Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Burgos y Santo Domingo del Silos

It is Fiesta time in Burgos this week and it was wonderful being there for this. Each day there was a street parade from the people of the various villages of Burgos all carrying huge baskets of flowers to the Catedral.

Local bars set up stands/stalls around town and for €2.20 they offer a glass of vino and one hot, one cold Tapas then the taster is asked to grade the Tapas. A winner will be announced at the end of the week and will be the Best Tapas Bar in Burgos till next year. Each night a superb fireworks show can be seen and the sounds can be heard all over the city.
Each afternoon there has been a thunderstorm and then I remembered the thunderstorms along the Meseta. Burgos is the start of the Meseta along Camino Fránces. I had a coffee at the same bar that Kim and I sat at before she headed off along Camino Fránces in 2007. I stayed on another day with Elke and Döerte. Poor Kim was caught in a thunderstorm that afternoon.  Kim was soaking wet and telling herself she should have stayed with me but she needed to move on to meet Bauke in Léon. I sent Kim an SMS while sitting here as she was on my mind. This is the Camino!
Burgos is a beautiful old city in Centro.  A huge ugly modern city surrounds Centro which is the view when coming in along Camino Fránces. The Cathedral is magnificent and the pride of the city is El Cid, his coffin is mounted high on the wall of a chapel.
There are many small churches that I have visited this year. I did not visit these churches on other Camino Fránces walks because as a pilgrim you are passing through, injured (for me blisters) or too tired. I have only one blister this walk, on my hand from the stick ... no feet blisters at all.

Santo Domingo del Silos

In this lovely golden (color of stones) village in the bar there is a PC for customers to use. I have a short time before I want to return to the church to hear the Gregorian chants.  Here can be heard the famous Canto Gregoriano of Santo Domingo del Silos that many pilgrims told me about in 2002 and now finally I will hear them.

It is a two day visit to Santo Domingo del Silos as the bus from Burgos to Silos arrives too late to hear the service. Then the bus to Burgos returns at 0830 which is too early .... so you must stay here two nights and spend a quiet day in the village if you come by bus .... walking pilgrims can come as go when they please.  However, most pilgrims come by bus giving themselves a two day break.
The Monasterio de Santo Domingo de Silos is Benedictine and has a beautiful cloister (photo), the church is simple but has that smell that I get wheezy from. I hope that I can last through vespers tonight.

Tomorrow I must be on an early bus and return to Burgos before taking the train to Madrid to spend the weekend with Kees and Vicente.  Yay, I am spending some days with my beautiful friend and meeting Vicente at long last.

I hope all is well for you all ....

Friday, June 25, 2010

Puente la Reina

Today I have finished walking along the Via Tolosana and Camino Aragones routes finishing here in Puerta la Reina, Spain.  Standing here to key this page in I hesitate to say walking.  Yes, tired as I am after a day walking, there is not a computer chair so I must stand to key in my Blog.  Yuk! 

Along the way I have met some wonderful folks Eugenia y Migeul (Madrid), Fernando y Ricardo (Canarias), Christiana und Edmund (Cologne, Germany) and then the lovely Brigita (Germany) who is lost to us now, she is possibly a day or two behind. We all finish walking in Puerta la Reina and in celebration will have dinner together tonight.
Via Tolosana 
The Gite at L'Isle - Jourdain

The best way I could describe the 2010 Via Tolosana walk was, wet. It rained every day that I was in France - sometimes drizzling soaking rain and at other times torrential downpours with thunder and lightening. France was suffering major flooding in some areas and every day on the television they showed streets like rivers with cars being thrown around like white water rafts. So I walked, took a bus, a train, sometimes a taxi, but still when I stopped for the day there was rain. This did not detract from the spectacular views at the times when the rain would ease.
Go on you try it ..... I did, and I poured coffee down the front of my shirt.  In all my travels I have never been served coffee in a cup with a handle set this way, have you?  BTW all the cups in this Bar were like this not just one.
Auch, Gascony
I stayed in some nice Gites but otherwise in small hotels, especially when I could not find the Gites. Gites in France are not as easy to find as albergues in Spain, there is a sad lack of good signage. It is still raining in France.

 So wet ... the rain does not ease up, it continues.
Col du Somport
Walking this way the Pyrenees crossing is over Col du Somport, from Oloron Sainte Marie (France) to Canfrac Estacion (Spain).  I crossed Col du Somport by bus as had been suggested to me by the woman in Toulouse who issued my pilgrim passport (credential). The route is spectacular although maybe because it was cold, damp, rainy and I was feeling blue, I am not sure that I could walk this way, to me it looked tougher than Route Napoleon from Saint Jean Pied de Port (SJPP).

Camino Aragones
Canfranc Estación
The 1928 station that has been abandoned since the 1970's after an International train accident took out a bridge along the way.  It is a beautiful old building and such a shame to see it fall into disrepair.  I wish that I was a millionaire as I would restore this building and turn it into a hotel.
It was very cold and wet in Canfranc Estacion, Spain so I took the train to Jaca (a traditional starting point for Camino Aragones) and I decided that this is where I would start my Camino Aragones. It was a good decision as finally the sun was shining. It felt wonderful to be home in Spain with familiar foods, bars, language and more. As I wrote to Garry be careful what you wish for as now not only was the sun high in the sky with no clouds but each day was hotter than the one before.

Santiago in Jaca

The 16th century Citadel (San Pedro Castillo)

This pilgrim cannot stand much longer, and I want to check email, so I will finish for today.

I am going to Burgos tomorrow and will spend a couple of rest days there before continuing on. Given the opportunity I will Blog again in Burgos.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Templar crosses, Black Madonna and more ...

Walking around Toulouse I have spotted many Camino arrows in the traditional finger pointing style. I find myself many times on the Camino.

The Capitolium square was alive and hopping last night with folk dancers, spiritualists, and more. There was one guy softly playing a didjeridoo along a man's body, what that does I do not know, I wonder what the Australian Aborigine would think. Folks carry sofa's to the square and set-up therapy or massage 'rooms', healing drums, book clubs and more .... it was all interesting to see. A man came down a tightrope from the roof of the Capitolium and the way he was suspended made him look like he was riding a magic carpet to the plaza. Cars were driving around the square with horns blasting, soccer! Algeria had won. Tonight is Germany vs. Australia and of course I will cheer on the Aussies. I saw the USA goal on television and although the commentary was in French I managed to note it was a lucky goal (maybe I have it wrong). From here on until the World Cup Final all televisions, in all bars, will be tuned into soccer.

It was a long twilight. The sun went down after 9:45 and the lights of the square came on. It was very pretty sitting at the outdoor cafe. I did not think about having to avoid "Manhattan Flowers" (dog poop) until I was walking back to the hotel. When we first moved to New York in 1978 our Lamont friends told us about the Manhattan Flowers on the sidewalks. Manhattan cleaned up its act over twenty-five years ago but here in France the dog is king and can still poop wherever he wants and the French owner does not use a pooper-scooper. Take care when walking in France.

SUNDAY, June 13, 2010

My guidebook mentions taking a bus or train out of Toulouse to Pibrac or Colmeirs so I went looking for the train station (SCNF) first this morning. I have a timetable and will decide what to do later tonight when I am working on the route for tomorrow.

I stopped by the Cathédrale Saint Etienne for a cachet-tampon then went to Église ND de la Dalbade (as per Rosslyn book) which is quite beautiful in a subtle subdued way. Église ND de la Dalbade is simply adorned with a gold Templar cross on each pillar.

The Église ND de la Daurade has the most magnificent Black Madonna dressed with the traditional triangular skirt. The skirt and all things around her are porcelain.  At certain times of the year (for instance lent) her dress is covered with fabric. The Église ND de la Daurade is ornate and gilded and is quite different to Église ND de la Dalbade which is simple.

On the way back to the Capitole for lunch I stopped in at the Convent et Église Les Jacobins and although it is in the simple style it has magnificent arches with the spans atop the pillars looking like palm trees, they are a work of art. The grave of Saint Thomas d'Aquin is alone in the center of the church. Saint Thomas d'Aquin, Doctor of the Church, was a theologian and philospher. During the French Revolution the shrine was destroyed and his body removed to Saint Sernin in 1791, from where it was solemly moved back to Jacobins in 1974. If you are along the Via Tolosana or visiting Toulouse do not miss these three beautiful churches.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I am a pilgrim ......

Happy Anniversary Garry

It is bright and sunny in Toulouse and I have enjoyed walking around waiting until 1500 to become an official pilgrim along the way. I now have my pilgrim credential, or pilgrim passport, this is required for obtaining stamps from along the way to show in Santiago de Compostela as verification that you were on the Camino. When I asked an Australian if she needed a credential to stay at the places along the Swiss Alps she said, "WHAT, this is the stupidest thing I have ever heard". She showed me her ignorance.

I started this morning at the Cathedrale St-Etienne (St Stephen) where I thought that I would get my credential but no, not so, credentials are issued at basilica St Sernin after 1500. However, for pilgrims there is a beautiful gilded statue of Saint James at the Cathedrale. From there I went to the Capitole to check out a possible ancestor (according to my cousin Ruth our family comes from this region). Durance was my grandmothers name and there is a Durance bust (headshot) with a huge nose that I saw on my last visit to Toulouse. The Capitole was not open for visitors today so maybe tomorrow I will say hi to the old guy.

I next stopped in at the Eglise ND du Taur but I had to run outside quickly as it was so old and dusty smelling that I would soon be sneezing loudly. From what I saw (it was old and dark inside) it may be interesting for pilgrims to view. My eyes and nose are still itchy two hours later.

I had lunch with a French couple from Toulouse (although the husband is originally from Colombia and speaks several languages). The couple were seated beside me and we started talking when I asked him how he ordered his perfect (for me) steak. My steak could have walked off the plate. Andrée where are you when I need you? I learned four new French words (for me) today ..... Bien cuit for well done and cachet-tampon for the pilgrim stamp. This couple proved my point (to me) that the folks from this region can be super friendly. I photogaphed some of the balconies reminiscent of New Orleans for Dawn, it feels very French Quarter in some areas of Toulouse.

Yesterday my flight across the pond was smooth but the flight from Paris to Toulouse was the bumpiest I have ever been on, no matter I am here safely.

With thanks to Karen and Andrew I was able to spread Vegemite on my fresh buttered roll at breakfast this morning. Yummy.

That is it for today. I am tired of this keyboard which is not QWERTY. I should type without looking and let you see what I get .... ,qny of the keys qre different (many of the keys are different). I lost time trying to find the ampisand and forget spellcheck it is trying to change English to French with almost every word highlighted :) so please forgive any errors, thank you.

To the Solitary Walker - thanks for the Buen Camino - I am on my way ....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bye for now ...

I believe this is a great photo of Charlotte and I want to be able to see it when I get the chance to Blog from along the Camino.

I am ready to leave. My backpack weighs 9.75 kilos but that is with my boots, stick, guidebooks, and jacket inside. These items will not be in the pack along the way so I am happy with the pack weight.

Well folks if I can Blog, I will. Bye for now.

On my way ......

I usually walk one day in France before heading over the Pyrénées but this year I will be walking from Toulouse, France to the border with Spain at Col du Somport. I am wishing Andrée or Kees were with me so I could rely on their French language skills (and friendship) but that is not the case. I keep telling myself that I have always experienced super friendly French people in the south west of France so it should be okay.

I am off to France today. My backpack is ready by the front door and I have a few small chores to do before closing the door and leaving for the airport. Farewell greetings have been said in person or on the telephone, read on text or email, and I thank you all for your greetings.

I will try to Blog but as this is an unknown route to me I have no idea of the availability of computers/Internet.

Farewell for now, I return on July 31.

Friday, June 04, 2010

On another path.

Beauty walk's a razor's edge. It's difficult to touch in Spirit. But when you touch it, it's genuinely a gift from the gods. The Solitary Walker

This is a Holy Year when Saint James Feast Day, July 25, falls on a Sunday. Folks are able to pass through the Puerte del Pardon (Door of Forgiveness) and have all their sins forgiven. Because of this the number of pilgrims along the Camino multiplies dramatically from other years. The Door of Forgiveness was opened at midnight December 31, 2009 and remains open until midnight December 31, 2010 when the door will be sealed until the next Holy Year in eleven years.

Via Tolosana traditionaly starts in Arles, Provence and for convenience the Confraternity of Saint James in London, UK breaks this Camino into two sections; Arles to Toulouse, and Toulouse to Puente la Reina, Spain.

I am walking Via Tolosana from June 11, 2010 starting in Toulouse and perhaps next year I will walk from Arles to Toulouse. The route I am taking will pass through the Midi-Pyrénées, Pau, and over the Pyrénées at Col du Somport (el. 1632 m.) into Spain where Via Tolosana becomes Camino Aragonés. The way continues on to Jaca in the Aragon Valley and meets up with Camino Francés in Puente la Reina (PlR), Navarre. I walked from PlR to Santiago de Compostela (SdC) in 2002 and 2007 so I will not walk from PlR this year. I have offered my services as a volunteer hospitalero and will be at one of four albergues further along the track.

Reading about the Templars, Black Madonna's, Cathars, and the Pilgrimage of Initiation fascinates me, hence I am thrilled to be walking in this area. Last month in Sintra/Cintra, Portugal I sat for a long time meditating at the pillar thought to be where the Pilgrimage of Initiation commenced. I have visited Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (site two) many times and will return in July where I will meditate in the lower chapel (St James the Less). In the meantime I will visit l' église Notre-Dame la Dalbade (Our Lady in White) in Toulouse (third site) and again I will sit and meditate. For information on the Pilgrimage of Initiation read the book Rosslyn: Guardian of the Secrets of the Holy Grail by Tim Wallace-Murphy and Marilyn Hopkins.

For those who have asked me .... yes, I hope to meet up with Kees but with his busy work schedule it may be difficult.