Here I go...

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fires on the Camino!

For those who are walking the Camino now, I'm sure you have heard there are quite a number of active fires burning, especially on the stretch around Triacastela and Samos.

This was posted on the forum today:

Here is a real time NASA fire map:

Pilgrim Mark McIlroy posted this you tube video today:

The news I've heard is that an out-of-work fireman 
started many of these.
We've also heard rumors of a pilgrim flicking a cigarette
and starting the one near Samos.

If you hare headed that way, 
please check with locals before walking today.
The smoke is not healthy for breathing,
and getting caught in a forest fire
isn't my idea of adventure.

Take care pilgrims,
and Buen Camino!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My Van Dwelling Winter - The Cost to Set Up

Someone on Facebook asked how much I was spending to get set up for my Winter Van Dwelling trip.  I've been selling extra books and items to pay for the new things I need. Here is what I've purchased, and I'm finished, I think:

Butane Stove $35

Butane 4 cans $5

Battery Shower $39

Pop Up Shower/Toilet Tent $39

Luggable Loo Seat $12

Stanley Thermos to cook in  $25

Aero Press Coffee Press  $24

Reflectix for my windows  $27

Shade Sox for back windows $19

and a couple of Tarp poles $22

That's it.

Oh, yeah, and a Luci Light for $11:

So $258 total.

I will have no rent, no utilities to pay.
Gas will be minimal in my Mercury Tracer.
Food will be much less than cooking at home.

I'm pretty satisfied.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

I'm Wishing For A Chinook!

My son and son-in-law
took me to Disney World last month.
It was a blast and I'll post photos as soon as 
he sends them to me.
Disney World was on my bucket list,
so it was wonderful to be able to check it off.
Thank you, Cameron and Michael!

Getting ready for my next bucket list adventure 
has been hard work, 
but a lot of fun too!  

Flying to Europe First Class 
is one item on my bucket list left to do. 
But the NEXT item is easier and will last longer.  

It's my intention to take at least one year off, 
buy an RV, 
and go see America!

As I go through my belongings, once again, 
I have discovered that 
I'm not the minimalist I think I am!  
Somehow I have accumulated a ton of "stuff ...

I look at each thing and ask:

1) Do I love it?
2) Do I need it?
3) Have I used it in the past year?

If not, I make some tough decisions.

Walking the Camino Santiago
has given me a deep understanding
of the difference between
what I WANT 
and what I really NEED to be happy.
Walking 6 weeks with nothing
except what fits in a 15 pound pack
was enlightening.
Especially when the lightbulb went on
inside my head and I thought,
"Gosh, I don't miss ANY of that stuff back home!"

So far, I've given away a few boxes of items. 
Things I'm not sure of, 
I'll look at once I return from Spain again in June.

The most difficult things to part with 
are the old photographs inherited 
from my many grandparents. 
While those are precious to ME, 
and while my sons remember 
my grandparents and 2 of my great-grandparents, 
the rest of those people are strangers to them, 
and they're not really interested in genealogy.  

I keep hoping one of my 3 grandchildren 
will want the 3 or 4 boxes of genealogy 
and old photos. 
I'll wait a few more years to see. 
But after that, what are they good for?

I also have heirlooms from those grandparents, 
great grandparents, 
and great great grandparents. 
Things that I looked at, 
and loved while growing up but that are, again, meaningless to my children.

How sad, 
in a way, 
that all we love turns to dust in the end.

I have one small box, 
about 10" x 10" x 4" marked "Things I Love."  Crystals, gemstones, knicknacks, 
a couple of vases from my great grandmothers. 
Along with the photos, 
those are what I'd grab if I had time in an emergency.

Otherwise, the 24 boxes (more or less) 
that are left don't hold much sentimental value.
They are just "things." 
So when I return from Spain in June, 
I'll be having an estate sale. 
I need just enough to fit 
into the new-to-me Chinook 
that I'm going to manifest.  

Isn't she a beauty?!
I can just see myself in the driver's seat.
What adventures I'll have!
I'll be soooo happy seeing America 
in this little RV!

Update on Hosteria Natura in Segovia

Yesterday, the management at Hosteria Natura in Segovia told me cancellation of my booking was not up to THEM, but was up to

Today I received a letter from saying:

Dear Annie Carvalho,

Thank you for contacting

My name is Anne, I’m contacting you from the Customer Relations department on behalf of Claire Ratty, who personally forwarded your email to us with regards to confirmation number 2085837422.

First of all, our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience caused by your recent experience while using our service, we completely understand your frustration. From now on, I will personally follow up with your case.

I have recently contacted the property, asking to exceptionally cancel the reservation free of charges. Please note that by finalizing the booking, you have entered a contract of service is exclusively between you and the hotel.

Therefore can't take any decision about the cancellation fees.


It seems, despite what they say, it is Hosteria Natura's decision whether to cancel or not.

Why would they lie?

But then, why wouldn't they cancel a booking that is made by mistake SEVEN MONTHS in advance???

We can only assume it is so they could book the room again and collect double the fees.

I am so sorry I have sent so many pilgrims to this hostal. 
People make mistakes and if this reservation had been made one or two months in advance, I can see charging me a fine or fee. But seven months?  The ONLY reason not to cancel it free is €€€€€.

What goes around comes around.
It's sad, but true.

Too bad.
It was a good option for pilgrims walking the Camino Madrid.
I can no longer recommend people stay there.

I can only say beware...

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beware Hosteria Natura in Segovia!

Today I am not very happy.

Through my Camino travels in the past 11 years, 
I have made many wonderful relationships with hostal and hotel owners 
all up and down the Camino.
 They appreciate our group's business 
and in general treat us very kindly.

Not so with Hosteria Natura. 

A couple of weeks ago, 
by mistake,
I made a nonrefundable booking 
with Hosteria Natura 
for 2 nights in May 2018 in a triple room. 

That is May 2018 - SEVEN MONTHS from now.  

Within a few days, 
my walking partner discovered she would be unable to go.
I contacted Hosteria Natura informing them 
we would be unable to make the reservation 
and to please cancel it.  

It was then I realized it was a nonrefundable booking.

I NEVER make nonrefundable bookings. 
I always make refundable bookings.
This was an unfortunate mistake
which I conveyed to them.

The response from Hosteria Natura in Segovia?
A firm "NO!"

Why not just cancel the booking? 
Especially for a returning pilgrim who has sent many people to this hostal.

I can only assume it is because 
 NOW they think they can get double their money. 
They'll get MY money for the reservation 
plus they'll get MORE money 
when they rebook the room.

This is the height of avarice, in my opinion
and not pilgrim friendly at all.

Is this what is going to become of the Camino Madrid? 
Will there be a surge of greedy hotel owners 
along the various routes of the Camino? 

Luckily no.  
Unlike MOST of the good hostal and hotel owners in Spain, 
the management of Natura has become mercenary, 
pure and simple. 

Even though it was listed as a nonrefundable reservation,
I am shocked they would not cancel
considering the reservation was SEVEN MONTHS AWAY!

And with the Camino Madrid as busy as it has been getting, 
there is no question the room could be rebooked.

So I am giving you fair warning about this hostal.

If they care so little for pilgrims, 
what other shortcuts might they take? 

I don't know... 
things have definitely changed since I was there in 2014.
When I was there,
the rooms were small but clean,
it was a cute place,
and the manager was very nice.
He must have sold the place,
because the new management are not so nice.

Moral of the story?
There are GOOD decent people in the industry,
and there are those who will do anything to make a buck.

The lesson?
You'd better be SURE when you book a room
at Hosteria Natura in Segovia
that it is refundable!

Because if you book HERE,
they're keeping your money
whether you stay there or not!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Car Bed is done!

Building the car bed this year was easier than in 2011.
First I took out the front passenger seat and the back of the passenger seat behind it.  It was pretty grubby down underneath those seats!  It's an old car.  But it didn't take much to clean it up.

Yucky carpet under the seat!
 We took plywood and cut it to fit.
I wanted to have a hinge on the bed
so I could store bins of my clothing underneath the bed.

Last time I did this, I made the opening on the outside edge.
This time, I wanted to be able to get into my bins 
from the INSIDE of the car. 

Here is the top of the car bed.

The bottom, where my feet will go, extends into the trunk area.
Last time I just laid down that rear seat back,
but this time I took it completely off so I'd have room to store items
under the bottom of the bed in the back seat.
Things like my art supplies will slide right under.

Here, you can see the bins underneath the seat.
This is where I'll keep my clothes.

Next, I went looking for a foam mattress.
Originally, I thought I'd cut up my tempurpedic mattress,
but decided against it for now. Maybe when I get a van!

So I checked out Joann's and Fred Meyer for foam.
Joann's had good high density foam but it would have cost well over $50 and that was with a 40% discount coupon.
Freddies had sheets of foam but they were not the quality I was looking for.
When I built my bed in 2011, I got the foam sheet from a reupholster business.
It was just scrap for him so it was cheap cheap cheap.

I learned that foam naturally changes color as time passes
but that doesn't affect the quality.

I came home, took an electric knife to my old foam bed.
When I shaved off a slice and looked inside, it was just like new!
It will do just fine!
I carved it to fit my new bed, 
which is a little narrower than the one from 2011,
and vacuumed it, 
and it fits like a glove.

Today I took an old set of flannel sheets, 
cut them up, and made new sheets for my car bed.

I cut the flat sheets in half and got 2 top sheets!

Using my handy dandy serger, they were quickly finished!

The bottom sheets were a bit more difficult, 
as the car bed is a bizarre shape at the bottom.
I got only one bottom sheet out of the flannel, 
and a flat "undersheet" to protect the foam.

Here is my car bed with new sheets.
Out of a set of full sized flannel sheets,
I got one flat undersheet,
one fitted bottom sheet,
two flat top sheets,
and 4 pillowcases.
I sleep with travel sized pillows
even at home, so this worked out great!
(That strap you see is the seat belt -
difficult to take photos of such a small space!)

I took a trip to Goodwill
and found a really nice down comforter with duvet
for only $12. So my bed is ready.

I stuck my new cooler in the bathtub to soak.
I picked up this small cooler at Goodwill yesterday.
It was "yellow sticker day" so I got it half price
for only $4.
It's exactly what I need since the only item I'll need to cool
will be my almond milk and maybe a container of leftovers.
Sweet deal!

I went through my food storage last night
to see what might work for me.
I pulled out a few items, like dehydrated refried beans
and potato pearls.
I also have packages of tofu which do not need refrigeration.
I need to think about how much food I want to carry.

Stay tuned. 

Next, I can begin packing the trunk!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Annie's New Adventure!

I'm about to set out on a new adventure!

First of all, if you know anyone who'd like to walk the Camino with a bit of support, I have one space in the SJPP to Santiago trip. The person could also begin in Pamplona and if it were a couple, I could squeeze them in. However, right now it is all ladies.  I also have one or two spaces in my SLOW Camino from Sarria to Santiago, walking half stages.  For more information, see my website at

Those who have followed me a long time will remember that back in about 2011, I took out the front seat of my car and had a bed built into it and lived out of the car for a while. I did it then because I was so sick with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities that I couldn't stay in a building anymore and needed to get out into nature.  For those who didn't read that post, here is a link:

Well, I'm doing it again!

But THIS time, I'm doing it because it's on my bucket list!  My son just fulfilled one of my bucket list dreams by taking me to Disney World for 5 days.  It was wonderful!  Now, I want to take a year to go see America. I want to travel Route 66. I want to see the East Coast, all the national parks, and places closer to home.  I've been all over Western Europe but I've never seen the USA, Canada, and Baja.

I've hooked into a wonderful group of women on Facebook who call themselves "van dwellers."  They aren't scary homeless people. They are women who for various reasons have CHOSEN to take  few months, close up the house, and leave, or to even sell everything and go on the road indefinitely.  Some start out doing #1, and end up loving it and staying in the van for long periods of time.

Here are some photos of some of the rigs I've found online:

Yesterday, I had coffee with a gal about my age who had been living out of her van for over 8 years! I wasn't sure what to expect, of course, from someone who's been living in a van for 8 years, but was pleasantly surprised by a very normal lady with a great smile and personality who was well-groomed and who's eyes shone like a light.  Even her toenails were painted!  ::laughing::

We talked a couple of hours. She showed me her setup. I picked her brains. How do you shower? Where do you use the toilet? Do you feel safe? How do you cook? I had so much fun and got so excited about it that I couldn't get to sleep until 3:30 ... just dreaming!

So, stay tuned. I'm in the process now of selling all that I can so I don't have so much to pack up. I'll head out for the desert after our family Thanksgiving. My sons' father is coming out from Georgia for the holiday and I want to say hi to him. Then I'll head to mom's, then to Joe's little place near Palm Springs. In December, I'll head to Quartzite for the Rubber Tramp Rendevous, where I'll connect with several women I've met online and with Lois, the gal I met yesterday. We'll circle up our vehicles and I plan on staying there at least a month. If I hate it, I'll go back to Joe's place. If I love it, I'll continue on until time to go pick up my Camino group.  And if I LOVE it, I plan on taking off for parts unknown when I return from the Camino end of June.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Warriors On The Way

“I unburdened a heavy load from my soul… I’d just taken the first step of a… spiritual journey that would change my life.” ~Martin Sheen~

PTSD is a terrible burden carried by many Combat Veterans - Help unburden a soul - Help put a Warrior on the Way.

Warriors on the Way is a Veterans Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago (Spain) designed to put those with PTSD on the Path to Healing.

Please go to their Facebook page for more information and message us to express interest in providing support or becoming a participant.

If you would like to share the appeal letter with another person or possibly a company that would may wish to be a corporate sponsor please message us so we can send you a PDF copy.

Warriors on the Way Facebook Page

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tomatoes, Tomatoes everywhere!

My tomatoe plants are producing like crazy this year!

Here is today's haul.

They came with friends; rutabagas, beets, onions. cucumbers, and strawberries.

With my roommate gone for a month, 
it's a LOT of food for one person.
So I'm dehydrating the tomatoes today.

Here's a good start. Sprinkled with salt and garlic powder,
these make a wonderful winter snack!

When they're finished, tomorrow,
I'll pack them into jars like these.

Good in soups, sauces, or just to eat like candy!
Maybe I'll carry some on the Camino!

I love my garden!

Taxis in Spain

Despite what some well-meaning people tell you, there's no law against grabbing a taxi on the Camino until you get to Sarria. From Sarria to Santiago, or from any other route, you must WALK every step of the last 100 kilometers.  However, before that, it's fine to hail a taxi if you need one.

Always hail a taxi that is already going your own direction. They will almost never do a U-turn for you.

If they have a client in the seat, they probably will not stop for you.

If they do not have a passenger, they may be on their way to pick one up.

If there is not a taxi in your area, your fare may include the drive to the pick up point. For instance, if you are in Foncebadon and need a taxi to Molinaseca, changes are you will pay the fare for both directions, unless the taxi is already AT Foncebadon.

Your taxi should have a meter. Be sure it is turned on.  There are general guidelines for taxi fares and most taxi drivers are very honest.  If your taxi does not have a meter, he may be freelancing (or even illegal.) At that point it's up to you if you want to negotiate your fare. If he has and is using a meter, please do not try to negotiate. This is Spain, not Mexico.

Though most fares are set, be sure to agree on the fare BEFORE you get into the taxi. Just ask, "Cuanto cuesta Molinaseca?"

If you are in a village and don't see a taxi, go to the nearest bar or lodging. They will almost always call for you.

As you are walking, keep your eyes peeled for local taxi numbers. You will often find them posted on signs along the route.

The taxi fare is per taxi, not per person.  So for instance, if the fare from Foncebadon to Molinaseca is €20 and there are four pilgrims, the price will be only €5 per person.  It's usually easiest for one person to do the paying and collect from the others once you're at your destination.

Talk to your taxi driver!  They are used to pilgrims, and are often quite friendly and full of information! Many do speak a bit of English.

My favorite taxi service is Caminofacil. They also do luggage transfer and you can book ahead. I often use them for Santiago to Sarria pilgrims:

Teletaxi San Fermin will carry you from Pamlona to SJPP or Roncesvalles:

I use Express Bourricott in SJPP.

Buen Camino!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Enjoying My Garden and Catching Up

I'm really enjoying this summer at home. My garden is producing lots of veggies and fruit. My chooks are laying regularly. Despite the heat wave, life is pretty good here on the homestead.

This is the haul from the garden today. I get this much every couple of days.
Today I made garlic dill pickles with my cukes.

My Pilgrims Helping Pilgrims group on Facebook now has over 260 members.
If you're planning a Camino and need some help,
there's a lot of great information there.

My May 2018 Camino group is nearly full. 
If you know anyone who would like to walk with us,
we have 3 spots left.
Right now it is an all-woman group,
though I'm willing to take men if they would like to join us.

Tomorrow I'm having a yard sale.
I keep trying to downsize.
I don't know WHERE all this stuff comes from!?
Seems like I shovel out 2 carts full
and 3 carts full sneak back in.

My youngest son is taking me to Disneyworld
for my 65th birthday,
which was August 2.
I'm really looking forward to that trip.
We'll spend 4 days there.

I'm still looking for one more ALTUS poncho
for one of my Anniewalkers ladies to use
on this next walk. 
If you have one for sale or to donate,
we would appreciate hearing about it.
I loan them out to my pilgrims
so they don't have to buy new ones.
It's just another way of upcycling.

I guess that's all as far as updates go.
Life is good!
Gotta go check the tomatoes
that are in the dehydrator.

Buen Camino!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Following the Pack on the Camino ... or Not - A Few Shortcuts

When walking the Camino Santiago, you don't always have to follow the pack.

The original "Camino" was the road and some walking trails. Over time, it has been re-routed to either bypass or go through specific villages. So by going "off" the Camino, you're really not committing any big sin. There are places where sometimes I wonder if the folks making the trail weren't laughing while rubbing their hands together and gleefully thinking of ways to make the pilgrim suffer! lol! In addition, many (most?) villages in Spain were built up on fortified hills, so it seems you are always climbing a hill at the end of the day when you're exhausted.

Here are a few of my favorite shortcuts. Please be sure to ALWAYS WALK FACING TRAFFIC when walking the road. :

Ciraqui: If you've never seen Ciraqui, then by all means, follow the Camino route. However, if this is a repeat Camino, or if you aren't up to climbing that hill, you can go around. Right before Ciraqui, you will begin seeing signs pointing off to the right for a restaurant. Take that trail. When you hit the main road, turn left and walk along the road. Soon you will see pilgrims coming down the other side of the big hill and crossing over a bridge above you. Keep to the road. You will eventually approach Lorca and join up with the others. But caution, here is another shortcut...

Lorca: As you approach Lorca, you will be walking on the N0111. The trail will turn off and begin down a very steep path DOWN DOWN DOWN. Ignore it. Stay on the road to Lorca. It's not busy. Not much traffic at all. Because when the Camino goes DOWN, it must then go UP, and those pilgrims are going to then be climbing UP a steep hill to Lorca, while you are taking the gentler path along the road.

Skipping Monjardin. There is an alternative route that takes you to the left of the main Camino. You can grab it after Irache. You will go under a concrete wash and on to Luquin, where shortly after, you will again join the Camino. Both routes are nice. I've done both. The only benefit I see to taking the alternative is missing the climb.

Leon to Virgen del Camino: This is an ugly stretch through the city and you can avoid it and get a head start by grabbing a bus to Virgen del Camino.I f you have a Brierley or other guide with a map of Leon in it, find the long straight street that leads to the Cathedral called Avenida OroƱo. After it crosses the river, it becomes Avenida Palencia. When you are in Leon, you will know exactly what long straight street this is. Anyway, walk straight up that street and over the river. You will come to a dead end. The Renfe (train station) will be to your right and the bus depot to your left. Turn RIGHT at the dead end and go to the nearest bus stop. People will be standing there most likely, for their morning commute. When the bus stops, ask if it goes to Virgen del Camino (it does) and jump on. It's very inexpensive, less than a Euro last time I rode. Ride this bus through the ugly parts of the city and get off in Virgen del Camino, where you can have breakfast, then begin walking. SUGGESTION: Watch for San Froilan Church on the right. You can't miss it. It has these weird statues on the outside. See photo. When you reach that church, the Camino splits. Cross the street and take the LEFT way that goes to Vilar do Mazarife. The other way walks along the highway and isn't as nice.

Acebo to Molinaseca. This trail can be washed out and rough. If your feet or muscles are in bad shape, consider just walking the road.

Molinaseca to Ponferrada. This is another stretch that people think is not so great, and you can simply grab a morning bus on the other side of the village that will deposit you in Ponferrada 5 minutes later. Start walking again there.

There are others. As I think of them, I'll add them.  It's worth making notes in your map book so if you are hurt or unable to make the hills, you can take the shortcuts.  

Buen Camino!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Taking Out Old Stains

I have 3 nice merino walking shirts from Hedrena in Australia.
One was a gift and 2 I purchased myself.
They are not inexpensive. - around $70 per shirt.

So you can imagine my shock when I found oil stains on my favorite one.
Old oil stains.
From food, apparently.

The shirt had already been washed and dried, and as you know, that is pretty much a death sentence when it comes to getting out a stain.

No longer.

I found this on the internet and will be forever grateful because I've used it many times.  Most recently, while unpacking after my winter in the desert, I found a piece of white Portuguese linen that I love, covered with oil stains from a bottle of essential oil that leaked.  It had turned yellow.  I thought I'd have to toss it, but instead tried this method and by golly, it worked!

It's easy.

Just mix equal parts of plain old hydrogen peroxide with dishwashing liquid.
I use DAWN.

Mix them up in a cup or bowl then apply liberally to the stain.

Let it sit overnight.

Then wash in COLD water.

If the stain is still there, do it again and let it soak longer.

Try it!
It works!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mercado Santo Domingo en Pamplona

If you're staying in Pamplona in an albergue where you are allowed to cook, you don't want to miss the Mercado Santo Domingo!  There, you can find all sorts of wonderful things to eat, at very good prices! It's also a great photo opportunity!

That last photo is of Bacalao, salted cod fish.
It's PERFECT for carrying on the Camino because it does not have to be refrigerated.  However, you must know how to cook it.

Here is how I do it.
And EVERY time I do it,
it never fails to bring lots of pilgrims out of the woodwork
wondering what that great aroma is!
So you want to plan on feeding others!  

First, the cod is SALTED, so if at home,
I would soak it in water several hours.
However, on the Camino,
I don't have that kind of time.
So I cover it in cold water when I arrive at the albergue,
and let it sit while I get my shower.
Then I cover it in water in a pan,
bring it to a boil, 
and then change the water.
I do this 2 or 3 times,
shredding it as I go.
(Get boneless pieces if possible)
I do this a few times until when I taste the fish
it isn't too salty.

Now, put some olive oil or butter in a skillet.
Add a chopped onion and about 2 cloves of garlic, minced,
and gently fry them until they're clear.
Now add a chopped tomato (or 2) and a chopped bell pepper,
red preferably but it really doesn't matter.
Cook this down into a sauce - maybe 15 - 20 minutes.
Then add your fish and cover it with the sauce.
Let it simmer a while.

Do not season - there will be enough salt in the bacalau.

Serve over rice with some crusty bread.
Add a nice bottle of wine.

It is sooooo good!

And well worth the trouble.