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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Moving on! Next stop is Hontanas which is named for the numerous springs and abundant water in the area. Buen Camino!!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Burgos is a small historical city with a very large Cathedral and a beautiful river walk that leads you to the city gates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This Tuesday in Arzua is Féria! It happens on the 8th and 22nd of each month. It’s kind of a festival market. Our American Pilgrims on the Camino contact person, Annie who is an American who lives in Santiago, said we should go and experience it because it’s part of the Spanish culture. And so we did. We took a cab into Azura and had the driver drop us at the Féria.
It was a rainy day but the Féria goes on. It takes place from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm. It was huge and far bigger and much more than I anticipated. There were countless vendors who sell housewares …
… lots of clothing …
… hardware …
… underwear …
… plants …
… cheese …
… many types of salted fish …
… Meat …
… really good bread …
… fruits and vegetables …
… hooves …
… this is a bit gross for me. I don’t think it’s a Halloween mask … and there is so much more that can be found at the Féria. I think this is where the locals do much of their shopping. Whether they need a winter jacket, a frying pan, a rake or whatever. There are no big department stores near here. I was told that the vendors move from town to town and it’s a regular schedule for them.
There is a covered area with tables and benches where they serve lunch. We had some pulpo (octopus) and wine. The wine comes in a pitcher and you drink it from a bowl … that is the traditional way of drinking this particular kind of wine.
They also serve charcuterie which is an assortment of grilled meat. The ribs were awesome. We took a lot of leftovers home with us. The cost was far less expensive than if we had eaten in a restaurant and the quality was exceptional.
This is the grill they cook the charcuterie on. Needless to say, we filled up on protein and wine … it was so hard to stay awake in the afternoon.
The First Pilgrim Today is Ken from Taiwan. It was rainy and cold so I hung out in the Albuergue’s pilgrim’s kitchen for awhile. Ken was making rice.
Pilgrim of the Day: Marie from Stockholm, Sweden — Marie is a retired flight attendant from SAS (Scandinavian Airlines). She’s flown internationally and everywhere else. She lives in Valencia, Spain in a house her mother owns. This is her first camino and she is in no hurry and will be taking her time to finish.
Around 5:00 pm, Terry and I headed for our cottage. The heavy meat filled lunch had done us in. We both zonked out and had a nice nap. We skipped dinner. Around 7:30 I went over to Meson Rural to do some blogging. A woman asked if she could sit at my table. Of course I welcomed this pilgrim to join me.
It was Helen from Ireland and she was charming and blessed with the gift to gab. I knew there would be no blogging so I folded up my iPad and listened. She had been walking alone so I understand she may have needed to connect with someone. We talked about so many things such as Fungi the Dingle Dolphin. I told her how David and I traveled around Ireland in the late 80s and how I liked the Dingle peninsula and the Dingle Dolphin who I assumed would no longer be around. She assured me that Fungi the Dingle Dolphin is still alive but very old. He’s not as active but he is still entertaining visitors. We talked a lot about Northern Ireland.
It was fascinating to hear Helen’s take on the Catholic Church today. She said they are the McDonalds for Catholics and only interested in their numbers and income. She also told me about the smoke test they do on new housing in Ireland to test how well a house is sealed. They fill the house with some type of harmless smoke. The inspector stands outside and watches to see if it seeps out. The house is then rated. The conversation went on and on. I finally excused myself and headed back to the cottage. Helen stayed around for last call which takes place around 9:15 pm.
Around 10:00 am, little Chisco, who thinks he’s a herd dog helps farmer Alfonso escort the cows to their pasture.
The singing pilgrim stops for a song and then he’s back on the Camino again.
At Meson Rural, there are three copper vats that hang over the bar. We have seen these elsewhere and wondered if this was some type of micro-brewery set up. Well, today we saw how it all works.
David, the Estrella Galicia beer man arrives.
He brings his ladder in and inspects the vat. Then he opens it and cleans off the inside and the outside.
Then he brings in a hose and attaches it to the vat.
The hose is connected to an Estella Galicia truck parked outside the bar.
It’s kind of like a fire truck but it’s filled with beer. He fills the empty vats. There is a nitrous oxide tank hooked up to the spigot where the beer is poured from. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of system in Minnesota. Seems like an economical way to provide beer as opposed to kegs.
Pilgrim of the Day: Dieter from South Africa — He’s 80 years old and walking the camino with his son Robert. He was born in Germany and recalls living there when he was five years old and the war was on. They sent the women and children to live in the countryside in case the city was bombed. Years later as an adult, he went back to find the women who had sheltered him during the war to thank them. He lives in south Madagascar and loves living there.
Cutest Couple: Evan and Blanca — Evan is from Switzerland and Blanca is from Mexico. They live in Switzerland. They enjoyed walking Camino Frances and love Spain as well as the ambiance of the Ribadiso albuergue.
Strangest Coincidence! We started talking to a group from Michigan passing by the albuergue entrance. Somehow Terry made a connection with the man (in the above photo) wearing a blue shirt and cupping a cell phone to his ear. He was from the same small town as her co-worker Sharon. Terry gave Sharon a quick call to see if she knew this man and sure enough she did … it was her brother’s best friend and she hadn’t seen him in decades. Terry ran next door to the Meson Rural where the Michigan group was on the terrace having a beer. She connected Sharon and John by cell phone. It was a nice reunion. It’s a small world.
Sunday is another gentle day at the albuergue. It’s a beautiful sunny morning. It’s going to be very warm.
Not sure if this horse rider is a pilgrim or a local. Pilgrim’s riding horses have a different route and they need to stay at places that can accommodate the care of their horse.
First Pilgrim of the Day: Tomas from Belgium
Cutest Couple: King Richard and Queen Ingrid — Looking at the photo, one would think this couple has been married for years. Not so, they met on the camino and have known each other for 13 days. They are so compatible and have a remarkable sense of humor. Richard is from England and Ingrid is from Denmark and they call themselves King and Queen. As they were leaving, Ingrid said to Richard, “tell them why you are following me”. His response was, “I can’t say that in front of the ladies.” There was laughter and she replied … “he follows me because I know the way.”
Loveable Local: Bernadette: Farmer Alfonso walks his gals to the pasture everyday. Bernadette is an independent thinker. On the way to the pasture, she will stop by the Pension and inspect the parking lot. When she feels like it she will return to her peeps and continue on to the pasture.
Therapy bench was busy today.
It just takes one to get the party started here.
Then a couple more take the plunge.
Before you know it, everyone is in the water. Most of these people are from different countries and are camino acquaintances. Later that evening I saw many of them again at Meson Rural. They wanted to have dinner together and the party continued.
• First Pilgrim to Arrive at the Albuergue was from Malaga Spain. Most pilgrims start in Palais de Rey which is 20K (about 18 miles). Those arriving around 1:00 pm are fast walkers or else they leave early in the morning when it is dark.
• Pilgrim of the Day: Diego who originally came from Columbia but is now living in Florida. He is retired from the United States military. This man spent a lot of time on Terry’s therapy bench. A while back he lost everything in a hurricane and said the services offered by FEMA were fabulous and exceeded his expectations. He and his wife live a fairly simple life so it was easy to get back on his feet again with the help from FEMA. We are guessing that it was probably a few presidents ago. Over the years he has walked four caminos: the Primativo, Norte and Frances twice.
Cutest Couple: Viva and John from Canada. To celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary they are walking Camino Frances in 40 days.
Lovable Local: Ana is one of the Albuerguesa’s at our albuergue and she lives nearby. She is very professional and always has a smile on her face. I’m sure if we spoke better Spanish, there would be a lot we could talk about. We do manage to communicate and laugh at things but it is challenging.
Word of the Day: Rosquillas pronounced Ohs-Key-Yas. They are Spanish doughnuts. At first I thought these were some kind of cookie. They kind of have a shortbread texture with a light glaze. I did not know what these were when I first bought a bag from some people selling them at a table outside of a church near A Calle. That should have been a clue. At home, churches usually serve donuts after services. Nope, I just assumed they were cookies. The second time, I found them at an outdoor market in Azura.
After finding Rosquillas at an outdoor market in Azura, I finally looked up the word and was somewhat surprised to discover that I had been eating doughnuts … something I would normally pass up at home.
Saturday is a slow Day at the Albuergue. Most people arrive to start their camino in Sarria or further out on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Those starting in Sarria will reach Ribadiso on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Also, the weather is starting to feel a little cooler here. More cloudy mornings with light rain. It’s the beginning of fall and the lighter season on Camino with not as many walkers.
The albuergue is usually bustling with energy but now with cooler weather and rain, it is beginning to slow down a bit.
Terry and I went into Azura to grocery shop today. At the Froize grocery store we noticed that they sell alcohol-free Clown champagne.
And here is a local favorite, the Gigante Verde with white asparagus which is next to impossible to find at home.
We wanted to get a little more exotic with this week’s menu. But not as exotic as the seafood shown above. This week we opted for shrimp, swine hocks, sausage, pasta, rice and the usual eggs, bacon, cheese, etc. I wanted to find sauerkraut to go with the swine hocks but that word does not translate. The best I could do was to find a small cabbage.
Here is the end result of the swine hocks experiment. It tasted a little bit like corned beef. We used the leftovers to make soup for the next day.
The cab ride home from Azura is a beautiful one. Ribadiso sits is in a deep valley surrounded by scenic hillsides with farms and corn fields.
After dinner tonight, I took a walk up the hill in the opposite direction of Azura. It is a very steep hill. Mostly farm land and corn fields. In fact, the albuergue is surrounded by corn fields.
I’m not sure what this building is but the sign translates as “Sale of Imported Heifers” and I have seen Holstein cows hanging around.
At the top of the hill is Bar Manuel. I thinks its only open during the day and they serve bocadillos and tortillas. They probably get a lot of business from the hundreds of pilgrims who walk by daily. During the winter months it must be a challenge to eek out a living when there are so few pilgrims walking.
Back down the hill to Ribadiso. Our municipal albuergue is just across the bridge. I’m enjoying the peace and serenity of being in farm country and being surrounded with beauty of nature.