Posts Tagged With: Camino Frances

Experiences pale with bucket list

During a bike ride to Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe, California, we took an unscheduled gondola ride up the mountain to a surprise lunch spot.

What's on your list?

How about New Zealand, Italy, Machu Picchu? Or sky dive, bungee jump, climb Half Dome?

If you are having trouble with your bucket list, visit a bookstore or look around online and you will find almost limitless suggestions. Or visit the App Store.

Why do we compile bucket lists of must-sees and must-dos to accomplish before we die?

I have read about many people who are tossing their bucket lists in favor of a more live-in-the-moment approach. If you are a traveler, think about one trip at a time, they advise. Who knows what is next? Does it really matter if you never see Machu Picchu?

Can a bucket list keep a person from some of life's great discoveries?

Last year, Sue suggested that we walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. “Definitely not on my list,” I thought to myself.

“Why not?” she asked when I questioned why we should walk 500 miles.

It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. She was right, it was a matter of one step at a time. And this year we are going to Scotland for more long-distance trekking. We will also visit friends we have met from Scotland, England and Denmark during our travels. So much for Machu Picchu.

So, taking a more micro view of travel actually helped me see a more macro view.

There are also bucket lists within bucket lists.

While in Rome, you have to see the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps…or should the list be your top priority? How about wandering the narrow, meandering streets, pausing for coffee or beer at a sidewalk cafe to watch Italian life go by?

It is not just where you go, but how you see it. Shall we be travelers or tourists?

One traveler advised us that the first thing you should do when you arrive at your destination is sit down and have a cup of coffee. You don't need to rush out to see the world. Relax and watch it go by. As a boss once told me, “Take time.”

Sure, there are times we want to book a place, such as the Vatican Museums, because we know we will wait in line for hours without a reservation.

But, for every iconic place, there are many hidden treasures that will remain that way unless you take risks and explore without a plan, and, perhaps, by leaving the map in your pocket. Or at home, if you dare.

For our trek this May in Scotland, we had to book accommodations because there are few available and they tend to book up. This journey won't be as open-ended as the Camino was.

We have been asked many times about the wisdom of a two-week walk in a country famous for wet weather. It reminds me of what a Scottish friend told me when I asked him how he could play golf year round in such a climate.

“Why, Reg,” he said. “It never rains on the golf course.”

 

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I left my shoes in Santiago

I left my well-worn hiking shoes in Santiago.

In medieval times, Camino de Santiago pilgrims burned their clothing at a cross outside the cathedral. They bought new clothes at the nearby marketplace, signaling a new beginning.

I dumped my Merrells in a trash bin.

There was part of me that wanted to keep them, but I realized I was already taking enough back to California.

Camino friendships, amazing scenery, the Spanish people and so much more will be with me forever.

I walked nearly a million steps in my trekking shoes.

But the things I brought home are immeasurable.

 

 

 

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Startling Rooftop Surprise: Camino de Santiago

We returned to the cathedral at 6pm for the final rooftop segment of our cathedral tour. After climbing 105 steps, we expected to be led out onto a courtyard type area atop the cathedral; a place where we could safely take in the view of the various towers and the surrounding Santiago cityscape.

The views were truly amazing, but imagine our surprise when we found ourselves walking across what seemed to be five inch thick granite shingles! We all quickly took a seat as our guide explained the history and different architectural styles that comprise this beautiful cathedral.

The rooftop tour is not for anyone with a fear of heights. Pilgrims are no longer able to place their hand in the Tree of Jesse, the central column of the Door of Glory. If you look closely in the bottom right photo, you can see the imprint of the hands of millions of Pilgrims who have arrived in Santiago.

 

 

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Sweet Distraction: Camino de Santiago

If you have a sweet tooth, don't miss the Chocolate con Churros while in Spain. It will surely bring a smile to your face!

 

What could be better than chocolate to soothe the leftover aches and pains of the Camino? Prior to leaving, my friend Annie recommended we try the hot chocolate while in Spain. ” It's like drinking a melted Hershey bar,” she wrote.

When a light rain began to fall this morning, we ducked inside a Santiago bar for a double order of Chocolate con Churros.

With a renewed source of energy, Reg and I sped off for a tour of the cathedral and adjoining museum.

We continue to bump into Pilgrim friends from weeks ago. This morning we greeted the brother/sister duo from Texas and then an Australian woman we shared dinner and lodging with way back in Carrion.

We're on the lookout for the arrival of two more Pilgrims here in Santiago, and then I think we will have reconnected with most everyone we've spent time with along the way.

 

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A moving Pilgrim Mass: Camino de Santiago

 

Sue and I sat with New Zealand friends Geoff and Sue for the Pilgrim Mass at the Santiago Cathedral. Seats face the altar from three sides. The giant incense burner is above the altar.

We joined about 1,000 at the traditional Pilgrim Mass at the Santiago Cathedral Tuesday. It was a moving ceremony, highlighted by the swinging of the giant incense burner (Botafumeiro) by six robed attendants. They pulled on ropes strung over a pulley high above the altar.

We sat close to the altar, under the path of the burner, which was originally used to fumigate smelly pilgrims.

A nun's pure, angelic voice and a massive pipe organ filled the cathedral with music. Catholic pilgrims received communion. Pilgrims from all over the world were welcomed.

It was a heart-felt punctuation mark for our Camino de Santiago.

 

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How to Say Goodbye? Camino de Santiago

We hadn't seen New Zealanders Sue and Geoff in a week until they caught up with us last night. It had been over two weeks since we chatted with this group of Canadians and Americans. I shared a quick hug with our 22 year old Irish friend. Reg and I pose for a photo at the cathedral in Santiago.

This morning was different. As we tied our shoes and struggled into our backpacks, we knew this would be our last day of walking. Reaching Santiago was always the goal…until we started the Camino. I think we realized, after our first night in the Albergue outside of Pamplona, that this journey would be about so much more than simply reaching Santiago.

We've each had our struggles; everything from blisters to coed bathrooms (it's true!). The Camino tests everyone, and spares no one. But at the end of each day there is a bed (usually warm!), a meal, friendly conversation and laughter…and an eagerness to get up and do all again the next morning.

We walked into Santiago this afternoon with a mixture of joy and sadness. We had done it! But now what? That is the question we Pilgrims are asking each other as we prepare to go our separate ways.

 

 

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Churches, Bell Towers and Steeples: Camino de Santiago

They've served as our guideposts for the past four weeks. Most often perched upon a hill, signaling yet another climb up to a new village. Mostly we've simply admired them in passing, sometimes peeking inside when the opportunity allowed. Often they have marked our destination for the evening.
The churches of the Camino are as varied and beautiful as the people and landscapes of Spain. They remind us of the true path of the Camino; a path we've felt honored to have traveled.

Every city, town and village has a church. They're built in all shapes and sizes, each with a unique design.

Often the church bells actually rang. Other times we found them to be recordings, but either way, the sounds add a unique flavor to the Camino.

 

 

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Carryon couple plows toward Camino finish

On a clear, crisp Mother's Day, we passed a farmer preparing for spring planting. We are staying in our last albergue, just 12 miles from Santiago!

On Monday, we will have spent 33 days and walked more than 400 miles on the Camino de Santiago. As we hang up (throw away?) our hiking shoes, some notes from the trek:

Ways of Spain: The Spanish people take time for each other, especially family. The pace of life is slow in villages along the Camino. Children are treasured. We have watched as villagers stop parents or grandparents pushing strollers so they could see the babies. I heard someone remark, “That baby will be a teenager by the time they get to the end of town!”

The people: The Spanish people have been most welcoming, kind and helpful.

Music: There is a strong Gaelic cultural influence in northern Spain, particularly in the Galicia region in which we have walked the past few days. Saturday night, a nearby city had a bagpipe festival. At dinner Saturday, the music playing in the restaurant reminded us of music played during a Scottish ceilidh.

More music: Bruno Mars songs are often played in bars and restaurants here.

Day packers: During the last week, we have seen more and more people having their luggage or backpacks shipped ahead to their next stop. There are services that will do that for about 7€ a day.

Crowds and heat: We are glad we came to the Camino in the spring. Green hillsides, flowers everywhere, and a lack of crowds (until we neared Santiago). It would be an entirely different Camino in the summer, when the number of pilgrims quadruples (or more) and temperatures soar.

Climbing: There have been steeper and more frequent climbs and descents than we anticipated. We often gained 500-1,000 feet in a day. The most for us was 2,400 feet. Much of the trek has been between 2,000 and 3,000 feet in elevation. This builds endurance, though, especially when carrying a 20-pound backpack every day. We push up the mountains much faster now than we did the first few days.

Cool trip: Temperatures for our trek have been cooler than we expected. We have had just a few days over 70 degrees. Most have been in the high 50s or 60s, some never reached 50. Good walking weather almost the entire trip.

Cuckoo birds: For evermore, we will think of the Camino every time we hear a cuckoo clock go off. The bird is ever present here and greets us daily, especially during the chilly mornings.

Bars: Oh, how we will miss the Spanish bars! They are a regular oasis along the Camino, offering a rest stop and bathroom break along with coffee, toast, sandwiches, pilgrim meals, drinks and much more. Many, many pilgrim friendships begin at the bars. People most often sit outside to watch the Camino go by.

 

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We Have a Winner!

 

Some property owners renovate their old Horreos, while others have new ones built just for show.

Congratulations to Jamey who guessed drying shed!

 

These “unofficial symbols” of the Galicia region of Spain are known as horreos. We were told they were used to dry corn and sure enough, when we peeked inside we saw corn.

Traditionally, farmers stored and dried grain within the horreos. Sadly, they no longer offer practical storage for modern day farmers, but horreos remain popular with landowners who feel they are a valuable historical feature.

 

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What Are These? Camino de Santiago

It's been several days since we noticed these strange little buildings begin to dot the landscape. Some were quite old and rundown, while others appeared to be a newly remodeled backyard feature.

Having way too much morbid imagination, I thought perhaps they were some sort of family crypt. A little research taught me just how wrong I was.

Can you guess what these are?

These small structures are as individual as a fingerprint, and no home seems to be without one.

 

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