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The Meaning of Life are the Moments in Your Life

Naverette to Najera, October 11, 2016

I had a wonderful conversation on a park bench tonight with Tamiara. It was after meandering through the town of Najera and we decided to sit awhile on a bench near the river. We talked about how the Camino represents life-your own life. 

You are always moving forward.  The miles have past and you don’t know what is ahead. The only thing you know is the road underneath your feet and in that moment there’s so much to look around and be thankful for – if you let it. 

If I only thought of the next town, the next albergue I would miss the moment the sunrise touched the hillside, the taste of fresh grapes growing on the vine just before harvest, the unexpected bench that appears to offer rest, and the opportunity to bless and wish everyone that passes me a good journey. 

There is a special moment that only comes with solitude when it’s just you your thoughts and with the Lord. For me it is the morning. It is quiet and the only sound you hear is your own footsteps. 

I’ve had some wonderful conversations with her and have experienced that moment where you knew you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. 

Yes, there are the struggles of hills, the pain of blisters and sleepless nights because of snoring and the wrestling of sleeping bags. My pack of burdens and regret gets very heavy at times. These too are the moments that give meaning to your life. 

Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise. 

Laura Song, Blessing

And, don’t forget to look for those funny times and laugh and smile as much as you can. 

Here’s the only picture of the day that I know you won’t forget. Even for a moment


Beun Camino

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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

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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. 

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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. 

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STELLA!

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. 

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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. 


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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.

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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

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

20 km To Go

The 14 mile walk today from Ribadiso to O Pedrouzo seemed longer than usual. Maybe it was the heat of the sun or our tired feet. Or, maybe it was because it was our last day before getting to Santiago. There seems to be a mixture of sadness and excitement that this journey is coming to a close. We went out for dinner in the town and were reunited with pilgrims we had met early in our journey. We said goodbye but only until tomorrow when we will all make our final 20 km to the Cathedral, get our Compostella, and attend the pilgrims mass.

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Oh Sure, This Is Good Idea

20140610-223856-81536218.jpgOn our way from Palas de Rei, there is an opportunity to take a detour off the Camino to see Castillo Pambre- a 14th century castle. Now, Rick did warn us that there was a chance we could get there but maybe not our way back to the Camino. It started off with a beautiful hike

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20140610-224510-81910678.jpgwhich led us straight to the castle.

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20140610-224850-82130447.jpg. Now the fun began and it began with a little bush whacking:

20140610-225047-82247815.jpgYes, that is an actual path we were following, needless to say we did not run across any other pilgrims on this trail. Hmmm, wonder why?

20140610-225312-82392654.jpg Our adventure added on an extra 8 to 10 k onto our day and we were so happy to get to our Albergue in Castaneda.

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License plate game

Remember when you used to play it in the car? Well, I find myself playing it on the Camino except with the people I meet from all the different countries.

20140610-214652-78412550.jpg There was a couple from Portugal who come the same week to walk, a group of family and friends from Ireland walking together to celebrate a wedding on Saturday at the cathedral, a father and son from the UK, and a man from South Africa walking by himself for six weeks.

20140610-222134-80494587.jpg. There were many highlights of the day: the scenery

20140610-222225-80545369.jpga blind man in a chapel stamping my credentials

20140610-222417-80657040.jpgand mass in Palas de Rei.

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Pilgrims Ho

To get an official compostella you need to have walked the last 100km of the Camino. You can do it in 6 days start today, June 8, and reach the cathedral in time for the pilgrims mass on Friday.

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The 100 km mark comes between Sarria and Portomarin and many people start here.

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It was a bit alarming for us to all of a sudden see all these new pilgrims. The trail was now a bit more crowded but did not deter from the sites.

20140609-163516-59716123.jpg Yes, that is a dog on a roof. We also started to see a lot of these.

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I have not been to Ireland but I was told that our surroundings were very similar.

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I also came around the corner and found Elizabeth and Mary trying to skip out on the last 5 miles!

20140609-165458-60898168.jpg Of course they would have missed another village we went through

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before we reached our destination

20140609-170057-61257967.jpg Portomarin is on a man made lake. In the 1960s the Miño River was dammed to create the Belesar reservoir, putting the old village of Portomarín under water. The most historic buildings of the town were moved brick by brick and reconstructed in the new town, including its castle-style main church: Church of San Juan of Portomarín.

In the seasons when the dam is at low level, the remains of ancient buildings, the waterfront and the old bridge are still visible.

20140609-171851-62331120.jpgThis the view from our Albergue ( which had a series of compartments with bunk beds divided by curtains – no doors – interesting to say the least!)

Entering Galicia

June 6
Laguna de Castilla is really the last town in Castilla. We quickly came upon another type of marker telling us that we are in Galicia. We will follow these markers all the way to Santiago.

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It was a beautiful hike up high in the mountains and stopped for breakfast in O’Cebreiro, another significant gateway on the Camino because it has administered to the needs of pilgrims since the 12th century.

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We stopped in Fonfria, a typical Galician village. When I tell you these are farming villages, take a look at what goes by behind us sitting outside having lunch at a restaurant.

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Shortly after this it started to rain and continued until we got to Triacastela. Nearby are the quarries that provided the limestone used I the building of Santiago. Medieval pilgrims would carry as much as they were able to the kilns to help. We are hoping the packs we are carrying will remind us of their sacrifice.

Cows have the right of away

Meaning, it’s up to you to moooove. Sorry, if you were here after a long day of climbing you would think that was hilarious. Today (June 5) took us through small farming villages and up into the mountains. So different from the plains when we started. From long trails through wheat to quiet paths through the woods, it’s as if we started a whole new Camino.

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Right now it is 9pm and we are tucked in our bunks and i can hear the bells clanging as the farmer brings his cows under our window and back to the barn. Most of the day was like this-quiet and serene – starting from Trabadelo and heading towards Laguna de Castilla. Our first village – surprise – had a statue of St. James that told us we are only 190km from Santiago!

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Stopping in Vega de Valcarce, we found the village church open. We were the only ones in the church and Rick played his flute while we all took our own moments to appreciate where we are..

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My moment was to light a candle for my family!

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It truly is amazing how each of these tiny villages, most with a few houses and inhabitants, have these beautifully maintained churches. In Herrerrias, we came across another open church that we stayed for a few moments to admire.

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Leaving the church we faced the beginning of our climb and an alternative to walking it ourselves. For only 10 euros we were offered transportation:

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Next stop- La Faba. It was described as a hamlet. Not sure what a hamlet is, but if it means a store, an Albergue, a bar, and a church then this it it.

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We stopped for lunch and visited the 12th century church that says mass at 8 pm every night from May to August including washing the feet of pilgrims.

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From there we were less than 3km from our Albergue. We had a short delay because of local traffic.

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But worth the wait.

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This is what I can see from our room and I already told you what I can hear.

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Pilgrim down part dos

After Villafranca the fun began with a 7.4 km uphill hike. We had lunch at the top of yup you guessed it : cheese, bread and yogurt.

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The decent was hard into Trabadelo but delighted to have a room to ourselves.

20140604-223442-81282829.jpg our fearless leader getting some well deserved alone time

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Pilgrim Down

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Don’t worry, Elizabeth is ok. It is just this picture describes our day! We left Cacabelos around 715 and stopped in Valtuille de Arriba at a pilgrims fountain and had a breakfast of bread, yogurt, cheese and jam. We then went up and down and up and down through the vineyards. 20140604-185923-68363245.jpg. And came down to Villafranca for our cafe com leche.

20140604-211438-76478114.jpg. On our way out we passed a 12th century church with a door of forgiveness for pilgrims unable to continue to Santiago could receive absolution.

tonight’s dinner is dedicated to my brother – yummy trout!!

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Friends

We stayed to tour the castle that opened up at 10am. It extended our rest day giving us the time to reorganize our packs and have cafe con leche before starting our day. Here is a picture from the castle looking down on our hotel.

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Carol, this is where your first night wlll be! Here are a few more from inside the castle.

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We stopped in Camponaraya for lunch and we can not seem to pass a Pasteleria-so don’t think of losing weight on this trip.

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To be honest, today was hard. Even though it was only a 15 km walk it was on sidewalk and roadways which exasperated our aches and pains. To get us motivated, rick said there was a treat a mile ahead. There was two. Yup a vineyard to fast wine and to walk through.

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We made it to Cacabelos. It was here that I took extra time to think and to thank for my friends and family back home. My love and respect continues to grow with each step.

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Ponferrada

Today is a rest day. We took a leisurely 6.5km walk into Ponferrada and treated ourselves to a hotel. It is a beautiful hotel right across from Castillo de Los Templarios, a 12th century Templar castle. It is closed on Monday so we are going to take the time to tour it in the morning.

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We first had coffee out side the hotel at the tables you can see in front. The next two pictures are looking out from those tables.

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20140602-160310-57790774.jpg. Took advantage of the day, walked around, ate and then ate some more.

20140602-221210-79930986.jpg. We attended the 8pm mass and at the end the priest called up all the pilgrims for a blessing-all in Spanish, but we felt every word.

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What Goes Up.

Oh yea……..today (June 1) was a 7 hour, 20 km decent and we r still not completely down. For all my JOI family, take a little bit of Kili from base camp to millennium, add the 5 miles of Marcy and a pinch of the Canyon – without the hat and you got our day. For those of us with blisters it was a new experience and not a pleasant one, but the sights along the way helped a great deal.

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We left Fancebadon around 730am to have breakfast at Cruz de Ferro- one of the symbols of the Camino

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20140602-145828-53908090.jpgEvery pilgrim stopped to place a stone, say a prayer, and take a picture. The pile I am standing one is filed with messages written on stones. It was awe inspiring and little did I know how much I would need that for the rest of the day.
Our first stop was in Manjarin- ok wait for it – population 1.

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You can see him in the white knight Templar robe talking to Rick. He serves coffee and sells some Camino memorabilia
We continued our decent down through the ullage of Acebo.

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Yes, in the picture you can see our path below and the city of Ponferrada In the horizon. We decided to use a rest day and break up the next two days into shorter hikes and stay in the town before Ponferrada, Molinaseca

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I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills….

from whence cometh my help.

Today’s walk was a gentle constant ascend into Monte Irago. We left Santa Calina (pop 50) around 730 so we could walk in the morning light before breakfast. We stopped in El Ganso, a 12th century village, at a family home that had a little store and offered hot coffee on the porch.

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As soon as we started our ascent, our path was lined with a wire fence to our right. Looking closer at it you could see crosses that were placed in the wires. This went on for at least a mile.

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I wonder when the first one was placed and how long ago. We nicknamed it The Fence Of One Thousand Crosses (plus one, with mine). In Rabinal del Camino (pop 60) we were greeted by a man with a falcon raising money for a children’s cancer hospital and of course had to help.

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The town still continues a century old tradition of caring for the pilgrims before taking the steep climb, and Templar knights that protected their journey.

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The picture above is a church run by an order of monks that still hold a blessing everyday for the pilgrims. We also came across the parish church, Iglesias de Santa Marie that was built in the 12th century that gave us the rest we needed before going on.

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The hike was one of the prettiest so far frequently coming across respites of cool water.

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We finally saw our town ahead

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and turned around to look were we came from and realized we had walked from as far as you can see- we have walked 150 miles, half way there.

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The village, Foncebadon, is a semi-abandoned village that flourished during the Middle Ages. It is starting to come back to life with the re-awakening of the Camino. Our Albergue, Convento de Foncebadon, was one of the few buildings in the town but had everything we needed: a place to sleep, do laundry and enjoy a wonderful meal.

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My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Surprises along The Way

The mornings are a very special time for me. This morning we woke to Rick playing Amazing Grace. You then here the rustling of the other pilgrims rising and packing their gear. We are all going in the same direction on the same mission. It is quiet and respectful. You then share some coffee, a good morning in a variety of languages and head outside. The town is transformed by the light and we begin to walk in silence not knowing what the day will bring. .

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It wasn’t long before I had my first surprise. She poked her head out and gave me a sniff and a lick.

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Little did I know that animals would be a theme for the day. We walked through farm lands and was greeted by another person with a wonderful cart of fresh fruit and drinks.

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We then came across the Cruceiro Santo Toribio stone cross where we said a prayer and headed down down down the valley to Astorga. You can see it in the background.

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Astorga is another beautiful town where we enjoyed a lunch in the main square listening to the bells every 1/2 hour.

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It was here where I saw my first donkey!!

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As i said before the sight of your Albergue after a long day is the best and this in the village of Santa Catalona de Somoza did not disappoint.

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Maybe one of the most beautiful yet. Oh yea, the animal theme. When we went in the back courtyard to do our laundry look who was there to greet me.

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Enough said.

In a Little Spanish Town…..

This is yesterday’s blog since I did not have wifi last night.

We left Villar de Mazariffe (pop 400)

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And stopped for cafe with some other pilgrims in Villavante. They were from Denmark , Germany, and Portland!

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Lunch was in Hospital de Orbigo after crossing Puente de Orbigo

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It is one of the longest and best preserved medieval bridges in Spain dating back to the 13th century.
The legend says that on this bridge a knight from Leon confronted some foreigners who wanted to cross it in a duel in order to undo a pledge of slavery to his beloved Lady Leonor, under which he would have to fast every Thursday and wear a heavy iron ring around his neck. He must have broken 300 lances. He did not succeed, but the judges of the contest repaid Don Suero by freeing him from the ring. For this reason, the bridge is known as Passo Honroso (Honourable Crossing).

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One of the great feelings is when you come over the hill and see the town you are going to stay in on the horizon. We decided to stay in Suntibanez de Valderglesia to break up the 20mile trek to Astorga. We always head for the church which is the tallest structure in town and the Albergue is usually close by.

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Ok back to small towns. Our last town was bustling compared to this one. This was a one horse town but with out the horse.

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We checked into an Albergue run by the church of the Holy Trinity- how bad could that be. Well, there is an ivy branch growing in the bathroom stall. The place was run by Juan, a pilgrim that walked ten years ago and now volunteers for 5 months running the place.

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If you saw the movie The Way we thought we met the crazy guy. But as in life Juan surprised us all. He made the best paella and we had a family style dinner with people from Russia, Australia, Germany, and Canada. The night turned into a night of song where we were treated to Danny Boy in Spanish.

20140530-180539-65139802.jpg. Love these little towns.

On the Road Again.

Leaving Leon we passed San Isadoro an 11th century Basilica Church. There was a Door of Forgiveness through which medieval pilgrims, too ill to travel on to Santiago, could still receive forgiveness.

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We also passed the Leon Museo and stopped to sit with a pilgrim of old resting.

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After our morning ritual of stopping for cafe in La Virgen del Camino we were soon off the hard surface of the streets and back on a dirt trail. Even with the rain, there was something comforting about it.

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We came across a man selling fruit,coffee, nuts and chocolate to pilgrims for a donation.

20140528-184005-67205567.jpg<It was a fairly short day of 22km to Villar de Mazarife, but blisters are really getting the best of some of us.

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We are staying at Tio Pepe- Uncle Peter and have a great room for just the five of us.

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Of course right next to a church dedicated to St James.

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I have to share my journal with you. Debbie, Lindsey and Jenna gave me a journal with a saying or note for me to read every day. When I opened today’s day I found this note and had to share. It made us all laugh.

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We had another nice dinner after we used our dictionary to find out what are choices where on the pilgrims menu.

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