Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Monday, October 31, 2011

8 Days on the Via de la Plata - DAY 1 - Sevilla to Italica to Guillena

August 23 - Sunday

This morning we walked to the bus station and caught an early bus to the Roman ruins at Italica. We made this decision based on our desire to bypass walking through the industrial area between Seville and Italica. It was a good decision for us!

Another option would be to see Italica before you begin the Via de la Plata. A person could visit Italica in the morning, then go to the Museum at Parque de Maria Luisa and see all of the artifacts taken from the town, all in the same day.

To catch the bus you go to the Plaza de Armas Estacion de Autobuses. You can find it on all the Seville maps on the SAME side of the river as the city. You walk into the basement of the bus station and wait at port 34. Every day the bues begins running at 6.30 am and run until 23.30 --- Weekdays they run about every 20 minutes each direction. Weekends they run about every hour.
You will pay the bus driver and it costs 1.50 euros. The bus will go to many different stops, but you will have no problem finding the right one because it drops you off right in front of the ruins gate. It costs 1.50 euros to enter the ruins. There is a fountain with potable water there. There is a bar across the street where you can eat and buy drinks. You are allowed to go in and out with your ticket.

I can´t say enough about Italica. It was fascinating and worth much more than the entrance fee. If you are interested in archaeology, I would give yourself a couple of hours to see it all.

Italica was founded in the year 206BC by General Publius Cornelius Scipio as a place of settlement for soldiers wounded in the battle of Illipa. It also served as an important military outpost. The name Italica gave reference to the first settlers who came from Italy. 

This ancient city demonstrates wonderful examples of Roman architecture, mosaic work and city layouts. The city was provided with fresh water by means of an aqueduct and the waste water was taken away by means of underground drains. Some of these can still be seen through grilles placed at the road intersections. 

We spent about 3 hours at Italica. It was absolutely fascinating! We got lucky! There was a University Professor leading his archaeology class and we followed them around, hearing his lecture. We learned a lot!

One piece of conflicting history we learned was why the rich people of the city lived such short lives while the slave population largely outlived them (according to this professor). The pipes that carried the water into the beautiful homes were made of lead. 
 By the time a person had drank from these poison pipes from birth to maybe 20 to 30 years, they had often developed lead poisoning and died.  I had always heard that the slaves drank from the lead pipes and the rich drank wine.. but hey.. who knows?

The ruins were very well preserved
and I especially liked seeing the beautiful mosaic floors of the houses,
which must have been spectacular! 

Some of the houses uncovered include the House of the Planetarium with it's hexagonal mosaics depicting the seven Gods that gave names to the days of the week. 

The House of the Birds, partially restored to show what it may have looked like and the House of Neptune with it's warm thermal baths.

In July, Italica comes to life with the hosting of the International Festival of Italica, although I'm sure I wouldn't want to tempt the heat of southern Spain in July!

Here are few more photos of Italica. 
It is a site worth seeing!

Look! There are buns in the oven!

There had been rains...
 The walk to Guillena was flat, hot and dusty. About halfway through was a stream with trees growing along the bank. You can see it here in the distance...
See the trees in the distance? A good resting place with shade.
We stopped there, drank some water and ate our bocadillos, then continued walking...
We stopped at Bar Lolo, which was full of friendly fellows enjoying a beer and watching Scoobie-Doo cartoons. I learned that in Spain, it's ok to drop your trash on the floor.
We saw a sign at the bar advertising caracolas. Being hungry and adventurous, we decided to try an order with our beers.
We ended up drinking 4 beers, eating 2 plates of tapas, and one dish of caracolas.  They were served in a dish of salty garlicky beef broth and absolutely hit the spot! The total price of this yummy lunch for 2 was 10 Euro!
Joe is happily full of caracolas
Back on the road, we found the albergue hiding behind another bar. 
You must get the key from the barkeeper.
The albergue is really a sports hall dressing room with some twin beds, showers, and toilets. It was not especially clean, but not dirty either. We washed our bodies and our clothes. There was no clothesline, so we hung our wet clothes on the chainlink fence outside and they dried quickly in the hot sun.  As the evening progressed, we found the bonus air conditioner which made sleeping comfortable!  We had a nice evening getting to know the other pilgrims that dropped in. There were Maria Luisa and Paulo from Milan; Arnold from Belgium, and Louise from France. All were lovely folk. They found a grocery store around the corner and shared food with us. We agreed to walk together next day.
Tomorrow would be a day of Camino miracles...

If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

8 Days on the Via de la Plata: Sevilla

Joe making reference to San Roque
 If you don't know who San Roque is,
read my blog on the "guy with the big-lipped dog." 

The name of the street our hotel was on was Calle San Roque.  
It was an interesting street, 
and you could see where people had incorporated 
some of the old Roman ruins into their buildings.
We spent the next two days in Sevilla
seeing the sights and securing our Pilgrim Passport.
We had been here before, back in about 2004 
for Semana Santa (Holy Week) and had fallen in love 
with this beautiful historic city. 

Semana Santa is the week before Easter 
and in Spain it is a spectacular week! 
The various parishes put on parades and carry statues of Christ,
Mary, and their patron saints through the villages and city streets. 
These statues are what we'd call "floats" in America, 
but they are not on wheels. 
The heavy statues are carefully carried on the backs of penitents. 
It's an amazing site to see!  

That trip, we stopped in Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, 
Cordoba, and Seville. 
We saw parades in each city. 
I will do a blog on Semana Santa in the future.
For now, I'll continue on about our day in Seville.

Maria Luisa Park

We wanted to visit Parque de Maria Luisa. 
This is a beautiful park and the last time we were in Seville, 
the museum was closed, 
so we wanted to make a visit there also,
since it's on the grounds of the park.  

In her article online, Josephine Quintero says:
Parque de Maria Luisa is a paradisical half mile 
of palms and orange trees, elms and Mediterranean pines, 
covered with flower beds and dotted with hidden bowers, 
ponds and pavilions. 
Now that the trees and shrubs have reached maturity,
the genius of the landscapers can be appreciated - 
this is one of the loveliest parks in Europe.

I have to agree. We love this place. 
If you're spending a day in Seville, don't miss it. 
Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day here.  
There is so much to see and it's a cool respite from the hot sun.

Here are some photos of Parque de Maria Luisa:
I just love this giant tree!

Joe standing by one of the many tiled ponds

Many cool, shady places to sit

Interesting statuary and fountains

Bougainvillea blooming in the heat
Toward the end of the park you will find mansions doubling as museums. 
The main exhibits are Roman mosaics and artefacts from nearby Italica, 
along with a unique Phoenician statuette of Astarte-Tanit, 
the virgin goddess once worshipped throughout the Mediterranean.

Any modern dentist would know exactly what to do with this dental kit!
One of the beautiful mosaic floors from Italica (which we will walk to tomorrow)
After the museum, we went back to the hotel for a siesta, 
then back out in to the heat.
We walked to the Cathedral to buy our Credencial,
but nobody there knew what we were talking about.

While there, we saw the horse and buggies lined 
up for tourists. 
I bought a painted fan to use
then give to my granddaughter Emma as a gift.

We finally found the "Amigos of the Camino" office 
across the bridge toward Triana on Calle San Jacinto 25. 
It is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
We paid 3 Euro for our Credencial.
HOORAY! I'm a real pilgrim again!

After our nap, we walked and walked and walked. 
My feet hurt like heck and I was wondering how in the world 
I'd start the Via de la Plata! 

We found a great restaurant with hams hanging everywhere.  
It was a place that appeared to be dedicated to bull fighting.
If anyone knows the name please send me a note. 
I can't believe I did not write it down. Here is a photo.

I ate some really great sea bass in orange sauce. 
Joe had pork with garlic mushroom sauce. 
We only paid about 13 Euro each and it was a very nice dinner! 
We walked home, satiated but exhausted.

Next morning after breakfast, we walked around the corner 
to visit the museum of fine arts, Museu de Bella Artes.  
This fine museum is open Wednesday to Saturday 
from 9am to 8 pm and is only 1,50 Euros. 
If you enjoy art, do not miss it!

If you plan on visiting Seville, I suggest you take 2 to 3 days,
as there is so much to see. 
Don't pass visiting the Alcazar!
I can't find photos online that even come close to showing its beauty! 
You must make reservations months ahead of time, 
and going first thing in the morning is highly recommended, 
before the crowds become too thick. 
It is a wonder to see!
I found this photo online. Do a Google search for more.
That evening we found a supermercado, 
bought some chicken, a caesar salad, some cervesa (beer) 
and some limon soda and ate in our room. 
We rested much of the afternoon 
and got ready to begin the Via de la Plata next morning.

A good night's sleep in an air conditioned room
after a day of sight seeing in Spain...
Who could ask for more?

I look forward to visiting Seville again!

* * * 

If you are interested in walking the Camino Santiago 
and aren't quite ready to go it alone, 
please consider joining one of our affordable treks. 
For more information see our website:

8 Days on the Via de la Plata: Sevilla to Santiago

Somewhere along the way, my blog posts on the VDLP have been deleted.
Not sure how it happened or why,
but I wanted to repost the information
since it might be helpful to others wanting to make this Camino.

The Vía de la Plata is a pilgrimage route also called the Camino Mozárabe. 
The name is said by Alison Raju to come 
from a corruption of the Arabaic bal'latta
used to describe wide, paved, or public roads.  

This route, with a network of tributaries, 
carried pilgrims from Seville to Santiago, 
passing through other interesting towns/cities such as 
Mérida, Cácares, Salamanca, and Zamora.   
Other roads hooking up with the VDLP began in Granada or Cordoba.

The original route was a Roman road, 
and there is much evidence of the Romans all along the way.
The largest and most spectacular of these are at Italica and Merida.
Sections of the old Roman paved route have been restored.
There are also hot springs along this route,
and I can't wait to enjoy them!

The walk can be completed in six to seven weeks.
As along the Camino Frances, there are yellow waymarks to follow.
However, be cautioned that along this route, 
you will need to carry water, 
as fountains listed in the guidebooks
are not always available.

Against caution from friends, we set out on August 18 for the Via de la Plata.

We arrived in Santiago around 8 pm.
We took the bus to town and walked to Hostal Suso at Rua do Pilar.
The price was 36 Euro for a doble.
It is next to the tourist office in old town.
We arrived about 9 pm only to be told by Fernando
that they werehaving toilet troubles! 
But no worries!
He was wonderful!
He had booked a place for us in the nearby Residencia La Carballinesa.
We settled into our room, then went looking for dinner.
Lucky for us people in Spain eat late! 
We had a lovely dinner of Galician pie and deep fried Calamari!

The  Residencia was very nice,
with patios and nice clean rooms.
The only problem for me was the very strong perfume fragrance in the room.
It made my eyes water,
but after opening the patio window,
I finally got to sleep.

For our troubles,
Fernando offered us a free breakfast next morning.
It was simple, but good: coffee and sweets.
We moved into our room at his place and wished we'd stayed put.
Although the room was lovely,
it was right on a main street and the borachos kept us up all night long!

Next day we took a bus to Salamanca.
A 3 hour layover there, and then on to Sevilla.
I didn't have coffee that morning because I was worried
there wouldn't be a toilet on the bus.
I was right, there was none.
However, the bus driver made plenty of stops
and allowed passengers to use the toilets while he waited.
It worked out fine.
During our 3 hour layover, we explored a bit.
I can't wait to see Salamanca!

Price from Santiago to Sevilla on ALSA bus was 54 Euro,
quite affordable!
The bus left at 8:30 am and arrived in Salamanca at 2:30 pm.
We got onto our bus to Sevilla around 5:30 pm
and arrived in Sevilla at 10 pm.
I think if you could find a bus straight through you'd save a lot of time,
but we enjoyed the scenery so it was fine.
The ALSA buses are large and clean and have wonderful windows for viewing!


In Sevilla, we stayed at the Hotel Zaida at San Roque 26.
This was a beautiful little Hotel and I will stay here again!

When we were walking to the Hotel I was a little concerned.
The alleys didn't look too inviting 
nor did the entrance from a few hundred yards away.

Once I reached the entrance,
I felt happy, and once inside, thrilled!

The Entrance to Hotel Zaida
The Reception Area

Double Room

Staircase - we were on the 2d floor
 What a beautiful little place!
Like walking into the movie CasaBlanca.
And they had air conditioning! 
Believe me, if you are in Seville in August, you WANT air conditioning!
It was 105 degrees F the next day, and the air conditioning was a blessing.

Speaking of August, I had done a lot of research
and several people had cautioned me against beginning this trek in August.
But I thought I knew better than they.
I grew up in the hot San Joaquin Valley
where summer days were often 105 to 108 degrees F. 

Boy was I wrong! 
But more about that later.

We found our hotel, got settled in,
and had a very good night's sleep.

* * *

Note:  If you are interested in walking the Camino Santiago, 
but are not quite ready to go it alone, 
consider joining Annie
on one of our small, affordable Camino walks. 
For more information see our website 
at this link: AnnieWalkers Camino