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Europe Trip 2011 (Copy)

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S: El Camino de Santiago 2011

BC: Buen Camino

FC: El Camino de Santiago 2011

1: June 2011 | From Avilés to Santiago | May & June 2011

2: The Beginning | At the bus station (above, bottom) we almost missed the last bus out because we were sitting on the wrong side of the bench. I frantically waved the bus down, and thankfully, he stopped. Stepping off, we encountered young men street fighting. | Avilés

3: Finding the Trail | Our first arrow | We took a pass on staying at the albergue, opting for a hotel for our first night. We were tired from the unexpected 5 hour layover in Madrid, where I slept on the bench while Mom kept watch and wandered around. Near this sign (left), cars honked and cheered us on, "Buen Camino!"

4: Cudillero | We took a bus to Cudillero, not ready to walk the entire leg the first day. When we hit the trail, I was excited: it was rustic, winding along tall mountains with bridge aqua ducts in the distance. The rain fell softly and intermittently. We couldn't decide whether to wear rain pants or not. We had jet lag, but it was pleasant and what I expected. The bus driver had said someone at the bar spoke English. Not so: a guy spoke rapid Spanish and gave Mom at least a 10 minute explanation on how to get to the Camino. The bartender caught my eye and shaking her head, just did a wave with her hand, indicating to go up the street and catch the trail on the right. I smiled, and as we left asked Mom what she learned. "I have no idea," she said. "He kept talking about a stamp." Wet Eugene on our second night at the alburgue we stayed at. From Switzerland, he spoke fluent English and taught me how to eat a whole fish. Now, it's my favorite way to eat fish, since it's so much more flavorful. We saw Eugene for the next couple of days, but then he pulled ahead of us.

5: Soto de Luiña

6: The next day was rainy and foggy: we had to pull out our rain pants. We were worried cars wouldn't see us on the road and proceeded down this muddy path and lo and behold: to the ocean. | 23.9 km

8: We crossed fields and wandered into towns that looked deserted: it was strange to see all the boarded up houses, and sad: the Camino ran through here, but it wasn't enough to support the towns. However, in the midst of that, we would find an open bar, and a "bar" in Spain means they serve fresh lattes. Mochas are unheard of in these remote places, and so my coffee habit changed here: latte with one skinny tubular packet of sugar. At this bar, we met TrauGott, pictured with Eugene, from Germany. A good Lutheran. Below, Mom and I hung out a local bar, enjoying our second drink of choice, wine. Mom's third: beer. | Cadavedo

9: The albergue in Cadavedo was the only house we stayed at: the toilet didn't flush, so it smelled of urine, the hot water was stuck on very, very hot, and the funny thing is that Mom and I were worried we wouldn't get a bed there. We had nothing to worry about: we later ran into other peregrinos took a pass. But I liked it: the rooms were small, the company was good, and the shower very hot. There, some guys very patiently taught me the word for orange: anaranjado | Capilla de la Immaculada | Rain and cloudy skies again. We felt so good on this day that we detoured a quarter mile to see this capilla from 1681. Inside was a brightly painted alter and these plaster-like statues. We looked around for someone to open it up to us, but to no avail. We really wanted coffee, so explored a little further into town, got a view of the ocean, but no warm drink: so back to the trail. | Concepción

10: Getting Lost on the 3rd Day | Arrows on this part of the trail were sporadic and found in a variety of places: mostly posts, but also tiled and painted onto buildings, painted on the roads, and also found on the obelisks, of course. But these were not common until we crossed into Galicia. There, the arrows "reverse:" instead of the shell base pointing the way, the shell "fingers" point the way. I was charmed by this cat being "the Way." This lack of arrows helps explain how we got so hopelessly lost this day, which was supposed to be such an "easy" day. We should have never been along the coast or seen these sheep.... | Wrong turn into El Busto

11: Canero | We were saved by Lawrence and Anna, who found us back at the church at Canero, frustrated to walk through a tunnel, up the road, only to find ourselves back near the beginning. Should we hitchhike, or join Lawrence and Anna? We decided to walk with them: they had a book and even though they were faster, we managed. Mom and I hypothesized the nature of Lawrence and Anna's relationship: we decided that she wanted a relationship and he was humoring her.

12: Luarca

13: Berlin, Germany

14: Luarca

15: We almost gave up attempting to reach Luarca: was it really worth it, given how tired we were? I pushed us to make the extra few miles and although we were exhausted and famished by the time we made it there, we decided it was worth the extra effort. Such a cute, adorable town! The canals were charming and the ocean view inspiring. The fishing boats were vibrant colors and the homes surrounding the cove were stacked upon each other. We stayed right in the cove, at the Baltic for a mere 50 euro. The house on the upper left struck me as odd, using tile on the side of the house. This was the only town that had mochas...which went great with my American croissant sandwich of eggs, ham, and cheese.

17: "Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry;...my steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped. I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words." Psalm 17 Devotional Companion for the Pilgrimage

18: We almost got lost in the construction. An angel intercepted us and prevented us from going miles out of our way, again. It was strange to pilgrimage amongst such construction, and then see Van gogh images of reapers. My shoes have already seen many muddy paths and rain.

20: This page: That night, we had a wonderful dinner, including a fresh salad, rare in the restaurants we dined at, from the albergue owner. We met José (who taught me you can never have wine once you've started your coffee), a kind Spaniard, who packed everything in individual plastic bags. Below is a photo of the albergue set-up, this one along a main road being the biggest disadvantage. The next day, Mom fell in love with Navia, which I thought was okay, but wanted to get on our way. This day would prove to be the "dark night" of my soul. | Piñera | Navia

22: Yes, these windmills, and yes, that mountain | Finally, we flagged someone down who assured us there was no way through the mountain to get where we needed to go. We needed to go back down the mountain and make our missed turn. The most frustrating thing about it was that I even explored the path a ways before climbing that mountain, but did not explore quite far enough. | We got lost, again. There was no arrow directing us away from this one mile steep climb, where we made tiny steps very slowly up the mountain. I felt like I was following Don Quiote, chasing windmills.

23: When we finally arrived to A Carida, José was there to greet us and laughed at my exasperated and exhausted expression. We could hardly walk the half mile or so into town for food. "Really? We now have to walk another mile just to ead?" The next day, however would bring us once again to the sea. We bid farewell to José who pulled ahead of us, or perhaps he went via Tol instead of Tapia. | A Carida | Day 5 | Dog | Cat

24: Mom and I had a big debate: could we could walk across the ocean inlet to Ribadeo, or whether we would have to hike around it. Mom was sure we'd have to hike around it, and I was just as sure that there would be a way to get across. So, she trusted me that we could walk straight across instead of heading down to Abres. | Tapia

25: In the meantime, we met many more peregrinos than we had up to this point. including Americans! We took a copy of their Eric Walker book, despite their snorting derision of its usefulness. We ended up finding it very helpful, sending us to the off-beaten track. This was an easy walk, ten miles on a sunny day.

26: We lost the trail....again. But unlike the other times, we didn't "feel" to off course. We ran into the family (bottom left) who told us how to find the bridge, and when we asked about the fireworks we heard, I got so excited to hear about a fiesta! We went down into town to watch and relax. Then, we threaded our way up to the bridge and crossed to Ribideo. | Mom loved this wavy pattern in Tapia | Figueros

28: Entering Galacia | Ribadeo | The arrows change, from pointing the proper direction with the end of the shell to the "fingers" now pointing the way. They made sure you noticed this.

29: Getting lost in the mountains | In Galicia, the number of arrows and monolitos in general increased. But the people overall felt a little less friendly, and we were not cheered on as much by strangers. We were told as we entered the mountains that there would be a place for us to stay: this turned out not to be the case and the people on the right tried to determine what the Turismo office was talking about. We walked an unexpected 13 miles or so. The map shows the enormous climbs we were making, as well as our route.

30: Gontán

31: After crossing over the mountains, it was with great relief that we came to the albergue at Gontán. We met the two funniest guys on the trip, Thomas and Nacho, and had a thoroughly enjoying and laugh-filled dinner with them. "The Francés route," they said, "it is filled with guys at four in the morning, getting up, putting their headlamps on, digging around waking everyone else up, and the race is on to the next albergue." They cocked their heads around like prairie dogs and had Mom and I laughing out of our chairs. We missed them, but they were simply much faster than us. The next day, we stopped at the Church of Vilanova de Lourenzá and saw this 6th century sarcophagus and enjoyed coffee and beer while taking a break from the rain. | Lourenzá

32: The rain continued into the next day. But we were so tired, we would stop on the trail when there was a pause, and rest. We were not done with our mountain climbing (unbeknownst to us) and we were getting tired. But when the path turned into a river, we couldn't help but start laughing, and when we saw the waterfall, we could only shake our heads. "The Camino goes to the L here, to commence one of the most interesting sections of this old route. After passing through a farm whose buildings span the track [see right page, top photo] we arrive at the houses of San Pedro. At this point take the track to the L, up the hill, but only for a short distance before turning R, once again, traversing along the hillside by a very old hollow trackway [photos above]." | Day 9 O Grove San Pedro

33: Hampton Court | 3.6 km later, we went through the modern town, and then the old, cobblestoned, charming town of Mondoñedo. The Cathedral had all sorts of art that was difficult to see because it was so dark inside. They didn't ban flash photography, and although it was probably a bad idea, I was only able to take in the beauty as the flash went off. Above is the slaughter of the innocents, an early 16th century work by an artist known as "the Master of Mondoñedo." The lower left fresco could be from anywhere between the 12th-17th century.

34: We really liked Mondoñedo: Walker's book instructed us to get an albergue key from the policia. The albergue was three floors and we took the top floor, hoping to be apart from the snoring. Smart move: only one other guy joined us, and he showed us how we could dry our shoes and clothes on the heaters, which were the first we'd seen. It was also neat seeing the big water fountain for peregrinos (top, this page). But we had our biggest climbing day in front of us, where we spent the entire morning climbing one enormously long mountain, switchbacking our way very gradually up. Along the way, this van assured us we were on the Way. Bottom photo shows the "peak," but doesn't really give you the idea. The photo of me is from a new bridge they are building, most of the stones imprinted with the shell.

35: We took a rest in a farm field after lunch, bocodillio sandwiches, our mainstay (no more after this trip!). We finally reached the modern albergue and caught a late lunch where we ate a full 4-course meal, including cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto, chicken, yogurt, and soup. We ate enormous amounts, and enjoyed it with beer and wine. | Godán

36: Walker mentioned that entering this part of the countryside, we would see these roadside crosses, and he was right: both short stubby ones and tall ones on posts. This Roman bridge has been used for centuries.

37: In Vilalba, we made a point of trying their local specialty, San Simón smoked cheese: it was good and we ended up eating it for days. Mom was right in wanting a rest day, but she'd given up asking for one. When I fell asleep in this driveway, I knew it was time. | Vilalba

38: Ah, Baamonde. When I read about it, it sounded like there was enough there to keep us entertained for an extra rest day. This was not so: it was very small. At first, we kept asking the albergue proprietor for hotel suggestions, thinking we couldn't stay there for two nights in a row (it's against Compestela rules), but he offered to let us stay anyway, and boy, were we glad to...on our way out of town, we saw the other accommodations, and they were not that great looking. But the best part was falling in with a new crowd of peregrinos: this group was so much friendlier and we finally felt like we found our group. | Juliana, Alfonzo, German ladies, Mom, & me

39: Hampton Court | I was sketching the14th century church by these wayside crosses--cruceiros--when Victor, a local famous wood carver, approached me. The irony is that the previous day (our arrival day), Mom and I had wandered into his yard of art and he drove us away. But this next day, he invited me into his garden and home, carving me a rose from a pinecone, calling me beautiful, and moving me to tears. It was as if we were meeting outside of time or something.

40: New Beginnings: the final 100 km

41: New Friends along the road | Juliana, my coffee buddy, added another gem to my shoe: she was sharing them everywhere she went. At that coffee shop, I got on the internet for the first time, and found out that Chris was busy at home, tearing apart our bedroom. He also showed the topographic maps, and they looked intimidating to me, even. We also met Juán shortly after the railroad tracks, and he introduced us to people all along the Way, including an artist who gave my book a wax seal and woman who shared bread & homemade wine.

42: We were told that this albergue had no food: that wasn't the case. So Mom and I carried spaghetti in, Juán contributed wine, Richo (far left) had olives or something...it was great. This was a highlight of the trip, the coming together of food and friends. We drank some more at a bar right before Mass started. | Breaking Bread | Mariz

43: So Mom and I quite enjoyed the Mass. At the entrance was this dog, so cute, but he started wandering into church halfway through the Mass and a resident kicked him out and shut the doors. Meanwhile, Juán said a reading and was put off by this associate pastor grabbing the host: Juán wanted to do that part. | Day 14 | Day 14 | Many people do not approach for bread and wine. Actually, they didn't even offer wine at many services. But Eucharist happened so fast at this church, it was over before Mom and I managed to get out of the pews. Good thing we broke bread earlier. The dog belonged to the man with the cane and hat.

45: Hampton Court | The next day, we encountered this surreal landscape that was utterly uninhabited, both by humans and animals. This was actually one of the things that puzzled me: where on earth were all the squirrels and bunnies? Juán stayed with us at this point, but his achilles was bothering him. Alfonzo walked for a while with us, then pulled ahead. Richo must had left even earlier, for we did not see him again. The path was rocky and alien: a mixture between another world and the beauty of our own.

46: Juán hitchiked, once we got near Casa a Braña. Mom and I found a lovely alternate route (thanks to Walker) near Travesas do Ledro, although the farm lady was unconvinced it was the trail (and her dog was awfully aggresive). But we met up again at the Monastary of Santa María de Sobrado dos Moxnes, which dates to 952 AD.

47: Juán (illegally) took us to see the monk's quarters, where he was staying. We got to enjoy their vesper service. Afterwards, we went the the Real to eat and met up with some cheeky bikers and had so much fun, we almost got locked out of the monestary. The bread was so goo, we searched for it the next day, but alas, they were not open.

48: Sobrados dos Moxnes

49: Hampton Court | Halfway through the trip, I came up with the idea of boiling eggs: but we came in so late to the monastery, the monk wouldn't let us! The next day, we would be joining up with the Francés way, which would be culture shock. But this day, we met Alfonzo for coffee, saw the Santa María de Sendelle where we saw this fresco of the Apóstolos na mesa, Apostles at the Table. From there, we made our way to Arzua, where we stayed at this very old and cool albergue. It was also the noisiest, with people waking us before the crack of dawn, as Thomas and Nacho described. | Arzua

51: We were in the home stretch now. Mom and I felt very disrupted, with all these additional peregrinos on the trail. It went from a quiet, instrospective experience, to a louder, clangng one. | But, despite all this, Mom and I actually did manage to get lost, even this late in the game. We missed our albergue by not turning down this very busy road and ended up, once again, walking many more miles than we intended. | It seemed many people were there as a vacation, although some, like this Italian group, were praying their rosaries. t it was also nice to have others to talk to, and there was no getting lost on this trail, despite the sometimes contradictory signage.

52: We ended up in Lavacolla, getting a short ride to a recommended hostel/hotel, we were so tired. The next morning, we hooked up with the Italians, who practically ran us through Santiago, and got our certificates and made it to the noon Mass.

54: We loved having coffee on the plaza, both at the indoor cafe and outside with the chocolatey coffee outside.

55: Hampton Court | At the church, we saw the Dutch couple, and afterwards, were delighted to run into Juliana. She had spent the past couple days going to Finisterre, but it was cloudy and she didn't see much. So to meet up with her back at the church was a blessing. Below: Mom looked so tender, taking a well-deserved nap at our room just down the street from the Cathedral. It was noisy until 3am in the morning with revelers, but it was fun to be on the main thoroughfare. The Italians who walked us into town were smitten with my hanging laundry: Mom and I did this the entire trip.

56: The Holy Spirit is mysterious. One morning, I awoke earlier than Mom, around 7 a.m., and headed out. Our busy street was quiet, and recently washed. The day was gray, but I thought it'd be a good time to head up to the Cathedral to take photos without all the crowds. | Mass & Tradition

57: Beggars were already outside the door, setting up for the day, and I wondered if it was even open, but the doors were unlocked and I walked in. The crowning architecture of the church, the Portico of Glory, was under construction, and sadly, the column depicting the Tree of Jesse, where pilgrims place their hand, was cordoned off with a barricade. Looking around, however, I saw this early morning hour as my opportunity to slip under, place my hand properly, and take a photo. Then, one other peregrino showed up, and we took each other's picture. At that point, a guard noticed the flash and waved his finger at us, and that ended that, but I felt so fortunate to be able to join the thousands of others, placing my hand there. I decided to move to St. Jame's tomb and pray there. I wanted to speak to him about my journey and see if he had any words of wisdom for me. As I lay kneeling (after taking pictures, of course), a priest came by and unlocked the gate leading to his silver trunk. Then he walked away. I stealed myself, then waked right up to the tomb and took a close-up. Looking nervously around, I inched in closer. Emboldened, I decided to touch Jesus on the tomb. But the best was to come: after I went back to praying, the priest invited me to Mass--at St. Jame's tomb! Tucked inside were two little kneelers and I got to enjoy Mass there, taking bread and wine. It was amazing, wonderful, and mysterious. I left ecstatic, dancing in the streets.

58: I went and found warm chocolate croissants for Mom and me and by the time I returned to the room, she'd awakened. We enjoyed coffee at our favorite place, toured the Cathedral, and fell in love with the carved guys that used to ring the choir loft. We walked to the city limits and back, retracing the steps we'd so hurried taken the days before. I found and agonized over souvenir purchases.

61: Cast bronze panels depict the life of St. James--converting, beheading, carried by angels, and discovery of his tomb.

62: 1 | 2 | 3 | 5 | 4 | Saying Mass at the tomb of St. James | Stopping for cáfe, vino, & beer | Breaking bread with peregrinos | Having Mom as a companion | Saints who helped us find The Way | Favorite Memories

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