Navarrete, My Kind Of Town

Viana to Navarette, October 10

A  quaint, beautiful and lovely little Camino town that captured my heart. There was something so warm and welcoming about the town as soon as you started to walk down the cobbled streets looking for your albergue. 

The alburgue  for the night is the building on the right below.

Directly across from one of the most magnificent churches I have seen

But just as important, of course, the most wonderful cafe. I sat with a fellow pilgrim enjoying tapas, a glass of wine and each other’s company. 

We then toured the 16thcentury Church of the Assumption which we later went back for for 8 pm mass and a blessing from the parish priest. 

And here is the view outside my window for the night:

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.   

Psalm 121:8

A True Camino Day: Carrot Cake and Jesus

Los Arcos to Viana, October 9, 2016

Yes, it was one of those Camino Days, starting one way, ending another.  It is early Sunday morning around 730 as we headed out on our 12 mile walk. And this is how it started. From behind me:

And ahead of me. The rising sun kissed the hills a beautiful red hue. 

I put in my ear buds, hit shuffle, and the song that started to play was the song  Good Morning, from Mandisa:

It’s a good morning!

Wake up to a brand new day

This morning,

I’m stepping, I’m stepping, stepping on my way

Good morning,

You give me strength,

You give me just what I need

And I can feel the hope that’s rising in me.

It’s a good morning

The path took us mostly on natural paths and dirt tracks through open farmland with little reminders along the way of how much this country cares for pilgrims. 

Our alburgue tonight was in one of the most historical places so far. It was originally a monistery right next to the ruins of the Church of St. Peter (damaged in a war in the 15th century). 

Ended up sitting in the shadows of the ruins laughing and sharing stories with other pilgrims from different parts of the world and finding a wonderful connection  with three wonderful ladies- Anne, Dawn and Jade. We were all going to go to dinner but the restaurants were closed until 8 and it was only 5pm. 

And as The Camino provides we saw this sign 

Ok,  I will be honest, the carrot cake, cushy chairs and candels were a big draw. We sat and meditated while our hosts read passages from the Bible about trusting in our path and place in the world. Afterwards, we sat, drank tea and continued to share, not as pilgrims, but as new friends. 

A Wine Fountain— Water into Wine? I Knew It!

Estella to Los Arcos, October 8, 2016

Yup, coming out of STELLA! I saw a sign. Could it really be? A fountain just for pilgrims that gives you wine?

Ok, it is only 830 in the morning, and there is a line, so I had better get in it!

But my water bottles are filled with water!  What do to, what to do….oh, how nice of them to put a vending machine with glasses and bottles. So of course I bought one, it would be rude not to (ok the guy next to me demonstrated the water part)

Today’s hike was just beautiful and the wine fountain was just the first gift. Look at this scenery. 

Came across this cafe for breakfast. A cafe con leche and tortilla every day so far, but who is counting. 

And then I come around a bend and I hear music. The gifts keep on coming. 

Here was a gift of absolute beauty and tranquility. 

Hey! Hay!  Just wanted to show you the hay stack. 

Los Arcos is a beautiful town, with history dating back to the 900’s. In the main square is the Church of Santa Maria. 

After dinner I was able to sit out in the courtyard, listen to the belles chime and talk to my Mom and Dad. The greatest gift of all. 

Oh wait, there was one more. When I got back to my bunk I had a little gift of the furry kind. 

May your day be filled with gifts of beauty, family, wine and song…and a little one to snuggle with you in your sleeping bag. 


Puente La Reina to Estella, October 7, 2016

Our first few steps on our 14 mile hike took us over Puenta de Arga, Bridge of the Queen. In the 11th century there was only one way of crossing the River Arga, by hiring someone to take you across in their boat. Unfortunately, seeing an opportunity to make money, these people overcharged the pilgrims for the privilege of being ferried across the river.

Queen Doña Mayor the wife of Sancho III ordered a bridge to be built over the river and thus gave the town its name. I thought it was interesting to be standing on this midieval with a modern bridge in the distance. Which one do you think will last longer?

And if you think that is old. We walked on an original Roman road that is over 2,000 years old. Really?

Our path started taking us through beautiful vineyards and olive tree groves. Just add a wheat field and we have the makings of a party. 

We came across this man who was very happy to have us try this weird looking thing

It turned out to be a fig and quite tasty

Estella was a beautiful town founded in 1090! It has literally been a walk through and over history today. 

Donde se cruza el camino del viento con el de las estrellas

Cizur Menor-Puente La Reina, October 6

Where the path of the wind crosses that of the stars.

The first part of today’s hike was a climb up Alto del Perdon, the Hill of Forgiveness.  At the top is a sculpture depicting a number of Pilgrims either on foot or on horseback as they make their way along the Camino to Santiago. 

And if you look closely you may see one you recognize. 

The views were amazing giving us sense of just how far we have come. 

The sculpture shares the hill with wind tourbines. We were so amazed at the sheer size of them we followed them right off the path and in the wrong direction. 

After finding our way back to the Camino via highway and across a farm field 

We made it to Utera for lunch. When was the last time you got a Coke in a Coke bottle in a Coke glass?

We passed through Obanos, a tiny village with, you guessed it, a church……..and an interesting legend.  I will add it to the bottom of blog if your interested. 

Puente la Reina like many others towns and villages along the Camino owes its existence solely to the Camino de Santiago

Iglesias de Santiago was absolutely beautiful. It was built in the 12th century, and there is an altarpiece dating from the 18th century, and statues of Saint James the Pilgrim.

The legend of San Guillén and Santa Felicia.

Felicia was the sister of Guillén of Aquitaine who, following the family tradition started by William the 10th Duke of Aquitaine, decided to embark on a pilgrimage to Santiago. Upon returning from her pilgrimage she could not settle back into her life of privilege and wanted to help those less fortunate than herself. Leaving the French court she headed back to Navarra to live as a recluse and servant in a village called Amocáin.

Her family was understandably furious and her brother, Guillén, was dispatched to try and bring her back. After much searching Guillén finally tracked her down to the village of Obanos, but despite much begging and pleading Felicia refused to return to France with her brother. He was so angry at this response that in a fit of fury he stabbed his sister with a dagger. 

Racked with guilt Guillén decided, as a penance, that he would follow in his sister’s footsteps and make a pilgrimage to Santiago. Once he reached Santiago he now understood why his sister had felt the way she did and he too decided to dedicate his life helping others. On returning home and still inconsolable over the death of his sister, he returned to Obanos and built the shrine Nuestra Señora de Arnotegui where he lived out his days helping other pilgrims and dedicating his life to prayer. Both brother and sister were made saints.

And on the 5th day, we rested.

First, thank you for all your birthday wishes. The Camino has caught up to us, so we thought we would catch up to it by taking a rest day. I have come down with a cold and Tammy has some good ole blisters, and as God would have it there is a Marriott a little over a mile off the trail. We have built in a few days with the anticipation of needing a day like this.

It gives me the time to refect on just how fortunate I am for my family, my friends and my faith, each giving me the support and strength to live my life’s journey.

I also have been thinking of those that have recently died and prayed many times on the trail for them and to them.

My Aunt Pat was a vivacious women with a strong love of family, especially her sister, my Mom. When the two would be together the giggling and the laughter was contagious. I will never forget our time together at the shore or visits to Chicago.

Marie Tumalo was the daughter of my fathers best friend from college. Our two families grew up together as kids spending time together at their place in Sea Isle City.   Before she died, she hosted her own birthday party. I have sent many prayers of thanks to her for having that get together and feel selfish doing so. Yes, it was sad to say goodbye, but it gave me a chance to say hello again to others in her family that I know will be in my life forever. Hmmm, maybe she had that in mind all along?

And to Cal, may you continue to climb the highest peaks and bless us all from above.

Tomorrow, we head to Puente La Reina, a 12 mile walk. With a good nights rest and a renewed spirit we will once again be on the trail with the other pilgrims.

God bless you all and a very Happy day to you too. image

A day in the life of a pilgrim 

Larrasoana to Cizur, Tuesday, October 4

We are looking forward to a shorter 14 mile walk. The weather has been fantastic and today will be the same. I thought I would share with you a typical day.  

We try and rise about 630 to 7. It typically is not a problem since the other pilgrims are doing the same. And, since you are sleeping in a room with 15 – 25 other people once one person starts to move around everyone begins to follow.  We get on the road by 730 and would like to start earlier but it does not get light out until after 8, the first part is in the dark. 

In 2-3 miles you begin to pray for a little town to come your way. Today we came around the corner and were geated by a little oasis. 

Sitting there are familiar faces of folkes you had dinner with the night before or others you have been walking with for days. A typical breakfast would be tortilla and cafe con leche   

You are then back on the trail and sometimes come across some wonderful and amazing sites. Our path today led us straight past a church that was open to view and pray.

There was these two lovely women inside passing out information on the church and inviting you to post a prayer. 

They also passed out prayers to pilgrims. 

Sometimes you come across a place where someone died and it reminds you of those that have traveled this path before you. 

You start out with a full bottle of water and can fill up along the way with water stops that have been provided for pilgrims for centuries. 

The trail took us through Pamplona. This is pic of the Portal de Zumalacarregi, also called Portal de Francia. It was built in 1563 and it was where all pilgrims from  neighboring  France entered and welcomed. 

After a nice lunch and rest, we headed passed the town hall and out of town. 

We then headed to our destination, Cizur Menor and found Albergue Maribel Roncal. 

A little about where you stay. There are Albergues along the trail every 5-6 km. Some are private and some are run by the municipal. The municipal is less expensive are first come first serve and cost around 10 eruo. You get a bed, typically a bunk, and a pillow. 

There is always an outdoor sink for washing clothes and lines for drying. The private ones are a bit more and you can make a reservation. Since we are off season we have luck with the municipals. 

The first thing you do-take a shower and get your bed ready. There is always a restaurant nearby that will serve pilgrim meals starting at 7.   After dinner folkes read, journal and chat using whatever language you can to have a conversation. Lights go out at 10 though most pilgrims are in bed way before then dreaming of the day ahead. 

What goes up, must come down, until you go up again….

Roncesvalles-Larrasoana, Monday October 2

It was another long day, logging in over 17 miles, that’s about 55,000 steps for you Fitbit folks. It was a trail that took us through some beautiful towns where the only place open is a cafe for pilgrims to stop and grab some tortilla and cafe con leche. 

The towns appear and disappear every few miles, each with a church that still rings a bell at the top of the hour. 

In between towns the trail went through lovely woods, over hill and dale-a lot of over hill! We are anticipating our visit to Pomplomatomorrow and took advantage of a friend we met on the trail. Literally on the trail. Instead of running with the bulls we decided to walk with the cows. 

We finally came to larrasoa and room at the municipal  albergue. 

Wow, now that’s a climb

St Jean to Roncevaux

Let me see how to tell you about the climb today with out swearing or adult crying. There was both. All from me of course. How about if I can actually get you to experience it. Ok, go to the gym and get on a treadmill. Crank to the highest setting, sling 25 lbs on your back and start to walk for, oh let’s start out slow–3 hours. Any adult tears yet? No, how about 7 hours. Here is a visual:

And here are better ones:

It was a cloudy and rainy at the top

But like anything in life, the clouds pass, the sun come out and you realize that you had to go through all that pain to get to where you are. 

We were rewarded with an amazing hostel. If any one has seen the movie “The Way”. This is where there are 140 beds in one room. Same room used in medieval times. 

There was a lovely mass at 6 – yes in Spanish- followed by all of us pilgrims sitting at large tables eating a meal together. Tonight, we dined with people from Japan, France, and Canada. 

Lights out at 1o and for me, no more tears, just pure exhaustion and gratitude. 

Merci Beaucoup, Madam

I am a bit late on blogging. It has been a bit different this time- navigating the distances and where to stay, but our first night was planned ahead of time and a great send off. 
We left Rochester on Friday to Paris, and after a 4 hour lay over flew to  Bairtz. A 4o minute car ride later we were in St. Jean de Pied Port. It is a 16th century walled city at is the foothills of the Pyrenees. It was the defensive foot-hold with wars against Spain. 

Today, it has a population of 1800 that serve tourists, hill walkers, and pilgrims. It has become the principle gateway to the Camino and the tradition starting point for pilgrims all over world. 

We got our Credential del Peregrino and welcomed advice – in mostly part English part french- on directions out of town, water stops, and a limitless speech on how steep the climb is and to take it very slow. I was asked by the elderly women that was helping me if I understood anything she said. I reached back to 8th grad french class and shyly admitted “un peu, madam, merci beaucoup.” I received a warm smile and my first “Beun Camino”. My first gift of the journey.