The Camino Santiago 2013 ..

 

As if one time wasn’t enough,  I did it again last May.  I walked the same 125 km of the Camino de Santiago… from Sarria to Santiago.  Only this year a few things were changed.  This year, with a new group of women, we took a bus from the airport instead of a taxi.  We bussed from Santiago to Lugo and explored this beautiful town with a completely intact Roman Wall surrounding Lugo (a Unesco World Heritage Site)… and then we bussed from there to Sarria where we spent the night before starting our walk the next day.  This year I also added an additional night at the end so that we could pamper our weary paws… that night was at a Relais Chateaux where we literally took over the spa.  It was perfect.  The only downside to the Relais was that we were outside of Santiago and couldn’t wander the streets and explore Santiago.

Walking the camino this year, for me, didn’t come without it’s challenges.  In late March, I broke my foot walking down the street in Barcelona.  I had a cast on my foot for 11 days and then a walking boot that literally came off the day before we flew to Santiago.  (Ironically enough, my foot doctor’s wife was on our flight as she too was walking the Camino with friends).   All Spring I worried I wouldn’t be able to walk the camino with the girls.  And was even more worried I’d let the ladies down that had already made plane reservations, etc.   I really wanted to go and contemplated simply driving from town to town to meet the women at the end of their daily walks.. I rented a bike thinking it might at least be easier… but thankfully… I had recovered enough to walk the Camino!  And after the second day, I decided I shouldn’t push my luck and I paid the 3Euros to have my backpack shuttled from the hotel for me each day.

People often ask me about the Camino and I find myself telling people time and again that the thing I love MOST about walking the Camino are the people you meet along the way.  The people that may have blisters all over their feet, but stop to help you with yours.. or people who are living in the homes along the way offering “free hugs” or fresh fruit and juices.

But this year, more so than last had a profound effect on me.  One of the women walking the Camino with us was carrying the ashes of two people for whom she had lost the year before.  And she, of the 7 of us, suffered most from blisters, blackened toenails, and bleeding feet.  When tears weren’t streaming down her face from the pain, laughter abounded.  She thoughtfully placed photos and notes along the way in memory of her mother, father and best friend.  It wasn’t until the final day of walking that Niki found the perfect resting place for her loved ones.  Together, as the sun rose, we helped her make a cross out of tall grass.  We placed photos, letters, pictures in and around the cross.  We said a prayer for Niki, her parents and her best friend and silently continued our walk in to Santiago.

I put together a slideshow of our images from our walk.  This year I carried my 70-200 zoom lens.  I wanted to be able to capture the faces of the people working in the fields, etc.  But this camera was kind of a communal camera.  Since 4 of us were photographers, we mutually shared the camera.. so this is a collection of all our images captured throughout our walk.. enjoy!  xo

PS  Here’s our itinerary  Camino Hotel Itinerary Booked-2-2a  of the places we stayed and how we broke our walk down.  I think if you mention Arzua to anybody, you’ll likely get a pained face.. as that was the longest, most painful day of walking for all of us. :)

 

 

 

 

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Spanish Driver’s Ed 101

I tried to put it off.  I even considered going to Amsterdam to get my driver’s license because it was supposed to be easier.  You see in Spain, they don’t accept US driver’s licenses (or they do but only for 6 months after you have moved here).     I’d heard the horror stories of getting a driver’s license in Spain.  2 weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10A-6P) of classes followed up by taking a written test (30 questions of which you can only miss 3) and then in-car driving classes and a driving test!

Who has the time?  Oh.. and what’s the cost?  Upwards of 1,000 Euros… and in the case of my Argentinian Ob/gyn friend/doctor “No way” Jose… it cost him several thousand Euros!  So I put it off….

But then my wallet was stolen in Prague.  Someone reaching in to my purse-like diaper bag took my wallet.  Took my Spanish residence card.  Took my Ohio driver’s license…  At first, I wasn’t bothered.  I figured it would get returned… and I was grateful it was just those things.. Grateful for our health.. grateful for our happy life…

Until I realized I had NOTHING to show anyone if I were pulled over in the car!  And that’s when I panicked.  I went online and tried to see if the DMV in Ohio would replace my license and send it to me.. From what I could find out, the answer was NO.  And realistically speaking, legally speaking, I needed a Spanish license anyway… and so the journey began.

I signed up for my driver’s ed class in Sarria with Ed.  He’s an enthusiastic Will Farrell like character.  Funny, passionate, etc.  While I dreaded giving my weekends to driver’s ed classes, I enjoyed him.. and laughing.  It was 3 days of class and then 3 days (and more for me) of taking practice test after practice test on the computers in their facilities.   The classes were in English.. but the tests were in pig latin.. or maybe something worse than pig latin…  Basically impossible to understand or memorize.  Horribly written in American, British, Australian English translated by a Spanish person who had just begun to learn English.  You get my drift… It was PAINFUL!!!  And ridiculous!!

But I perservered.. studying 100+ hours taking practice test after practice test… and felt ready for the actual test when I took it.  And… well.. I passed!

Phase II was the in -car driving.. but I broke my ankle a few days before I was supposed to start, so had to delay it by 2 months.  And because we have a manual car here, I had to take the classes and actual test in a manual…

Marcos was my in-car driver’s ed teacher.  He prepared me for everything on which I would be tested.  Things like the parts of the engine (in Spanish).  The parts I would need to secure the spare wheel (in Spanish)…the depth of the tire tread (in Spanish)… and on top of that, putting the sun visor up and down at appropriate times, never having the car in neutral while driving even if you are coasting to a stop.  I was a mess.  Tears streaming down my face mess.  And unable to wipe the tears away because I had to have two hands on the steering wheel at all times..

I took 9 lessons with Marcos.  45 minutes each.  We navigated through the narrow streets of Barcelona, through the roundabouts, up by Montjuic… practiced parking, parallel and backing in.  And I dreaded all of the lessons.  Well Monday was the day of the test.  I almost skipped taking it.  I was ready to give up entirely.  But I didn’t…. and I passed.  Of the four of us that took the test in my group that day.. two of us passed.  One of the two others that didn’t pass had taken the in-car test 4 times…

I figure that while I had bad luck having my license stolen… it all worked out for the better.  But what a pain!  And now I am official!

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Facebook Birthdays in London..

I’ll be the first to admit, last year I added my birthday to Facebook.. on my birthday.  There’s something about Facebook Love that is just so so so great!  I have always kept birthday calendars.. and then my computer crashed.  But thanks to Facebook… I can almost follow everyone.  Anyway, THANK YOU for making a girls birthday so great.  Even the simplest of Happy’s made my day!  :) xo

On top of the Facebook Birthday we were lucky enough to travel to London to meet up with my cousin Rob and his family.  He works for Grassroots Soccer in Cape Town and had some board meetings in London.  So we all decided it would be an ideal time to get together.  It was perfect.  From seeing Matilda to the London Eye.

Watching Arsenal tie (although a win would have been better) Manchester United.  Getting lost in the mirror maze in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum which gave a whole new meaning to museum…. and then hustling through the British Museum (which sadly didn’t hold a candle to the Ripley’s “museum”)… but tied in beautifully with what the kids are learning about Ancient Egypt.  London was perfect!  It was fun to see cousins together.  To worry about which way to look when crossing the street.  To be a part of the London vibe.. it was perfect.

We loved our dinner at Cantina Laredo before seeing Matilda.  We loved our centrally located (and big roomed) hotel accomodations at Le Meridien in Picadilly (say that 10 times in a row and try not to laugh!)… and the last night’s dinner at Inamo was fun for all of us.  You order your food using a touch screen that is projected on your table… so fun!  The one thing we really would have liked to have seen would have been the Harry Potter tour or this and the ghost walk which we’d scheduled and cancelled due to time.

When the kids weren’t swimming in the hotel pool or jumping on the beds, we were able to slip out and attend a cocktail party hosted by Seb Bishop who is on the board of Grassroots Soccer.  He lives in a gorgeous row house in the Nottinghill area.. and we got to meet loads of interesting people.  I loved hearing the story of Grassroots Soccer.. which began with a guy named Tommy Clarke who is Scottish but moved with his family to Zimbabwe when we was 13.  His father was/is an amazing soccer coach and naturally Tommy played soccer his whole life too.  Tommy ended up at Dartmouth where his dad also coached the soccer team (and where Rob (my cousin) met Tommy)… and later returned to Zimbabwe to discover that several of his friends from his childhood team had passed away from AIDS.  And thus began Grassroots Soccer.  Grassroots is all about teaching kids and adults about AIDS and how to prevent AIDS.. but it is done through the medium of soccer.  The Grassroots coaches are hand chosen and very much become a role model in the community.  They teach the kids soccer, while at the same time, educating them about AIDS.  I am so amazed and impressed with the efforts Grassroots Soccer is making not just in Africa (although it is more prevalent there) but around the world.

I listened to Lauren (Rob’s wife) talk about her experiences living in Cape Town and working with the local children.  From children who don’t have any parents to kids that come over and linger for hours in her bath tub because they simply have never had a bath.       It’s all so amazing and I am so so so so proud of Rob, Lauren and their kids .. and the difference Grassroots Soccer is making in the lives of children around the globe.  I know their goal is to reach more than 1 million kids before the world cup in 2014..if you want to help them reach this mission, you can make a donation here.  And for making the donation, I’m going to attache a clever little scavenger hunt one of the teacher’s did for Lauren for us to do while we were in London.. we knocked off a few.. but never managed to meet the Queen.. :(  xo  Scavenger Hunt

 

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Semana Blanca

Otherwise known as the “white week”.  Every year we get a week off or a ski week in the middle of February.  Last year we spent the week driving around Andalucia  (visiting Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Ronda and Cadiz .. all of which I still need to blog about) with my parents.  This year we were determined to head for the mountains.  And so we did!

We headed to Baqueira Beret in the Spanish Pyrenees (and also known to be the place where the Spanish Royals like to ski..not that we would have known who they were).  What should have been a 4 hour drive from Barcelona, was a 7 hour drive (thanks to our handy dandy GPS).  The GPS knew the quickest route… in the summer.  Imagine heading to Aspen from Denver and being guided up Independence Pass in the middle of winter.. you get my snowdrift.

Anyway, we stayed at a hotel called the Rafael.  It was understated and perfect.  The rooms were cozy with wood beamed ceilings and beautiful windows that looked out at the mountains.  And to our chagrin, it had snowed 1 meter (10 feet!) the week prior to our arrival, so we had nothing but blue skies, fresh powder and sunny days to enjoy.

Emma, eager to be with her friends who were also vacationing in Baqueira, spent her week with them.  I think I saw her twice.  She was blissfully happy and even declared that she loves skiing more than basketball!  She was on the slopes first thing and skiied until the slopes were closing.  Owen and I took private lessons.  After last years fiasco of trying to ski in the Alps with Kara and Jeff.  As they say here in Spain.. Poco a poco (little by little).  That seems to be my motto right now.  I learn to speak spanish – poco a poco.. I learn to ski – poco a poco… and so on.

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The Spanish Verb Geek

I tried to look up my Spanish teacher from High School, Mr. Staubitz, and thank him for teaching me what he could… and sadly, I think, he has passed away…

My dance with the Spanish language started when I was in sixth grade and had the opportunity to be one of six kids from our Elementary School to go with CISV to Mexico City to live with a host family for a month.  The Arvizu family was beautiful and loving and lived right near the Forum in the heart of the city.  Before the six of us left for our adventure, we had Spanish lessons in the basement of Anna Johnson’s house.  We knew nothing.  And when I arrived in Mexico City I knew a wee bit more than nothing.

Naturally, Spanish then became “the language” I wanted to learn in life.  I had Senora Pedrotti in middle school who taught me how to roll my “r”‘s.  And then in high school had Sr. Staubitz who consistently gave me “A’s” and glowing reports on my report card.  Then in college, I took Spanish my freshman year… and then stopped.

Knuckledheadedly I studied abroad (my junior year in college) in Oxford, England, rather than heading to Spain.  And now, at the age of 42 I am DETERMINED to speak fluently in a city that prefers to speak Catalan.

Last year I started off my year here taking classes at the kids’ school two mornings a week with an organization called DIME.  We were tested and I was placed in the Advanced Beginner group.  In the class were 5 other expats all in the same boat as I.  We would discuss everyday situations and experiences.  They would pass out worksheets and we would discuss them.  But I yearned for a book.  I wanted something that would break the language out for me bit by bit.  Because now as an adult, instead of absorbing, I’m finding my learning the language to be more like a math formula that I have to think about and break a part.  So I went online and found what I believe, to this day, to be the BEST workbooks for learning Spanish.  This is one of the many books McGraw Hill has and I love them all.

Last year I would spend my free time working in the workbooks.  I would work through page after page (checking my answers in the back) plodding along and taking my classes with DIME.  Then in January, I started working one on one with a language tutor.  She had me reading the newspaper, watching Spanish Films like Volver and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown by Pedo Almodovar.  She had me listening to books I was reading with her.. books about the Spanish Civil War.. or the Camino de Santiago.  She had me speaking and .. writing her emails in Spanish.  It was a comprehensive approach to learning the language and I loved it.  I would spend my days in the park in front of the apartment with Boo and practice what I was learning with her with my Spanish dog friends…

This year I started out with the language tutor, but decided I wanted more.   So right now I am taking 20 hours a week of Spanish at Don Quijote and LOVE it!!!!  Like all of the Spanish teachers I’ve worked with, they hate the textbook so prefer to work off of the worksheets they photocopy for us.  The class is taught in its entirety in Spanish and includes grammar, conversation, reading, etc.  I’m now in to my fourth week and I plan on continuing.  On top of taking this class, I have downloaded “The Verb Geek” app which I can quiz myself on as I walk the dogs.  And if I’m not doing that, I’m listening to “Notes In Spanish” on my ipod.  I also have joined studyspanish.com where I can take practice quizzes and re-learn complex things (for me) like when to use indicative or subjunctive.    And, without guilt, I regularly read Hola! Magazine which is loaded with important things (in Spanish) like what Shakira thinks about motherhood.  So now, a year and a half later, I can honestly say, I think I’m getting it!

However, I was telling a friend yesterday, I now know enough to be dangerous.  Now that I know all of the verb tenses, it’s a buffet of verb conjugations.  I might just grab the wrong one out of desperation.  My goal, however, is to be able to speak fluently with two of my favorite Spanish friends here, Roser (a mother of a basketball player Emma played basketball with last year) and M Carmen.

Sadly, Mr. Staubitz isn’t here for me to thank him for helping build my foundation in Spanish.  But I think of him everyday as I struggle to learn this complex language.  I have learned that a) learning a language as a young child is ideal (because you don’t spend your day deciding whether it’s subjunctive or indicative) but you just say it because it sounds right.  b)  the McGraw Hill books are the BEST books out there (that I have found) for learning Spanish.  c)  Immersion is key: writing, reading, hearing and speaking.  I credit DIME, Don Quitjote, Alejandra (my tutor) and all of my Spanish friends and American friends who have helped me along the way.  And when I’m really having a rough day, I high five myself for being so fluent in English!!  Because THAT is a hard language to learn and it flows so effortlessly for me. :)

 

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It’s ok if I post a funny from another friend living here right?

She sent this to me last night and I feel it’s actually more worthy of the New Yorker than our blog here.. but lucky me.. I get to share it here first!! I love friends like this … Enjoy!!!

OK, so this really did happen to me today…

At breakfast, Frank was like, “Look what the corner newspaper guy gave me: Tunisian salad in a can !” We opened it up and it was a wonderful, spicy concoction, kind of like green chili peppers, Sriracha chili sauce, and smoky paprika all rolled into one. I quickly fired up a couple of eggs, and we slathered on the spicy sauce – delish! “So, I’ll make another egg,” I said. Fried up two more, slathered on the sauce and – what’s that? A long white hair! (Just had my hair colored last week, ladies, so I know it wasn’t mine. Bitches!). Ugh – put the eggs in the trash, and couldn’t stop think about which grizzly old man in Tunisia lost part of his beard, or whatever….

Anyway, Frank went out sailing on the Med, and since he doesn’t like fancy restaurants, I decided to go alone to one of Barcelona’s top restaurants and have their 8 course lunch. The first couple of courses were divine. Then, my skate wing came – nicely browned in a meuniére sauce…I took one bite and almost gagged. Tasted like someone had sautéed it in a pan full of “Mr. Clean with Ammonia D” cleaning solution. Seriously. The server ran over to see what the hell was happening to me – my eyes were rolling back into my head. I sputtered out in Spanish, the fish was “muy mal” and tasted like “amoníaco”. I told her to take the dish and tell the chef immediately. The chef came out and assured me the fish was caught yesterday – it couldn’t be bad. Had I ever tasted skate? The fish shows all the signs of freshness – firm to the touch, eyeballs clear, the boat just went out yesterday, bla bla bla… Little did he know I worked at Scott’s Seafood for a year in SF as a waitress boning sand dabs tableside…. This was not my first rodeo…ummm…I mean boat ride. “¡Probalo! ¡Probablo!” I kept saying, which I think means “Try it” but could mean “Try it on” – who the hell knows??? But he could see I was in distress. Finally, he agreed to go back to the kitchen and take a bite from my plate.

Upon his return, ashened-faced, he acknowledged the fish tasted like ammonia. What else would I desire? The hake? The turbot? “Beef” I said, not even trying to translate.

I could barley eat the beef shank, which was excellent, but did grab a piece of the excellent crusty bread -”pan integral” with raisins and walnuts- to sop up the sauce. OMG! A frickin’ white curly hair was cozily nestled around one of the raisins in the bread.

What the hell is happening here? Is there a army of old grannies taking over the culinary world and I’m just “out of it”? Kind of like Santa’s Elves…but doing back-of-the-house kitchen prep work? “I’ve got to stop eating!”, I said to myself. “This madness has got to stop.” The chef came out one last time and graciously comp’d my meal (didn’t have the heart to show him the bread – it was too gross), so at least I wasn’t out 60 €.

Got home and googled “skate tasting like ammonia” – since the chef was so sincere that the fish was caught yesterday…I was intrigued. Turns out you need to “bleed” skate and shark properly once killed, since they urinate through their skin – otherwise the uric acid leaches into the flesh and the fish will taste like….ammonia! So, it wasn’t old fish, just “pee pee” fish. ¡Fantastico!….

So tonight I pulled my hair back into a ponytail, had white boiled rice for dinner and promised myself never to wear my glasses while eating ever again. Guess I’ll look better too….

Shannon

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Hi ho Hi ho it’s off to Bilbao we .. went!

I’d heard soo many good things about the northern part of Spain.  The Basque country as it’s referred to.  Amazing food!  Scenic!  Great surfing!  Great beaches!  I heard to go when the weather is warm…

And so we went!  We flew to Bilbao from Barcelona on Friday and spent the day walking around the Guggenheim Museum.  Amazingly beautiful!  It’s in what was an industrial city along a river.  The Guggenheim stands out in its contemporary landscape.  It was built in 1997 by a friend of ours Cesar Martinell who’s grandfather worked with Gaudi on La Sagrada Familia.. and now Cesar helps as well.  But Cesar worked with Frank Gehry on the Bilboa too!!!  It’s incredible!  The materials used to build it (titanium, glass and limestone).  The use of light.  How the building looks at all times of the day.

And then inside, are some really cool exhibits.  The first we saw was a David Hockney exhibit followed up by a really cool exhibit by Richard Serra..

We spent a night in Bilbao and drove the next day (along the coast) to San Sebastian.  I think I would have preferred to have just driven to San Sebastian as I felt like we didn’t have enough time in San Sebastian!  And the drive was beautiful!  A very windy, coastal road that took us through some sweet coastal towns.

Little did we know that in San Sebastian was the San Sebastian film festival and the likes of Richard Gere, Ben Affleck, Oliver Stone, etc. were all there!  There were no celebrity spottings, but with my zoom lens I was ready.  We spent most of our time walking around, eating Pintxos and swimming in the Atlantic.

And learning to surf which was the highlight..

I’d like to say we took advantage of the fine dining… but we really didn’t UNTIL we stumbled upon a fabulous new restaurant (opened a year ago) by a Spanish-American couple called La Madame.  The couple that owns the restaurant are fantastic and the food unbelievable!

Next time we go, I would love to stay at the Maria Christina Hotel (which is likely where all of the celebrities were staying!) but our hotel the Tryp Orly was in a great location as well..with a nice view.  The room was a bit cramped, but that was ok.

 

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So much to say, so little time!

I haven’t posted here since May!!  And since May, we’ve flown Boo home. Flown home ourselves.  Spent an amazing summer in  my most favorite place in the world, on the Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada WITH BOTH of my doggies and my parents and my sister..  saw friends from the cottage and friends from Cincinnati.. and now we are back in BCN.  It was fast and beautiful.  The only downside was not seeing more of Doug’s part of the family.  That’s the hardest part for me about living here.  I love family.  I love being close or at least a quick flight away or a quick drive.  I love having my parents sitting on the sidelines of my kids’ basketball or soccer games.  I love the ease of the US…

BUT.. here I’m watching Emma take the subway to meet up with friends to go to a movie and the beach.  I’m watching her independently navigate through Barcelona.. figuring out which trains to take where.  What to do when you bought a ticket that only gets you so far and you can’t get out of the subway station… I’m watching her fly.  I’m watching her problem solve.

I’m reading a book now about how we protect our kids from everything and give them very little wiggle room to be problem solvers.  Here, my kids, every day have to be problem solvers.  Sure, they have cell phones and have to call me every step of the way (and certainly Emma is getting more freedom then her brother).  But it’s amazing to watch.  And Emma especially, is loving it.  And that’s my fear a bit.  She’s loving it a bit too much.. she’s worried about needing me to take her places when we move home.  She likes her independence here.  I guess it’s a major difference between city living and living out in the suburbs.  And, in my mind, its’ a major difference between living in a US city and a European city.  It feels just a little bit safer.

We shed tears when we boarded the plane to come back here.  Things are just so easy at home.  It’s the known versus the unknown.  But I have to say, it was so much easier coming back our second year than it was arriving our first!  So much easier!  And just like summer camp, there’s a whole new crew of ex-pats that have arrived that bring a fun new mix to the experience.  We know how to drive around BCN.  We know where to get our groceries.  We even managed a move here!  We literally moved a balcony over.  New building, same floor, smaller apartment.  And all of our stuff (furniture and all) was passed from one balcony to the next!

While Emma isn’t playing basketball this year (which is opening up a ton of time for us to travel and her to navigate the city with her friends), Emma is playing volleyball at school and Owen is playing tennis.  But all in all, we are taking it slowly.  We aren’t trying to fill in our life the way it was in the US.  We are trying to slow down and enjoy living.

I had lunch with Roser, my Catalan friend (and mother of one of the basketball players from last year), last week.  She speaks little to no English.. and I was able able to have a two hour lunch with her.. with conversation!  She was my friend from last year who would always wait for me when the parents would be heading to a bar while the girls had their basketball practice.  She’d wave me over to indicate I was sitting in the wrong part of the gym.  She friended me on facebook and chats with me or comments on my posts.  She’s warm-hearted and lovely.  And my goal for this year is to be fluent enough to talk with her where I’m not driving the conversation based on my limited vocabulary.  I miss her.  I miss Hector too.  He’s a basketball dad who spoke a little bit of English, but always with a smile on his face, would reach out to us.  In fact, when my parents were here, my dad would go to every basketball practice Emma had.  Hector and my dad would drink beers together.  And Hector always insisted on treating.  My dad speaks no Spanish, and Hector very little English.. but he is so wonderful too.  So I’m a bit sad, baloncesta is not in our cards for this year.  I’m going to miss that.

It’s easy to surround yourself with safe.  There are plenty of great ex-pats here that all speak English, and having basketball last year threw us in to the unknown.  So I hope this year I maintain and build my Spanish friendships which will take more effort on my part.   While also, for sure, having a great time with the new friends we make that are ex-pats.

I realize I’m rambling a bit here… anyways, we are back!

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The Camino de Santiago Part II

It’s amazing how quickly time flies. I fully intended to write about the magical experience of walking the Camino… more than just my laundry list of what I’d packed or how exhilarated I was at the end of the Camino. That feeling of build up… and then it’s over and you aren’t ready for it to be over feeling. The same way I felt the day after our wedding. Anyway, I know many people have expressed an interest in walking the Camino and I may organize a group to go in May of 2013. But for those who are thinking of walking just a small part of it (5 days), I thought I’d share what we did.  Before you read on, if you have a Mac… here’s a slideshow that I put together of some of the many images I captured to give you a sense and feel of the walk.  Click here to view it.  And here’s a link Noelle (who walked the Camino with me) wrote for an online travel guide and here was her online blog she wrote as we were walking.

Ok now on to the details…

We flew to Santiago and took a taxi to Sarria (you can take a bus from Santiago but we would have had to wait around for a few hours for the bus, so instead hopped in a cab). The cab ride was a little over two hours (I think and 200 Euros per cab (which we divided between us)).  We did no walking this first day.

May 25
Sarria
Hotel Alfonso 982 530 005
Doubles 60€
Single 50€
These prices are without breakfast. Double with breakfast is 76€.
Arrive by 6pm.

http://www.carrishoteles.com/en/hotels/sarria/hotel-carris-alfonsoix-sarria.html

Day 1:

We walked 21.5 km to Portomarin…

May 26, Portomarin
Pousada de Portomarin 982 545 200
Double: 85€
Triple: 104€ (actually a double with an extra bed)
She will include breakfast in this rate, since we are 5.

Day 2:

We walked 24 km to Palas de Rei…

May 27, Complejo La Cabana
34 982 380750
Triple 66€

www.complejolacabana.com/

Day 3:

We walked 28km

May 28, Arzua

Hotel Teodora 981 500 083

Double 45€

Triple 55€

Does not include breakfast.
Call to reconfirm if arriving after 5pm.

Day 4:

We walked further than O’Pino walking approx. 30km to a town and Inn I can’t remember… we just wanted to have a shorter walk our final day so we could make the church service at 12N in Santiago.  However, here is the initial reservation we made..

May 29, O Pino
Hotel O Pino 981 511 148
Double 50€
Triple 65€
Please arrive by 5pm.

Day 5:

We walked to Santiago… 17 km from the town I can’t remember… :)

I know one of the women we walked with was a bit remiss that we hadn’t stayed in auberge’s (a.k.a. hostels).  Many would argue the hostel is the way to go.  It’s much cheaper, but more importantly, you get to know and meet more people who are walking the camino.   The downside is that you are sleeping on bunk beds in a room full of people, sharing bathrooms, etc.  And it can be noisy with snorers or people rustling around in their bags for things, etc.  I personally, liked our one star hotel experiences.  (And to think I joked about the rationale for hotels to brag about their one star status.) :)

When you arrive to Sarria, your first town, head to the church to get your passport.  The passport is what you stamp as you stop at places along the way.  There are no limits as to how many stamps you get, you just need to get at least two stamps in each of the towns along the way if you want to get your official Certificate in Santiago for having walked the Camino .  In order to get the Certificate, you must have walked at least 120km or biked 200km.  This five day walk earns you the Certificate… although I felt a bit lame getting the Certificate along with the others who had actually walked the full Camino (800+ km).  And you get the Certificate at the Pilgrim’s office in Santiago.  You will want to get there around 10:30 if you are intending to head to the 12N  mass at the church.  There will be arrows that will indicate where the Pilgrim’s office is.  And if you don’t see them, just ask.  You pass it on your way to the church.  Also, if you are lucky or if someone has paid 200 Euros to the church, you might get to experience the swinging of the incense.. it’s a huge container that holds the incense and is hanging from a huge rope.  It is swung across the whole church like a pendulum.  It’s breathtakingly amazing.. and by luck of chance, Erika was close to being hit in the head with it! :)

I think ideally, I would have preferred to spend our final night in Santiago at a five star hotel and get a massage.  Instead we flew out and headed home…

You’d think it would be easy to purchase the Practical Guide to walking the Camino on the Camino… it isn’t.  So be sure and have your guide before you arrive.  I bought mine in Santiago on our final day.  What I purchased is “The Way of Saint James – The Pilgrim’s Practical Guide” written by Jose Maria Anguita Jaen.  I would have put a link to it here, but couldn’t find one on Amazon.

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The Camino de Santiago.

 

“For I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow”  was written on this memorial for a woman who passed away peacefully in her sleep while walking the Camino de Santiago.  It’s from a Yeats poem…

THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE

By William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

1892

People come from all around the world to walk the Camino de Santiago.  It might be for religious reasons, for historical reasons, for health reasons.  It might be to pay tribute to a loved one who has passed on…  I wasn’t quite sure what my reasons were.  The idea of exercising for 5 straight days fit in to my “operation bikini” plan.  And I was looking forward to getting to know a little bit better the 5 women with whom I would be traveling. I really didn’t know what to expect.

I spent two weeks trying to figure out how to hike.. to figure out what I would need.  It felt a bit like me trying to get ready for a Grateful Dead Concert in college.  Do I wear my Laura Ashley jumper with my hot pink lipstick?  Or do I throw on a borrowed tie-dye and cut off shorts?  I searched for clothes online.  I knew my lululemon pants wouldn’t probably work for hiking… or my running shoes.  I went to North Face here in Barcelona and asked the guy at North Face what I needed. He directed me to a 45l backpack.  He recommended socks.  He recommended boots.  He recommended a raincoat and rain pants.  He recommended a shammy cloth.  He recommended walking poles.  I felt like a fake.  Pretending to be a hiker at the age of 42.  Why have I waited so long to actually hike?!!?

So I bought the backpack, the socks, the jacket, the pants, the poles and walked out with all of it in the backpack on my back.  Doug brought me the Lowen shoes from the US (a half size bigger than my size 8 1/2 feet).  He also brought me back a slew of pants from Athleta that looked to me to be hiking pants.  What are hiking pants anyway?  And as Erika (one of my other walking compadres) said, “why don’t they make hiking clothes in fun colors like… pink!?”

I struggled with whether I should bring my Canon Mark II with my 70-200 lens (which weighs about 10 pounds).  I wondered if I might want my iPad for reading at night or if I would want an iPod nano to listen to books on tape or music.  And what if someone gets hurt on the trail?  Maybe I should bring a first aid kit?  And what about the toiletries?

So here’s what I packed for my 5 day journey:

2 pairs of Athleta pants

2 short sleeved t-shirts

1 long sleeved t-shirt

1 raincoat

1 poncho

1 pair of rain pants

5 pairs of undies

5 pairs of socks

2 sports bras

1 pair of shorts to sleep in at night

Walking poles

A water bottle

Boots size 9 (1/2 size bigger than my feet)

Running Shoes (that I’ve been wearing for a year).. size 9

A cover for the backpack in case of rain

Warm running mittens in case of cold

Toiletries:

Toothbrush

Small Toothpaste

Neosporin

Bandaids

Compeede for blisters

Pink lipstick  :)

Small bottles of shampoo and conditioner

A bracelet to keep the bugs away

Sunscreen

My necklace made of a polished Pointe au baril rock given to me by my husband…

My iphone

A baseball hat

Camino t-shirt for the girls (designed by my friend Candace) :)

An ipod nano

My passport

Money

The Itinerary with boarding passes

Canon S95

Canon Mark II 1D

24-70 MM lens

16GM card for camera

Charger for Camera batteries

Charger for IPhone

Sunglasses

All of it fit in to the backpack and weighed 20 lbs.  My friend Michelle came over and showed me how to strap on the backpack properly… pulling all of the various cords so that it curves in to your back and sits properly on your hip… And it felt great!

So off I went to the airport.  The faux hiker that I was, with my bright pink lipstick. :)   Did I need all of the above?  For the most part yes…  I didn’t ever use the Nano.  I tossed the stinky bug repelling bracelet.  I never wore the gloves (but it could have gotten cold) or the poncho or rain pants (we never really had a crazy downpour).  And thankfully I never needed any of the neosporin or band-aids or compeede.  And I have to say, I NEVER wore my hiking boots.  I was too afraid!!  I wore my running shoes the first day, didn’t get any blisters and figured that was a good sign.  So I wore my running shoes the entire week.. with absolutely no problems!  I would have liked to have used the hiking poles… but managed to lose them before we even started the trek!

But everything else in my backpack was well worn and used.

If I were to do it over again, what would I do differently in terms of packing… I wished I’d had more pockets in my pants.  Pockets are key for holding money, for holding my iPhone, for holding my little camera, for holding my extra memory cards.  The Athleta pants were great… but I somehow wanted more pockets. I know that you can get backpacks with pockets in the strap that wraps around your waist… mine didn’t have that… but that would have been nice.  I will say, my backpack was nice and light.  I also wished I’d packed some flip flops for the end of the day and I might have used that towel the North Face guy recommended to wipe my brow at times…  But other than that, I was pretty pleased!

So thankfully for me, I felt prepared for the end of May Camino journey from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela.  Ideal timing in my mind for walking this section of the Camino as I’d heard of people walking through sleet two weeks earlier… and rain… But the rain is fairly common.. we just got lucky… :)

 

 

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