Category Archives: Hiking the Camino de Santiago (maybe!)

TREKKING — DAY 25

FONCEBADON to MOLINASECA — 12.5 Miles

I had slept 15 hours and was finally ready to get up.  My foot still hurt and the stomach problems persisted.  It was raining outside, I was still weak and I knew I could not make that 3 mile walk up the mountain to Foncebadon.  I never thought I’d do this but I had Dick drive me those 3 miles uphill and then I got out and started walking.  The wind was blowing, it was still raining and it was a chilly 40 degrees.  Why walk when I felt so awful?  Because walking made me feel better.  The surroundings were so beautiful and once I got going my foot hardly hurt at all.  And the runs?  I never needed to go when I was walking because I had skipped dinner the night before and ate no breakfast.

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The first thing I came to was Cruz de Ferro, a monument where people leave a stone they’ve brought from home as a token of love and blessing for their journey.  It’s a very meaningful place for many pilgrims but I hadn’t brought a rock so I didn’t stop there for long.

I think I was supposed to get on the Camino path from there but there were other trekkers on the road so I continued to follow them instead of taking the path.

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I had told Dick I wanted to meet him in The next available place because I knew the farthest I could walk without a break would probably be 3 miles. The road continued downhill, which was quite easy for me.  Especially when I spotted the path and it looked like this.

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As soon as “Map My Walk” had told me I had walked 3 miles, there was Dick waiting by the side of the road.  It felt so good to just get in the car and sit for a few minutes, even though my raincoat was soaking wet.  It was a nice break for a few minutes and then I got out and continued on.

I was passing by a funky little village when a French woman came up to me and said, “You see this dog?  It has been following me since Foncebadon and I can’t get rid of it!”  I didn’t know what to tell her.  The dog was big and beautiful and seemed well fed.  Then she said, “I told it to go away in Spanish but it won’t listen.”  I didn’t know quite what to say so the two of us just started walking and thank goodness the dog followed faithfully behind her — not me.

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Even though the rain continued I was in awe of the vast beauty of the countryside.

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In another 3 miles I reached the village of Acebo and there was Dick waiting for me.  We went into a darling Bar and I ordered tea and a potato tortilla.  The place was warm and there was a big fire in the fireplace.

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They served the potato tortilla with 3 pieces of bread with tomato rubbed on them and then drizzled with olive oil.  It tasted so good.  The tortilla was fabulous but I could only eat a few bites of it.

Continuing on, I stayed on the highway most of the time.  If I came to an area where the path was, I avoided it and you can see why.

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I did have to get back on the path at one point because Dick texted me to meet him at a little village for another break.  He said to walk through the village and go to the church at the end.

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I never did see the church but the Camino path veered off to the right so I texted him that I was just going to follow the path.  Bad idea!

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The path was a steep downhill full of mud, rocks, water and thorny bushes.  At times my feet went deep into water and at one point I was trying to jump across a stream when I landed in the mud, went slipping and sliding and fell down.  I didn’t hurt myself and wanted to burst into tears — but I didn’t.  Instead I pushed both hands into the mud, hoisted myself up, wiped the mud off on some grass and continued on.

It wasn’t long before the path reached the highway and I saw Dick.  He was waiting for me at a little stand that a man had set up with food and things for Pilgrims.  He didn’t charge any money but took donations because he said some pilgrims could not afford to pay and he would give them anything they wanted for free.  He looked at the mud on me and said, “Eez not so bad.  Thee Camino Eez like life, eet have some good parts and some not so good.”

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After a nice break it started to rain again and I walked the rest of the way to Molinaseca.  It was a pretty little town by a river and I hoped Dick had gotten us a place with a view.

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As I walked into town he was standing at the side of the street talking to another Pilgrim and she looked to be about my age with long curly gray hair.  She told us how lucky we were to be able to have private rooms with bathrooms because she always stayed in Albergues in group rooms.  And I knew that she was absolutely right.  We were extremely lucky and I was lucky to have Camino Concierge guiding me along The Way.

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Our hotel is the yellow building. No view because we were on the first floor.  But we had the sound of the rushing river outside our window.  And our room was as small as yesterday.

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Dick borrowed a blow dryer from the hospitalero and I was able to shower and wash my hair.  Then there was the task of washing my clothes and especially trying to get the mud out.

I skipped dinner because my stomach was still a little upset and I still had the runs.  I stayed in bed while Dick went out and got a Pizza and a couple glasses of wine.  Then he and the owner of the Hotel, the sweetest 69 year old man you’d ever want to meet, sat just outside my window talking for hours — in English, of course!

As I laid in bed I thought about this intestinal thing and how I thought it would run (literally) its course and then I’d be well.  But that wasn’t happening.  I was tired of feeling weak, not wanting to eat, a little nauseated and constantly having the runs.  So I made a decision.  I opened the window, interrupted Dick in his conversation and said, “I need some help.”

I’ll continue what happened next in tomorrow’s Blog.

TREKKING — DAY 24

MURIAS de RECHIVALDO to RABANAL — 10.4 Mile

The first thing I need to explain is about the Meseta.  The Meseta stretches from Burgos (where I started this time), up until where I was today.  All the books say the Meseta is flat, brown and boring and recommend that trekkers may want to skip it.  Well, I think you can see from my write-ups and photos that all the books lied.  I thoroughly enjoyed walking the Meseta and would do it again in a heartbeat.  But now I was out of it and would be starting into the mountains.

It rained all night long and was still raining when I awakened at 6am.  I had been sleeping for the last 14 hours and still didn’t want to get up.  This bed and this place just felt so right.  After yesterday’s muddy walk, the foot pains, the blisters and the runs, I really was hesitant about walking.  But I thought I’d get up and see how I felt.  I joined Dick and Leslie in the breakfast room and sat with them and other Trekkers while they ate.  I couldn’t even stomach a cup of coffee.  

Leslie seemed ready to hit the trail and I thought I’d give it a try — I had Camino Concierge Dick who I could text at any moment if I needed him to come pick me up.  Leslie said she was going to walk farther than Rabanal because she was on a tight schedule to get to Santiago. I told her I couldn’t go any farther than that.  We put on all of our rain gear, I popped some Camino Candy and we were off.  

Usually Leslie and I walked at the same pace but I just couldn’t do it today.  I felt tired and weak because I hadn’t eaten and when we first started out I was limping on my foot.  But after a block or so the pain started to disminish in my foot and it actually felt better and sometimes had no pain at all.

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The walk wasn’t too strenuous today, not many hills, just mud — but we were used to that by now.  After about 2 miles of trying to keep up with Leslie I had to tell her to go ahead and I would (or wouldn’t) meet up with her later for coffee.  The rain continued and I slowed my pace until I could no longer see her ahead of me.

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I had walked about 5 miles and could tell there was a town ahead because of the prominent church steeple.  It was time for a break so I walked into what looked like a cowboy Bar from the 50’s.  And there was Leslie.

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I ordered a Potato Tortilla which was now my new favorite thing for breakfast, but was only able to eat a few bites.  My stomach was revolting against food.  When we started out again I didn’t want to say goodbye to Leslie because that seemed so permanent but I knew I’d probably never see her again.  

The rain continued as I walked along the highway and there were some uphill climbs that ordinarily wouldn’t have been so bad but today they were killing me.  

I was so happy to see Dick and finally be in Rabanal.   It was still raining and very cold when we walked into Albergue del Pilar.  Dick had reserved a private room with private bath but it seemed they didn’t have any such thing.  So a nice lady had us walk about a block away to someone’s house where we were taken to a room upstairs, with a bathroom across the hall.  She said it was our own private bathroom because there was no one else in the other 3 rooms.  The house was absolutely beautiful but when she showed us our room it couldn’t have been smaller.  The two twin beds and one night stand barely fit in the room.  And there was no floor space to put our things without tripping over them.

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Dick wanted to eat so we walked back over to the Albergue and he ordered a plate of pasta while I had a cup of tea.  The hospitalero who served us kept laughing and looking at Dick saying, “Solo Engles!”  Only English! Those were Dick’s famous first and last words in Spanish.  

While we were there Dick said he had driven ahead to see what tomorrow’s walk would look like and he said it was a horribly high mountain.  When we finished eating we drove up there and I saw that it was 3 miles of straight uphill.  And when we got to the top it said this was the highest point on the Camino.  I knew I couldn’t do it tomorrow.  I told Dick all I wanted to do now was go to bed.  It was about 2:30pm when I got in bed and except for frequent trips to the bathroom, I slept until the next morning.

TREKKING — DAY 20

MANSILLA to LEON — 12 miles

Today started off with a little mishap.  After I got up and ready to go I picked up my backpack from the floor and found that the water bottle was still attached to it and had been leaking all night.  The backpack was sitting in a pool of water and was soaking wet on the backside — which went against my back, and the shoulder straps were also dripping with water.  There was no way I could wear it today.  So I had to switch to my day pack, where nothing was accessible.  My fingernails were ragged and kept catching on my clothes, I couldn’t find the plastic bag for my pajamas, even though it was right there, I should have washed my hair 3 days ago and Dick didn’t offer to get me any coffee this morning.  All of this added up to put me in a funk.  The good news was that Dick was able to take my backpack with him in the car.

It was after 8am by the time I left and after a half a block the first person I passed was Matt who was sitting on the sidewalk having a smoke.  I found the Camino trail and quickly proceeded out of town.  Immediately the Camino put me right next to a busy highway.

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The diesel fumes and noise of the traffic just added to my irritation.  However, there was one pretty part.

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And it lasted all of 2 blocks.  Then I was back by the highway with noise and fumes.  I listened to my MP3 player to try and block out the noise but it didn’t.  And then it died because I hadn’t charged the batteries.  I tried to switch to music on my phone but didn’t know how to do it so I had to text Dick.  He got me all straightened out.  Then the path ended and we were up on the highway walking alongside the cars and trucks.  

After about 6 miles of easy but noisy walking I decided to stop for a break.  I wanted an outside cafe because the weather was so beautiful but there were none.  I passed up a Cafe with pastries in the window and then turned around and went back to it because I wasn’t sure there would be another.  When I got inside, who was there but Leslie and Brian and his buddie.  They were just finishing their break so I had a little coffee with them and told them to go on ahead.  I took my time drinking and resting, not in any hurry to leave.  

Back on the road the traffic continued and the terrain started to get hilly.  I felt like a slakker pilgrim in my day pack as everyone else had their full packs.  I passed Carol and Leah but didn’t stop to talk as they were trudging up the hill in their full packs.

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There were a couple of cute parts like this donkey with “Buen Camino” painted on it’s side.

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Then the path continued alongside the highway again.  Dick kept texting me that he would meet me for coffee at some point but there was never a place to do it.

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Finally off in the distance I saw a big city and couldn’t believe it was Leon.

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It was another 3 miles of noisy highway before I entered town and met Dick outside the hotel.  There was no place to park so I carried his backpack, my wet backpack and my daypack into the hotel while he looked for a place to park.  The hotel was called the Conde Luna and was a big American type hotel with a view of the Leon Cathedral off in the distance.

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I wasn’t tired after the 12 mile walk so we went out to see the sights of Leon and have a bite to eat.

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We walked around for ages before we found a place to eat.  There were lots of “Bars,” “Cafeterias” and ice cream and dessert places but when we looked at the posted menus we couldn’t understand what any of the food was.  The words were so different from the Spanish I knew.  We finally found one that had an English menu.

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Calamari and Croquettes

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“Little pocket filled with mushrooms, prawns and tomato”

We had planned to stay in Leon for 2 days of rest and relaxation but even though it was beautiful here neither of us felt comfortable being in the big city with the noise, traffic and all the congestion.  And besides that, the whole time we were out walking around we didn’t see one person we knew!

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 19

EL BURGO RANERO to MANSILLA — 12 Miles

Lying in our huge room with 3 beds, it was tempting just to stay there all day.  I thought I would be really sore after yesterday’s 20 mile trek but once I was out of bed I felt fine.  I knew this would be an easy day, just 12 miles, and that made it all the better.  I didn’t know how Leslie felt but I didn’t think I could keep up the fast walk I did with her yesterday.  

It was 8:30 by the time I left and found my way to the Camino path.  It was long and straight and ran next to a secondary road.  

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There was hardly any traffic on the road so it was really peaceful and quiet. The thing that differentiated this path from others was that there were benches and picnic areas placed intermittently along the way so if you were tired you could always find a nice place to sit.  

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Some people just didn’t want to carry a backpack so they put a harness around their wastes and pulled a cart with all their belongings.  I can’t imagine doing that on some of the mountains we’ve had to pass.

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The first mile seemed to be the longest and I never thought I’d get it over with.  There was no one on the trail that I knew this morning so I was happy listening to music, which put a spring in my step.  Most of the terrain was flat, there were some hills to climb but they weren’t too bad.  After I’d gone about 6 miles I found a cement bench to sit on for about 5 minutes.  It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the birds were chirping.  I had never in my life heard a coo coo bird but now I was hearing them every morning as I walked.  And they sounded exactly like a coo coo clock!  

After about 8 miles I came into a village called Rellegos and was going to take a break.  I didn’t want to stop at the first place I saw but just after I walked past it I heard someone calling my name.  It was Lesley.  We hugged and were so happy to see each other.  She had just finished her tea and was getting ready to leave but since I was there she decided to stay with me.  We were just sitting down at a table outside when Debbie and a guy named Brian showed up.  I was so happy to run into my two favorite walking partners.  They introduced me to Brian, who was from Ireland and seemed like Mr. Congeniality.  Brian bought us all coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.  We had a great break sitting outside in the sun and of course laughing and telling funny stories.  Leslie said she had had a terrible night after that 20 mile walk we had done the day before — she woke up freezing and shaking uncontrollably and could not get back to sleep.  She thought it might have been a combination of walking so far mixed with a little sun poisoning.  Her face was really red.

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The 4 of us then set out walking together with Leslie and Brian (the fast ones) in front and Debbie and I (the decidedly slower ones) several yards behind.  When Brian saw a group of Trekkers standing at the side of the path he insisted we have our picture taken with them.

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The next 4 miles flew by and we had reached Mansilla.  Dick had texted me that our Hostel was called El Jardin (the garden) and although I had seen a sign for it I still hadn’t found it.  Just when I thought I had passed it, here came Dick walking toward us.  He took us right to it and that’s when we said goodbye to Brian and Debbie.  They were both staying elsewhere in Albergues.  

Although Lesley always stays in group rooms in Albergues she said she still wasn’t feeling up to par and wanted a private room for the night.  El Jardin was so cute and quaint with a huge yard in front with tables, chairs and umbrellas.  Dick had done a great job when he booked us there.  Leslie liked it too and we tried to get her a room there but they were full so she found one at a hostel right next door.  Dick had already paid for our room but when we went to check in they told us they were putting us at another place about a block away.  So all of us were staying in completely different places and no one was staying at El Jardin.  Our hostel was new and modern but didn’t have any of the quaint charm that we had learned to love.

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This is the view from our balcony.  After we got settled in the room we went back over to El Jardin so we could sit in the garden and have some lunch.  The first person we ran into was Matt, who is an artist.  He showed us his book of drawings of conquistadors and saints all having to do with the Camino.  We were so impressed.  He was a fabulous artist.  He had just done his wash and was spreading it all over tables and chairs to dry.  Another Trekker was in shorts (or under pants) and a sports bra, sunning herself.  Dick and I sat down at a table and ordered, beer, wine, a salad and Patatas Bravas.  Everything was fabulous.

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Just as we were finishing, Lesley walked in.  She had come for lunch so she sat with us while she ate and we drank more wine and beer.  Then just as she was finishing her meal, Debbie and her husband Jim came walking in.

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They sat with us and ate while we all continued to drink wine and beer.  Then just as they were finishing who shows up but Carol.  Then Brian and his friend wandered in and joined us.  And wait, just after that Debbie and Jim’s daughter Elizabeth walked in.  OMG this was one big happy family.  I’m not quite sure how we were all drawn together like that.  

We had been there the entire afternoon and it was now 5 o’clock.  Debbie and her family left and I told Dick we needed to go, too.  Lesley, Carol and Brian were all still there drinking when we went back to our room.  

At 8 o’clock Dick and I decided to go back and get a bite to eat.  Well what a shock — Leslie, Carol and Brian were all still there.  They had never left!  And they had been drinking all day!  Also, Carol’s daughter Leah was there.  Remember Leah?  She was the little blonde we had first met at the airport in Madrid.  They were sitting at a big long table with a bunch of other trekkers eating dinner.  So we pulled up chairs and joined them.  

It just amazed me how certain of us were always being drawn together along The Way.

 

 

 

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 18

TERRADILLOS de los TEMPLARIOS to EL BURGO RANERO — 20 MILES

This morning came all too quickly and I just wanted to stay in bed.  I knew it would be another long day but I wasn’t anxious to leave in the dark again.  I skipped  breakfast because I’m never hungry in the mornings and here on the Camino what they consider to be breakfast is coffee, toast and jam.  

Dick walked me out the door at 7 am.  It was cold but light out and I was glad I had bundled up again.  The path ran right in front of our Albergue and other Trekkers were there so I felt confident about where I was going. Once on the path I passed an Asian woman and said “Buen Camino” and she said “Oh, you backpack, it so pretty — pretty color, like it, nice nice, everything match, backpack, jacket, you gloves, too.”  I started laughing and thanked her and then she locked arms with me as we walked along.  I loved how friendly she was.  The locked arm thing only lasted a few minutes and then we were walking together at a good speed.  She was from Taiwan and traveling with 2 other people.  The guy in front of us was one of them and she said he set the pace and she had to keep up with him.  Her English was not too bad and we had a good time talking for the next 2 miles.  Then the other guy she was with called to her and she told me to go on ahead.  

For the next 5 miles there were a lot of hills and ups and downs as the path traversed through some wooded areas but mostly ran alongside a secondary road.  I was happy to be walking alone again and decided I wanted to listen to music.  The first song I heard was by the Gypsie Kings called “Caminando por la Calle,” (walking along the highway) and I couldn’t believe how appropriate it was.  Then I passed 3 women trekking together and they commented on my backpack.  They loved the decals and said, “Oh I want to put decals on my backpack, too.”   They were from California — Mission Viejo and San Diego.  I passed them up and kept walking and the next song that came on was “California Dreamin.”

I was finally getting close to the big town of Sahagun and Dick had texted me that we should meet there for coffee.  I could see Sahagun up ahead on my left but the path was taking me way out of the way to the right.  I ended up in a little area with some Camino statues, and a bridge that went over a little stream.

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The path then went back the other way toward Sahagun and I was a little miffed that it took me so far out of the way when I could have continued along the highway and been there already.  I finally veered off the path to enter Sahagun through some back streets.  Dick texted me to meet him at a really tall building that I should have been able to see, but couldn’t.  I was really tired and ready for a break so texted him that I was at the backside of a hotel and that he HAD to come and get me.  Two minutes later, there he was.  I hopped in the car with my face pressed up against the windshield because I hadn’t taken off my backpack and 4 blocks later we arrived in the middle of town and at a cute little bar.  We sat outside at a table and ordered cafe con leche and an almond croissant (which was the best croissant I had ever eaten!).

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I burst out laughing when I saw these signs on the bathroom doors.  While we were sitting outside luxuriating in the sunshine along came the California women and the people from Taiwan.  Then, sitting at the table next to us were Matilda and Leslie who I had met and have photos of in yesterday’s blog.  Matilda was leaving to go back to Italy to work and they said long tearful goodbyes to each other.  They had just met a week ago on the Camino.

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During the break we discussed which town I would walk to today — the well travelled path to El Burgo Ranero, which ran next to the road and was a lot longer, or take the shorter, rustic path to Hermanillos, which ran through dense bush.  I told Dick I wanted the rustic path.  

After that nice rest break I gathered up my things and was ready to leave when I discovered the Camino path was right beside us.  There were some pretty sights walking through Sahagun.

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I was a couple miles out of town when Dick texted me that he had driven to Hermanillos and there were no private rooms available anywhere in that little village.  So the decision was made — I would walk the longer route to El Burgo RANERO.  I wanted to make sure I was on the right path so I was standing, looking at some map signs when Leslie, from Britain, showed up.  There were two other guys there from Britain and we all finally decided we were on the right path.  

Leslie and I took off and found we both liked to walk fast and we talked non-stop and laughed for the next 6 miles.  She was just as much fun as Debbie.  Actually, Leslie walked a little faster than I would have liked, and why not?  She was 13 years younger than I.  At one point I asked her if her legs hurt after she walked and she had to think about it and finally said, “Well, not really.”  Oh boy, I was in bad shape!  

Dick texted me off and on while we were walking and said he would meet me at the next little village.  By then we had walked 15 miles and I was really tired — and I mean “really” tired.  As we entered the village we met Dick, who was sitting outside at a little bar.  The first thing he said to us was that he could hear us laughing and talking when we were still 2 blocks away!  After using “the facilities” we sat down with Dick.  Leslie had tea and treated Dick to a beer while I chugged down a pint — of water, that is.  The two British guys showed up and tried to get reservations in this little place but everything was fully booked.  So, they were going to have to walk on to El Burgo Ranero, too.  

The break was nice and I thought I could do another 5 miles and it would be a piece of cake.  So, Leslie and I took off.  Well, after the first mile I was really tired.  After the second mile I wasn’t liking the walk.  After the third mile Leslie and I were no longer talking.  After the 4th mile I wanted to sit down and give up.  But somehow we sped up and were walking faster than before because we just wanted to get there.  

As we entered town we parted ways because we were both staying at different places.  Leslie knew her Albergue was straight ahead but I didn’t know where Dick and I were staying.  Just then Dick texted that he could see me on “Map My Walk and told me to turn right at the next street.  I did that.  Then he texted, go left at the fork in the road, turn right again, then turn left again, and then, OK now go right.  But there was a lag time and the app didn’t “really” show where I was.  He had me going around in circles when actually I was just 1 block away from him.  OMG, I was sooooo glad to finally see him.  By then I had walked 20 miles!

When we entered our room on the second floor I stripped out of all my clothes and collapsed on the bed.  I didn’t want to move again — ever!  

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Well that only lasted 15 minutes.  I hadn’t eaten all day so I had to get up off that bed and hobble over to my backpack and get dressed,  My thigh and hip muscles were miserably sore.  But we made it downstairs and to a  nice table outside in the sun.  We each ordered a bowl of soup  and a glass of wine.  Well, they brought the soup and put a full bottle of wine on the table.  Really?  We could have as much wine out of that bottle as we wanted?  OK, no problem.  

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This is Sopa Castellano.  It is basically called Bread Soup and has an egg in the center.  It looks good but tasted like bread and water with an egg in the center.  

Just as we were finishing our soup, who comes walking up but Leslie and the two British guys.  I don’t know how they ended up at the same place we were because they were all staying at a different Albergue in another part of town.  Anyway, they sat down with us, ordered wine and beer and we all ended up sitting out there in the sun for the next 3 hours.  We were also joined by a Trekker named Matt and he seemed to know everybody on the Camino.  

We all met that night for dinner at our hostel and you could tell it had been a hard day for everyone.  No one even protested when they put one bottle of wine on the table for all 5 of us to share!

This had been the longest day ever and I vowed never to do it again.

TREKKING — DAY 17

CARRION de los CONDES to TERRADILLOS de los TEMPLARIOS — 16.25 Miles

I knew today would be a long day so I wanted to get an early start.  Besides that the books all said there were no services for the first 10 miles — no food, no water, no toilets — nothing.  I stuck a stale cheese and chorizo sandwich in my pocket and told Dick I wouldn’t be having any coffee this morning.  It was 6am so I pulled out my headlamp only to find the batteries were dead.  Luckily Dick had brought extras so he changed them out and I was good to go.  I put on my double fleece jackets, neck scarf, knitted headband, gloves, backpack, camera, phone, fanny pack and plenty of water.

When we stepped out the door at 6:15am it was 34 degrees and pitch dark.  I had no idea which way to go to get to the Camino path so I was glad Dick was with me.  He lead me to where he thought it was but the Camino signs were very poor and we were never sure we were going the right way.  No businesses were open and there wasn’t another Trekker anywhere in sight.  Finally after three quarters of a mile we came to a round-about with a monument and a Camino sign off to the right.

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A quick kiss goodbye and I headed off into the darkness alone.  Needless to say, I was a little spooked.  Where were the other Trekkers?  Why weren’t any of them walking yet?  I was on a one lane flat gravel road with bushes and fields on either side and that also made me a little nervous.  Could someone be hiding in the bushes?  I kept straining my eyes to see as far ahead as I could and I thought I saw a sign that looked like it had some yellow on it.  Or was that a person?  I kept walking thinking I would pass it but it always seemed to stay about 2 blocks ahead of me.  OK that’s got to be a person.  And that person better be a Trekker!  After about 45 minutes it was light enough that I could tell it really was a Trekker.  I kept turning around to see if I could see any Trekkers behind me but I never did.  A few miles farther and I wanted to sit for a bit but there were ice crystals all over these cement tables and benches.

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After I’d walked about 5 miles I saw a car crossing our path about a mile up ahead.  Then it stopped at the side of the road by a big barn and someone dressed in black got out and was standing in the middle of the road.  My antennas went up immediately.  I was still a good half mile away and it was still just that other Trekker and me.  But I kept my eye on that car and that man wondering what he was doing and why.  Now I was getting a little scared.  But the other Trekker was still 2 blocks ahead of me so I thought if that man was out to get us, he’d get the other Trekker first.  As I got a little closer I suddenly thought, “Wait a minute!  OMG!  It can’t be! Is it?  IS IT!?  YES!  That’s Dick standing in the middle of the road!!!  Relief!  He had been following me on “Find my Friends” and had come so I could take a break and sit down in the warm car for a while. 

Just then, off to my right I saw some tables set up and someone was barbecuing.  I turned in, Dick joined me and we had a nice break with barbecued sausage sandwiches and cafe con Leche.  Finally other Trekkers showed up and many of them joined us for a break.

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I felt so refreshed after I got back on the road and there were finally other Trekkers ahead of me.  

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It was such a beautiful day and I decided I’d get out my MP3 player and listen to some music.  The sun was out, the sky was blue, the fields were green and the music really put a spring in my step.  Then the Bruno Mars song came on, “This is gonna be the best day of my life,” and I wanted to throw my arms up in the air and laugh and skip and dance down the road.  I was so filled with emotion I got a big lump in my throat just thinking how lucky I was to be here and to be fulfilling my dream of walking the Camino.  

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I loved being alone and I loved all the music I was listening to.  I was silently mouthing the words to all the songs when I passed by someone and said, “Buen Camino,” and he said “Bonjoir.”  So I asked him how he was, using the only other French I knew.  He spoke just a tiny bit of English but we walked together, with him speaking in half English and half French and me pretending I understood every word he was saying.  One thing I did understand was when he told me he walked 40 kilometers or more each day and I was so impressed.  

We kept up a good pace and came upon a lady using walking sticks and the closer we got the more familiar she seemed to me.  I called out her name and she turned around — it was Debbie, my favorite walking partner.  The three of us walked together for a while, then Frenchie took off ahead of us.  Debbie and I walked, talked and laughed for another 8 miles.  At one point we were passing some other Trekkers who were resting and one of them said, “You two are the happiest Trekkers on this whole Camino.”  

The next village we came upon we decided to take a break.  There were two other women there who Debbie had met previously, Leslie from Britian and Matilda  from Italy.  We all sat around and talked for a while, then Debbie’s husband showed up.  I think he is her guardian angel, just Ike Dick is mine.

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Matilda and Leslie standing.  Me and Debbie sitting.

Debbie and Jim
Debbie and Jim

While we were sitting there Debbie said she hoped I didn’t get offended but she had written in her blog that she had met a really nice American woman named Karen and had fun walking with her.  But afterwards she was so exhausted she had to flop down and couldn’t move for the next half hour!  And I said, “I thought I was keeping pace with you.”  And she said, “Well I thought I was keeping pace with you!”  

We resumed our walk but this time there were a few  uphill climbs so we had to slow it down just a bit.  Finally, after a little over 16 miles we reached our Albergue, where Dick was sitting outside waiting for me.  Debbie continued on because her Albergue was another mile up the road.  And yes, I said Albergue — you know, the place I said I’d never stay — no no, not for me!  Well, this was a nice one.  We had a private room and private bathroom.  They even washed and dried all our clothes for us.  Other people did their own wash and hung it out on the lines to dry.

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We decided to have a small dinner and shared some pasta and salad.  And of course, wine — which we did NOT share!

 

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 16

FROMISTA to CARRION de los CONDES — 13 miles

Even though I didn’t sleep well last night my muscles felt fine and I was ready for another day of walking.  After a quick cup of coffee I was out the door.  It was already 8:30am.

The Camino path went right alongside the highway with cars whizzing by in each direction.image image

These people had huge, heavy backpacks.   So big you couldn’t even see their heads.  And the girl had some serious stuff hanging off of hers.  I call her a back loader.  As for me, I’m a front loader — all my stuff hangs off the front.

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And nothing off the back.  Just sewn on decals.

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Passing out of the first little village I saw some people who I was sure we’re the ones Debbie had told me about yesterday.  A Japenese girl and an American man met on the Camino two years ago.  They got married, had a baby and now they were back with the baby and a Japenese friend to walk the Camino again.  Now that’s brave!

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I wanted to get off the highway so I decided to take an alternate, but longer route which would go through the countryside.  It was so much prettier than the highway.

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The path continued along the river until I had walked about 7 miles.  I was getting tired, hungry, really needed to go to the bathroom and I was dying to sit down and take a break.  But there was no place to do any of that.  And I wasn’t going to sit in the grass because I thought there might be snakes in it! And as for finding a place to pee, there were other Trekkers on the path and no privacy.  I finally came out of the woods and back onto a highway, walked 2 more miles on mostly flat land but with a couple of hills and met Dick at a bar in the next village.  I was spent!  Nine miles with no break.

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Debbie’s husband, Jim was there and we chatted with him for a while.  When it was time to go it was really hard to move because my muscles were so sore.  That’s what happens every time I take a break.  It hurts less if I just keep walking.

It was 4 more miles before I reached the outskirts of Carrion.  I was wondering where our hotel was when off in the distance I saw Dick walking toward me.  What a great guide he is.  He seems to always know where I am through an app called “Find My Friends.”

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The lady at our last hotel chewed us out because we didn’t have reservations for tonight.  This was a big holiday weekend and she said everything would be sold out.  So she called and got us the last room at a place called the Hostel Santiago.  As always, we had to walk up 3 flights of stairs to a room in the attic, with a little porch in the front that was big enough for a midget. It had 3 beds and a chair that made into a 4th bed.

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We went out to explore, had a pizza in the central plaza but unless you were in the sun it was cold.  We walked around town and went into the cathedral which was beautiful but old and musty smelling.  Then we ran into Debbie and Jim who said they were staying in an Albergue run by some Nuns.  They have stayed in Albergues this whole time.  I don’t think I could do it — I mean sleep in bunk beds in a room with 10 to 90 other people and use communal bathrooms.  And at night you listen to their snoring and whatever else they do in their sleep!  Nope, not for me.

CAMINO– DAY 15

CASTROJEREZ to FROMISTA  — 16.6 Miles

After a fairly good nights sleep I woke up knowing that today would be horrible.  I knew there was going to be a huge mountain to climb shortly after I started out.  On the topography map it looked like an upward spike on an EKG. Ugly!  My legs were so sore that I knew I’d have to take it more easily, but this mountain!  I decided to skip breakfast because I was anxious to get started and get this mountain over and done with.  Dick and I said our goodbyes and he chose not to walk me up the street.  It was a long way out of this 900 person town.

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As I was passing by this fountain I was getting annoyed because there was another Trekker behind me and all I could hear were his obnoxious trekking poles going click clack, click clack on the cobble stone road.  As I approached other Trekkers it was even worse because they all had poles.  That constant click clack sound was more than I could take.  So I walked fast and passed them all so I could have some peace and quiet.  I could see the mountain looming ahead of me and knew it was almost 3000 feet high.  The good thing was that the path didn’t go straight up, it went at an angle.  See it snaking across the mountain?

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It was a good 2 miles before I reached it’s base and started the upward climb.  I decided all I had to do was take 20 steps, then rest, then take another 20 steps and rest and on and on.  And that’s what I did.  The funny thing was, all the while I was doing that I couldn’t catch my breathe, my heart was pounding in my ears, I wanted to rip my backpack off and all the Trekkers with those dang poles were passing me!  I finally made it to the top and there was a little rest area there but it sounded like someone was throwing up behind it so I snapped a couple of quick photos and walked on.

View from the top. The town where I started was just beside that mountain in the distance.

This is the view from the top.  Castrojerez, the town where I started is way off in the distance at the foot of that little mountain.

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I started going down the other side and it was really steep even though it doesn’t look like it in the photo.  It had been paved with cement and I had to take small steps and walk pretty slowly.

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A little farther up the path I stopped at a rest area for a 5 minute break and to eat some trail mix.

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The path had leveled out and I was surrounded by lush green farmland.  I was feeling pretty good by this time because I knew I’d conquered “Mt Everest” and I was still alive!

After I’d walked about 6 miles I was needing a longer rest and some lady standing in the middle of the road gave me a flyer advertising a Bar (restaurant) just up the road so I decided I’d stop there for a coffee.  I entered the little village and was going to look for the Bar but I came to a fork in the road and didn’t know which way to go.  Just then a woman came up behind me and said she saw a little arrow going left.  We immediately started talking and realized we walked at the same speed.  She had short gray hair, was from Australia and her name was Debbie.  She was so funny and so interesting that when we came to the little Bar where I wanted to stop, I passed it right up so I could keep walking with her.  Debbie had 7 children, a knee replacement and was doing the Camino for the second time.  She was with her husband and daughter, and they all walked at different speeds and therefore didn’t walk together.  Each day they had their bags shipped to the next stop so they only carried day packs.  We laughed and talked for the next 8 miles and the time flew by.  We stopped for a cafe con leche and not long after we sat down Debbie’s husband walked in.  We chatted for a while and then we all got back to walking.

Just before reaching Fromista we came upon an 18th Century Canal with a little system of locks.  Back then it was designed to provide transportation of crops and power to turn the corn mills.  Today it is simply used for irrigation.

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When we entered Fromista there was Dick sitting in the car at the side of the road.  He knew I wouldn’t be able to find our hotel.  I said good bye to Debbie and Dick drove me a few blocks down a different road to our hotel.  I was immediately sorry I hadn’t gotten any contact information from her.

We checked into the Hostal Camino de Santiago which was another restored old place with darling rooms.

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I had to admit that I had really overdone it today.  My upper legs and hips were so sore it hurt to walk.  But we did go out to explore this little town and stop for drinks.

Later we were walking around again, looking for a place to eat dinner when I heard someone calling my name.  It was Debbie.  She and her husband and daughter were all sitting outside at a little cafe.  We were so elated to see each other again and the first thing I did was to get her contact info and tell her I hoped we would run into each other again on the Camino.

And by the way, when I walked all those miles with Debbie she used trekking poles the whole time!

 

TREKKING — DAY 13

DAY 13  — ONE YEAR LATER

BURGOS TO HORNILLOS — 13 Miles

Last year I walked through day 12 of the Camino from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Burgos, Spain.  This year I’m starting where I left off with Day 13 of the Camino.

It was 7am by the time I finally woke up.  Dick was already up, it was light out and I thought, “Oh gosh, I’m late”!  I should have gotten out and started an hour ago, while it was still dark.  But wait!  I promised myself and others that I would take it slowly this time.  Last year I walked too far, too fast, barely ate anything and was dehydrated.  The result was muscle strain and tendonitis in my foot that resulted in my quitting the Camino.  So why would I want to go back?  Why would I want to try this all over again?  The only answer I have is that something was pulling at me, something was calling me back.  The Camino was in my blood and every fiber of my being told me I had to return.  And besides that, I had recently watched the movie “The Way” for the 4th time and I burst into tears the minute it started.

I got up and showered, purposely taking my time because Dick was going to make sure I took it easy and didn’t leave until later.  I arranged everything in my 18 pound backpack, gave Dick my iPad and charger, which reduced it by a pound, then added two pounds of water and a pound of Trail Mix, attached my camera and cell phone to one of the shoulder straps and put on my fanny pack.  And I didn’t do the math because at that point I didn’t want to know how much weight I had just added to myself.  I put on my trekking clothes and two layers of fleece jackets, my gloves, Smart Wool socks and running shoes and I was set.

A burst of cold air hit us as we walked out of the hotel.  It was 41 degrees with a pretty good breeze.  We walked a block and found a coffee shop by the river where we could get a cafe con leche.

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Not only was it coffee but it came with a shot of freshly squeezed orange juice and a cookie.  What a treat!

I was nervous about walking today.  Our hotel was by the river but the Camino path was someplace else and I had to find it. Dick had decided he wasn’t going to walk with me at all this year. He was still having problems with his feet so decided to rent a car for this first week of the Camino. I would walk to the designated village (where busses didn’t go) and he would drive there and meet me.We finished our coffee, I turned on “Map My Walk” and we were off.

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Dick walked the first couple of blocks with me before he turned around and went to get his rental car. It was 9am and I nervously walked along the river hoping to see other Trekkers but because it was so late in the morning and I wasn’t even on the Camino path, I didn’t see a one.

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After about a mile I spotted it — that beautiful clamshell sign signifying the Camino. I turned left, crossed the river and then started seeing more yellow Camino markers guiding the way and more Pilgrims and Bikers. I was elated, I picked up my pace and was finally passing other Trekkers (Pilgrims), saying”Buen Camino” to everyone I passed.

Hikers and Bikers
Hikers and Bikers

After about 4 miles I turned to say “Buen Camino” to two people and realized it was the little blond and her mother who we had met yesterday at the bus station. So I started walking with them, and Carol, the Mom told me how she had arranged the Camino. The first two weeks she was on it she walked with her son. Then her daughter came yesterday and the son left. She’ll walk with her daughter, Leah for the next two weeks, then she’ll walk alone for the next week, then for the last week her husband will come and walk with her until they reach Santiago, the end of the Camino. What a great family adventure.  I was kind of jealous of her and wished my family could have come, too.

In no time at all we had walked 7 miles. We came to a little village and Carol and Leah wanted to stop at a store and I wanted to find someplace to eat. So we said our good byes. I kept walking expecting to see a bar (what we think of as a restaurant) but before I knew it I was out of town. So I walked to the next town and found a cute little place where I ordered a Chorizo and Cheese Bocadillo and a Cafe con Leche. I love the way they serve food here — the Bocadillo (sandwich) came with a tiny cup of chicken soup and the coffee came with a little cookie. There were some very loud Pilgrims inside so even though it was cold I chose to sit outside where a nice German fellow joined me.

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Up until this point the Camino had been pretty easy — in and out of some wooded areas and lots of flat very green farmland.

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But now we were going uphill, which was the worst for me, and it lasted for the next 4 miles. When I reached the summit it was a very steep downhill and I could see the town of Hornillos, my final destination for the day.

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Boy did I truck down that mountain. And just as I was entering town there stood Dick. He had come to meet me and show me where we were going to stay. What a nice surprise! I was tired after walking 13 miles and couldn’t wait to take a rest.

We walked through town to the Hostel called de Sol a Sol. The rental car was parked across the street so Dick got his backpack out of it and we went into the Hostel.

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The man inside told us our room was on the third floor, then he took Dick’s backpack and carried it up for him. What? I just walked 13 miles with my backpack, Dick just walked across the street with his backpack and the guy carries Dick’s backpack up the stairs while I trudge behind??? Hmmmmmmm.

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We had an attic room which was clean and comfortable but sparsely decorated.  There were no windows but there was a large skylight in the ceiling so we got a lot of natural light.  And we paid the same price for this room as we paid for our beautiful room last night in Burgos.

After a short rest we went out and toured the village which had a population of 60.  We ran into Carol and Leah and just said quick hellos.  We found a cute place for dinner. They offered a set menu (Menu Del Dia) of appetizer, main course, dessert, bread and all the wine you could drink for 9 Euros each. Dinner was fabulous. We started with big fat white asparagus with aioli and pasta with chorizo in a red sauce, followed by thinly sliced steak and French fries, then dessert of chocolate mousse topped with mounds of whipped cream. We ate it all.

I think I’m going to get fat on this Camino!

 

STARTING WHERE WE LEFT OFF

A year ago when I left the Camino because of a foot injury, I promised I’d be back.  And here we are, in Burgos, Spain, back for another try at the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  I walked almost 200 miles last time and have another 300 miles to go before I finish.

Things have gone much more smoothly this time.  To get to Spain we were flying standby and easily made all of our flights — in fact we were upgraded to Business Class thanks to our lovely daughter-in-law Tracy.

During our layover in Newark I saw another woman with a huge backpack and immediately knew she was doing the Camino.  She was about my age, was from Carlsbad (not far from where we live) and this would be her first time on the Camino.  She had decided to avoid that awful first day from St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles.  Smart lady!  We talked for about 45 minutes but I never got her name.

After landing in Madrid we made a mad dash outside to catch a shuttle bus that would take us to Terminal 4 where we were told we could catch a bus to Burgos.  On the shuttle bus we started talking to a young blond girl with a huge backpack.  (We Trekkers are so obvious to spot!).  She was also doing the Camino and starting in Burgos where she would meet her mother, who was already trekking. She seemed kind of lost and couldn’t speak Spanish so I was able to ask someone where we should go and the 3 of us made it over to the ALSA busses. She had a ticket but we didn’t and we had to go back inside the terminal and get in a long line of people. Dick noticed other people were walking up and crowding in the line. We only had a few minutes before the bus was going to leave so Dick shouted out “Burgos” and the cashier called us up to the front of the line. We made it to the bus with minutes to spare and boarded it with the blonde girl. When we arrived in Burgos her mother was so excited to see her and was clicking photos of her as she got off the bus.  We all said brief hellos but never got each other’s names.

By now it was 2 p.m. We checked into the beautifully restored, early 19th Century Hotel Fernan Gonzalez.  The room was huge and beautifully decorated with period furniture. The cost — $45.00 a night.

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Dick laid down and slept for the next 2 hours. We were starving when he woke up so we went to find a restaurant in Old Town.

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And guess what! They were all closed. Siesta time is from 3 pm until 7 pm. So we went into one little bar that was open and advertised that they had food. I had a glass of wine and Dick had a beer and the cost astounded us. It was 3 Euros. The same thing had cost us $30.00 on our layover in the Newark Airport. We asked the guy if we could get some food and he said the restaurant would open at 9 pm! We were ravenous because we hadn’t eaten since dinner on the plane the night before. We walked all over Old Town but couldn’t find anything open except for bars and coffee shops — and none had food.

Finally at 7 pm we went to a great place where we had eaten twice before last year.  And to our surprise the waiter showed us some things on the menu that we could actually order.  The food was  scrumptious, a huge Caesar salad with bacon, cheese and tomatoes and an Ox Tail Burger smothered in gravy, with French fries, and of course wine.

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It was almost 8:30 by the time we got back to the hotel. I fell into bed and was sound asleep in 2 seconds. Dick fell asleep shortly afterwards. Being jet lagged I woke up at 1 am, wide awake and two minutes later my laptop started jingle jangling. It was our son Ricky, Face Timing us from Denver. He didn’t realize the time in Spain and we ended up talking to him and his daughter Ali for the next 30 minutes. We went back to bed and Dick started snoring about 20 minutes later. But I couldn’t go back to sleep.  I laid awake worrying that I had to start my trek in a few hours and how I’d be able to do it with so little sleep. At 4 am I finally drifted off to sleep wondering what adventures lay in store when I would awaken in a few hours.