St James of the Field of Stars (Santiago de Compostela)

 

photo81

This month is the 5th anniversary of my Camino walk. The Camino was life changing and I miss it often.  Enjoy this lovely memory with me.  My daily posts on the Camino can be found in the archives in May and June 2014.

My book Pilgrimage: A Modern Seeker’s Guide was inspired by my walk on the Camino and many other pilgrimages around the world and close to home.  The e-book is now priced at $5.99.  Check it out at Amazon. 

First Published June 2104

It wasn’t until the last week on the Camino that I could even think about Santiago, yet that was always the goal.   Every day I concentrated on the next 20 km or talked about the next big town, Pamplona, Burgos, Leon.   After Astorga, Santiago started to come into focus.   There were rumors about a celebration in Santiago about the time I planned to get there.  That was when I realized that if I arrived one day early I would be in Santiago for Pentecost, a holy day and a guaranteed Botafumeiro, the mammoth swinging incense censer in the nave of the Cathedral.   See a video of the Botafumeiro here.

Pentecost is the graduation day for the Apostles, including St. James, after Christ’s Ascension.   The Holy Spirit came to them in the Upper Room and sent tongues of fire to anoint them to go preach the Gospel.   No more perfect day to finish my pilgrimage and graduate to the next stage of my life.

While Alexandra slept I spent Pentecost with St. James.  I first listened to the beautiful chant of the Rosary.   Next the Botafumeiro made its mighty journey through the Cathedral to the sounds of the organ and choir.  I dreamed of this moment along with the centuries of pilgrims who had dreamed that same dream.   I went to a chapel to celebrate Mass in English with an Irish priest.  He read the story of Pentecost and we sang songs and lit a candle for all of the continents and peoples.     I joined the main Mass where the Archbishop presided over Confirmation.   I was having my graduation ceremony.  I had completed my task.

I didn’t realize how much I was going to need those extra days in Santiago to process my experience.   I saw pilgrim friends I hadn’t seen in weeks and we hugged and congratulated each other on a job well done.   It was special to be at Pilgrim’s Mass with my fellow travelers, a shared experience to the end.    I saw everyone I had hoped to see again and exchanged contact information.

I went to dinner with my friends and we talked about our favorite and least favorite Albergues, tales of the food, injuries and blisters and things we learned.  One pilgrim was in tears because he finally forgave his father, others had come to terms with their past or had new hope for their future. We were all proud of our strong bodies and loose hiking pants.   I cherished every moment of the language of the pilgrim, I miss it so much.

The next day my friends arrived by car with clothes for me and to share my triumph.   It was hard to move out of the pilgrim world.   The first day I put on a new shirt.  The next day I put on different shoes but still wore my hiking pants.  I had to reenter the world gradually.   We went to Mass together and they were treated to the Botafumeiro, and I was glad to see it another time.   We went behind the altar to touch the statue of St. James and went below to the crypt where his bones are kept in a silver casket.

All of my pilgrim rituals where complete and it was time to go.   I left my worn out shoes and some clothes I couldn’t bear to wear again and a piece of my heart in Santiago.

photo 5

Worn out shoes

St James of the Field of Stars (Santiago de Compostela)

 

photo81

This month is the 5th anniversary of my Camino walk. The Camino was life changing and I miss it often.  Enjoy this lovely memory with me.  My daily posts on the Camino can be found in the archives in May and June 2014.

My book Pilgrimage: A Modern Seeker’s Guide was inspired by my walk on the Camino and many other pilgrimages around the world and close to home.  The e-book is now priced at $5.99.  Check it out at Amazon. 

It wasn’t until the last week on the Camino that I could even think about Santiago, yet that was always the goal.   Every day I concentrated on the next 20 km or talked about the next big town, Pamplona, Burgos, Leon.   After Astorga, Santiago started to come into focus.   There were rumors about a celebration in Santiago about the time I planned to get there.  That was when I realized that if I arrived one day early I would be in Santiago for Pentecost, a holy day and a guaranteed Botafumeiro, the mammoth swinging incense censer in the nave of the Cathedral.   See a video of the Botafumeiro here.

Pentecost is the graduation day for the Apostles, including St. James, after Christ’s Ascension.   The Holy Spirit came to them in the Upper Room and sent tongues of fire to anoint them to go preach the Gospel.   No more perfect day to finish my pilgrimage and graduate to the next stage of my life.

While Alexandra slept I spent Pentecost with St. James.  I first listened to the beautiful chant of the Rosary.   Next the Botafumeiro made its mighty journey through the Cathedral to the sounds of the organ and choir.  I dreamed of this moment along with the centuries of pilgrims who had dreamed that same dream.   I went to a chapel to celebrate Mass in English with an Irish priest.  He read the story of Pentecost and we sang songs and lit a candle for all of the continents and peoples.     I joined the main Mass where the Archbishop presided over Confirmation.   I was having my graduation ceremony.  I had completed my task.

I didn’t realize how much I was going to need those extra days in Santiago to process my experience.   I saw pilgrim friends I hadn’t seen in weeks and we hugged and congratulated each other on a job well done.   It was special to be at Pilgrim’s Mass with my fellow travelers, a shared experience to the end.    I saw everyone I had hoped to see again and exchanged contact information.

I went to dinner with my friends and we talked about our favorite and least favorite Albergues, tales of the food, injuries and blisters and things we learned.  One pilgrim was in tears because he finally forgave his father, others had come to terms with their past or had new hope for their future. We were all proud of our strong bodies and loose hiking pants.   I cherished every moment of the language of the pilgrim, I miss it so much.

The next day my friends arrived by car with clothes for me and to share my triumph.   It was hard to move out of the pilgrim world.   The first day I put on a new shirt.  The next day I put on different shoes but still wore my hiking pants.  I had to reenter the world gradually.   We went to Mass together and they were treated to the Botafumeiro, and I was glad to see it another time.   We went behind the altar to touch the statue of St. James and went below to the crypt where his bones are kept in a silver casket.

All of my pilgrim rituals where complete and it was time to go.   I left my worn out shoes and some clothes I couldn’t bear to wear again and a piece of my heart in Santiago.

photo 5

Worn out shoes

Camino Day 37

It was a very breezy, overcast morning and rain was in the forecast. We have really had incredible weather on this trip but in everyone’s life some rain must fall.  I didn’t take any pictures so I’ve sent some random ones from other days.

day37

The trail is now very busy with big groups of people and a long line of pilgrims in front and behind. The large Japanese group has a bus strategically following them in case someone can’t go any further.

day37b

Late morning it did finally start raining so we ducked into a worn out bar for some lunch of an omelette and tomato in a baguette and a coke. We suited up to head back out in the rain. The pilgrims had scattered and the trail, which was more like a stream, was ours again.  The whole day was mostly tree-lined lanes and a few bits along side the main road.  The last few miles our feet we soaked and we were ready to stop for the day.

day37c

Our Albergue was brand new and large to accommodate the increasing flow of pilgrims. If IKEA built an Albergue it would look just like this, modern and efficient.  What it lacks in old Spain charm it made up for in lights, electric sockets and hot water.

Albergues

Dinner with friends and a bit of shopping, since we don’t have far to carry our treasures, finished off the night.  Back to our bunk beds for one final night of communal living.  Tomorrow we arrive in Santiago and have a hotel.  I think we had 25 nights in albergues so we definitely had the whole pilgrim experience. Albergues and pilgrim’s food are the two things we won’t miss but without them the Camino wouldn’t be the same or affordable.

We loved many of the albergues and had a wonderful sense of community there. Others were just a place to sleep and a few were grim and depressing. Some albergues have made for great stories and stand out in my memory and are tales to be retold.

camino

One more day to Santiago!

Camino Day 36

We started the day with a cuddle from this sweet little one.  She and her many siblings were in a yard next to the hotel. She kept following us around for more love. It was hard to leave her behind.

kitten

By mid-morning we were in Melide where we had a snack, got some tissues and more money. The local delicacy is octopus- “pulpo.”  They boil it in large vats in the restaurant window to entice you in. There is probably nothing in the world that could entice me to eat boiled octopus  so we headed on down the road for a tomato and cheese sandwich instead.

We walked through more lovely tree lined lanes and over this rock bridge. There are many eucalyptus forests that smell amazing.

foot bridge

day36b

The trail got much more crowded today as larger groups are now walking the last 100 km.  It has change the atmosphere some and makes beds harder to find but it is part of it. We were able to find a lovely Albergue and shared a room with six French women.  I was lucky enough to be first in line for the washing machine.

stone house

We found friends we hadn’t  seen in many day and ate dinner together, swapping trail stories and talked of our lives before the trail. We don’t have any idea how are lives will be after we finish, probably not obviously different but I know my appreciation of life and the simple things is forever changed. Everything on the trail is brought down to the simplest form; clothes, food, sleep, friendship all wrapped up in the beautiful package of the natural world.

stone bridge

Camino Day 35

The morning started with a light misty rain which soon lifted. We stopped for second breakfast then elevenses before finally having lunch with some American friends.  I treated all to Spanish hot chocolate which is the consistence and taste of hot pudding.  Thick and rich, a little went a long ways but was delicious .

The afternoon part of the walk was by this charming ancient church and this adorable hobbit house.

ancient church

hobbit house

The last few miles were on these beautiful tree lines lanes, next to wild flower meadows, with mountains in the distance.  Combine that with my sweet daughter just ahead and a soundtrack and I had a bit of bliss.

day35b

day35d

day35c

We had booked a hotel ahead and I was very glad of it. Turns out I have a bit of a cold so an afternoon nap was needed. My cough was worse so I was relieved I wouldn’t disturb a whole Albergue. The room had old stone walls with a niche and tiny  windows with green shutters and lace curtains, so charming.

Just three more days and 60 km for 36 total days of walking.   We hate for it to be over and yet at the same time are ready to reach Santiago. The good news is the Camino will be part of us for the rest of our lives.

Camino Day 33

Since we were in a hotel and tired after our extra long day, we slept in a bit. Our clothes hadn’t dried over night so I put them in a bag hoping that the next Albergue would have a clothesline.

Our first town was Sarria which is the official start of the Camino for those who walk just the last 100 km for their Compostela. This takes most people a week to walk and is popular for those who don’t have time or desire to walk more. The Camino gets a bit busier and more commercial now but still very pleasant.

ancient tree

We needed to get new credentials-the official document you get stamped everyday to prove you walked—ours were full and we have to have at least two stamps a day for the final 100 km. No cheating from now on.  We also have worn through our trekking pole rubber ends and so were finally able to find replacements.

I stopped at this beautiful monastery, cloisters and chapel dedicated to Mary Magdelene. The central garden was beautiful.

Monastery of the Magdelene

mossy rock wall

day33c

The rest of the day we walked over hill and down the dale through farms and by friendly cows. The towns usually have German shepherds laying around but in the morning and evening they are hard a work as traffic cops for the cows coming and going to the fields.

We finally passed the 100km mark, a big milestone for pilgrims, we are a long way from our original sign with 790 km. Alexandra added our names to the makers too.

100 Km Marker

We stopped for the night soon after the maker.   I was too tired to go further so we had to settle for the basic and depressing Albergue that had room.  There were clothes lines for our clothes by the big trash dumpsters.  Oh well, I must confess I’m a bit tired of the public bathrooms and sleeping arrangements but that is part if the experience of being a pilgrim.

Camino Day 32

Alexandra has been wanting to do a sunrise walk so she woke me at 5:30 and we packed in the hallway and were on our way by 6. It was a beautiful morning with the pink sun rising just over the mountains.

MORNING MIST

I needed coffee so we stopped at the next town for my fix.  After that the mist below the mountain tops and the green rolling hills were too pretty for words. We found this very handsome bull having his breakfast with his nice family.

Fabulous bull

 

Galacia  is an enchanted land with moss and flowers, ferns and tiny streams.  I’m sure I will see a unicorn or rainbow pony any moment. The tiny, ancient stone houses where I’m sure hobbits and gnomes live, have moss covered slate roofs. This wise old tree has greeted pilgrims for 800 years.

wise old tree

In one small town I got stuck in the morning rush hour when all the cows were headed to their jobs on the field.  I just had to wait until it was my turn to go.

We stopped for more coffee and bacon and eggs. Then a bit later shared a drink with friends and some lunch.

coffee break

We had just a 5km go in the afternoon before our hotel. We had been in Albergues for 8 nights in a row and were ready for a private bath and personal space. Except we misread the guide book and found out our hotel was 8 km further than we thought, nothing to do but keep going.

It was inevitable, I took a wrong turn again and got on the main road heading in the right direction but without Alexandra.   My phone battery was dead and I couldn’t text her.  I eventually flagged a car to take me to the hotel, plugged in my phone and was able to text her.  Meanwhile she was worried and looking for me. A French couple we met a few days ago helped calm her and soon after got my text. Crisis over, she eventually got to the hotel tired and thirsty.  It was an extra long day and over 16 miles of walking, we were grateful to be safe and sound in our own room.  No Camino is complete without a little drama but all is well that ends well.

Foxgloves

Camino Day 31

The Albergue was just before the last big mountain, so we were rested but our legs were still really tired. Just down the road Alexandra saw a sign for horses to take pilgrims up the mountain. So while we waited for the barn to open we of course found kittens to entertain us. Cat and kitten adoration is a big part of our responsibilities in Spain.

kitten love

We got the last two horses so we met the rest of the group in the next town. I like horses but I don’t like riding them so it was a big challenge for me and of course I got the energetic lead horse. Alexandra got this beautiful white horse which made her very happy. It was fun to be a horse pilgrim for a while and I definitely lost some of my fear. The scenery was spectacular and our legs were happy for the rest.

trusty steed

At the top of the mountain was a little stone village and beautiful church. We had some lunch and took in the view.

stuning view

Just a few more kilometers to go for the day when we met this lovely lady having a picnic lunch with her friends.

lovely lady

Our Albergue was very basic with disposable sheets for the bed. While Alexandra napped inside I laid in the grass and dozed while a group of young pilgrims next to me chatted away in a language I didn’t recognize.

We walked to the local bar for a really nice dinner with Norwegian and Danish friends.

Today we entered Galacia, the final section of the Camino. We have been walking four weeks now with only one week left until Santiago. After Jerusalem and Rome, Santiago is the next holiest city in Christendom and we are almost there.

happy hiker

 

.

Camino Day 30

After second breakfast we decided to take the more challenging path up the mountain to see the views we missed in the rain yesterday. The path was steep but the million dollar view of the valley and castle below made it worth every step. The tall snowy mountains that we walked toward for so long are now far behind. We only take a step at a time but somehow the world passes by and we make progress.

mountain views

At the top of the mountain we stopped in a tiny town for a drink. We had to ring a bell to call the bartender to open up the bar for us. The path down the mountain was brutal and we were very tired at the end. The rest of the afternoon consisted of a lunch that we think might have been food at a truck stop and a long walk along a road. Not the prettiest part of the Camino but I did find this lovely stream toward the end.

mountain stream

We chose an Albergue with a good home cooked dinner.

Afternoon shade

 

The ancient stone building had been nicely renovated. The host took us up a narrow stairway— barely wider than my shoulders to an attic room with old ceiling beams and stone walls. My bunk was in the corner and I could hear baby birds chirping under the eves.

slate roof

The dinner was wonderful, carrot soup, salad and pasta with pudding for dessert. The long table of pilgrims were so happy and at the end sang pilgrim songs to celebrate. Such fun after a long hard day walking.

Happy Pilgrims

 

 

Camino Day 28

The morning was perfect, flat path, not too cold and several little towns to stop and have coffee. For lunch we had pasta and veggies and saw our first piece of broccoli in a month. Since Leon there has been an improvement in the food selection and albergues.

cute little village

After lunch the path got steeper but it was so beautiful climbing to the highest point on the Camino.

mountain view

The narrow path was lined with shrubby bushes full of yellow or purple or white flowers. I stopped often to look at the mountains and the open land. I live where there are so many trees and so I love the wide open spaces and vistas.

shrubby path

We stopped for the night in the tiny hamlet of Foncebadon that was mostly collapsed ancient stone houses. The Albergue had a “hippie” vibe with lots of objects from India and very laid back. A sign said “no wi-fi, talk to each other”. Since we were on the late side we got beds in the overflow room.

We were taken through the barnyard, past the chickens and goats to a large room with mattresses on the floor. It was the yoga room and had all the usual pictures of the Buddha and Hindu gods. The bathroom was upstairs and included a stand-up toilet. Was I in Spain or an ashram in India, I wasn’t sure. But since I’d like to go to an ashram I was perfectly happy.

yoga studio barn

I spent the afternoon chasing chickens, petting dogs, milking goats (yes I got to milk a goat!!!) and talking to my pilgrim friends. Supper was this giant pan of paella and homemade yogurt with crystalized honey for dessert.

paella

I settled in for the night on my mattress in the ashram and later someone came and built a fire in the wood stove so we were comfy and warm in the barnyard, on a mountain in rural Spain.