Friday, November 12, 2010

Martin Sheen on "The Way"

For some time now I have known that this movie was being produced.  Martin Sheen stars in "The Way" directed by his son, Emilio Estevez, and in this clip he talks about the Camino and his Spanish heritage.  The movie's premier was held on November 8 in Santiago de Compostela.  The movie is made along the way, and has a spiritual story, but the pilgrim reality is missing.  Martin does not lose weight (I lost 10 kgs). The pilgrims in the movie stay at the same level of fitness throughout and their clothes are always neat and clean .... oh well it is a Hollywood pilgrimage :)

Do it before you cannot
Americans do not allow themselves time off from work (many figure they are too important) and will not give themselves the month to six weeks leave required to do this journey.  One does not come across many American pilgrims along the way.  Yes, they are there but in far smaller numbers than Europeans, Canadians, Australians, Brazilians, Asians and the multitude of nationalities on the Camino.

If your intention is strong
I firmly believe that you can always find a way to do the journey if you REALLY want to walk it ...... some times you do not have a choice and the Camino pulls you to it.  And for those who say it is alright for you as you are retired ... I was not retired while I was planning my first pilgrimage.  Fortunately, I was laid off work in the July when I had plans to walk the way in September, 2001.

The Camino looks after you
Tanya (London, UK) called and asked if she could visit at the time I planned to walk the Camino.  I put off my walk until the Spring (April 2002).  Being from the New York City area with friends who worked downtown and at the WTC I don't think that I would have wanted to be along the Camino as 9/11 was taking place.  So fortunately with Tanya's planned visit I was home at that time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is walking a labyrinth, a pilrimage?

Labyrinth - Houston, Texas
Pilgrimage or not?
A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place.  The center of a labyrinth is for some folks a sacred place for meditation and prayer.  I walked this Chartes style labyrinth for meditation yesterday.  Here are my thoughts ....

Walking the labyrinth did not take me all day, just forty-five minutes or so.  If it had been raining I would not have walked, I would have waited for a better day.  So was this a pilgrimage? 

To walk the labyrinth I did not climb mountains or ouch, painfully walk down them.  The surface was soft pebbles not rocky gravel, slate, limestone, grass, mud, cobblestone or tarmac.  I did not walk all day with a heavy backpack, sleep the night before in one big room with a hundred other pilgrims (some of them snoring, farting, or like Bob (London) in 2007 - both).  I did not share the toilets and showers or get woken up at an ungodly hour by those who like to be on the Camino before the sun comes up and do not care who they wake in the process.  I did not have blisters to tend to, tendonitis, shoulder pain, or back pain but I did have pain in my left knee.  I did not have to continue on in the rain because there are no buildings for cover and I am x kilometers from my destination.  I did not have to walk under the hot sun from a cloudless sky with no shade tree in sight.  Walking a labyrinth is a short journey where you can see the entire route before starting off.  It took me forty-five minutes not forty-five days.  Keep your wits about you and you will not get lost.  Of course the same is true of the Camino, keep your wits about you, look for those golden arrows, and you will not get lost.

To me a pilgrimage is usually a long journey in unfamiliar territory.  Although there are many trials on a pilgrimage there are far more spectacular moments that outweigh the tough times.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thinking of my next camino

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T.S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot (1888–1965)

I read these words today and felt they expressed my feelings about walking from Santiago de Compostela (SdC) to Saint Jean Pied de Port (SJPP) next year. Starting in Sdc and walking in reverse along the way will be like a tape on rewind. How will it feel to be in SJPP and for it be the final day of my walk? A pilgrim friend, Sarah, is walking from SdC to Toulouse, France at the moment. Check out her Blog:

I am not able to walk in Spain until September 2011 as I have a prior commitment for April/May. Walking in the autumn will be a new experience for me and I am looking forward to seeing the changed countryside.

Daydreaming about Spain and the camino ....

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Knee problem? What knee problem?

It is three weeks today since surgery and it is hard to remember that I once had pain in the right knee. I am walking well without using a stick and this is with Jeannette's (physio-torturer, actually physiotherapist) permission. Jeannette told me, "you will know when it is time to stop using the stick" and from the Camino I know that a stick is like an umbrella and you will leave it behind. I am grateful for the medical folks who worked on making this possible for me. From Dr Thomas Parr and his staff to the Foundation Surgical Hospital staff, they all made this an easy process. Being able to have in-home physiotherapy was a blessing that I was not expecting. I had been worried about how I would get to the hospital for therapy. Thanks to Jeannette and her visits I am walking pain free.

Realizing that my readers are not all based in the USA I will add that this procedure came first from Britain. In England it is known as the Oxford Knee:

If you have a painful knee(s) I can only encourage you to make an appointment with a MAKOplasty® surgeon and inquire immediately about your options. This surgery benefits those who are fit and able to recover quickly. The quality of your life will be enhanced 100%.

I think the reporting on the knee can finish and I will return to the subject when it is time for the left knee surgery.

I can now walk other Camino's but in future it will be without blisters and painful knees .... this will be heaven.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two weeks today

Beautiful weather
It is beautiful outside with picture perfect weather.  Fall has started and we have dropped out of the hot weather, it is definitely cooler.  The temperature is hovering in the low 80's (28 deg. C.), sunny blue skies with low humidity, a day to be outside enjoying the sunshine.

Progress report
It is two weeks since surgery and I am walking around the house for exercise and having in-home rehabilitation.  Yesterday we started using weights in rehab and that was it for the rest of the day.  I crashed and iced the knee (under instructions) then slept thanks to the pain medication.  Oh the pain was bad, this lets me know that I still need to take recovery slowly and I am not there yet.  I want to walk, I want to run, but not yet.  The pain in my right (surgical) knee is minimal and I can tell the knee is going to be fantastic to walk on when it is totally recovered.  There is pain in my left arthritic knee, the normal pain not any stronger than before, and it will be wonderful when this knee is also corrected.

Using a stick
I thought that I knew how to use a walking stick from being on the camino but I didn't.  It is a totally different motion when using a stick for an injured leg.  Because it is my right knee that is injured the stick must be in my left hand.  I am a one stick person on the camino and my stick is always in my right hand.  I wondered how much the walking stick helps the knee so I weighed myself, then weighed myself using the stick, and it takes 27 pounds (12 kilos) of weight off the knee, amazing huh.  Then it is said that each pound of weight is equal to three pounds of pressure, WOW that is 81 pounds (36 kilos) of pressure.  Lets me know that it would be good for my knees if I could get that weight off my body.  Hmm.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ten days already

I have been approved for nine sessions of in-home physiotherapy.  Earlier today my physiotherapist (physio-torturer, Jeannette) increased my exercise repetitions from 15 to 20 and my knee feels very good.  Pain level on meds is about a one, and as I am always on meds, I do not know what the level would be without them.  Of course the left leg benefits from these drugs, so exercising is not a problem for me.  I have been warned by Jeannette that on Monday we start using weights.  My right knee is getting better.

I am so happy that Dr Parr prefers to operate on one knee at a time.  I was considering doing both together.  The PT would be so difficult working on two operated knees.  Using stairs one needs to go down on the operated knee and up on the opposite.  If both knees are done together, ouch, then stairs would be almost impossible for a long period of time.  I have made the mistake a couple of times by using the wrong knee, for the wrong step, boy it hurts!

Ten day post-operative check-up
Garry came home early this afternoon and drove me to Sugar Land for the ten day post-operative appointment.  My knee has progressed very well and Dr Parr called me a star patient making me smile.  The alignment of my hip, knee, and ankle is perfect - a dead straight line.  I was not aware that this misalignment had happened over the arthritic years (making me bow-legged) now I know.  Dr Parr explained to me how he uses GPS which makes this a very precise surgery.  There are antennas on poles that are screwed into the bone top and bottom of the knee, the poles hold all the equipment in place i.e. Robotic Surgery.  The surgeon cannot go less than a millimeter off the plan for the surgery, the computer/robot will not allow it.  Apparently I was a perfect candidate for the partial knee replacement.  I only had arthritis on the inside medial knee bones and a small amount on the knee cap, there is no arthritis on the outside bones.

The surgical nurse, Ashley, changed the strips holding the wound together pronouncing it a nice clean wound.

I can now increase the walking to three periods of twenty minutes each day and with every passing week increase the time.  I cannot drive until I am off the Darvocet, I must now work on that but not until Jeannette has finished with the torture.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It happens slowly

As we age we make lifestyle, or quality of life changes, but how much do we really need to give up?  Over time I noticed that I was no longer walking the three miles every day as I had done for decades.  I no longer went for bike rides or rode my bike to the gym.  I no longer swam 50 laps of the pool (the first two summers in Houston).  Yes, I went to the gym every day but was I putting my heart into it?  I saw the daily kilometers on my Camino walks decrease with each passing year.  These changes happened slowly without my being too aware of them.  I made excuses for why I was no longer doing each activity and I believed the excuses myself.  I now see that my knees were dictating my lifestyle.  I avoided going places or doing things because it meant that I would have to walk.  When something was suggested to me I would consider what walking went into the doing or getting to what ever was on offer.

When did I truly realize that my quality of life was compromised and I had to make this surgical change?  It was while I was in Paris after my pilgrimage and hospitalera stint this year.  I had pain walking around Paris.  Although I had been given a SynVisOne® shot the day before I went to Europe my knees were hurting.  I was walking around Paris slowly and with much pain.  I had walked that shot out within weeks, yet the first shot had lasted six months and now this second shot had lasted just six weeks!  I sat on the Hop On, Hop Off bus in Paris and did not want to get off because I knew if I got off then I had to walk.    I realized then that I had changed from being a person who was excited about seeing and experiencing new things to one who was trying to avoid them.  Time to admit you need help Luiza.

I have been helped by Doctor Thomas Parr and his staff at Foundation Surgical Hospital in Bellaire, Texas.  When Dr Parr asked about my pain tolerance he said, if you have walked over 1,000 kms on these knees then you have a high tolerance for pain.  I knew that I had a high tolerance for pain but it was good to have it validated by the doctor.

Because I have been active over the years I am having an easier time of this surgery.  My bone density is good and my muscles remember the workouts at the gym, so the physiotherapy is not hurting me as it would if I had been sedentary.  Jeanette, my physiotherapist, tells me that the range of motion in my knee is excellent and I believe being a walker could have helped that.

So to my fellow walkers out there, never give up walking, have the necessary surgical repairs to your body done that will keep you walking, and always, always walk. 

I cannot stress enough the value of walking.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On the mend

There it is, my right knee all fixed.  Now to get better.  I am feeling great this morning and have been walking around the house without my stick.  So much so that I thought that I should call Jeannette, my Physiotherapist, and ask if I am allowed to walk.  I had to leave a message but I know she will return the call.  The wounds top and bottom are where the alignment supports for the robot were placed.

Jeannette returned my call and her advice is to walk as much as you can without overdoing it but please use the stick.  

Halfway ready for the next camino.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Allergies .....

I have been kept awake tonight/this morning by itchy skin and anybody who suffers allergies knows what my night has been like.  Is it the anticoagulant-heparin (LOVENOX®) or the painkiller Vicodin (HYDROCO/APAP) that is making me itch?  It is now 0420 and I am having an allergic reaction to one of the drugs, I believe it to be the painkiller because of the timing of the reaction.  However, it is too early to call the doctor so I just sit here and scratch.  :)

I know nothing of the surgery as I was given a happy drug in the pre-operation area.  I remember looking around at all the robotic equipment that was protected with blue sheeting when I was wheeled into the operating room.  I saw a syringe coming towards me and the next thing I was in the PACU and the two hour surgery was over.

On the 1-10 scale with 10 being unbearable pain my pain at rest is 1-2, but after walking, or rehab, the pain is intense at about an 8.  The 1-2 pain level is the surgical site and not the interior arthritis, I believe that has been all scraped away. Let me tell you that my pain was always with me prior to surgery so for me to have no pain at rest tells me this has been successful.  Partial knee surgery is less restrictive and I can drive immediately except that the painkilling drugs come with the warning not to drive or drink alcohol.

Dr Parr came to see me yesterday and said he hopes to hear that I have walked 1,000 kms next year.  Thanks to Dr Parr I should be able to walk pain free next year.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Today's the day

The first step to being able to walk a camino free of knee pain.

I have two hours before leaving for the hospital.  I am of course on Nil By Mouth since midnight and I have to bathe in Hibiclens antibacterial soap this morning (something I have never had to do before).

I have received a telephone call from Stephen, SMS, email and fb messages from my friends and an eCard from Garry.  I thank everybody for helping me feel loved and holding my hand through all this.

I will be at Foundation Surgical Hospital which is less than a mile from our home and a first class facility with world class doctors.   I am going to be well looked after, of this I am certain.

Today our good friend Rebecca McVeigh is having surgery on her left breast.  Rebecca is having a tough time since having her breast cancer surgery so please put her in your thoughts and prayers as well.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I will glow in the dark

Stress Test doughnut
I fasted before arrival as per instructions.  The tech gave me a shot in the arm then leaving the needle in he taped it down for another shot later.  Then he said, you can have your breakfast now, I was flummoxed.   What!  I have been here five minutes and now I can eat and drinkYes, I had to inject you first.  Now you can eat.  He had shot me with nuclear stuff, now tonight my heart will glow in the dark.  Thirty minutes later, after a Vegemite sandwich and pineapple juice, I rejoined the friendly tech and was ready for the first stage of the test.  While I rested in the doughnut, the machine goes to work taking multiple x-rays of the heart.  I laid there looking at the clouds for twelve minutes.

A walk 24 floors up
I walked on the treadmill to get my heart rate to 130 and was shot with more nuclear stuff and given another break.  I went to Starbucks for my morning coffee.  Yep, then it was back in the doughnut for another twelve minute rest.  Stress Test done!

It was four hours of waiting and testing but once again I will be reassured that my heart is fine.  I await the result which will be sent to my Internist this afternoon.  All being well, and there is no reason to suspect it will be a bad result,  the surgery will go ahead as per schedule next Tuesday, September 14.

So how do I feel?  It has been one week that I am without pain gel and drugs.  Today the pain is at times unbearable.  All my doctors have a question on their forms: Rate your pain between 0-10 with 0 being no pain at all and 10 being unbearable pain.  I have been at about a 6 or 7 since my return from Europe but this week I have jumped up to a 9 with moments bordering on 10.  Now another question on the forms is that the doctors ask you to rate your tolerance to pain.  I will tell you that I have a high tolerance and admitting to pain is not usually my game.

All systems go
The cardiology nurse called late today and I have been given the all clear by the cardiologist for the surgery.  My Internist and Orthopedist have been notified.  I am now relieved of stress knowing that I will be given the chance to walk again without pain.  Maybe by Thanksgiving and our visit to San Francisco for AGU I should be walking like I did before arthritis struck.  Oh the joy!

Now I can continue my daydreams ..... in 2011 I would like to walk from Santiago de Compostela to Saint Jean Pied de Port (SJPP).  This way has been in my dreams since I first walked Camino Francés in 2002.  Oh, and maybe, just maybe the cold weather will not affect the knees as it does now so I could walk in the Fall.  That would be different for me.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A doughnut but no caffeine

The doughnut - CT Scanner
I faced my fears knowing that having this scan is necessary for the MAKOplasty® surgery.  However, I should not have worried as the scanner is a doughnut (see photo) and was not a noisy claustrophobic barrel like an MRI.  The scan for the knees is feet first so my head never entered the hole.  It was a smooth ride back and forward while my right knee was scanned.  All is now ready for the robot which will be used for the surgery on Tuesday.  I said a cheerful farewell to the technician and .... I will see you soon for the left knee.   Suddenly I was very brave.

No caffeine (not even decaf)
I had a pre-op exam on Tuesday with my Internist.  There was a blip on the EKG, there is always a blip on my EKG, and there has been for thirty years.  You need to see a cardiologist, I protested, but no she told me, you must as no surgeon wants a surprise on the operating table.  So OK off to a cardiologist.

Yesterday I saw the cardiologist and had an ultrasound of the heart and tomorrow I have a Stress Test.  I hate having Stress Tests to be told that basically nothing is wrong with my heart - your heart just misses a beat now and then.  Well that's me, I can never stick to the beat, one reason why I don't dance.  Hence, I am now on twenty-fours no caffeine, well okay then that doesn't matter because I drink decaf.

Oops, read a little further, NO DECAF.

The next 24 hours sucks.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

OUCH, OUCh, OUch, Ouch ouch .....

From today I am not permitted to take painkiller drugs or rub my beloved Voltaren gel on my knees. I can feel the pain escalating as I walk around and know that by September 14 I will be asking for an amputation let alone partial knee surgery.

This Tuesday I have a pre-op exam with my Internist for blood work and a chest x-ray to hopefully be given the all clear for surgery.

On Thursday I have the CAT scan for the MAKOplasty® robotic surgery. This is really facing my fears as I do not like enclosed spaces. I have been told it is the MRI that is not for folks with claustrophobia and that the CAT scan is like a large doughnut, we will see.

Monday, August 23, 2010

'Boomer' surgery scheduled for September 14, 2010.

Like me many Baby Boomers are now at the age of arthritis of the knees and they are more active than previous generations, so they want help and they want it now, in their 60's not in their 70's, allowing them to remain active. Much research has been done and now the patient has options. The FDA approved MAKOplasty® Partial Knee Resurfacing in 2005 and the first surgeries were performed in 2006.

I went to an Orthopedic Surgeon today, Dr Thomas Parr, Sugar Land, Texas. Dr Parr suggests that I have MAKOplasty® Partial Knee Resurfacing and not Total Knee Replacement. Using the minimally invasive MAKO robotic knee surgery, Dr Parr resurfaces only the bad areas of the knee(s), incisions are smaller and the good areas of the knee(s) remain untouched. This is a far better option for me. The recovery time is shorter, with most patients returning to normal activities within two weeks. This surgery is only performed by a few surgeons in the USA and Dr Parr is one of them, aren't I lucky?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This will be a long journey

Over the past few years I have been suffering knee problems. First it was the right knee, then the left, and now both knees are painful at all times. So after a series of shots over the years that have enabled me to walk, from steroid shots to synthetic meniscus (SynVisOne), my doctor told me it was time to look for an Orthopedic Surgeon. I am in that process now. I selected three of Houston's finest surgeons.

I saw the first doctor on Monday. After looking at the X-rays, examining my knees, and watching me walk the doctor told me that I was not a candidate for partial knee surgery. I need Total Knee Replacement for both knees, hmmm.

It is funny but I remember the first time that I noticed the pain for both knees. For the right knee I was coming down from Cruz de Ferro to Molinaseca in 2007. But hey, everybody complains about that section, so I continued on thinking it was the downhill bit that 'killed' my knee. Then a year later, almost at the end of Fin do Camino (Muxia) my right leg gave out and I was hobbling around Santiago de Compostela on my last few days in Spain. But I was taking the pilgrims friend, Ibuprofen, and rubbing in Voltarem gel so the pain was minimal. Then I flew home and made the mistake of packing my drugs in my backpack. Bad move. When I needed to change gates at Chicago Airport I was in agony and I was crying (unusual for me). So much pain. Dr Janssen started giving me periodic steroid shots.

Last year walking Via de la Plata it was a freezing cold day (on the usually hot Extremadura) and my right knee was extremely painful. I remember thinking how lucky I was that I had one good knee. The next day, the very next day, the left knee started giving me more pain than I had ever felt in the right knee. After a few more steroid shots Dr Janssen changed to synthetic meniscus, SynVisOne, which lasts six months. This is injected with what feels, and looks like, a horse needle and is very painful to receive. The December 2009 SynVisOne almost lasted six months for me. I had a SynVisOne before I left for Via Tolosana and Camino Aragonés this year (June 2010) and while giving the shot is when Dr Janssen said it is time for knee surgery. The shot allowed me to be on the camino and volunteer as a hospitalera this year but now I am home my knees are quite painful. Viewing the x-ray I am walking bone-on-bone and there is nothing to protect me from that pain.

I will post about my knee surgery and hope you never need it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

On my way tomorrow ...

I spent the day in Paris again and it was a superb day, bright and sunny with a cool breeze, a lovely day for touring. I was able to purchase some more medallions from Notre Dame so I am happy.

I went to Starbucks for a Paris mug but they only had one cracked Paris mug or many France mugs. So I bought a France mug but was not very happy about it. Then about 300 meters away on the next block there was another Starbucks and they had a Paris mug. So I bought a Paris mug and trotted back to the first Starbucks to return the France mug. When I went to return the France mug they suddenly had a supply of Paris mugs and complained that I should have bought the Paris mug at their store. Of course they had objections, but so did I, they had told me that they had no other Paris mug, wanting me to be stupid enough to buy a cracked mug. Unusually for me, I stood my ground, they had tried to pull a swift one and I was not a happy camper. Eventually I did get my money back, thanks to a guy in line who was acting as translator.

It was again beautiful to see the sights of Paris and I look forward to returning again one day. I love Paris and I have many fond memories of visiting this city with Andree, Benny, Bonita, Lee, and Garry. It was here in Paris that I learned of the Camino de Santiago in 1999.

So it is back to the USA tomorrow and back to Garry and my small family there. It will be wonderful to see Miss Charlotte again, and of course, her parents (that is a family joke). Katie and Chris are ready for a game of Mexican Train and I go to Dawn's at the end of the week for a badly needed haircut.

Thank you for following me along the way, if you have questions I will happily answer them for you, just send an email (address on profile).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Touring Paris

Notre Dame
It was a lovely cool day in Paris today which made it nice for being a tourist. I started at Notre Dame a magnificent cathedral with its plain interior but splendid stained glass windows. Charlotte and Sophie are always on my mind and since I know Charlotte loves to wind a coin through the machine that leaves an impression on it I put my two euro coins in the medallion machine at Notre Dame. The medals are lovely with Notre Dame on one side and a Templar Cross on the other, I will go back for more!

Les Cars Rouges
I decided to get a ticket on LesCarsRouges (the red open bus) which is valid for two days and allows hop on, hop off, at all stops. I completed the circuit on the bus and saw all my favorite spots in Paris ... I even saw Rodin's Thinker from the bus and remembered being there with Benny and Bonita.

Sidewalk Cafes
I had both breakfast and lunch in Paris because it is so nice to be able to sit at a sidewalk cafe. Ooh, the croissant was wonderful at breakfast and the Croque Monsieur (spelling) was just what I wanted. However, with my tummy problems and wheat intolerance I had better go easy on the bread or I will not get better.

For my girls
Charlotte and Sophie will look so cute in their pink berets and can hang the little Eiffel Towers from their school backpacks. I am so lucky that both their names are French and so I was able to get them lovely little notepads with the message, Un petit mot de Charlotte, or Sophie. I don't know about you, my reader, but one cannot find a suitable gift for an adult in souvenier shops but for children they love the trinkets you give them.

I am now back at the hotel looking forward to another fantastic dinner. Last night the steak was superb, I asked for bien cuit and that was what I received ... it was perfect, simply well done, not overdone. Tonight I will try the chicken.

Anyhow that was my day in Paris.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ibis Hotel - CDG airport

I had to leave VF del Bierzo early to be able to shop at La Tau in Ponferrada before taking the train to Paris. I have now been traveling for over twenty-four hours. I did sleep on the train so I feel somewhat okay. It is a long journey, first the day train from Ponferrada to Hendaya (seven hours) and then two hours after arrival in Hendaya transfer to the sleeper train to Paris Austerlitz (nearly nine hour journey).

It is recommended in some camino guide books to travel home slowly after being on the camino, this is what I am doing. Being along the camino is an intense time, an internal journey of emotional experiences that one does not want to share until ready to do so. Taking time to readjust to the real world is the best that you can do for yourself. If you fly home within hours of the end of your camino journey you may not be ready for the changes. It is best to take this journey slowly.

I am now sitting in the reception area using a free computer while waiting for a room to be available at the ibis Hotel - CDG airport. I am tired and ready for a shower. I will rest today and sightsee Paris tomorrow and Friday - as in other years being a tourist for a day or two helps me to come off the camino.

I did see three pilgrims on the train who had stayed at Ave Fenix while I was there, it was nice to hear the stories of their journeys. I had four German pilgrims sharing my sleeper cabin to Paris, they were very quiet and polite young men about 20 years old.

Sometimes it is hard to understand another persons logic. At Paris Austerlitz there was a cyclist who was having difficulties with his heavy packed bike and paniers. His paniers were taped together and they looked to be very heavy when he carried them. The platform is very long so I offered to stand with his paniers while he carried his bike to the platform entrance, he was happy with this arrangement. He is Estonian and had been in a competition race earlier in June up the Pyrénées to Col de Somport .... I saw this race when I was in Canfranc Estación, Spain. After this competition he then cycled along Camino Aragonés and Camino Francés to Santiago de Compostela. Now, here is what I do not understand ... why did he pack his bike and paniers before arriving at the airport? Life could have been simpler for him if he had continued his camino then when at the airport dismantled his bike, packed it, and then taped his paniers. Spanish and French trains allow bicycles aboard.

I have worked out the way to the airport from the hotel and it will take only minutes to be at at the Continental check-in counter. The train from CDG takes me to the Metro stations, from there I can get around Paris by Metro on a day Pass, it is easy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

Agnes - Hungary
Agnes left this morning looking like a little Peregrina. She is walking to Santiago de Compostela, Finisterre and hopefully she will have time for Muxia. It was sad to see her leave as the two of us worked together so well cleaning the rooms and then on the reception desk. I hope my little Hungarian friend keeps in touch.

Carmen and Marco - Cannes
A husband and wife team arrived yesterday as the two new hospitalero/a´s. The camino looks after Jesus and sees that he has the folks here to help him out. Marco is French and speaks a little English, Carmen is Spanish and speaks a little French - ah the language of love they do not need each others language. They have been married fourteen years and will be here at Ave Fenix for two weeks and will then walk to SdC.

An unhealthy report :)
I have been hit with some bug and I know not why. However the family Jato have been looking after me. Roberto made me a mix of lemon, water, and bi-carbonate of soda, which is working but not a very pleasant drink. Jesus has given me Reiki, Oscar makes me sleep and then wakes me by tickling my feet for meal times saying, "Luiza, vamos". For breakfast they had bananas for me, at lunch it was rice. So with all this loving attention I will get better. I could not have traveled today on a bus and train toward France.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

Next door to the albergue is the 12th Century Iglesia Santiago with its Puerta del Perdon (Door of Pardon). At this church pilgrims who could not reach Santiago de Compostela were for one day able to pass through the Door of Pardon and receive a mini Compòstela. Well today is the day and the door is not open yet, we are hoping it will open at 1600 when the church opens for the evening. We have been told that there used to be a procession where the folks carried the statue of Santiago around town.

Ah ha say my fellow pilgrims, now I remember that church.

The view from the church praza

 Castillo de Villafranca del Bierzo

Saturday, July 24, 2010

About Albergue Ave Fenix

St. Jean · Roncesvalles · Santiago
The Way of St. James

Brierley guide books

Albergue (2) Ave Fenix Network hostel (987-540-229). Open all year with 77 beds + overflow space on mattresses. Facilities include solar heated showers (may run cold later in the day) and no kitchen but bar and dining room offering a communal pilgrim supper followed, perhaps, by a mystical Queimada. There is a pleasant patio area overlooking the town. An additional service offered by the family is to take backpacks (mochillas) up to O´Cebreiro to await your arrival at the albergue there and hands-on healing may also be available by donation. (These services are available whether staying at the hostel or not). The Ave Fenix rises, literally, from the ashes. The previous hostel was destroyed by fire, although many will recall with affection the interim tented encampment, a veritable haven of hospitality and healing offered by Jesus Jato and his family. Recent reports have not been so favorable but the pilgrim accepts with equanimity the changing standards he finds along the way. However the truth behind the philosophy of Jesus does not change. It appears in a faded copy of a newspaper article that hangs on the wall. The simple message is worth repeating and needs no translation but a lifetime of learning to assimilate its profundity:¨"El Camino es tiempo de meditacion interior, no intinerario turismo."

Albergue Ave Fenix

Isabella - Germany
Isabella was on her way to Estella when she had problems with her bicycle that she could not fix. She pushed her bike back to Pamplona. It was San Fermin (the bull chasing) Festival in Pamplona the city was crowded. It took her some time but she found a man who was able to fix her bike. She could not find anywhere to sleep so she joined up with two male cyclists and slept in the park. When she woke she was happy that she was alive. Then she noticed that all their packs were gone, the rope used to tie them together had been cut during the night. She lost all she had except the important things like her money, Identity Card, pilgrim credential and guidebooks as they were in the pack she had used as a pillow. At first she thought she was finished on the camino. Then she went shopping, bought the basic needs and continued along the way. Such a nice young German girl she will reach Santiago de Compostela by Monday, after the festivities of July 25 but she will get there.

The Danes
Their father had produced a Danish documentary on the camino a few years ago so the two brothers have wanted to walk the way for a long time. The elder brother showed me his blister and asked if we had something he could cover it with. He had Compeed but the blister was too big for the patch. I asked if he wanted Reiki and we all suggested he leave it uncovered until the morning. I promised to get out to him by 0630 and I did. He wanted another Reiki session and then I covered his blister so that he could walk.

A gift for me ....

While giving the young Dane Reiki a man walked past, looking directly at me he asked if I would like a Reiki session. Oh yes please, this had been a draining day for me emotionally. Jose waited until we finished our hospitalero/a dinner and then gave me Reiki. It was cool in the garden but I did not feel cold once Jose started the session. Jose is staying at Ave Fenix today and will be Initiating a pilgrim as a Reiki 1. Kees told me that I would know when to offer Reiki and I apparently also know when to receive it. The young Dane was as grateful for his treatments as I was to Jose for giving Reiki to me.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

A quiet day
Today has been very quiet, tranquilo. The number of arriving pilgrims has dropped by 50% but we hospitalero/a´s could really do with a little rest day. Those who have arrived here today have asked .. is this Jato´s albergue? Like I did in 2002 they have walked to Villafrance specifically to stay at Albergue Ave Fenix. They smile when they know they are here. Today the pilgrims are an independent bunch (started out walking alone) but they are now friends from along the way ..... just like my friends and me on the 2007 camino. With each arriving pilgrim there has been greetings from the others. They are now on the terrace talking with each other ... waiting for Jato to ring the bell for dinner. Some would not miss dinner here as they have read about the experience in the guidebooks. Unfortunately Jato has not performed a Quiemada (spelling I will check later) since I have been here. I watched a Queimada in 2007 and was fascinated watching Jato. I will explain later when I have more than two minutes of computer time.

Dedicating your camino
Where is Rolf? I need a Rolf greeting (hug) right now. I dedicated my 2009 Via de la Plata camino to Rolf and a pìlgrim told me last night if I had told the folks in the Pilgrim Office in Santiago de Compostela they would have issed the Compostela in Rolf´s name. Sorry Rolf, I did not know this then.

We start leaving Ave Fenix from today
We have been eight hospitalero/a´s since I arrived here. One of the hospitaleros left for home this morning and another has been ill for two days. However, we all work well together and we had the dormitorios cleaned very quickly this morning. Our Italian hospitalero has been cooking for us the past few days. Roberto has an Italian restaurant in Slovakia, so need I say more? We have enjoyed the pasta and bruschetta that he has prepared for our dinners and lunch.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

We all saw a pure example of friendship yesterday/last night. Two young women from Italy arrived in the afternoon, one in a wheelchair the other pushing her. They started in Puenta la Reina which is just after Pamplona. When unable to take the path they are on the road, wheelchair, backpacks and all. They were delightful to talk with and we invited them to our hospitalero/a dinner. They slept in the room with Agnes and me, no steps, it was beautiful to see the tenderness and devotion of one to the other.

The light of some folks ...
One young man arrived yesterday and when he walked through the door it was as if a bright light was shining. He face lit up when he smiled and he was so happy joking with us. Jorge helped with translation when we could not understand the question. He was not staying here, he has a tent and was looking for a place to camp. He told me this morning that he camped with quiet people, the cemetery. His only problem was the village dogs because his walls are so thin.

The Belgium man ....
There are some who think I am nuts for walking one camino, let alone six. Yesterday I spent quite some time talking with a man from Belgium and we compared notes on the camino over the years. There are many pilgrims who walk the way multiple times and this man has walked Camino Frances seventeen times. He was a wealth of knowledge from along the way. I asked him which was his favorite albergue on Camino Frances and he told me Reggio de Ambrois (spelling, I will come back later with my book). This albergue is on the steep down hill from Cruz de Ferro and a few kilometers past Acebo. He said most pilgrims stop in Acebo or continue on to Molinseca, he has often been the only pilgrim at this albergue. This is a family run albergue and there is a Bar/Restaurant in the little village.

A beautiful Italian
She is getting better, she is feeling the love along the camino, the love from other pilgrims. Last year she divorced her husband and now her family have disowned her. Her mother and father will not speak to her until she returns to her husband. My mother was very good and understood the situation and was by my side at all times. My son, Stephen, was always my best supporter but my brother and sister had no compassion, none at all, and my identical twin sister is not my sister these days. I feel Chiara´s pain and know what she is sufferering. I have been able to bounce out of my horrible situation because my girlfriends are my sisters, they know who they are but thank you Anita, Andree, Dawn, Jeanette, Lisa, and Rebecca (in Houston Katie, Rochelle, Nancy and Carol) for without them my life would have been miserable.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

Foot baths
Oscar prepares a wonderful foot bath for the pilgrims and hospitalero/a´s and all appreciate this gift from him. A warm soak in a mint, vinegar, secret ingedients and rock salt foot bath for twenty minutes takes away all aches and pains in the feet and ankles. Yesterday Oscar prepared a foot bath for me and it was wonderful.

The Korean boys
Donna Maria drove them to Triacastela this morning as there is larger medical facilities there than in Villafrance del Bierzo. They are three nice young men and we all delighted in their company. So they are once again on their way. Unfortunately one of them has many bites on his feet so wearing boots is imposssible right now.

The Canadian
He breezed in and announced his long kilometer walk for the day, for him it is like wearing a badge. What does he see along the way? Then there was the nice young man from The Netherlands who spent his time with three old ladies at the bar in Plaza Mayor (I was one old lady). The same age as the Canadian but so much more mature.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

The Koreans

Late last night three young Korean men walked in and covered with bed-bug bites. Oscar and Jato went into action taking them and their packs immediately to the Duchas (showers).  They emptied the backpacks, fumigated packs and contents, then all that could be laundered went to the washing machines.

Jato took the men to the 24 hour ER and the doctors looked after them. We quarantined the guys in a special area and they are recovering here for two days. With the one man having the blisters on his feet he cannot put his boots on yet.  I now know what one persons reaction to bed-bug bites can look like .... they are blown up with fluid much like blisters.

This morning the three of them spent time on the computers reading up on bed-bugs. Might I suggest that if you are reading this before your first camino that you read about bed bugs before leaving home.

Mosquito bites
I am the only hospitalero/a that has mosquito bites. Every morning I have woken up with many bites. Except this morning, yesterday I went to the Farmacia and purchased repellent and it worked. This morning I did not have one new bite.

My credential
This morning I went to get out my computer Euro and my credential was not in my wallet. Yesterday I went into the village for the first time since my arrival here and I went shopping. So I went in search of the credential this morning to the Farmacia, Cafe Compostela, and the Supermercado as this credential has a stamp from Santiago de Compostela which for me is important. The stamp shows that I was in Santiago de Compostela during Año Santo 2010. I had left the credential at the supermercado and was so happy to find it.

To Santiago de Compostela

So far today is slower than any other day since I arrived. The walking pilgrim rush to be in Santiago de Compostela by July 25 is almost over. Now it will be the long-distance sport pilgrim and the cyclists who come in as they can still reach Santiago by July 25.

The pilgrims we meet are amazing. In walked a German man this afternoon who looks fit, healthy, and in his sixties. We were amazed that he is seventy-seven years old. Then he asked, am I the oldest? Well no, he is not actually the oldest that I have known as I 'know' Bob Sprenger through the Ultreya list who is in his eighties. However, yes he is the oldest person we have checked into this albergue since I have been working here. This OLD MAN is not an OLD MAN.

 Me (Luiza), Agnes, Roberto

Monday, July 19, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

Yesterday was a strange day here as we all worked on different projects, like being on the camino everything changes every day. I even had time for a siesta and was happy for that two hours sleep. Hospitaleo/a lunch was served at four and it also was different, paella, and it was superb. Then our evening meal was served on the terrace for the first time and it was so nice sitting in the cool(er) evening air.

Each day seems to be hotter than the day before and the pilgrims are so hot, tired, and exhausted when they arrive. The pilgrims are here now, outside with their backpacks lined up along the wall ... there are those who arrive here early in the morning and they sit and wait for us to open, how far have they walked? Did they get up and leave from Molinaseca, or Ponferrada at five or have they come the short distance from Cacabelos? We do not know until we check them in. This is a private albergue so all are accepted however, I do feel sorry for those who have come a long distance and arrive later in the afternoon to find we are completo (no vacancy) or we only have the top bunk of a triple bunk. Pilgrims are a hardy group though and most are happy to be able to sleep undercover and accept whatever they are given. But then there is Jesus Jato a man who cannot turn a pilgrim away ... a beautiful heart.

Irish and Morroccan music

Early in the afternoon an Irish couple sat in the reception area and played Irish music. He on the banjo and she on the accordion (spelling Caroline?). Then in came a young Morroccan with a beautiful smile a tambourine and two drums. Along the camino he has been carrying one large very heavy drum and one tiny silver drum about the size of a one litre bottle of water. Is it any wonder that he had to go to the ER for tendonitis this morning? The young man sat down you could see he was listening for the beat and then there was the marriage of the two musics, it was wonderful. I put my camera on movie and hope that it has worked for me, if so I will place a clip here when I am at home. The Irish man said to me that there is a link between the two countries that share a part of the Atlantic coastline.

The Irish couple each had their first blister yesterday. I gave them Reiki, also him for his knees - I also gave them my German foot creme since I will no longer be walking a long distance with my backpack on. They joked that they had come from Ireland with a medical kit that contained only Vaseline which was the small, round lip balm size. Today they were going to head to a Farmacia (Pharmacy).

Spanish Vacation pilgrims
All pilgrims know what I am talking about when I write Spanish vacation tourists. Last night after ten, without credentials in came four young (mid 20's) Spanish folk. The two women dressed in sparkly tops and pretty sandals and the guys in equivalent clothes for a man. They wanted to stay here. We issued them credentials and gave them beds. These folk are on a cheap vacation, an albergue costs them so much less than a hotel. Then they sat in the garden and talked till one thirty. A pilgrim got out of bed, she woke me up by calling out to them, I unfortunately asked her to be quiet then she explained that she was asking the others to be quiet for the pilgrims and telling them to go to bed. They did go to bed but made a lot of noise in doing so. This is also a camino lesson for all ....

We are ready, the rooms and bathrooms are clean and soon it will be time to admit the pilgrims.

A foot bath
I was relaxing with Roberto, our Itaian hospitalero, when the hardest working man at Ave Fenix came to me with an herbal foot bath. Oscar, a long term hospitalero, makes the mix of mint, vinegar, rock salt, warm water and a few extras, he told me to sit for twenty minutes and relax ... oh it was so good.

Tomorrow for our lunch Roberto is making pizza .... should I say that he has an Italian restaurant and when he cooks he sings? I am looking forward to Roberto's pizza. Roberto's favorite city is Berlin. He talks about visiting his brother and living with him in Berlin with fondness.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

The Lithuanians
... and the stories that touch the heart still continue. In the afternoon yesterday we were sitting in front of the albergue when along came a group (20 plus) from Lithuania. This group have walked from Lourdes, France, and will continue through Santiago de Compostela to Fatima, Portugal. They are carrying a large wooden cross with Jesus, statues of Madonna, and flags from ... I know not where. They stopped to rest at the church beside Ave Fenix. We gave them water and help with their destination for the day. They had thought the church was were they were to leave what they carry overnight but they were to go to the VF del Bierzo Cathedral. We asked their young guide if they objected to photos and they do not so yes, I have photos. Some of the older women were in traditional Lithuanian clothes, seeing them so solemnly walk up the hill and then back down on their way to the Cathedral was a very touching moment.

We have one young lass from Venezuela staying over today. She can hardly walk with her tendonitis and it is painful to see her struggle. We have bathed her feet in warm water, mint, and other herbs and now Maria, Jato's wife, is giving her Reiki.

Again last night I saw the heart of the man. Four cyclists arrived around ten, we had no space at all, so Jato told them to leave their bikes and he drove them the 8k back to Cacabelos where he had found room for them.

We had two sittings for dinner because of the large Italian group (45) and our Italian hospitalero, Roberto, cooked pasta for both sittings. Jato had the night off from cooking and seemed to be very tired. It was a very busy night.

There is a three day craft and music fiesta here in the pueblo we wonder if tonight there will be fireworks at the close of the events. I will let you know.

There are many more stories but I have no more time ....

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

Another television crew ....
Last night just before Hospitalero/a dinner in walked another television crew this one from PLANETAzul they interviewed Jato and our dinner was once again at a very late time.

The Pilgrims ...
The pìlgrim stories are numerous and there are many who are walking injured. Those who started from France or Roncesvalles (just over the Pyrenees in Spain) have worked out their injuries and are usually better by VF del Bierzo. Those who have started from Leon or Ponferrada, closer to here, have just found their pains, blisters, tendonitis and knee pains. Two to three days before this alberguie there is a very steep down hill from Cruz de Ferro to Molinaseca and that kills the knees of those who are going to get problems. Dowhill hurts! But then the days walk out of VF del Bierzo is up the mountain to the village of O'Cebreiro which is the last obstacle before Galicia so the pilgrims are nervous about this day. About 1km before O'Cebreiro is the border of Galicia, the magical region which the camino goes through all the way to Santiago de Compostela. Gallicia is just like Ireland and is the seventh Celtic Nation.

There is a group of Canadians with beds reserved today and I wonder will it be Sue walking another group. I will find out later. BTW, the Canadians will arrive and will not have beds. The group of 24 Italians turned out to be 35 Italians ... there was much confusion for quite sometime. Jato say´s no the Canadians will only eat here, well here's hoping what he is saying is what I am hearing. Agnes and I, both multiple time pilgrims, are concerned for pilgrims who are walking towards what they believe is their reserved bed. Now I hope it is not Sue walking another group of Canadian pilgrims.

Another chance meeting ....
There was a woman here talking with Jato and others this morning whom I thought was a friend of all. I was working so I took little notice. Then later as Agnes and I were checking in the pilgrims she was at the table behind me and I heard the conversation which was now in English. I turned around and said, Tracey? It was Tracy Saunders who was supposed to meet with Sue last weekend and I could have met her then but sadly did not. That evening Tracy was in Finisterre and had trouble with her car and sent Sue a text that she could be with us in Santiago de Compostela.

When I read Tracy Saunders book, Pilgrimage to Heresy: Don't Believe Everything They Tell You, I was captivated by the story of Priscillian and wanted to know more. I had some email contact with Tracey then but I did not know her. We sat and talked and now I want her second book to be published asap. I want to know more. Tracy has continued on her journey but it was another special meeting from along the way and over the years.

What a day ....

We are Completo (no beds) as are the other albergues in the area. It is a very hot day and I feel so sorry for the pilgrims who must now walk on. We offer cold water and a rest but cannot offer a bed. There are hotels in the area but some pilgrims do not have the money for hotels which cost ten times what an albergue charges.

The guy from London who was allocated the last bed does not quite understand how lucky he is. I asked for his Credencial, he had no clue what I was asking for. He was simply walking the Camino from the stop before us, Ponferrada. We issued him a Credencial and he has a bed, this was at 1400 (2:00pm), in other words we filled up in two hours, we open at noon.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

There is no end to the compassion that Jesus Jato has for the pilgrims. We eat after the pilgrims and Jato insists we are all together for the meal. Moments before we were to sit down four young Germans (from Munich) limped into the albergue at 10:45pm. We had no beds or mattresses so Jato called around until he found space for them and then he drove them to their destination. They were happy pilgrims as they all had problems and were limping and very tired. We did not start eating till after 11:00pm and then there is cleanup after that. This is the life at Ave Fenix, the pilgrim always comes first.

Rick Steves Europe

The camera crew did return and they spoke with many pilgrims. They filmed Jato ringing the dinner bell and saying his little prayer before dinner. Then they filmed Jato serving of the dinner, the pilgrims did not seem to mind.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

The day starts when the pilgrims start making noise anywhere from five to six in the monring. The gate of the albergue is not open till six but the pilgrims are ready to go. Villafranca del Bierzo is at the start of the Ruta Pradella one of the major climbs along the Camino Frances and pilgrims are itching to get going. Not all are ready to move on, there are the hesitant pilgrims those with problems, illness, blisters, muscle aches and pains and more.

Breakfast is available from six till about eight thirty and then our works starts. We are rostered as to what we clean, the girls do the habitaciones and the guys do the bathrooms, patios, and water the flowers. Then it is time for our shower so we are clean when we welcome the pilgrims.

The albergue opens at noon and already today pilgrims are lined up on the street opposite the gate. There are seventy spaces here and we have been full to overflowing each day. Dinner is offered for seven euro and we have been feeding forty people each night. Agnes and I work on receiving pilgrims (registering them in the book, stamping their credential (pilgrim passport) etc.) and the guys take them to their room, carrying their packs for them. It can get hectic at times when like yesterday a group of eight Germans arrived at the same time followed by a group of eight from Argentina some of whom needed a new credential.

We have serving dinner worked out between us all and Roberto (Italian) and I work well together in the kitchen doing the dishes after dinner, but boy it is hot in the kitchen.

Well I have two minutes left and no time for email and I do not have another one euro coin ... bye for today. Love, Luiza

Rick Steves Europe

I looked up at an incoming pilgrim and he was not a pilgrim at all, it was Rick Steves. I said quietly I know who you are but I will stay quiet (we have a large contingent of Americans here today, probably 25 USA pilgrims). Jesus was not here and we had to find Maria, their home is next door.  Rick Steves wants to televise the albergue, possibly for an upcoming progam on the camino.

A very busy day ....
Yesterday the majority of pilgrims started in Ponferrada unsure about timing along the way. Today has been the long distance walkers mostly from Saint Jean Pied de Port but also from their homes in Europe. All are planning to be in Santiago de Compostela for the celebrations on July 25, 2010 ... Año Santo (Saints year).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Albergue Ave Fenix

The pilgrims are not here in the morning so it is time to clean. First job .... cleaning the hospitalero bathroom then I helped clean the patios outside. The hospitalero/a volunteers have their own private area within the albergue.

 Alburgue Ave Fenix, VF del Bierzo

Speaking with Jesus this morning I confirmed that I can stay until the 27th of July then must start working my way back to Paris for the flight home.  I will not write much now as I am just letting you know that I am here and working.

Villafranca del Bierzo
 Villafranca del Bierzo

Monday, July 12, 2010

Villafranca del Bierzo

Yesterday I was messaging with Caroline and she made me wish I was in the UK. Caroline was cooking roast beef and yorkshire pud oh, I was salivating then and now it is all I can think of. Caroline reminded me that we do have great foods available here in Spain, yes they do, but roast beef and yorkshire pud ..... I can taste it now.

Santiago de Compostela
I love being in Santiago.  This day was bright and sunny, no rain.  I usually see plenty of rain here in May/June.

 Santiago cathedral
Praza del Obradorio, Santiago de Compostela
Santiago Matamoros - Santiago the Moor slayer
The Botafumeiro is about to swing
Groups from around the world are here this Saint James year.
Octopus - Galician dish, Pulpo
Sue models her Las Peregrinas tee shirt for me

Sue invited me to join her (and others) for breakfast at the Parador. The Parador is on the Praza do Obradoiro next to the Cathedral and it is the most expensive hotel in SdC. Desayuno for one is €20, I am not sure of the exchange rate but maybe it is around $30. It was good to be with the folks and experience the Parador but it was not worth the money for the food. I said my farewells and went by taxi to the train station.

At breakfast a couple joined us.  They proudly announced that they had walked their camino, 100 kms in two days (arriving just hours earlier after walking 55 kms).  Then the guy had the audacity to mention that he will write a book about the camino.  Come on, he knows little about the camino and/or pilgrims - what with walking in the dark and going so fast.  What could he learn?  He said he suffered no blisters, no aches and pains.  I think he could not be a witness to courageous people walking with a multitude of obstacles.  However, she had blisters, aches and pains, and was exhausted.  What a jock!  I certainly would not want to buy this book.

It was a nice slow journey to Ponferrada, not a high speed train, and I remembered being in Peru with the clickety-clack as the train rolled along toward my destination.

Ponferrada - a Knight Templar city

In Ponferrada it was a very hot day, there was no taxi at the train station so I walked to the Estacion de Autobuses for information to Villafrance del Bierzo. There are numerous buses to VF and at €1.40 I bought a ticket. Outside the bus station I met a mother and daughter who were lost and so I walked with them and showed them their hotel near the Templar Castle (Castillo). I checked into Hotel Los Templarios, my favorite hotel in Ponferrada and by then it was siesta time.

 Ponferrada Templar castle
Hotel Los Temparios is off to the left before clocktower

Around 1800 I went to the Plaza Encino for dinner and there my night started. I have fond memories of this Plaza in 2002 I met Deben and Shanti here after missing them for four days. I met Sheila here and we walked to Santiago de Compostela together over the next two weeks. In 2007 I found Sigi (man) again after not seeing him for sometime. I have sat in this Plaza as the sun sets and watched the lights of the Church light up the spire ... fond memories.

Last night I was sitting alone when an Irish couple came along and the waiter could not understand their drink requests, so I helped, the waiter smiled and gave me a thumbs up from behind the menu that he was holding. They were ordering a Cuba Libre and for some reason the Spanish have trouble hearing Bacardi and coke, as my friend Lisa say´s ... we put the wrong em-pha-sis on the wrong syl-ab-le. The Irish couple, Mary and Paul, asked me to join them. I had a delicious Pizza Tropical, nice thin crust and it almost compensated for Caroline´s tease of roast beef.

Ready for the final 2010 FIFA World Cup game

Mary, Paul, and I found ourselves a spot with table and chairs in the Plaza and were happy. It was magical to be in Spain on the night of their historic win in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. With each near goal, near miss, yellow card, or penalty the crowd would jump to their feet and roar. 

And the winner is .... Spain 1-0 (Netherlands)

When that winning goal was kicked it was mayhem with everybody hugging, kissing, hand shaking and shouting España, España, España. After the game we said our goodbyes and I went to sleep with the distant sound of Queen´s, We are the Champions.

Villafranca del Bierzo
I waited for tienda LA TAU to open before going to the bus station but it must open on Spanish time, it did not open this morning. I have been searching for a Templar Cross since I arrived in Spain, it would seem they are only available in Ponferrada at this one particular shop, La Tau.

I arrived in VF around 12:45 and checked into a small hotel for this night, my last night of baño privade (private bathroom). I walked up the hill to the Albergue Ave Fenix to check that my services would still be useful to them, they are. I start volunterring tomorrow so I will enjoy this quiet night as from tomorrow I will be staying at the Albergue, sharing space with others.

My one day observation is that there are more pilgrims in VF in May than there is now. This week is the week for the pilgrims who want to be in Santiago for the festivities to be walking through and really, it is quiet compared to May. Let me get back to you on this one when I am tired and exhausted after a days work tomorrow.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Santiago de Compostela

My BlackBerry is still frozen and I will try to get to the telephone shop later today.

Stone by Stone
Sue held her breakfast meeting at Cafe Felisa on Rue da Pena this morning. It was a small group of pilgrims, four who had just finished their first camino walk, a young lass who works in the pilgrim shop as you enter SdC, then myself and another woman who have walked multiple times (as well as Sue of course). The session was videotaped by Sue´s Stone by Stone company for a DVD - the topic was about pilgrim experiences along the way and the effect this may have on the return journey home .... Suseya!.

A young man who had found Sue crying because she was lost on her al contrario walk in Torres del Rio told of his story of their meeting. Having heard Sue´s version yesterday this young man does not know how much of an Angel he was to her. A couple from Virginia, USA, had downloaded Sue´s Las Peregrinas DVD onto their iPhone before leaving the USA and watched it many times. Then they saw Sue walking toward them and recognized her. The couple arrived in Santiago last night after a 55kms walk. This couple became engaged along the way and are so happy, they radiate happiness. A man from Germany was apologetic about starting in Sarria and being only a 100k pilgrim. I do not like this 100k distinction as we are all pilgrims along the way whether we start in other European countries and walk from home or start in Sarria. With the use of the terms tourist pilgrims, bus pilgrims, 100k pilgrims and the disdain for those who use a mochilla taxi tells me those folks still have some learning to do.

There was not an available seat on the afternoon train to Ponferrada today so I am on the 0925 train in the morning, one of the last three tickets. This means I will be in Ponferrada in time to get set up before the big game tomorrow evening. Immediately after Spain beat Germany if came over the television, again in those split second shots, I may have this wrong, I have only seen it the once.

los tulipanes esta seca/ni agua/podemos
my translation: the tulips are dry/nor water/we can

I will be having dinner with Sue tonight and then we will attend a concert that she has tickets for. I was invited to breakfast tomorrow at the Parador but will have to miss that. What a shame, however I must move on.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Santiago de Compostela

My BlackBerry is frozen and will not pick up an SMS that I have been sent. I do not know if this problem will last but for now there is a problem.

Yesterday it rained so I spent the day indoors, first at noon Mass to see the Botafumero swing, it did not, then at a couple of churches and museums, in other words a tourist day in SdC.

This morning I went to the Correos (Post Office) and mailed home stuff I do not need for the next part of my journey. Then to Rolf´s Bar (Cafe Sanguesia) for breakfast, it is a beautiful day in SdC. At 12:45pm I decided to go to the Cathedral to see if the Botafumero would swing today (it swings around one after noon Mass). The Botafumero swang today, so now each time I have been in SdC I have seen it swing.

Surprise in Santiago de Compostela
We pilgrims have a saying .... This is the Camino.

After Mass I returned to Rolf´s Bar for lunch, sitting there I was thinking how nice it would be to share the wine and I looked up into the face of Sue Kenney. I waved and started to stand up, Sue had a baffled look on her face, I took off my sunglasses and she said, hello Luiza. We laughed at the coincidences of the Camino as we met along the way last year (by chance) and now again in 2010. We have emailed each other over the years but until last year we had not met. Sue walked al contrario this year from Santiago de Compostela to St. Jean Pied de Port. Sue is an amazing woman and has given a series of talks in Santiago this month with the last one being held tomorrow morning at 0900 (I will be there). Sue has written two books about her camino experiences as well as a DVD ... Google: Sue Kenney. Then she told me that another email contact over the years, Tracey Saunders, who is also an author, will be there tomorrow. I am interested in meeting Tracey as well as being there for Sue. So, what I thought would be a quick lunch was three hours of of fun and friendship from along the way, exchanging stories and laughs.

Last month Sue started walking with a group from VF del Bierzo (she leads groups along the way) then when in SdC she decided on her al contrario walk. I knew that Sue was along the way somewhere because she had mentioned it on the web but I was not looking for her. Sue has suggested that I return to SdC for the festivities on July 25. After all Luiza it is Anos Santo 2010 .... hmmm, I don´t think there will be standing room in SdC let alone sleeping accommodation.

Pilgrims in SdC
Caroline if you are reading this please post what you wish onto Ultreya (I will try but my login might not work).

It is so beautiful to watch the pilgrims come into the city alone or in groups. Not only walking, bicycle, or horse pilgrims of course because all those who come here this year are pilgrims. I saw perhaps 30 children (under 10) all in the same color tee shirts I went closer to photograph them, perhaps for my web pages, and noticed that it was a group of school children from Ecuador, amazing! As I said to Sue, for the next Anos Santo in eleven years they will all be old enough to walk the way if they wish. Three woman pilgrims walked passed me at Praza Da Inmaculada proudly wearing their Chile tee-shirts and there are many last 100kms groups of pilgrims with matching shirts (obvious by their small daypacks) - the place is crowded.

I have never seen lines like this year in SdC. The Credencial line at the Pilgrim´s Office was out the door and around the corner, then up the street, 4 and 5 people wide, a huge line. The line to Porta Anos Santos (Praza Da Quintana) is 1-2 hours long in the hot sun or drizzling rain yesterday. It is the same with the entrance to the Cathedral which can only be entered from Praza Das Praterias, not Praza Do Obradoiro the front steps as usual - the steps are blocked for entrance. The Cathedral exit is at Praza Da Inmacalada this year. Having asked the guard for the best time to avoid long lines at all three places he suggested 0830, 1500, or 1700 and sure enough the lines are short at those times (observed).

I think the most important information I can give is that backpacks are not allowed inside the Cathedral this year. There is a backpack/mochilla office two doors down from the Pilgrim Office on Rua Do Vilar. I see many pilgrims waiting in line with their backpacks on and I feel so sad for them. I have told some of the change but I am not the backpack police if you know what I mean. The police guards could easily go along the lines and tell these folks to save them two hours waiting only to be turned away at the door, but unfortunatly they do not.

Moving on - Ponferrada
I am leaving SdC and will start towards Villa Franca del Bierzo where I should be volunteering for Albergue Ave Fenix. I take the train to Ponferrada and walk one day along the camino to VF. There is a computer at the Albergue but if my memory serves me correctly, and Jesus Jato has not updated the computer, it is an old and problematic computer.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Madrid then Santiago de Compostela

Phew it is hot. The country is scorching today and I have memories of 2003 when the heatwave struck Europe. Let me start back in Madrid ....

Madrid - July 5
We started at the same cafe in Plaza Mayor as yesterday for desayuno because Kees wanted Vicente to taste their tostadas con tomate . While sitting in Plaza Mayor the Royal Guards on horseback started to assemble, then came the horse and carriages. While walking to the palace Vicente mentioned that although he had called earlier the palace would be closed. If a Royal function is taking place the Royal palace is closed, the King does not live at the palace he only performs royal duties there. Vicente was correct, however, what was to be a visit to the Royal Palace turned into a Royal treat.

Four ambassadors were being presented to the King, the horse guards in front of a black limousine then more horse guards followed by the horse drawn gold carriages. On arrival at the palace the Royal band plays the Anthem of the Ambassador as the limo passes them. The ambassador is taken through an archway to the palace in the limo, he presents his papers then leaves in the horse drawn carriage. This went on all morning and we saw three presentation parades. I thought of Andree and wondered how many times her father had been presented to a King, Queen, or President and was she with her parents at the time.

We visited the Cathedral opposite the palace which is gothic in design but with modern decorations. The cathedral is highly colored inside but simple, not over done. I loved this Cathedral, as did Kees, but Vicente who is an art dealer, is not happy with it. Again it was a hot day so across the street is a famous Vermouth bar where we sat and had a drink. This time in Spain I have learned how to order my decaf iced coffee so I am a happy camper. Meanwhile Laura, Vicente's maid for twenty plus years and now friend, was preparing a wonderful lunch for us at home.

What a treat to be staying in a family home in Madrid. We enjoyed a delicious lunch of salad, then swordfish cooked Laura style followed by melon and pastries. Kees was off on an earlier train than me so it was farewells and thanks, thanks for a wonderful time in Madrid Kees and Vicente. I have grown to understand and appreciate siesta especially in this heat, so while Kees and Vicente went to the train station I went for siesta. More Chinchon later in the evening where I did win a game but Vicente came up with Chinchon, a same suit straight, in three hands for the next game. It was a perfect end to a lovely day and a fantastic visit to Madrid.

Santiago de Compostela
I arrived yesterday morning in this wonderful city of pilgrims and tourists. It is very crowded with bus loads of tourists, groups of students, and village folks all in same color shirt with their village (or country) name proudly displayed. I understand that folks want a souvenir from SdC but why do they buy a walking stick with shell and gourd and walk around like a pilgrim without the obvious signs of blisters or injuries.

To see the pilgrims arriving brings back many different memories for me. Some with injured knees and ankles obvious by the braces and others with many plasters all over their feet and toes (seen when wearing sandals). They are limping and walking slowly, this was me in 2002 and 2007 before I worked on blisters and had many, ouch, and then in 2008, 2009, and 2010 with my knee problems.

This year backpacks are not allowed in the Cathedral so a backpack area is available in the building beside the Pilgrim Office. Pilgrims can leave their backpacks while searching for their needs in SdC (hotel/albergue etc.) or visiting the Cathedral.

Yesterday, when I saw the line to pass through the Porta Año Santo I thought oh no, not in this hot sun. For those who do not know, this door is only open during the Saints year and people come from around the world to pass through it. I asked the guard for the best time to visit, he told me 0830, 1500, or 1900 so before three o'clock I sat at Rolf's Bar and called Rolf to let him know I was once again thinking of him in Santiago. Not only Rolf am I thinking of my special friend Rolf but there are many pilgrims friends who come to mind, Roland, Kees, Wolf, Kim, Bauke, Maureen, Martin, Connie, Aard, Ashley, Steve they are all special people to me. I watched the line get smaller and smaller ... then went over and joined the line, I was in through the Porta Año Santo in ten minutes. This year you pass through the door and are directed one way through to Saint James then down to the crypt and outside. The Porta Gloria in unfortunately still undergoing reconstruction and cannot be seen. There are new Museo displays open for this year and it is excellent. I had a wonderful day rediscovering SdC.

I tried to load photos for the Blog but am afraid the computer is going to select all photos on my disk, so sorry no photos.

World Cup Semi Final
Spain vs. Germany

I just have to post this .... today on television I have seen twice the little dig at Germany: Adios Alemania/otro vez/podemos (Goodbye Germany/another time/we can). The folks are all wearing the Spanish colors or draped in the flag and the game is about to begin .... more later.