Sunday, October 02, 2011

Spain, Germany and France

Logroño - Monday, September 26, 2011

I was early at the bus stop because I did not know the meaning of Laboralles on the timetable. The two early buses were Laboralles. I asked around and I think it means work day bus (not Sunday). The bus came and yes, I could take it to Logroño it stopped at most villages along the way and, at times, traveled beside the camino.

Outside Logroño city limits I spotted Veronica walking at a fast pace. I sent her a text, just passed you. On arrival I bought my ticket for Bilbao the next day, €12.50, the bus departs at 11:00. There seems to be a bus every hour to Bilbao which is good to know for when I return next year. There is also a bus to Santo Domingo de la Calzada another of my options.

I could not find my way, I was lost, no arrows. I headed toward Centro de Ciudad (City Center). Veronica sent me an SMS and she was lost. We were both heading to the cathedral knowing the Pensions and Hostals were close to the cathedral. It was hot and my blister was hurting even though I was in sandals. I do not like walking with my backpack when wearing sandals, I prefer to have the ankle support of boots. Then suddenly I saw one of the hostals I was headed for, Hostal Numi. Veronica found the Pension, we were only about a block from each other.

I off-loaded my pack and went to the cathedral. Santiago (Saint James) is not on display anywhere within Logroño cathedral, this is unusual along the camino. I went to Taberna de Portales in front of the cathedral for lunch and was joined by Veronica. We had Tapas, vino y café con leche. Shock horror, Veronica is allergic to shrimp, she had ordered the same meat Tapas that I had but the woman bought her shrimp instead. One bite, that was it, we exchanged plates and hope Veronica does not have a reaction.

Then we went to the Oficina de Turismo (Tourist Office) for our Logroño stamp and Veronica needed another crendencial (pilgrim passport) to continue on through France. The tourist office does issue credencials so she had to go to the Oficina de Peregrinos (Pilgrim Office) about 300 mts over the bridge. Veronica told me later that it was way further than 300 mts.

It is funny how when swapping stories the other person can tell another view. I told Veronica about the little boy twirling his stick and singing along the camino and what a delightful memory that was. Veronica said, "that little boy was a horror at the albergue in Grañon the other night". Apparently he has a medical problem. At dinner he was hand-flapping and loudly demanding pasta and screaming but when given the pasta he did not eat one bite. He touched all the bread on the table and only ate bread, one bite each piece. The man in front of the mother and child is not the father but an Irish man that the boy has attached to. I will keep my memory of a delightful child since I did not witness the other little boy.

For dinner Veronica has suggested a The Drunken Duck - an Irish Pub that she passed on her walk into Logroño. We will meet at seven. I went shopping and bought some camino pens for gifts and of course one for myself. They are fun and cute. In León I did not buy the NO PAIN, NO GAIN postcard and have looked for it since and not seen it.  Oh well.
Logroño cathedral.
The retablo (altar piece). When I see all the gold in Spanish cathedrals and churches I cannot help but think of the Perúvian Incas. Before I bought my gold concha I used to wear a Tumi pendant which I would hold and apologize to Tumi as I walked around.

Saint Roch - always with his walking staff a damaged leg and dog.
Another camino/pilgrim mural, this time for Tapas.
This arrow and plaque is on the cobblestone street, not the walls.
A great sculpture but with their tiny packs they must be day trippers. Everyday long distance pilgrim backpacks are twice to three times this size.
A pretty fountain is the center of a traffic circle.
Looking from the Tourist Office toward the cathedral.
Strings of garlic and some peppers.
Veronica brings her own pepper, she cuts and tapes the container to pilgrim size. It used to be that ground pepper was rare in Spain but nowadays more places have it on the table.
Veronica holds the placemat for ....
... The Drunken Duck, an Irish Pub. The food here is excellent, well presented and delicious. For dessert I had what could be for the last time this year, Tarta Santiago (Almond tart) and it was so moist, a good choice of restaurant Vron.
Good night Logroño. Buen camino Veronica - the real peregrina mayor.

Some thoughts on this camino: we meet some wonderful people along the way and those people are a gift. BTW, not all pilgrims are nice, or worth meeting, but they give us another lesson. The Koreans beautiful smiles and warm greetings made me smile. Not only Korean but many pilgrims greet each other with Hola, Buen Camino. Then there are those who do not respond even with eye contact - they left me wondering about them - I remember reading that all encounters are a reflection of yourself, yuk. There are those who are in deep thought as they walk, this I understand. 

There was the very short (little, under five foot) Spanish man who came toward me with a big smile giving a two thumbs up sign, I took it to mean well done. Then following him was a young girl who doffed her cap as she came toward me, those two passings were special. I smiled at both pilgrims and thanked them. The memory of the man with two prosthetic legs and the man with one leg will stay with me forever, both touched my heart. The two little girls walking with their father were precious. 

Walking the return journey I have a different perspective of the camino. A westward pilgrim is in their own daily bubble and over the four to six weeks floats around the same people. Walking east I was lucky to have met Veronica because eastward pilgrims move into a different 'bubble' each day. 

As mentioned before I am now confused. I leave the camino unsure of the village order, something I once knew by heart coming from SJPP. I stepped out of my comfort zone into a new challenge and hope to return (God willing) next year and walk Santo Domingo de la Calzada to SJPP. My dream of walking down the Pyrénées still stays with me.

Bilbao - September 27-28, 2011

In 2002 many pilgrims, having arrived in Spain at Bilbao International Airport, mentioned visiting the Guggenheim Museum. Bilbao was convenient to depart for Germany wherever I finished past Burgos, so I gave myself two days to visit the city. 

Walking there today the Logroño Estación de Autobus (bus station) was closer than it seemed yesterday and I was there an hour early. I went to a bar across the street to wait as I do not like bus station (or airport) cafeterias. 
A small portion of the African peoples luggage at the bus station. I had also seen luggage stacked like this in Najera on the way to Logroño. This does not come anywhere near to representing the amount of bags stacked across the front of those bus stations. At the bar waiting for the bus I asked an African if they were in Logroño for the harvesting. No, they did not have work, they were looking for work. Are they regugees? How do they get past Immigration?
The emblematic black bull of Spain. This photograph taken from the bus.

When I arrived in Bilbao I went to Casco antiguo de la ciudad (the old town). I tried many hotels but all were completo (no vacancies). It seems there is a three day conference starting tomorrow and Queen Sofía will be in Bilbao. One receptionist told me that I might not be able to get a room in the city. The next hotel (Hotel Arriaga) had a room, I was relieved.
On the left (in my opinion) is the best restaurant in town, La Delicioso. I kept looking at other places but their menus were not as appetizing as La Delicioso. Try the rice/seafood soup or the pâté with raspberry sauce, yummy.
This wall niche in the street is quite pretty.
La catedral de Santiago en Bilbao (Saint James Cathedral in Bilbao). I started in SdC at a Santiago catedral and now I will finish in this one. I obtained a stamp to complete my credencial peregrino (pilgrim passport).

Across the river from the hotel is a Hippy Market for three weeks (arts and crafts).

rio Nevrión (Nevrión River) runs through the center of Bilbao.
Hotel Arriaga is the coral colored building with flowers on the balcony.
Iglesia de San Nicolás - Church of Saint Nicholas, the Metro stop is a block behind the church to the right.
A happy Santiago - he usually looks stern, I like this guy.
A camino sign in Bilbao. Bilbao is on the Camino del Norte (Northern camino).

There is a nice quiet city tram that runs along the street in front of the hotel. This tram goes to the Guggenheim which was very convenient.
Guggenheim Museum
Richard Serra, Between the Torus and the Sphere (2003-2005).
Richard Serra, Torqued Elipse (2003-2004).
Pretty, but I forget the title and by whom. A large tour group came outside, I moved away forgetting to photograph the explanation of the artwork.
Guggenheim Museum from the back.
Louise Bourgeois, Maman 1999, cast 2001. The spider is big and delicate. Would you want to be bitten by this?
This is art of a man walking ....
... the same man looks small from the other side.
Puppy, Jeff Koons 1992 - the floral sculpture of a West Highland Terrier was first presented at a temporary exhibit in Germany. From the photos that I had seen I thought this was a cat until visiting the museum.

A rather glum Santiago at the cathedral.
Black Madonna and child.
This looks like Saint John to me, if not Saint John then the statue is giving the Saint John sign, index finger pointing upward.
The cloisters at the cathedral.
A man wearing the classic Basque beret. I saw a few but could not photograph them for the Blog (showing the face).

Bilbao - September 29, 2011
Punta Galea

I asked the receptionist if it was possible to visit the Bay of Biscay (Bizkaia) easily, Bilbao is on a river. He said yes, take the Metro to Bidezabal and walk to the point, Punta Galea. The Metro station is close to the hotel and it took 30-40 minutes to get to Bidezabal.
I followed the sign to the beach but that was the wrong choice (no yellow arrows) but it was a nice view.
I needed to be up on the cliffs - it was a beautiful walk.
Looking back towards Bilbao but it is over 10 kms from here, so that is not Bilbao.
The disused Faro (lighthouse) - graffiti at the base and it looks like it stands on an old fort.
The Faro (lighthouse) of today, modern and probably bright at night.
Where the Pyrénées meets the Bay of Biscay (Bizkaia).
An expensive lunch, even the drinks are expensive. I don't remember the name but it is the only windmill on the way.
Just showing Basque ..... it is quite different.

Germany - September 30 to October 4, 2011

Up at six and off to the airport, yuk. The Air Berlin flights from Bilbao to Palma de Majorca, Spain then on to Düsseldorf, Germany were uneventful, thank you! 

Rolf was at the airport to meet me and we left for the short drive to Duisburg. Uh, not so fast, there was a major traffic jam on the autobahn and we crawled along. Unfortunately, the hold-up was just past our exit, we could see it as we exited to Duisburg-Hamborn. It meant that had plenty of talking time to catch up on news of friends, the USA, Germany, Spain and the camino.

Rolf was the organizer of this town fair for ten years but handed it over last year. We walk through the park on our way to a Sports shop and he is greeted by many people.
What? A sunflower? Christine gave Rolf a sunflower to hold up at the airport so that I would see him (like I could miss my 6'5" friend). Funny how this happens, my camino flower this year was the sunflower. There was also a lovely vase of roses in my room and like a good hotel a chocolate on my pillow. Thank you Christine and Rolf. It is a three-day weekend in Germany so it worked out to be a good time to visit.

Köln (Cologne)
Rolf and I go to Cologne by train because it is easier than going by car. By car we would have to park a distance away yet the cathedral is at the train station, it couldn't be any closer. One of the things I love about Europe is the ease of taking trains, anywhere, we could learn from the Europeans in the USA.

Model of the finial on top of the Cathedral towers in original size. Symbol of the Cathedral's completion in 1880 9,50 m high, 4,60 m wide.

There was a Mass taking place the twice we went into the Cathedral. Different to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela where the aisles are kept open. In Cologne they close off the aisle to tourists which is more respectful of those in prayer.
The colors coming through the stained glass windows is absolutely beautiful - I think the best that I have seen anywhere. Second after seeing my friends, this certainly made up for missing Chartres Cathedral.
Spectacular arches ... beautiful.
Is there is an icecream shop in the building. There weren't many people walking around with icecreams.
From the cathedral this is a long shopping street. I wonder where Achim's barber shop is, probably in the suburbs.

We go to the fair at night .... no, I did not go on a ride.
Four different types of sausage, Schaschlik, Pommes-Frites, Pancake, Mayo-Ketchp hmm, yummy, but we already had our dinner. Mike and Melissa would go nuts so many choices.

Rolf was not well today and I was happy simply visiting him. Christine thought it would do Rolf good to get out in the sunshine and walk around so we went to Öberhausen. The Mall is closed. The outdoor restaurants are open and people are sitting in the sun enjoying the day. They told me that people come from The Netherlands and places around the area to visit Öberhausen on the weekends.
The water fountain danced to different heights and I caught it near maximum height.
Christine and Rolf
The Mall and the outdoor cafés and restaurants.
I took this photograph for the decorated basket, Pretty isn't it?
Louisiana is The Big Easy? Sorry but New Orleans is known as The Big Easy, not the State of Louisiana.

Paris, France - Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My stop in Paris was to take the early flight to the USA the next day. I had bought Charlotte a dress in Paris last year that at first she did not like. Then it became a favorite and is now too small so I decided to look for another dress for her. I knew exactly where I had bought the dress last year so that was where I headed, to the souvenir shops near Notre Dame de Paris.
Notre Dame de Paris - Our Lady of Paris is said to be the finest example of French Gothic architecture in France, if not Europe.
I did not go into the cathedral as I have visited it many times. I had my backpack on and thought it probably would stop me being admitted.
Immediately to the left of Notre Dame is where I found Charlotte's dress (about the third shop from the corner). I found one, a size 10 and although she is six Charlotte is tall. The saleslady assured me the dress shrinks, how funny is that. I had lunch at a nice café, Le Quasimodo Notre Dame, my favorite sandwich in France a Croque Madam was followed by a café au lait. After lunch walking to the RER station I saw another shop with the dress and it was a size 8 - so Charlotte was lucky.

I stay at the Ibis Hotel (Terminal 3) at CDG airport for the convenience of getting to Terminal 1 for the early flight. Outside the front door of the hotel the path is painted blue, follow it to the airport train for Terminals 1 and 2.

That is it, my wonderful camino journey for 2011 is finished. In two days I leave for Death Valley, California, for a vacation with Garry.

¿Retorno?  ¿y vuelta?  ¿otro vez?

I wrote the Blog page (below) while in Duisburg, Germany and it can remain here to keep the Comments relevant. I have finished the Blog for the return journey along the camino and you will find it at the September 2011 tab.
I was asked one of the above questions many times from pilgrims walking toward me.  In English: Return?  You return? Another time?  I would smile and respond with, sí retorno.  The blue arrow above is the return arrow which now has been marked in many places along the way.  However, sometimes it is not there.  At one three-point juction I had to sit and wait for ten to fifteen minutes for pilgrims to come from the westbound direction before continuing on.  When I enter my journal for this walk (after my return home) you will read that one day I started off following the pilgrims in the morning .... that cost me about 1.5 kms and a BIG hill UP.  What was I thinking ... I should have been going the other way.

At the border for Galicia, only this time I am walking downhill, not up to the village of O`Cebreiro.  By the way it is not necessarily easier going down.  The Way can be rocky, stony, uneven and always different.  This is me on the camino, fortunately a bright, sunny day. The fog in the valley was spectacular but by the time I was at the bottom the fog had cleared.

This is Veronica whom I met on September 4 at Coto which is between Melide and Palas de Rei (retorno).  Veronica has been walking caminos since 1999 and has walked Canterbury to Rome, then Jerusalem, and from Fatima (Portugal) through Santiago de Compostela (Spain) to Lourdes (France) among other walks.  Veronica has many times been in a group that takes handicapped folks in a Joelette along various sections of the camino.  This lady can walk, fast and well, I eat her dust.

In Villafranca Montes de Oca I was given a gourd signed by a multiple pilgrim, Para Luiza a peregrina mayor el Camino de Santiago 22/09/2011.  When I told Veronica she gave me this smile then blew me a raspberry.  However, she knows that I admire her and think of her as the REAL peregrina mayor.

I am now in Duisburg, Germany with Christine and Rolf.  Some of you will remember that I dedicated my Via de la Plata camino (Seville to SdC) to Rolf.  Fighting the BIG fight, he drove from Germany to Santiago to greet me when I walked in.  However he could not wait .... and walked toward me as I was coming into Pedrouza.  What a wonderful moment that was for us.  This year when I called him from Santiago he asked if I could visit him after this camino, of course my immediate response was YES.


  1. Anonymous8:06 AM CDT

    I love the photo with the spiraling arrow! I LOVE THIS PHOTO!!! I want one!
    I don't know if you remember that about a year ago, I lost a very good customer (Patsy Tyree). Her sister, Reba is also a good customer. Reba and her husband used to live in Spain, and they leave this coming Wednesday for Spain. They are going to do some of the Camino.
    Safe travel home and back to us. Talk with you when you are settled back into Houston world. Love, Dawnie

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi Dawnie,

    I have many photos of the return arrow and you can select the best when I come over to visit. Yes, I remember that your friend/customer died. I hope the good weather in Spain continues for Reba and her husband. I had wonderful weather for the walk after leaving SdC. It always rains in Santiago as those mountains are the first line in from the Atlantic Ocean.

    I look forward to chatting with you and seeing you again.

    Love, Luizy

  4. Anonymous2:40 AM CDT

    I agree with Dawn (hi there to you too, besos), I love the "going home-arrows".
    So you are immediately on another trip.... do you ever stop? At least you are home safe, enjoy this one now. I write you more one of these days (or lets call?!). We were very busy, we had my family over. It was wonderful. Hope to read, write or hear more soon.
    Besos de Vicente y Kees

  5. Besos Kees y Vicente,

    The Blog is one way of letting those I love know why emails may not be coming their way. I hope your family loved Madrid, but how could they not?

    The retorno arrow is quite beautiful and also apt with the circles before the direction. I also love the sign and photographed it many times, silly me!

    Yes, I stop. I will be home for a few weeks before the next trip. I went to Germany but will write you, Dawn, and Andreé about that by email or I will call, not Blog, when I return home.

    Death Valley is beautiful and I am sure you would love it ....

    Big hugs and kisses,