Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Via de la Plata Guidebook

Last time I attempted to walk the Via de la Plata,
I felt the guidebook was too bulky,
and gave more information than I needed.
However, it was a good guide.
I left my copy in the convent albergue in Leon,
and have regretted it ever since.
This book is now out of print and extremely expensive,
although the author is working on putting it out again on Kindle.

The Cicero guide is pretty,
and another good guide,
but way too heavy for my taste.

In my attempt to make my pack lighter,
I've decided to make my own guidebook.
Many guidebooks just have more information than I need,
and weigh more than I'm willing to carry.
So... I made my own!

First, I went to the bookstore and bought a small "Moleskin" knock-off.
The Moleskin is a small journal that is the perfect size for the Camino.
It comes with lined paper, blank paper, graph paper, and even watercolor paper!

It has a nice elastic strap to keep it closed and in the back is a pocket where you can keep receipts, notes, or whatever.

Each year, I've purchased a moleskin to keep notes on my Camino.
It's been a good investment.
However, this year, the $12 price put me off.
I searched the bookstore, and found this little green notebook.
It has the same elastic strap, the same pocket in back, and the same sized lined pages.

Once I found the right notebook,
I began working to make it the perfect guidebook!

I went to the Eroski website and found the Via de La Plata and Camino Sanabres routes.

Next, I printed out each stage.
Then, I cut out the map and list of albergues,
and pasted each to a page in my notebook.
They fit perfectly!

I left space in the beginning to put in flight and hotel information.
I also cut out emails confirming hostal reservations and pasted them into the book.

What I'm left with is a very small, lightweight guidebook
with just the information I need,
plus about 75 blank pages for my own notes and drawings.

The cost? 

I'm happy.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Seats and a Bed at the Monastery

Today I spent some time trying to select my seats on my upcoming flight to Madrid.

Because of my MCS, I need to sit up close to the front 
and as far away from the middle of the perfumed crowd as possible. 
I often am able to get the bulkhead seats,
 but this time, they had already been booked.

I tried emailing US Airways.
I tried calling - no humans available.
I finally found a number for their "Preferred Dividend" program and called.

A human answered!

I told him my problem and he was very kind.
He helped me select seats that were not the best for my condition,
but were better than I would have been able to get on my own.
Looks like I'll be masking up for the flight unless someone declares a Fragrance Free Day!

I always have a lot of anxiety about the flight.
If there are a lot of people with heavy perfume,
I can be sick for 3-4 days afterwards, 
which is one reason I book a hotel for a few days after arrival.
One good thing is that this is an overnight flight from the East Coast,
so I will take a couple of Tylenol PMs and hopefully sleep through most of it.

I have booked lodging at the Hostal Buelta in Madrid.

I chose it because it was close to Atocha Train Station
and I'll be catching a train next day to Sevilla.

In Sevilla, I cancelled my room at Pension Vergara.
Instead, I've booked a room at
the Casa de Oración at Santa Rosalía Cathedral.

This place is run by the Poor Clare nuns of Sevilla
and I understand it to be
a silent retreat.
If not, it will at least be quieter than a room in town.
It also is less likely to be perfumed.

Also, I just like the idea of supporting the nuns
and their mission to the poor in Sevilla and in Africa.

The cost of the room for 3 nights is about 8 euros more
but I think it will be worth the extra cost.

The Monastery and Convent of Santa Rosalia is located on Cardenal Spinola Street, number 8, next to the Plaza de la Gavidia.

Founded in 1701 by the Capuchin nuns coming from Zaragoza, it was completed in 1724.  In 1761, a fire destroyed much of the building.  It took two years to rebuild.
The church has a single nave with a barrel vault. The altarpiece is the work of the Portuguese sculptor Cayetano De Acosta. The church also houses paintings attributed to Juan de Espinal. 

Those who stay here have the chance to experience a few days of silence and recollection in the House of Prayer. The House of Prayer is located in a separate area of ​​the closure.

In the chapel, I understand you can see Santa Rosalia sleeping.

The 18th century building consists of a cloistered courtyard around which the different rooms are installed. In the common area there is a lounge (old Locutorio) equipped with TV, which is available to all visitors.

The Hospederia has 9 single, double and triple beds All are furnished, are ensuite, and have air conditioning. All rooms are cleaned daily with a change of sheets and towels if you require it.  There are five single rooms and four double bedrooms, each room has a bed, nightstand, wardrobe and seating areas, bathroom and independent. There are common areas like the living room, patio and roof, and ironing area on the upper floor.On the ground floor there is a kitchen with dishes, refrigerator and microwave to prepare meals.

Pilgrims of the Via de la Plata can stay at the monastery in a special area and common room with shared bathroom. For pilgrims, there is a dining room where you can have breakfast, and in the upper area there is a meeting and conference room and access to the choir loft of the church where you can attend the daily prayers.

You can book accommodation for 25 euros per night for a single room.
Pilgrim rooms can not be reserved and I believe the beds are 18 euros.
I will let you know.

Bookings can be made at:   casadeoracion.capuchinas @
Reception hours are from 9 to 13 and from 16 to 20.30 h.
You can NOT collect your key after hours. However, once you have the key, there is no curfew.

I am really looking forward to staying here!
I will report back as to cleanliness, comfort, and convenience.

I will spend 3 nights in Seville.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Macabi Hiking Skirt

I'm very excited to have received and worn my new Macabi Skirt!
This skirt is absolutely awesome!
I can't say enough good things about it.

First of all, it comes in three lengths.
I'm 60 years old.
I'm not always comfortable in the mini-length hiking skirts
that I find at REI and other sporting stores.
Those are made for slender women or younger women.
I'm just not comfortable in them.

The Macabi can be purchased in three lengths.
All are below the knee.
I'm 5'3" and I chose the Short length.
It is perfect!

Which length you get depends on your height.
Here are some photos of Carol, who is 5'6" wearing short, medium, and long.

 On the other hand, Kristen is only 5'2" so the short and medium fit her like this:

There are so many things I love love love about this skirt.
First of all, it gives you privacy using the toilet along the trail.
No bare-bottoming it!
Just find your bush, squat, and do your business in privacy.

Second, it is sturdy.
The fabric is nylon, but it is very tough.
It will not snag and will take a beating.

Third, because it is like nylon, it dries in TWO HOURS or less!
This is a great thing for the Camino!

Next.. it can be made into pants, for scrambling over rocks, or if it's cold.

This is done by means of a lightweight strap and hook that hangs from the waist. You simply clip the hook onto the inside hem of the BACK of the skirt, and voila!

Next, it can be made into SHORTS if the weather is hot or if you need to wade.
This is done by means of heavy duty snaps on each side. 
You just life the side up and snap it and you have shorts!

You can also wear the skirt as a shorter skirt but just using the side snaps:

This skirt has awesome pockets!
They are very deep and roomy and they are self-draining, in case of rain.

And, in addition, in the right hand pocket is a secret zippered pocket where you can keep your cash. It's nice because there is a little loop you put the zipper pull through, and it's nearly impossible for a pickpocket to open.

Last of all, you have a skirt for dinners and for wearing into the Cathedrals, so you are appropriately dressed for church. I remember a time when women were not allowed into the churches in Spain and Portugal in pants, and many older people still find it offensive to show up in shorts or pants if you're female. This skirt allows you to be more culture-friendly and not have to carry extra gear.

I bought this skirt last week and wore it for 4 days.
It shed dirt and did not need laundering and probably would go more than a week on the Camino.  It was very comfortable. It has an elastic waist and a drawstring for when you lose that Camino weight.  I'm definitely taking this on the trail with me and I'll report back. But so far, I'm pretty happy!  

I can see me wearing this with wool leggings if it is cold or windy.
I can see me wearing it with just panties if it's hot.

It is not inexpensive, like any good gear. 
You get what you pay for. 
I paid $75.
If you are an XS or XL, you can sometimes get them for $50 so check the mark-down basket.

If you're not sure what size to get, do what I did.
Order two sizes.
I ordered the Medium and the Large.
The medium fit, so I sent the large back for a refund,
no problem.

Here is the link: Macabi skirt

Be sure to read all of the testimonials. 
That's what sold me.... that and owning my very own Macabi!

Buen Camino!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Another Pilgrim Rescued

This information has been supplied by Navarricano, who lives in Pamplona. He is a member of the Camino Santiago forum:

There has been another rescue in the Pyrenees. Thanks be to God, this woman survived her experience. This article appeared in this morning's print edition of the Diario de Navarra newspaper. The translation and emphases are mine:

Firefighters from Burguete rescued another pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago yesterday. (4 April). The pilgrim was a middle-aged American (U.S.) woman who had turned her ankle. It took firefighters two hours to transport the woman three kilometers along paths completely covered in snow. The woman and her son were walking the Camino, following the Route Napoleon over the mountain from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles; the Route Napoleon is snowed under at present.

Along the way, she sprained her ankle, and when she reached the shelter at Izandorre, radioed SOS Navarra for help. SOS Navarra, in turn, alerted the fire department in Burguete. This occurred at 4.30 in the afternoon. The firefighters reached the woman's location in 30 minutes, but transporting her to the paved highway, where they had left their vehicle, was quite a bit more complicated: by stretcher and at times walking with the support of the firefighters, it took the group two hours to cover the three kilometers distance.

* * * * *

The Route Napoleon is still covered in snow. It is still too risky to go that way. Yes, she twisted her ankle. Yes, some can justify this as an accident that could happen to anyone, even in summer too, etc. But folks, please... her rescue was complicated by the snow. Thank God she was able to get to the shelter, and thank God they got her off the mountain. but the weather here in Navarra has been cold and nasty for the past two days. More like January than April, and more snow is predicted for this weekend.

Go the Valcarlos route, wear reflective vests and stay on the pavement.

Here are a few more photos to give you an idea of just how much snow we're talking about. Most of these photos are by "javier" from the Camino Forum. These are all taken at Roncesvalles, where there are snow plows. THERE ARE NO SNOWPLOWS ON THE TRAIL!!
This is a cloister that is much higher than your head!

You cannot even see the doors or the signs above them!

This is why people can get lost.

This is a ROOF top of a 3 story building!

If you take the road, you're more likely to see THIS type of scenario in Patricia Herr's blog, "Girls on the Way."

She and her two young daughters took the road, stayed in Valcarlos, and continued on the next day. Be sure to look at days 2 and 3 for good photos of the difference in walking conditions that these taken in Roncesvalles.

Here is a link to their great blog!


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Via de la Plata Application for iPhone or iPad

A couple of weeks ago I purchased this cool application for my iPhone called Via de la Plata by Melanie Radzicki McManus.

I heard about the application from Melanie on the Camino pilgrim forum, and thought for $3.99 it was worth a try!

I purchased the iPhone version and I'm so happy with it that last night I bought the iPad version!  I will be using the iPhone version on my walk next month. But the iPad version is easier to read and study now because of the larger size. However, for a total of $8.00, buying both is much less expensive than purchasing a heavy guidebook to pack along.

Melanie has made a wonderful application, and the walking directions appear to be very clear and concise. There are many, many photos of the places you are passing. There are very good maps. And best of all, people using the application on the road can post comments about changes or items of interest.

About the only thing that would make this app better would be a list of albergues in each village. But seeing how that changes from year to year, I think the comment section is probably the best place for that.

So... if you're going to walk the Via de la Plata and you're looking for a guidebook... and if you plan on taking your smart phone anyway.. pick up this application.

It rocks!


Here is a link:  VDLP Application