Here I go...

Walking and Talking Across Spain

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ankle Issues

I'm beginning to get depressed about my ankle. It feels like it will never heal.

I won't be walking this year but Joe is walking with a small group in May.

I'm back home in Portland.

There's no place like home.

My chickens missed me.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Think I'm Going to Cry



This morning, I've been updating the photos on the Camino Madrid portion of my blog. And boy, has it made me homesick for Spain!

I am not planning to go this year because of my darned ankle.
I haven't really thought too much about it.
But now, seeing the photos, I'm wondering if this was a bad decision.

I'm reconsidering.
If I can just get two more pilgrims to join our May/June group,
I can afford to go.

Even if I can't walk every day,
I can be there.

Will I go?
Stay tuned.

Love,
Annie

Monday, February 09, 2015

What Worked and What Didn't

The following is a post by Peregrino "JoJo" made to the Camino Forum after his Camino.  I thought this information and his experience and feedback might really be of help to anyone planning their own first Camino. I won't weigh it down with photos, except for the backpack. I also love Osprey Stratos Packs and a 26L is more than anyone needs for the Camino, imo:

**************
When I was preparing for my Camino, I saw lots of gear lists and advice, but not too many people reviewing their own gear choices for what worked, and what they would do differently next time.

Note: our Camino was from July 3, 2014 to August 9, 2014, and we walked from St. Jean to Finestere. Much of what I have to say is from the experience of walking in the heat of the summer. I have a friend who walked in September-October 2013 and she did not have nearly the foot problems we did with wearing hiking boots in the heat. I am not certain that my suggestions would be helpful for a Spring of Fall walk, and might even be quite harmful.

What follows is the name of the item category, sometimes followed b introductory comments, then the name of the item, its weight in grams, and my comments. At the end of every category is total weight for that category.

Packing

Osprey Stratos 26L
1075
Loved this pack. (My wife had the 24L model, which she also loved. I preferred the drawstring top rather than the zippers). The size and weight were right, and the back mesh ventilation system (“hammock”) was priceless walking across the Meseta. The other feature whose usefulness surprised me was the “stow on the go” system for trekking poles. When I came into towns with people around where using poles on the sidewalk was awkward, I’d just collapse my poles and attach them to my pack in a few moments.

fanny pack
82
Carried my camera and Kindle in this everywhere I went, including at night when I was sleeping. Put it into a gallon Ziploc when taking shower.

laundry bag/stuff sack
24
Useless. Took because was advised to help sort laundry when we shared a washing machine with other pilgrims. Because there were two of us, we usually took a whole machine, and we only had 10 pieces of clothing each. How hard could that possibly have been to sort?

security belt wallet
29
Worn under clothes with passports, credit cards, and most of the cash (in a small Ziploc—otherwise the sweat would soak then through in no time). The day’s spending cash was in a Ziploc in a zippered pocket of my pants, often together with my pilgrims credential.

Gallon size Ziplocs
Forgot to weigh
Priceless. I’m not even sure how many I took, but I used every one of them, especially after my pack cover failed and I had to keep clothing dry in the rain. Also useful for bringing all of your clothes into the shower with you (as there is often not a vestibule where you can leave dry clothes and they will remain dry).

Total Packing
1210

Clothing

I used my backpacking clothing system for hiking in the mountains. I use the short sleeve shirts under the long sleeve sunshirt and convertible pants. In my opinion, wearing short sleeves or shorts and then lots of sunblock (or not, and we saw some really bad burns) is just silly. The sun on your skin undoes any cooling effect of the shorter garments.

I would not use this system again on the Camino in the summer. Instead, I would have two sets of clothing—one for the mountains and one for the Meseta. The mountain clothes would be quick-drying nylon, as these all were. The clothes for the Meseta, however, should be like you would wear in the desert—the one place where cotton is good.

The mountain clothes would be a single layer long sleeve nylon shirt matched with long (non-convertible) pants. The desert clothing would be the same, except in cotton. Everything SPF50 or at least SPF25. I found that what I was doing was using one set of clothing for walking, then when I reached the albergue, changing into the other pair and washing the trail clothes. The summer sun was so hot that drying was not much of a challenge. And then I would put the same trail clothes on for the next day. The clothes I wore in the albergues did not get that dirty, and were usually washed about once a week when we hit a washing machine (wearing rain gear, so we could wash all of the clothes at once). When I do another summer Camino, I would start out wearing the appropriate mountain attire while walking, wearing the desert clothes at night around the albergue. Then I’d switch and wear the desert clothes during the day when it started getting hot in Riojas. Then I’d switch back when we hit Galicia.

Columbia orange nylon shirt
192
Good shirt, but not for the Meseta.

Terramar green nylon short sleeve shirt
177
Ditto.

REI long-sleeve Sahara shirt
246
Ditto.

REI sun hat
108
I’ve used it for years, and it served me well on the trip. 3.25” brim. Ventilated crown for the Meseta. Chin strap for the windy places in the mountains and by the shore. Light color to stay cool. The one piece of clothing I was very happy with.

Kuhl convertible (zip off) long pants
454
I thought I was being clever by buying two pairs of convertible pants, but only bringing one set of legs that could zip onto either set of shorts.

Kuhl shorts (well, convertible pants without the legs)
300
Convertible pants are heavy, however, because of all the zippers. I should have just brought two pairs of lightweight long pants (one cotton, only nylon, as explained above).

Terramar compression shorts (underwear)
93
I like these for walking, and they keep my thighs from getting irritated.

Liner stocking hat
37
Worth its weight in gold.

Total Clothing Weight
1607

Footwear
When you are walking 500 miles, you become little more than a life support system for your feet. This is the most serious gear error you can make. I screwed this up, and it almost cost me my Camino.

leather boots (left behind in Santo Domingo)
Did not weigh
I have been backpacking for years, so I brought my well-broken in hiking boots.

2 Smartwool socks
207
With that system went the wool hiking socks . . . (should have been left or mailed home)

2 polypro liner socks
95
and the polypro liners (that turned out to be useful, but not in their usual capacity). See below.

Asics Running Shoes (left behind in Leon)
Did not weigh
My boots got wet in the Pyrenees and stayed wet. Then we walked lower and it began getting hotter. In the boots and wool socks, I began to get heat rash for the first time ever (I’ve been backpacking since 1980). Plus, the walking surfaces were much more concrete and asphalt than I expected. Moisture + heat + friction = blisters. The balls my feet and my toes became a metropolis of blisters.


In Santo Domingo de la Calzada, my wife found a pair of Keen sandals that fit her, and we donated our boots to the nuns. I was not so lucky because I have very wide feet. I found a pair of Asics running shoes that sort of fit (in Burgos, after a bus ride), and that allowed me to walk the Meseta.

Keen Sandals
950
Finally, when we got to Leon I found a pair of Keen Sandals and pair of Merrell trail shoes. The Keens worked best for the more rugged paths and in the rain (paired with a polypro liner—the only time those socks were really useful).

Merrell Trail Shoes
550
The Merrells worked better on the concrete and asphalt. If I were to do it again, I would keep the Keen sandals, but instead of the Merrells, I’d get well-ventilated running shoes designed for running on asphalt.

Coolmax socks (three pairs)
52, 62, and 78
I also had to buy different socks, settling on three different types of coolmax, with different thicknesses. The lightest ones turned out to be best.

Sockwas
24
I brought these instead of crocs to walk around in the albergues. They are lighter and I find them very comfortable. By the time I had both Keen sandals and the Merrell shoes, however, these became superfluous. At night I just wore whichever shoes I did not wear on the trail that day. I use my Sockwas around home all the time, and will take them backpacking, but not on a Camino.

Total Footwear Weight
2018

Pockets and Hands

lighter
22
Useless. This is not backpacking. No stoves to light.

compass
31
Completely unnecessary. Just follow the yellow arrows and signs.

watch
30
You need one. My wife killed hers the second day by wearing it in the shower and regretted it every day thereafter. Just a cheap one that will not make you the target of thieves.

sunglasses
30
Priceless, especially on the Meseta. I use glacier glasses, with the side covers as goggles that go over my regular glasses.

Opinel knife
28
Loved it. Had to buy this in Spain to cut cheese, meats and breads for lunches from the grocery store. Had to give leave it in a hotel room the last night because there was no way to take it in carryon luggage.

Komperdell
trekking poles
550
I like walking with them, and I especially found the clip-locks to work much better than the twist-locks. With the clip-locks it took me about 15 seconds to break down my poles and attach them to my pack, so I was never asked to leave them by the boots in the albergue (thereby avoiding forgetting them or someone walking off with them by accident). With duct tape wrapped around them (convenient storage) and tips (wore out three of them on the Camino).

Total Hands and Pockets
691


Rain

Marmot Essence rain jacket
178
I love this jacket. It was dry and breathable in the rain, and ridiculously lightweight. It was also only warmth layer I had with me, so I often wore it at night even when it was dry outside.

rain pants
314
Too heavy and inconvenient to take on and off. I have since received as a Christmas gift much lighter rain paints (Mont Bell Torrent Flier, 179g). When I walk another summer Camino, however, I think I will follow my wife’s example instead. She had a Ferrino poncho that served as jacket, pants and pack cover (291grams, total). The coverage is better with pants and jacket, but the summer rains are not that cold and overheating is much more of a problem than in the American mountains.

Osprey pack cover (came with Osprey Pack)
71
Completely worthless. Leaked like a sieve. The ultralight backpackers just use trash compactor bags as liners on the inside of their packs, and that is what I will do in the future.

waterproof gloves
91
Utterly useless. As above, the summer rains were not cold enough to need these.

rain glasses (yellow)
28
Frivolous. I wear them for rainy, cloudy weather so I can see better for driving, and so I do not get so depressed. Would not carry them again.

Total Rainwear
682

Hydration
.75L Camelbak water bottle
167
I split the difference between a water bottle and a bladder. I used the bottle with a tube from the same company that attaches to it. And I love it. All the convenience of a hydration tube so I can sip water while walking, yet just a small, easy to clean, easy to fill bottle.

Camelbak hydration tube
43

Total Hydration
210

Sleeping
Coolmax sleeping bag liner and stuff sack
252
Sprayed with permethrin. For a summer Camino, this was just right. The only night I was cold was in Roncevalles because there are no blankets there. Every other albergue we stayed in where it got at all cold had blankets. Many nights it was even too hot to sleep in this almost weightless liner bag—slept on top instead. Snoring pilgrims stacked in bunk beds generate an amazing amount of body heat in small, confined rooms. I had bought lightweight, 1lb sleeping bags for the trip, but I’m so glad we left them home.

sleeping mask
24
Don’t leave home without one. Often windows had to be left open for ventilation, resulting in light from the street pouring in. Also useful against other pilgrims with white headlamps.

ear plugs
39
Priceless. I use the silicon putty ones, not the foam ones (more comfortable for using the whole night through). Only the snores of one pilgrim one night kept me awake with these as a defense.

Petzl headlamp (w/ batteries)
83
Great, because I could switch it to a red light. Perfect for finding the bathroom in the middle of the night, or leaving the albergue at 6am if other pilgrims were still sleeping. Also useful for finding yellow arrows if you leave the albergue early to avoid walking in the heat of the day. Petzl makes a model called the e+lite that is about a third the weight of this one, and I’m seriously considering getting it.

Total Sleeping
398

Toiletries
safety pins
13
I brought a dozen. What was I thinking? I should have brought TWO dozen for my wife and I (they are easy to lose). Used every day to hang laundry. Worth their weight in gold.

clothes line/rope
28
Only used a few times, but I would probably bring again because when there is no clothes lines (or they are all full), you still have to get your clothes dry somehow.

Netted Soap Saver
34
My wife got this from Amazon, and it worked great. It is a tough nylon scrubber that you put the soap inside. I used it both for showering and washing clothes. The drawstring doubles as a hanger to dry the soap out, minimizing the mess in your pack (you will still need a small Ziploc to carry it in).

Toothpaste
30
One very small tube was enough for my entire trip.

Toothbrush
11
Travel-style, that disassembles and the head tucks inside the body.

floss
17
Small roll lasted the entire trip.

soap
Did not weigh
We were going to buy soap once we got there, but we just kept finding bits of soap others had left behind, all of which went into the soap saver bag.

deodorant
32
Small travel size.

face wash
44
In a small 1oz bottle from REI. Should have only filled halfway because I had some left over at the end.

lip balm
8
With the highest SPF factor you can find

sunscreen
81
Because of my long clothing, only needed for face and hands. Small, 3oz bottle lasted the entire trip.

moisturizer
37
I had the wrong stuff. I needed a different footcare system. By the end, I was using Nok cream on my feet after the shower and again before bed to keep the skin moisturized and therefore more difficult for sweat to permeate.

foot powder
Did not weigh
Priceless. Bought in Spain on the advice of the angels who doctored my feet. This in the socks while walking, and changing socks frequently, turned out to be key to keeping my feet dry and less prone to blisters. Obviously, do not use at the same time you are using a moisturizer on your feet (you will get a caked-on mess). This is for while walking; moisturizer is for after you are done walking for the day.

bandanas (3)
90
I brought intending to use as both wash cloths, towels, nose rags, and buff, as I do in backpacking. Did not end up being as useful on the Camino. I think I would just bring one next time. My wife brought a small Pack Towel (49g). That turned out to be a better idea.

comb
7

Total Toiletries
462


Entertainment
Kindle Paperwhite in a hard case
296
This really was not entertainment because I had my guidebook in here. Actually, I had three guidebooks in here (Kelly, Brierley and Dinkman and Landis), plus the Bible and several books to read for leisure. All for the weight of Brierley’s guidebook. This worked great.

Kindle usb cable and electric plug
54
I did not have to recharge the Kindle but about once a week (and I probably could have gone 10 days—I rarely let it get below 50%). There were plenty of outlets in the albergues. No need for the multiple plug adapters some smart phone users recommend. If the outlet supply was spotty one night, no big deal. I could wait a couple of days to recharge.

plug converter
6
Necessary because Spanish electric plugs are different shapes. Cheap one from Ebay worked fine.

Native American flute
101
Infinitely worth it. I played at almost every church that was open along the way, and in the Cathedral at Santiago (getting permission for that one took a bit of doing. I should add that the Dean of the Cathedral turned out to be a lovely man). The sound in some of those churches was amazing.

Sony Nex-3 Camera
385
My old point-and-shoot would have worked, but I bought this camera for the Camino because I wanted pictures that would be really beautiful. And they are. The image sensor in this camera is huge, so you get very fine details. Figuring out the focusing system took some time, but after the first 2 days, I did and the pictures were wonderful. Action shots were a little blurry, but I think I now know what I needed to be doing to solve that.

polarizing filter for camera
22
A must-have for outdoor photography in the bright sunlight.

battery charger for camera
65
Camera would not charge straight from an outlet, so I had to carry this. It worked well

extra battery for camera
58
There were so many opportunities to recharge, this was a completely unnecessary rock that I hauled half way across Spain.

extra SD card for camera
5
A wise precaution, but unnecessary. I had a 16GB card, which was all kinds of space for my photos

lens shade for camera
21
Useful in some situations, but I mostly did not use this and would not carry again.

Total Entertainment
1013

Foot Repair
I had this system all wrong. My system was based on short (5 day) backpacking trips in the mountains. There, if you get a blister, you just put a moleskin donut around it and tape it all down. That way you do not risk infection in the backcountry by puncturing the blister

Molefoam
17
By day 8, however, I had a mass of moleskin on my feet that was no longer able to cushion anything and, worse yet, was trapping moisture in my boots.

folding scissors
15
The answer for me turned out to be the “nuns” method of sewing blisters, leaving a thread in them to keep the blister draining (you can take the thread out when you start walking the next day). Scissors were useful for molefoam and trimming my beard, but not really the tool I needed. I needed needle and thread.

Leukotape
8
This works much better than the old, white adhesive tape, but by the end we did not use at all. The trick was soaking feet in water fountains to cool them, and then changing socks (with Peusek footpowder) to keep them dry. Just taping over hot spots was too temporary of a fix for walking 500 miles.

Total Foot Repair
49

Gear Repairs
duct tape
(weight included in trekking pole weight)
In bright orange. Wrapped around trekking poles. Used both to mark gear as ours, and at one point to tape Superfeet insoles into sandals trying to cobble together a footwear solution that would get me to the next big city. It did not work (as you might expect) and I had to take a bus to Burgos to buy better shoes.

needle/thread
3
See above. I had to get a smaller needle because the one I had was for sewing gear, not blisters. The gear did not need sewing; the blisters did.

ripstop nylon repair tape
7
Never used, but a good precaution.

Total Gear Repairs
10

People Repair
Sack for First aid materials
8
I got these for backpacking in 1980, and they are still the best thing I’ve ever seen (zipper up the belly instead of a drawstring top).

Band-Aids
12
Never used

various medicines
15
Ran out of Ibuprofen, but bought some in Spain (600mg; Rx strength in the US, so we had to leave the extra in Spain because otherwise it is illegal to have in the U.S. without a prescription).

Neosporin
16
Never used. Bought Betadine in Spain, because it would flow into the blister better.

KT Tape
Did not weigh
A Camino angel gave some to my wife and it saved her. She was developing tendonitis from her hiking boots. Take some with you—this stuff was impossible to find in farmacias on the Camino.

Pepto-Bismal
Wished we had to weigh
Some things you cannot find for love or money on the Camino, and this is one. The Spanish food (lots of olive oil) was too rich for my wife’s stomach. Seriously wished that we had brought some tablets.

Alka Seltzer
Wished we had to weigh
Another product we just could not find in Spain and wished we had packed.

Total People Repair
51

GRAND TOTAL WEIGHT
8401

The total weight was equivalent to 18.5lbs. I weighed about 200lbs. when I left (about 175lbs. by the end), so this was within the suggestion of carrying no more than a ten percent of body weight. Actually, by the time you add in consumables (food, water, foot doctoring supplies), I exceeded that.

I’m glad I did not have any more—my feet took enough of a pounding as it was. Notable things I’m glad I did not take: a sleeping pad (I saw lots of these and they were unnecessary), and a sleeping bag.

I hope that this report helps other pilgrims to make their own gear selections. I saw far too many walking with unnecessarily heavy loads, and I wonder if they ever made it to Santiago. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to respond to this posting.

Buen Camino.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Some Places to Sleep on the Camino Frances

I was recently asked by the producers of the Documentary "Walking the Camino" if I could provide some photos for a new App they're working on.  In going through my thousands of photos, I thought it might be helpful not to blog, but to simply post photos of places you might expect to sleep on the Camino, food you might expect to eat, etc.

So, I'll begin with Places to Sleep. Following are photos of places I've stayed on the Camino Frances.
I apologize but these are NOT in any particular order. I will give my own personal review of each. And while I realize bedbugs are a difficult thing to control on the Camino, I will mention the places I found them. Please read my blog on bedbugs - it is possible to get to Santiago without getting bugs if you are informed and careful.


Albergue Maralotx in Ciraqui. This was a very clean and pilgrim friendly place. They offered a wonderful dinner. I hear this place is up for sale!



 San Anton. This albergue is set in the ruins of an old Cathedral. It's a beautiful place. You sleep inside a dorm with only three walls. They drop a heavy clear plastic "door" down for the night. Dinner is included here, and is family style.

San Anton; the albergue in the ruins.

On my first Camino, I stayed at the municipal albergue in Sahagun. It is nice, but large and can be noisy. The night we stayed, 4 drunk German boys kept everyone awake and vomited all over the bathrooms. After that, I decided to stay in private albergues here, but that was one night and one experience. I'm sure others have had better luck. The beds were comfortable in private little cubes of 2, and the place was clean before the boys slimed it.


Dorm in Municipal at Sahagun
 I love the Benedictine Monastery at Leon. It has large dorms. Men are in one. Women in the other. They serve a nice little breakfast in the morning. The showers are not coed. If you tend to sleep hot, get a bed by the window.  I've stayed here several times and found it very clean and friendly. When I was there in 2006, they were having a chincha (bedbug) issue, so the nuns were stopping every pilgrim, making them dump and spray their belongings. I have happily stayed here several times since then, with no bedbugs to be seen.



I slept on the TOP bunk and didn't see one bedbug.
This man slept on the BOTTOM and fought them all night long.
 He's pointing to a pile of bugs he killed during the night.  :)

Albergue Casa de Jesus at Vilar de Mazarife is one of my favorite places. I love sleeping out on the balcony when it's warm. They also have rooms with 4-6-8 beds and possibly a private or two. The bathrooms are both coed and they have locking door bathrooms. They have a nice kitchen where you can cook.

Casa de Jesus Courtyard

Guacelmo Albergue is run by a private confraternity in the village of Rabanal del Camino. I have stayed there several times. It is clean and friendly. They have a nice big kitchen where you can cook. You can also find really good food across the road at El Refugio. They serve a meet&greet tea in the afternoons. A good place.
Afternoon Tea at Guacelmo

Guacelmo Kitchen

If you are adventurous, don't walk past Manjarin without spending the night. This is a very basic refuge run by Tomas the Templar. There is no running water - it is brought in by the volunteers. There are no showers. There is a pit toilet. Included in the price is your dinner, and a good-sized breakfast, both very good when I stayed. Since there is no water, the sheets are often very soiled so this is not for the weak-hearted. Having said that, it was one of the best experiences in hospitality and love in all my many treks on the Camino. Give it a try and be grateful for the experience!

Beds are mattresses on the attic floor.

The Majarin Kitchen storage

Annie with Tomas the Templar

Molinaseca Municipal Albergue. I stayed here in 2006. After seeing signs of bedbugs inside, I chose a bed out on the patio. I enjoy sleeping outside whenever possible.  The inside is dark and not always clean. I probably wouldn't stay here if I couldn't sleep outdoors. They do have a nice yard where you could maybe put your bedroll with permission also. There is actually a nice private albergue run by a German group across the street. Frankly, I'd choose to stay there or rent a private room.

That's my bed on the top bunk!

The Municipal Albergue at Cacabelos, Las Augustias, is interesting because it is built AROUND the church. There are two beds in each little room. The one time I stayed here, I tried 3 rooms before I found one without bedbugs. I would probably not stay here again - I didn't find the staff very friendly (maybe because I refused a bed with bugs?). But some people really like it.


Cacabelos


I love the Municipal Albergue at Vega de Valcarce. 
It was spartan, but clean and friendly.


Vega de Valcarce

Casa Morgade is between Sarria and Portomarin. You will recognize it by the hoardes of pilgrims stopping here for lunch. You must book your rooms ahead here, and it is worth it. It is clean, friendly, and the food is awesome.


The Sala at Casa Morgade

Beds in Casa Morgade

The new Municipal at Portomarin is quite nice. It is HUGE with lots of beds in one or two big rooms, but it was clean and had a good kitchen.



The little schoolhouse albergue at Ligonde is sweet, with only about a dozen bunkbeds. When I stayed, we had to walk into Eirexe for dinner, but I think there is a restaurant there now. The albergue had a tiny kitchen, but I recall there were no pots/pans to cook with. Here I am trying to warm up after a cold walk from Morgade.

I have my feet in hot water trying to get warm!

This photo should be at the very top but I couldn't figure out how to move it. This is one of the rooms at L'esprit de Chemin in St. Jean Pied de Port. This was a wonderful albergue and I stayed there my first Camino. You MUST make reservations. Choose to have dinner there and make some new friends. Don't let them talk you into walking all the way to Roncesvalles! Stop in Orisson. Make reservations THERE also.


The Municipal Albergue at Zubiri, was to me, very dirty and unfriendly. The showers were nasty and in a trailer outside. The staff was not very friendly. Instead, consider booking at El Palo de Avellano, closer to town, or booking a private room and sharing with another pilgrim.




When I walk the Camino, I often try to walk "between the waves" of pilgrims following the guidebooks. Instead of staying in Pamplona, for instance, I will stop at Trinidad de Arre and sleep at the convent Hermanos Maristas, right across the bridge. This is a sweet albergue, with a private room of 4 beds for married couples and a room for snorers, in addition to their dorm. They have a nice backyard to relax in and it is close enough to Pamplona to take a city bus or taxi if you felt like touristing about. 

Trinidad de Arre - Hermanos Maristas Convent

The Bridge at Trinidad de Arre

One secret place along the Camino is the tiny ONE-bedroom, TWO bed municipal albergue at Uterga. I'm not sure if it's still open, but I stayed there with Joe and this Mexican peregrina in 2006 and it was quite sweet!

Notice there is no sign

Just a room with 2 beds. Joe slept on a mattress on the floor.

The Albergue at Estella was very noisy, but otherwise comfortable and clean. I no longer stay there, preferring a private room. There is also a new albergue advertised lately.

Estella
The first time I walked, we stayed at the municipal albergue in Logroño, and I've stayed there several times since. The place is huge, but it was very clean and friendly. I would stay there again.

Bags are lined up waiting to get in.

Dorms in Logroño

I just had to toss this in. In 2006, after getting frozen and wet on the Meseta walking into Santo Domingo del Calzada, I broke down and booked a room in the Parador. It was worth every penny to get a good night's sleep, THREE hot baths, and this breakfast in bed next morning!

Desayuno!


In Espinoza, we stayed with Pepe in 2006. He has several rooms with 2-3 beds in each. He cooked paella for dinner!  We loved his place!

Espinoza - Pepe's place

Dinner with Pepe
 I don't like to tell people NOT to stay at a place because of bedbugs, because it's a crap shoot. The owners can fumigate, clean every bed, and the very next day a pilgrim brings in bugs. But there is one place I WILL tell you not to stay and that is Hornillos. I have never been there when there were  NOT bedbugs and not just a bite or two. People get eaten alive there then spread the bugs along the route. I don't know who is in charge, but someone needs to crack down. Anyway, stop there and visit the little Church and bell tower - it's lovely - but don't put your bag on the bed unless you've sprayed everything with permethrin!


If you're looking for a good place to stay in Logroño, and need a place away from the hoardes, consider getting a few people together and renting an apartment. It can cost just about the same amount of cash and it's nice to have a break, especially in Logroño where you might want to stay out late for tapas.  Here is one place we've stayed, Apartamentos Calfred. They also have a dorm, I believe, but I have not stayed there.

Room at CalFred

Terrace at CalFred, Logroño

In Molinaseca, I love staying at Casa Reloj. It's good for a group. They serve a nice breakfast next morning as well.

Casa Reloj

In the time we've been operating Anniewalkers, I have had one negative review.  The woman had paid for DOUBLE room lodging with another pilgrim. I had this sweet little extra room in Viana and thought she might like a break from her roommate. She writes in her review that I put her in "a child's room." It was a private room with a single bed and a kitchen and bathroom, and I suppose you could look at this bedspread and think it might be a child's room. Here is a photo of that room. I thought it was lovely, when compared to a pilgrim dorm? When walking the Camino, you have to be ready for surprises...

Room at Viana

Kitchen in Viana

 I love staying at Albergue Ultreia in Portomarin. It is spotless, with a nice kitchen and shared bathrooms/showers.  They have dorms, and also have private rooms upstairs. I like the privates these days  :)

Ultreia


 This is the HUGE OLD dorm at Roncesvalles. They now have a new one, but still put pilgrims in this one when they need overflow room. I was assigned a top bunk and I remember crying when I had to use the toilet in the middle of the night and my feet painfully hit that floor!

Old Albergue Roncesvalles
 I'm unable to add more photos to this posting, so I'll continue tomorrow in a new post.
Buen Camino!
Annie

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Camino is about the Journey...

This story I found in my old blog is another reminder that the Camino really IS about the journey, not the destination. I was walking the Aragones Route this particular year and decided to take a turn off to see the monastery of San Juan de la Peña. 

Photo from Internet
I learned if you focus too much on "getting there" you may not arrive. Just go at a comfortable pace and enjoy the walking and the countryside.... you'll get where you get… and you'll arrive when you arrive.

* * * * *

This morning I left Jaca about 7 am and took the turnoff to San Juan. Someone had written in my guidebook that it was about a 2 hour detour, and someone else had told me it was only about 2 km out of my way...

Wrong!

When I first turned off to the left, there was a visible trail. That trail disappeared after a few kilometers and became a rocky scramble up a hill that often had me on my hands and knees.  Soon, I saw a village, and hoped to find food and water, but there was no tienda or bar in town.  

Five long HARD hours later, I ran into a car with a sign on it that said, "PELIGRO... NO PASAR" and indicating there were hunters in the area... "Great.." and to top it off there was a big old pitbull guarding the turnoff.


I want to tell any of you who are planning to attempt this hike that in my opinion, it is worse (and more dangerous) than the route up to O Cebreiro. The path is washed out and VERY VERY steep. It is a scramble up some very steep terrain covered in loose rocks.  
Once I got up over the mountain and got my bearings, and by the time I walked back to town after finding the hunters, the churchbell was tolling noon.

I met a couple of Spaniards who told me not to worry about the sign... it was required by the government and that the Monastery was "only about 2 km, and then Sta. Celia is about the same" So I walked on for an hour and a half.

Wrong again.

After walking BACK to where the hunters were and going another half hour, I ran into a french couple and asked, "How far to the Monastery?" They replied, "At LEAST 1.45 to 2 hours and it is very very hard climbing."

Ok.. well.. at that point, I have to admit I was near tears. There was no way I could make it another 2 hours, visit the monastery, and walk into St. Celia, which was not 2 km, but more like 12.

So... they offered me a ride to the main road and I took it. They drove me the long way back to the main road and took me right up to the Camino. They gave me half a loaf of bread and both hugged me before they left. That, along with my exhaustion brought me to tears, and they told me it would be ok.. just walk, St. Celia was only about 2 km away-

Wrong the third time!

As nice as these Camino angels were, it took me another 2 hours to get to St. Celia. That does not include the bar where I stopped and had a HUGE 15-Euro lunch and a cerveza con limon.

I am sad that I was so close and still did not see the Monastery. In the alburgue tonight is a German boy who walked from this side today. He said it took him about 4 hours to get there and 4 hours to return. I just do not think I have it in me. . . I may try to hitchhike, it will depend how I feel tomorrow and how my feet are doing.

The alburgue at Sta. Celia is lovely, cozy and costs 10 Euro. Great kitchen and 20 spaces. The dorms are not co-ed; women and men each have their own.  There are only 4 of us here tonight. Me, the German boy, and another French couple. It should make for good sleeping since the French lady is sleeping with her hubby in the male dorm.

Despite the problems, the walk today was incredible. I figure I covered about 30 km, which is more than I think I have ever walked. The Aragones is a good route, for those of you considering it.

But ignore those posts about the climb to the Monastery. If you want to see it, find a bus, or hitch a ride. The taxi, by the way, costs 25 Euro one way and the same back... not 5 Euro as someone said.

Moral of the story is CHECK FACTS. Do not depend on what others tell you.

No bedbugs on this route so far... people look at me funny when I mention them.

THAT is a GOOD thing...

Buen Camino, Pilgrims
See you on the road.

* * * * *

Note: The following year, I was able to take a bus from Jaca to the monastery. It was well worth the cost, and since I'd already walked that section, I walked directly to Sta. Celia from the monastery. You can also take the bus round trip from Jaca to the monastery and back, and continue walking to Sta. Celia the next day.

Early Risers on the Camino


One issue you run across on the Camino is people leaving at all hours of the morning, some before daylight. In the summer months, people want to get where they're going before the heat falls.  In recent years, it's been the rush for a bed that drives the early risers.

One night in Lorca, we had an ¨interesting¨experience!

There were 8 beds in our room. All were full. Everyone settled in for the night by 10 pm, and after a discussion about whether or not we would leave the windows open, we all fell asleep.

About 1 am, there was a rustling.. it was those dreaded plastic bags... I looked up to see a perigrino. What was he doing? He appeared to be rummaging around in his mochilla for something... but what? He went into the bathroom... ON goes the bathroom light... SLAM goes the door... then in 2 minutes, he is out again, rummaging, rummaging... appeared to be packing... another head popped up to see what the hustle is about. Then another. Then they sighed and lay back down. I checked the time. It was 1 a.m.

I finally asked... ¨"Are you ok? Are you sick? Do you need help?"

He said, "No, I am leaving now."

He walked out the door, shutting it... and I fell back asleep.

Morning comes.

I walk out into the kitchen.

There on the chair is his mochilla.

I go back into the bedroom.
He is in his bed with all of his clothes, including shoes, on.

? ? ? ? ?

Apparently, he woke up, believing it was morning, packed up to go, then realized it was the middle of the night.

This is when you want to strangle a pilgrim....

So... we all got up, had a good laugh, and walked on....

We reached the wine fountain at Irache and filled our bottles. One pilgrim was drinking directly from the spigot.  Please don't do that?

We enjoyed the walk up to Monjardin... only to find bedbugs there. We got to the bar and had them call a taxi... and headed to Los Arcos, where there were clean beds and nice people waiting for us. The M&Ms and I, settled into our 4 bed room (niiiice!)... and when we left for dinner, guess who was in the bed in the next room? 

The man who woke us all up yesterday morning! GRRRRrrrrr!

(I call Michelle and Michael, a couple I met from France, the "M&Ms"... they don´t quite understand the joke since they do not speak English and I do not speak French. But we manage to communicate anyway, and have become close friends. )

We all had a good laugh... then forgot about him, until we heard the stories next morning around the coffee table... he had done the same thing to other pilgrims. I forgot to mention that I caught him going through the medicine cabinet at Lorca, so I suspect he is on speed... his eyes are pinpointy and BRIGHT icy blue... if you see him... tie him into his sleeping bag!

Camino Chaplet Prayer

A few weeks back I posted photos of a Camino Chaplet that I made to give to people I met along my first pilgrimage. Today I found the prayer that I sent along with that Chaplet.  Here is it, for those who might be interested:



CRUCIFIX: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

LARGE KNOT: Santiago, as I journey to your city in the love of your name, bless my Camino.

SMALL KNOTS:
1) May by steps be guided with HOPE,
2) with FAITH,
3) and with CHARITY

LARGE KNOT: Say an "Our Father."

LARGE KNOT: Blessed be the Lord, who has called me to this challenge of Pilgrimage.

SMALL KNOTS:
1) Thank you for being my constant companion,
2) My guide at the crossroads,
3) My breath when I'm weary,
4) My food when I'm hungry,
5) My water when I'm thirsty,
6) My protection in danger,
7) My shade in the heat,
8) My shelter in the rain,
9) My light in the darkness,
10) And my comfort when I feel discouraged.

LARGE KNOT: Our Lady of Roncevalles, please grant me your motherly protection.

SMALL KNOTS:
1) Help me to be honest,
2) Taking every opportunity to help others,
3) To treat those I meet with care and respect,
4) To persevere in the face of adversity,
5) To practice self-control in thought, word, and deed,
6) To keep my sense of humor in all situations,
7) To be humble and appreciate what is given me,
8) To give generously
9) To put the needs of others before my own needs,
10) To be patient, quietly bearing pain and hardship.

LARGE KNOTS:
1) May St. Raphael the Archangel protect me throughout my journey
2) And may God bless me as I walk

SMALL KNOTS:
1) Under the bright blessed stars of the Milky Way
2) My goal ever before me
3) The Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.

CRUCIFIX: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Paint My Way Across Spain?

I've always wanted to paint.
I've had dreams of painting my way across Spain.
I just didn't think I could do it.

This year, there was a free class offered at the 50-and-over place I'm staying.
So I dropped in.

I'm HOOKED!

I think I can do this!

Today I made this pear.
This is only my 3d painting.

I didn't have the correct paints or colors, so just used what I had.
Under the circumstances, I'm happy with the way it turned out.
Now I have to practice, practice, practice!

I found two art schools online to help.
One is called Art Tutor and is $15 per month - unlimited classes.
They have drawing, watercolor, oils, acrylics, and more.

The one that taught me the pear was Anna Mason's School of Watercolor here:

Anna Mason's Watercolor School

It's a bit more but I just signed up for one month to see if I liked her technique and I do!

Up top is my first painting in her school - a pear.
It's a FREE tutorial - so if you think you might like to try it out,
just sign up for the free class.

Next, I'm to do a basil leaf, of all things…

I love it!

My first attempt at painting metal.







Friday, January 02, 2015

The Wrong Train!


I've been going back through some old Camino posts from a blog I wrote a few years back, and thought some of these might be worth reposting.

I laughed when I read this one! Sometimes I find people are SO worried about their Camino that they forget the Camino is about the journey, rather than the destination. 


"What if I can't find a place to sleep? 
"What if there's no place to find dinner? 
"What if I can't have coffee in the morning? 
"What if there are no blankets?
"WHAT IF I GET ON THE WRONG TRAIN!?"

Here was one time the Camino taught me that if I just had faith and didn't panic, all would be well!


* * * * * * *
Well, I had quite a little adventure this morning!

I was supposed to catch a train to Sahagun from Platform #1 at 9:17 am.

I asked a kind attendant where I should stand so as to be in the correct place when the train arrived. She pointed to a spot and said, "Stand there."

And so I did.

At 9:15 a.m., when the train arrived, I stepped on...

and as it pulled away from the station I realized in horror that


I WAS ON THE WRONG TRAIN!


After my initial shock, I decided, "Well, what the heck!"

I sat back and enjoyed the trip! 
The scenery was gorgeous through Galicia, past lakes, mountains, seashores... very green.

Once in Vigo, I went to Customer Service where the kind gentlemen explained that MANY foreign people make this mistake and he sends several each week back to their correct destination. That being said, RENFRE refuses to change the schedule.

So.. I catch the afternoon train to Leon, then on to Sahagun and The Peaceable Kingdom tomorrow! 

 Today… I enjoy seeing Vigo, something I would not have done on my own.



I ran into a fellow Pilgrim Forum member yesterday. She was leaving Santiago and she sold me her ALTUS rain poncho for a great price! I am a happy camper! I never thought I would use a poncho, having tried it on my last Camino. But this ALTUS is something very special! It covers me from head to ankle, and covers my pack also. Very efficient!

Well.. I guess I will get off this computer and go out and see a bit of VIGO!

Hasta Luego!

* * * * * * *
The moral of this story is…


"Don't worry so much!"



Don't have expectations,



be willing to turn mistakes into an adventure,



and have a Buen Camino!




Love,

Annie