Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Just "Be!"

It's important that you walk YOUR Camino,
so my suggestions are only that... suggestions.

That said, I encourage you not to make it a race for a bed.
Go slow and enjoy the beauty all around you.
This is an opportunity of a lifetime!

Many people find the Camino gives them the chance to lighten their load
by experiencing how very little in the way of possessions
it takes to bring happiness;
to think through their problems without distraction,
and to make life-changing decisions with a clear head. 

Try taking the earphones out of your ears.
Listen instead to the music of nature and of the Camino.

Talk to any pilgrim and they'll describe the feelings they experience
when they hear cow bells, church bells, or vespers.  

Have you ever actually listened to the wind whispering in the leaves above your head?
Have you heard the drumming sound your feet make when they hit the earth?

Have you heard the song of the meadowlark
or the gurgling of the water rushing through the mill.

Why is that crow squawking?
What is that hawk hunting?

There are studies that suggest the sounds of nature
help balance your body and make you healthier.

Have you read any of the books by Dr. Emoto (Messages from Water)
who shows with amazing photographs of water crystals
how vibration greatly influences the cells of our bodies?

Without distraction, you can use your sense of SMELL also.
Can you close your eyes and conjure up the fragrance of the pine forest?
Do you know the smell of the heat rising from a dirt trail?
Do you recognize the scent of water?
Or better yet, can you SMELL that coffee up ahead
and follow your nose to the cafe?

These senses we no longer use were important to our ancestors,
and literally made a difference between life and death.

Can you recognize the feeling of the hackles on the back of your neck rising,
sensing danger,
telling you to STOP RIGHT NOW!?  

The Camino gives you the opportunity to reconnect
with all these gut instincts we've allowed to atrophy,
replaced by modern convenience.

But by losing those instincts, we've lost a bit of our humanity.
Take this opportunity to re-find yourself.

Open your eyes. Really SEE the beauty around you.
Look for the storks nesting on top of every high building.
Stop and admire the rolling landscape filled with vineyards and red earth.

Notice how old the buildings are!
When was the last time you saw a building that dated from 1510
standing strong in your neighborhood?

Investigate the village churches as well as the spectacular cathedrals.
Seek out the nuances in dark corners, sculptured ceilings, stain glass windows.

Look closely at the faces of your fellow pilgrims.
Are they happy?  Smiling? Ask them why! Then LISTEN.

Are they troubled?
Can you offer help?

It's possible without being instrusive.
Buy them a drink?
Offer them an orange or a pastry?
Give encouragement?
Pay attention to your own body.
Is the shoulder strap of your backpack too tight on the right?
Stop and fix it.

Do you feel a hot spot on your heel?
Stop and cover it with Compeed.

Do you feel sleepy?
Find a tree and take a siesta!

There's no time clock to punch!

The time of day doesn't matter.

Who cares if other walkers pass you!
Everybody will get where they're going.

You are right where you are supposed to be...
standing right there on that patch of dirt.

What a feeling of freedom!

Take a break from modern living.
Go to bed when it gets dark and rise with the sun.
Bundle up and watch the sunrise over a cup of coffee or tea.
There is no man-made art that compares
with the dawn sky on a summer morning.
I love the peace of early rising.
There is no traffic noise, no hustling or bustling,
no voices, no honking horns, no televisions blaring. 
I get my best work done between the hours of 4 am and 8 am.

When you get into the routine of nature,
you may be surprised to find yourself feeling so much better,
you may never go back to artificial light and late night t.v.


Walk your own Camino,
but consider doing it in a new way.
Lighten your load,
pay attention to your senses,
and... just... BE!

Buen Camino!

See my AnnieWalkersCamino website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hiking in the Rain

See my AnnieWalkersCamino website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

A pause for the cause.

I know I sound like a commercial.
And no, I do not get a kickback for each one sold.
I just love, love, LOVE this poncho!

Does this look familiar?
Trust me, it's not comfortable at all.
The solution?
An Altus Poncho.

A few pilgrims in their Altus Ponchos

Bridget and Peter wearing their ALTUS

The Buchaneers ALTUS up!

The coverage is amazing, your pack and your body stay warm and dry

A billed ball cap will keep the front up off your face. 

Get one.
You won't be sorry!
Cuz wet paws are no fun!

The Aragones Route - Ruesta to Sanguesa to Monreal

On October 15, I walked 21 kilometers so Sanguesa.

I walked alone. 
The French couple and Andrew, the American man 
were sleeping in and waiting for breakfast.
I was anxious to get on the trail.

It was a beautiful misty morning as I walked through the ruins,
over the old bridge spanning the river, 
and past a campground. 
A deep rumbling snore broke the silence.
One lonely tent, bright orange, was pitched under the pines.
Another other pilgrim was getting some morning sleep.

After a while, I began climbing. 
The dirt road wound around and switched back for a little over 7 kilometers, 
up through a pretty pine forest.
The air was crisp.
The birds were singing.
The sun felt good on my head.
It was very lonely but happy walking 
and I didn't see a soul the entire morning.

Once at the top of the hill, I found myself on a plateau 
with a spectacular view of the valley below.
Photo by Traveltroll
After passing the little town of Urdiales,
I passed through fields, plowed and ready for winter.  
The plowed fields and the smell of cows 
reminded me of the San Joaquin Valley where I was born. 
The scent was comforting. 
I've laughed in the past when Joe has held his nose
when we pass through farmland.
To me, the smell is the smell of home.
I love it.
I jokingly call it "Portagee Perfume!"

The wheat in these fields had been harvested, 
and all that was left to see was a golden stubble.

After a while a cold wind began blowing.
It blew straight on from the direction I was walking, 
and with it came sharp grains of sand.  
The sand burned my face and got into my eyes.
There was no way to avoid it!

I wrapped my head with a scarf, 
like a desert man,
with only my eyes showing.
I walked bent over, the top of my head to the sandstorm, 
and prayed for some safety glasses,
remembering how my prayers for a water bladder had been answered.
Today, God wasn't in a giving mood. 

I was so happy to see Sanguesa!
The albergue was easy to find.
There was a note on the door, 
telling people to choose a bed.
The hospitalero would return later to collect the money.

Sanguesa has a nice little albergue. 
The beds weren't shoved too tightly together 
and there were windows at each end of the room. 
I chose a bed behind a wooden screen so I'd have at least a small bit of privacy.
I showered and washed my clothes.
I didn't think they'd dry this night, as it was quite cold.
I found some drying racks and hung the clothes next to the heater. 
I kept my fingers crossed. 
There's nothing worse than cold, damp clothes on a cold, damp morning!

Soon, other pilgrims began arriving.
First the French couple, 
then Andrew. 
Then a young German pilgrim with a foot injury.

We asked around and found a pilgrim clinic where he was able to see a doctor. 
Turns out it was a strain. 
They wrapped it up and gave him ibuprofin 
and advised him to stop walking for a few days. 
I'm not sure he did that.
Many pilgrims injure themselves by pushing too hard,
trying to walk too many kilometers or walking too fast.
It's best to savor the Camino the same way one should savor life.. slowly. 
There's no rush. 
Not even for beds. 
The Camino will provide.
It has proven itself over and over.

The kitchen here was well equipped.
We three M's made a collective trip to the market
and cooked dinner in. 
It was so good to just stay inside, 
out of the cold wind, and visit, 
sharing food and wine with other pilgrims,
learning more about each other and about our journeys. 

I learned the French couple were on their second Camino. 
I learned Andrew was on his first Camino.
He was having difficulties with his bank. 
For some reason they were holding his cash 
and he was really having to watch his euros!

The hospitalero arrived and informed us
 once the wind began in that region, it persisted. 
He felt we would be foolish to walk the next day. 
He told us we'd be walking straight into the sandstorm.

We chose to take a chance.
The next morning the 3 M's left for Monreal. 
Michelle and Michael and Myself. 

The wind was howling and it didn't take long
for us to realize the hospitalero had been right in his assessment.  
We made it as far as Monreal. 

There, we found shelter in the bar, 
had coffee and reassessed our plans.
Learning there was a bus leaving in one hour 
that would hook us up to the Camino Frances.  
We decided to catch that bus.  

A 1.50 Euro bus ride ended my few days on the Aragones.

Once again I was unable to complete my journey.
It's beginning to feel like a pattern.

I still need to complete the VDLP, the Norte,and the Aragones.
What is it with me and these incomplete Camino routes?
Are they just excuses for me to return to Spain?
I am most definitely in love with that country and its people.

At any rate, I can't wait to go back and walk it again. 
Next time I'll start at the beginning and walk all the way to Eunate. 

Next time...a familiar Pilgrim phrase...
NEXT time...

The Camino is funny that way. 
You arrive at Santiago exhausted and thankful to be going home. 
You think, "Ok.. so that was fun, but I will NEVER do this again!"  
Then next morning you wake up with no place to walk and it just doesn't feel right.
It bothers you a little. 
But, you have a flight to catch.  
Once home, your friends notice a difference.
What happened to you out there? 
What do you mean you're selling everything?
What do you mean you don't need 3 cars and 5 televisions?!  
What do you MEAN you're throwing away those high heels
and that bottle of expensive perfume!?

Then, 2 weeks later, 
you are planning your next walk. 
It just hits you... you MUST return! 

You think I'm kidding?
Ok.. call me 2 months after your Camino 
and we'll chat about it over a beer.

For now,
I heartily suggest you check out Sil's blog on her Aragones trek.  
She finished what I did not
and has done a fantastic job of describing this trail.
The photos are beautiful 
and her writing gives you a unique feeling for this walk. 
Her blog begins here... Enjoy!

See my AnnieWalkersCamino website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Aragones Route - Arres to Ruesta

On the morning of October 14, I left at dawn.
Looking back over my shoulder at the village of Arres
was like looking back through time with the old stone buildings
sitting like jewels on the top of the hill.
Photo by Journeyman13
One of my favorite times to walk is dawn. 
Watching the sun rise over the mountains in the still of the morning is healing to me.  

I stopped off at the bar on my way out of town. 
They were open for coffee, and I bought a bocadillo de tortilla for the road.

The night before I asked Felix, the hospitalero at Arres,
how far it was to Artieda.
He told me it was 18 kilometers. 
My guidebook said 15 kilometers. 
I would bet money that Felix was right!  
The guidebooks often fail.

So this day I simply put one foot in front of the other, 
followed the yellow arrows, 
and eventually I knew I would arrive in Artieda.

Artieda sits at the top of a hill where in the 12th century 
there stood a castle. 
The road goes up an around, up and around 
and it is quite a hard climb. 

The road in Artieda is beautiful, and all done in stone.

Photo by jemonbe
Following the arrows to the very top, 
I found the albergue and restaurant.

The lady in charge was not very friendly as she showed me my bed. 
(although her son was friendly)
She roughly barked at me not to put my backpack on a chair. 
She gestured and pointed!
She wanted it on the floor. 
I'm sure this is because of the bedbug problem,
and I wouldn't think of putting my mochila on the bed, 
but I'm also not going to put it on the floor. 
I told her I'd keep it with me
and kept in on my shoulders. 
She wasn't happy. 
The charge for staying was 10 Euros.

The rooms were dark, and didn't really look clean.
I saw no sign of other pilgrims here.
 I was hungry and they were serving food in the restaurant. 
The Menu del Dia was $9 and it smelled pretty good, 
so I asked to be seated. 
Instead of seating me in the main dining room with other patrons,
she put me in a corner back in a dark room 
and handed me the same menu the others were reading. 
I thought, "ok, she's treating me like a pilgrim, 
and I AM a pilgrim, so I will be thankful." 

Soon, another weary pilgrim came to the door.
He asked if he could fill his water bottles.
Her son started to take the man's water bottles,
but the woman screamed at him, and refused.
She literally chased him off! 

That was enough for me!  
What a shame this shrew-like woman
could ruin the ambiance of such an ethereal place!

I had no desire to spend any more of my money here. 
I paid my bill, picked up my mochila, 
and walked out.
She glared at me as I literally shook the dust from my feet, 
as the Good Book instructed the apostles.

As weary as I was, I continued my walking 
down, down, back down the hill and on to Ruesta,
hopefully to find more friendly digs.

All along the path I kept seeing signs saying, "Yesa, No!"
I thought, "What the heck does this mean?"


In Ruesta, I discovered the answer.

A note to those traveling this path:
As you approach Ruesta,
you find yourself following the trail through a sort of tunnel of vegetation. 

After an hour of fighting the mosquitoes in the tunnel,
I decided to break out
and was thrilled to find a road running parallel 
to the left of the pilgrim path
OUTSIDE the buggy tunnel. 

I followed this dirt farming road all the way to Ruesta, 
happy and bug-free!

There I met a nice hospitalero 
and drank beers with a biker dude named Antonio. 
He was a real character. 
He wore a denim vest, one earring, and some of his teeth were missing. 
Reminded me of the Hell's Angels of my childhood.
But he was a sweet and friendly guy.
He was also the local Bard, and knew a lot about the history of Ruesta. 

A Bit of History:
Ruesta is situated in the province of Zaragoza, in the high part of the Cinco Villas region, at the gates to the Pyrenees in Huesca and Navarra.

From the year 850, the kings of Navarra, to control and defend the territory annexed, had to build a castle in this central and strategic position. Between 905-925 Ruesta appears in historical documents as a Royal Headquarters,  defending the zone between Yesa and Arrés. Although a lot of authors attribute a Muslim origin (911) to the construction of the castle of Ruesta, they have confused Ruesta with the castle of Cercastiello (known like Rueita or Royta) of similar name.

The castle was destroyed by Almanzor in the bitter campaign of 999. Between the years 1016 and 1018, the monarch Sancho III reconstructed the castle of Ruesta. In his will (1035), it appears as one of the four main defensive enclaves of Aragon (beside Samitier, Petilla and Loarre), conceded to his successor to the throne. In 1056 the King of Navarra conceded Ruesta to Ramiro I. It is documented as headquarters of royal possession between the years 1024 and 1190.

Between the 11th-13th centuries, Ruesta became a city-market, endowed with an important Christian and Hebrew community devoted to regional and border trade. Ruesta had four churches and two hospitals for pilgrims, founded all by the Navarro and Aragonese monarchs.

In 1098, the King appointed to the the Jews of Ruesta a special tribute, called the Lezda de los Judios. Before 1249, the Hebrew community was concentrated in the neighborhood of the castle, with the obligation to keep the fortress in good condition. In 1294, they guarded and administered the castle and the oven, earning their incomes from those oven, and soon created a monopoly. In 1381, their positions were taken away and given to Spanish people. The Jewish community was extinguished  in 1492, by means of expulsion or forced conversion.

This forced conversion was interesting to me, 
as it is a well-known fact that the Jews who converted to Catholicism in Iberia 
were given "tree" names. 
My last name, Carvalho, means "oak." 
If my last remaining paternal uncle were willing,
I suspect we'd find Jewish roots in our DNA.

The village of Ruesta fell victim to the numerous and destructive invasions 
that affected all of Spain in the 12th-15th centuries, 
and in1381 the king Pedro IV sold Ruesta to Pedro Jordán of Urriés 
(Lord of Ayerbe and of Sigüés) 
along with the castles and places of Artieda, Pintano and Osia. 

This sale was revoked (temporarily) in 1385. 

In 1412-1416, the last known warden of the castle was Sancho Escudero, 
who earned his income by baking in the common oven.

In the 19th century, Ruesta boasted 100 houses of families 
who farmed the fertile land along the river below the village. 
There is at least one historical medieval hospice known to have been here,
associated with the Iglesia San Jacabo. 

Beyond the bridge at the exit of Ruesta was a fountain called the Fuente de Santiago.   
 The Romanesque rural paintings that were once in the church here,
are now held in the museum at Jaca. 

Walls of the military castle still stand 
and you can see the arrow slits along the sides.
You can also see Coats of Arms 
on what remains of the mansions belonging to 5th – 19th Century Nobility.

In 1959, the village was abandoned 
when the construction of the Yesa reservoir caused the flooding 
of the agricultural land on which the local people depended for their livelihood. 
It was a terrible hardship for many families
who still remember the move with anger.

From the Tourism website:

In June 1988 the Confederación Hidrográfica del Ebro (The Ebro Waterways Confederation) gave the Confederación General del Trabajo de Aragón (General Work Confederation of Aragón) permission to use Ruesta. This agreement formed part of the CHE’s policy for the recuperation of villages that were abandoned following the construction of reservoirs. 

In November 1992 the agreement was extended for a further 50 years. Apart from the urban centre, the agreement includes several hundred hectares of land around the village.
The CGT in collaboration with The Aragonese College of Architects carried out a rehabilitation programme in various stages. In August 1993 the first phase was concluded in the centre with the recuperation of a building, the old Casa Valentín, which was to be used as a hostel. In 1995 a second hostel was opened in Casa Alfonso. Both hostels form part of the Camino de Santiago network.

In the year 2000 the centre for the study of the Camino de Santiago was opened. Amongst other things, you can see a study of the flora and fauna of the area. A cultural centre was also opened in the same year. There are meetings room, rooms for audiovisual presentations and a library. 

On the banks of the river there is a camp site with 16,000 square metres and a capacity of 200 people. It is completely covered by trees and surrounded by vegetation. The camp site is crossed by an old Camino de Santiago route and you can see the remains of stone cobbles and a bridge over the river. The village also has a bar, a shop and terraces where you can enjoy wonderful views. 

The proximity of the Yesa reservoir and the possibilities to go on excursions in the surrounding area and nearby valleys make Ruesta a good base from which to explore nearby places of historical interest such as Sos del Rey Católico and Uncastillo. You can take a short trip on foot or by bicycle to the nearby hermitage of Santiago de Ruesta, the hermitage of San Sebastián, or  the viewpoint at Vidiella. 

Throughout the year and especially at weekends there are many courses and leisure activities ranging from short courses on percussion and African dance to magic and juggling. Likewise, holiday camps are organised with different educational programmes and guided trips for groups and associations. 

Antonio didn't feel so positive about these changes!
He said it was the YESA dam's fault
that the people of this valley had lost their livelihood to begin
with and now "they" wanted to extend it again. 
People who had been uprooted when he and I were 7 years old
were now going to be uprooted again in their old age.
That's why all the "NO YESA!" signs I saw along the road. 

I'm not sure how this will turn out,
If you speak Spanish, there is a website with current information 

The village is in ruins,
but it is easy to imagine how beautiful it once was.
I can only hope walking this route of the Camino
will serve to stimulate interest in this incredible hilltop village
and cause people to want to restore the buildings
as has happened in many other Camino Frances villages.

Here are some photos of Ruesta taken from the internet:
Approaching Ruesta

Ruined walls

An old footpath

Through the window

Ruesta under clear skies
As the biker story teller finished his tale, 
so I also finished my beer, paid for my bed
(9 Euros including dinner), 
and was directed to the albergue portion of the ruins.

The room where I slept had been recently refinished 
and was very clean. 
It was filled with metal bunkbeds, 
and the sheets were clean.

There, much to my surprise, 
who did I see but my French friends from St. Celia!

We hugged and hello'd and had a nice visit.
I enjoyed a nice hot shower and did my wash,
then went exploring in the ruins.

Dinner was very good, 
and right before bedtime, 
Andrew, a young American man, appeared.
It was great to meet another American on the Camino,
I see so few!

We all shared a bottle of wine,
thanks to the generosity of Michelle and Michael,
and laughed as we shared our stories
of the mean hospitalera in the village before.

Apparently, she had also chased off Andrew
when he stopped to ask for water!

The French couple had spent the night there,
and wished they'd traveled on.

So, stay in Artieda at your own risk.
Perhaps the lady was just having a bad day.

The wine hit the spot,
and we all had a very good sleep
in the ruins of this special ancient village.
Except for Andrew's snoring in the room next door,
the night was dark and silent.
Photo by Martin Zalba/Internet
See my AnnieWalkersCamino website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Friday, December 02, 2011

Dinner on the Camino Santiago - Eastern Spain

I thought I'd digress from my Aragones trek for a day or two
and talk to you about what you might expect in the way of dinner options
while walking the Camino Santiago in Eastern Spain. 
For us walking the Camino Frances, that is mostly Navarra. 
But the foods of Cataluña and Aragón can also be seen at the beginning of the Camino.
Probably because of my Portuguese ancestry, 
the cuisine of Spain is one of my favorites. 
The food just feels familiar to me 
and I´m comforted by the aromas and flavors.
Each region has its very own specialties 
and a Menú del Dia or a Pilgrim's Plate might carry any number of variations.

Because we are used to eating dinner 
between 5 pm and 7 pm in the United States, 
it is often a challenge for pilgrims to get into the habit 
of the late dinner hours in Spain. 
So I suggest that you always have a little food in your pack, 
for those times you just can´t wait 
until the restaurant opens 
or for those days you can´t seem to find a place to eat 
on the section your are walking.
As I discussed in the blog on lunch,
you have many wonderful options for a picnic lunch!

Photo by marcp_dmoz

The food of Eastern Spain, which includes Catalonia, Aragón, 
Valencia and Murcia 
has been greatly influenced by both the Romans and the Moors. 
Spices you wouldn´t think of using 
show up in the most interesting combinations of sweet and savory. 
For instance, it is not uncommon to recognize the flavor of cinnamon 
in a meat dish combined with garlic , tomatoes and roasted peppers.  

Below are a few foods you might find at the beginning of your Camino.

I mention this first because I´m in love with it!
Besides being tasty it is beautiful to look at 
and one of my favorite memories is of a hospitalero 
setting a giant pan of paella in front of us for dinner.  

Paella is made from spanish rice,  flavored and colored by saffron, 
giving it a lovely yellow color. 
Any variety of meat is added, but it is generally seafood 
such as clams, mussels, and shrimp, 
along with chicken and sometimes rabbit. 
Tomatoes and herbs give it even more flavor.
It is traditionally cooked over an open fire in a special pan.
Here is a photo of paella being cooked at a fiesta 
we found ourselves a part of in Azofra in 2006:
It is common for the Spanish to take their paella pan with them 
on a picnic or camping trip and cook dinner outdoors.
If you love paella, and want to take something home,
consider purchasing a ´real´ paella pan while in Spain
and having it shipped to your doorstep.

Spanish saffron also makes a wonderful gift
for your favorite family chef.
It is inexpensive, and very lightweight to ship home.
Shop around. You´ll find the same quality saffron 
for much less money in the local stores 
instead of tourist locations.
It often can be found in pretty little tins and boxes,
perfect for gift giving.

Here are photos of some paella varieties I found online. I will show you several, so when you order the paella, you aren't surprised!
This Paella has shrimp, mussels, and peas

This Paella has Catalonian Sausage, mushrooms, and other vegetables

This is a beautiful Paella with mussels, chicken, sausage, and peas

This Paella has mussels, shrimp, and asparagus and is served with lemon

This paella has chicken, tomatoes, and peas
So, as you can see, paella can be made in a variety of ways, 
usually depending on what is fresh at the market that day.  
A pan of paella, a few slices of bread, 
and a glass of wine is all a person needs to make them happy!

Eastern Spain is famous for its sausages. 
There are are several different types you might see.

Chorizo is the most common.
It is nothing like Mexican chorizo. 
It is a smoked, scarlet colored sausage, red with paprika. 
It can be sliced and eaten without cooking.
It does have chunks of fat in it, but they're lovely and savory! 
Try it!

Arroz con pollo y chorizo (rice with chicken and chorizo)
Another famous Cataluña sausage is the butifarra blanca.  
This sausage is white and the skin is full of pork, tripe, and pine nuts,
giving it a very sweet flavor.
It sometimes contains truffles. 
You can eat it at room temperature, fried, or grilled, 
and it is often added to rice or bean dishes.
Butifarra Blanca (White Sausage)
Las judias con butifarra blanca. 
(White beans boiled and drained in a dish and then served with butifarra blanca.)
An assortment of butifarra; white, black, and the yellow one is made with eggs and pork.

Butifarra cooked on the barbecue with lamb. YUM!
Butifarra negra is usually made of pork belly, the pork blood, and spices.
Butifarra negra can be used in any way the other sausages are used,
in rice, in soup, in paella,
or simply grilled with tomatoes and onions 
and served with bread and a glass of wine.

Something you might have the opportunity to try while in Eastern Spain are Calçots. 
These are a variety of green onion that look to me like what I call scallions. 
I'm not sure if they are the same or not.

The most traditional way of eating calçots 
is in a calçotada (plural: calçotades). 
This is a great family and friend affair,
held between the end of winter and March or April (Carnival) 
where calçots are consumed in great quantities. 
They are pulled up, barbecued, then dipped in sauces. 
Pieces of meat and bread slices are roasted in the charcoal 
after cooking the calçots.
Roasting the calçots
Roasted, ready to dip and eat
Fuet is a long, slender all-pork sausage. 
The Pyrenees mountain towns of Osuna and Vic
are especially known for excellent examples of these sausages.
Unlike the Butifarra, another in the family of Catalan sausages, 
fuet is dry cured, like salami.
It is a wonderful ingredient for a bocadillo sandwich on a crusty roll,
but it can also be served grilled or as an ingredient in soup. 
You will often seeing hanging in tiendas.
 Pollo al ajillo is what we would call Garlic Chicken.
A sauce made from the drippings accompanies
it but is not added until the very last minute, 
in order to keep the chicken skin crispy.
That crispy skin is, for me, the secret to a perfect pollo al ajillo. 
This just makes my mouth water!
 Sometimes when you order it, it comes in smaller pieces in the sauce. 
It is still great!

Parrillada de mariscos is any assortment of grilled shellfish. 
It is served with a garlic flavored mayonnaise called allioli.
Photo by Juannypg

Cochifrito is a dish prepared from lamb 
fried with lemon, garlic, and paprika.
It is absolutely delicious!  
If you think you don´t like lamb, be adventurous and try this! 
Here is a recipe I found online:
This cochifrito is served with potatoes
 Cochifrito (Lamb with lemon and garlic)
  • 875g lean boneless lamb, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mild paprika (pimenton dulce)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
  • 100ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • finely grated lemon rind, to garnish
Season the lamb to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the lamb and cook, turning frequently, 
for 6-8 minutes until browned all over. 

Transfer to a heavy-based flameproof casserole
and add the garlic, onions, pimenton, lemon juice, parsley and stock. 
Cover tightly and simmer gently over a low heat for 1 1/2 hours 
or until the lamb is tender. 

Serve immediately, garnished with finely chopped parsley and grated lemon rind.

Seafood is often married with chicken 
for a typical dish such as Llagosta i pollastre. 
Llagosta i pollaster is is lobster and chicken. 
Shrimp or any seafood can be used.
This particular dish is cooked in a hazelnut and tomato sauce 
and is unbelievably tasty!

Are you hungry yet?

Suquet is one of the famous fish and shellfish stews of Catalonia.
It is shellfish, combined with saffron, wine, tomatoes and potatoes.  
Suquet is the diminutive form of suc, or juice, in Catalan, 
which means that this wonderfully flavored dish is more correctly called 
juicy fish stew.
Suquet de pescado (fish soup)
This is a dish you can prepare if you are staying in an albergue with a kitchen. 
But beware!
Your fellow pilgrims will show up in droves, following the aroma!  

To prepare, first sauté the tomatoes which have been split in half.  
Add garlic and minced parsley small. 
When the garlic is clear (but not browned) ,
put in the fish and some water. 
Cook on low until the fish flakes, 
turning carefully so that it does not crumble. 
When it is almost ready, add the Saffron.  
Salt to taste.

Fideus a la cassola. 
The fideus is a home made noodle like spaghetti, only short. 
When combined with pork chops, beef, fish or sausage, 
it is called a cassola.  
There can be  many variations. 

The last Eastern Spanish dish I'll show you is Pastel de carne. 
This is basically a meat pie.
It was brought to Spain by the Moors and is now claimed as a Murcian delicacy.
It has minced meat, chopped boiled eggs, 
and sometimes has vegetables inside.
It is encased in a nice puff pastry crust.
It might come as a slice from a larger pie, or as an individual serving. 

You can often find these cold in pastry shops 
and they are wonderful to carry in your backpack for picnic lunch.
Some have meat, some have fish, so you must ask if you care.
Individual servings
Cut from a large pie
For your postre, or dessert, you might try fresh fruit, 
which is almost alwaysoffered. 
It will be whatever fruit is in season.
The Spanish oranges are so sweet.
There are many pastries to choose from and we'll talk about those later,
in their very own blog. 

One of the best desserts I can suggest is Crema Catalana. 
This is much like crème brulée.
It is very rich, has a layer of caramelized sugar on top, 
and is served cold. 
They traditionally use a very hot iron to burn the top of the sugar. 

Oh my gosh! Are we there yet?
My stomach is grumbling!

Two treats top off the menu of Eastern Spain. 
Those are sweets made from almonds.
One is like an almond brittle and is called turron guirlache.
Turron can also be a softer almond candy.
This variety is white and very chewy.
Another wonderful almond dessert is called alemendras garrapiñadas. 
These are almonds roasted in a pan with sugar and butter and spices. 
The sugar caramelizes and makes a luscious crunchy coating.
 These are a special treat during Christmas 
but you can find them anytime if you look.

Here is a recipe so you can make your own:
cup of sugar
cup of water
small lemon
cup of almonds without skins
Combine the water, lemon juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and boil five or six minutes over low heat.

the almonds and stir slowly with a wooden spoon without stopping. The sugar will gradually be toasted. The fire should be slow so you do not burn the almonds.
Keep stirring until the sugar 
crystallizes on the almonds.
a surface and when almonds are well crystallized, pour them out to cool.
Ok.. that's it.
I'm going to find dinner!
Next time I'll continue on our search for cena.

Bon provecho!

See my AnnieWalkersCamino website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe