Holy Thursday in Madrid

3 APRIL 2018

Adventures in Plaza Mayor and the Market

We started the day around 10:00 am with a walk down to Plaza Mayor to the San Miguel market.

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Veronica and Andrea joined us today. They are from Mexico but lived in San Diego for many years. Andrea is a friend of Ellen’s daughter Carly and she is now studying in Madrid. Her mother Veronica moved to Spain to be with her for the two years that she will be in school here. We were all going to do breakfast at the market.

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A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to the Market

Lots of activity in the market place as the five of us strolled and chatted. There were a few people selling thing at tables around the square. I wandered over to see what was there. Low and behold, I found a table full of bottle caps!

As many of you know, I collect bottle caps. This is a table I made a few years ago.

 

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European Bottle Caps

I started digging through a large bin of bottle caps and I was escatic thinking I might be able to buy a few European bottle caps for my collection. Ellen came over and translated for me. The man said I could have the ENTIRE bin of bottle caps for 20E. My mind was racing with excitement. I offered to swap some of my American bottle caps and a trade deal was made.  Before I knew it, he was bagging up the bottle caps for me. It took a few text messages and I was able to arrange for David to bag up a shoebox full of my bottle caps and for Terry to carry them. She would arrive on Monday and Veronica offered to deliver my bottle caps to the man whose name was Jose. He was very excited to add American bottle caps to his collection. How crazy is this??

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Time for an Octopus Empanada

We continued chatting and walking to the San Miguel Market. It is not a traditional market but a gourmet tapa market with over 30 vendors selling a wide variety of freshly prepared tapas, hams, olives, baked goods and other foods. Beer, wine champagne and specialty drinks.

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The San Miguel market had a Mozzarella Bar.

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The Mozzarella bar had beautiful tapas that looked more like dessert than cheese.

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We love the olives here.

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This homely guy is a monkfish. Not sure how it is served. Don’t think I’ll try that one.


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Very colorful tropical drinks.

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Galician sea urchins. I’m sure they are delicious but I’ll pass.

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As Sponge Bob would say, “Oh barnacles!”. They are edible.

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And, speaking of Sponge Bob, these crabby patties look good.

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And my favorite … octopus empanadas! Yum!

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We managed to grab a table and brought our favorite tapas back to share.

Back To The Hotel

After the market, we went back to the Hostal Persal for a siesta. Our rooms are the balconies with the big wooden figures.
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Holy Thursday Processions

We went to a Holy Thursday procession which was suppose to start at 7:00 pm. We arrived on time but waited another two hours. Big crowds!

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The penitents wore gowns and caps that resembled attire worn by the KKK. We haven’t figured out the connection yet but it’s sad that the KKK stole the look from the Spanish Holy Week fraternities and because of that, we Americans associate it with evil.


These penitents carried tall orange candles. It was a windy evening so they had a hard time keeping them lit.


More penitents. They were wearing white gowns that have a green tint caused by a nearby pharmacy light.

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This penitent is carrying a horn. We never heard it but assumed it was used at some point of the procession.


This float depicted Jesus carrying his cross. There were about 20 people hidden under the float who were carrying it.


The clergy walked with the procession.

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This is the highlight of the parade. People were screaming out, “Macarena” and “guapa”. According to Wikipedia, “La Macarena is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a pious 17th century wooden image of the Blessed Virgin venerated in Seville. The Marian title falls under the category of Our Lady of Sorrows commemorating the desolate grievance and piety of the Virgin Mary during Holy Week.”

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The back of the Macarena had a cape that went down to the street.

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A very large marching band was at the end of the procession.

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Dinner at LaConcha

After the parade, we wandered to a restaurant called LaConcha which had been recommended by a couple from Seattle that we chatted with while waiting for the parade to start. In Spain, most of the restaurants don’t start serving dinner until 9:00. We found the restaurant which entered into a small bar filled with people who had been watching the nearby procession.

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A waitress told us it would be only a few minutes until we could be seated. We found this surprising. Eventually, she led us to the small basement, which had a few tables. We were delighted by the quality of the food served.

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After sharing several tapas, we thought we better order a salad. We just picked one without really knowing what it would be. This little stacked version of a Caprese salad made us laugh. It was meant for one person but we split it four ways and we each got a bite or two. Not a whole lotta lettuce in it.

Surprise! Another Procession

As we were finishing up dinner, we heard loud drumming. To our surprise, another procession was coming down the street. It was about 11:30 pm.


This group started with penitents wearing purple attire.


There were several women dressed in black wearing the traditional Spanish comb at the top of their head and it was covered with a very long lace mantilla.

There are also children penitents.


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The Jesus float always comes first. These streets are very narrow and they had a hard time getting the float around the corner.

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There were a few marching bands in this procession. This one had over 100 people of all ages.

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The Macarena float comes next.

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There were about 30 people in front of the float and 30 people behind the float holding it up with long wooden carriers.

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Another marching band ended the procession.

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It was now well after midnight. We started walking back to the hotel. Got lost. Jumped on the subway. Found Puerto del Sol. As we were walking to our hotel, we heard drums again. It was 1:30 am and another procession was starting. It was tempting to go follow it but we were so tired. We kept walking to the hotel. What a long day!

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Touchdown in Spain

1 APRIL 2018

After flying all night, Diane and I arrived in Madrid via Iberia airlines on Wednesday morning around 7:00 am. It was so exciting to be back in Spain. We made our way to the hotel, checked-in and headed to Atocha train station. There was a giant atrium in the middle of the station. At one end of the atrium was a turtle pond. Turtles crawling everywhere.

We got in a line to purchase Renfe train tickets to Toledo which is about a half-hour train ride away. We had told Ellen we’d arrive around 11:30 am. There were a half dozen people in front of us and it took forever. The line crawled. Maybe the atrium turtles were their mascots. If not, maybe they should be. We couldn’t imagine how they could be so slow using a computer. Finally, we reached the head of the line and we were told all the trains were full until the 2:00 pm departure. We left and maneuvered our jet lagged selves to the ALSA station and quickly hopped a bus to Toledo.

We tried to meet Ellen at the Cathedral front door which was a vague place to meet. All the doors looked like the front entrance. We kept circling and Ellen kept circling. We eventually did connect somehow.

Found a nice outdoor cafe for a mid-afternoon beer and some tapas.

A trio of ministrals serenaded the patrons at the restaurant.

After lunch we did some touring. We visited the school Ellen attended many years ago in college.

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Her class picture still hangs on the wall. She’s the one in the upper left corner.

Plaza Zocodover was a great stop for people watching and beverages. Diane had a mojito and I had a “jar” of sangria.

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We discovered several marzipan shops in Zocodover. This is Spain’s marzipan haven. One shop had a model of a cathedral made out of marzipan.

We took a train tour around the outskirts of town.

Saw some spectacular views.


Time to head back to Madrid. As we were leaving Toledo, we were told there would be Holy Week processions starting at 9:00 pm and they would wind through the town until about 3:00 am. It was tempting to stay, but we were so tired we decided to call it quits. We took the ALSA back to Madrid. Less than an hour later we were in Madrid and the restaurants were just starting to open at 9:00 pm. We ended the evening with Paella.


2018 Walking Camino Finisterre  

26 MARCH 2018

 

Preparing for Spain and Camino Finisterre 2018

When Terry and I went on our Camino adventure in 2017, we spent countless hours figuring out what to bring. The trick was getting it to fit in a backpack and keep it at a reasonable weight. I revised the pack list many times which meant a lot of packing and unpacking to find the right combination of clothes and necessities. This time, it was so much easier … I brought the same gear as last time minus a few items that I thought I could do without.  I didn’t need to buy anything new and left home with a backpack that weighed 22 lbs. This may sound like a lot but my Deuter backpack, which is 50 + 10 liters, weighs 7-lbs with nothing in it. And I wouldn’t trade it for a lighter model. It is a very well designed backpack for comfort and for organizing gear. The space I use for the Camino is less than 50 liters and I’m able to fit it all inside the backpack without having anything hanging or attached to the outside.  I like the versatility of having a larger pack for other trips that I might take.

Meet My Travel Companions


Diane: We have been friends for a lifetime. We’ve known each other since second grade. Diane was a Kindergarten teacher for over 25 years. We flew to Spain together last Tuesday and navigated the subways and train into Madrid. We’ve been in Spain for two days but it seems like a week has gone by already. This will be Diane’s first experience walking the Camino.



Ellen: We are longtime friends and used to live on the same block for many years. Ellen married my husband David’s brother Jon last summer and now we are sister-in-laws. Ellen has been a Spanish teacher for many years. Diane and I planned to connect with Ellen in Toledo. Prior to Toledo, Ellen was in Barcelona with a friend from England. She is on spring break from work and will head home on the day after Easter, so she wont be walking the Camino with us this time.

Peggy: We are longtime friends. Many years ago in our college era, Peggy was a waitress at a West Bank bar called Caesars which is where my now husband David was a bartender. We became camping friends and eventually became co-founders of the annual Flamingo Cup, a croquet tournament that has been running non-stop for 33 years.  She is arriving in Madrid today and is currently lost at the Renfe train  station halfway between the airport and our hotel. Peggy is a science teacher and like Ellen is on Spring break. She will be walking part of the Camino with us. Peggy found her way and just arrived at the hotel. This will be Peggy’s first experience on the Camino.



Terry:  Or should I say Theresa? She is my longtime friend and Camino walking partner from last year’s adventure which is when she became Theresa. Interesting story how that happened. We were walking into a village on a rural road and I pointed out a downpour of rain on the horizon. As she looked at it, she took a tumble and her backpack flipped her. A very nice Italian man came running up to rescue her.  He helped her up from the ground and escorted her into the village. He asked her name and she said, Terry.  His response was, “Terry, that is a man’s name. You should be Theresa.” She said the way he rolled the name Theresa off the tongue was so beautiful. She decided that she wanted to reclaim her given birth name and now goes by Theresa. However, old habits are hard to break and I still call her Terry most of the time. Theresa is a business administrator for a church and will be joining us in Madrid the day after Easter which is when Ellen leaves. They will be passing each other in the air. Terry will walk the Camino Finisterre with Diane, Peggy and me.

The Superior Hikers: We will be hiking in spirit with the Superior Hikers Robin and Kevin. Diane and I met them at REI last year in the boot department. They are from the Superior, Wisconsin area and we’ve stayed connected through internet and also crossed paths in Duluth a couple times. They are hiking Camino Frances — the same 500 mile trail Terry and I did last year.  They are starting in St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France and will be joined by their spouses about 440 miles later in Sarria. The four will walk to Santiago. Robin and Kevin started their adventure on the same day as Diane and I did.


The Rain In Spain:
 We’ve been watching the weather in Spain for about two months now. It has rained a lot in Finisterre and Muxia. The forecast for next week in Muxia is rain every day with lightning and thunder on our first walking day. I have doubled down on rain gear this trip. We’ll see how well it holds up and how well we hold up. Buen Camino!

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 Reflections on Walking Camino Frances

25 March 2018

YAY! I’m finished!

Not only did I finish the Camino Frances last May, but I just finished it’s blog today. When I returned to reality last June, my life became very full, quickly. Finding time to complete the last few posts was not the highest priority on my list until now. It’s been almost a year since Terry and I took on the Camino Frances. This is the last post and it has my reflections about our adventure on Camino Frances.

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An Oasis of Serenity

At the beginning, I anticipated many things but this experience has been far greater than I could have imagined. It’s mind boggling to recall all the villages we walked through, the places we stayed, the things we saw and especially meaningful were the people we met.

It was such a joy to be removed from the day-to-day political drama that smothers us in the United States. Sometimes, it seems like the world is full of cheaters, liars, atrocities, battles, bombs, guns, poverty and all forms of negativity. The Camino was a respite from media, television, newspapers and other carriers of negativity. It was an oasis of serenity.  Utopia. We were immediately surrounded by a global community bonded by the common goal of walking to Santiago. This community restored my faith in humanity.

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Walking with the World

One of my main objectives was to meet the world. And I did. The number of countries represented by those walking the Camino is astounding. Americans comprise about 10% of the people who walk the Camino. We are fortunate that there are so many who speak conversational English. I have not only walked with the world, but I have shared meals, happy hours, dorm rooms, bunk beds, tables and church pews with them. There were many genuine, caring people who became our camino family. Not just the ones walking the path but also the locals who extended hospitality to so many strangers like us. You can walk alone but you are never alone on the Camino.

 

 

The Ups and Downs

The first segment to Orrison had the steepest incline of the whole route. Hiking through the Pyrenees was strenuous but the beautiful mountains and scenic view diluted the physical agony we experienced.  I could hardly move by the time we reached Roncevalle and there we breathed a sigh of relief  …  we thought the worst was behind us. We were so wrong! The camino is full of steep hills and valleys. Going down hill was more difficult than going up hill. We had a few techniques for the steep areas. Sometimes we would take 25 steps and rest. Then take another 25 steps and rest again. Slowly but surely, we always reached our destination.

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As The Crow Flies

We made a hotel reservation in Pamplona and were giddy about reaching this destination. By the time we got to our hotel, it was dark. Several locals saw us hobbling down the street and took pity on us.

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They guided us to our hotel. By this time our feet were raging, we were totally exhausted and we had no clean clothes. After all was said and done, we figured we had walked about 25 miles that day. How could we have miscalculated the mileage by so much? We came to the realization that the miles in guidebook were calculated “as the crow flies”. Crows don’t fly up and down hills, they fly straight over them. We took a day off to rest, recover and do laundry. We had to wear our “pajamas” out to breakfast and to the laundry service. After a day of restoration we decided we needed shorter walk days. We recalculated our daily destinations to accommodate the hills.  On occasion we would cross paths with exhausted pilgrims who were swearing at the guidebook because the miles were not accurate. And we know why.

The Pharmacist is Our Friend

In Pamplona, my feet were so tender and blistered that I couldn’t wear my crocs because the textured insole was painful. Terry and I hobbled over to the Pharmacy (in our pajamas) and I showed my feet to the pharmacist. He gave me an amazing ointment and showed me how to bandage my feet. In Spain, the pharmacist has a more advanced role and helps solve minor medical problems. The pharmacies were usually busy places with several customers. We came to the conclusion, that in Spain, people don’t go to the doctor for every little thing, they go to the pharmacists who are knowledgeable and helpful. What a cost savings to their medical system. Some of the remedies that they are able to provide, you would need a prescription for in the United States. For travelers like us, we came to depend on the pharmacists. Whether it was an upset stomach, a skin rash or knee pain, they knew what to do. And I knew what to do about my tender feet. I bought a pair of sketchers and mailed my crocs home. My feet are still thanking me today.

A Needy Knee

Toward the end of our days on the camino, I slowed down. To be expected after walking several hundred miles on old Roman roads. But it became very annoying when people started coming up to me and asking, “how much pain are you in?” or they would say, “you got a bad knee? or how’s your knee doing?” I had NO pain in my knee, however, it was stiff and I didn’t realize how limited my movement had become. After we returned home I went through a series of physical therapy sessions which helped some but I still had limited movement. In October, I had a swollen knee and it was painful. I ended up at Twin City Orthopedics urgent care. X-rays were taken and the surgeon was astounded to see how bad my knee was. He was very blunt … “you don’t need an MRI, you need a new knee.” A couple days later, my knee pain flared up again. A second surgeon concurred with the first.  I had my knee replaced in December. In hindsight, I feel so fortunate that I was able to make it through the camino with minimal knee issues.

Catholics Here and There

Another observation made is the very noticeable difference between the Catholic Church in the United States and the one in Spain. At many churches here, usually the first thing you notice is a large crucifix with a corpus prominently displayed front and center. Not so in many of the rural and village churches we visited there. The blessed Virgin Mary takes a lead role in these faith communities.

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In a few towns, we were fortunate enough to experience feast day processions where everybody in the town comes out to celebrate and participate. There is nothing like good old Catholic ritual whether it’s in Spain or in the United States. In Astorga, the community got up early on a Saturday morning and brought out the flags, banners, and marching band to escort their Mary statue several miles away to the next town where there would be a big festival that evening. They returned after celebrations on Sunday. It was quite an experience to witness this.

 

We also observed that in some churches, the staffs were small and oftentimes the pastor took on many rolls. In Pamplona, we stopped at the Church of San Fermin, who is the patron saint of Running of the Bulls, on a Saturday evening just before a wedding was to take place. We took a quick look at the church and left to find dinner. Later we passed the church again when walking to the hotel. The wedding was over and the guests were gone. The priest, whom we had chatted with earlier,  was sweeping confetti and remnants of the wedding out to the street. I don’t think you would see that in many of our churches. At another church, the priest was playing a guitar and singing with a group of children. He was teaching them a song. It was a very charming scenario that looked like it came from an old Bing Crosby movie.

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In Spain, the church is intertwined with the culture and community life. There is no separation of church and state. Like elsewhere, church attendance is down in Spain too. To compensate for the loss, many of the larger more spectacular churches, cathedrals and basilica’s charge visitors like us a small admission fee which we gladly paid to view or tour the facilities. There is beautiful architecture, artwork, stained glass, cloisters and gardens to be seen.  For those who wish to worship, there usually was a chapel reserved for worship only which was separate from the tourist area. I think the churches stay open because the government subsidizes them, tourists support them and they have small staffs. I wonder if anyone in Spain has ever had to experience their church being closed, torn down and replaced by condos like I have.

Octopus Here and There

Prior to walking the Camino, I had no awareness or interest in Octopus. It was not on my radar. If I had seen it on a menu, I probably would have ignored it. While in Spain, we were introduced to some of the finest Octopus ever. There are Pulperias everywhere. They are beer-hall style restaurants  that  mainly serve Octopus and potatoes seasoned with a smoky paprika. Dessert is usually Manchego cheese with quince jam. We developed a taste for it.

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After walking the camino, Terry, David and I took a bus to Finisterre. Walking around the town we happened upon a quaint little fishing museum in Castillo de San Carlos. The guide was a retired fisherman and snorkeler. He explained the origins of fishing in Galicia. He was very knowledgeable about Octopods and how smart they are. He said an Octopus is as smart as a Collie dog. I find that to be a very interesting concept.

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When we returned home, I bravely took a shot at making Galician Octopus. My fisherman son Kyle, had to come over and help me clean the first one but I have since become desensitised and can do it on my own now. Since then, I have served Galician Octopus a half dozen times and even managed to grill an Octopus. It’s amazing how your perspective can change in such a short time. Now, Octopus is a savory memory that brings me back to the camino.

 

Spain on the Brain

Terry and I often share many wonderful memories of our experience on the camino. We have talked about going back some day. Well, that day has become sooner rather than later. Last November on the one-year anniversary of when we found cheap airfare to Spain for our first camino, we thought we’d take another shot at getting cheap airfare. And it was too soon to do another 500 miles hike and we craved more Spain. We needed a kinder, gentler experience especially since I was going to have knee replacement in December.  We decided that Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia to Santiago would be ideal … about 130 miles (as the crow flies). We searched long and hard and did find a descent airfare. I can’t believe were are going back to Utopia.

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Spain … Here we come Again!

Watch for the next segment of my blog … Jane in Spain, Hiking Camino Finisterre. Terry will be joining me on the adventure in addition to a new cast of characters … Diane, Ellen and Peggy. I leave tomorrow. Lookout Spain — here we come. Again!

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Jane & David: Barcelona

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7, 2017

Barcelona is enchanting, magical and lives next to a large body of water called the Balearic Sea which feeds into the Mediterranean. The city exceeded my expectations and made me wish we had more time (and money) to stay longer.

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We had just been spoiled by the beautiful beaches of San Sebastian. The playa at Barcelona went for miles along the edge of the city.

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There are beach bars that deliver drinks right to your beach blanket. And if you don’t have a beach blanket, there were people selling those too.

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And then there is donut man who wandered the beach selling donuts.

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Donut man had super human powers … he could lower himself to the ground to serve donuts and raise up from the ground while balancing the tray on his head.

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Good people watching. Good boat watching. Catamaran in the background.

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The beach was a great rest stop during a busy day of touring.

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And across from the beach, plenty of shopping opportunities.

It took days to get a reservation to see La Sagrada Familia (the Holy Family).  It’s a giant Basilica designed by renown architect Anton Gaudi. It has been under construction since 1882 and it’s not expected to be completed for some time yet.

Sagrada Familia is the most popular tourist attraction in the city, with over two million visits a year.

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Gaudí disliked straight lines and angles because they don’t often appear naturally. Instead, he based his design on the swirling curves of nature.

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Located on the outside on the east side of the basilica is the Nativity façade. The  three Kings are shown here. The Passion façade is found on the West, and the Glory façade, which is not completed, can be found on the south side.

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Nicknamed “God’s architect,” Gaudí stated that he designed and built all his work for the glory of God. One day while walking to work at the basilica, he was hit by a tram. Because of the 73-year-old’s unkempt appearance he was mistaken for a beggar. Gaudí lost consciousness and was ignored. A police officer eventually took him to a hospital where he received care that a pauper would receive. It wasn’t until the next day that the chaplain at the Sagrada Família recognized the beggar as the famed architect, but it was too late — Gaudí died two days later.

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This stained glass window is dedicated to the Camino and Santiago.

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Due to high demand, the only tour ticket we could purchase was the basic self-guided tour. The next level would have allowed us to access the loft through this lovely stair case.

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This holy water font is made from a giant shell.

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Even though the outside of the basilica is covered with many images depicting biblical stories, there are very few statues inside Sagrada Familia and they are of the Holy Family.

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Parachuting Jesus may have stirred a lot of controversy but it is very interesting to look at and ponder.

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When I first saw it, I thought it had kind of a beer garden umbrella look to it.

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Another Gaudi creation is Park Güell. It is like walking through a Dr. Seuss book — very colourful, fun and whimsical. This public park is made up of gardens and architectonic elements.

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Ornate colonnaded footpaths were under walkways and roadways.

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Gaudi’s mosaic Salamander enhances the main entrance.

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Many mosaic pillars and statues on terraced walls.

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Walking trails wind throughout the park.

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This lookout had an amazing panoramic view of the city and sea.

 

We enjoyed seeing a full moon over Park Güell.

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Found a nice market by the hotel for a quick lunch.

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The market featured a wide range of local fruits and vegetables.

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And of course, lots of fresh fish and seafood. There were some atrocious looking critters in the selection.

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And lots of olives. The ones we liked best were in vermouth.

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We packed a lot into our short stay in Barcelona. We wrapped up the trip by spending a night in Paris and then on home to Minnesota.

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Jane & David: San Sabastian

MONDAY, JUNE 5, 2017

Next stop San Sebastian which is also called Donostia, its Basque name. We were convinced that we needed to visit this land of golden beaches, lush hills and exquisite cuisine by our son Quinn and fiance Emily. They raved about the food and with good reason. San Sebastian is the second city with the most Michelin stars per capita in the world. We didn’t bother with the expensive options but had a pretty good time enjoying the pintxos (similar to tapas) in the bars of the Old Quarter.

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An awesome view of San Sebastian — the bay of La Concha features Santa Clara island in the middle with a view of playa La Concha on the right. Mount Urgull is on the left.

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Beautiful gardens and landscaping surround City Hall which was built in 1882 as a casino hall. It once hosted parties of the Belle Epoque era, (the “beautiful era” dated from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914) when Europe’s bourgeoisie and aristocracy spent their summers in San Sebastian.

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Scooters and cycles line the streets. Why would anyone want to drive or park a car in this charmingly compact city.

 

The Basilica of Santa Maria and the Buen Pastor Cathedral are bookends connected by a popular pedestrian street in the Old Quarter where many tapa bars can be found.

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The tapa bars offer a taste of the local specialties. It seemed that no two bars had the same tapas. They each have a specialty that they are known for.

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Kid in a candy shop … David inspected all of the delicacies. You pick out what you like and then show the bartender your plate and he adds it to your tab.

 

We tried many amazing combinations of deliciousness.

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Baby eels? Hahah — on the Camino in Santo Domingo, Terry and I saw a jar of these. We looked up the words on the label and we figured the translation was baby eels. I was later corrected by a chef at the market in Madrid. He said that they take expensive white fish and shred it to make it go further. It is nicknamed, “spaghetti fish” and yes, it does taste like spaghetti pasta.

 

Spain is a pickle and olive haven or would that be heaven?

 

 

Peppers and olives artistically arranged on sticks. Photo on right has a little sign that says Barritas Energeticas which my translator app revealed as “Energy Bars”. Hahah, I don’t think so. Looks like some form of bacon with a crispy crust of fat.

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Every tapa bar is unique.

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Most bars have a supply of cured hams hanging from the ceiling.

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We escaped from the Tapa bars and headed to the playa on the bay of La Concha. Outside of the Bay of La Concha is the  Bay of Biscay.

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Across from the board walk is some mighty fine housing.

 

We walked along the board walk to Mount Igueldo.  Steep hills caused by erosion. Not sure if I would want to stay in the cliff side dwelling on the right.

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The Peine del Viento (Comb of the Wind) is a group of steel sculptures located at the end of Ondarreta Beach. It is probably the most iconic image of San Sebastian. The metal structures have been fused into the rocks over the Cantabrian Sea. Waves smash violently against the rocks, while the wind “combs” through the structures.

 

 

Toward the end of the boardwalk is a funicular that goes to the top of Mount Igueldo. Photo on the right shows the track. Two funiculars run up and down the hill. The track splits in the middle so the two cars can pass each other.

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At the top of the Mount Igueldo is a quaint little amusement park. It opened in 1911 and is one of the oldest in the Basque Country. The park is small and the rides are a little run down but it has lots of charm.

 

Beautiful views from the top of Mount Igueldo.

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The view from the top is amazing and one of my favorites in Spain.

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On the way back to the hotel we found the Whisky Museum. Had to stop. In addition to  a very large selection of whisky, it had a variety of whiskey-related knick-knacks, old bottles, tacky mugs and glasses.

Kid in a candy shop again.  Felt homesick when I saw the Four Roses bourbon from Kentucky. My Kentucky sister Mary and I have travelled the Bourbon trail a few times and have toured Four Roses. Being in Spain, I missed this year’s Kentucky Derby too.

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Nothing but sunshine the next day. Being early June, we were fortunate to have  a warm, sunny beach day with no crowds.

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Taking a break from the sun at a beach bar.

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At the far end of the harbor is Zurriola, the surfing beach.

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Zurriola beach is bordered by the city. It’s really fun to have the combination of city and beach so close together.

 

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The Kursaal is a postmodern convention center opened in 1999. It is located on the shore next to the surfing beach and was designed to represent “two beached rocks.” During the day, the building is quite boring – some might even say its ugly. However, at night it completely changes as the whole façade lights up and functions as a kind of giant billboard advertising whatever function is going on at the time in the city.

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Sadly, we had to leave San Sabastian. We loaded up our backpacks and crossed over  River Urumea that divides San Sebastian and walked to the bus station. Next stop … Barcelona.

Jane & David: Toledo

SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 2017

Toledo is a nice day trip from Madrid. It’s about an hour away. We hopped a bus and headed there.


This ancient walled city sits on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. It has an unusual combination of medieval Arab, Jewish and Christian monuments.

It’s a steep climb to the city center. Across the road is a view of rooftops.

Halfway up the hill to the city center, we stopped for a photo of the sprawling village below.

One side of Plaza de Zocodover has a charming, Moorish style keyhole door.

The Plaza de Zocodover is a square of the city. At one time in history, it was where horses, donkeys, foals, mares, mules and other beasts were sold. Now it is where they have the weekly market.

Special of the Day — Tapas for 2: Pisto Manchego which is a bell pepper stew sprinkled with Manchego cheese; Ensaladilla Rusa which is similar to potato salad; Estafado de Venao which is a venison stew; Caracamusas Toledanas is a Toledo specialty made from lean pork with seasoned vegetables, peas and tomato sauce and the last tapa is Boquerones Fritos con salsa tartara which is fried anchovies with a tartara sauce … served with refreshing glasses of Sangria.

Cafe del Kasco, the tapa restaurant had a small outdoor seating area — great for people watching.

This entrance leads to the Cathedral of Toledo. It is the second largest Cathedral in Spain, after the one in Seville, but considered the most important church in Spain because of its history as the capital of the Catholic Faith in Spain.

 

Constructed on the site of a former Grand Mosque, the Catholic Cathedral of Toledo took 267 years to construct. This entrance is the Portal of Forgiveness. It is said that forgiveness of one’s sins is granted to those entering here. Unfortunately, these doors are now kept closed except for special occasions. The Portal of the Last Judgement is to the right and the Portal of Hell is on the left.

 

Above the Portal of Forgiveness is Gothic Iconography of the apostles.

This sparkling gold reliefs of the “Retablo” in the Main Chapel and High Altar just behind the main altar. This huge altar piece stretches to the ceiling.

This appears to be a hole in the ceiling but it is a skylight meant to give the image of an opening to heaven.

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Carving of Mary and child both wearing crowns of gold.

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The centerpiece of the treasure room is this 500-lb, 10-foot hight, 15th century guilded Monstrance which is carried through the streets of Toledo during the feast of Corpus Christi.

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After several hours of exploring, we headed back to the bus station to return to Madrid.

 

 

Madrid: What’s the Bull all about?

Bull fights, known here as Corrida de Toros are a ritual and spectacle with roots from the 18th century.  Supporters of bullfighting say it is part of the heritage — an art form that must be respected. They point out that the average cow raised for consumption lives a confined life of less than two years and slaughter houses are cruel. Bulls are raised in the wild and live in harmony with natural surroundings. They live 4-6 years and have a very good life. The 15 minutes in the bull ring is meant to be a quick death.

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Statue outside Madrid’s main bullfighting arena.

When I was walking the camino in Burgos, Terry and I met a nice florist from Toledo whose name is Humberto. We had an interesting discusssion about bull fighting. He corrected us and said it is not called bullfighting, it is called Corrida. He said he was not a fan of it, however, it is an important part of the Spanish heritage. The farms that raise the bulls take great pride and consider it an honor for the bull. I was intrigued by the cultural piece of bullfighting and my curiosity took over. Having never seen a bullfight, it would be difficult to understand this ancient practice and the passion of those who support it. Since bullfighting has been banned in Catalunya, Madrid would be the best place to experience a bullfight and so we did.

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The most common pass the matador makes is called a veronica which is the act of letting his cloak trail over the bull’s head as it runs past.

Barcelona banned bullfighting in 2012. One of it’s famous bull fighting arenas is now a bullfighting museum and the other is a shopping center. The ban resulted in thousands of jobs being lost and loss of income for breeders. The popularity of bull fighting is dwindling especially with the young. Many anticipate that bull fighting will be extinct in Spain in the next ten years.

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Apparently on Sunday mornings, they have a form of bullfighting where the bulls do not die. It’s a series of steps with the matador and assistants waving their capes and engaging the bull. This would have been perfect except that we had planned to go to Toledo on Sunday. Instead we opted for the Saturday evening event with novice matadors and younger bulls. Sunday night bullfights feature  the seasoned matadors and the 6 year old bulls.

The evening we went to the Corrida, was the same night as the European Soccer championship featuring Real Madrid and England (which took place in England). We assumed it would be a very light crowd at the arena. We were wrong. The stadium was about 3/4 full and the only open seats were mostly in the sun which was where we were sitting. I anticipated that the audience would be mostly old men. I was wrong again — it was everyone … old grandmas, babies, young couples, families, young women. Everyone seemed to be dressed quite nicely but that is common in Spain. I did not notice the presence of tourists.

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The event featured three novice matadors. Each would fight two bulls, totaling six fights.

We arrived a little bit late and just like at a theatrical performance, they do not allow you to enter the arena during a bullfight. We had to wait until the current match was over and wait for the ushers to open the door. We barely had time to find out seats before the next match started. There was a live band in the upper deck that played music to indicate the different phases of the fight.

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A band was seated in the upper section. They played music to indicate the different phases of the bullfight.

The bull, wearing ribbons with the colors of the breeding farm, romped out and did a few runs at the cape. After about 10 minutes the matador and the other attendants left. The bull was alone in the ring. A half dozen steer entered the ring. We had no idea what this was all about. Apparently they send the steers in to lure the bull out. He did follow the steers out of the ring. We were relieved that the bull was not killed and there was no blood or gore. Bulls are only allowed to fight once because they learn how it works and would probably outsmart the matador if they had a second chance.

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This bull was spared. They send in the steer to lure it back into the pen.

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… and it worked. The bull followed the steer back into the pen.

In the following rounds we saw the three phases of a bullfight with each phase being marked by the band’s performance. The cruelest part, I think, is the Rejoneadore with a long spear riding a horse that is blindfolded and wearing armor. He agitates the bull until it charges into the horse. The bull tries to gore the horse and continues slamming  into it. The horse stays calm and holds his own until the rider can spear the bull and it runs off. Then the Rejoneadore’s job is done. The music plays and he and the horse leave the arena. The same horse is used for all six fights and doesn’t seem to be phased by the attacking bull.

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I had read that a law was passed a couple years ago requiring the Rejoneadore’s horse to have armor. The horses used to die too from being gored by the bull. I wish they would give the bull armor too.

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Next comes the picadors who spear the bull with six banderillas which are festively decorated barbed darts. There were three picadors and each ran directly up to the bull and speared the darts into the shoulders. A nearby matador distracted the bull so the picador could run and hide behind a wooden wall for safety.  The music plays again. The matador does several passes. In one of the fights, the matador was lightly gored in the thigh. There were a lot of gasps from the audience. A pause. He composed himself and continued with the fight. Looked like he was limping a little. Eventually, as the bull is running for the cape, the matador finishes the job with a sword and then a dagger. Our seats were so far a way that we couldn’t see the gory details.

The band plays, the crowd stands up and cheers. White hankies are waving as the matador prances about like a proud rooster with it’s chest puffed out. The fans sit down and wait for bull to be removed … it is cinched up to three horses. If the bull’s performance was brave, they take an extra lap before dragging it out. The audience stands and applauds the bulls performance … it died with honor.

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My reflections about the bullfights we experienced:

It wasn’t as gory as I anticipated. I think fans of bullfighting have it in their blood. They were raised with this tradition so they are desensitized to it just like we are desensitized to eating a hamburger with no thought as to where it came from. The people in the audience seemed like normal people out for an evening of entertainment. Would I attend another bullfight? All  I can say is that I would return to this arena as soon as they turn it into a shopping outlet. Ole!

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Jane & David: Madrid

JUNE 2-5, 2017

We hopped a bus from Santiago to Madrid late Thursday evening around 9pm and arrived in Madrid around 7am. We were very lucky that that hotel let us check in around 8am.

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This is Puerto del Sol, it is the ‘Times Square” of Madrid. It seems to be filled with people all the time especially in the evening.

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This is the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree. It represents the coat of arms of Madrid and is found on the east side of Puerta del Sol. This statue was inaugurated  in 1967 by the City Council of Madrid which wanted to represent the the main heraldic symbols of the city and of Spain with a monument. The wild bear and the strawberry tree on the coat of arms has been around since the 13th century.

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The side streets leading into Puerto del Sol are shoulder-to-shoulder crowds like a hot Saturday at the state fair.

 

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Lots of entertainment in the square … Mariacha musicians

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Skate board guy who is permanently on hold in this position …

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Dueling dulcimers …

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Mercado de San Miguel was packed on Friday evening … it’s the hot spot for tapas.

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Sardines for starters

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Lots of seafood

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Not sure what this is but it was surrounded with lots of bakery and confectionary items.

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The olives are amazing all over Spain

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This is a pickle with pimento and tuna, garnished with pearl onions and olives

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More seafood

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Casks filled with a variety of Port wine.

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Also very popular is vermouth which I always considered an accent for martini’s and manhattens. They drink it by the glass here. I thought perhaps it is different from the vermouth in America and asked for a little sample. Nope. It’s very similar to the vermouth we use sparingly in martini’s and manhattens.

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These are not baby eels as I once thought. The chef told me it is a very expensive white fish. To make it go further and be less expensive, they shred it. Oddly enough, it tastes like spaghetti. They have nicknamed it spaghetti fish.

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High tech cash register here … notice the separate slots for inserting 5, 10, 20 and 50 Euro notes. It’s all automated. They input the bill, feed the money in and the change comes out of the same slots.

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More entertainment on the square.

 

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Late night Sangria and Russian salad comes with it as a tapa.

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Accordion players are plentiful in Madrid.

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Nice tile artwork in a bar

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Happy hour and David appears to be happy!

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Went to Prado museum on Saturday. Saw a lot of Valesquez, Goya, el Greco … I have to say I’m not crazy about a lot of their subject matter — I think it’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

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On every Sunday morning there is a huge flea market. The people flock to it.

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Lots of stuff at the Madrid flea market

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Hand whittled rakes and pitch forks

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Lots of coffee grinders

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Jazz Musicians playing at the flea market.

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Too crowded at the flea market … time to flee to Toledo!

All Good Things Come to an End

DAY 45: THURSDAY, JUNE 1, 2017

What is the most frequently asked question by people we have met on the Camino after we tell them, we came together from St. Louis Park Minnesota and we walked from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Santiago?

Everyone says, “Are you still friends?” And the answer, “yep, we are.” Terry walks faster and I walk slower but we still reach the same destination at the end of the day which is always celebrated by clinking glasses and having a toast. All good thing like the Camino come to an end, but not our friendship.

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Today, we headed back to Santiago. Tomorrow Terry, (now known as Teresa which is her given name) flies to Paris and on Saturday flies back home to Minnesota.

David and I are continuing on to Madrid, Toledo, San Sebastián and Barcelona.

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One last toast before we go our separate ways.

Hope you enjoyed following us on this blog.

See You Soon!

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Finisterre to Muxia

DAY 44: WEDNESDAY, MAY 31

We bought “excursion” tickets that provided transportation to Muxia which is a little fishing town with picturesque views. Our driver Martin stopped at the beach at Lires. This part of the coast is called Costa da Morte, Coast of Death.


We saw a few people in wet suits surfing. We were told the water is quite cold.


Our guide Martin said this is the cove of death and there are a lot of shipwrecks caused by the treacherous rocky shore. There are very strong rip tides.


This is called the Monument to the Prestige Tanker that spilled 70,000 gallons of oil into the Atlantic Ocean in 2002.


This is the famous Nosa Senora de Barca (Our Lady of the Boat) church. As the legend goes, the Virgin Mary herself met St. James at this very site and helped and encouraged him in his preaching throughout Galicia. It is also believed that by a miracle of God, the body of the saint, after his beheading at the hands of the Romans, was carried in a boat to Muxia where it was only discovered many years later and taken to Santiago.


Legend also has it that Muxia was the landing place of the stone boat that carried the Virgin Mary when she arrived in Galicia to help Saint James convert the locals. The granite stones found near the church are said to be the remains of the Virgin Mary’s stone boat: the sail, the helm and the boat itself.  This long rock is the boat. Part of it broke off and now they are having experts come to see how it can be repaired.


The piece of stone that broke from “Mary’s boat” has been moved near the church. They are hoping experts will find a way to reunite the two pieces.


This stone would be the sail and it is called the “pedra dos cadris” and believed to cure back ailments, rheumatic pains if you walk under the stone nine times.


David went around and under the stone twice. I think they got the legend wrong, this probably causes back ailements.


This is the inside of Our Lady of the Boat church. If you look along the sides, you can see some of the boats hanging on display.


This is our $37 room at the Hostel in Muxia. Great view of the Atlantic from our window.


For lunch we had Galician fish, mussels and the above pork dish.


There is a beautiful beach just a few minutes from our hostel which is where we hung out in the afternoon. We found some nice shells. David and I went swimming even though it was a little bit on the chilly side.

Santiago – Finisterre – Muxia is another Camino that can earn a Compostela. It’s short and only takes 3-4 days to complete. We’ll pass on this one. Maybe next time.


One last pilgrim’s meal — Octopus casserole and meatball casserole.

Santiago to Finisterre

DAY 43: TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2017

Even though we have finished our Camino, the trail continues out to the Atlantic Ocean to Finisterre. In the Columbus era, Finisterre was thought to be the end of the world. Terry, David and I took a two-hour bus ride to check it out.

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This is the hostel we stayed at in Finisterre.

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The harbor at Finisterre.

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There is a small fishing museum and it’s curator is very passionate. He told us all about how Octopus traps work and he had a lot of info about the underwater mountains in the harbor.

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Very hot in Finisterre. Time for a lunch break.

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This is an octopus and bean casserole.

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Beautiful day on the water front.

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This is the lighthouse on the very tip of Finisterre … it looks out at the ‘end of the earth’.

IMG_2176This is Camino marker 0.00K — the end of the Camino.

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Time for a GinTonica.

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Sunset is upon us.

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Sunset wasn’t until after 10:00 pm.

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Back in the main part of town, we crossed paths with Bjorn, a jazz musician from Germany — it was a nice surprise to see him again.

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The restaurant had a nice beer stein collection but not as nice as Andy Karl’s.

Santiago

DAY 42: MONDAY, MAY 29, 2017

PILGRIM RITUALS: There are a few rituals that pilgrims like to participate in once they reach Santiago. One is going to a Pilgrim mass at the Cathedral. And, if you are so fortunate, you may also see botafumeiro ritual take place at the end of mass. This is the largest censer in the world which is used for spreading incense smoke. It weights 175 lbs and is five feet in height. It takes eight men pumping a rope that is attached to a pulley system from the ceiling — it reaches up to 80 mph as it swings from side to side of the cathedral until it just about hits the ceiling.

Typically, they light up the botafumerio at the noon pilgrim’s mass on Saturday (it used to be Friday evening.) You never really know when this is going to take place but it is quite the site. We were rushing into town on Sunday morning because we heard the botafumeiro was being done at the noon mass. It took so long to get into town and being a tired, weary pilgrim I said to Terry, “if we were meant to see it, it will happen — let’s not worry about it.” We slowed our pace down and became very relaxed about the whole deal. We didn’t even make it inside the Cathedral on Sunday and a “gin-tonica” celebration seemed like a better idea. I’m glad we didn’t try to make it to the noon mass — there were so many pilgrims arriving and rushing toward the cathedral. It would have been extremely crowded.

On Monday, we started wandering and we wanted to tour the Cathedral. It just so happened that we wandered into a noon Pilgrim’s mass. It was standing room only and we stood in the back of the church. We saw the botafumeiro  hanging above the altar but assumed that’s where they kept it. We were delighted when after mass, the eight men showed up to take their position with the ropes. It’s quite the process to light it. When it was swinging over our heads, we could see that it was filled with flames. What an amazing sight watching this flaming censer flying over the congregants. At one point, it just about hit the ceiling which made me gasp. Like I said the day before, if we were mean to see it, it will happen. And it did happen.

What an amazing sight watching this flaming incensor flying over the congregants.


When they started lighting the censer, all the cameras came out.


It is said that the censer was installed to cover the stench of all the unwashed pilgrims.


It takes eight men pumping the ropes to keep the censer flying from one side of the cathedral to the other.


The censer is way up by the ceiling. I wonder how safe is it for a 175-lb censer filled with flames to be flying at 80 mph over people’s heads?


This is the first time we heard a choir and organ at a mass.


Next ritual is to go to the crypt of St. James \which is located below the altar.

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The tomb of St. James is located down the steps in a small room with a couple kneelers and a rack of vigil lights.

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Next ritual is to put your hands on the shoulders of the St. James statue at the altar. There is a small staircase that leads up to the backside of the statue.

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This is the small staircase behind the altar that comes down from the St. James statue. Notice the footsteps worn into the stone.

There is one more ritual which takes place at the Portico de la Gloria. It is no longer allowed to put your hand on the Jesse Tree because five finger holes have been worn away in the stone from the millions of pilgrims who have placed their hand there.


We are on our little balcony at the Nest Style hostel in Santiago doing some people watching.


Our balcony neighbor Kevin from Montreal joined in our little balcony happy hour. The face in  the window above is his dad Kevin who is from Ireland.


Out for some wine and tapas.


Our bartender Larissa was serving up cheese and red peppers.


This is a giant height-chair type table that we’ve seen in Galicia.

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The table part of the height-chair lifts up so you can get out.

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It’s a Monday night around 11:30 pm and this place filled up with musicians. We were leaving and it was very crowded. David and Terry had made their way out when this room full of men decided to serenade me. It was lovely. I made a video of it but WordPress doesn’t allow me to put videos on my blog. I did post it on my Facebook page.

 

San Marcos to Santiago

DAY 41: SUNDAY, MAY 28, 2017


Exciting morning! It was our last nite as roommates. Now we’re heading out to finish the Camino. Only a few miles into Santiago.

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Getting closer.

img_1906Monte de Gozo is the last hill before Santiago. It is where the pilgrims would get their first glimpse of Santiago and they could see the Cathedral spires. Medieval pilgrims fell to their knees, shouting and breaking out into songs.

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Huge modern monument on Monte de Gozo. It’s still a long way into the city.

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This is Larissa from Moscow. She was walking beside me and in a quiet voice asked, “is this Santiago?” I assured her it was and she looked very happy.

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Coming down the hill from Monte de Gozo were many barrack type buildings … about 30 of them. One of the guidebooks called it a sprawling dormitory and recreational building — the price of an ever-increasing demand for accommodations. They looked like they could be Albergues but there wasn’t anyone around … or else they were all booted out at 8am.


We made it to the city sign. It was still another 2.5K into the city center and  Cathedral.


A few horse pilgrims riding in to town.

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Not sure where they park the horses.

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It is still a long walk into the city center.


Bagpipes and drum. Love the sound!

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Lots of pilgrims gathering in the Cathedral square — many bikers today.

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We finally made it to the Cathedral of Santiago which is the resting place of the apostle St. James. They Cathedral’s main entrance was under reconstruction and covered with scaffolding.

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Time for a quick celebration … GinTonica and tapas.

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Being in Santiago was like our “graduation” from the Camino. We started crossing paths with many of the people we had bonded with at various places on the trail. There were many happy reunions. The first people we found were Helga from Iceland and Jezebel from St. Louis Missouri.

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Getting giddy! We got in line to received our Compostela. We each had three credential books filled with stamps from many of the places we had visited on the Camino.

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The Compostela document — my first name is in Latin … Joannam.

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Ascension is a big church day and in Santiago, it’s a four-day festival. We crossed paths with Marina from England.

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A happy reunion with Sebastian, a monk from Bavaria.

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Sabastian joined us for dinner. He and David started singing choir songs at the restaurant.

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We had quite the Galician feast … including sardines and octopus.

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We left our mark on Santiago. It was a very good day.

O Pedrouzo to San Marcos

DAY 40: SATURDAY, MAY 27, 2017

We are so close to Santiago right now … about 20K (12.4 miles). You can feel the buzz among the many pilgrims staying in O Pedrouzo. There are a lot of “shiny pennies” (those whose started in Sarria which is 100K from Santiago). They are very eager to get their miles done and get the prize. I was feeling tired from the cumulative miles and from the previous day’s 5am start but also excited to be getting so close to the end.


This is Terry and I in our last Albergue (ever!). Our dorm mates started getting up at 4am. By 7am, most were gone. We were still tucked in. They don’t boot you out until 8am.


The only dorm mate still around at 7am was Bjorne from Koln, Germany. He is traveling by himself and started in Sarria and hoping to make it to Santiago today.


It was hard to get going today but we only had 14.5K (about 9 miles). This first part of today’s trail was through a Eucalyptus forest.


These (Eucalyptus) treeas are very tall and appear to have no bark. Some had a circumference of 6-7 feet. It was a nice hike through the forest but we had some long, steep hills too.


The camino circles around the Santiago airport. It’s like the airport is blocking the trail and you have to walk around it.


Not sure but this must be the city? County? Line for Santiago. We’re still quite a distance away.


Even though were getting close to Santiago, there are still animals grazing.


It’s 11:45am and fatigue is setting in. It’s time to celebrate how close we are to Santiago. We’re on the last page of the map guidebook.


We didn’t celebrate too much. Back on the trail. We met Helena, Martha and Julia from the Massachusetts area. They walked with us to the next town. They started in Sarria and needed to be in Santiago tonight. 


Fatigue set in again. Time to stop for a beer and croquets for lunch. 


Back on the road again. Every time we go into a big city, there’s about 5-10 miles of industrial businesses that we have to walk by. You can tell were getting close to Santiago.


Thee’s about a half mile of fence with handmade crosses woven into the fence. Looks like a pilgrim thing.


We walked by the San Marcos campground. I didn’t really see anyone camping there.


It’s getting foggy over the hills as we enter our final destination for today, San Marcos. This puts us about 5-K (3.1 miles) from Santiago. We’re feeling really smart for choosing this stop before Santiago. We’ll get a good night’s rest before Santiago and even better, there are no swarms of Pilgrims hanging around … they’re all in a big hurry to get to Santiago. So we get a break from the pilgrim action.  We checked into a little hotel and found a Pulperia for dinner — this will be the 5th time I’ve had Octopus.

Arzua to O Pedrouzo

DAY 39: FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2017

A couple we had met, Ian and Valerie, told us how much they liked leaving at 4-5 am. They said, by 9:00 am you have half your day done and you can quit walking at noon. They said how wonderful it was to see the Milky Way. So, on our last Friday on the trail, we decided to start at 5am. Typically, we don’t get up before 7:30 and were the last to leave the Albergue. We had never walked in early morning darkness and thought it would be good to try at least once.

We packed up everything possible the night before and slept with our clothes on. The anticipation of the early morning escape made it challenging to sleep so it was no problem getting up at 5am. We tiptoed out of our Albergue room with our backpacks, trying not to wake up the other 14 people. A rainy day was forecast and we could see a little bit of lightening off in the distance.

There were four other pilgrims with backpacks out on the street heading for the camino. It was really dark. Terry used her cell phone to light the way. Because she had to hold the cell phone with one hand, she had to fold up one of her hiking sticks and I put it under her backpack rain fly.

The dark walk was very scary. It was raining. There was no Milky Way or stars to be seen. There were high walls with lots of vines. We couldn’t see how steep the hills were that we were going up and down on. We walked for over an hour in the dark and then daylight came. Terry put away her cell phone and at that moment we realized that the hiking stick we had stowed had fallen out of her backpack somewhere. Before I could even feel bad about it, three pilgrims walked up and wanted to know if we lost a hiking stick. They had picked it up and carried it for a half hour. What a stroke of luck.

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This is the wall of Wisdom. Someone had posted a series of thoughts along the wall in both Spanish and English.

We stopped for breakfast at about 7 am. It was pouring rain and the little restaurant was packed with wet pilgrims. Backpacks and rain ponchos everywhere. We walked for another hour or so and took another break around 9:30 am.

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When you start your day at 5am, it’s ok to eat ice cream at 9:00.

Back in the rain. We walked for about 8-9 hours in the rain. I don’t have a lot of photos because my fingers we’re so wet and prune-like that my I-pad didn’t recognize my fingerprint.IMG_1833.JPG

There was a corner in the restaurant that had a large log burning and plenty of coals. I noticed they had a very large cave-like oven for baking. Not sure what they baked in it but they were busy making coals.IMG_1836.JPG

Beautiful flowers that look like Fuschia.

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A field full of purple and yellow wild flowers.

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It’s now after around 1:30 pm and we still have a ways to go and its still raining. Giddiness has set in. Not sure the 5am departure was such a good idea.

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We made it to O Pedrouza around 3pm. It was suppose to be a 12 mile walk today but it turned out to be over 16 miles. Someone who has walked the Camino three times told us the trail has changed a lot since she walked it three years ago. She thought the trail changes may have been made to accommodate the increased number of pilgrims walking it every year. We’ve heard a lot of people in a lot of different languages complaining about the guidebook mileage.

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After checking into our Albergue, we strolled down to the “Pulperia” and had Octopus and prawns in garlic. This is the fourth time we have had Octopus. We like it so much, we’re talking about how we’re going to make it when we get home.

 

Melide to Arzua

DAY 38: THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017

The wild flowers here are amazing and they grow everywhere.

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These are just some plants along the trail. Another hot day.

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I find these grain storage units interesting. They come in all colors and sizes. Some are ornate and some are almost religious looking. It rains a lot here so I can understand why they are so high off the ground.

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It seems like people who don’t live on farms also have these corn cribs. Maybe it’s a Galicia thing??

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After a little more research, I was told that these units are filled with corn cobs to feed the animals and they are high to keep the mice out.

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The Camino takes a turn here and there’s a beautiful tree at the corner.

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A little snack stand on the camino sells cherries, grapes, bananas, oranges, nuts  and other things.

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There was a German restaurant on the trail. Terry tried to order bacon & eggs from the counter by the register like we always do. The owner turned her around and told her to go sit at a table … the waitress would take her order. I asked for a Diet Coke and that was ok — I didn’t have to wait for the waitress, he just gave it to me. We sat at a table and watched the waitress clear and wipe down all the tables. Eventually she made her way over to us. We were ready to leave but wanted to use the restroom. Terry asked for a glass of water. The waitress brought her a cup of HOT water with a packet of sugar. It cost 5 cents. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

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The trail led through a Eucalyptus forest. We stopped to watch them process trees.

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This machine was amazing. It strips the bark off and then cuts the logs to the same size.

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Here the bark is being stripped off. Our friends Brian and Diane from Portland wandered by as we were watching. Brian was not impressed … he’s seen the same equipment being used in Portland and northern Minnesota. Apparently, this is standard in the logging industry.

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This is one of my favorite photos. This cow has its head stuck through the wall and was mooing. It reminded me of Cowntess on PeeWee Herman. I asked the farmer if I could take a photo. I called her Cowntess and he started laughing. His English was very good. He asked if we wanted to see a 2-day old newborn cow. We followed him through the dusty barn.

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Here is the new baby Holstein which the farmer anticipates will start producing milk  in two years.

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He has a total of 120 head … the family started with 30 head about 30 years ago after Spain denationalized the economy.

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The farmer, whose name is Jose, said that this part of Spain (Galicia) is responsible for 40% of the dairy production in Spain.

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We made it to our Albergue in Arzua. Wandered down the street and met up with David and Cheryl from California. They had just done the Pilgrims meal and recommended the spring rolls which were delicious.  They were a delightful couple … we chatted for a couple hours. Have crossed paths with them a few times since. Another great day on the trail.

 

Palas de Rei to Melide

DAY 37: WEDNESDAY, MAY  24


Some Camino bikers pitched a tent. They were sleeping in late — it was almost 8am.


I love these purple flowers and they grow wild everywhere.


We found this delightful little Albergue that served breakfast. Rado made us bacon & eggs. His English is very good. He is a native of Palas de Rei and his family runs the Albergue. He is a marine engineer but took a year off to help the family with the Albergue. The Camino was packed with pilgrims and we kept quiet so no one would come in. Rado was funny … people would jump in through the door. Most didn’t even say “hola”. They would ask to use the restroom. He thought it was really rude that they didn’t even say hello when they came in. So he would say, I’m sorry I do not have a restroom. Go 200 meters and there’s a bathroom. Then he looked at us and told us … haha, it’s a field — they can go to the bathroom there. Rado also told us about his fear that the increase in the number of people on the Camino. He said in a couple years it will be like Disneyworld.


Rado said that these are very old wooden shoes. The road used to be very muddy and this is what people would wear through the mud.


Today’s cow parade.


Had to take a photo with the big shell.


We crossed paths with our friend Jezebel. Haven’t seen here since Najera. Now she’s on crutches. Had some bad tendenitis on the hill at O’Cebreiro.


So happy to find a shaded part of the trail.


We walked for a way with Karen and Robert from New Jersey. They expressed their fears about our leadership in the US.


Another quaint little church.


We walked by a Sant Goban facility on our walk into Melide. David’s company Cardinal used to do business with.


We’re not sure what this basket thing is but we’ve seen a few of them.


Hot, hot, hot! We felt like we were in Death Valley. It was 90 degrees. We stopped for a bite to eat. The people at the far table knew us — they called out, “hey Minnesota”. We couldn’t figure out where we met them and neither could they. 

At the table next to us was David from Rome, Italy and Yidah from Israel. Yidah’s birthday was yesterday and they had quite the party last night.


We had scallops for lunch and they were amazing! We asked if we could keep the shells. They took them into the kitchen and cleaned them for us.


We got settled in our Albergue and went to find Wifi. We met Ian and Valerie from Seattle. Ian was a cartologist who worked for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). He just lost his job because of Trump’s budget cuts.


We went to the Cathedral of Melide. I really like this statue — it has such clean and simple lines.


Another happy reunion — Louis and Sarah from Venezuela. We met them in Sansol and haven’t seen them since April in Logrono.  And now, we discovered they are our dorm mates in Melide.


Another round of Octopus. Louis told us this restaurant was the best place in Spain for Octopus and we think he is right. It was delicious. They season it with a little bit of paprika and kosher salt.


Along with the Octopus, we split a mixto salad and it was a great dinner.  Ready for bed.

Gonzar to Palas de Rei

DAY 36: TUESDAY, MAY 23


Water leaking …. have to take everything out and reconnect the Camelbak.


It’s 7:30 am. The piggies are still sleeping.


Long walk today. I thought this was an interesting arch made by the trees.


We stopped for breakfast. Noticed that there is a deaf blind person walking the Camino. 


Today’s cow parade.


Hotter than hell today. We made many stops.


This place had an ant motif. Go figure.


We have not seen this tree before. Very interesting.


We stopped in a church and the priest was singing with the kids. The song — universal — “If you’re happy and you know it …” in Spanish.

I have no photos from Palas de Rei. It was not very interesting and we were so tired by the time we got there. We ate and went to bed.