Here I go...

Walking and Talking Across Spain - long distance walking chelates the chemicals that trigger my Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

Monday, October 10, 2016

Hola Santiago y Adios

At the sumptuous breakfast offered at the seminary of San Martin Pinario I joined another pilgrim for the buffet. Empanada, tortilla, tomatoes, tostada, bread, cheeses, meat, cereal, yogurt, fruit salad, milk, tea, coffee and juice are all there for the taking. 

It is easy to linger there and sample as many of the delights as hunger demands. Later in the day outside in the plazas surrounding the Cathedral the queues are just beginning to form for entry into the much photographed house of worship.

Because of the numbers of visitors the free access of years past has been discontinued and there is entry thru the door facing the Plaza Platerias, exit thru the door of the Plaza Immaculada and a third entry from the Plaza Quintana to visit the crypt and embrace the sculpture of the Saint. All are guarded by friendly security personnel, yet the feeling of being herded into and out the Cathedral cannot be denied. Fortunately, one is still allowed to graze at will once inside.

At breakfast I asked the pilgrim if they had made their visit to the Cathedral and if it had been everything they had hoped to experience after so many walking miles of trial and joy. Here is the reply in the pilgrim's own words.

"I arrived the day before and was to tired to stand in the long lines I found there. Others in the group I had walked with were stronger and first made their way to the pilgrim office where the lines for compostellas were even longer. Later they would also queue with the many others at the Cathedral.

I was only able to afford the journey after saving credit card miles for 5 years to buy airfare, and my budget for food and lodging was very tight. I found a pilgrimage website that provided reserved lodging and some local transportation which I could afford. There was also assistance on the trail from a volunteer leader.

Others in the group were experienced travelers and much of the discussion was about comparing the Camino with the places all over the world they had toured. This was my first trip abroad and I had nothing to offer to these conversations but I enjoyed listening to a point.

Because of my inexperience I was, perhaps naively, overwhelmed by the simplest of things along the Way. I spent nearly half an hour once just admiring the deep red soil of a freshly ploughed field. I watched hawks circling the royal blue sky and so I often arrived last at our lodgings and missed group meals because I had laundry to do which I did by hand since I could not afford the cost of the machines.

My second morning in Santiago I decided to make my visit to the Cathedral at dawn before coffee or breakfast when there were no people to queue with and you could enter thru any of the many doors. I wanted to go there with the heightened awareness that an empty stomach brings. When one begins the journey to Santiago one never knows for certain if they will make it there, nor if they will ever return again.

First I wanted to embrace the likeness of St. James perched above the high altar since I had been told it was traditional. It was a fine feeling to hold the cool shoulders of the sculpture and rest my head for a moment at the nape of his neck. Since there was no one behind me, I could linger as long as I wanted without causing any inconvenience to another.

Next I walked the worn stone stairs down to the crypt of the Saint. There were two other pilgrims standing again the stone wall that faces the silver tomb holding the remains. A sparkling silver star floats above the small reliquary.

I was surprised to see three priests in red chasubles offering a mass in English there in the tight quarters of the inner crypt. They were making the offertory and I decided to stay for at least the consecration. Three of us pilgrims hugged the stone wall so the occasional others could come and go as they pleased. After the consecration we three joined the priests in exchanging the sign of peace. Then we were happy when the celebrant came to the iron gate separating us from the inner crypt, and offered us the Body of Christ.

After this Mass, I walked around the many chapels where 3 other Masses in Spanish, French and German were being offered. There were only small groups of pilgrims in each chapel and no botofumeiro, but I would not trade my quiet and lonely experience with the two other early risers for the crowded grandeur of the Noon High Mass.

If someone would ask me now, when is the best time of day to visit the Cathedral of Santiago, I would say early in the morning when you are hungry and have the compulsion to lay aside one appetite for another more profound. But my opinion should not influence another since wonder and spirit can be found everywhere at any time. A person should go, when they feel the desire to do so. As they say, there are as many Caminos as there are people who travel it."

Well, Annie and I have heard many marvelous tales of the things to find along the Way, that the "Camino provides". And yes the Camino provides both opportunity and challenge, but we remember mainly the opportunities and give short shrift to the sore feet and shared bathrooms that sometimes constitute the challenges. After this one pilgrim's story of the Mass with The Saint, I wondered what challenges they must have met over the many miles walking. But their tale of the spell of simple glory prevented me from asking. I had no more questions to ask or answer.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Joe's Blog on his way to Molinaseca and then Villafranca

Along the way from Camponaraya, after you cross the overpass of the autovia, a truck full of blue-black grapes passes.  The truck stops and the smiling face with a five day stubble directs you to help yourself to a taste of the fruit of the Campos.  The truck stops for every pilgrim it passes. It is harvest time and later in the Rip van Winkle pueblo of Valtuille de Arriba a crummy of field hands rumbles by all smiles and waves.

The day before at Casa Del Reloj in Molinaseca, we thought the day had been long enough so that nothing more exciting would happen.  Wrong again.

In burst 5 tall and handsome caballeros, one in full length tin duster.  "Somos los amigos de Antonio Rojo." We are the friends of Antonio Rojo.  Antonio is the owner of the family estate which includes the Pension as well as a shaded field across the street where the horses can be quartered.  We hear them whinnying and neighing as the sun drops from the sky.  Early in the morning we will hear them rustling in the field as they forage for breakfast.

These are hombres one must rise to greet, if for nothing else than to feed a bit on their exuberance and energy.  They hardly wait for our pilgrims to turn around.  Introductions are in Spanish and English.  They speak excellent English and must know first the names and homelands of the girls in the room.  Cowboys are similar everywhere I suppose.  These men possess a rough elegance with style that charms immediately.

They must be the same caballeros we saw riding atop the pile of rocks that support the Cruz de Ferro.  They ride to Santiago and we find their mounts have left some evidence of their passing in the middle of the Calle Real, the gut of the town.

Well, back to VillaFranca and our charming hosts at Albergue La Piedra a young and very capable couple named Livia and Unai.  As usual Conan the golden retriever is there at the door to greet us.  But it is not possible to walk him down to the river for a swim because it is too cold out for his hair to dry before the next morning.  But you know he would accompany you there given half a chance.

 Unai and Livia first ask all if they would like something to drink or eat before anything else.  Then Unai offers to carry your pack upstairs to your room.  Now we can relax for we are in very good hands. Our hosts will even wash and dry our laundry for a mere 5 euro, delivered to you door.

Mas tarde, Livia's delightful mother Paula arrives to work the reception so Unai and Livia can have a little rest in the evening. In the morning she will prepare the desayuno and make the stamps for our credentials.

Then it is time to don our packs and see what can be found up ahead.

(NOTE FROM ANNIE)  I'm sorry if these photos are not in order. Joe can sort them out when he arrives home.