routes meet in Melide, camino Primativo — the oldest route and Camino Frances — the busiest route. The two routes become one to Santiago. Tourism from the two routes plays a major role in the economy of Melide alongside more traditional agricultural activities.

This town square features a statue of Mary with a beautiful blue sky background.

The streets of Melide are very broken up and hard to follow. The square in the above photo is bordered by the church of San Pedro (Saint Peter). We visited this church three years ago when we were walking Camino Frances. The church is from the 1400s and has many interesting features.

… Naked baby Jesus behind bars is one of our favorites.

This is the burial site of Alfonso Vazquez de Insua from the year 1415. We’re guessing he was a knight and fought in some major battles of his time. There was some verbiage but it was in Galician and google couldn’t translate it.

Sun shining through the stain-glass embellished doors of the church.

Back on the streets of Melide we came across a mural of the camino. I think the pilgrim in the mural must be dreaming of reaching his destination of bread, cheese and eggs. Above the mural is a horreo — The grain storage unit that has become ornamental throughout Galicia.

We walked through a wine shop that also had a very large display of antique seltzer bottles.

We needed to return to Ribadiso by 1:00 pm and many restaurants don’t open till then. We found chicken wings and chicken strips for lunch. We’d catch up on the vegetables at dinner time.

Time to head back to the albuergue. Pilgrims would be arriving soon.

Pilgrim of the Day: Loy from Manila, Philippines — Loy was meeting her Japanese friends at the Albuergue and it was a happy reunion.

Cutest Couple: Terri and Jim from Boise Idaho. We saw these people every where we went and it was always fun running in to them. They started in Sarria which is 100k (62 miles) away and were looking forward to finishing in Santiago in two days.

Loveable Local: Diana — Diana is the first waitress we met at Meson Rural. She speaks a little English and always greets us with a smile. She lives in Melide and works full time at Meson Rural.

Friday was a slow day in Ribadiso. I took time to put my feet in the Rio Iso like all the pilgrims do. This spring fed river is Lake Superior cold, but it does feel good on the feet.

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Ribadiso: Many Visitors Today

Ribadiso Albuergue

10 October 2019

It’s another beautiful day in Ribadiso. It has been an amazing experience to be staying in this beautiful countryside with a babbling brook flowing under a 6th century Roman bridge that leads to our 16th century accommodations. I feel so fortunate to experience this in addition to having the opportunity to meet and greet people from all over the world.

The Rio Iso flows under the 6th century Roman bridge.

Today we have a special guest. It is Annie, our American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) contact person. Annie is an American who now lives in Santiago with her husband and five cats. She is fluent in Spanish and has served in various capacities for the APOC organization. Annie was one of the leaders at the Hospitalero training Terry and I attended two years ago in the Twins Cities.

Annie is working with the Galician government to help oversee the pilot program at the Ribadiso Albuergue that allows Americans to work as volunteers. According to Annie, there are many pilgrims from a number of countries who do not speak Spanish as a first language or in general. They found it helpful to have English speakers assisting to welcome these pilgrims. In addition, it has been challenging to find Spaniards willing to volunteer. Volunteerism is not a strong part of the culture here as it is in the United States. In fact, there were so many American’s who volunteered for Ribadiso that they are considering starting the program at a second albuergue location.

Being a cat lover, I enjoyed hearing the saga of Annie’s cats. She started out with three. Living in Baltimore, she came across a mother and kitten living outside a grocery store. Not a great neighborhood and she feared for the cats’ safety. She planned to find them a home after taking them to the vet for shots and to be spayed. After performing the services, the vet announced that they were feral cats and she best take them back to where she found them. No one would want feral cats. Well Annie did, especially after investing money in their care. She packed up all five cats and flew them to Spain through an animal transport service. The cats had a layover in Frankfurt, Germany and stayed overnight at an animal hotel. The next day they flew to Santiago and a local vet picked them up and kept them until Annie and her husband arrived. What a kind hearted woman!

Annie also connected with Albuerguesa Ana when she came to visit us. Afterward the three of us went next door to Meson Rural for lunch.

Annie has been connected with the Ribadiso albuergue for several years. She has been a volunteer hospitalera here a few times. Part of her current role is to connect with the Albuerguesa and make sure the program and accommodations are in order. She helps maintain a good relationship with Galician government and workers.

First pilgrim to arrive Today: Dragon from Toronto, Canada. He said his name is Serbian. Dragon and his daughter were walking the camino together.

This is Hai from Israel. She said her name is pronounced ‘shy’ and she made good time from Palais de Rey this morning. It was a very warm afternoon and the first thing she did after registering and unloading her gear, was hop in the river and lay down. Second thing on her “to do” list was to get a beer from Meson Rural next door.

Pilgrim of the Day: Jeff from EDINA MINNESOTA!!! It was very exciting to cross paths with someone who lived so close to us in Minnesota. To top that … he graduated from the same high school as me — HILL MURRAY. However, we did not attend at the same time, he is a bit younger than me. As soon as he arrived at the albuergue, he sat down on the ground and settled in for a good long chit chat. Prior to starting the camino, he had a very challenging 18-months with lots of life changes. For him, the camino was a time of contemplation. He started in St. John Pied-de-Port which is the long 500 mile route.

This is Margaret from Beijing, China. She works in marketing for Price Waterhouse in Beijing. She was tired of her job and decided to quit so she could walk the Camino. Her boss gave her four months unpaid leave and she does have a job to go back to.

Margaret has original artwork in her stamp credential. An artist outside of Tricastella offered to paint his mark in her book.

When I returned to the albuergue, I found this artist sketching the Roman bridge.

This is the path I walk several times a day. It leads to the modern shower houses and a right turn goes to our Cottage. Beyond the clotheslines are cornfields that have just been harvested and plowed under.

This is a view of the horreo with the cottage tucked behind it on the left. The river is left of the cottage. Horreos are common in Galicia. They were for storing for grain and built off the ground for rodent prevention. Today they are mostly ornamental.

Yesterday, Terry returned to find Alfonso’s cows grazing in the back yard. The walked through the river to get to our side. Terry told Maricarmen and she came with her broom to sweep them away. These bovines are really big animals.

Here, the bovines peacefully graze on their side of the Rio Iso.

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Ribadiso: Sunshine after a Rainy Day

Ribidiso Albuergue

9 October 2019

It’s Wednesday in Ribadiso! The sun is out and it’s warm compared to yesterday when it rained and was cold. When the sun is shining there is more pilgrim traffic.

First Pilgrim to Arrive Today: Bradley from Virginia. He’s familiar with the Midwest because he went to grad school in Madison. He has walked six caminos– the Ingles, the Norte, Primativo, Portuguesa and Frances twice.

Pilgrim of the Day: Girard from Montreal — “Call me Jerry,” he says with a thick French accent. This guy is a gem! Very fun to be around. After telling him there was no Mercado in Ribadiso he was going to walk 1-1/2 miles uphill to get some bread in Arzua. We offered to give him some of our bread. It was day old — to make it look better I put a ribbon on the bag. He was napping in the dorm when I dropped it off so I gently left it on his stomach.

Terry’s Bench also helps with travel arrangements. This gent from the United Kingdom was going to walk the Frances with a friend and his son. The wife became seriously ill and the friend and son cancelled at the last minute. He decided to walk it alone. He made it this far with no problems but needed help making arrangements to stay in Santiago.

Loveable Local: Maricarmen — Maricarmen is Galician and lives nearby in Arzua. She works for the Galician government as an Albuerguesa at our municipal albuergue. She alternates days with Ana, the other Albuerguesa. She speaks a few words in English but most of the time it’s “no comprende.” Her husband is a baker. She often brings us bread, eggs and tomatoes from their garden.

Cutest Couple: Simone and Mattis from Hamburg Germany — Simone had worked as a volunteer hospitalera (like Terry and I are doing now) at an albuergue in Ponferrada. Her son Mattis wanted to see where she worked and he wanted to walk the Camino. He is on fall break from school so they have two weeks to walk from Sarria to Santiago. Simone’s husband stayed home with the younger children. They had already visited the albuergue in Ponferrada and Mattis got to see where his mother worked and what she did. This kid was having a great time at our Albuergue — he was in and out of the river, playing with dogs and interacting with the other pilgrims. Bueno!

Bathrobe Bob from San Diego stopped by on his way to Arzua. He is wearing a bathrobe with a sarong underneath.

Jesus from Madrid roasting chestnuts in the Pilgrims’ kitchen. He probably gathered them on his way. As we discovered when walking Camino Ingles, Chestnuts are plentiful in Galicia.

Another French Canadian: I welcomed the dude in the red shirt in the late afternoon. He said he was from Quebec. I introduced him to Girard from Montreal. There was a burst of French verbiage, smiles and pats on the back … oui oui new friends!

Girard from Montreal gave a harmonica concert from the 6th century bridge this evening. It was lovely. (Unfortunately I cannot post videos on this blog.)

Day is pretty much done when Alfonso the farmer returns with his cows which is usually around 8:00 pm.

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