Negriera to Aquapesada

11 APRIL 2018

We see a lot of Horreos (corn cribs) but this was one of the few made with wood panels. I think they use them for various things other than storing grain. I did see a man inside one hanging laundry. Because they are elevated, they are not particularly easy to access. Some do have steps going up to them but most use a ladder.

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A gated estate in the wealthier neighborhood just outside the town.

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Never saw a Camino marker like this before.

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The trail followed the river.

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Many large houses along the river.

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We saw something that looked like snow but it was strange. Then we thought it was salt. We kept walking by piles of this white substance. We finally figured out that it was like sleet or ice. Must have stormed during the night and it was cool enough that it didn’t melt.

 

Next along the Tambre river is Ponte Maceira.

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This little medieval village is well preserved. Several mansions line the river banks.

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A very pleasant place to rest.

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An old Roman bridge stretches over the wide Tambre river.

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There is a legend that is reminiscent of the Red Sea biblical story. According to the Brierly guidebook …”we are told that God destroyed the bridge in a single stroke to prevent Roman soldiers pursuing the followers of St. James.”

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This enduring myth lives on in the coat of arms of the local council.

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Bovine World: Just past the eucalyptus & pine forest and up the hill is the wealthier neighborhood and Bovine World.  We could see a few bovines in the fenced in wooded area.

 

The little hamlet of Transmonte was just past Bovine World at the top of the hill.

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Bacon and eggs for lunch at Casa Pancho.

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Red flowers entwined in tree that resembles a basket.

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Very old fountain with fresh spring water.

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Patrol dogs doing their duty.

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And now it’s a long downhill trail into Aquapesada. Glad we don’t have to walk up it.

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Took a foot break at a funky little place entering the town of Aquapesada.

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We still had a ways to walk on pavement to get to our Albuergue. It was quite warm this afternoon too.

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Here is our albuergue … Casa Riamonte.

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They were just about out of space. Diane took a bed in the dorm room while Terry and I shared a double room. The cable show Alaskan Bush People is in Spanish.

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This was the view from our bedroom window. Several sheep grazing in the green pasture below.

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Julian and Rosa are the proprietors. Rosa did the cooking and Julian did the serving.

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We had a salad for a starter followed by pork with gravy and white beans.

 

We ate at their kitchen table. One of the tables had fish painted on it.

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It was a very delightful meal that came with rice pudding for dessert.

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Lights out at 10:00 pm.

 

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Moranos to Negreira

10 APRIL 2018

Beautiful Sunrise in Moranos.

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We had breakfast with our friends. Afterward, we stepped outside for a group photo. Sarah & Bernard from Germany and on the far right is Taso from Holland. We were going in opposite directions so we said our goodbyes and headed out.

 

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The day started out sunny.

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The sun lit the fields which were backed by a very gray sky.

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Fresh country air. A bit of a rainbow trying to squeeze through the gray sky on the left.

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Had to keep the rain gear close at hand.

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Stopped for a footrest in a bus shelter in Cornado.

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This fancy fountain was next to the bus stop.

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Diane bent over to tie her boot and all of a sudden heard the sound of hooves coming down the road.

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Another cow parade. This group of cows had an escort.

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We stepped aside and let them mooove on.

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The cows headed for Quintela but we took a left turn here.

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Long roads through farmland.

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More threatening gray sky. We just kept walking.

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A very old camino marker is shown at the bottom of the photo … it is a cement pillar with a shell embedded in it. The newer markers are the blue and gold ones on the utility post.

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More country roads.

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Another old camino marker.

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Hiking through more pasture land.

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Back in the woods.

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A valley ahead but don’t think it’s our final destination.

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We’ve never seen a Weber kettle or any type of barbecue grill like we have at home. We did see several brick grills.

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Diane’s boots were bothering her so she wore her clogs for awhile. The road became very muddy so she walked along the mossy edge while eating a bocadillo sandwich — she’s got good balance. Terry is helping her get down on the road again.

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This was our 12-mile day. It went on forever. Our feet were feeling it too.

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We called this the enchanted forest. It was a beautiful walk.

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We stopped to chat with Joan from Tasmania. She was hiking alone and going the opposite direction to Finisterre.

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A humble little chapel along the way.

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As we walked into town, we chatted with a local woman who was planting her garden. Not sure but we think she was planting garlic.


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Oh happy day … finally we are close to our destination Negreira.

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Negreira is a medieval village with an old entrance gate.

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Walk a bit further and it becomes modern. Tonight we are staying at Albuergue El Carmen.

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We were the only ones staying at the El Carmen. It was a bit chilly in the the dorm room but they provided lots of blankets. The cold damp weather combined with the long exhausting 12 mile day caused a lot of coughing and grumpy feet. Probably a good thing that we were the only ones staying here tonight.

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Next to the bunk room is a social room with WiFi. That is not Pepto Bismol on the table … it’s nail polish remover. Nails were looking pretty bad at this point.

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We ate dinner downstairs at the Masquito restaurant. We did make a few jokes about the restaurant’s name.  Bedtime couldn’t come quick enough. We piled on the blankets and called it a day.

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Olevieroa to Moranos

April 9, 2018

Scenic start to the day. Very lush and green thanks to all the rain.

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Back on the pavement.

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Chapel and cemetary

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Dark gray moody sky. We had half rain, half sun and a few threatening clouds.

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We don’t know what these things are. They look like giant burrs … they’re about 2” in diameter.

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Stopped to chat with Felix from Santiago.

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These are the kind of roads we love walking down. No pavement, easy on the feet and scenic.

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A woman and her German Shepherd keep an eye on the sheep.

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We’re definitely in Galician farmland now.

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First cow parade. These cows were unattended. They just started walking down the road.

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We stayed out of their way and observed where they were going. They seem to know what they were doing even though there was no one escorting them.

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They just kept going.

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Turned the corner and eventually the cows found a place to graze.

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Time for a lunch break. Too wet to sit on the ground.

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The guidebook was in error. We were hoping we didn’t have to climb Monte Aro.

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Very scenic farmland today.

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There’s a docile watch dog on top of the stone wall just above the door.

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We wandered through another little village.

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It seems like everyone has watch dogs. When one starts barking the whole town starts barking.

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We walked by another cow barn.

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Peaceful cat sitting in the flowers.

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And finally we reach Moranos.

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Tonight were staying at Casa Pepa.

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Very nice accommodations at this albuergue.

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The sun came out in time for happy hour. Tosa is a doctor from Holland. She is sitting to the right of Diane. We also met Sarah and Bernard from Muenster, Germany.

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Bernard was busted … he didn’t attend Michigan State … he bought the sweatshirt somewhere cheap.

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Ended the day by having dinner with our new friends.

 

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Dumbria To Olieviroa

8 APRIL 2018

Another foggy, rainy morning as we leave Dumbría.

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This is the courtyard in front of the church. It looks like they have grown the tree branches together. When it all blooms it looks very nice.

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This Is the church of St. Eulalia. It has a lot of charm. Even though it was Sunday morning, the church was locked tight. Just down the road a bit was a sports arena with a few soccer teams practicing.

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On our way out of town, we crossed by a pasture of horses.

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This is somebody’s homemade bench swing. It needs a few branches replaced.

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We left Dumbría and had to walk for awhile on the highway.

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We stopped at little diner a coffee break.

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Next town, Logoso.

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Beautiful trail leading out of Logoso. Two horses wandered and grazed their way down the trail.

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We met the Ryan brothers, Bill and Paul from Tipperary, Ireland.

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The trail led us downhill until we came to a bridge which crossed the river.

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After the bridge the trail went uphill. It was a beautiful river gorge that we followed for quite a distance.

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We were passed by several bicycles.

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It was a beautiful walk into Olveiroa.

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These were our accommodations, the Albuergue Hórreo. It is a large dormitory style albuergue with about 20 bunks in our room which were mostly filled.

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It rained most of the evening and night. Albuegue Hórreo had a washer and dryer —- it was laundry night.

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Quintans to Dumbria

7 April 2018

QUINTANS

Our camino started with a beautiful walk into town. The church was locked so we could only admire it from the outside.

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Sun with dark clouds … very typical of our Camino so far. At the end of the road is our marker with our arrow direction.

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Out in the woods and off the pavement which is good for the feet.

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The eucalyptus trees send a fragrant smell through the fresh country air.

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Several workmen in the field hoisting cable and stringing it between the power poles. Looks like hard labor … it was a Saturday morning too. We wondered if they were being paid overtime.

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We reached a small town called Senande.

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On the left is a chapel with a bell tower. Someone was manually tolling the bells.

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As usual, the doors were locked so we could not look in.

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We wandered across the street to the cemetery. Two men were working on a headstone. As we left the cemetery, we saw a trailer hitched to a car. We wondered if this trailer carried the body that they were preparing the tomb marker for. The bells kept tolling. There were no people around other than the two men grinding the edges of the stone.

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  • We needed a little foot break, so we stopped for tea. We met an interesting character whose name was Bienvenidos. It took us a long time to figure out that he was saying his name and not greeting us. (“Bienvenidos” means “welcome” in Spanish). He finally took out his photo ID and showed us that it was his name.

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Bienvenido lived here but worked in Dubai. He is a mechanic for a solar energy company.

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We really enjoyed our tea stop. Carmen and Jesus were the proprietors. They told us about a stop we needed to make on the camino. It was the site of healing waters that come from an underground stream. They gave us an empty water bottle to fill with the sacred water from the Fonte Santa.  They also gave us holy cards, I’m sure there was a nice Spanish blessing mixed in there too.

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We started walking and the road led us by a green pasture with sheep grazing.

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Entering Trasufre which is where the sacred fountain and the Chapel of Our Lady of Espino are located. The pieces of cloth tied to the hedgerow shown below are a local tradition going back centuries. According to the Brierly guidebook, “Pilgrims come to this shrine for healing by leaving behind unwanted ailments to disintegrate along with the cloth that is their symbolic representation.”

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We have found the healing waters of Fonte Santa!

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Still raining. Lunch in the courtyard of the Our Lady of Espino chapel. Too wet to sit down so we ate standing.  Of course the chapel was locked.

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Back on the trail again.

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This beautiful chicken looks like it could be somebody’s pet.

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Our hotel for tonight is the  O Argentino.

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The weather was rainy and chilly so we welcomed the opportunity to sit by the fireplace in the bar.

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This was a one-woman operation. The seniorita tended the bar and an adjoining little grocery store, the restaurant and the hotel. She did the cooking and serving too. She even built a fire in the fireplace.  We had Galician Soup with dinner and it was the best we’ve had yet.

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The O Argentino did not have a triple room. Being the snorer of the group, I had my own room. Very nice room but it had no heat. Diane asked for more heat and the woman brought her a portable heater and she gave me a fan. We did get that straightened out and I did get a heater but it didn’t help much.

Even though my bed was piled with blankets, I woke up with a cold nose — reminded me of tent camping. Happy to get up and get moving that morning.

Muxia to Quintans

6 APRIL 2018

 

We had a bacon & egg breakfast at one of the local Muxia restaurants. This breakfast included a lifetime supply of bacon.

Peggy with Noelia, our helpful new friend who worked at the front desk at Muxia Mare which is owned by her family. Noelia has a younger brother named Blasé who would make an appearance every now and then.

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Before leaving town, we wanted to walk down to the church which has a lot of folklore. It was windy, rainy and the water was a little rough today.

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Unfortunately, like most of the churches we’ve passed, “Nosa Senora da Barca” (Our Lady of the Boat) was locked. For more information and photos about this church, scroll back to my blog post titled, “Finisterre to Muxia” from our 2017 Camino Frances adventure.

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Up high on the church was a stained glass window.

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Close to the church was a lighthouse.

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There was also a little shop with women doing their craftwork.

We walked back to the hotel. The route we took along the ocean reminded me a lot of Ireland and how they section off parcels of land with handmade stone fences.

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A nice pathway down to the “Coasta da Morte” (Coast of Death).

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Back at the Muxia Mare it was time to say goodbye to Peggy. She will be busing to Santiago this afternoon and staying at the Nest Style hostel in Santiago. Tomorrow on Saturday she flies to Madrid and then home to the United States and returns to work on Monday.

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Peggy walked us to the start of our Camino route.

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Muxia is a scenic little village and hard to leave.

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This is where it got tricky. According to our guidebook, the directions were given for walking to Muxia from Finisterre. We were going to walk the opposite way from Muxia to Santiago. Didn’t think much of it. Today should have been a simple short walk to Quintans. However, it ended up being a long complicated mess.

We missed the first turn because it indicated an “S” in a circle pointing up a big muddy road/field which we assessed as a construction site. It wasn’t even worthy of a digital photo. We later realized the “S” stood for Santiago and it was one of our few clues to the correct direction.  We had to read all of the arrows backwards which gets really tricky on the turns.

We ended up walking through a steep neighborhood and asking a few of the locals for directions. We weren’t too confident of our translation of their directions.

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Our easy route to Quintans was mostly uphill and steep.

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We passed by an old mission church that looked interesting. Like most of the other churches, it was locked tight.

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Our only true confirmation was to find a Camino direction post and then go the opposite way. We did eventually find our way. The guidebook does not recommend going from Muxia to Santiago for this reason.

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This is the village of Os Muinos (The Mills) a small poorly marked town. We were wandering by houses and looking for the world’s largest corn crib but turns out it was much further away.

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We passed Igrexs De Se Xulian de Moraime, a 12th century Romanesque church. The original monastery was established by Benedictine monks. It no longer exists but the ancient church keeps that early connection alive. It is presently undergoing extensive rennovations.

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The church was locked. However, there was a small glass window in the door and I was able to take this photo of the inside.

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We walked around the property.

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This was not a secret short cut. It was the route described from the book.

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Eventually we found the church of San Martino de Ozon. We couldn’t believe it but the church was actually open. We later discovered they were getting ready for a funeral on the next day.

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Gothic arches framed the altar.

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From the other direction, a small choir loft could be seen.

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This is the corn crib we were looking for … it is Galicia’s longest granary which is called a horreos. 1D3853DC-5BB9-415B-AF24-1666F16AC0C5

Back down hill toward Quintans.

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Rushing water passes through town.

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We keep walking along farmland.

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We have finally reached Quintans.

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Here is where we are staying, in the Pension Plaza

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The owner took us up three flights to get to our triple room. Not fun when your tired and carrying a backpack. The room was cold. We pulled out the spare blankets.

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Found our way to the bar. Time to do a little blogging.

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Had a few tapas too. That’s an aquarium behind us which held a giant turtle.

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Another delightful dinner.

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The end of another day on the trail where our quick walk turned into an all afternoon treasure hunt.

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Lires to Muxia

5 April 2018

Calla Lillies grow wild everywhere.

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Passing some pilgrims on a muddy road on the way to Muxia.

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Euchaliptis trees are common on the Camino. These were very large and tall. Oftentimes the bark has peeled off.

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We walked by lots of fields. That structure in the middle is a horreo. They are elevated corn cribs. I don’t think they are all used for that purpose any more. I think many of them are decorative.

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These crosses are everywhere in public areas. No separation of church and state here.

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This road passes by some abandoned houses. Wonder how many centuries old they are.

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Terry in the sky … checking directions.

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Time for a foot rest. We found a nice sunny spot.

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Very scenic walking.

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Some of the watch dogs are lax about their duties.

 

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Beautiful flowers grow wild everywhere.

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Peggy took this impressive shot of a rooster.

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Trudging up another hill.

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Only 2K to Muxia. Everyone is happy about that.

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We were greeted by the ocean. Beautiful wild flowers too.

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A long walk along the roadside across from the ocean.

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Soccer field right on the ocean front. Up on the hillside is a luxury resort that was scheduled to be finished 2016. Looks like they are behind schedule.

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We love this albuergue … the Muxia Mare. Very clean and friendly. Not very big and newly remodeled. The bunks all have curtains, lights and outlets.

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Peggy’s listening to the Twin’s home opener.

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Lights out at 10:00 pm.

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Finisterre to Lires

4 April 2018

Started the day with breakfast at the albuergue.  Time to get on the road.

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We started walking along the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean … heading to Lires.

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Here’s our turn off, at the cross right before the beach.

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Camino marker confirms that were on the right road.

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Just before the turn, was a campground on the ocean. Nice graphic that reminded us of Richard’s Tab trailer.

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We soon had a couple women from New York walking with us, Mary and Sue.

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Coincidentally, Mary from New York, has a daughter who lives in St. Louis Park near Terry. When Mary visits her daughter, she hangs out at the Caribou by Terry’s house. They are planning to meet at Caribou next time Mary is in SLP.

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Wow, this is a nicely paved path through the woods. No mud.

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Diane stops to chat with a local and ask directions.

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Jane stops to chat with the local’s cat.

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Back into the woods. Not such a nice path.

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Here is an unidentified crop … we think it’s Brussels sprouts??? We see it growing everywhere. One of the locals said it looks like small cabbage and they feed it to the animals. We have never seen Brussels Sprouts on a menu anywhere in Spain.

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Time to rest the feet.

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Unique walkway … lined with dead ferns that add an attractive orange fall color.

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In the middle of nowhere we found a place to stop for lunch.

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Jose Luis welcomed us in. We felt like we were sitting at someone’s kitchen table. I think we were. We were served bread with garlic butter followed by paella topped with eggs.

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The cat knew who to chum up to.

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We were also served an elegant dessert topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate. Not bad for being in the middle of nowhere. Lunch cost 5 euros … about $6 dollars.

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Marta started cutting up a pumpkin. She was making pumpkin soup for the dinner menu. They were part of a Co-op group.

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We left full and happy.

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After making lunch, Jose Luis went back outside and worked on a carpentry project. Their dog stood guard.

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Back on the road again.

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Grazing goats are the lawn mowers of this rural area.

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Very remote area for lumber.

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Roads go down and up.

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Take the scenic route? It’s longer? OK. more Brussels sprouts behind us.

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This road seems a little rugged.

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Here we are on the scenic route.

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It was raining again on the Scenic Route.

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This view was one of the rewards of taking the scenic route.

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We stopped for a beverage as we entered Lires. Wi-Fi available and everyone checks with their cell phones.

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Beautiful view from the bar at Lires.

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We had to walk a little bit longer to reach “As Eires” our albuergue in Lires.

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We followed a river and these were fish that escaped from the fish processing plant.

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We found our albuergue. Got settled in a room with two bunk beds and then went for our first 3-course Pilgrim’s meal.

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Nice sunset tonight. Very adventurous day but very long. After dinner we wiped out and tucked in early.

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On to Finisterre

3 APRIL 2018

SANTIAGO, SPAIN

Still raining. We made our way to the bus station. The plan was to catch a bus to Finisterre which is where we would start walking our Camino. We arrived at the bus station early, bought our tickets and waited for our 10:00 am bus. Somehow, it came and went. We were in the wrong place at the right time. Two German women also missed the bus. We all went to hang out in the bus station cafeteria until the next bus came at 1:00 pm.

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Christine and Kirsten are from Germany. Kirsten is a middle school science teacher (like Peggy). She had to return to work the following Monday. Christine is an occupational therapist. They had walked Camino Frances (500 miles) and were going to Finisterre for a little break before heading back to Germany.

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We walked a few blocks in the rain and found our Albuergue Cabo de Villa. This is the little cube Peggy and I shared. A bunk and two lockers for our backpacks.

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At the albuergue, Terry and I relaxed, blogged and has some wine while Diane and Peggy went touring nearby. Terry and I had seen most of Finisterre on our visit last year. We shared the albuergue with a group of special needs youth and were impressed by how well behaved they were and also by the large number of adult volunteers traveling with them.

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We went down to the lighthouse, which is the furthest point west. In ancient times, it was thought that this was the end of the earth and that the gods pulled the shade down at the end of night.

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It was quite windy at the lighthouse.

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We stopped at the lighthouse lounge for beverages. Some of us had gin & tonic which was garnished with an orange and cloves. Gave it a very different taste.

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Next stop dinner. Peggy had lamb chops, I had chicken and Terry had mussels.

This was our first 3-course Pilgrim’s dinner which included a salad, bread, main course, dessert and beverages (beer & wine included) for 12 euro, about $15.

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Back to the albuergue. Lights out at 10:00 pm. Tomorrow will be our first day of walking the Camino Finisterre.

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Ellen Leaves, Theresa Arrives

2 APRIL 2018,

MADRID

By 7:00 am, Ellen was on her flight back to the United States and Terry’s plane was getting ready to land around 9:00 am. Later that day, we would all be flying to Santiago. The plan was for me to meet Terry at the airport when she arrived to pick up the bottle caps from my collection for Jose, the person who gave me the European bottle caps. Terry was planning to stay at the airport in an “air room” meant for people who had a layover and wanted to sleep for a few hours.

I haphazardly got up around 8:00 am and made my way to the airport. I was not sure where I would find Terry. As luck would have it, I arrived at the Customs exit just about when she was coming through. It was an exciting reunion. In tow, she had the young man who sat next to her on the flight …. David who was originally from Columbia, South America but now resides in Miami. He was on a vacation to Spain by himself and needed to find his way to Puerto del Sol. Terry decided not to do the “air room” sleep option and we all headed into Madrid.

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We connected with Peggy and Diane and David joined us for lunch near the hotel.

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After lunch, David made his way to his hotel and we packed up and headed to the airport via the subway.

On to Santiago

It was a one hour flight to Santiago but getting through security at the airport and waiting for the flight took a whole afternoon.

When we arrived in Santiago, it was raining. We checked into the Nest Style hotel — very weird name but a good location. Terry went to bed while Diane, Peggy and I walked around the old part of town. We also went to the Cathedral. Behind the altar shown below is the statue of St. James. He is one of the reasons people walk the Camino. Usually, pilgrims visit the tomb of St. James at the end of their Camino. We were starting backwards.

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It was a rainy evening and we all tucked in early. After the long weekend in Madrid, a quiet night was welcome.

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Easter Sunday in Madrid

1 APRIL 2018

We got up early to go to the El Rastro market. It is the most popular open air flea market in Madrid and it is held every Sunday, even on Easter. It opens at 9:00 am and we arrived at about that time.

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The market sprawls through the streets and seems like it never ends. There isn’t a good way to cover it all. You just kind of wander through it. There is a variety of new and used items … lots of clothes, jewelry, handbags, artwork, etc.  There are many streets of antiques. The streets are crowded with people.

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Ellen made a vendor try on a belt that she wanted to buy for Jon.

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There were purses made from old records. Larger purses made from albums too.

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Entertainment and street musicians.

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Inexpensive food and tapas.

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Ellen found a skirt to try on.

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You could even buy a kumquat tree.

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A few hours at the market was overwhelming. Around 1:00 pm,  Diane went out to eat with her cousin Mariano and the rest of us headed back to the hotel. Ellen packed up … she was flying out early Monday morning and wanted to get organized. Peggy and I went across the street for Paella and WiFi. It was a nice relaxing afternoon.

Corrida de Toros

After much discernment, we decided to go to the bullfight on Sunday evening. This is a model of the bullfight arena in Madrid.

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Sunday evening features the more experienced matadors who go up against the 6-year old bulls. (For more info on bullfights, scroll back to my Camino Frances blog and look for the post titled, “Madrid: What’s the Bull all About?”)

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When David and I went last year, we went on a Saturday night which is when the novice matadors perform and the bulls are younger and not as aggressive.  Big difference! Now that I was somewhat desensitized to the gore, it was very exciting to watch.

 

The matador (below in blue) was the favorite of the crowd. He did a number of passes and the crowd was yelling “Olay! Olay! as they were waved white hankies.

After the round,  people would throw things like a hat, a scarf and even a seat cushion into the ring. The matador walked the circumference of the ring, picked up the items and tossed them back to the thrower. Sometimes he would kiss the item before throwing it back. Just a guess, but is this how the phrase, “… throw your hat in the ring …” originated?

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On the final round, this matador had a really good match. They cut both ears off the bull and presented them to him. In his earlier match, he only got one ear. Below he is strutting around the arena carrying the bull’s ear.

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In the last match, the bull did a good job too. The audience stood to applaud toro and the horses drug him around the arena for a victory lap  — an honor for the bull and the farm that raised him.

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This was such a good match that someone put the matador on his shoulders for another victory lap around the arena and the press and media joined in.

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After the bullfight, we went to dinner with Eduardo at Lamucca de Prado.  He is a teacher at Anderson school in Minneapolis which is where Peggy teaches. Eduardo, who is originally from Cancun, was visiting his sister who lives in Madrid. It was also our last evening with Ellen, She is flying home on Monday and back teaching Spanish at Edina Middle School on Tuesday.

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After dinner, we were so tired … walking back to the hotel seemed to take forever even though it was only a couple blocks. It was not a typical Easter — but we did have plenty of ham and of course, we missed our families.

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The Superior Hikers on Camino Frances

We are keeping in touch with Robin and Kevin via “WhatsApp”.  (They are the hikers from Superior, Wisconsin that we met at the REI store in Bloomington). They left home the same day we did and are walking Camino Frances starting in St. Jean Pied-de-Port which is the 500 mile Camino Terry and I walked last year.

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On Friday they began walking from St. Jean PdP all the way to Roncevalle on the Napoleon route. A midway stop, Orisson, was not open for the season yet. They walked for 11-1/2 hours through the Pyrenees to get to Roncevalles. I’m impressed — it’s very steep and it took Terry and me two days. We hobbled into Roncevalles.

Luck is with them. The next day they woke up to snow. We’ve been hearing that the  Napoleon route has been closed off and on during the last couple weeks because of bad weather.

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Holy Saturday in Madrid

31 March 2018

Today we are going touring with Diane’s cousin Mariano. We grabbed breakfast at El Cardena which is across from our hotel. They gave us tapas while we waited for our breakfast orders.

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We were to meet Mariano at the palace. We were early and while we waited, we saw the changing of guards at the Palace.


There were many forms of entertainment around the palace. We liked the marionette people.


Mariano drove us to many sites in Madrid. Very interesting to above ground since we had been on the subway most of the time. We ended up near the Prado museum. David and I had just been there last spring. Diane and Ellen did the one-hour tour while Peggy and I walked back to the hotel. It led us to one of our favorite places, St. Anne square.

That’s a Peggy & Jane happy hour and everyone is happy about it!

After basking in the sun for awhile, we had to run to Puerto del Sol to catch the Holy Saturday procession.  We passed by our hotel and caught one of the hotel workers with a handful of wine glasses. We were impressed.

Next stop Puerto del Sol for the Holy Saturday procession. On this day, there is only one procession at 4:00 pm and it winds all over. It starts with drums.

Lots of drums. That’s how you know a procession is starting.


The mourning “brides of Christ” a concept I never understood.


More penitents.

This must be some type of potentate or a spouse of a “bride of Christ” or maybe a groom of Christ …. concepts I don’t know much about and never understood.

There seems to be different levels of the “brides of Christ”. This level carried gold staffs.


Many had their finest rosary’s in hand. Some had two or three.


More mourning women.

Not sure what this group is.


Now comes the sorrowful Mary float. There is no Jesus float, because as tradition reads … it was the Sabath and Jesus was in a tomb waiting to be prepared for burial on Easter Sunday.


The clerics follow with incense.


More penitents.


And as usual, the procession ends with a large marching band.


It was about 5:30 pm. Peggy and I had connected with Ellen and Diane. We decided to walk to the Cathedral to see about an Easter Vigil. We were distracted by chocolate and churros … a specialty of the area. We thought it was like hot chocolate but it was much thicker. You dipped the churros in the chocolate.

We got tangled in the parade two more times as it wound through the city. We found the Cathedral and it did not open until 10:00 pm for the Easter Vigil. We all know how long an Easter Vigil lasts in the United States … about 2-3 hours. There’s no way we were going to hang around to experience this when it started so late at night. Time to find a restaurant for dinner.

Even though the Cathedral was closed until 10:00 pm, we were able to visit the underground crypt which had an entrance around the corner from the main Cathedral entrance.

To our surprise, the crypt was really large … almost like the size of a church. It had the same footprint as the Cathedral and looked like a church within itself. Apparently, it is the largest crypt in Spain, if not the world.

 

On our quest to find dinner, we passed several churches that were holding Easter vigils. They had the traditional “bonfire” at the church entrance. For those of you who have never experienced a Catholic Easter Vigil, a fire is lit at the entrance of the church, usually at sundown. From the bonfire,  the presider lights the Easter Candle and brings it into the darkened church where all of the congregants are waiting with small candles. The presider lights a few candles and then everyone lights each other’s candles. It is a beautiful sight to see the ceremony go from darkness to light.

We finally found a restaurant, La Martina.  We were the only ones there at about 9:00 pm. By the time we left, the place was packed. In Spain, no one goes out until well after 9-10 pm even on weekdays.

The food was fabulous. We shared grilled vegetables, Iberian sirloin carmelized with onion and allspice sauce.


Tempura fried eggplant with fresh cheese and sugar cane honey



Galician style pork shoulder with potatoes, paprika and oil.

After this fabulous dinner, we wandered back to the hotel. Another long but amazing day.

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Good Friday in Spain

30 March 2018

We are meeting Diane’s cousin Mariano at 10:30 am today. Ooops! We overslept and now were meeting him at 1:00 instead. Everybody was up and ready to roll by 10:30. We headed to the San Miguel Market for breakfast but stopped at an interesting bakery. For the Easter holiday they make something called Tarjillo. It’s kind of like tres leche cake.

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We bought a few items and ate them right on the street.

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Mariano met us in Puerto del Soul. After introductions were made, he showed us a golf ball and golf tee that Diane’s dad gave him in 1994 when he visited the United States.

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We walked with Mariano to the palace. Lots of entertainment on the way! Got a haircut.

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Diane and cousin Mariano in front of the palace. Lots of activities at the palace.

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On the way back to the hotel we found some more entertainment.

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Wandered around and found a lunch spot, Ojala, in a neighborhood we hadn’t been to yet. In the lower level, there was a floor of beach sand and funky lights. We opted for table and chairs.

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The food was organic and fabulous.

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Back to the hotel. The weather was so cold, we put scarves and hats on the plywood cutouts on our balconies.  Several people stopped, laughed and some even took photos.

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It was cold in Madrid. We Minnesotans know how to dress properly and we know a good bargain. We found a store that had knit mad bomber hats that were really warm … and the cost was 1 euro which is about $1.40. Now we look like Minnesotans in Madrid.

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After a little happy hour break at the hotel, we headed out to watch Good Friday processions. Our first stop was at Plaza Mayor. A very small procession took place. The penitents were carrying tall orange candles.

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The masked penitents carry the Mary float.

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This was a short procession which ended with a marching band.

 

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As we wandered the streets we found another procession. Lots of people crowding in  to see what was going on.

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The procession started with a lead horse.

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Lead horse followed by more horses. It was impressive and different from all the processions we had seen previously.

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Then came a penitent carrying a cross.

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Then came Jesus … very dramatic.

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The monstrance followed.

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More penitents.

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And the procession ended with a band.

 

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Unfortunately, it started raining. We ducked into a shop and bought cheap umbrellas. We were told that when it rains as hard as it was raining, they cancel the processions. New plan needed. We went to Abuela (Grandma’s) bar and ordered tapas. We decided that it was time to see some Flamenco dancers.

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We found a good Flamenco show very close to our hotel.

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There were two dancers and four musicians. The show exceeded my expectations.

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It was a long day, the rain continued and we ran back to the hotel. Another good day in Madrid.

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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.