My Camino Route in 2016

My Camino Route in 2016
This year, I will be walking Camino Madrid from El Escorial through Segovia and Valladolid to Sahagun. I will have a few more days of walking and am currently thinking I might then walk from Astorga to Zamora on the portion of the Via de la Plata that I did not walk in 2014. In all it w=should be about 18 days and somewhere between 250 and 300 miles of walking.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Travel plans went blooey again Madrid Sept 29

The convention hotel in the middle of nowhere

Not much stuff to put in this fancy room

At least the lobby had an interesting sculpture


11 am: Well, the plane should have just taken off from Madrid, but here I am stuck in a fancy hotel.

I have been noticing posters and news stories the past few weeks about a countrywide general worker's strike for Sept 29, today. I had not paid much attention. Yesterday, I was not able to print my boarding pass, an ominous sign. I was up early and at the Metro by 6:45 am. Good thing since the subway trains were running at half speed. I guess that is part of the slowdown. At the airport, there were noisy strikers, lots of police, and no seemingly no flights in or out, just lots of frustrated travellers, including me. It was a 2 1/2 hour wait in the United ticket counter line and there were only 8 parties ahead of me. It generally took a long time to try to make new connections as no one was going to leave the airport today. Some passengers were being flown tomorrow to Frankfurt or Vienna, then on to the US. Surprisingly, they gave me exactly the same flight that I would have had today, just leaving tomorrow instead. So all in all,except for losing a day, it could have been much worse.

The airline is also paying for this fancy hotel room, which included shuttles from and to the airport, lunch buffet, dinner buffet, and breakfast buffet. Now the bad news. It is funny to see my little back pack in this massive room. It is close to the airport with not much around besides industrial buildings. Too far from a Metro stop and who knows if there are buses, so I don't think I will do any sightseeing today. Just waste a day sitting here. At least they have wifi and I have plenty of reading material on my I touch. I will go out and do some walking around later, but really would rather be on the way home.

3:30 pm: This hotel is like a massive convention center next to the airport. I walked around outside. The freeway is on one side with the airport on the far side of the freeway. This side there is nothing but the hotel and an industrial area as far as I could see when I was walking. No mercados, one little cafe/ bar, that is it. There is a pedestrian overpass on the freeway and a bus stop that I know would go down Avenida de America to the center of Madrid and freedom for a few hours. Even if I did try to go there, I do not know howmuch would be affected by the strike. And I just finished the delightful almuerzo buffet with such things as tuna, asparagus, peppers, seafood, croquetas, and on and on. I did not even have dessert, but went back for more of the good stuff. And this is going to be repeated again for dinner tonight. And all at United Airlines expense. There are still many other stranded airport travellers checking in. This place feels like a damned jail with really good food and wine and no place to go. I had my lunch with an Israeli couple and some Americans on a tour group. The Americans of course wondered if Spain was safe to travel alone after I told them about my walk.

Anyway, I will try to enjoy it for today and hopefully everything will work out for tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Àvila Sept. 28



Views of the city walls of Avila

Just outside the walls I found the albergue, Avila is located on the Camino de Levante, which starts in Alicante


This photo was taken on the bus ride back to Madrid. North of Madrid are the imposing Sierra Guadarrama mountains. These mountains must be crossed on the Camino Madrid, between Madrid and Segovia.

Up at 7 to get ready to go to Avila today, which involved a ride on the Metro subway to the bus station, buy a bus ticket, then just enough time for cafe con leche before the bus left at 8:30. It should have been a 90 minute ride (about 70 miles), but took almost two hours due to stop and go Madrid rush hour traffic. Still there was plenty of time to inspect the best example of preserved and restored fortified city walls in Spain. Of course, the city long ago grew past the walls, but inside is a charming glimpse of how a fortress and city would be built in medieval times. The control of the city changed hands many times in 300 years during the reconquest of Spain by the Christians over the Moors. Avila is also the home base of St. Theresa, who almost beat out Santiago as the patron saint of Spain. The cathedral's back wall is part of the fortress walls. I toured the cathedral again and was not quite as impressed as when we saw it in 2006. It was still worth seeing, though.

For midday meal, I found the restaurant that Kathy and I ate at on that past trip. Kathy had judias verdes con jamón, green beans with ham, that she still talks about. So I did order that along with beef stew and a very good homemade flan for dessert. By then, it was time wander back to the bus station for the 3:15 bus back to Madrid.

I arrived back at my hostal shortly after 5 pm. A few last minute details to take care of including repacking my back pack for the airplane. I will take the Metro early in the morning to the airport. The trip was fun, but I am looking forward to getting home!

I will post lots of photos by this coming weekend.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Madrid Sept 27





Some views of the stunningly comtemporary cathedral in Madrid


An official function was happening next door at the Palacio Real

And of course you gotta clean up after all those horses!

The Retiro Park


This morning I walked to the modern Madrid cathedral, which I mentioned yesterday. It is built in a neo Gothic style with all the heavy columns and soaring arches of the older cathedrals. The interior, though, is refreshigly different with clean and simple modern lines, bold colorful designs, and bright, somewhat abstract but very recgnizable paintings and stained glass. I loved it and think they really got it right for a contemporary cathedral. I was able to take a lot of photos and hope to have them posted in a few days.

Afterwards, I checked into hostal #2, just north of Gran Via. In the afternoon, I took a walk along Gran Via and Alcala to the north end of Retiro, the large park in Madrid. I walked through the whole park, stopping in a few different spots to read my book. Afterwards, I went back to the Reina Sofia museum again to see what I missed last, plus to view the rest of it again. This museum has Picasso's most famous and moving work, Guernica.

I am still doing a lot of walking, 9 miles yesterday and 12 miles today. I plan to take the bus to Àvila tomorrow.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Madrid Sept 26

Interesting art of the Spanish Inquisition on the benches in the Plaza Mayor.

The marathon blocking the streets.


Madrid Sept 26

10:00 am: I took a short walk to the Puerta del Sol this morning then decided to walk up to the Gran Via area to find the hostal that we originally had reservations for our last two days in Spain (since we arrived 3 days early in Madrid, we had to stay in a different place those days). Tomorrow I will move, but the first location was actually better for the places I wanted to see, I now realize.

I noticed a lot of police actvity on both Sol and Gran Via. As I made my way back, I discovered I was on the wrong side of a huge marathon race in progress and could not cross the square at Sol for the hundreds of runners. Time to duck onto a cafe for a morning cafe con leche and watch the runners out of the window. And start writing today's blog. There is a group coming in one direction and continuing on to someplace else then they are headed through on the other side. Everyone but a few stragglers has passed the first direction, so in a bit the second direction should be light enough to continue on.

5:00: I continued on to the Plaza Mayor, similar to the one in Salamanca but not as large. From there on to the cathedral. This is the newest one I have seen started in the late 1800s and dedicated only in 1993. It is beside the Royal Palace, which is third in size only to Versailles and the Schönbrun. I had never seen it on previous visits, so it was time. And finally over to the Reina Sofia art museum before it closed at 2:30, again free admission today. After a walk back to the hostal, I had a menu of the day (paella mixta and fish) at the restaurant below the hostal.

A few things of note-

1. Madrid is easier to navigate as there are now many more and larger street signs and many streets are being converted to pedestrian mostly with limited vehicle access. According to Rick Steve, this is part of Madrid's bid for the Olympics, a failed bid for 2012, another bid for 2016.

2. The iPhone/itouch apps for Madrid and Salamanca are a total waste of money. The most useful one has been Rick Steve's guide on kindle fit itouch. It is the full print version on the itouch. I used his self guideed tour of the Royal Palace and of the art museums. Highly recommended and worth it.

3. Spain must be where all the cheesiest American t-shirts get sent when they can not sell them in the US. Almost every young Spanish male and many of the females have t-shirts in English, many of which no one who is "cool" in the US would be caught wearing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Toledo Sept. 25

The Alcazar in Toledo is not quite as imposing as Segovia's Alcazar.

The Rio Tejo from the city walls. This was a good place to build a fortress.

The view towards the cathedral from the library in the alcazar.

.1:30 pm: Marge met the shuttle at 6:45am to go to the airport. I slept a while longer then took the 9 am bus for the 50 minute ride to Toledo. Toledo used to be Spain's capitol, but it is surrounded on three sides by a river with limited expansion potential. In the 1500's, the king moved the cspitol to the small village of Madrid and the rest is history. The Catholic church in Spain is still headquartered in Toledo so that was yet another reason for the king to move to Madrid.

As I write this, I am sitting in the 8th floor of the city library which is in the top of the fortress, the Alcazar. In one form or another this has been a strategic military location for 2000 yeJars, most recently during the spanish Civil War in 1939, when Franco's army defended it. This Alcazar is not as imposing as the one in Segovia, but it has a great panoramic view of the cathedral and old town. It will make a good photo. The cathedral was equal or better than the one in Burgos. The cathedral has 18 El Greco paintings. The Museo Santa Cruz has some more but they operate on a free but hit and miss schedule and they were not available now for viewing.

9:30 pm: I finished my sightseeing in Toledo and caught the 4 pm bus back to Madrid. Lots of other tourists. And, yes Greg, cutlery of all types is one thing Toledo is famous for. There are many shops to buy knives, scissors, even swords and armour.

I thought it was a little known fact that the Madrid art museums are open in the evening with free admission. So I headed over to the Prado at 6. It is only a ten minute walk from the hostal that I am staying at. I was surprised to see a line of people longer than the Prado waiting to get in. But the line moved quickly so the wait was only ten minutes. I was able to see some of the paintings that I missed three weeks ago, plus revisit some of my favorites, El Greco, Velasquez, Rubens, Goya, Bosch, and more. Since tomorrow is Sunday, the Reine Sofia art museum will be free all day. Lots of Picasso there. After some morning sightseeing starting at the Puerte del Sol, I plan to go there. By the way, even though I am not officially walking anymore, my pedometer said I did walk a total of 12 1/2 miles today. More tomorrow.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Madrid Sept 24

After an uneventful ride to Madrid this morning, we arrived shortly after noon, took the Metro to the stop closest to the hostal for which we have reservations for tomorrow night. We were able to get a room a day early and tomorrow I can switch to a single room for the next two nights. After a short break for email ( the hostal has free wifi), we took off for the Thyssen museum. I had forgotten how large the collection is, it is huge. Unfortunately many of the Impressionist paintings, including all the Monet's seem to be on loan to other museums. Marge will catch an airport shuttle outside the hostal at 6:45 tomorrow morning, so she is busy packing. I think I will take the bus to Toledo tomorrow and do some sightseeing there. It is supposed to have the finest cathedral in Spain. Since I have seen many of Spain's cathedrals already, I will give my opinion tomorrow.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Salamanca Sept 23

The view from the Roman bridge of the cathedral.

Salamanca is on the Via de la Plata camino route, so there are waymarks through the city.

The new astronaut in the restoration outside the cathedral doors.

Can you find the astronaut in this distance shot?


Since we did not need to do any travelling today, we were able to sleep in until 8 am. Then a walk down to the river and the Roman bridge. Salamaca is on the ancient Roman road that they used to transfer the silver from the Galician mines back to Rome, hence the bridge. This is also one of the camino routes to Santiago, still being used by pilgrims today and known as the Via de la Plata ( the silver way or road). This camino starts in Sevilla, and if I remember correctly is about 1200 km long. I did find the waymarks (yellow arrows and scallop shells) between the puente romana and the cathedral.

Next was the visit to the cathedral which is actually two cathedrals joined together. The old cathedral is an early Romanesque style and the new cathedral is a mix of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles. An interesting sidelights is the carvings outside one of the entrances. When they were restored a few years ago, one of then was replaced with an astronaut. Why not?

We had a mid day meal close to the Plaza Mayor, one of the largest town squares in Spain. Our first course was a very good paella mixta with several kinds of shellfish. I had a grilled fish and Marge had a chicken breast cooked in carmelized orange for the second plate.

Marge decided to return to Sacramento early since her knee is still very painful and not getting much better. We made the arrangements this afternoon. We will travel to Madrid by bus tomorrow (Friday) and she will fly to Sacramento on Saturday morning. I will stay in Madrid, probably taking day trips to Avila and Toledo.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Salamanca

Most of today was spent riding the bus between Santiago and Salamanca. The bus stations are convenient and efficient. To figure out how to get places, I would Google the departure and destinations cities, find which bus companies served them, then access the timetables and costs. Then when we arrived at the station, I could buy the tickets and knew what time the bus would leave.

And Spanish highways are at least as modern (or more so) than the ones in the US.


Salamanca Sept 22

First to wrap up our stay in Santiago. After posting yesterday's blog in the early afternoon, we walked down towards the cathedral. Who should we run across but the Austrians, Chris and Gerhard. We agreed to meet them later for a drink. I wanted to get a last look at the inside of the cathedral and walked in on a Mass just as they were preparing to swing the botafumeiro. For those who have not heard of it, the botafumeiro is a large silver incense burner, at least 100 lbs. or more. They loaded it with hot coals, hoisted it up, and started swinging it in a large arc at least 100 yards end to end. It was glowing red from the fire and puffing incense all over. Quite a sight. I made a short video.

After letting Marge's knee rest up the rest of the afternoon, we met up wiith Chris and Gerhard. I had pimentos de Padrón again, probably for the time as we will leave Galicia soon. I also downloaded some travel guides for Salamanca, Toledo, and Madrid as we will need some tourist info for the next week.

Wednesday morning. Up at 6:30 to get ready, stop at a bar on the way to the bus station for cafè con leche y tostada, then wait for the bus. I am writing this for later posting as we are now riding on the bus for the 6 hour trip to Salamanca, which is northwest of Madrid, and fairly close to the Portuguese border.

Today is overcast. Tomorrow and Friday rain shorts are predicted by much is Spain, including Salamanca.

Later: 5 pm
We made it into Salamanca and found a pension on the edge of the old town. Kind of late today for sightseeing but we will have all day tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Santiago Sept 21

There are always street performers with a hat onthe ground for donations. These guys were singing opera and they were really good, obviouslywith some professional training.


Last night we made a big salad and I had lentils from the grocery store. Not very exciting, huh. This morning we took the bus back to Santiago and we will spend another night here before moving on. We already have our bus tickets for Salamanca, we will go there tomorrow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finisterra Sept 20

On the way walking out to the cape

The fishing port in Finisterra


Okay, okay, this is no longer a pilgrim blog, but we will let you know what is happening. Today we left Santiago and took the three hour bus ride to Finisterra, the End of the World, on the Atlantic Ocean. The bus took us past some beautiful shoreline on the way. Finisterra is a quaint but active fishing town and tourist destination. As we stepped off the bus several locals met us to hawk their habitaciones (rooms) for the night.We settled on one lady who had a room with two beds with bathroom and shower down the hall for 20 Euro. It is a nice room with a large window. Since it was about 1:30 in the afternoon, we got some groceries and made the 2 mile hike up to the light house at the Cabo Finisterra. Still beautiful warm weather with a nice ocean breeze. It is an interesting contrast between the end of the Christian pilgrimage in Santiago and the ancient and pagan end of the world with all its sun worship ramifications at Finisterra. After walking back to town around 4:30, we found a cyber cafe where I am now posting.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

End of our Camino

8:30 pm Santiago

We returned to the cathedral around 2 pm. The noon Mass was over, but another one was going on. We were able to get inside but this one was standing room only, too. Things are really crazy crowded here, with it being Sunday during Holy Year and perfect tourist weather. Not too hot or cold and no rain. The lines for the compostela died down by late afternoon and it only took us an hour of waiting to get ours. At 7 pm, we met Gerhard and Chris and ate in the cafeteria that Kathy and I discovered last year. Here is our menu (and I took a photo too): Tortilla Española, shrimp in a garlic sauce, pimientos de Padrón, croquetas filled with cheese, and ensalada mixta with egg, tuna, asparagus, olives, onion, and pickles, plus a glass of albariño wine. It was heavenly and we were stuffed, all for 24€. the same meal would have been double the cost at Tapas in Sacramento and not nearly as good.

Now the bad news. While Marge's knee should have no permanent damage, she is still in a lot of pain and has difficulty walking around. So more long distance walking is not going to happen on this trip. Tomorow we will take the bus to Finisterra on the Atlantic Ocean. After that, we will sightsee for the next week. Perhaps A Coruña, Salamanca, Avila, before the last two days in Madrid.

Since we are no longer pilgrims this will be my last blog post until I am able to upload more photos, probably not until after we are home on Sept. 29. Thanks to all of you who cheered us on. I will continue to post our tourist itinerary as it happens.

Santiago de Compostela Sept 19

Starting the morning's walk from the albergue at Teo

Walking into Santiago

The lineup waiting to see the tomb of Santiago

The impressive main entrance to the cathedral

We met up later with the Austrians and Germans

Another great meal: pimientos, croquetas, shrimp, and ensalada mixta. I forgot to take the photountil we were halfway through the meal, sorry.


1:30 pm

Marge went on to Santiago by bus yesterday and stayed in the Hostal Barbantes where Kathy and I stayed last year. My stay in Teó last night was quiet and uneventful with English speakers, only Spanish or German. Gerhard and Chris joined in with the German speakers and I read quite a bit of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. No Internet. We got an early start at 7:30 for the walk uphill into Santiago. We arrived at 10 am and I did find a room for tonight, then set off to find Marge, who was going to go to the noon mass. You would not believe the crowds. Probably three or four times as many as last year. They are now limiting access to the cathedral and also not allowing backpacks. The crowds were lined up in three lines for hundreds of meters in each line. And the line to get a compostela (certificate for completing the camino) is three hours long. I did not know if Marge was already inside. I did find a room for tonight and set off to find Marge, who was going to go to the noon mass. You would not believe the crowds. Probably three times as many as last year. They are limiting access to the church and not allowing backpacks. I did not know if Marge was already inside but after an hour of circling the cathedral I finally found her near the cafe where Kathy and I had breakfast with the Australian lady last year. Now Marge and I are relaxing with a cafe con leche and bocadillo in cafe with free wifi for customers. It is getting harder to find free wifi out on the street. Hopefully we can get inside the cathedral later.

Teó Sept 18

Waymarks in a little village

Padron from across the river. This is where the famous pimientos de Padron originated and are still grown. It is about sea level in Padron, but Santiago is about 900 feet in elevation, so there will be some climbing ahead.


And peppers are indeed for sale.


.Teó

Today was a lot of walking, 30 km or about 19 miles, albergue to albergue. I left the others on their way to the bus at 7:30 am and I walked off in the other direction on the camino.

I was not sure if I would walk the 13 miles to Padrón or continue on to the next albergue beyond. Most of the walk was on quiet wooded paths away from but paralleling the train tracks, the N550 highway, and the A-9 autovia (freeway). I arrived in Padrón at 11 am, which was too early for the albergue there to open and too early to stop walking. I stopped in at the Igrexa Santiago for a few minutes, this is a church dedicated to Santiago. Then I decided to continue on to the small (24 places) albergue in Teó. I had a scare when I saw a group of maybe 16 or so walkers ahead. I figured that I better pass them if I wanted to have a bed tonight in the albergue. As I started passing them I noted that they had only day packs, one grandpa was pushing a baby stroller, there were kids and other old people, too. The mystery wad solved a kilometer or so later when I saw their tour bus at the three star hotel. Then I realized they were bus pilgrims on a short hike. I suppose the bus will take them tomorrow to about 1 or 2 kilometers from the cathedral so they can complete their "pilgrimage".

Anyway, I completed the remaining 11 km. in two hours and arrived at Teó albergue at 1 pm. Gerhard and Chris, the Austrian men, were, of course, already here. By the time I finished with shower and clothes washing, the place was deserted. It is out in the country with nothing close by so I walked around to see if they were at the bar or what. I walked farther and farther to finally discover the whole group coming back from the small mercado 2 km away. I went on to the market, too, then back. I added another 6 km onto my total for the day, making it 36 km or 23 miles. My leg muscles are tired from the walking, but no other walking problems. In fact, I have not taken an ibuprofen or used a band-aid in the last 5 days. It felt really good to do that much walking and at my own pace.

Chris cooked a spaghetti in the kitchen here, adding green olives, sardines, and mussels (mejillones) to the sauce. And despite what some of you are thinking, it was actually very good. No Internet here so I am writing this up for later posting. It is about 5 pm and everyone is relaxing. The hospitaleiro just showed up to sign us in. Chris got word by text message that Marge and Iris arrived this morning at the cathedral in Santiago. I do not know any more as I can not get any email message that Marge may have sent.

Happy birthday, Greg.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Caldas de Reis

A photo of me with some pilgrim art

Directional sign for the long detour

And finally a little cafe for our morning cafe con leche!

Marge and Iris

Inside the albergue at Caldas de Reis


Today's walk should have been 12 miles, but ended up at around 15 miles due to detours for road construction. The two Austrian men and I walked together and got in around 2 pm. Marge and Iris, the Austrian girl, took the bus to arrive at 12:30. Iris may have a broken ankle bone and is flying home from Santiago to Vienna tomorrow to go to the hospital there. She can barely hobble around. There was also another Spanish woman here with her foot in a cast, so Marge is doing better than many others. She still has a lot of knee pain and is limiting her walking. We found out a lot about the Spanish medical system and it is mostly very positive. She very likely will not be billed for her emergency room treatment and only had to pay for her prescription.

We had an early dinner at 3 pm, a pilgrim menu next door. We ate with the thee Austrians and most of us had reya a la Gallega for our second plate. We asked and were told it was pescado (fish), but it was not that great and unlike any fish that I have ever eaten. I looked it up in my dictionary and figure that is was sting ray!

Tomorrow morning, Marge wil take the bus with the three Austrians. The men are going as far as Padrón, then will walk to Teo for the night and on into Santiago on Sunday. The women will take the bus to Santiago, then Iris will take a taxi to the airport and Marge a taxi to the cathedral to find a place to stay for the night. I will walk from here tomorrow to Padron then walk on Sunday into Santiago. No buses for me. After that we will be tourists.

The weather here in Spain has been delightfully in the 70's with no rain yet and none predicted for the next two days.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pontevedra again Sept 16

Marge and Iris, Pontevedra

Fish for sale in the public market. Why can't Raley's have a selection like this?

And a bridge in Pontevedra by my favorite Spanish architect, Calatrava. His designs are immediately recognizable and unique. He designed the Sundial bridge in Redding, California.

Afternoon in a sidewalk bar, Marge, Iris, Chris, Gerhard, and me. The Austrians liked teir beer, while we drank some good Albarino wine.

And the tapas were heavenly: gambas (shrimp), pimientos de Padron (Padron peppers), and pulpo (octopus). Yum-yum.


11 AM: Marge made it back just before closing time at the albergue last night. There are no blood clots, but lots of knee trauma from the uphill and downhill and unven surfaces of the camino. She will be fine but needs to restrict her walking for now. Her camino is over. We are spending another day in Pontevedra to rest her up some more, then may take the bus to Santiago tomorrow. I do not know yet if I will do some more walking. That is still an unknown to be determined later. We will keep you posted.

9 pm. Okay we have a plan and I think it is a good one. It was hatched at three different tapas bars and several glasses of vino albarino and many glasses of cerveza. The Austrian father, Gerhard, and 29 y.o. son, Chris, and the 29 y. o. Austrian woman also decided to take a rest day in Pontevedra. The son had spent six months a few years ago in this town finishing his diploma. The Austrian woman has extreme ankle pain and needs to take it easy with the walking. So tomorrow, Marge and Iris will walk back to the Estacion de Autobuses and take the bus to the next camino stop, Caldes de Reis. I will walk with Gerhard and his son and we will all meet up at the albergue there.

Our last bar stop was for tapas: pulpo, gambas, and pimientos de Padron (octopus, shrimp, and Padron peppers). All three were done to perfection and were delicious. The Austrians are die hard beer drinkers, but Marge and I had some differnet Albarino wines, all very good. Even Marges knee pain was much less after the wine. We are back on track, and the day of rest did everyone some good.