Posts Tagged With: The Meseta

My last day of walking the Camino: The Long Story

Setting out on my last day walking the Camino from Mansilla de las Mulas.

Setting out on my last day walking the Camino from Mansilla de las Mulas.

I walked the Camino Frances in three trips. Camino 1.0 was from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port to Burgos, in June, 2013. Camino 2.0 was from Leon to Santiago, in October 2013. That left the section in the middle from Burgos to Leon for my Camino 3.0, in April, 2015.

That’s the short story of why I was walking into Leon on April 19th, 2015.

After 10 days of walking from Burgos,  I was in Mansillas de las Mulas, only 18 kilometers away from Leon. Here’s the long story of what that day was like.

The night before I walked into Leon I was seriously thinking of taking a taxi because one of my ankles was hurting and when I talked with my husband on the phone, it seemed like the logical thing to do. The walk into Leon was known to be tedious, and lots of pilgrims bussed through it. When I began my second Camino, in October 2013, from Leon, I took a taxi out past the suburbs, and I didn’t regret it.

But when I got up the next morning to head out from Mansilla de los Mulas towards Leon, I felt I needed to walk at least part of the way. I decided I’d see how I felt as the day unfolded.

I had mixed feelings about finishing my Camino 3.0, and finishing the whole Camino in general.

Sign just outside Mansilla de las Mulas

Sign just outside Mansilla de las Mulas

The April trip was empowering. I totally enjoyed the walking, the solitude, and the conversations along the way. Every day I felt physically challenged and spiritually fulfilled. The Camino was as magical as it had been before. Each of my three trips had its own flavor, its own season (summer, fall, and now spring) and each trip took me deeper into the spirituality of walking solo. Camino 3.0, across the Meseta, had been more contemplative than the other two trips, more like a retreat.

There was something very attractive about the sureness of following the yellow arrows on the Camino.  But now the adventure was about to end, and I found myself feeling of sad and wrestling with the feelings of “what’s next?”  I didn’t want Camino 3.0 to end.

When I was a kid I had the habit of saying, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.” My Mom used to respond with, “No, everything matters,” which would make me angry. I realize now that I used to say “It doesn’t matter,”  when I couldn’t express my feelings very well, and that my Mom said “No, everything matters,” to help me.  But she didn’t quite know how to get me to open up and share what was going on inside.  As an adult, and a Mom myself, I realized how frustrating it must have been for her to try and help me process my feelings.

I still struggle with that feeling of emotional ambiguity as an adult, and I was in one of those frustrating “Oh it doesn’t matter” kind of moods as I left Mansilla de las Mulas, and I spent a lot of the day debating whether I should call a taxi or not.

Even on the last day of walking, the Camino had something to teach me.

In the morning, I prayed for strong ankles, and to be open to what the Spirit wanted me to learn. I ate a late breakfast at my beautiful little hotel in Mansilla de las Mulas with the group of Irish women walking together I’d met the night before.

Javier saying

Javier saying “Buen Camino!”

Javier, the owner of the hotel, said “Buen Camino,” and waved me onto the Camino.   He was one of the many gems of hospitality I’d met along the Way.

The 18 kilometers to Leon were not scenic, or beautifully empty, like the Meseta. But there were memorable moments.

Hill fort where the ancient Asturians lost their battle against the Romans.

Hill fort where the ancient Asturians lost their last battle with the Romans.

There was the hill fort at kilometer 3 where the ancient Asturians lost their struggle with the Romans. Right in front of it was a gas station.  I love the juxtapositions of eras along the Camino!  There was a long, medieval bridge at kilometer 6 that was still used by cars. A modern pedestrian bridge had been built alongside it for the pilgrim traffic.

The 20 span Puente Ingente over rio Moro

The 20 span Puente Ingente over rio Moro

I ducked into a village church in Villamorros in the middle of a Mass, and was happy to see a young girl assisting the priest at the altar.  At about kilometer 9, my left ankle began to hurt again. It was midday, and it was hot for April. The Camino was shunted under highway overpasses, and ran next to junkyards.

The Camino meets billboards for the Macy's of Spain

The Camino meets billboards for the Macy’s of Spain

Junkyard Dog outside of Leon

Junkyard Dog outside of Leon

That was the low point.  For the first time since I’d left home, I wondered about how safe it was to be walking alone. Why was I doing this again?

The guidebook said there was an albergue and café just up ahead in Arcahueja. Maybe that’s where I would call my taxi.  When I got to the cafe, I found the five nice Irish women I’d met in Mansilla hanging out. They looked pretty out of sorts, too. We said, “hello” and complained a little about the heat.

Cafe/Bar La Torre in Arcahueja

Cafe/Bar La Torre in Arcahueja

I asked the bartender how far it was to Leon. He said it was only 11K, and “there’s a beautiful view of the city just up ahead.” (I’m sure he tells everyone that!) I asked if a bus stopped in the village or if they had a taxi. “No” he said. Hmmm.

I ordered a slice of tortilla, two deviled eggs, and a café con leche. What should I do? I felt bone tired and was so tempted to call a taxi. My food arrived, and I realized I was ravenous.

Once the protein in the eggs and the tortilla  kicked in, it became clear to me that I really needed to walk the entire way into Leon, and make Camino 3.0 a Cathedral to Cathedral affair.  As my Mom would have said, “it mattered.”

Once I finally got clarity, I felt the need for some encouragement to make it into Leon.

I had an idea. I turned on my phone and checked into the American Pilgrims on the Camino Facebook page. It was 4 a.m. in California, and 7:00 a.m. on the East Coast. Someone must be up and reading the page. I posted that I was 11 K out of Leon and was tempted to take a taxi, and needed some support. I posted it on this blog, too.

Immediately, waves of energy started rolling into that little café in Arcahueja through my iPhone! “You can do it! Don’t quit! Feel the burn!” Over a hundred people responded, cheered me on, and sent prayers via the APOC Facebook page. My brother-in-law in Washington, D.C. saw the post on the blog and gave me a big PUSH.

The Camino taught me—again—that sharing my feelings and asking for support is ok. Feeling vulnerable is ok. It’s usually in those moments when God reaches through our stoic armor and touches us.  My unspoken prayers during my morning’s walk were answered.

I said “Buen Camino” to the Irish crew and headed back out on the Camino, now excited to continue. The guy behind the bar had exaggerated just a little though; it was a long time before I saw the view of Leon.

The last hill before I could see the city of Leon

The last hill before I could see the city of Leon

I passed big box stores, and auto dealerships, and medieval churches with storks nesting on top of them.

The funny thing was, my ankle stopped hurting completely. It was amazing.  I picked up the pace.  There seemed to be very few other pilgrims walking that afternoon.

The Camino crossed the Autovia (freeway) on a dedicated pedestrian bridge, and the amount of concrete and apartment buildings reminded me of my long walk into Santiago in the rain, in October of 2013. But weather was good, and I was very thankful.

Out in the distance I could see the Cathedral in Leon, with the snowy mountains behind it. How I wished I could keep walking on to Astorga and beyond. It was a new experience to know what was up ahead on the Camino. That’s when I knew that I had almost finished the whole Camino Frances.

Cathedral at last, but still a long ways off.

The Cathedral in view at last, but still a long ways off.

Walking from the bar in Arcahueja to the Cathedral took about two hours of brisk walking. I felt great, aligned in my purpose. The feelings of sadness about finishing were still there, but I didn’t blow them off by calling a taxi. I walked and felt sadness and joy, and was determined to finish strong.

Once past the newer parts of Leon, passing apartment blocks and crossing roundabouts, The Camino bridged a small stream and led me through the ancient city walls.

It continued into a tangle of medieval streets and spit me out on the grand avenue in front of the building designed by Gaudi. Suddenly, I knew where I was. The Cathedral was just up ahead. And then I was standing in front of it, looking up at its fantastic exterior.

Approaching the Cathedral

Approaching the Cathedral

It was nearly 4:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, and the doors were closed for Siesta.

When the adrenalin subsided, the sad feelings welled up again. No one was there to celebrate my arrival, and I had a wave of homesickness. But Mary was there, up on her pedestal outside, by the locked doors, holding baby Jesus in her arms, and she was smiling.

Mary holding Christ

Mary holding Christ

Thank you for being there, Mary.

Mary greeted me, and sent me off to my hotel to check in and relax. I was grateful for the lessons I’d learned that day. I wasn’t really alone. The Spirit was with me, and I felt blessed by the wave of energy and love from my fellow Pilgrims back in the States that had swept me on, to finish Camino 3.0, and the entire Camino.  Amen.

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Categories: April 2015, Camino de Santiago, Leon, Pilgrimage | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Reliegos

New Albergue in Religios

New Albergue in Religios

In the post, “Signs of New Life,” I wrote about the insights that arose for me as I walked and rested along the Camino from El Burgo Ranero to Reliegos. Because my foot was hurting, I had to go slowly, and that made be more open to the Spirit.  Here’s a little more about the end of that day, and my next day of walking to Mansilla de las Mulas.

The new albergue where I’d sent my daypack was at the entrance to Reliegos, and I was relieved to see it come up so quickly because I was limping.  It was only about 2:00, early to stop, but it felt like the right thing to do. I had the whole place to myself. The beds were all regular beds, not bunk beds, and there were plugs next to every bed!   I asked for some ice at the bar, and went back upstairs to ice and elevate my foot. The bedroom was a nice spare place to relax and stretch out.

Bar Elvis in all its glory

Bar Elvis in all its glory

Then I did some laundry, hung it out to dry, and walked a little farther into Religos to see if Bar Elvis was open. It was one of those famous Camino spots and it was briefly featured in the movie, “The Way.”  Of course, it was closed for siesta time, so I didn’t go in.  The graffiti all over the outside was wonderful, though. I really liked this advice:

Good Advice for Life

Good Advice for Life

 

When I got back to the albergue,  a friendly young Peregrina arrived and claimed another bed.  Her name was Alice, from South Africa. She was a divinity student at Oxford!  Alice had just started her Camino in Sahagun, so this was her first night on the Camino. We became acquainted over dinner.  She was so smart and wise beyond her years.   We were the only ones in the dining room, and half way through dinner, I noticed that I was bending her ear.  I must have been feeling a little isolated not having talked to a native English speaker for several days.   Among other things, we talked about our call to ministry and her experience as a female divinity student at Oxford.

When I told her about my sore foot, she said, “why don’t you send your big pack tomorrow, and give yourself a Sabbath?”  She said it with such disarming kindness that I found myself saying, “Yes, I’ll do that!”

An Italian guy showed up later that evening and took another bed across the room.  We greeted each other and got into our sleeping bags, said “good-night.”  Once again I was thankful for the company of pilgrims, and for the trust we had in each other.  It was one of the best sleeps of the trip.

Big Sky heading towards Mansilla de las Mulas

Big Sky heading towards Mansilla de las Mulas

The next morning I followed Alice’s advice and left my big backpack in the vestibule for Jacotrans to pick up, and just carried my daypack.  We walked together to the end of the village.  I was limping, and she was full of energy and ready to conquer the world. I wanted to walk with her but she was way faster than I was.  So we said good-bye.  She was headed to Leon and the mountains beyond, without a poncho or a coat.  I hushed myself and refrained from going into “Mom” mode.  She could take care of herself.  I was glad to have met her. She was someone truly called to ministry.

Trees along the Camino

Trees along the Camino

Later that morning when I stopped to rest, and picked up my daypack to put it on again, I was shocked by how light it was.  I felt like I was floating down the Camino!  What was going on?   I felt like a great burden had been lifted off my shoulders.  It had, of course; the extra 15 lbs. were with Jacotrans.  But there was something more to it.  Alice giving me permission to leave the heavy pack behind was rather profound.  It’s what I needed to hear.  It was an absolution.

Like the day before, when everything in the landscape seemed to speak to me of God’s presence, that slow 6 kilometers to Mansilla de las Mulas carrying just the daypack spoke to me of God’s forgiveness, and how light it feels to live without the baggage I usually carry around.  I walked slowly and with joy to Mansilla de las Mulas.  Thanks be to God, and bless you, dear Alice!

La Virgen Peregrina

La Virgen Peregrina

Categories: April 2015, Conversations on the Camino, Favorite Albergues, Return to Camino, Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sahugun to Burgo de Ranero

IMG_5754It was one of those off-kilter days.  I hadn’t set up a destination to send my daypack to the next morning.  Maybe the run-in with the angry hotel owner the day before had soured me on picking places out of the guidebook. So out of denial or laziness I ended up carrying everything in my big backpack.  I was strong after seven days of walking, right?

I texted Tami to see when she was leaving, and she texted back that she’d already left at 7:30. She hadn’t wanted to disturb me.  That was fine. I thought we would catch up with each other later in the day. There wasn’t a good place to have breakfast near the hotel, so I just started walking out of town.  There had to be something in the next village, called Calzada del Coto.

Well, Calzada del Coto was totally locked up.  After walking for an hour on an empty stomach and no caffeine I was a little punchy.  I was used to villages with all the doors and windows closed, but this morning it bothered me.  I can remember bad dreams as a kid where I went from door to door in a panic and no one answered.  That’s what this village reminded me of.  I spent at least 30 minutes circling through the major streets and back to the beginning of town and no cafe/bar!  Not a good use of walking time.

So I kept going, and going, and going. And I could feel the pressure of my heavy pack on my feet.

Finally, in Bercianos, I saw signs of cafe/bar life up ahead.  Some enterprising person had opened a cafe/bar right as the Camino entered town.  IMG_5762It was a sight for sore eyes! Coffee!  Brunch/Lunch!

I took off my pack and ordered cafe con leche, and a tuna empanada.  Yum!  I checked my phone. Tami’s text said that she had gotten in a taxi with two French pilgrims and she was now in Mansilla de las Mulas, two stages ahead, and was sorry we were out of synch.  I was sorry, too, but totally understood her need to keep moving to make it to Santiago.  I noticed that there were very few pilgrims  on the Camino that morning.  It’s the most popular part to bus through. I complimented the cafe owner on such a nice place, and he said that the Brierley guide was sending pilgrims on the alternate Roman Road route, bypassing his village, so he didn’t have as much business as he’d like.  He and his wife were so nice, and I hung out with them for awhile enjoying the sunshine.

IMG_5763

Past Bercianos, I was back on the classic senda path.  Someone had set up a chrome arch, which was one of my favorite sculptures on the Camino.  Very simple, but it reminded me of the various “gates” we’re supposed to pass through in our lifetimes:  birth, puberty, falling in love, aging, etc.

IMG_5759

There was a rest area next to an Ermita (locked!) and I took off my boots for awhile to give my feet a rest. Pink and green socks for a spring Camino! I was all by myself for awhile there by the Ermita and felt called to do Morning Prayer on my Iphone app.  An elderly man came by with a bucket and he said he was gathering herbs for his chickens!IMG_5756

I got into El Burgo Ranero and checked out Albergue La Laguna, and I must not have looked too impressed.  The albergue guy was Italian and said, “I you should go down to Piedras Blancas, you might like it better.”  It was a nicer place, and my feet were hurting, so I stayed. Turns out the same people own a group of albergues and hostals in the next few towns.

My room was directly over the bar and the place was packed with men drinking and being very loud.  I went downstairs before dinner and the Italian guy I’d met at the other albergue was hanging out there.  “Isabel! (I sometimes become Isabel because people in Spain couldn’t pronounce Beth) you must meet my friend.”  His friend was an older Spanish pilgrim whose Spanish was so fast, I got about every 20th word.  “Mas lento, por favor!” I said over and over, but he never slowed down and I found myself nodding my head as if I did understood.  It was old school conditioning to be the female who just keeps listening.  Then I thought to myself, “this is ridiculous,” and excused myself to go call my mother, which I did.

Dinner turned out to be excellent fish, and the wine of the house was better than usual.  I picked out the place to send my daypack  in the morning.

The guy at the desk whose job it was to call the pack shipping company said, “you know it’s only six kilometers to Reliegos!”  Yes, six kilometers was fine. After 17K  with my full pack I was ready for a shorter day of walking.

So the end of the off-kilter day found me in a warm hotel room with radiators to dry my clothes on hoping for a easier walk, and a cafe con leche and tostas before heading out in the morning.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The Moorish Whore, a novel by Rebekah Scott

As I walked the Camino, I realized how little Spanish history I knew.

Being in Spain for almost a month between my two trips in 2013 and this time in 2015, I was struck by its singularity within Europe. As a gigantic Peninsula, it’s essentially an island, cut off from France by the Pyrennes. It never went through the turmoil of the Reformation in the 16th Century. Although there was that thing called the Inquisition! Spain was not involved in the two World Wars.  After the Civil War of the late 1930’s, Franco became dictator, and Spain stood alone for more than 50 years.

I also didn’t know much about its early history. I knew the Moors had occupied much of Spain in the Medieval era. Statues of St. James as Matamoros, or Moor Killer, were everywhere in churches along the Camino. El Cid was remembered as a great hero in Burgos. In Najera, I saw tombs of the Kings of Navarra. In Leon, there was the Pantheon of Kings, going back before the 12th Century. The Knights of the Templar churches and the Castle in Ponferrada were spectacular. There was a rich history in Spain. The Camino drew me in to learn more.

14672620Rebekah Scott’s novel, “A Moorish Whore” took me back to the 11th century of Medieval Spain.

The main character, Zaida bint Mu’tamid, is a princess of Moorish Seville who was carried off by Alphonzo the I, King of Castille and Leon, as a prize of war. She was baptized a Christian, given the name Isabel, the King married her, and brought her to the north of Spain, to San Fecund, which is now Sahagun.

We see the world of 11th Century Spain through Zaida’s eyes. The novel’s female perspective is one of its strengths. She loves the King, and the children she bears. She brings cleanliness and running water to her town. She is more educated than the monks in power in San Fecund, who never accept her, and see her as an infidel. We witness and cheer her on in her struggle to survive in a harsh land run by violence and intrigue.

One of the delights of reading the novel was recognizing a place in the book. It’s just outside of Sahagun. It  had a feeling of being “out of time.” There’s a little bridge over the river, and a stone chapel built in the 11th Century.

Spot just before Sahagun.

Spot just before Sahagun.

In the novel, Zaida finds understanding with the hermit Esteban who lives there, and Pilgrims walking to Santiago stopped for respite. Zaida adopts the little waystation, brings in running water and sanitation, and builds the chapel. She befriends the people who live on the riverbank, who catch crabs and fish. It was a wonderful reimagining of what a place was like centuries ago. There are so many ancient places along the Camino just like it. Each of them has a history that has been lost to time. As Pilgrims, we go by quickly, snap a photo, and move on.

Scott reveals Zaida’s strong character through a swirl of memories and the story deepens as we learn more about her life back in Seville. Her parents are notable characters, and we learn that life was not at all perfect before she was “chosen” by Alphonzo. There were power struggles within the court, and, as a young woman, Zaida was used as a pawn by her own family, too.

The plot thickens towards the end of the novel, and builds towards a surprising finish. Zaida/Isabel is a survivor and a strong woman. “The Moorish Whore,” brings her and her time, back to life.

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Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Signs of New Life

  

There were many reasons I wanted to walk the Camino this spring. To finish, of course, to fill in the missing piece of the Meseta that I’d bussed through in 2013.

There was also a desire to have some time to reflect and meditate. The Camino gives you many hours walking alone.

I felt like I needed some time to listen for what God wants me to do next in terms of ministry. What is life-giving? How can I offer my gifts?

Some of those questions got muffled by the meeting of people and the physical challenge–and fun–of walking again.

Then the day I left Sahugun I decided to carry everything that I usually shipped in my daypack, and I walked 20k to Burgo Ranero. It felt heavy, but I felt strong enough to carry it. Well, the extra weight really pressed on my weak point, my ankle tendons. My left foot was hurting the next day. One of the lessons of the Camino seems to be that I have to learn some things over and over again.

The next day I had to go slow, and there was grace in that. It was a contemplative day. I saw the beauty of the simple things: the trees planted along the senda pathway, and how they created a rhythm. You could interpret it as monotonous, but that day they were like prayer beads along a string, one after another, predictable, and pulling me along.   

  

Periodically, along the path,  there were monuments with the Cross of St. James on top. I sat down on one, and no one came by for a long time. I was alone. There were stones left on the ledge. 

  

and on top. I took my pack off and found a stone or two to add. It felt good to bless each one with a thing I wanted to leave behind.

The flowing streams reminded me of Psalm 42, “as the deer pants for the waterbrooks, so my soul thirsts for you, O Lord.”  

Then I noticed the freshly- plowed fields, and the red earth. 

  

The Camino was plowing my soul, getting it ready for the new thing that I hope God is planting in my life. There were lots of examples of new life along the Way. 

  

I spent some time reflecting on what it meant to walk in Eastertide. I was walking in the midst of a beautiful Spring–much more dramatic than at home in my drought-striken Bay Area. It was a long time since I’d experienced a real Spring. 

It made me think of the contrast with all the crucifixes in the churches I’d visited along the Camino, and the tradition of Semana Santa–Holy Week processions–in Spain. There was so much emphasis on Christ’s pain. 

Out here in the campo, the church of the Earth, I felt the overwhelming power of the Resurrection pushing up new life, renewing everything. I could feel the earth humming with energy. Christ was here, on the Camino, renewing us pilgrims, and the whole Earth, giving of himself.

Going slow was a good teacher. Once again, I said “gracias” for all that God, through the Camino, revealed to me, and would reveal to me in the future.

  

  

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela, Spiritual Growth, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

In Sahagun

Tami and checked into a cute Hostal run by a French couple at the point where the  Camuno enters Sahagun. We both had our own rooms. I was ready for some privacy, and my own bathroom. The room was tiny, barely bigger than the two twin beds pushed together, but it was very cozy and looked out on the Camino. And it clear with a hairdryer.

My feet were killing me. So I lay down on the bed and elevated them, and caught up on the blog a bit.

I’d sent my daypack into a different Hostal that I’d picked out from the Brierley guide. After my feet felt better I went out to find it. No luck. So I went to find some lunch. Walked downhill deeper into Sahugun and there weren’t many places open. Lots and lots of “Se Vende” (For Sale) signs and boarded up shops. It was a reminder of how bad the economy still is in Spain.

At the bottom of the hill I ran into Bill and Aimee, whom I’d met atAlbergue Jacque de Molay. They were in search of lunch, too, and I joined them. Turns out they live in Santa Fe but are both from central Louisiana, where Hale is from. We had a great time sharing our stories and enjoying a notable lentil soup with chorizo that had the depth of flavor of a Gumbo. They raved about a place in Mexico called San Miguel de Allende as a place to learn Spanish.They go there all the time. I was struck by the synchronicity of meeting them and Nancy, who both had “CenLa” connections.

After lunch, I found the Hostal where I’d sent my daypack and regretted sending it there. The proprietor answered the doorbell and really wanted me to check in; he was desperate for business, but I had already checked in at the other place. I didn’t quite feel unsafe, but I was uncomfortable. It was another reminder to me how bad the economy remains in Spain.

I talked with the owners of my Hostal in the lobby about it. Clearly, it was the very beginning of the Pilgrim Season. I think there were only 3 people staying in their place that night. Our disjointed conversation in Spanish and English, with a French overlay (which I don’t  speak!) made me aware of how flexible people are on the Camino about communication. They’re comfortable using a kind of Esperanto of whatever language works, and aren’t afraid of trying something. I’d entered the zone where I was comfortable not understanding everything that was said. I seemed to understand enough, and know when to ask for clarification–or not–and that was ok. We don’t ever live in that space at home.

Sahagun was a little disappointing, a lot of the really old churches I wanted to visit were closed. But later that night I got together with Tami, and Andrew,from England.

We walked to the ruins of the 10thC Abbey, and Andrew was very knowledgeable about them.

Andrew and I had talked several days before about the psychological dimensions of saying hello and goodbye to so many people that you meet on the Camino. It gives you insight into how you make friends in real life. The same patterns apply on the Camino, but they’re amplified. Now that I’ve walked on the Camino three times, I realized that I was thankful when I met people and I shared contact info with some people, but I was able to appreciate them and let go. I did not need to be “with” a group or a buddy the whole time.

There was a difference, too, because I wasn’t going to Santiago. It gave me a somewhat unique perspective. Most pilgrims had to keep moving quickly to make time on the long haul across Spain. I was reminded of that when Tami and I entered Sahagun, where there’s a monument that marks the halfway point to Santiago.

I had moments of wishing I could continue further—the stretch past Leon to Molinaseca might be my favorite segment—but I was also thankful to be doing a shorter pilgrimage, and to be present to the charms of the Meseta.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

From Carrion to Terradillos de Los Templarios

My short day to Carrion had a strategy to it: the next stage on the Camino is a whooper, and I wanted to be rested for it. The first section is 17 k on the flat Meseta without any services, including water. This was where I was thankful it was April, not July.

The dotted yellow line is the Camino. I could have stopped at Calzadilla, but I got caught up in the excitement about a 27k day to Terradillos, and went for it. 

  

It wasn’t too bad, really. Sun and clouds, no rain, cool temperatures. The first couple of hours I listened to the birds and was lost in my thoughts. The second couple of hours I listened to old favorites like James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” album, and John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” singing along as loud as I pleased. Then there were a couple of necessary pit stops. None of those services, either. Had a big salad for lunch at Calzadilla. The bookmobile was also in town.

The afternoon was harder. Just when I was feeling draggy, a Dutch woman came up alongside me and we talked for the next two hours. Her name was “Jacqueline, like Kennedy” and we had a fun time. Turns out that she is from Neighmegan (sic), the same town Hale and I visited when we hitched a ride inParis  with a Dutch couple named Meip and Albert. They took us home with them. They had three little kids, who must be forty by now.

Jacqueline had 20 year old twin boys, and was a widow. We talked about kids and husbands and our Camino experience. She was going to Santiago.

At the end of the day we got to Albergue Jacque de Molay, and just about fell in the door. Bride of Frankenstein.

The Albergue was one of those Camino oases run by a family who know the needs of pilgrims. They washed your clothes for 7€, a bed was 8€, and dinner was 10€. There were 4 young Korean  women in my room and Jacqueline. So it looked like a snore-free night.

After some Spanish ibuprofen 600mll, and a shower, we all gathered in the dining room and had an excellent meal. I had my only trout this trip. I sat with a Spanish woman from Pamplona, a Swiss woman, and a Finnish woman. My Spanish got a workout, but the Swiss womsn did some working around in French. Jacqueline was reunited with her pilgrim family, a boisterous group. I wished I could have joined them, but I was too tired to be boisterous, and went upstairs to enjoy a full nights’ sleep on my bottom bunk.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Final Kilometers and Request

Hello, friends of the blog! I’m 8k away from the Cathedral in Leon,my final destination. If any of you are up right now can you send me some energy? I’ve got the a case of the Pilgrim limp and taxi temptation.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Memories old and new in Carrion de Los Condes

Carrion was the other place I’d stayed on my “bus tour” through the Meseta in 2013, and like Fromista, I looked forward to seeing it again now, from a new perspective.

When I was in Carrion in 2013, I could barely walk from my ankle tendinitis. I arrived at the Pilgrim Statue

at the entrance to town via taxi.  I made it one block to the plaza Santa Maria by the Albergue Santa Maria, run by the nuns, and waited for it to open at noon. I didn’t see much more of Carrion than that little area. When Gina and Kai arrived, I had dinner with them, and hobbled back to the church for the pilgrim concert, Mass, and blessing. That was one of my most treasured memories of Camino 1.0. Gina and I went to the Mass and Pilgrims blessing in Roncevalles at the very beginning of the Camino, and also shared the experience in Carrion. The nuns made little paper stars for the pilgrims, and the priest laid hands on each of us individually. There were tears, sweet tears.

The next day I hobbled to the bar/bus station and bussed to Leon. There were lots of other injured pilgrims, so I felt ok about going on. But I was beginning to realize that my injury was not going to disappear anytime soon.

Fast forward to 2015. I set out on the short 6k leg to Carrion after the cafe at the Albergue opened at 8:00. I met up with Tami on the road, and we visited as we approached town.

  

We arrived in no time, and stopped at the Cafe Espana, which doubles as the bus station. It brought back memories from 2013. The same nice guy was behind the bar selling bus tickets, beer, and making espresso. The same eclectic mix of Pilgrims, old men playing cards, and policemen were there, drinking coffee, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

  

As Tami and I sat down for “second breakfast,” one of her Camino friends came in. She was Australian, about my age, and she was very friendly. She told us her amazing Camino experience from the night before.

She was the only one staying at an Albergue out in the country, and she and the Dutch man who worked there had a long, soulful conversation. He told her that he had been asked to be a sperm donor for a lesbian couple in Holland who were friends with his grown daughter, and now the boy is 4 and calls him father, and the Dutch man’s life has been opened up to a whole new phase by becoming a member of this unexpected extended family.

 

She was teary because back in Australia her 27 year old son had just come out as gay, and she despaired that he would never be a father. But her evening with the guy at the Albergue opened her heart and mind to new possibilities, and that gay couples could have kids, and that her son could be a father.

She marveled that it felt like she was supposed to be there, and that no one else was staying there, so she had the time to talk all evening with the Dutch guy.  That’s the magic of the Camino sometimes. It seems like there are many synchronicity, or maybe as tired Pilgrims, we are more open, and God has an easier time reaching us.

Then I started crying, too, after sharing that our daughter is the same age, gay, and that I’d had similar feelings, but now had faith that all would work out. We laughed and hugged as Moms and Pilgrims, and that was a Camino moment, too.

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fromista to Villacazar de Sirga

Dawn finally came at the Albergue and I packed up. The poor woman who had snored so badly looked terrible. I felt bad having been upset with her during the night. It sounded like she was going home. I felt for her, knowing what it is like to have to cut short your Camino.

Nancy from New Brunswick and I walked down to the plaza by San Martin where we found the best cafe/bar. It turns out that she is a French teacher and is Acadian. She did a year’s exchange as a teacher in Louisiana! She lived in Brobridge and taught in Cecilia. Of course she knew Alexandria! She was going to taxi from Fromista to Villacazar de Sirga to meet her husband and friends. I took off and thought I might stop there, too, or go onto Carrion.

The way out of Frimista took me over the Autovia, and then next to the two lane highway on what’s called the senda, a specially constructed gravelly pathway.

It was warming up fast. There was a beautiful Ermita off the road all by itself that caught my eye. Of course, it was locked. But there was a hole in the door so I could see inside. Once there was a village there. So many layers of history. I laid my pack on a long, moss-covered stone. Was it a tomb? I enjoyed the solitude for a few minutes while I shed some layers.   I took the alternative route that was supposed to be more scenic, but it was more desolate than inspiring. Maybe I was just sleep-deprived. I felt slow, and heavy, and there was nowhere to stop after about 10k. But a tiny village called Villovieco was just ahead and I walked into it looking for a cafe. No luck. It was noon, and hot. But…The door to the church was open! What a rarity! I walked in and found several artists restoring the figures on the retalbo of the altar! (I wish I’d taken more photos.)

 I asked if there was a cafe in town and they said no. A vivacious young woman came in with some snacks for the artists and she offered me some. We talked a little more, and I must have looked quite tired and hungry because she said in rapid-fire Spanish, “I’m taking you home for lunch!” She took me by the arm and we walked about a block to a small square where she opened the door to a large home and took me into the kitchen, pulled out the table and sat me down with two of the most adorable little girls, who were painting Easter Eggs. Of course, their eyes got very big when they saw this complete stranger in hiking gear plop down next to them!

We chatted in very broken English and Spanish for about an hour.  She has a sister who lives in Atlanta. I pinched myself to make myself realize it was real. It was so wonderful.

Macha, the young Mom, was visiting her parents with three children. Her husband and son came in, and her mother was also there. She was sweeping rubbish into a trap door, through which I could see a fire?! I asked about it and Macha said it was a radiant heating system invented by “los romeros!”

The house was over 300 years old, she said, and the family crest was carved into the stone on the front of the house.

 

I wish I could remember their last name.  I asked if we could take some photos and here’s what happened:

 

She gave me a quick tour of the downstairs, pointing out the taxidermies of a fox on the landing and a wild boar with its hooves also mounted, that her grandfather had shot. It was a glimpse into another way of life, and at the same time, the large staircase reminded me of home.

Macha, Julia and Isabel walked me back to the Camino and Macha kissed me on both cheeks as we said good-bye, as Manuel, my seat mate on the flight to Madrid had done when we reached the baggage claim.

After my run-in with Mr. Albergue, my time with them was such a gift and a blessing!

I walked onto the next village and filled up my water bottles (the visit had been so exciting, I’d forgotten to ask) and met Tammy, a fellow Pilgrim from Texas. We walked and talked for 10k and decided to stop in Villacazar.

When we walked into town, there was Nancy and her group, and we checked into the same Albergue! They were so nice. We toured the large church together and ate dinner together at the Albergue. And I had a good eight hours’ sleep.

  

Categories: April 2015, Santiago de Compostela | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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