From Darkness and into the Light – Santiago de Compostela at the End of the Yellow Brick Road…

Day 12 – AKA We’re off to see the Wizard! This was the day we woke up in O Pedrouzo with our eye on Santiago de Compostela!

For the first 3 or more hours of the walk, we were in darkness. And it rained most of the time. It was, for me, an incredibly hard walk filled with anxious moments in black forests hoping we didn’t get too lost on the path.

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Just prior to daybreak, we hit the marker that announces the jurisdiction of Santiago! We were almost to the city of Santiago de Compostela and the darkness was about to brighten!

Soon after daybreak, we arrived at Monte de Gozo! The HILL OF JOY! This is the place where many pilgrims get their first glimpse of the spires in Santiago. It’s the ONE-HOUR mark, too. Soon, we would arrive!

ALL the familiar signs came into view, building on the excitement of our eventual arrival. Like the dancing star on the outskirts!

…and the Santiago de Compostela sign, which is so covered now with mementos you can just make it out…

SO close!!

Feelings of saudade! Longing, desire, sadness, joy, angst…everything wrapped up together. And excitement for Michael, who had not yet experienced his first arrival into the plaza in front of the cathedral!

THE FIRST GLIMPSES OF THE SPIRES…

That walk into the little archway just prior to walking out the other side into Praza de Obradoiro, the plaza in front of the CATHEDRAL. In the archway, the pipes…the pipes they play!

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Then, what the whole thing is for…the arrival at the Cathedral!

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And that, my friends, was OUR Camino de Santiago!

Keep your ears–and your hearts–open for the CALL. The Camino begins with a whisper. When it finds you, the whisper grows until the day you step off that plane and make your way to the path. When your feet touch down on the Camino de Santiago, your life begins…

You
Touch me
I hear the sound
Of mandolins
You
Kiss me
With your kiss
My life begins
You’re spring to me
All things
To me
Don’t you know you’re
Life itself

Three More! From Portomarin to O Pedrouzo!

I last left you in Portomarin and gave you a taste of Arzua after we discovered a great restaurant run by lovely people. But before Arzua, we had one previous stop. Palas de Rei!

As we CLIMBED out of Portomarin, after getting a shuttle car from our hostel back to the point in Portomarin we had walked to the afternoon before, we came to one of my most memorable Camino places. After leaving Portomarin, there’s a steady climb that eventually leads up an endless orange-sand hill. On my first Camino in 2014, I walked with 7 or 8 other pilgrims. We all picked up some picnic food at a supermercado prior to leaving Portomarin. Then we stopped and had a picnic at the top of that large orange hill. It was such a lovely experience…one I still cherish today.

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Connie and I at the picnic at the top of the world just outside Portomarin (May, 2014). Connie passed away not quite a year after our pilgrimage. Such a lovely person. I was so fortunate to walk with her and our wonderful group of pilgrims.

The rest of the journey to Palas de Rei was uneventful. There was an awful lot of hills this day, though. More than I remembered. It was also the first day we had a little rain. Just a little, though…nothing too unbearable.

Day 10 of walking took us from Palas de Rei to Arzua. My previous post here is about the place we found for dinner in Arzua. It was superb.

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We left Palas de Rei in the dark, but soon stopped for breakfast. Those breakfast stops may just be the ones I looked forward to the most. Zumo de naranja, cafe con leche and cruc de chocolate. Fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee with milk and a chocolate croissant! Mmmmmmmm!

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Such a great part of every morning on the Camino! The Breakfast Stop!

As the morning came into its own that day, it glowed beautiful. We soon found ourselves in Nirvana, quietly taking in its soul-healing rays…

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This was the day we broke the 50km mark, the day of Melide, and the day of walking through the vast and fragrant eucalyptus forests. It was a peaceful day filled with grace and awe. And I remember it as being much easier…or maybe we had just found a stride that day. (-:

Arzua at the end of the day was lovely. I was a little bitter, however, about the shower at our hostel. The showers in Spain were incredibly amazing. Until Arzua. The shower had no faucet, just a button you would push and the water would come out for about 30 seconds and shut off. Annoying. Like a pool shower from 1979. I was not impressed…but it was what it was. Every other shower on the Camino was spectacular.

Day 11 found us making our way to O Pedrouzo AND the very last albergue prior to arriving in Santiago!

Again, we left in the dark and again we found a lovely little cafe in which to enjoy our yummy Camino breakfast.

And we soon came across the beer bottle cafe too. I don’t recall it from my 2014 pilgrimage, but I’ve seen it all over Instagram lately…

We broke the 20km mark this day, and stayed at 23 on the 23rd! (-:

And then, just like that, we were only ONE DAY AWAY FROM SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA. The cathedral at the end of the yellow brick road. We would have one more albergue sleep in O Pedrouzo prior to waking up, dusting off and setting out on our final walk…

Food – Ultreia Café in Arzua is a MUST on the Camino de Santiago!

Ultreia was a surprise delight in Arzua on the Camino de Santiago! Don’t miss it!

We walked today from Palas de Rei to Arzua. A long exhausting uphill hike.

After showers, we walked back to the restaurants we passed on the way into town. The one we chose was absolutely incredible!

As with many Pilgrim Meal combos, Ultreia had the 10€ offering where you get to choose a starter, a main, and a dessert… With a drink. I chose cod/pepper croquettes for my starter, meat lasagna for my main and mousse with blueberry coulis for dessert. Ultreia is fine dining. Every dish was impeccable and incredible! It’s obvious they take pride in their work. The whole combo menu looked appetizing. It was so difficult narrowing down our decisions. But I’m guessing every dish is a winner! And they gave us a bottle of wine to share between the two of us.

Michael had a mushroom ravioli dish for his starter and it was the best ravioli I’ve ever tasted. So good.

If you’re on the Camino de Santiago going through ARZUA… make sure to stop for food at ULTREIA CAFÉ! You won’t be sorry.

We did not stay at the albergue, but there is an albergue attached to the Café… It would be worth checking out! If the accomodations are half as amazing as the 10€ meal, they’ll be excellent. ❤

For those looking for more typical Galician dishes, they can also be found on the menu. (-:

Here’s their website:

http://www.albergueultreia.com

Buen Camino, peregrinos!!

The Next Three! Onward to Santiago de Compostela!

We last left you in Ponferrada! Here we go!

Walking Day 3 – Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo – It was a hard day but such a beautiful one. Vineyards everywhere (-: Lovely!

Walking Day 4 – Villafranca del Bierzo to Las Herrerias – Obviously another beautiful day. They all are. The last hour of every day is the hardest.

Day 5 Las Herrerias to Fonfria!

Fonfria, Fonfria, Fonfria! I love the albergue there! Second visit! This was the day of climbing mountains! To O Cebreiro and beyond to Fonfria. The hardest day, but the others prepared us well! Plus, WE MADE IT TO GALICIA!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Marker for GALICIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First 3 Days of the Camino de Santiago – We Are in Love with Spain!

Just pictures. We are on the Camino de Santiago, loving every minute! Began in Astorga this time. Mini Camino.

Astorga, before the walk!

Walking Day 1 – Astorga to Foncebadon

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Day 2 – Foncebadon to Ponferrada

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Cruz de Ferro!
Such an epic milestone on the Camino de Santiago! Cruz de Ferro…

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August and Everything After…

How did we get here? The month of August is quickly being eaten up and September is just around the corner. This time last year we were eagerly anticipating a September in India and Nepal. As it turns out, it was far more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

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This is the view from the Shanti Stupa, which is situated on a hilltop across from the town of Pokhara, Nepal. You can either drive to the hill, or take one of the beautiful boat rides across Lake Phewa and arrive at the foot of the hill (mountain?). I walked barefoot from lakeside to the stupa and it was a gorgeous and picturesque route…all uphill!

I feel as though I am still processing India and Nepal. I have written about some of my experiences there, but I have only just scraped the surface. It was a profound experience I’ll remember forever.

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From one of the pieces I wrote on my September 2018 experiences in India.
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The nicest surprise in India was a city I had no previous knowledge about. ORCHHA. It was a breathtaking city, filled with magical places to explore. The people were friendly and inviting. AND…some of our group went to a cooking class in the home of a local woman who runs her own cooking school. We had THE best time! I love Orchha!

India is now behind us by almost a year. I can’t even fathom that truth! It seems like yesterday.

With September 2019 comes…another adventure! I once said there were too many places to visit to go to one place more than once. HA! That was before I met the Camino de Santiago. Yes, dear reader, I’m talking about the Camino yet again. I will probably continue to talk about it UNTIL EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU HAVE HEARD AND HEEDED THE CALL OF THE CAMINO!

We are 20 days away from setting out on my 2nd and my SO’s 1st Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Michael is looking forward to it as much as I am, though he may possibly have more trepidation than I have. I remember the days leading up to my first Camino…all I could think of was the impossibility of the whole thing. I was as nervous as I was excited. NOW I know different. I already know I GOT THIS. But that’s probably something one has to come to on their own. It all seems very overwhelming when you begin to think about taking that first step. Can I do this? Is it too much?

You can. It’s not. It’s beautiful and you should.

I’m ready for the Camino de Santiago. I hope these 20 days fly by. We are ready to discover the path together. Come September 10th, we’ll fly into Madrid. By the 12th, we’ll be in Astorga…where we will begin our shortened Camino journey. On the 13th, my 53rd birthday…we’ll be on our way! The walk to Santiago de Compostela will begin!

While I have your attention and I’m talking about the Camino…just a heads up— WRITING NEWS IS FORTHCOMING! MY LIPS ARE SEALED FOR THE TIME BEING, BUT I HAVE VERY EXCITING CAMINO RELATED WRITING NEWS COMING!!!

Come on, September! BRING IT! We’re Camino ready! Buen Camino!

 

The Camino de Santiago Part II is Coming!

When we first decided that we would walk the Camino de Santiago in September of 2019, the month and year seemed so impossibly far away. The little number in the corner of today’s date on my desktop calendar tells me the divide between then and our departure date has somehow become so much smaller! Practically insignificant in comparison. The excitement grows every day. Once you walk the Camino, it scratches at your thoughts like a lost home that keeps calling you back. It’s almost as if the Camino aches for you as much as you ache for the Camino…and it keeps reminding you. “I am here. I am here. I am here.”

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This is a small clock tower that leads to a piazza in Ponferrada, Spain. I have arranged it so that Michael and I will be staying right inside that piazza during our September, 2019 Camino pilgrimage. We will need to walk through the small corridor beneath this clock in order to get to our rest stop for that particular night. (I snapped this shot during my 2014 Camino)

September 10th is when we fly to Spain. 54 days from now.

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One of the biggest thrills of my 2014 Camino was when I discovered the murals on the walls of the Monastery of San Xulián de Samos in Samos, Spain. I mean, it took my breath away. I think about it still with some kind of loving devotion that makes no sense to this heretical atheist. I can’t wait to see these murals again. The murals depict scenes from the life of St. Benedict. Shortly before SAMOS, SPAIN, there is a fork in the CAMINO ROAD. One way goes to Samos, and one way bypasses the beautiful town to save a couple miles. TAKE THE ROAD THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO THESE MURALS! It’s worth the extra miles.

We will not be doing the full Camino Frances, but that is no matter. The Camino is not about that, as much as some people who don’t fully get it would have you believe. We will be flying into Madrid, and then travelling from Madrid to Astorga. Once there, we will begin our Camino de Santiago adventure from that beautiful town…from the shadow of the gorgeous cathedral there.

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The vistas you come upon on the Camino will steal your heart and hold it captive. This shot was taken during my 2014 pilgrimage. This is a typical scene in the GALICIA REGION of SPAIN. It’s big sky and big universe country. It will stay with you forever, but it will also demand that you one day return.

I will be taking notes this time. I’ve already decided. I’m not finished writing about the Camino. It has decided to become a greater part of my story, and I have decided to keep listening, to keep reflecting, to keep projecting. So stay tuned, OR BE FOREWARNED. There will be more to come.

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I wrote a novel upon my first return from Spain. One day I hope it finds a way to the light of day. This time? I think I’m going to write about our journey. That’s the plan, anyway. But what happens on the Camino happens…there is no way to predict your journey. We shall see. I will be looking for a sign…and I hope to write about it later. I know one thing for certain. We will be putting one foot in front of the other.

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door
If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule, be the exception
A good way to start is to stand
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor

 

My Kintsukuroi Journey – A Camino de Santiago Redo

All these places had their moments. In my life, I’ve loved them all. ~~ The Beatles

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the places I have visited over the past few years. Sometimes it’s almost unbearable thinking of returning to one of them, even though I have loved most of the places I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. The thing is… going back means not seeing somewhere else I haven’t yet explored and discovered for the first time. There’s only so much time. Life is short. Doubling back and revisiting places where my feet have already landed seems like the antithesis of good travel plans. There’s an entire world to discover. Why waste my time revisiting?

Because CAMINO. There I said it. Yep, this is yet another Camino de Santiago post. I’m going back. The Camino is, perhaps, the birth of my modern self. Well, that sounds highfalutin. But it happens to be the case. I had an awakening of sorts on the Camino de Santiago back in May of 2014. I had just come out of three years of intense therapy prior to walking the Camino. I considered the Camino my last cleansing step in the process of moving from victim to survivor to thriver. I would leave whatever residual burden I still carried from the scars along the pilgrimage path and come home burden-free, finally healed.

The scars would still be there, but they would no longer be open. I thought the Camino de Santiago would be my version of Kintsukuroi (A Japanese word meaning GOLDEN REPAIR–the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum). I loved the idea that something could be more beautiful in the places in which it was once broken. I’m actually quite obsessed with the idea. I would walk the Camino de Santiago and fill in those last cracks in my psyche with gold. If pottery could go through the transformative process of Kintsukuroi, well…so could I! Dammit.

And I did. I came off the Camino feeling accomplished and whole. The golden light of the Camino de Santiago had invigorated me and filled my cracks with brightness.

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Even though I am spending precious time returning to the sacred pilgrimage path, I can’t bring myself to say it will be time wasted. Yes, I walked that way before. Yes, being there means I won’t be somewhere new and exciting and different. Sometimes you’re just not finished with a place. I think the Camino will continue to call me until the day I die.

Besides, it is different to see a place alone with friends you meet along the path than it is to start out at that place with a loved one beside you. This Camino, which we will begin in the September of 2019, will be experienced together. There is something to be said about showing a loved one a place you yourself have already fallen in love with. It will come back to life for me, I’m sure…but it will also shine new as a share it. I can’t even begin to describe how excited that makes me.

Some Images from my 2014 Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage

Imagine if the Japanese saw only destruction in the things that lay broken and shattered in pieces at their feet. Imagine if they didn’t have the imagination and the hope and the intuitiveness to give those broken things a place of honor. Sometimes surviving a fall makes a thing stronger, sharper…more precious. It might even make it more beautiful than it originally was. At any rate, I’m returning to the Camino…not as someone in need of a final healing, but as someone with eyes wide open to the wonder of the pilgrimage path. It’ll be quite a different Camino this time. It will provide for us. We need only open to its possibilities and wait for the gifts to unfold.

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Our September 2019 Mini-Camino…