Tom is so good! A couple of albergues ago I left behind (duh!) my adapter for my camera. So while I was writing yesterday´s blog he found his way to the local hardware store look for a new adapter. He found one and made a cultural discovery : hardware stores here are just like the ones in the states! You go into the store, a young kid waits on you, you tell him what you need, he sort of looks around then grabs something in a package from the wall. You pay for it, take it home, open it up, realize it´s the wrong thing, and cuss. Later in Pamplona we found an electrical store run by an old man, with several other old men hanging around. We showed him what we needed, he studied it a moment, went to a drawer full of all kinds of plugs and - voila! - just what we need! We were so happy we cheered. The other old men applauded and said "Bravo! Bravo!" and the shop owner took a bow! It´s a small world after all, right? So, yesterday we took a bus to Pamplona, did the touristy thing, and saw the sights (thankfully, without our backpacks!). Last night our single fellow pilgrim with whom we shared our 50-bed albergue was Ferdinand, a retired Spanish air force officer who walked 40 km yesterday! And then I was astounded by how peppy he was last night after he was after walking all that way! - me, who is pretty much zombified every night after walking less than 20 km! Today the backpacks went back on and we plan on walking 20 km to Uterga. I´ll probably be doubly zombified tonight. Anyway, Uterga is kind of sooner than the usual stopping point from Pamplona (which we also stopped a little sooner than) but we´ve decided to try and stay a bit behind "the herd". (Our affectionate nomenclature for our crowds of fellow pilgrims - no problems, though, there are always a few fellow straggler-behind-pilgrims to keep us company on the Camino). Just a note on how much we love this town, Villava, of the empty albergue. Once again Tom has made a bestie, Miguel, the young Venezuelan who owns the shop where this computer is. Miguel speaks English and is so helpful to the pilgrims and Tom gave him some marketing advice. To answer your question, Romaine: my impression regarding the piilgrim meals is that in the restaurants where the albergues are in cahoots with the restaurant the meals seem to be offered only to the pilgrims but I think other places anybody could order one. But don´t quote me on that, it´s just my impression. A happy day to you all! Patti 8)
Sorry for the gap yesterday, in the last albergue we stayed at the computers no fonctiona and the same for the albergues we´re staying at now. But <I found this little store with a computer so we´re in business! But if I go for a while without posting it´s just that I can´t find a working computer. Anyway, to catch up: The day before yesterday we made the 17 steep-uphill-and-steep-downhill walk to the town of Zubiri. So, up until then it had been for us kind of a luxury accomdations pilgrim experience, but at Zubiri it just got real. We stayed in the municipal albergue for 6 euros each. The albergue is in a former school house where they´ve converted the classrooms to bunk bed rooms. I think our room must have been the time-out room, it was soooo tiny and there were 3 bunks shoe-horned into it. Our suitemates were two very cheerful ladies from South Africa, sisters about our age; a friendly middle-aged Italian man who was doing the Camino on bike, and George, a quite portly old Hungarian ( I say old, I took him to be in his late 70´s but it turned out he was only 61!) who immdiately latched onto Tom as his bestie. Before we left he gave Tom a ribbon of the hungarian flag to attach to his backpack, which Tom did. Now besides his shell he has on his backpack the Hungarian ribbon and the finger rosary the Nashes gave him before he left. The bathroom facilities were quite plentiful (probably because it was a school) but they were across the courtyard from the albergue ( probably because it was a school!) All the facilities were in a brick building. You walk into the building and there were 5 toilet stalls on the left wall and against the right wall was a big communal sink. On either side of the sink were the shower rooms, on for men and one for women. In the women´s room ( and I expect in the men´s, too, though I didn´t take a peek, but I could have since there were no locks on the doors) there were 5 shower heads - but no stalls! (And no locks on the doors, right?) But I decided either take the darn shower or smell like 5-day -old fish, so I sucked in my breath and jumped into the festivites. I just pretended I was at the Y. Next day we started walking towards Pamplona. Tom had read a blog about an albergue on the outskirts of Pamplona about which a blogger had written unfavorable comments, he discouraged anyone from staying there because, although it was a super clean, big and modern place with great facilities, no one ever stayed there, he was the only person there and it was too lonely. Too lonely? As in all the bathrooms for us? We made a beeline for the place! The place was as the blogger described it, 10 euros for wonder facilities plus breakfast but it was better than completely empty: there were 2 other pilgrims there, a middle-aged Canadian with foot problems ( I told him to tighten his boots!) and a German man, Josef, about our age who gave us some great advice & encouragement about doing the Camino (this is his 3rd time doing it). And of course all the commodes and showers for me, me, me! We like this empty place so much ( and the hospitaliero is so kind and helpful) that we are going to spend another night here. Today we´ll take the bus into Pamplona and return later. Life is good on the Camino and I hope it is for all of you, our friends and loved ons. Have good days all ´til I can write again. Love, Patti 8)
In a few minutes we will be on our way to our next stop, either 16 km to Zibri or, if we´re feeling all hale & hearty, another 5km beyond that to Larasoana. One thing we´ve been learning is that the Camino experience is different for each person. Many people, in fact, most Europeans we´ve met so far son´t go all the way to Santiago, they just go as far as they can for the time they have allotted, then maybe each year they´ll go a Little further until they finally reach Santiago. Here in Espianal we are sharing a room with a nice Finnish lady and a young German mother who is doing the Camino with her Little 4-yr-old daughter! Between my pathetic German and her great English we are communicating just fine. Tom, is quite a hit with the little girl though niether speak the other´s language. The mother, whose name is Maria, says she only has ten days then they have to be back home. She already did the
Camiono before and she says she doesn´t care how far they go, she just likes being on the Camino. That seems to be how people feel. Maria says she would love to come to the states so, of course, I told her to come with Clara (her daughter) and stay with us, so maybe that will happen. Though there is no one way to do the Camino, still the typical route for those doing the Camino Frances (what we´re doing) is to either start from Saint Jean Pied-De-Port and go over the mountain (which we didn´t do - took the wonderful but under used low road) to Roncesvalles, or skip the mountain (or low road) altogether and start the Camino in the town of Roncesvalles. Subsequently Roncesvalles is a great congreation of pilgrims, kind of like Pilgrim Central. We decided to skip Roncesvalles as a stop-over and walk about 7.5 km further to the tiny town of Espinal. But we did stop by Roncesvalles since it was on the way. The <pigrim albergue there is a fromer monastery, a beautiful, enormous old building, I guess from the middle ages, where there are over 400 pilgrim beds! The monastery dominates the tiny town but there are 2 hotels and a couple of restaurants and bars on the "campus" as well. I say campus because my impression of Roncevalles wasa campus the first day of college! Happy-looking people, Young and old, wandering around and meeting up, we peeked inside the pilgrim office, which is also the "admission office" of the albergue and it was overflowing with people, backpacks on the floor everywhere. The terraces of the bars and restaurants were full of peopleas well, laughing and talking. And the Monastery kind of looks like a college, so the whole impression was "exciting first day of college". But better, I guess, because there are no clases, no studying, no anything except waking up in the morning and walking. But <i´m glad we didn´t spend the night in Roncesvalles because Maria and her duaghter did and Maria said that there were 400 people sleeping there in bunkbeds in an enormous comunal room! As I said, we moved on to Espinal, also a tiny under used town, since everybody stays in Roncesvalles. But we had a wonderful room her in a hotel that reserves the top floor for pilgrims. It´s a big loft with a big living room, lovely terrace, and a free computer on which I´m writing this. Everthing is very kind of Danish modern decor and new. There are only three other pilgrims vesides us, Maria and Little Clara and Kirsti, the finnish woman, so we have the wholoe big place to ourselves. Our Pilgrim meal last night was, for 10 euros each, a big plate of spagetti with a delicious tomato sauce for starters, then a pork cutlet with Fries, then rice pyudding for dessert (lots of carbs for the road!) And of course, the standardbread basket and bottle of wine. Breakfast is usually some bread and coffee or tea for me, here we had a huge toasted baguette. So now we´re off onto our next leg. Quick answer to some questions: Claire, yes, I´ve been using my French like a house afire, you wouldn´t believe all the people who are floored by an American who is fluent in French, though I always assure them that us francophiles are out there! As for theweather, it´s been great so far though rain is predicted for tonight. Love and a wonderful day to you all! Patti 8)
We made it to our second stop, a 17 km walk from Valcarlos to the town of Espinal. We had a wonderful stopover in Valcarlos, a beautiful Little town in the Pyrenees in the heart of Basque Country. The albergue there was so nice and we shared the room with 8 other people, a young American couple, both seminary students, and 6 jovial French folks, all seemed in their 60¨s. One man told me he was 68. Oddly enough, I felt more of a sense of privacy sharing a dorm room with 8 other people (besides Tom) than I did in our little room in St. Jean that we shared with two other people. I think this is because the 10-bed room in Valcarlos was so big that we had more space between us all, but mostly because of improved bathroom situ. In Valcarlos we shared 2 showers, two potties and 4 sinks among the 10 of us. In St. Jean there were 2 showers, 2 sinks, and 1 potty for 16 of us! My impression so far is that the quality of albergue life will be determined by the person-to-commode ratio. We had dinner on the terrace of a little restaurant in the town. We had the fixed-price meal: for 12.50 euros each (about $18 - that included tax and tip) we had a huge salad nicoise ( made with tuna and hard-boiled eggs) that would have been more than enough for dinner, followed by the main course, a filet of pork for me and for Tom a local fish dish made with tomatoes and peppers and toped with a sunny side egg. The dessert was a flan with whipped cream. Dinner also included a basket of fresh bread and a carafe of wine for Tom and for me - what else? Diet coke. The waitress asked us how many people were staying in the albergue and seemed concerned that there were only ten. It´s too bad that the low road gets blown off or dissed by all the pilgrim guidebooks so that few pilgrims pass through the town of Valcarlos. This town could sure use the pilgrim business and certainly deserves it.
We made it to our first stop on the ¨low road¨, the town of Valcarlos. If the mountain road offers breathtaking panoramas of the view from above, the low road offered us breathtaking panoramas of the view from below. The Pyrenees opening up before us was the most beautiful sight imaginable. Still, the low road isn´t actually all that low. There were plenty of steep uphill and downhill spots to negotiate. We met not another pilgrim along the way except for one man (looked about our age), an American who works at the embassy in Madrid who was doing the camino by bike! When we got to the tiny town of Valcarlos we couldn´t find the albergue so we stopped at the post-office/tourist office and the very nice girl who worked there gave us directions and a number written on a piece of paper. She told us when we got to the albergue to punch the number into the door. We did, it opened, there wasn´t a soul in the albergue so we grabbed ourselves a couple of beds then took showers. This albergue is ultra clean, ultra modern, (the gite at St. Jean was charming but not so modern) and has a washing machine we used to wash our clothes. Finally a few other pilgrims cam staggling in then the lady who runs the albergue came in to take our money (10 euros per night) and tell us that she´d be back in the morning to fix us breakfast. I´m guessing that the person-to-facility ratio will be much better here! Love to you all! Patti 8)
We spent our last night at the beautifful L',Esprit du Chemin. We were sorry to leave, not only Tom & I but everyone in the gite, in part because we all expect that this will be the nicest, most private accomdations we'll see. (though we could be wrong, who knows?). We all doubted we'd have as much privacy as we had there. By privacy I mean 4 persons per room. the first night Tom & I shared the bunk beds with two nice English men, one a priest and one a pianist (how about that!), both in their 60's. Last night our suitemates were two young German girls, one a nurse and one a teacher. Everyone has been nice as can be. But even in this small gite one has to modify one's ideas of privacy. The communal bathrooms are to get used to. It's interesting to have two people taking a shower while two people are brushing their teeth at the sink while there are two people in line to use the single commode upon which you are sitting trying to go. There's also a line to use this computer, so I guess it's really time to go!. We're on our way! "Hello life...goodbye Columbus!" Peace and a wonderful day to you all! Patti 8)
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We made it!
From the Madrid airport,
...to the Madrid train station,
,At least as far as the Pamplona bus station, and, if our luck holds, we should arrive at our starting point, St. Jean Pied de Port in a few hours. It´s taken me a few hours to figure out how to use this computer which I found in the bus station. I swear I've been more stressed out trying to get this machine to work than in trying to make my way across a country where I don´t speak the language very well and don´t know the transportation system at all!. Bus is leaving in a few minutes, just share that things went pretty much as predicted, we did in fact stumble all around before figuring out how to get here, but with the help of kind Spaniards and kind fellow pilgrims we´ve met along the way, it seems that we´ll make it. To the starting point, that is. I´ll try to be more long winded (takes so much effort, right?) when the bus isn´t blowing it´s final horn. Haven´t figured out how to download photos, may not be possible, then I´ll have to make 1,000 words worth one picture. Love to all| Patti 8)
In a little over twenty-four hours from now we should be in the Madrid airport, schlepping around trying to figure out how to get to the Madrid railway station, where we'll walk in circles until we find the train to Pamlona, where we'll exit the station and stand on the sidewalk looking up and down and all around, wondering where the bus to St. Jean-Pied-De-Port leaves from. Hopefully people will take pity on these two clueless Americans and we'll somehow eventually manage stumble onto where we're supposed to be. If this turns out to be my last blog, don't worry, it just means I can't find a computer, or I can't figure out how to use one when I find it. But if there's a computer to be found and figured out, the blog will go on! Blessings and wonderful days to you all, good friends and loved ones, 'til we find each other again.
Peace, Patti and Tom 8) 8)
The 4,757 foot -high mountain over which the Camino climbs on the first day has always been my biggest Frankenstein monster nightmare : Because this mountain happens on the first day, before I'll be all toughened up and strong; because it's the only day on the Camino when we'll be required to carry all our food and water for the 9 or 10 hours it takes to get from our starting point in St. Jean Pied -De-Port to the next nearest town of Roncesvalles; because 9 or 10 hours is a long time to be hauling the recommended 3 liters per person of water (which has got be even worse than carrying two extra pairs of undies); and because 4,757 feet is dang steep. All the other days (except for one other day, one of the last days, by which time we'll have arms & legs & backs like Arnold Schwartznegger) the elevations will be kinder and there will be plenty of water stops and rest stops and cafes and albergues along the way. Except on this first day. Or so I thought. And yet I always vaguely knew there was another route, a "low road" that runs parallel to high road, it just never was on my radar. Until today, when the thought suddenly popped up in my brain: we could take the low road! I found some information on the low road and learned that it passes through villages, over rolling hills and through lush forests and that few pilgrims take it. Maybe few take it because, like me, they just don't think about it, or maybe because the breathtaking panoramic views from the mountain trail are supposed to be among the most beautiful sights on the camino or anywhere. So can I stand to go through life knowing I'll have passed up one of the most spiritually enlightening vistas on the planet? Eh, well, you know what they say: "Before enlightement: chop wood, carry water, clean floor. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water, clean floor." I guess I can.
Things that may turn out to have been a good idea or a bad one:
1. Dumping my $200 whoopty-doo back pack from a hoity-toity camping store for a $50 one from Meijer's because the Meijer's one weighs half as much as the hoity-toiter. (Can you guess which is which?)
2. Turning my nose up at a substantially-constructed $50 rain suit for a $19.99 one that feels like it's made from the same roll of plastic that they make the dollar-store party table cloths from. Because the $19.99 one weighs less than half the $50 one.
3. Tossing my 2lb sleeping bag from my back pack and replacing it with two wisps of chiffony polyester from Joann's Fabric that I figure I can use as a set of sheets on my albergue mattress while I sleep in my clothes.
4. Declining a sturdy backpack cover for when we're in the mountians of Galicia where it pours rains 60% of the time in favor of a $7.99 poncho that appears to be cut from the same roll of party table cloth plastic as my rain suit.
5. Deciding to pack a couple pairs of undies after all. (Researched the history of underware, found out the true reason we wear them. Turns out underware was invented shortly after the invention of the zipper. Very shortly after.)
My husband Tom and I will be walking the 490.7-mile Camino de Santiago from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago, Spain. We leave Columbus 9/11/13 and return 10/30/13. God willing.
The sequel to "Equal and Opposite Reactions" in which a woman discovers the naked truth about herself.
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Kindle:
or in print:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library