Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

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.


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.

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!


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  :)


 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!

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...


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.

1) May my 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.

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.

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.

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

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 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.