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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The most spectacular views in Mallorca are found on the North coast in the mountains in the Serra de Tramuntana.
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
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
The Serra de Tramuntana mountains plummet dramatically into the Mediterranean. The tiny coastal village of Sa Calobra has two beaches trapped between spectacular cliffs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The monestary now facilitates the museum of Leon and is also a 5-star Parador. *mobi.parador.es
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 town had lots of interesting artwork.
Sahagun was a delightful little town … glad that we didn’t skip it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many options were offered in addition to beds. There were cute little Casetas (cabin) for two.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
By the time I reached Fromista, I was thoroughly drenched and full of mud. Time for coffee.
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 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.
There are three churches in Fromista. This is the church of San Pedro.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!