The Rain in Spain

According to My Fair Lady, the rain should have stayed in the plains as we approached Galicia.  But as any happy poncho seller could tell you, this has been a very rainy spring in northern Spain.  The climb to O Cebreiro was the rainiest day yet!  As I hiked up a path that seemed more like a waterfall, I considered throwing my backpack off the mountain.

Surprisingly, this turned into one of my favorite days.  The clouds rolled back in the afternoon to reveal one of the most stunning views of the Camino.  And the next day we descended into lush Galicia and a shocking amount of sun.

In the collage below (clockwise, from the upper left): The church in Triacastela, three merry pilgrims in rain gear, the view from O Cebreiro, overpass graffiti, and the most delicious local goat cheese with honey.


Halfway to Santiago

Once you reach Leon, you have crossed the halfway point to Santiago and you feel GOOD.  I felt so good that I decided to treat myself to a rest day.  No walking!  I visited the cathedral (and the candy store across from the cathedral) multiple times.

The collage below features a Gaudi building in Astorga, a flattering photo from day 19, a ridiculously cool medieval bridge, and more meseta.

Burgos and the Meseta

I walked into Burgos on a very windy afternoon, passing the local airport and one aggressive ferret.  The cathedral was, of course, extremely beautiful, but it felt strange to be in a large city again.

And then the meseta.  I have definitely learned a new definition of “flat” on this journey.  As you can see from the pictures above and below, sometimes we walked on roads that seemed to go on infinitely.  I walked a 35 km day for the first time.  And then I walked 40 the next day.  The length of the Camino allows you to challenge yourself in many ways.  It’s almost as difficult to slow down as it is to speed up.

Con Pan y Vino

By the end of the first ten days of the Camino, I had already passed through many interesting regions of Spain.  I couldn’t believe how red the earth was in La Rioja!  It matches the regional wine perfectly.  There’s a popular saying here: Con pan y vino se hace el camino.  This also proved true within the first ten days.

Other notable experiences included wind strong enough to blow me off the road and leaving Nájera at 7 am to a chorus of drunken “Buen Caminos” as the soccer fans stumbled home.  In the collage below, check out a great mural from Logroño and a hilarious sign from an otherwise peaceful rest area.

Hola Peregrina

It’s time to introduce the Camino de Santiago, one of my biggest dreams for this year of travel.  Today I completed my 14th day of walking.  By the middle of May, I hope to have walked the 475 mile pilgrim route between Roncesvalles and Santiago de Compostela.  If medieval pilgrims could do it in sandals, I think I’ll be able to manage in hiking boots.

It’s hard to break up all of the kilometers into cohesive chunks, so I think I will try to post for every five days of walking.  The first five days (from Roncesvalles to Torres del Rio) were full of firsts.  Most surprisingly, I hiked in snow for the first time!

After two snowy days, I reached Pamplona.  What a lovely city!  If, like me, you’re a sucker for any stone building completed centuries before you were born, Pamplona rocks.  The first five days were also my first in Basque country (see the graffiti below) – very exciting.  If you have any hints or experiences with the Camino that you would like to share, please leave a comment or email me!

More Barcelona!

There’s a lot more to Barcelona than Gaudí and Modernist architecture.  I probably could have walked around staring at houses all day, but I did try to branch out a little.  If you’re going to step inside any buildings in Barcelona, I’d strongly suggest the Picasso Museum, MNAC, and the Fundació Joan Miró.  So much killer art from regional (and global) all-stars.

The picture in the bottom left corner shows the uncovered remains of the largest synogague in Barcelona.  There’s not much left from the 1100s, but you can learn a lot about the history of the community and see some original vases from the site.

In the last post, I might have downplayed the other cathedrals in Barcelona.  They really are worth a visit.  Plus, at the Catalan National Art Museum (MNAC), you can see amazing frescos transplanted from Romanesque chapels and churches around the region.

Going Gaga for Gaudí

Bon dia!   I’m excited to share my experiences of Barcelona, the catalan powerhouse.  This post will focus on the amazing architecture of Gaudí and the Modernistas.  First up – Park Güell aka playground of my dreams.

The entrance to Park Güell is spectacular, but very crowded.  I enjoyed exploring the areas higher up and further back into the park.  You can get a great perspective on Barcelona from the hill with three crosses.

After frollicking along all the paths, I walked from the park to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s constantly evolving masterpiece.

You may want to consider checking out Barcelona’s other cathedrals before you visit Sagrada Familia.  Otherwise you may be disappointed when every church you visit isn’t a religious fantasy forest explosion of light.

Palau de la Música Catalana.  The Palau is not Gaudi, but it is a stunning example of Modernista architecture.  I strongly suggest getting tickets to a performance here.  I saw an organ concert for only 5 euro – budget travel does not get any better than that.