Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Miracle of the Abanico

An embarrassing beginning with a happy ending.
* * *

While in Seville 
I bought a beautiful Abanico (decorated fan) 
from a gypsy woman for only 3 euro. 

The fan was very useful, 
and many people, both tourist and local, 
were using a fan during the heat wave.

I thought I´d use it on the Via de la Plata, 
then take it home to Emma, 
my eldest granddaughter, 
with the story that 

"This is the fan Grandma carried 
when she walked across  Spain."

I used it the two days we were there,
touristing about, and it came in very handy. 

Then, disaster!

On the morning we left for Italica, 
I was getting ready to leave the hotel 
and had to use the toilet suddenly. 
I had the fan in the back pocket of my trekking pants. 

I enjoyed my lovely BM, 
then got up to flush the toilet, and saw, 
(in HORROR!!) 
that my beautiful painted fan was swimming in the toilet!!!

Using a plastic bag as a glove,
I fished it out, rinsed it off, and disposed of it,
saddened at my bad luck
and at the same time laughing at my stupidity.

I soon forgot the fan as I enjoyed the sights in Italica.

Then came the long walk to Guillena.

 As we approached the village, 
the waymarking was confusing…
 do we go RIGHT or do we go LEFT? 

It was extremely hot! 
Probably well over 100 degrees!
We were out of water and our main goal 
was finding something to drink. 
We approached the village during the siesta hours 
when EVERY single place is locked up tight 
from 2 pm until 5 pm.

Acting on a gut feeling,
I said to Joe, "Let´s go THIS way." 

It was too hot for him to argue. 
A kilometer later we reached a square 
with a fountain. 
We stumbled toward it, turned the handle,
and nothing!
It was dry!
This was the second time in as many days 
we would run out of water
on the Via de la Plata.

As we lamented our poor luck,

two local men passed by,

and seeing our dilemma,
showed us how to open a metal door on the side of the fountain,
turn a screw,
and viola!


We were dunking our heads in the lukewarm water
when I heard a singsong voice, "Perigrinos! Perigrinos!"

I looked to see where the voice was coming from
and saw a hand sticking out
from between the bars of a window
across the narrow lane. 

Walking to the window, 

the hand retreated, 
then quickly returned, 
holding a frosty 1.5 litre bottle of ICED COLD WATER!!!

A sweet female voice asked,"Quieres agua fria¨?….

"Would you like cold water?"

Would we EVER! 

We accepted with gusto, 

drinking down the entire bottle.
She then insisted on giving us another one
to carry along with us.

Blessing her, and thanking her profusely,

I dug into my mochila

and pulled out one of the St. James Chaplets
which I had made and brought along for just such occasions.

St. James Chaplet
Her eyes gleamed and with a big smile,
she told me to wait.
She left the window, 
then returned
and through the window handed me a gift.

I gasped!

In her hand was a lovely painted fan, 
absolutely identical to the one I'd ruined that morning!

I was convinced.

The Camino provides all our needs!

Emma and the fan Grandma carried across Spain.

Friday, February 14, 2014


One of my favorite breakfasts while in southern Spain 
was a mixture of lard, pork, garlic, and other spices, 
served in a tub, 
and spread on grilled toast.

Now that I'm on the Paleo Diet, 
this lusciousness is well within the range of "can haves" 
and so I decided to try to make it on my own.

There are many versions of this manteca.
This time, I decided to try making it with fresh pork loin.

I gathered my ingredients:

First, manteca. 
We call it "lard" and it is basically pork fat, 
rendered and cleaned and sold in blocks.

Next, I needed to cut up some pork loin.
Since I don't really want to eat a LOT of this,
I decided to go small.
I bought the meat at the local Carneceria.

I used 4 cloves of garlic. 
I love garlic!

1 bay leaf
Oregano - about 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - mine is pink Himalayan
Paprika - not just plain paprika, but smoked

I chopped the garlic, then decided I needed MORE!

I melted a bit of the lard in the pan on low heat:

I added the pork and garlic
and began cooking it on low heat.

After it cooked a while,
I decided the chunks were too big
and so I used a sharp knife and cut them.

I added 1/4 cup of vinegar,
the oregano,
and the bay leaf.
Then I added about a cup of water
and simmered it
until the meat was tender.

Once the meat was done,
I added the paprika 
and the rest of the lard.

I added more water
and cooked it until the water was gone.

I had this nice covered glass dish to keep it in.

I let it cool a bit,
then poured it into the bowl.
I then covered it and put it in the refrigerator.

 It hasn't quite set up complete,
but I can tell it turned out perfect!
Oh my gosh!
It is delicious!

But now,
since I cannot eat bread,
I have to figure out what I'll spread it on.
Stay tuned!

If wheat isn't a problem for you,
you can toast some french or artisan bread
on the grill 
or on a skillet,
then spread this on as thick as you like it.
Dig deep into the bowl
for the tasty bits of meat.

Your taste buds are going to dance!

Buen Camino!

Some photos from the internet:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tomas the Templar Needs Your Help

Before my first Camino, I did quite a bit of research, 
questioning people about which albergues to skip, 
and which not to miss.

Seems at the top of the list for a lot of people was Manjarin. 
Probably one of the most photographed albergues 
along the Camino,

I made it a point to stop there.

Which way are you going?

You arrive in Manjarin as you trudge up a winding hill.
If it's foggy or raining hard, you might miss it.

For this reason, Tomas and his volunteer hospitaleros 
ring a bell when the dogs announce 
a pilgrim is coming round the bend.

Follow the sound of the bell and you'll find
pot of hot water for tea and hot coffee awaiting
in a little oasis under a lovingly built shelter.

Here, you can sit and rest.
Get a stamp for your credential.
Have a cookie.
Buy one of the hand-made souvenirs.

Joe stamps his credential.

There are cats and dogs to greet you at Manjarin.

And if you are lucky, 
Tomas himself is standing at the entrance,
inviting you in.

Are you lost?
Tomas will help you.

Ask to have a photo taken,
and he's happy to do it,
unless he's running to buy more supplies.
In that case, you will have to wait!
Annie with Tomas in 2012

I guess one way to describe my initial thoughts about Manjarin
when I first saw it
was "culture shock."

Manjarin is quite rustic.
There is absolutely no running water.
The toilet was (at that time) an open pit toilet across the road.
It has since been improved, but is still an outhouse.

I was told to put my mochila and sleeping bag upstairs in the loft
I was shocked when I saw the sheets and blankets.
They were dusty and pretty well used.

But then, 
there is no water at Manjarin,
so the sheets can not be washed each night.
You are, 
after all,
a pilgrim.
And a pilgrim is grateful for any help they get.

The attic

"Ohhhhhhh!" I thought!
I really had to talk myself out of leaving.
I was a snobby pilgrim - that's for sure!

But I stayed…
and was glad I did.

I got the gift of an attitude adjustment at Manjarin.

The inside of Tomas' house is fascinating, 
friendly and inviting, 
with sausages hanging from the rafters 
and pretty altars stuck in corners.

We who were staying sat around for a couple of hours,
waiting for the line of pilgrims to thin.

Once it got dark, and Tomas felt no more pilgrims would arrive,
lamps were lit
and the table was set.

Before dinner, 
Tomas performed a short ritual saluting the 4 directions
with a sword and a prayer.
It was in Spanish and I didn't understand all that was said.
It was very solemn - not for show -
and you could see he really was serious
about what he was saying.

Then dinner.
We all sat down and were served a nice bowl of soup,
fresh bread,
and a filling pasta dish.

We chattered about how our feet hurt,
how difficult the walk had been,
where we were from,
how many kilometers we had walked.

Each person spoke a different language it seemed,
but we managed to communicate.

About 10 minutes into the meal,
a wild and barefoot young man walked in.
His feet were dirty and bleeding.

He was scraggly haired.
His clothes were simple, not technical.
He carried a very small pack.

We tried to speak to him but he refused to answer.
"Completo!" we said.
"No room, sorry!" we said.

He just smiled and motioned he was hungry.

Tomas got up from his meal,
and walked to him.
He put his arm around the boy,
and ushered him to the table, 
motioning for his volunteer to come and help.

A place was set for the boy.
He was given food and a glass of wine.

In Christ-like love,
Tomas became an example of the good shepherd.
His eyes shone with love and respect for this young man.

The boy's expression was one of thanks.
Tomas, in his years of experience,
had recognized that this young man was on 
a different sort of pilgrimage;
the boy had undertaken his Camino barefoot and in silence.

Some might say my comparison 
to the Good Shepherd 
is over the top.
But it was exactly 
what came to my mind
at the time.

Tomas showed him the gentle hospitality of a true Templar.

I felt ashamed for my judgmental attitude.

The rest of my meal was taken in silence.

Each year when I take a group on the Camino,
I try to stop by and leave a little donation at Manjarin,
because I really believe in the work Tomas, 
one of the last Templars, 
is doing.

I can't leave much,
and Tomas does not recognize me.
But that's ok.

I love him anyway.

Last week, Tomas Manjarin had to have emergency surgery .
He was admitted to a hospital in Leon for 6 hours.

They opened his chest , replaced two heart valves and put a pacemaker .

Thomas has left the hospital and is recovering very well .

Tomas is now in Molinaseca in a borrowed flat for 30 days, recovering.

Manjarin still being run by volunteers and friends , but the daily pace of pilgrims is still small during this time of year and is insufficient to meet all of Tomas' current needs.

Tomas' friends are asking for your help - from anyone who can and want to contribute any amount of cash. Even just one dollar. This will help cover Tomas' food and incidentals during his recovery. His medical has been paid. 

All of you that know Tomas know he does not need many things. He is a simple person and deserves this moment, this solidarity , this show of love.

Acacio & Orietta from the Albergue of the same name are asking for donations from anyone who is interested in helping.

Tomas is one of the last "Templars" on the Camino.

He helps pilgrims all the time.

It's time to return the favor.

If you'd like to help, you can donate via Paypal at this link:

The system is easy and secure and any small amount you can donate will be helpful.

In addition, you might want to send a note to Acacio & Orietta on their Facebook page telling them how much you have sent.

Together we can do much for this sweet man who has helped so many.

I, for one, look forward to hearing the bell ring at Manjarin

and seeing Tomas waiting to greet the pilgrims again soon.


God Bless You, Tomas!

Thank you for the lesson of love you taught us.

May you grow healthy and strong 
so you can continue your important work!

Annie Santiago

Sunset at Manjarin

Monday, February 03, 2014

Caceres to Zamora

Well, we have pinned down our walking route for 2014.

We will fly into Madrid, then take a bus to Caceres.
The bus costs 25,15 euros and is an Avanza bus.
There is also the possibility of a train and using the Tarjeta Dorada, 
we might get as much as a 40% discount on our tickets.

If you are over 60, and plan any train travel in Spain,
the Tarjeta Dorada (Golden Ticket) is an excellent value for 5 euros.
On almost any day, it will give you a discount on your train travel,
and sometimes other places will honor it.
I was able to get quite a discount at the ruins in Merida when I showed the card.
You can purchase it directly from the window at the train stations.

Here is more information on the Tarjeta Dorada:

In Caceres, we have booked rooms in Albergue las Veletas.
At 30 Euros per night for a double twin room, this is a good value.
I stayed here last year in a single and found it to be in an excellent location,
clean, and friendly.

From Caceres, our walking schedule looks as follows:

Cesar de Caceras 11km - Municipal Albergue - (18 places, Donativo)
Embalsa de Alcantara 20km - Albergue Turistico - (15 Euros each - reserved)
Grimaldo 19.5km - Municipal Albergue - (15 places, Donativo)
Gallisteo 19.5km - Municipal (12 places, 10 Euros)
Olivia de Plasencia 30 km - Albergue - (20 Euros each - reserved)
Aldanueva 23 km - Casa de mi Abuela (15 Euros each with breakfast - reserved)
La Calzada de Bejar 21.8 km - Albergue Alba y Sorraya ( 28 places - 10 Euros each - reserved)
Fuenteroble - Parroquiel 20.2 km (70 places - Donativo)
San Pedro de Rosados 28 km - Albergue El Milario (10 places, 10 Euros each)
Salamanca 24 km - Hotel Alda Plaza Mayor ($56.70 for 2 nights - reserved)
El Cubo - Albergue Torre de Sabre - reserved
Villanueva de Campean 13 km - Municipal (16 places, 6 Euros each)
Zamora 18 km - Municipal (36 places, Donativo)

From Zamora, we will but to Vitoria-Gastiez where we have booked spendy beds in the Albergue de la Catedral for 18 Euros each. I've stayed in this albergue before and despite the cost, it's a very nice little place. I'm happy to stay here again. 

From Vitoria, next day we will take a bus to Pamplona, where we will meet up with some of our walking group. The others arrive next day and on May 21, we taxi to St. Jean Pied de Port to begin our Camino Frances trek.

Beautiful Desert Skies

We arrived in Desert Hot Springs last Sunday after a short stop to visit my mother.
The weather last week was hot,
but this week we've had a few days of high wind and cold.

Despite that, 
we've managed to walk almost every day
in the desert behind the park.

Much of the day has been working alongside Joe
getting ready for our Camino in May.

I am not able to sit at the computer for hours,
and so he does much of the actual typing
while I dictate from the shadow!

Our plan this year is to fly into Madrid,
bus to Caceres,
and pick up walking where I left off last year.

We have managed to book lodging in nearly 
every place that allows reservations.
We will be available by Spanish phone by the end 
of the first week in May.

We should reach Pamplona a day ahead of our walking companions.

In the meantime, 
I'm really enjoying the beautiful desert skies.
Dawn is spectacular,
as is dusk.

And the stars… incredible.

My MCS does well here 
as long as I stay out of the buildings.

I'm looking forward to walking the Camino again.
Stay tuned...