Sunday, May 1, 2016

10 April 2016 Hornillos - Castrojerez

Didn't sleep well.  Kept getting hot then cold.  These sleeping bags are really warm.  I woke up before the alarm - no surprise.  It seems to take me a long time to get ready.  We didn't want to pay 3 euros for a lousy breakfast so we had a cup of coffee (bad) and left the albergue.  6 miles to Hontanas then had a good breakfast.  Last time we were in this town the sun was shining and everyone was sitting outside.  A bit cloudy and rainy today.  The walk to Hontanas was hard today.  Partly because we hadn't eaten anything so we had a nice breakfast; cafe, tostada, tortilla de espangol and we also bought a bocadillo and kit kat for the road.  Met another Aussie here- Bob from Melbourne.  He was interested in staying at San Anton.  I told him it is very primitive and no electricity but he was still interested.  Hard walk - very windy and some incline.  Ran into the Aussie at San Anton and found it hadn't opened yet so he walked with us the rest of the way to Castrojeriz. We planned to stay at the Albergue Utreia and we stopped there, Bob kept going.  We saw 3 German women including Andrea, plus us so far.  Cullen managed to find the restaurant we ate at last time we were here and it was good.  After lunch we went back to the albergue and I did some stretching and aired out my sleeping bag.  We talked about wanting to do 2 weeks at Grañón again next year and maybe a couple of weeks at Emaus since Marie Noelle gave us her email address and asked us to write her about it.  I think tomorrow we will try to do 20 km to Boadilla instead of 25km to Fromista.  We have a bit of a climb out of here tomorrow but the next day is totally flat, we'll see.

Andrea complained about the cold temperature in the albergue all afternoon but the owner will not turn on the heat until 6, and he made us leave our boots outside (undercover) but it has been raining so we brought them in and put them under our beds.  Well the lack of heat in this place has been cancelled out by the ancient wine cellar underneath the building.  The owner has restored (non-working) the wine production apparatus, told us some history of the town.  Tunnels all the way to the castle?  Maybe.  Cullen interpreted the info to English since there are several English speakers.  There are archaeological studies being started.  Castrojerez comes through again with a Camino moment!  Lights out at 930.  The women with the carts both sound like they have pneumonia- coughing and snoring all night long!

9 April Burgos - Hornillos

Slept pretty good but I woke up early.  I've trying to drain the blister on my toe once or twice a day, apply antibiotic cream then wrap it up.  It isn't getting worse.  We had a nice breakfast with Marie Noelle's helper though she speaks no English and little Spanish.  In addition to the usual we had some persimmon jam she had made.  Feeling very good as we leave Burgos, the best so far.  Ready to walk to Hornillos though I'd like to get to Hontanas which would be an additional 6 miles which just don't think is possible for us.

Arrived around 3:00.  This was a hard day waking.  Our thighs are letting us know they are there.  We checked into the private albergue, Al Alfar.  Took showers and paid 7 euros to have our laundry done.  We went to a little bar a beer and a couple of vino tints.  Nice conversation with the young bartender who has a cousin living in Baltimore - he is a baseball fan - Orioles.  Went back to the albergue and met some good pilgrims today; Andrea, a very tall blonde German woman, 3 Spanish men - didn't get their names- one plays the harmonica.  We ran into an Australian family when we went to another bar looking for dinner.  So we went back to the first bar and the Korean man came in complaining about bedbugs at the last place he stayed.  We had an okay dinner at the bar then back to the albergue and had an enjoyable evening talking with Andrea and the Spaniards.  A Spanish couple came in and I think they are pilgrims walking for a week or so to lose weight.  They carry very small packs and walk pretty quickly with a pair of walking poles.  Bed at 9:30.
8 April 2016. Villa Franca de Monta de Oca - Burgos

Waited for the bus for over an hour.  It was chilly!  While we were waiting Dart passed by.  There is a young Korean man and an older Korean woman also waiting for the bus.  Based on the tape he is wearing, I would guess he is having trouble with his Achilles' tendon.  When we get off the bus they stay on.  They must be busing to Burgos.  When we walk into Burgos we are looking for the Peregrinos de Emaus, an albergue on the list of those recommended on the forum.  It took us a while to find it with help from a couple of old men "Camino Angels" who offered help since I suppose we looked lost.  A French woman (nun?), Marie Noelle, gave us a very warm welcome.  What a great place - clean, modern, only 2 sets of bunks in a room.  They charge 5 euros and provide dinner and breakfast for additional donativo.  There is a French couple here with us, Paul and Monique who have been put in another room.  We had rosary and mass in the chapel.  Then the pilgrims went up to the priest and he laid his hands on our heads one by one gave each of us a blessing.  I love that!  After mass we had a very nice dinner and then a spiritual exchange which was very nice.

7 April 2016. Belorado to Villa Franca de Monta de Oca

Worst.  Sleep.  Ever.  I was the first one up this morning.  Took care of my toe and did some stretching.  My back is still hurting.  Breakfast was fine - the normal cafe, tostada, yogurt.  I really don't like Belorado.  We were on the road by 8.  We stopped in Espinosa del Camino for a coffee and made it to Villa Franca around 1100.  We were trying to figure out what to do next; take the bus the rest of the way to San Juan de Ortega or spend the night in Villa Franca.  Cullen went in to the San Anton Abad hotel to get some bus info and liked it so we decided to stay.  We are in the albergue but with our own room and bath.  Tomorrow we will take the bus to Castanares then walk to Burgos - about 4 miles.  We are so fatigued.  We had a nice shower, washed our clothes, hung them out to dry, then to the bar for a couple of beers.  I suspect my backache is due to some sort of UTI as neither of us has been drinking enough water.  The weather has turned cool, our room is not very warm,and we are using the heater in our room to finish drying our clothes.  We heard a lot of complaints from the pilgrims while we were in the reception area using wifi.
6 April 2016. Santo Domingo- Belorado

We had a beautiful, sunny day, blue skies as we left Santo Domingo.  We walked the 4 miles to Granon from Santo Domingo.  We were lucky enough to notice Father Jesus walking by the church so Cullen called out to him and he was as happy to see us as we were to see him.  He walked with us to Bar Teo and bought us coffee.  Alberto was sleeping when we arrived.  We left the bar and walked over to the albergue.  Pedro and 2 other men were there and Cullen was able to find a replacement for the charger he left somewhere.  Next we left for the bakery to leave a bottle of wine forJesus.  While there one of the old guys showed up to buy bread.  Then back to the bar and Alberto was awake so Cullen gave him the bottle of vermouth he bought for him.  Alberto offered to drive us to Burgos and we declined.  Maria kept wanting to give us food!  We stopped by Ernesto's place to say goodbye to him and his wife.  I wish them a lot of success in their albergue.  Headed out for Belorado.  We had a wonderful meal at Restaurant Leon a few miles before Belorado ad were so pooped out afterwards that we took a taxi the rest of the way.  I have bad memories of this place (Quatro Cantones) from 2010, but it has gotten good reviews so we thought we'd try again.  6 beds (3 bunks) in our room.  Me, Cullen, and 3 Spanish men.  I saw the Korean man we were with in Ventosa but I don't think he remembers us.  Also the Italian from Logroño.

Physically I am feeling my worst.  My knees, my back, and now my toe is giving me trouble.  I felt like I had to drain this blister, so I did.  This same toe gave me trouble during our first Camino and I didn't take care of it and it plagued me the last 3 weeks.
5 Apr 2016

Had a nice night in Ventosa.  It was a little noisy going to bed and I am pretty sure the American woman snored more than Cullen.  We walked the 8 miles to Najera then decided to catch the bus to Santo Domingo.  Our bodies are not adjusting to this Camino very well!  When we arrived we checked into the Parador - heaven after 2 weeks as hospitaleros and a couple of days as pilgrims.  We had a king sized bed and a bathtub so we took 2 baths.  Had a nice dinner at the other parador.

Friday, April 15, 2016

4 Apr 2016

Well it's official-we start our Camino today!  Had breakfast at the albergue.  First 8 miles weren't bad.  The inside of my knees were really getting sore but we wanted to make it to Ventosa so we pushed on for another 4 miles.  It was drizzling the whole way..  We arrived at the albergue and it was very nice.  Incense burning, warm welcome.  In our room we have an Italian girl (chiara) who speaks very good English, 3 Americans from Washington state traveling together; a mother/son (Becky and Dartangnon), friend Ariel.  The mom is pretty heavy and she is having her backpack shipped from place to place.  Before that, her son was walking to the next place with his bag

Thursday, April 14, 2016

3 April 2016 updated 15 April

Woke up early- 0700 and packed up, walked to the bus stop and got a coffee to go at the station.  Goodbye Haro.  We passed several bodegas on the way out of town; Lan, Berbano,Marques de Prado.  When we arrived at the bus station in Logroño we noticed a lot of police and bicyclists - some race.  We headed to the albergue of Iglesia de Santiago where we had spent our first night before proceeding to Grañón.  Elsa answered the door and we were hoping to leave our backpacks with her but she said she was expecting us to return and brought us to a nice room.  We were sorry to hear she isn't feeling well so we left our bags and went out so she could rest.  Stopped by the church and hung around for mass at 1030.  We are used to Father Jesus masses which are only 20-30 minutes long.  This mass was 45 minutes long!  Stopped at the ATM, had a cafe and croissant then decided to just hang around until 2 when Tomas might be joining us for lunch.

Well Tomas didn't make it but Cullen and I went to the restaurant where were supposed to meet the Amigos and had a wonderful meal at La Sidreria de San Gregorio Calle San Gregorian 27.  

Had a great meal.  Salad, foie, merluza, bacalao, Vina Tondonia(which we have had at the Wine House, a bit of flan for dessert and coffee - Ochoa for Cullen.  We took a long walk after that big lunch.  It started to sprinkle so we went back to the albergue.  There are 5 pilgrims staying here; 1 Czech who walked from Rome to Santiago and is now heading back to Rome, 2 German girls (one named Ana) a Swede and an Italian who speaks German.  Nice dinner by Alberto and he did a nice ceremony in the church afterward.  He gave us our first stamp in our credential.  For the blessing of our meal he told the story of "Utreia" as told in the codex - and we sang a line from it - very nice!  Maybe we will make it to Ventosa tomorrow.  Christina, a hospitalera from Malaga is here helping while Elsa gets better.  She has also recommended some other places to stay which may be a little too primitive (no electricity)!

2 April 2016

Muga tour  and tasting led by Monica.  Where Rioja Alta is embracing new technologies, Muga is sticking to old tried and true methods.  They use huge wooden fermentation casks, mostly French oak, some American.  They also have a cooper on site.  We tasted:

Vino Blanco *very good
Crianza - smooth, little tanins
Extras from David:
Cava Rosado
Cava Blanco (better than rose)
Pravda Enea
Torre Muga (more fruity)

Had a great lunch in Haro at the Restaurant Beethoven I!  Went back later for tapas.  Haro was hopping this Saturday night; Old people, young people, children, middle aged.  Everyone was out at 10 pm.  We had a couple of asparagus and potato cake tapas with a vermouth so for 6 euro.

Beautiful church in Haro, St Thomas.  Our room at the Hostal Aragon is just off the main plaza.  Our room is quiet, on the backside with no view and the bathroom is very tiny - smaller than the one we had in the basement of our Annandale house.  But....only 35 euros per night.  Tomorrow we take the 0845 bus to Logroño.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

1 April 2016 updated 14 April

What a nice surprise this morning - Padre Jesus came by around 845 to say "goodbye ".  Usually he doesn't stop by until around 10.  The new hospitaleros arrived just before we left which was a great relief.  We turned over the books and the keys.  Javi gave us a ride to Haro, I'm going to miss him!  On to wine tasting!  The tour guide, Ruth did a fantastic job!  This bodega is embracing new technologies in their wine production.  For example, they are using a scanner to identify which grapes are selected for the reserva and grand reserva.  They have also been using stainless but have kept their wooden casks for historical purposes.  I was surprised that the majority of oak they use is American.  They have a cooper onsite making barrels but he isn't able to make all the barrels they need.  Another interesting thing about the bodega is that they were the first place to have electricity in Rioja.  Ruth showed us this setup;  there was a long handle hanging on a couple of conductor lines and when you pulled on the handle the light bulb went on.  When the tour was over we had a very nice, generous tasting.  Next Valenciso.

It was too far to walk so we took a taxi for 8 euro.  The owner, Luis Valentin met us and gave us a very informative tour.  They are using concrete for the fermentation process, very modern.  He is using Russian oak.  Very nice tasting with crackers and manchego.  White blend of granache and viura.  White Tempranillo discovered in 1988.  After the tasting, the owner gave us a ride back to Haro so we didn't have to take a cab.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Thursday 31 March

When we woke up it was raining hard with thunder and lightening.  We fed the angry mob and encouraged them to leave so we could clean! As we were cleaning it started snowing. WTHeck? Then Jesus dropped by. His older brother died last night. We are so sad for him.

We did some shopping for the new hospitaleros, who haven't showed up yet and then drove to Redecilla del Camino to check out a new albergue of a former hospitalero named Jose Manuel. Super nice albergue that can sleep ten. We then return to granon and see suzanna at the bakery. She has us get into some funny outfits and takes pictures.  She and her husband are so nice. They gave us a bottle of zurrocapote which is a sweet cinnamon spiced red wine that is drunk during festivals.

By 5 pm no pilgrims. We might have a quiet night. The two new hospitaleros show up with a carload of food. I guess we did not need to shop earlier. There is going to be a Hospitalero training class this weekend and they are expecting a lot of folks.  Glad we are going. Jesus comes by to let us know there will be mass today.  Two pilgrims show up so we are not alone. We head down to mass and we go up for the pilgrim blessing, sine we will soon be walking. I cook my final spaghetti carbonara and Palma and I head to the bar to say good by to the old guys as well as Maria and Alberto.  Tomorrow we go.

Thursday 31 March

Though we had a large amount of pilgrims last night, they were all up and out before 8.  By 1000 we were done with our work and on to Santo Domingo for our last  shopping trip with Javi.  Our next stop was Redicillas del Camino to visit a new albergue run by a retired firefighter who had stopped by earlier in the week to drop off some fliers.  Only 10 beds, 6 euros and extra for dinner and breakfast.  He had a very unique clothes dryer - Cullen took a picture.  Next stop - the Panaderia.  Susana's husband wants to take photos of the three of us.  Got us all in costume.  Cullen is now friends with him on Facebook.

Only one Spanish couple with us tonight.  He is quite the talker!  A man named Paolo came in while we were having dinner.  He will be attending Hospitalero training at the albergue this weekend.  Speaking of hospitalero training, our replacements showed up at around 6 tonight with a carload of groceries for the weekend.  We headed out to mass and they were just finishing up some prep work when we got back.  I got really choked up at mass this evening.  My favorite old woman wasn't there so I didn't get to say goodbye to her Fand as usual, Padre called the pilgrims up front for a blessing and though I don't know exactly what he was saying I heard him say "hospitaleros" several times.

Our replacements Pedro, a large Spaniard and Maria, an Italian woman are not a couple but they know each other and have been hospitaleros together.  We were invited by the Spanish couple to go listen to some guitar playing and singing, but it's our last night and we'd like to say "adios" to the old men at the bar.  

Tuesday 29 March

Only 4 for breakfast and it should have been a breeze but perhaps we are getting on each other's nerves.  We had so few pilgrims that Javi didn't want to use the coffee or milk thermos and of course he is correct.  I guess I just like doing things the same way.  The Dutchman didn't have breakfast, but Miguel, the man who ate nothing for dinner did have breakfast.

After cleanup a young Italian couple came in and wanted to know if we could give them something to eat.  This was a first for us.  Javier is so nice.  They didn't want to stay the night but wanted to cook lunch for themselves.  Cullen and I headed to the bar for our usual Internet check and left them in Javi's good hands.  When we got back the Italian was drinking our wine and chowing down on our nuts.  She cooked, cleaned up and then they left.  They did leave a donation

Next came an American couple from Seattle region.  They walked 18 miles their first day and she was suffering blisters.  So we prepared the salt, vinegar, water soak.  Joni and Fred, about our age.  I swear she was wearing eyeliner but looking closer I think they were false eyelashes.  A town administrator stopped by this morning and wanted to go up into the bell tower for some reason.  What a view!

Today's pilgrims
Char one, Chassion from France
Jenni, James from USA
Csaba from Hungary
 ? From Italy

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Monday 28 March, updated 4 April

Today, as usual we got up at 6:30 and got breakfast ready. We are getting pretty good at getting breakfast ready for 20+ pilgrims! This is the first day someone didn't do the breakfast dishes. Both Javi and I are feeling much better. Anjon seems better as well, but Anabel was sick. At first we thought she had food poisoning but since nobody else was sick we discounted it. Later she told us she wasn't used to eating so much chorizo and thought that was the reason why.

After everyone departed, 3 young pilgrims stopped by to take a look around and to see if we had any tortilla espangol.  Weird things happen here.  Tex arrived early today - while we were still cleaning up.  It was so good to s

Our fellow Hospitalero trainee, Tex stopped by while we were all cleaning. So nice seeing him. They stayed in Santo Domingo two days for the fiesta so they won 't be staying with us.  Too bad cuz we wish he would have spent the night in Grañón with his companions. We gave them a tour of the choir room and a look at the church. When they left Anjan went with them and so did Anabel and Yago.

Today mass is at 1 pm and after Jesus is taking the three of us out to eat at the Ermita. We learn that Jesus has leukemia. He had spent 10 years at a mission in Ecuador and when they learned of his disease and impending return to Spain the local shaman had women go out into the forest and pick some herb. Jesus came back with a ton of it that he uses to make tea. While he has not been cured, the herbs have been helping him fight the cancer. So much so that his doctors want to know what it is. Unfortunately Jesus only knows the Indian word for it.

We thought we'd have some pilgrims waiting for us when we got back, but no.  It is now 4 o'clock and still no pilgrims.  Leftovers for dinner maybe.  Finally we got some pilgrims.  Three Spaniards, one Dutchman,and Javier had a nice time around the stove last night while Cullen and I went to Bar Teo for a nightcap.  Hadn't seen the old man gang in a while but they were there. Ernesto came in to the bar.  He cut off his ponytail-he has a woman and her 5 daughters staying there tonight.  Cullen and Alberto got into a long discussion about food supply in Spain. One of the Spaniards did not eat anything for dinner.  I hope he eats breakfast!

Today's pilgrims
Gerard from Netherlands
Rosel, Miguel, Fernando from Spain

Sunday 27 March
Happy Easter! Christ has Risen!

SanDisk still not working so just for grins I plug it in to charge to see what happens.  A miracle it works!

Today we get our most pilgrims.  The first is an Young American from California. He got here around 11:00.  His name in Anjon. Poor guy is sick with food poisoning. He wants to catch a bus to Belorado. Unfortunately, this being Easter, very few if any busses are running. I convince him to come in and lay down for a while. Later we convince him to stay and he agrees. Pilgrims keep dribbling in all day. One a Spaniard named Mateo, takes over the kitchen to make Patatas a la riojana. His way is different than my recipe. I am learning this dish is kind of like pizza, everyone does it different. Anyway Mateo takes over the kitchen

Today's 26 pilgrims
Randy & Cathy, Anjan from USA
Anabel & Yago from Spain
Guadalupe from Spain
Kant, Park Dong, Choi, Ji, Jeong from Korea
Marta from Spain
Sebastián from France
Jose Mari, Patricia from Spain
Olan, Nette from Denmark
Chris, Jedd from Canada
Simone from Holland
Anabel, Yago, Mateo from Spain
Adelas, David from Poland
Ana from Brasil
Joy, Paul from Wales

Saturday 26 March

We get breakfast ready, feed the pilgrims and start cleaning. Afterwards to the bar for coffee and check our mail

At noon I check my SanDisk, damn thing does not work, darn it. So I put it back in the rice to let it absorb more of the humidity.

We made what I am calling the kitchen sink Caldo, chorizo, chicken pork, beans of all kinds, potatoes and so on.  Not bad if I can say so.  We have leftovers that we will keep for stragglers.

Today's 13 Pilgrims:
Marina, MiLuisa, Irene, Maria Jesus, Rousse, Joarvin, Sara, Juan, Jose, Lidia all from Spain
Eugene from USA
Annapaola from Italy
Caroline from Netherlands

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Friday 25 Mar16

This morning went pretty well but we ran out of tostada.  It is very difficult to know how much bread to buy.  Javier washed the upstairs sleeping mats this morning and Susannah, the baker sent her brother-in-law (Rafael) over to help with our work.  He washed all of the downstairs sleeping mats.  While we were all cleaning, a bus load of peregrino touristas and hospitaleros in training stopped by to take a look at this famous albergue. I am going to try a new dessert tonight - stove top apple crisp. One of our arrivals today was a Brit named David who had clearly been drinking.  When Cullen welcomed him to the albergue he became quite belligerent. Cullen had seen him in the Almacen earlier having a beer and mentioned that he had seen him. David stared at Cullen and appeared to want to fight. Cullen kept trying to make him feel comfortable and when he learned we were hospitaleros he settled down. We also have a couple of Russians.  One speaks no English or Spanish and the other speaks Spanish very well and is adamant about not speaking English - whatever. The Brit was looking for wine in the fridge so I told him we have wine with dinner and he would have to go to the bar if he wanted to drink sooner.  I offered to heat up some leftovers but he said he didn't like microwave and just ate them cold.  Then he passed out on the sofa in the entryway for a while and snored pretty loud. 2 women from Denmark.  Javi made a foot bath for one with water, vinegar and salt which he said is good for blisters.  There is a very tall German man, Nobert, with a shoulder burn.  Javi gave him some cream for it.  Norbert and the Brit have met before on the Camino and seem friendly toward one another.
Thursday 24 Mar 2016
Cullen slept in a little soJavi and I got breakfast together.  Everyone was gone by 730.  The medicine the pharmacist gave Cullen seems to be making him feel better.  Angel stopped by to say "hello"and to let us know he will be in Grañón until Sunday.

Our first pilgrim arrived at 1345 - a young Italian named Kevin.  Arroz con pollo for dinner.  We had 24 pilgrims last night-the most yet.  One person helped with dinner last night, Davinia, a Spanish woman who lives in Burgos.  She gave us her phone number and told us to call her when we get there and she will show us some of the city.  Several interesting pilgrims; Pierre from Brittany France.  Very handsome man who spoke English very well.  He wore some sort of wrap skirt over his pants and carried a shoulder bag instead of the usual backpack - very Celtic.  I learned they make a lot of hard cider in Brittany.  Sebastián from Montpelier in France spoke English and Spanish very well.  He works in the tourism industry and lived in Spain for several years. He will be heading back to Najera in the morning because he believes he left some medicine for his knee at the albergue he stayed at last night.  He is having a lot of knee pain.  He left his backpack here and said he will return later and spend another night here.  There is Fred, a man from the Isle of Man now living on a sheep farm in Ireland.  He plays the recorder, piano, and guitar and says the piano is in need of a tune up.  Shane, a lovely young Irishman currently out of work, a nice young woman from Denmark who speaks very good English and some Spanish, an 'almost blind' man, Yvonne, an older 'red' headed woman from Sweden who claimed to have been lost in the forest on the Lepuy route.  The was a Holy Thursday procession around the village.  There were 3 statues each carried be 4 men.  They led the way and were followed by the villagers singing a hymn and lastly Father Jesus.  Though several us followed behind him.  They ended up in the beautiful church.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wednesday 23 March

This morning's breakfast was leisurely.  The 3 of us were thinking we might have to put on some rock n roll to wake them up because the Gregorian chant just wasn't doing the job this morning.  We can see the pilgrims from the second story window when they  depart.  Today there were several of them, including Pedro doing the stretching movements  Javi showed them last night before they hit the road.  All were gone by 0830 and we were done cleaning by 1000.  It is nice to have a another pair of hands.  Maribel stopped by to ask Javi if he had a car and if he would take her to the grocery store in Santo Domingo which is only about 6 miles away.  We were going to do our shopping so she came along with us.  She gave us 4 duck eggs in appreciation.  She comes by the albergue to collect ashes from the hot stove we use for heating, bringing us fresh herbs from her huge garden and she also takes any stale bread we have to give to her dogs.  When we returned Cullen went to the farmacia to get some cold medicine then to bar teo for a cafe y croissant.  We really like the owners of the bar, Alberto and Maria.  Cullen talks a bit of politics with Alberto, most recently about the bombings in Brussels.
So far our first pilgrim to arrive is an Italian from Rome.  His name is Francesco and he  looks young.  Then 3 young S. Koreans (2 boys and a girl), then another S. Korean followed by 3 Spaniards ( a mother and twin daughters).   I don't understand these pilgrims who carry hair dryers!
Tuesday 22 March 2016

We have noticed a lot of pilgrims passing through Grañón around 10 in the morning.  Cullen, Javi and I got our work done and Padre Jesus dropped by around 10 as is usual.  Then the 3 of us went to the bakery so Javi could meet Susannah, then to the bar Teo for a cafe con leche.  We hear about the bombing in Brussels. How terrible. Cullen and Javi walked to the Ermita Carrasquedo church around a mile outside of town.  I stayed behind and did some chores.

Cullen's note -- Javi and I walked down to the Ermita. There is a beautiful shrine there with a youth hostel and a bar. We met a basque guy named Juan Carlos. Javi and him begin debating the Brussels bombing. Javi is more of a pacifist and see the good in people while Juan Carlos is more antagonistic to Islam. In Spain people love debating!

Javi has his car here so he will take Cullen grocery shopping tomorrow and give Jesus a break.  Javi is a certified yoga instructor and wants to offer a class to pilgrims in the evening before dinner - great idea.  No mass tonight so we will miss seeing the pilgrim blessing.

It's now 4 pm and we only have 2 pilgrims. As soon as we write this we get another two and then another three. Seven pilgrims!

Marina drops by to visit. Such a bundle of energy and so dedicated to the federation's albergue said.

We've decided to make spaghetti carbonara.

10 Pilgrims
Carmen, Ama, Alba, Raquel, Ma Alba, Txelo,  Jojune, Pedro Jesus, all from Spain
Anita from Czech Republic
JVI from China

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Monday 21 March updated 22 march

I woke up with a sore throat, hopefully it won't be to bad.

Jose Antonio and Mercedes leave promptly at 8 a.m.  We do a light cleaning today. Jesus drops by to tell us he is  going to Logroño for a mass the bishop is giving. After he leaves we go out for coffee but find everything is closed shut. So we decide to talk a little 3 kilometer walk, hoping the'd be open when we got back. As we are walking we pass one of the area owners, he's doing the same walk we are. Sign that nothing will be open, and sure enough that is the case.

Today we are supposed to get another hospitalero to help with the anticipated Semana Santa rush.  All we know is he is from Pamplona and his name is Javier.  Wonder what time he will get here.

One bar finally opens and we go in to use the wi-fi and check our mail. I finally get a chance to make a reservation in Haro for 1-2 April at the Hostal Aragon.

My Castiliano is not getting better. I swear it is getting worse. I seem to be forgetting even easy words that I've used repeatedly. I had trouble remembering the word for honey today. Very annoying.

It is now 4 pm.  Our first pilgrim arrived around 2.  A mother daughter pair.  The mother is originally from the canary islands and was married to a Brit but now lives in Valencia.  They came in with Max who I don't think is with them but met them on the way.  A couple Germans came - one speaks English and Spanish the other only German which is unusual.  The Germans showered and then walked around in their underwear for a little while.  2 Canadian women checked only to discover friends of theirs were staying at a different albergue so they left. A vegan couple arrived and were happy to find they would get something besides pasta for dinner. Cullen made a big pot of rice and beans a la New Orleans the other night and we'll use it tonight for our vegan couple and 2 vegetarians one of which is our new hospitalero, Javier, who just arrived from Pamplona. We have 12 pilgrims, 2 of which have been hospitaleros in the past. We are also being told there is a huge wave of pilgrims on their way.

Today's pilgrims are:
Richard from Texas, USA
Hans and Hans from Germany
Maxima, Anna, Vicki, Roco, Angela, Raul, Nicango, Tamera and Flávio from Spain.

We are thinking of making arroz con pollo, my way.  That just means we are  using what we have in the house. Cullen is starting to feel crappy, his throat is getting really sore. :-(

The male vegan (Flávio Mayor Sponza) plays guitar and started out with "Blackbird " by the Beatles and I joined him in singing.  Then the Spaniards joined him in singing some Spanish songs.  Such fun and good memories for them.  The Germans were a little weird - after we had set the table for dinner they made a salad for themselves and sat down before the rest of us and ate it with a bottle of wine and when the rest of us sat down they ate some of our salad with us and drank some of our wine which is the meaning of "communal" meal!  Cullen's arroz con pollo was a big hit including the Spaniards.  Most everyone came to mass tonight including the two Canadians who had left earlier.  Not everyone came To the pilgrims blessing.  Cullen told the ones who didn't come that they could join us or clean up the dishes so four of the younger Spaniards stayed behind - too bad.  The pilgrims who join in really seem to get a spiritual boost.  When we finish we go to Bar Teo and had sol y sombras with a few of the locals and took a couple of selfies.  We had an older American from San Antonio stay with us and he resembled Dieter.  He is a deacon in the Catholic Church there.  Max Martinez from Madrid only uses chopsticks to eat!  What a great spirit he has.

Sunday 20 March updated 22 march

Today is Palm Sunday.  Pilgrims left in a timely manner today.  Benjamin was the last out.  We got a good cleaning in today.  Like every other day we went to one of the bars for a cafe con leche and a pastry.  Nothing much in our emails. We get a note from Tex. A guy we took our training with, is on the Camino, about 9 days away.  He should get here our last days here.

Today's mass is at 1 pm.  The have the celebration of las Ramas before mass.  Instead of palm leaves, they use olive branches. Everyone gathers in the village square, gets a branch and then Father Jesus gives a blessing and then everyone marches into the church singing. When mass is over Jesus tells the congregation that at 5 there will be a concert in the church by the local children. As we get back to the albergue a man named Angel comes by with his boys and a few. Others to borrow 40 chairs from us for the concert After they leave we go to the almacen for lunch.  Then to the bar for a vino. Our old men friends are there and give us a hearty welcome.

No pilgrims yet. We welcome the rest, but worry if we will get any.  Kind of hard to plan dinner without knowing who you will be feeding. Finally at 4:30 we get 2  bicycle pilgrims, Jose Antonio and his wife Mercedes. They are from Barcelona.  I give them the albergue welcome, tell them about the concert and we leave. The concert was packed, people from our village and others near by are attending. The music was pretty good considering we are talking about kids between ages 8 and 12.

We return to the albergue, no more pilgrims only 2 for the day! So we just fry up some potatoes, cook some pork chops and have a salad.  Jose Antonio is another fervent Catalan independence type.  I learn his parents are originally from Andalusia. So he's not even Catalan.  

Jose Antonio and Mercedes go to bed and Palma and I go out to the bar.  Run into the old men gang again. 2 bars in town and what they do is go to one bar and have a drink, then go to the other bar and have a drink, and repeat.  So funny!

Saturday 19 March

We has a Korean invasion today, 13 Pilgrims of which 7 are Korean.  All were pretty quiet and reserved at first, but when they opened up they were a fun group. Pilgrims today were:

Isaac, Anastasia from the USA,
Antonio, Joset, Oriol from Spain
JongSung, Kenneth, Woochan, Ku Ja, Jiem, Yongsole from Korea
Laura fromrance
Benjamin from Israel

Benjamin came at 9:45. He's Jewish and it was the sabbath so he wanted to rest.  Turns out he is mr fix it.  He fixed our broken coffee pot which almost got thrown away. Very interesting fellow.  Lucky Benjamin got here as we finished cleaning. After he settled in we left him "in charge" while we went for coffee.

Go to bar for S&S and a vino tinto, one of my old guy friends is there and asks us how we are

Monday, March 21, 2016

Friday  18 March updated 21 March

I wake up with a bit of a head ache from last night. Marius hands me our first emergency, no water in the men's shower. It's too early to call Jesus so no showering. People are moving slow today so at 8:30 we start pulling things out to clean hoping they'd get a hint. But then two Belgium people drop by to check out the albergue. He is working on a dissertation about the Camino. Then two former hospitaleros drop by. No cleaning getting done. Finally Everyone leaves except Marius, he is moving so slow. But a least we can start cleaning. I start cleaning the men's room and discover that the shower head was turned off, crisis averted. Marius finally leaves and we can go on overdrive to clean

After we finally finished cleaning, I sat down and read some of the comments pilgrims were making. One really stood out and was written by Martin of Austria. He wrote "Thank you guys very much for this great experience and your warm welcome. The community you made for an evening is what gives me strength on the Camino and even after. I will definitely remember that my whole life! Vielan herzlichen Dank! This is what makes what we do great.

We go to the bar for a cafe con leche and a pastry. When we get back the pilgrims start coming. We get one couple ( an American married to a Scot) with a 3-4 month old baby. At first we are thinking this will not be good. But actually the little girl, who is cute as as can be was very quiet.  We also get a father and son (Noel & Nico) who both have A.D.D. and are walking to raise money for young people mental health. Noel talks a lot but is a really decent guy.  So here are our 17 pilgrims:

Noel & his 9 year old son Nico from the UK
Cathy from the USA and her Little baby Wo-Anu and fear husband Graeme from UK (Scotland)
Kim, Ryoo, Choz, and Kim from Korea
Araceli, Pablo, Manuel, and Elisa from Spain
Peter, Holland
Leonardo, Roberto, from Italy
Annie, from Canada

Manuel and his wife Elisa are doing the Camino in a rather unorthodox way. He has his car. They started in Pamplona and walked a full stage with full packs, of about 30 Ks. They check into an albergue, then he catches a bus to go and get his car. Then then they do it again the next day. Elisa is super friendly and nice.

I make a red sauce spaghetti with chicken and we have a salad for dinner. Everyone is happy.

Thursday 17 March updated 21 march

Happy St Patrick's Day!

We got up, made breakfast and at 7 I turned on the Gregorian chant music I brought. After everyone left we started cleaning. We finished by 10 am so we headed to one of the the two bars in town for cafe con leche and a croissant. We need to spread our little money around. When we came back I started a pot of red beans to have for the vegetarians. To celebrate St Patrick's day we decided to go to the other bar for a beer. As we were leaving we ran into a Brazilian pilgrim. His English and Spanish was limited but we got him headed up to the albergue, and we continued to the bar.  Seems all the old men are out about this time getting a drink and one buys us a round of vino tinto. We are making friends! We catch up with our emails and head back. The pilgrims start straggling in. We ultimately get 7 pilgrims. A nice comfortable number. One is a 72 year old Catalan. A real fireball and strong supporter of Catalan Independence. I got an earful of revisionist history, but she's a real sweetheart.

Pilgrims for today are:

Darlan from Brasil
Yung-Peo and Chie-May from Taiwan
Maria Rosa and Antonio from Spain
Martin from Austria
Marius fromLithuania

I decide to make pattas a la riojana for dinner. It's a real hit. Marina one of the Spanish Federation pilgrim coordinators drops by. She stayed for Mass, dinner and the pilgrim's benediction. Speaking of the benediction, I managed to trip and fall. For a minute I thought I had broken something, but I was alright.

Palma and I decide to go to the bar teo. All the old men are there so I buy them a round. Palma and I get a Sol ySombra. If I haven't mentioned this yet, booze and coffee is cheap here. For 6 glasses of wine and 2 Sol Y Sombras I paig 6 euros.  We end up getting 2 more S&S and start making a friend out of the owner. We spend about 15 minutes talking about wine. And he gives me another S&S. Time to go home and sleep.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Wednesday 16 March updated 21 march

We got up made breakfast for the pilgrims and wouldn't you know one of the  gas cylinders ran out o we could not start breakfast, so I had to figure out how to uncouple it, take down stairs and lug a full one upstairs. And  neither Palma or I have had a coffee yet. Once I hook up the gas we get the coffee done, toast the bread and I put on chant music.  Pilgrims eat and head out.  83 euros in donations. I as worried they'd leave nothing. Once everyone is gone we get cleaning. Palma wants to straighten out the kitchen, it is a jaleo in there so she is going to stay back when Father Jesus takes me shopping. He comes about ten and takes me to Santo Domingo to shop. I have no idea how to shop in volume so I have to wing it. He first takes me to a wholesale market where I buy 5 five liters of wine. Then we go to a grocery store. I end up spending about 160 euros on food. We stop for a coffee before coming back. Father Jesus I like very much. He is very kind man with great love for the Camino and also all his parishioners scattered around six or so villages.

Once back at the albergue, we put the food away decided we were going to move to the downstairs Hospitalero room hoping it was quieter down there. We then went to the bar for a coffee and hopefully some lunch. We check our emails, catch up on the news and head back. They start arriving, again straggling in a few at a time. Our first pilgrim is Matti from Finland, followed shortly by Peter from Hungry. He's not sure he is going to stay since he got separated from his companion. Then Frank from the US arrives, we get our first warning a lot of pilgrims our headed our way.

We are getting hammered, a total of 19 pilgrims today and the most this year at the albergue. Not one minute to rest and we are not finding a lot of time to work on our blog. Oh well.

Our pilgrims today were:
Justin, aka General Lee, from Georgia, USA, and Scott and Frank from USA
Matti from Finland
Felix, Tilman, Tobiad from Germany
Dillion and Karissa from England
Ankita from Norway
Glongivet aka Ginger, from Hungry
Karen and John from Ireland
Faliare, Abide, and Dioplali from Brazil
Alfredo and Salvador from Spain

One of the Americans was from Utah and in his former life was a USMC guard at the US Embassy in Madrid. He was our musician for the night. We have to figure out dinner as we have five vegetarians in the group.  We decide on making a pasta carbonara with a lot of veggies without the carbonara. We'll add the meat later. A ensalada mixta with tuna and another rice pudding, since yesterday's was so good. Turns out this pudding was  even better. Dinner was a success.  As yesterday, many of us go to mass before dinner. I think Father Jesus loves blessing the pilgrims. Such a wonderful smile and look on his face when he blesses them. My second pilgrim benediction in the choir loft went really well.  All in all a good day.

Tuesday 15 March

We are on our own. Maria and Chema left at 10 after showing us their cleaning routine. Not ten minute went by before our first pilgrim arrived.  Alex from Australia. He turned out to be a really great guy because he helped in almost every thing. Pilgrims continued to straggle in keeping us busy all day.  Our second pilgrim was Adam from Brazil, who we met the day before in Logroño and had all the problems. Our third pilgrim was Kristian from Hungry. He's got some notoriety already as one night he couldn't find an open albergue so he slept outdoors, in the snow. Our other pilgrims were Chiaa, Filippo, Andrea and  Carhela from Italy; Georg, Felix, Noel, Sebastian, and Hella from Germany; Robert from the Uk; Cesar from Spain; Suzane from Canada; and Nora from Switzerland. All young people!  All nice. Then we had a number of visitors who drop by to see the albergue, three different groups in all. They make it interesting, especially when you are in the middle of cleaning!

Around 4, I started working on Danny's stew.  We only had enough for eight and we were up to 14 pilgrims at that time. I added more potatoes, chorizo, garbanzo beans, and peppers to the stew. Palma made rice pudding. And a bunch of the pilgrims made a salad. About this time our last two pilgrims arrived, so we were up to 16 pilgrims!

So as the day before, Mass at 7, dinner at 8 and pilgrim benidiction after dinner. I led the blessing for the food, which was Father Jesus' Rap de la Bendicion. First you got to get the pilgrims to knock on the table a couple times and then clap repetitively, once we got the beat I say
Estelle  es el rap de la Bendicion
Bendice Senor la alimentacion
Bendice a mis hermanos
Bendice a mis amigos
Bendice a todo aquel que the day la mano
Encojo el codo y con esto queda bendicido todo.

Good food.  Everyone loved the salad, the "Danny " stew, and the rice pudding. Most folks then jumped in to clean up.  After which, we head over to the church for the pilgrim benediction.  My first benidiction..pretty nervous about it but I did ok and the pilgrims loved it. The benediction involves going to the choir loft in this really old church (over 600 years old). We have candles lit. Everyone sits in a choir seat. Not sure what we do when we get over 25 pilgrims as that is all the seats. I tell them the history of the church and the albergue, then we all talk about why we are walking the Camino and finally we hug and greet each other as fellow peligrinos. Sounds corny, but it is very magical and they love it. I am finding my Spanish is a struggle, as I have lost a lot of my vocabulary but I am making due. Sorry for being repetitive.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Monday 14 March 16
This morning we met a pilgrim in the breakfast area who we came to find out from the lady running the place is the same pilgrim we read about last week who had to be medically evacuated off the Pyrenees route after having fallen and hurt himself.  He managed better than his companion who broke her leg when going to get help for him and couldn't continue.  She ended up using her cell phone to call her husband back in Brazil and he called emergency services.  Crazy pilgrims!  They were advised to go around rather than through the mountain pass.  Unfortunately, they  missed the signage and got caught in a blizzard.  We had a private room to sleep in last night and kept warm in our sleeping bags despite having no heat.  Had a simple breakfast of toast and coffee this morning.  Roberto bless his heart offered to one drive us to Grañón, saving us a bus ride.  We weren't aware this place had wifi until this morning and we're hoping the place we'll be staying for 2 weeks has it as well.

When we arrived around 11 am and we met the hospitaleros are replacing, Jose, nicknamed Chema, Spaniard and Maria, a Mexican. Both are very welcoming. As soon as we arrived pilgrims started arriving, making a It a bit difficult to get the tour of our responsibilities. Today we had Danny a US, Spanish Basque guy, Javi,another Spaniard, Amparo and Carlos from Columbia, Mario and Alexander from Germany, Kim Hye-Uk from South Korea, and Juliana from Romania. Chama showed us around the place showed us all we needed to be doing. Maria took Palma took around as well.  At dinnertime Danny took the lead in cooking the meal and Jobbie the professional pastry person made the desert. We have enough food to last for two days which was good. At 7 o'clock we went down to mass. Father Jesus does a quick mass, half hour tops. Afterwards we went back upstairs to the albergue and finished making dinner. Whatever Danny made, some kind of stew that had almost the whole kitchen sink in it, was wonderful.  And Jarvis apple cobbler was fantastic.  Father Jesus did the prayer that he calls a benidiction rap. More on this later. After dinner we cleaned dishes and went to the church choir loft to do a pilgrim benediction. The benediction is quite special and magical. When we go into the choir loft it is lite only in candle light, and we sit in the choir seats. We start with the history of the church and the albergue followed by a discussion of the tradition of the albergue. Then a candle is passed around where each pilgrims can talk about why they are walking the Camino. Once everyone has spoken we embrace each other and offer each other a buen Camino. This is a very moving experience for the pilgrims and almost all seem to love it.

Sunday 12 March 2016

Yesterday our friends Steve and Mary drove us to JFK. The day before (Friday) they picked us up to head to NYC. We stopped in Philadelphia so they could buy 20 pounds of Parmesan cheese and then we continues to the city. Steve arranged for us to stay St the Navy Lodge on Staten Island which right at the base of the Verazano bridge. We took the Staten Island ferry into Manhattan and met our son at Coliccio & Sons for dinner.  OK restaurant but rather sterile.  Then Saturday during the day we met our son in Brooklyn and had lunch at The Meatball Shop, said our good byes and off to the airport.

I had found a decent fare on Iberia so that's who we flew. The flight was fine, but the seating cramped. We had trouble sleeping on the plane.  We arrived today in Madrid at 9:40 am. Going through immigration and customs was a breeze! So fast in fact we were able to catch a 10:45 bus to Logroño. We had to wait on our first cafe con leche!  We rode through some mountainous areas with snow.  Not a lot of snow but enough to make us glad we won't actually be walking for a couple of weeks - give spring a chance to warm things up a bit.

We arrived in Logroño at 2:45 and headed to the city center.The bus station was about a 10 minute walk. Stopped at a cafe and had the first of many cafe con le leches to come and then went to the parochial albergue de Santiago Real where the federation arranged for us to stay. We met two very nice hospitaleros, Elsa and Roberto. Logroñó is famous for its tapas so we did a short bar crawl trying vino y tapas in several places before turning in last night at the church run albergue

Friday, March 11, 2016

Our  adventure begins. Onto NYC to catch our flight to Spain tomorrow.

Our friends Steve & Mary were so kind to drive us to New York. Steve being retired military got us all into the Navy Lodge on Staten Island. We took the free ferry into Manhattan and went to dinner at Coliccio & Sons.  Our son, Owen, joined us. Food was good but portions ridiculously small.

I have come up with a problem posting pictures to this blog.  For some reason blogger does not work well with iPads or iPhones. Got to figure this one out.

Tomorrow we fly!

Monday, February 22, 2016

22 February 2016

Taken from the website of the Cathedral de Santiago.

Saint James, Apostle, chosen among the first. You were the first to drink the Cup of the Master and you are the great protector of pilgrims; make us strong in faith and happy in hope on our pilgrim journey following the path of Christian life and sustain us so that we may finally reach the glory of God the Father. Amen.
The Way of Saint James, First European Cultural Itinerary and World Heritage Site, is one the oldest and most important Christian pilgrimage routes. Since the discovery of the sepulchre of the Apostle Saint James, countless pilgrims have set off towards Compostela to worship his relics. This has given way to a whole Saint James culture throughout Europe.
Pilgrimaging is a common rite in most religions. Santiago is one of the three important pilgrimage cities of Christianity, alongside Jerusalem and Rome. When European Christians saw that their faith was threatened by the advance of Islam, they asserted it by pilgrimaging to the recently discovered Sepulchre of the Apostle Saint James, in the 9th century. This is how, step by step, routes that led to Santiago were created, thus establishing a type of union between the different European countries and regions. The 12th and 13th centuries were the golden age of pilgrimages to Santiago. Later, during the Renaissance and Reformation, the Saint James phenomenon suffered attacks, but it managed to survive, albeit with a lower influx of pilgrims. The Bull by Pope León XIII "Deus Omnipotens", which verified the authenticity of the apostle's relics, represented a renewed impetus for the Saint James pilgrimage, which grew during the 20th century until the present, when pilgrimaging is strong and on the rise.
The pilgrimage to Santiago takes us to the Tomb of an Apostle, one of the twelve who were part of Christ's intimate circle and who was responsible for the evangelization of Hispania, that is to say, he transmitted the original faith received from Jesus.

There are different pilgrimage routes to Santiago. Traditionally, pilgrims left their home to arrive at the “House of Saint James”, the Cathedral, and therefore it would be difficult to establish all the possible pilgrimage routes. The Way of Saint James is not an end in itself, but a means of arriving at the destination: the Tomb of Saint James. However, it can be said that there are several major and traditional routes that receive the greatest flow of pilgrims:
>The French Way
The route that is most used today and which enters the Peninsula through Roncesvalles, passing through Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, León, Astorga, Ponferrada, and entering Galicia through O Cebreiro.

20 days till we leave.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Beginning

10 January 2016

Last September Palma and I took a class given by the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) in order to be able to volunteer as hospitateros on the Camino de Santiago. Upon completion we applied to La Federación Española de Asociaciones del Amigos del Camino de Santiago to serve. This Friday we heard back from the Federación and were advised we would be posted in the parish alburgue in Grañón. Wow, so exciting. This is one of the more special and well loved alburgues on the Camino. We walked our Camino in 2010 stayed there and it was a wonderful experience. (link to our 2010 blog is

So now our journey begins. We will be flying to Spain in mid March and make our way to Grañón for our two weeks of service. When we finish there I think we will go to Haro to visit some great Spanish Wine Bodegas and then head to Logroño to start our pilgrimage.