Monthly Archives: October 2011

Sun Dappled Meadows

The colors of the night are still an inky black, indigo blue scattered with stars. The sky gradually lightens into deep violet, then periwinkle as my boots continue along the pathway. As dawn breaks the colors of the heavens are illuminated, glowing golden, pink, and apricot through the oak groves. The treetops are kissed by the sun and the meadows alight with color at the start of a new day.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”

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Into Extremadura

We have now walked into the region of Extremadura that is more sparsely populated. We will be following not only the Roman Road, the Via Pecuria, but also the Canada Real. This was a broad road used in Medieval times to herd thousands of sheep, goats and cattle from northern Spain to graze on the rich winter pastures of southern Spain. Yesterday we say a silver fox hiding by a stream and have heard the call of the coo-coo bird echoing through the hills. Graceful white storks circle above us and roost in nests perched on church towers.

The open feeling of this land left it as a buffer zone between the Islamic south and the Christian north during the years of the Reconquista in the middle ages. As a result of the armies surging across this land from both directions, the towns were heavily fortified with walls and castles. Huge land grants were handed out by the King after the war was won to the conquering knights. Unfortunately, this left the local peasants without a way to make a living, and many of them followed the conquistadors to the Americas. Cortes and Pizarro came from this region to conquer Mexico and Peru respectively. As I look at this open land I think that the people from here who emigrated would have felt very at home in Mexico and the southwestern United States.

We decided to have a “Lay day”, as Judy would say, “after being completely buggered yesterday!” Judy is cheerful all the time and seems to always see the positive side of things. What a wonderful quality to have, and so easy to be around.

We visited the tiny town of Calera de Leon and delighted in the distinctive black and white patterned streets that grace the entire town. We came to men in the plaza laying the stones by hand in a checkerboard motif. Every street is a different pattern in black and white, charming in it’s unique way.

At the very top of the mountain we visited the Monasterio de Tentudia. During Islamic times a mosque stood here. When the critical battle was raging and the Christians were ahead, the leaders asked for more daylight. The virgin held off sunset until the battle was won, and the Christians triumphed. This is how daylight savings time originated! Seriously, it was declared a miracle and a monestary was built on top of this beautiful mountain. The courtyard of the mosque remains as part of the monastery. The arched brick surrounding the garden is a study in red and white pattern. Soft music played in the white washed chapel and a stunning ironwork gate led to the altar. Beautiful tiles enliven areas of the chapel. It is a restful place to spend an afternoon.

  Distance Walked:3.38 Miles around Monestario, Calera de Leon, and the Monastery of Tentudia

Accommodations: Hostal Bar Extremadura, Monestario

12 Euro per person, double room with private bathroom

If you would like to see my art or purchase “The Artist’s Journey” please visit my website at http://www.theartistsjourney.com


Dancing Oaks

As I walk along the quiet lanes bordered by stone walls I hear the gentle sounds of morning. Cow bells chime lightly, birds stir in the trees, and small streams find their way along the contours of the earth under my boots. The air is crisp and cool on my skin, and my breath forms small clouds. I walk contentedly through the dawn with my recent cafe con leche still warming me, its scent mingling with the dew filled grass in the meadows. I think that the world can not get any more beautiful. A moment later the sun peeks over the horizon, filling the sky with warm pink, apricot and golden colors. The oak trees appear to dance with joy at the dawning of another serene Spanish day along the Camino.

If you would like to see more of my art work or purchase my book, “The Artist’s Journey”, please visit my website at http://www.theartistsjourney.com


El Real de la Jara to Monesterio

The albergue in Monestario is closed, so we left a note in hideous Spanglish for the Senora asking to reserve a room for us at the Bar/Hostal Extremadura. There are many pilgrims competing for a few rooms, so off we went with a hope and a prayer under the pre-dawn violet skies. A crescent moon hung over the Castle as the quiet, stone lined lanes meandered across the hills. The hills were again filled with sheep tended by fierce dogs. We have left the province of Andalucia and entered Badjoz. The landscape is again changing to a more open and bare environment. The mountains are to the west now, and there is little shade.

Just as my feet were beginning to really hurt, a man roared up in a car motioning to us  and began speaking excitedly in German / Spanish. The senora did, indeed, make our reservations and we were meeting the owner of the hostel, Eduardo. He offered to take our mochillas, or backpacks, ahead for us. I was out of my pack before you could say, “It’s another Camino Miracle!” Ask and the Camino provides. The temperature was in the upper 90*’s F, so it was a relief to feel the breeze on our backs without the extra weight of our packs. I felt as light as the lambs cavorting in the nearby pastures.

It was a day of contrasts in walking. We had to navigate some ugly areas and busy freeway interchanges. Walking along the side some busy secondary roads and next to freeways was hair raising. The pavement is hard on the feet as well as intensifying the heat. It is not all pretty on the Camino, but such is life. In general, the friends of the Camino have done a fantastic job keeping us in the countryside and along quiet lanes.

At Monestario we took a rest day, or “Lay day”, as Judy would say. This is definitely the center of pig  country. The main industry  is raising pigs and turning them into the famous Iberian Hams, or Jamon Iberico. One of the merchants had a good sense of humor, combining the name of the town (Monesterio) with  ham (Jamon) on the front doors of his export business.

Judy is such a kick and I am so glad we have teamed up. We were sitting outside of the hostel, having just discovered that the bar and restaurant by the same name were all seperate, yet shave a building and a sign. Judy looked up with a puzzled look on her face and said, “Ayah, how’re ya supposed ta know? That sign up there has a different name yet. It says C L I M A T I C A CI O N ….” I said, “Um, that means air conditioned, or climate controlled.” We all laughed until our sides ached. I had to admit that the only reason I know the word Climatication is because when my son, Justin, and I were here when it was 120 degrees. W e would look for those signs and not stay anyplace with out it. The irony is that the air conditioners are fiendishly effiecient. It is so arctic inside that you have to sleep with all the blankets, towels, your coat, and anything else you can find in order to not freeze to death!

Distance from El Real De la Jara to Monesterio = 12.6 Miles

Actual Distance Walked=16.22 Miles

Accommodations= Bar / Hostel Extremadura, 12 Euro per person, double room over the bar with a private bathroom, and clotheslines on the roof.

There is a small Albergue in town, but it was closed in April 2011.

www.theartistsjourney.com


Meet the other Pilgrims

We have met quite a few fellow Pilgrims from Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, Norway, Australia, and one from Bellingham! I am really pleased that we are having company, as I thought we might now see too many other Pilgrims. There is not the big communal dinner activity like I experienced on the Camino Frances, but we have gotten to know them none the less.There is an easy familiarity among the Pilgrims as we all walk down the same road together. We share blisters, laughter, good food, maps, information, and most of all kindness.

One morning the very hot looking, fit young Italian woman was trying to tell us someone left their panties in the kitchen. Do I look like that would be me? Maybe she was telling me because I look like the Mom. Roland, the German, said “Ah, Unter hosen….”  They were a skimpy, lacy, little black pair and I waved them around while asking, “Anyone loose their panties?” This huge Austrian man said, “Ah, they are mine”. After a split second we all burst into laughter. He had a pretty good sense of humor, and very was very quick in another language. His name is Thomas, and he is walking with another man named Hanis that he has met on the Camino, only to discover that they live 10 kilometers from each other at home.

We have linked up with a great Australian woman our age named Judy. She has walked and stayed  with us each day. I am so thankful for her fun spirit and can- do attitude. What a fantastic person to have met, and how amazing it is that we can connect so well with someone from the other side of the world. She has learned all the Spanish she needs with “Vino Dulce” and “Uno Mas Vino Dulce, por favor”, which means sweet wine, or sherry, and one more sherry please. She is learning to like the taste of some of the best sherry in the world, produced near here at Jerez.  I am enjoying the vino tinto, or red wine, of the region.

Lila is a smiling 67-year-old naturopathic healer from Norway, walking with her robust, 71-year-old husband Rolf. She is very amusing and at the same time very perceptive. She can tell you personal things about yourself with the touch of a hand and her penetrating blue-eyed gaze. She took Judy’s foot in her hand and touched a reflexology point. Judy nearly jumped into orbit at the lightest of touches. This led to an extremely interesting discussion on the physical and psychological implications of  sensitivity points  linking mind and body.

When we come to the end of our trek each day, we walk into a little white village. Many of the houses have the yellow ochre trim, lovely iron work balconies and gates, and stunningly colorful tiles. In the evenings everyone in the entire village is out in the central plaza. Sometimes like tonight in El Real de la Jara, a castle sits perched above the town. Whole families are out visiting while the kids terrorize everyone on their roller blades and bikes, kicking soccer balls, zooming around on mini-motorcycles,  and chasing each other. It is actually really great. The nights are warm enough for short sleeves, and there are palm trees. This is the essence of the Camino.


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