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Yesterday was the first day I missed making a post since we started our walk last Friday.  The wifi connection at the Alberque we stayed at was simply too slow

Yesterday was to be our first true “test run” of walking a longer distance since we’ve been trying to gradually break into a rhythm that will allow us to average about 13 miles a day.  Because this particular stage had us walking on the ancient Roman Road known as the  Via Aquitana, there was a considerably long stretch of hiking in the Meseta wilderness.  The landscape remains beautiful with the expansive farmland seen to the horizon in all directions.  We left at 0800 in the morning in the fog.  It was very cold.  So, the weather has not been kind.  We’ve dealt with freezing cold, rain, wind, and warmth.  Some of the Alberques have no heat. Therefore, some nights, we’ve slept with our clothes on wrapped in blankets.  The Camino is not for the weak of heart!

Yesterday Nancy and Andrea had an excellent rhythm  going. We had a steady pace at about 2.5 – 3.0 miles per hour. We stopped a few times to eat, drink water and rest our legs.  To ease Nancy and Andrea’s load, I’ve been using the service which transports your backpack to the next destination.  Walking with no backpack makes a huge difference.  I’m still carrying mine.  Not easy.

We walked a good distance on the Via Aquitana.  What is truly amazing to me is that it is over 2,000 years old and it’s still being used!

The sun finally came out strong so the afternoon was very warm.  I took off my fleece.  We’ve been traveling with a very kind and generous person, Heike, whom I’ve previously mentioned. She really hit it off with Nancy, Andrea and me.  We don’t know how long we’ll keep walking together but so far, it’s been really nice having her share the Camino with us.

At about 5 or 6 kilometers from our goal, Nancy’s knee seemed to have given out.  She started limping noticeably and was clearly  in pain.  There is no place out in the Camino to get help when in an area as remote as this.  The next town was about 2 kms away.  Nancy took some of her pain medication which seemed to help.  She literally limped into the tiny town of Ledigos.  We stopped for a rest and refreshments.  No cab or bus service.  Nancy said she could walk/limp to the next town.  She did.  It was another 3.3 kms away.  I pushed ahead as quickly as I could to ensure we had a place to stay that evening.  Although I made reservations the night before, the person running the Alberque stated that we needed to check in by  2pm.  It was already after 3pm.

I got to the Alberque Jacques de Molay in Terradillos de los Templarios at around 3:30pm. They still had our room held for us.  This is a town of about 80 people.  It was once considered a stronghold of the Knights Templar.  You can no longer tell that now.

Nancy and Andrea arrived about 20 minutes later.  We took a close look at her knee.  It was swollen.  Andrea had also been complaining of her hips getting stiff.  Since last Friday, we’ve now walked over 100 kilometers.  Yesterday was the longest walk from Carrion de los Condes to Terradillos de Templarios.  26.8  kilometers (16.7 miles).  The evening was also bitter cold especially since we had no heating.  Sleeping with your clothes on in sleeping bags and blankets has become the norm.  So far, all of us are suffering from very sore feet.  Although my feet and lower back are sore and no blisters so far, I’ve caught a bad cold in which I can’t seem to keep warm, my throat is sore, one of my ears is sensitive to the touch and I’ve got a very runny nose and at times, it seems that I can’t stop coughing.  I can’t seem to get warm.  However, my ailments pale in comparison to Nancy’s knee.  Therefore, this morning I arranged a taxi to take Nancy and Andrea to Sahagun and from there catch a train to Leon.  They will be staying in a nice hotel there and have three days to recuperate and spend some quality mother daughter time together while I continue hiking.  I should arrive in Leon this Saturday afternoon.  My plan is to walk 30 kilometers tomorrow (18.6 miles) to a village called Reliegos.  Saturday will be a 27 km walk to Leon.  I think I’ll be OK if I could just get rid of this cold.  Since yesterday was our longest day so far, Heike and I walked only to Sahagun today which is now considered an “easy” walk of only 14 kilometers.  Tomorrow will be different.  My feet ache each night and my lower back remains stiff.  However, I feel good each morning and I think my walking legs are starting to develop.  We’ll see.

If I arrive in Leon this Saturday as planned, we’ll assess how Nancy and Andrea are doing walking wise.   As it is in life, not one single day is promised to us. Neither is the Camino.

Nancy starting her walk yesterday morning.  Very cold and foggy morning.

Nancy starting her walk yesterday morning. Very cold and foggy morning.

Here we are by a very old marker identifying the 2,000 year old Via Aquitana

Here we are by a very old marker identifying the 2,000 year old Via Aquitana

Nancy is so tough! Still smiling after walking nearly 17 miles today on a bum knee.

Nancy is so tough! Still smiling after walking nearly 17 miles today on a bum knee.

Common scene at the Alberque's after a long day's hike.

Common scene at the Alberque’s after a long day’s hike.

Young pilgrims from all over the world gathering to listen to two people strumming their guitars and singing in the garden/courtyard at the Jacque de Molay Alberque

Young pilgrims from all over the world gathering to listen to two people strumming their guitars and singing in the garden/courtyard at the Jacque de Molay Alberque

An interesting pattern is starting to emerge.  This is our 5th of walking since leaving Burgos on May 17.  We meet fellow pilgrims along the way.  For most, it is a simple, “buen camino” initiated by one and followed with a “buen camino” from the other.  Fellow pilgrims walking the camino that we will likely never see again.  For others, a simple conversation may last but a few minutes while others may go on for hours.  If they’re traveling at the same relative pace as you are, an encounter down the road is likely.  Then there are those fellow pilgrims in which days together are shared.  Real bonding can take place with those pilgrims.   With only 5 days on the road a few fellow travelers are emerging into that latter category.

We left Burgos last Friday.  Our first stay was at Rabe de los Calzados.  I nice easy start to develop a feel for the Camino.  The second day we walked to Hontanas which was a little further.  By chance, there was a German lady who was assigned a bed right next to ours.  She was in the same Alberque, but in a different room, as us the first night.  Now she was right next to us.  Nancy, Andrea and I all enjoyed her company.  The third night we stayed at a very nice Alberque in Itero de la Vega.  As we approached the courtyard of that alberque there she was!  We were starting to think that this was no coincidence!  We started having more in depth conversations with her and we have become quite friendly with Heike Ortmanns from Aachen, Germany.  I will post a picture of Heike very soon.  She is a very kind and friendly lady braving the Camino on her own.  She started her Camino from Burgos like we did and on the same day!  To date, we’ve been keeping the same pace and using the same strategy of not taking it too hard and trying to develop our hiking legs.  It should be no surprise that we’re staying in the same Hostel Santiago in Carrion de los Condes this evening and that tomorrow we will be attempting our longest hike so far, a 27 kilometer walk to Terradillos de los Templarios.  We’ll know tomorrow afternoon if we’ll be able to keep up that type of pace.  According to the standard guidebooks that defines each recommended “stage” for each day of walking, we’ve taken 5 days to walk the first four “stages” which I believe is not bad given Nancy’s knee, Andrea’s hips and now a knee, and my lower back and ankles.  So far, not a single blister has emerged.  I credit that to quality long distance hiking boots (an essential piece of gear), quality liners and smart wool socks.

Tomorrow will be a real challenge for us in that we will be hiking into an even more rural area than the ones we’ve hiked so far – and that’s saying something when walking across the Spanish Meseta.  We will hike over 17 kilometers with no places to stop for food our water.  There are a few “fuentes” (water fountains) along the way with potable water but none of us have taken that chance yet.  We’ve been bringing bottled water (poured into our water bladders in our backpacks) or using the potable water from the alberques and hostels we’ve been staying at.  So far, that seems to be working out.  We went to a local store this evening to buy food to sustain us tomorrow since we won’t pass any place serving food until about 1400 in the afternoon.  I also stopped at a local pharmacy because I’m catching a cold.  Sore, scratchy throat, one ear sensitive to the touch, coughing and runny nose.  I’m loading up on orange juice and the pills the pharmacist gave me.  We’ll be hiking by 0800 tomorrow morning and plan to cover our 27 kilometers by 1500 in the afternoon.  It will be our most challenging day.

We have also made good Camino friends from Australia.  The are a lot of fun to walk with, we’ve stayed at some of the same towns (not always the same Alberques as with Heike) and now unfortunately will be departing with them tomorrow.  Nick and Judy (married many years like Nancy and I) from Queensland and Judy’s dear friend from their university days, Debbie.  They are really decent folks with fun-loving senses of humor.  I might share later on my embarrassing moment when I unexpectedly barged into their room!  Judy and Deb are taking the bus to Leon tomorrow while Nick is riding his repaired bike to Leon.  That puts them at least 4 days ahead of us.  We’ll likely not see them again on this journey.  Buen Camino, mates!

The Camino gives back in so many ways.  Yesterday, we walked with two young, lovely ladies, one from the UK of Indian descent and the other from Japan.  They met on the Camino and are now walking together.  They seem to be fast friends now.  Anyway, I had a very pleasant conversation with them and basically gave them a “father to daughter” type conversation.  They are the ladies we took with the old Spanish gentleman as we entered Boadillo de Campos yesterday afternoon.  Well, what is becoming a pattern with Camino friendships, as we were leaving the restaurant we ate at this evening, we say them at a table with a young Italian lady and young Spanish gentleman.  We were very happy to see each other.  They are both very kind and lovely pilgrims.  We hope to see them again along the way!

I will have to close for now.  It’s nearly 2130 in the evening and I still have a few pictures to post.  Nancy is holding up very well.  She’s a true champion.  Her knee seems to be holding up and she seems to be getting stronger.  Andrea is also getting stronger and has youth on her side.  My feet, ankles and lower back felt a little better today but am now fighting a cold.  We are in remarkably good shape so far given the limping and pained faces we see along the way.  One lady may lose 4 of her toe nails.  Many people don’t complete their intended goals.  Some take the bus to shorten their walk. Like life, each of us must find our own way to deal with our daily struggles.

This afternoon in the 12th century village of Villalcazar de Sirga, I walked into their marvelous 13th century Knights of the Templar church of Santa Maria la Virgen Blanca and knelt to pray and to give thanks for this opportunity to experience the Camino and to ask for protection of all the pilgrims on the Camino.  The altar has a panel that shows the life of St. James.  Very moving.

I hope to make another post tomorrow evening.

Great Camino friends from Australia, Debbie, Nick, and Judy.  They're off to Leon tomorrow!

Great Camino friends from Australia, Debbie, Nick, and Judy. They’re off to Leon tomorrow!

Another friend we've met along the way, Cecelia from Denmark, traveling on her own.

Another friend we’ve met along the way, Cecelia from Denmark, traveling on her own.

Pilgrim icons are found everywhere along the Camino

Pilgrim icons are found everywhere along the Camino

I'm sure the owner of this hiking boot has one heck of a story to share!

I’m sure the owner of this hiking boot has one heck of a story to share!

The magnificent altar of the 13th Century Templar Church in Villalcazar de Sirga depicting the life of St. James

The magnificent altar of the 13th Century Templar Church in Villalcazar de Sirga depicting the life of St. James

Out of no where and standing alone is the Hermitage of Our Lady of the River right by bridge over the Ucieza River

Out of no where and standing alone is the Hermitage of Our Lady of the River right by bridge over the Ucieza River

Nancy and Andrea cuddling and trying to get warm after a long day's walk.

Nancy and Andrea cuddling and trying to get warm after a long day’s walk.

We meet again with the very kind and lovely young ladies from the UK and Japan with a friend they made from Italy

We meet again with the very kind and lovely young ladies from the UK and Japan with a friend they made from Italy

Andrea with Debbie and Judy of Australia.

Andrea with Debbie and Judy of Australia.

 

Since we left Burgos this past Friday, today was the first day of great weather.  We left at 0900 this morning with the sun shining bright.  We didn’t mind the 38 degree F air because we were warmly dressed and the sun was making a big difference. Yesterday was very tough because we slogged through rain, very muddy roads and hiking up a very steep hill.  It’s a great reminder of why I never considered joining the Army!  We made an excellent rest stop in Castrojeriz in which we had the best tortillas yet.

We stayed at a very nice private alberque last night in Itero de la Vega.  As we were entering the village we met a very handsome Danish couple who had already walked over 800 kilometers!  They retired over a year ago and have a house in France.  They decided to do the Camino so that got their trekking gear, locked the door to their house and left for Santiago.  When they reach Santiago they will have walked over 1,200 kilometers!  Amazing!

We walked through incredibly beautiful farmland today.  I hope some of the pictures I post  give it some justice.  Today we met two young women, one from Japan and the other is British of India descent.  Lovely ladies both.  They started in France and both look very well considering how far they’ve already travelled.  The 5 of us entered the village of Boadillo de Campo around noon.  There was this old man yelling to us in Spanish that he is a friend of the pilgrims.  We visited with him and he was absolutely charming.  I asked him if I could take a picture of him.  He said only if all the pretty women sit with him!  All  the women kissed him on the cheek and he was smiling from ear to ear with sheer delight clearly seen in his eyes.

We also walked through a region of irrigation canals which was very scenic.

We staying at the Hotel Amanacer this evening.  It is a beautiful place with a very scenic courtyard.  I plan to post pictures of it soon. The friendly owner greeted us with a glass of vino tinto when we arrived.  Shell be serving home made paella this evening.  The food overall has been excellent.  The spanish people have been very friendly and welcoming.  Tomorrow should be another “easy” day then we will hopefully be able to pick up the pace a bit.  Of course, the girls will have a lot to say on that topic!

The amazing and very handsome Danish couple, Henrik and Heide, who have already walked over 800 kms!

The amazing and very handsome Danish couple, Henrik and Heide, who have already walked over 800 kms!

 

The Meseta offers so many beautiful scenes.

The Meseta offers so many beautiful scenes.

 

This is the elderly gentleman who was so happy to have his picture taken with the pretty pilgrims.

This is the elderly gentleman who was so happy to have his picture taken with the pretty pilgrims.

 

The Canal de Castilla was very scenic. I walked it with two Spaniards.

The Canal de Castilla was very scenic. I walked it with two Spaniards.

Crossing the Canal de Castilla as we enter Fromista.

Crossing the Canal de Castilla as we enter Fromista.

Icons of Pilgrims walking the Camino are everwhere.

Icons of Pilgrims walking the Camino are everwhere.

The Camino between Fromista and Carrion de los Condes

The Camino between Fromista and Carrion de los Condes

Entering Poblacion de Campos where we are staying this evening.

Entering Poblacion de Campos where we are staying this evening.

Our room for the evening. Not exactly "pilgrim style" but it does provide a little guilty pleasure.

Our room for the evening. Not exactly “pilgrim style” but it does provide a little guilty pleasure.

The courtyard behind our hotel from the balcony of our room.

The courtyard behind our hotel from the balcony of our room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago, Denver hosted the Women’s US Open in Golf.  Nancy and I went to see it on the final round.  While watching women play golf at the highest level, it dawned on me that women seem to use a different strategy than men.  Let’s say a man puts his drive onto the rough.  It the grass is a bit high, I’ve seen men attempt to power their shot through the grass thinking they can still reach the green on their approach shot.  Sometimes it works, often times it leads to disaster.  Women golfers with their ball in a similar location will not even attempt to power their way through the rough.  Instead, they simply put the ball back on the fairway and then make a great shot to the green…..

On day two of our Camino, we walked 19.5 kilometers through a steady, cold breeze with rain.  The temperature in the high 30’s to early 40’s Fahrenheit.  It was a miserable day of hiking.  Nancy was complaining of her knee and Andrea of her hip.  We reached Hontanas by 1330 in the afternoon but they were done for the day.  I was getting frustrated thinking that they were going to “slow me down.”  I wanted to slog through.  I wanted to power my way through the rough.  I was thinking men’s golf when I should have been thinking women’s golf.  It’s much smarter.

We stayed at a very nice alberque in Hontanas, the “El Puntido.”  There were 5 bunk beds and one single in our room.  The cost was only 5 euros.  We had an excellent pilgrim’s meal in the evening for 9 euros each.  It was too much food!  That’s one thing we’re quickly finding on the Camino.  People can eat very well for a very reasonable price as pilgrims.

Nancy could tell I was frustrated by our second day on the road.  I started thinking
“women’s golf.”  I went ahead and booked a private alberque in Itero de la Vega which was 22.5 kilometers away.  Granted, that was 3 kilometers further than day 2.  However, I also booked a service in which Nancy’s and Andrea’s backpacks were sent to the alberque in Itero de la Vega.  That meant they were not carrying anything but their trekking poles.  I also made two leisurely stops for cafe con leche and spanish tortillas in Castrojeriz.  The strategy worked beautifully.  Although they’re sore and aching, the fact that they didn’t have to carry their backpacks plus the private alberque in which the three of us only have our own room and our own beds, made them feel 100 times better.  Women’s golf, playing smart.

I will attempt to load a few pictures and make another post tomorrow.  As for me, my lower back is killing me and my feet and ankles are swollen and killing me.  I’m still thinking men’s golf.  I’m still trying to power through the rough.  I hope I figure this out quickly!

Leaving Hontanas Sunday morning in the cold rain.

Leaving Hontanas Sunday morning in the cold rain.

 

Castrojeriz with it's castle ruins on top of the hill and old church in the center of town.

Castrojeriz with it’s castle ruins on top of the hill and old church in the center of town.

 

Overlook of Castrojeriz after making the steep climb to the top of the Meseta

Overlook of Castrojeriz after making the steep climb to the top of the Meseta

 

The ancient bridge that allows us to cross the Rio Pisuerga. We leave the Province of Burgos and enter the Province of Palencia.

The ancient bridge that allows us to cross the Rio Pisuerga. We leave the Province of Burgos and enter the Province of Palencia.

 

 

 

I never slept well the first few nights while on business travel.  The unfamiliarity of the room and bed just didn’t feel right.  Last night was an interesting experience.  Our small room had 3 bunk beds and a single bed.  A man from France, a couple from Denmark, a woman from Germany and the Americans from Colorado. The snoring started before I fell asleep.  Good thing I’m easy going because it was comical to me.  One man sounded like he was “sawing logs” while a woman was breathing very loudly.  With the lights out one cannot tell who was making all the sounds.  There are not accents to snoring.  We all sound the same.  It took me awhile to fall asleep.  I was exhausted!

No need to set an alarm unless you want a really early start.  By 0615 people were stirring and packing their gear and backpacks for the day’s walk.  This was a considerate group in that everyone was moving about as silently as possible so as not to disturb those still sleeping.  I got up and did the same.  Breakfast was being served downstairs at 0630.  In the Alberque, dinner and breakfast is served community style so everyone eats together.  It was nearly 7am and I went back upstairs to check on Nancy and Andrea to see how they were doing.  There were cuddling on Nancy’s single bed.  They didn’t want to get up!  Uh oh!  This is only our second day and they didn’t want to move!!!  Of course, they started getting ready soon after.

We left the little village of Rabe at 0750 this morning.  We soon started climbing up hill then entered the “breadbasket of Spain”, La Meseta.  With all the rain, there was lush green fields as far as the eye could see.  I hear it’s going to be this way for a few days.  We entered one of the very early villages that sprung up along the Camino to support the pilgrims, Hornillos del Camino.  This village has less than 100 people.  We stopped there at the town center by the Gothic Church of San Roman in the Plaza de la Iglesia.  It was 1000 and we were famished.  We had cafe con leche (what else!) and a bocadilla which is a large serrano ham and cheese sandwich on fresh baked crusty bread.  Perfect!  While sitting outside on the Plaza we joined a few fellow Pilgrims we shared the Alberque with the night before.  A German woman, 3 Aussies, a Welshman, and a few Spaniards.  There were two Guardia Civil officers at the Plaza stopping for a quick bite.  I started a conversation with them (no surprise to you) and before you knew it, Nancy was taking a picture of me with the senior Guardia Civil.

From Hornillos we continued our walk on the Meseta.  What lovely expansive views of rolling hills and flatlands all green with birds everywhere singing and chirping.  That’s all one can see in any direction.  I had a long chat  with three Spanish men walking the Camino.  My spanish speaking and comprehension continues to improve daily.  I practice it every chance I get.  It’s a welcome relief for the Spaniards to find foreign Pilgrims able to speak passable Spanish.

We reached our goal of Hontanas today at 1320 in the afternoon!  We covered 18.5 kilometers today in 4.5 hours.  That’s not breaking any speed records but that includes all the stops for taking photos, rest stops and one stop at the cafe for cafe con leche and bocadilllas.  We walked 13.3 kilometers our first day in 3.5 hours.  We did a little more today.  We’re trying to build a walking legs gradually.  We’ve heard enough horror stories in just two days of walking from fellow pilgrims who have started in France to know that we don’t want to become one of the casualties.  The idea for us is to reach Santiago de Campostela with good experiences to share.  However, I’ll “keep it real.”  It’s not easy what weve done so far.  My right ankle and foot, right hip and lower back are already starting to talk to me.  Nancy’s right knee continues to bother her and at times, she’s walking in pain.  Andrea’s hips started bothering her today as well.  We’re hoping to find our own pace and get to a place to stay for the night by 1330 in the afternoon.  We’ll see how well this strategy works.  We have registered at the private Alberque “El Puntido” opposite the parish church oof the Conception.  It’s a beautiful 14th century church which towers over this very tiny villlage of 80 people.  We are in a room with 5 comfortable bunkbeds and a single bed, tile flloors, very clean.  By chance, we’re bunking with the Spanish men I spoke to earlier today, a German lady, Heike, who we bunked with last night, a gentlemman from the Isle of Man Nancvy walked with earlier today and a young Spanish couple.   The Camino is an amazing experience and opportunity to meet with people from all over the world.

It’s now 1600 in the afternoon.  We’ve all bathed, our clothes are washed, I’ve blogged for the day and there’s a cold beer or two or three waiting for me downstairs!

Clementine is the angel managing the Alberque in Rabe

Clementine is the angel managing the Alberque in Rabe

Leaving Rabe we enter the Meseta

Leaving Rabe we enter the Meseta

Joe with Carlos of the Guardia Civil in village of Hornillos

Joe with Carlos of the Guardia Civil in village of Hornillos

This is about how fast we're moving on the Camino!

This is about how fast we’re moving on the Camino!

Lunch in Hornillos, cafe con leche and a bocadillo.

Lunch in Hornillos, cafe con leche and a bocadillo.

 

We left Burgos at 0800 this morning in the 38 degree Fahrenheit rain.  We were well prepared with our rain pants, rain jacket and rain cover for our backpacks.  We exhibited the type of energy and exuberance of the first day of the Camino.  We saw the occasional fellow along the way. All seemed to have determined faces but would still share a smile  or a wave to fellow pilgrims.  Once we left the city and suburbs and started on a dirt packed train with the state prison to our right, we noticed a staggered line of pilgrims behind us.  The first to reach us was a young man.  “Buenos dias” I said to him.  Buenos dias was his response.  De donde eres?  I asked him.  He responded in accented English that he speaks very little Spanish.  We then shared about the next 2 kilometers of the Camino.  His name is Tamas, from Budapest, Hungary.  He started his Camino at St. Jean Pied du Port on May 5th.  He walked 44 kilometers yesterday reaching Burgos last evening.  He was planning to walk about 30 kilometers today.  Tamas was friendly and shared that one can usually tell who is new on the Camino by their energy and eagerness to talk to people.  He said that typically, after walking for a week or more, people are hurting with at least one part of their body aching with blisters, back pain, knees or ankles shooting pain with every step.  A Korean zipped past us and shared the walk for about 2 to 3 minutes.  His name is Kim Yu Jing and started the Camino at St. Jean the same day Tamas did.  Yu Jing was keeping a very focused quick pace and was soon well passed us.  I was taking pictures along the way and Nancy and Andrea stopped for a few minutes.  We parted ways with Tamas as we entered the village of Tardajos, 11 kilometers outside Burgos.  As we walked through this village and started walking away from the N-120 Highway, I found Tamas again relaxing at a bench eating a bocadillo sandwich.  He soon passed us by and at his pace, well likely not seem him again.

There about 14,000 people walking the Camino right now.  I realize we’re all spread out throughout Spain but it surprised me to see how many fellow pilgrims we saw.  I was determined to take the advice of Paulus, the Dutch born Canadian we found at the Spanish restaurant yesterday that we should pace ourselves and not walk too far at the beginning of the Camino.  It started raining again and we started climbing up hill.  We reached the village of Rabe de las Calzados at 1100 this morning.  This is a very scenic little town of 190 people.  That is only a total of 12.3 kilometers of walking but at the same time, I don’t want to fall for the thought that “I’m feeling good so let’s push further.”  I took Paulus’ advice and we stayed in this village.  Since it was now only 1115 and the Alberque didnt open until 1230 we walked to the local Cafe for a cafe con leche.  The owner was very friendly but didn’t speak English.  I’m finding already that very few Spaniards along the Camino speak very much English.  We checked into the Liberanos Domine Alberque in the small town center plaza dominated by a beautiful old church.  Clementine, the lady running the Alberque very efficiently registered us and stamped our pilgrim’s passports.  We’re in a small room with 4 bunk beds and a single bed.  Very cozy!  We showered, washed our clothes for the day and walked down the hill back to the cafe taking pictures along the way. Before we reached the cafe we saw Paulus and Annamieke on their way to the next village!  People really do run into each other on the Camino!

The true spirit of the Camino came out at the cafe.  Within minutes all the Pilgrims gathered and put tables together and started sharing their Camino experiences.  Very interesting conversations!  I spoke to Thomas, a man only a few weeks older than me from outside Goteborg, Sweden.  We had a very engaging conversation.  Our table also consisted an Irishman, a woman from South Africa, a couple from Holland, a young university student from Austin, Texas, a woman from Germany, and those three Americans from Colorado.

We’ve only walked 14 kilometers today but it was a very good day!  Maybe we’ll walk a little further tomorrow.  We’ll see! We only have 486 more kilometers to go!  Buen Camino!

A Pilgrim's Monument as we're leaving Burgos

A Pilgrim’s Monument as we’re leaving Burgos

Tamas from Budapest enjoying a bocadilla sandwich and well reserved rest

Tamas from Budapest enjoying a bocadilla sandwich and well reserved rest

On plaza of Rabe de las Calzados

On plaza of Rabe de las Calzados

Our first Alberque. Liberanos Domine

Our first Alberque. Liberanos Domine

 

True international gathering at the local Cafe.

True international gathering at the local Cafe.

 

We’re about completely recovered from our jet lag so staying 2 days in Burgos is turning out to be a good idea.  We’ve also had the opportunity to take in this beautiful, medieval city.  After a very satisfying breakfast at our hotel (eggs, toast, ham, fruit, pastries, orange juice, and cafe con leche)  we walked to the edge of town to visit the Monasterio de las Huelgas which was initially built in the 12th Century by King Alfonso VIII and his wife, Queen Leonor.  It was worth the walk. Although the building doesn’t have the jaw dropping impact that the Cathedral of Saint Mary has in central Burgos, the chapels inside this monastery are very impressive.  The spanish tour guide provided a lot of detail.  I’m finding that it is extremely helpful if you can speak spanish.  More on that in another blog.

After walking about 6km round trip to the monastery and the 1 hour guided tour, we were ready for lunch!  We recognize we’re spoiling ourselves right now because once we start our Camino tomorrow, we’re not expecting to eat as much.  We shall see. I asked the concierge yesterday where we can eat that is catered more to the locals than tourists and pilgrims.  She mentioned the street Calle San Lorenzo.  Great call!  We found the Meson de Amarilla.  Once again the food was “off the charts.”  For a total tab of 40 euros, Nancy, Andrea and I each had a delicious bowl of soup (Andrea and I had the potaje de garbanzos, Nancy the sopa castillana) followed by their local specialty, stewed lamb (meat very tender and literally falling off the bone).  Did I mention they also brought with the soup a basket of fresh oven baked bread and a bottle of a very good tempranillo wine?  Desert followed which was equally delicious.  Nancy had a tiramisu type chocolate sponge cake, Andrea had a soft, delicate cheese cake smothered with raspberry sauce and I had the ice cream with chocolate and nuts.  And of course the ubiquitous cafe con leche with the desert.  I can see this Camino quickly becoming a food and wine tour of northern spain mixed with meeting interesting people from all over the world and of course, there’s going to be some walking involved!  Speaking of interesting people….

A Dutch born Canadian couple who started their Camino at the traditional point of St. Jean Pied du Port in France, sat next to us at the Meson de Amarilla restaurant.  Paulus and Annemieke were both very lively, energetic and friendly.  It’s amazing how good they both look given they arrived today in Burgos and have already walked over 300 kilometers!  They shared several of their experiences along the Camino.  Paulus gave me sage advice regarding how far we should walk tomorrow and Annemieke has such a quick smile and funny sense of humor.  We certainly hope to see them again along the Camino!

Tonight we plan to eat a light meal (given our princely breakfast and lunch today) and a good nights sleep.  I’m hoping we find beds in the village of  Rabe de las Calzados which is about a 7 to 8 mile walk.  Starting off easy and gradually building our endurance will hopefully provide better results.  I keep thinking of the “6 P’s” Carl shared with me this past April in Florida.  Besides, we’re not in a race and we do want to experience all the Camino has to offer.  We’re ready for our Camino adventure and walk starting tomorrow!  The weather forecast is for a lot of rain with the temperature in the mid to high 30’s F.  What a way to start the Camino!  I hope to make a post and load more pictures tomorrow.  Buen Camino!

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There are several wide tree-lined  "paseos" parallel with the Rio Arlanzon with flowers everywhere.

There are several wide tree-lined “paseos” parallel with the Rio Arlanzon with flowers everywhere.

Beautiful,wide tree-lined paseos along the Rio Arlanzon

Beautiful,wide tree-lined paseos along the Rio Arlanzon

Monasterio de las Huelgas

Monasterio de las Huelgas

This is the waymarker as we leave Burgos onto the relative wilderness of the Meseta.

This is the waymarker as we leave Burgos onto the relative wilderness of the Meseta.

The Dutch born Canadian couple who have already walked over 200 kms. They look great!

The Dutch born Canadian couple who have already walked over 300 kms. They look great!

We left Madrid this morning at 0800 as scheduled. Cold, rainy day this morning and early afternoon. I would argue it was even “Colorado Cold.”  Raining with 3 degrees Celsius.  Given that our hotel was about 7 kilometers from the train station and we haven’t “officially” stated walking our Camino, I made a command decision to take the bus into town.  The police officer at the train station was very friendly and informative as to which bus to take and when.  It only cost us 1 Euro each for the 20 ride to the Plaza de Espana.  The weather remained wet and cold.  However, since we’re embodying the Camino Spirit, we walked around the old part of Burgos.  It took me about 20 minutes to get my bearings and after that, it was easy getting around Burgos. We checked into our hotel then immediately went exploring after that.  It didn’t take long to find our first pilgrims walking in town.  They were a Canadian couple and she looked like she was in pain.  They had started in St. Jean Pied du Port in France but had decided to take the bus to Leon.  They said this apologetically but we reminded them that each of us are on our own Camino.  If taking the bus to Leon helps them then that’s what they should do!

We ate lunch in the Plaza Mayor.  It was fabulous!  We had Paella Valenciana, vino tinto, then topped it off with a decadent Crepe Dulce “Argentino.”  From there we went to visit the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Mary.  It is one of the most beautiful and largest of Spain’s Cathedrals and that is saying something!  Each of its 21 Chapels are incredible works of architecture and art.  It is a “must see” when visiting Burgos.  If you have already started your Camino and have your Pilgrim’s Credencial Passport stamped, you can enter at half price.  Since we’re starting our pilgrimage in Burgos, we had to pay full price, 7 euros each.  However, it’s easily worth it and we did get  our first stamp or “sello” on our Credencial del Peregrino!  From the Cathedral we started up a steep path to get to the Castillo overlooking the city.  However, was closed.  We did stop at a scenic overlook and took excellent pictures of the Cathedral and old part of the city below.  While there we met two other pilgrims.  Thomas from Germany and Claudia from Austria.  Thomas is  walking the Camino with his father.  Claudia is walking the Camino with her mother!  They met a few days ago.  We enjoyed very much our visit with them.  Thomas speaks excellent English.  Claudia and her mother did the Camino last year though not together.  They are both very friendly.  Claudia has an easy smile and good sense of humor.  We certainly hope to meet them again along the way.  However, they’re very young and they resume their Camino tomorrow morning.  They’ll have a day on us so the odds may not be in our favor.  However, one never knows what the Camino brings!

After the fun visit with our new fellow peregrinos we were ready for a late afternoon cafe con leche.  We found the Ibanez Chocolateria on a very scenioc tree lined pedestrian mall. The homemade Chocolate cake was simply spectacular. The cafe con leche was the perfect compliment.  A theme was developing for our first day in Burgos.  Delightfully friendly pilgrims and delicious food!  Nancy said this evening she doesn’t want to leave Burgos! To top it off, we decided to find a market to buy bread, wine, cheese, serrano ham, and olives for a “light” meal in our hotel room.  I asked two lovely Spanish ladies for directions to the nnearest market.  They gave us excellent directions.  They’re sisters.  One has a daughter maarried to an Englishman.  They live in London.  She has another daughter who hhas been living in Wisconsin for 14 years.

We plan to take a smail “training” hike to the outskirts of the western side of the city to visit an old monastery and pilgrim’s hospital that goes back to the beginning of the infrastructure that has developed over the centuries.

Two Canadian pilgrims who are taking the bus to Leon.

Two Canadian pilgrims who are taking the bus to Leon.

Paella Valenciana at the Casino Restaurant - Plaza Mayor

Paella Valenciana at the Casino Restaurant – Plaza Mayor

Crepes Dulce "Argentino" at Casino's on Plaza Mayor

Crepes Dulce “Argentino” at Casino’s on Plaza Mayor

Cathedral of Saint Mary, Burgos

Cathedral of Saint Mary, Burgos

Scenic Overlook with Cathedral of Saint Mary and old Burgos below

Scenic Overlook with Cathedral of Saint Mary and old Burgos below

Delightful young couple, Thomas (Germany) and Claudio (Austria) we hope to see again

Delightful young couple, Thomas (Germany) and Claudio (Austria) we hope to see again

 

Two beautiful sisters of Burgos.

Two beautiful sisters of Burgos.

 

The first day of traveling east to Europe has always been the most difficult for me. The best I can do, sleep wise on the long cross Atlantic flight to Madrid is a “cat nap” at best.  Flying coach simply doesn’t afford the necessary space I need to get comfortably settled to induce solid sleep.  Fortunately, customs was a snap this morning and the taxi driver, Ana, was very pleasant. Checking in at our hotel was also very positive in that Raul, the day manager was very welcoming and accommodating. He is a very charming and friendly person. Expectations is something I constantly set for myself. I set an expectation today to stay awake til this evening. During the day we were to take a city bus to Madrid’s city center.  I was also going to once and for all settle the issue I have with my iPad Mini and downloading Apple Apps such as Facebook and Skype.  More on that in a later blog. However, for now, just know that I’ve been getting my butt kicked the last few days trying to get past the issue of not remembering my Apple ID password……. As for my expectations, we never made it to Madrid’s city center. Although my Spanish comprehension is passable and my Spanish speaking is more at the Iberian Neanderthal level, I never was confident enough to get on bus #27 with my wife and daughter. Instead we made a scouting trip to the train station a block away from the hotel to ensure we were confident of where we need to be tomorrow morning to catch the 0800 train to Burgos.  By then it was nearly noon and we were really feeling the effects of jet lag.  We struggled back to our hotel room and crashed.  After a near 4 hour sleep I awoke ready to tackle the Apple ID password issue.  My expectations were crushed two and a half hours later when I believe I made things worse with Steve Jobs’ boys.  So my high expectations of my spanish language skills and lack of finesse with Apple products brought me back to earth thinking of the Camino and how I needed to simply “let it be.” We left the hotel to look for a place to eat and to simply let Madrid come to us.  We walked a few blocks and found an inviting neighborhood Pub.  It had all the look and feel of a warm local Pub where people can stop by on the way home for a beer or meet with friends for drinks, food, and friendly conversations. Our waiter, who was the only waiter in the Pub so he was very busy, is a native of Madrid.  His name is Angel Jimenez Sanchez.  Nancy and Andrea ordered “vino tinto” which is red wine in English. I ordered the Spanish beer Mahou.  As is typical in  Spanish bars, when one orders drinks, the waiter will also bring a portion of the house tapas to go with the drinks.  In this case we each received a small slice of Spanish tortilla over sliced crusty bread along with marinated olives.  Delicious!
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Now we were finally relaxing!  After awhile we ordered the Jamon Iberico de Bellota and the Chorizo Iberico de Bellota.  Absolutely delicious.  Nancy and Andrea had two more vinto tintos and I had a second Mahou ceberza.  We followed that with a 1.5 Liter bottle of water.  Have to stay hydrated!

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Dala's Pub and Lounge Bar

We’ve arrived in Madrid! Going through customs was a snap. No long lines at all. Our passports quickly stamped and simply followed the exit signs “salida.”  We’re not as conspicuous as I originally thought in that there were enough travelers toting backpacks and very casual wear so that aside from our walking sticks, we blended with the other “backpackers.”  Our ride from the airport to our hotel was very pleasant.  Ana, our taxi driver spoke little English but since I speak enough Spanish to get by, we had a lively conversation on the way to the hotel. She’s a native of Madrid with a Galician father and Basque mother. Her husband is 100% Castilian.

Now  comes the challenge of staying awake all day!  We’re all excited about being here but also exhausted from a long day’s journey. Since we’ve only brought two changes of clothes, we’ve started the routine of bathing, putting on our clean set of clothes and washing our clothes worn for the day in the sink.  This will likely become our ritual for the next 5 weeks.

We’re going to walk to the train station and get our bearings now so that tomorrow morning, we’ll know exactly how to get the train platform for Burgos.  I might take a few quick pictures with my Sony Cyber-Shot and post later today.