Here I go...

Walking and Talking Across Spain - long distance walking chelates the chemicals that trigger my Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

Monday, October 10, 2016

Hola Santiago y Adios

At the sumptuous breakfast offered at the seminary of San Martin Pinario I joined another pilgrim for the buffet. Empanada, tortilla, tomatoes, tostada, bread, cheeses, meat, cereal, yogurt, fruit salad, milk, tea, coffee and juice are all there for the taking. 

It is easy to linger there and sample as many of the delights as hunger demands. Later in the day outside in the plazas surrounding the Cathedral the queues are just beginning to form for entry into the much photographed house of worship.

Because of the numbers of visitors the free access of years past has been discontinued and there is entry thru the door facing the Plaza Platerias, exit thru the door of the Plaza Immaculada and a third entry from the Plaza Quintana to visit the crypt and embrace the sculpture of the Saint. All are guarded by friendly security personnel, yet the feeling of being herded into and out the Cathedral cannot be denied. Fortunately, one is still allowed to graze at will once inside.

At breakfast I asked the pilgrim if they had made their visit to the Cathedral and if it had been everything they had hoped to experience after so many walking miles of trial and joy. Here is the reply in the pilgrim's own words.

"I arrived the day before and was to tired to stand in the long lines I found there. Others in the group I had walked with were stronger and first made their way to the pilgrim office where the lines for compostellas were even longer. Later they would also queue with the many others at the Cathedral.

I was only able to afford the journey after saving credit card miles for 5 years to buy airfare, and my budget for food and lodging was very tight. I found a pilgrimage website that provided reserved lodging and some local transportation which I could afford. There was also assistance on the trail from a volunteer leader.

Others in the group were experienced travelers and much of the discussion was about comparing the Camino with the places all over the world they had toured. This was my first trip abroad and I had nothing to offer to these conversations but I enjoyed listening to a point.

Because of my inexperience I was, perhaps naively, overwhelmed by the simplest of things along the Way. I spent nearly half an hour once just admiring the deep red soil of a freshly ploughed field. I watched hawks circling the royal blue sky and so I often arrived last at our lodgings and missed group meals because I had laundry to do which I did by hand since I could not afford the cost of the machines.

My second morning in Santiago I decided to make my visit to the Cathedral at dawn before coffee or breakfast when there were no people to queue with and you could enter thru any of the many doors. I wanted to go there with the heightened awareness that an empty stomach brings. When one begins the journey to Santiago one never knows for certain if they will make it there, nor if they will ever return again.

First I wanted to embrace the likeness of St. James perched above the high altar since I had been told it was traditional. It was a fine feeling to hold the cool shoulders of the sculpture and rest my head for a moment at the nape of his neck. Since there was no one behind me, I could linger as long as I wanted without causing any inconvenience to another.

Next I walked the worn stone stairs down to the crypt of the Saint. There were two other pilgrims standing again the stone wall that faces the silver tomb holding the remains. A sparkling silver star floats above the small reliquary.

I was surprised to see three priests in red chasubles offering a mass in English there in the tight quarters of the inner crypt. They were making the offertory and I decided to stay for at least the consecration. Three of us pilgrims hugged the stone wall so the occasional others could come and go as they pleased. After the consecration we three joined the priests in exchanging the sign of peace. Then we were happy when the celebrant came to the iron gate separating us from the inner crypt, and offered us the Body of Christ.

After this Mass, I walked around the many chapels where 3 other Masses in Spanish, French and German were being offered. There were only small groups of pilgrims in each chapel and no botofumeiro, but I would not trade my quiet and lonely experience with the two other early risers for the crowded grandeur of the Noon High Mass.

If someone would ask me now, when is the best time of day to visit the Cathedral of Santiago, I would say early in the morning when you are hungry and have the compulsion to lay aside one appetite for another more profound. But my opinion should not influence another since wonder and spirit can be found everywhere at any time. A person should go, when they feel the desire to do so. As they say, there are as many Caminos as there are people who travel it."

Well, Annie and I have heard many marvelous tales of the things to find along the Way, that the "Camino provides". And yes the Camino provides both opportunity and challenge, but we remember mainly the opportunities and give short shrift to the sore feet and shared bathrooms that sometimes constitute the challenges. After this one pilgrim's story of the Mass with The Saint, I wondered what challenges they must have met over the many miles walking. But their tale of the spell of simple glory prevented me from asking. I had no more questions to ask or answer.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Joe's Blog on his way to Molinaseca and then Villafranca

Along the way from Camponaraya, after you cross the overpass of the autovia, a truck full of blue-black grapes passes.  The truck stops and the smiling face with a five day stubble directs you to help yourself to a taste of the fruit of the Campos.  The truck stops for every pilgrim it passes. It is harvest time and later in the Rip van Winkle pueblo of Valtuille de Arriba a crummy of field hands rumbles by all smiles and waves.

The day before at Casa Del Reloj in Molinaseca, we thought the day had been long enough so that nothing more exciting would happen.  Wrong again.

In burst 5 tall and handsome caballeros, one in full length tin duster.  "Somos los amigos de Antonio Rojo." We are the friends of Antonio Rojo.  Antonio is the owner of the family estate which includes the Pension as well as a shaded field across the street where the horses can be quartered.  We hear them whinnying and neighing as the sun drops from the sky.  Early in the morning we will hear them rustling in the field as they forage for breakfast.

These are hombres one must rise to greet, if for nothing else than to feed a bit on their exuberance and energy.  They hardly wait for our pilgrims to turn around.  Introductions are in Spanish and English.  They speak excellent English and must know first the names and homelands of the girls in the room.  Cowboys are similar everywhere I suppose.  These men possess a rough elegance with style that charms immediately.

They must be the same caballeros we saw riding atop the pile of rocks that support the Cruz de Ferro.  They ride to Santiago and we find their mounts have left some evidence of their passing in the middle of the Calle Real, the gut of the town.

Well, back to VillaFranca and our charming hosts at Albergue La Piedra a young and very capable couple named Livia and Unai.  As usual Conan the golden retriever is there at the door to greet us.  But it is not possible to walk him down to the river for a swim because it is too cold out for his hair to dry before the next morning.  But you know he would accompany you there given half a chance.

 Unai and Livia first ask all if they would like something to drink or eat before anything else.  Then Unai offers to carry your pack upstairs to your room.  Now we can relax for we are in very good hands. Our hosts will even wash and dry our laundry for a mere 5 euro, delivered to you door.

Mas tarde, Livia's delightful mother Paula arrives to work the reception so Unai and Livia can have a little rest in the evening. In the morning she will prepare the desayuno and make the stamps for our credentials.

Then it is time to don our packs and see what can be found up ahead.

(NOTE FROM ANNIE)  I'm sorry if these photos are not in order. Joe can sort them out when he arrives home. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Muchas Gracias, Ron!

Lavender Lane
All in by 3:30pm. I taxi to Santa Catalina and walk from there. Best €12 spent on this trip. I walked really slow and easy, admiring the beauty of the Maragato's valley where you remember the lavender blooming in spring fills the air. I stopped often just to look around. Sunny but not too warm, some big clouds often gave shade.

Just beyond where the souvenir man usually has his table under that lone encino tree before El Gonso I caught up with an older pilgrim whom I had watched struggling slowly ahead of me. I only caught up with him because he stopped to drink water.

The back of his large pack was completely covered with a plasticized white sign with black letters. A long screed of Scripture about the only way to find peace. I thought as I got close that normally with good wheels I would smoke past him in a flash. But since I knew I could only walk slowly, I thought this may be an interesting character, a pilgrim with a message and story worth stopping for a chat.

He was Ron from Southern California.  Had walked from SJPP in that heat wave. Said he didn't want to have a first day like that again. I agreed.

He asked where I was from. Oregon, but I spend winters in DHS, so I knew his town in Southern California. "A snow bird," he says! Yep.

So I told him I would see him in Rabanal and headed off to let him rest. Not long later, I found 2 good rocks just off the track for my pack and my coup. Took off the shoes and had a look at that old valley with all the scrub trees and shrubs and bright red clay soil.

Soon Ron crept up in view, much later he caught up with me. He stopped, asked if I was okay. Told me that I could make it and take it easy. Off he crawled sticks a'clackin'.

Well, I wasn't hurting at all because I was on the slow ride enjoying the view and the many pilgrims passing by. It felt good to have somebody hurting a lot worse than me, try to give me encouragement because he thought I was worse off than he was. We never spoke a word about scripture or preaching. I didn't expect that at first, but right after our first comments, I forgot he was even carrying that billboard on his backpack.

I never did catch up with him, cause just before you come to the wire fence with all the crosses made with sticks and found objects, there was a caballero with a hawk. He let pilgrims don the glove so they could have the hawk perch on their hands. Here are some pics.

Anne and Debbie with hawk

Everybody is happy. 

Christina and Antonio were glad to see me 
and Antonio took care of getting us in. 

There is a squash probably almost 6 feet tall in the family dining area. 

One of the barmen said it came from his garden and weighed 35 kilos, 
nearly 80 lbs. 
I will see if I can get a pic of he and his squash.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Face Sucking Boxes

Walkin in the garden of the old Jewish quarter of Astorga today,  
found a nice sweet-smellin rose bed.

Weather has been fine.

We have a great hotel but the wifi is spotty. 

Lots of smart phones and bowing heads. 

Generations from now when the smart phones have been obsolete for years
-- the experts will say that in the old days each person believed 
the Code-Writers could capture God in a plastic box 
and that all people spent up to 10 hours a day gazing at the box in worship. 
That it was a golden age when humans worshiped God 
with a pious devotion never heard of before. 

But there was really nothing in the box.

Photos from

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

AdiĆ³s a la Hermosa Navarra

Lesley Robinson from down under with our host at Casa de la Abuela, Iosu.

We have learned from a little practice that after 8 straight days of walking over Pyrenees, Altos de Mezquiriz, de Erro, del Perdon and other lesser bumps along The Way-- some level of exhaustion is to be expected.

After an arrival to Viana or Logrono and the border of La Rioja, we have nick-named this day, The Day of Hitting the Wall.

The energy and exuberance of initiating our pilgrimage in France has been used up a little just getting as far as we have. There is a need to rest and recover a bit; to reflect on the the better ways we have learned from forgetting and leaving behind socks, jackets, walking sticks and hopefully some of our habitual anxieties. And in the process, finding acceptable solutions through our own resourcefulness and good fortune.

Viana is a perfect place to do some R&R. A compact, friendly and homey ciudad where all the residents know each other by name and one is not judged at all for leaving their apartment unshaven and in slippers to share a coffee and news of the day at the bar round the corner.

It is a good time and place for the wandering pilgrim to celebrate their accomplishment and to look forward to the respite of busing for 3 days to visit the monuments of Burgos, Leon and Astorga.

Alas, we must also leave behind the Camino friends made over the first 8 days-- for we will cover 5 stages in less than 2 hours. Los Otros will therefore be 5 days behind.

It is common for pilgrims to begin the journey with friends or companions from home. Also common is the experience of finding that sometimes the new people met on The Way for the first time add greatly to our understanding of what it is to be a pilgrim, perhaps even more so than those who crossed the ocean with us in the beginning.

In Viana, if you strike up an acquaintance with a native, soon you be impressed with how fast you might be accepted as an amigo by many other residents. Remember, it is a town where everyone knows their fellow residents very well. In this sense we are also stimulants to the curiosity of locals.

A pilgrim from another land has some attraction to locals as an exotic "gente" with a view of the world wider than what is ordinary to the place. Wearing a sonrisa as you hobble the unfamiliar streets is a trusty lure to capture the kind attention of the native who knows at first glance that you are just visiting. Soon perhaps you will be party to their conversation with the brothers, cousins, friends, wives and husbands who gravitate to the one native you first met.

One pilgrim spoke with a local man and before long the pilgrim with pigeon Espanol, began to understand the meanings of their new acquaintances' unfamiliar words without trying to mentally translate into English. This pilgrim said suddenly they were beginning to think in Spanish and not in English.

I was told it was quite liberating, that even though the pilgrim did not understand every word or phrase, they nevertheless arrived at a clear sense of the feelings and information being conveyed. It was said to be much easier than trying to mentally translate the muy rapido Espanol into Ingles.

Well, we know from experience that this does not happen in every ciudad or Pueblo, nor does it happen for every pilgrim. But we do know that this and other similar benefits are very likely to happen in Viana if one brings with them sonrisas along with their dolores and necessitos. Maybe this is because the people in Viana believe in living a good life simply, and they recognize another who believes the same by what that other wears on their face as they explore the sights, sounds and aromas of the city on the hill. It is possible.

Toxic berries of a local plant. Can anyone identify?

Our host in Viana at Los Apartamentos Borgia, Jose Julio,
drawing water from the pozo in his huerta
Fruits of Jose Julio's huerta that he picked and gave us.
Notice the grapes went fast!
La Virgen de Nieva - Viana Cathedral

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Club Meson al Fuera de Jefe Pepe by Joe

Book your Visit to Club Meson al Fuera de Jefe Pepe Here

We love visiting Estella because of the many superb monuments, vibrant historical significance, its hospitality and its centuries old renown for good meat, fish, water and wine.  Rest assured, what was true then is still true today.

And now we find in the same tradition Apartments Jurramendi, a fairly new must-stay in Estella.  Owners Christina and Joaquin have provided perfectly clean and well-equipped 2 bedroom apartments to make your visit comfortable and complete.

The  apartments are located in the shadow of the exceptional Plaza de Los Fueros where you will find delectable regional cuisine as well as the1950's styled hamburger palace simply called The Diner.

We at Anniewalkers relish the comidas found in the Plaza, but we also realize that some pilgrims long for a chance to do some home-cooking of their own away from home.  Apartementos Jurramendi provides all the equipment to do so, and the many supermercados of Estella offer a huge variety of the needed ingredients.

You can cook a treat of bacon and eggs for dinner with enough left over for the next day.  One pilgrim I know did just that.

We have one more very special dining location to mention as well.  About 14 kilometers outside of Estella on The Way to Los Arcos (one more of our favorite locations, the home of Iosu & Sara's Casa de la Abuela) is the hard-to-find but fantastic Club Meson al Fuera de Jefe Pepe.  The Club Meson is located on a hill along the Camino just past the Bar 2km, a popular and portable waystop whose proprietor is well known for keeping a close eye on the behavior of its patrons, and whom some have compared to Seinfeld's Soup Nazi.

The Al Fuera de Jefe Pepe by contrast has only 2 rules:. First you must bring your own comidas (meals)and Second, you must pack out your own basura ( garbage). What makes the Club Meson impossible to pass up is its location and stunning vistas, the fact that seating is always possible without the need of reservation and that all this is provided free and gratis.

The photos attached will suffice to confirm what mere words can never adequately describe.  It should be noted that while tongue-in-cheek can be found at Club Meson de Jefe Pepe, it must be pre-ordered via the good offices of the fine people of Anniewalkers Caminos USA.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Post From Joe

A post from Joe, who was in Puente la Reina yesterday, and is on Camino with 8 pilgrims:

To Pregunta or not to Pregunta

For us English-only speakers it is challenging to perform even the simplest things we take for granted in our homelands. We pilgrims come to a romantic land filled with ancient monuments as well as novel technological innovations that can serve to connect us to the our loved ones back home but also tend to direct our attention away from "where we are in the moment."

Take a seat anywhere along the Way, and you will see table after table of persons not speaking to each other, but instead heads down and eyes focused on smart phones and tablets communicating with people who are not there.

In English we can express ourselves at a level that displays intelligence, sophistication and wonder. But with only a handful of phrases in Spanish, French or other tongues, we feel perhaps isolated and inadequate in comparison to the natives who navigate the waters of communication with profundity and musical elegance. It is natural to shrink into the background to avoid seeming less brilliant than we actually are. Our experience is thus diminished thru our own choice.

But in casting aside timidity and attempting to speak with an unfamiliar tongue we can provide ourselves with valuable data to crack the secrets of the Camino and bring smiles to the natives who enjoy our halting efforts to meet them on their own terms.

For example, here is a photo of a habitaccion keypad at Albergue Jakue in Puente La Reina. You slide the magnetic card thru the pad and the door to your bed and shower is unlocked. In theory.

You slide and slide but nothing happens. Many others pass you in the hall happily on their way to tapas, cerveza con limon, and other delights. Finally you try to turn the key-card in a different direction and sure enough you hear the click of the door latch opening. Que milagro!

You push the door but nothing happens. What the!!
Finally frustration and exhaustion move you to turn to the next person you see and ask, "ayuda me."

In return you get a smile and a one word answer:. "Mira"-- your redeemer of the moment pulls gently on the door knob, and then easily pushes the door wide open. First you must pull, then you must push.

But how would you know this without first the Pregunta?

Here at Jakue last year we many pilgrims spent hours and euros trying to use the computers in the sala. But Nada. This year we ask if the computers are working first before feeding them with coins.

The question brings an engaging light to the face of the hospitalero. Yes, the computer are muy malo. So this year one need only ask at the reception desk and a tablet is provided for your use free of charge. Perfecto. Now we can get online to share stories of our adventure in the land of castles and ampollas. But only after the Pregunta.

There is risk in leaving behind our comfort zones. There is risk in mangling an unfamiliar language. But in risking the question, we may find the holy grail of a cooling shower and a refreshing descanso. And much more. One other Pregunta led to us learning that next year there will be a new hot tub in the beer garden!

Friday, September 23, 2016


While Joe's away on Camino, I'm finally recovered enough from my bad fall to do a little artwork.

I've been working on repainting a sweet little Bratz doll I've named Jolene.

I finished her today. I dressed her in a hand-crocheted dress with black leggings and boots. I did her hair in a loose double-twisted style.  I think she turned out real cute!

Before and After. What a difference!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Autumn Group is on the Camino!

While I'm recuperating at home, Joe just informed me that his Autumn Group of Pilgrims have assembled and are on their way!  He has a wonderful group of folks this year, and all are anxious to test their stamina and see Spain!

Left to right:. Sandy, Barbara, Anne, Debbie, Lesley, Mary and Doug.

I understand things got off to an interesting start 
when the shuttle arrived early in Orisson.  
Welcome to the Camino! 
It throws you curve balls from the start, 
and remember, we warned you?
 Those who have walked the Camino are chuckling right now, 
as they know what you're going through.

Apparently, the Camino has gotten so busy this year, that Carolyn has hired help to run several shuttles, and they're still not quite organized.  This can make for some discomfort to Americans, especially, who are used to schedules.  In France and Spain, if you are invited to a party at 7 pm and you arrive at 9 pm, well, at least you've arrived, and nobody's feathers are fluffed. 

So my advice is to just roll with the punches and as I've always said, have absolutely NO expectations.  Just enjoy the ride!

I understand the walk over the Pyrenees was cool and windy. That's good for the group, as the week before people were falling over with heat stroke. Here is Sandy at Roland's Fountain, taking a much deserved rest. It looks wet and chilly to me. Great walking weather!

Today the group is in Zubiri. Tomorrow the easy walk to Pamplona and back to familiar digs. 

A good place to dump all that extra weight!  You can post it to Santiago and it will be waiting for you there!

Buen Camino, Peregrinos!
Stay in touch!

By the way, the new dates are up for 2017 if you know anyone who is interested in walking.  The Spring walk is FULL if everyone who has inquired signs up. In that case, we may have a second group.  We are considering an Autumn Group, but will wait to see if there is interest.  I am 99% sure I will not walk this year, but you know me, I may change my mind once I'm feeling better. If I do not walk, my neighbor has expressed interest in leading a group. She walked the entire route last year, so is experienced and toying with the idea. 

Stay tuned . . . 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hayden's Doll

Yesterday was a special day because I was visited by a special girl!

I have two granddaughters, and both enjoy painting dolls with me. 

Hayden is 8 years old and she loves the arts! She can knit and is learning to play the piano. The lady next door to her has a kiln and has taught Hayden to slump glass. This summer she took a pottery class. She also loves to cook. 

Yesterday, Hayden visited for the day and she painted this beautiful doll! 
She asked me if she could sell it
and I thought, "Why not!?"

The doll is really as good as most dolls on Etsy, 
and so we will list it for $39. 
When it sells, Hayden will get $30 
and I'll keep $9 for materials and listing fees. 

The face was completely painted by Hayden.
The hair was braided by her.
She made the sweater - Grandma cut it out.
The pants and boots are regular Bratz pants/boots.
I embroidered the flower on the front of the sweater 
and tidied up her stitches a bit, 
but Hayden did most of the work herself.

The doll is really a beauty with gorgeous green eyes
and a soft, sweet expression.

Hayden has named the doll Makayla.

I strongly believe in teaching children to work and earn their own money.
Teaching a child to be self-sufficient, 
to me, 
is one of the greatest gifts a parent or grandparent can give.

I think Hayden is well on her way to a career in the Arts;
perhaps she will paint portraits,
or be the curator at a museum.
And that makes me very happy!

If you are interested in Hayden's doll, Makayla,
you can find it in my FreckleFarm Dolls shop:

Here are a few more photos of Hayden
so you can see her cute personality.
She's a kick!