Category Archives: Practicalities

Seville

We had a beautiful day in Seville, blue skies and temperatures in the upper 80´s. We strolled to the tourist office and found that nobody knows anything about getting a Pilgrim´s Credential. We were directed to a Backpackers Hostel in the old Triana district on the other side of the river. We found cute, soft white puppies playing fetch with abandon, cafe con leche in quaint side walk cafes, flower filled balconies and beautiful tiles gracing white, yellow ocher and cinnamon colored buildings. Palm trees and trellises of deep purple Wisteria in full bloom, their scent perfuming the air.

In this quarter bordering the Guadalquivir River there stands a 12 sided tower, originally a part of the Moorish town fortified walls, called the Torre del Oro, or Golden Tower. It is said to have been covered in golden tiles, and it also held the riches from all of the Americas in the Age of Discoveries. This is the city that Columbus and other explorers set out from and returned to, via the Rio Guadalquivir, discovering new worlds and changing the course of history forever.

We found the little hostel amid all of this visual candy and got our Pilgrims Passports, or credential del Peregrino.We bought 2 each because it will take us so long to walk the entire way. At the end of the day we stumbled upon a door in the Cathedral which we were allowed to enter. No tourists allowed, but as Peregrinas we were able to enter a beautiful and serene chapel decked out in Silver with Mary in primary attendance. We found the priest to stamp our credentials for the beginning of our journey, and there was a man who was very distraught because he wanted to begin walking tomorrow and had been frustrated in not finding a credential. Even the Cathedral does not supply them, and the priest could not tell him where to get one. I opened my purse and gave him my second credential. It felt like the right thing to do, he was most grateful and surprised, and the priest immediately declared it a miracle. So there will be a man named Peter in Australia, who will say “I don´t know who she was, but this Pilgrim gave me her credential, and I was able to be on my way.” I felt honored to be able to help a fellow Pilgrim and that it was really the right thing to do. I know I will be able to get another one somewhere, and I feel good about giving back a little bit of goodness to the Camino. When we finished our reflections in the Chapel, Peter was waiting outside with a most anxious look on his face. He rushed up to me, saying, ” You did not have to pay for this, did you, Love?” I told him one Euro only, kissed him on both cheeks and wished him a Buen Camino. Sigh. If only real life could work this way! I think I saw Santiago smiling.

www.theartistsjourney.com

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Arrival

We have arrived safely in Seville after a long trip. The first thing I did was to throw my ticket in the trash at the Seattle Airport 10 minutes before departure. Oops! It was in a slot my hand would not fit through, but lucky for me the garbage can was not locked. I am an experienced traveler! Our first Camino miracle occurred when we actually made our flight from Madrid to Sevilla even thought we arrived over 2 hours late. Then our walking sticks, which we had checked through, made it too.

We walked around the bustle of old town Seville in 80* sunshine, the palm trees swaying in the breeze. The sweet, strong scent of orange blossoms is everywhere and the bitter oranges brightly decorate every plaza. Tonight we walked through the tiny streets of the Santa Cruz district with hundreds of people out for a warm evening stroll. We had an excellent glass of Rioja wine, Croquettas and a beautiful salad crusted in sea salt with avocados. We were surrounded by elegant wedding dresses, vibrantly colored flamingo dresses, and polka dot shoes in the shop windows. Music and the lingering scent of orange blossoms and rosemary floated on the warm air. Open air dining in March!

Abrazos y Besos


We Are On Our Way!

I have packed everything that I will need for 2 ½ months. I carefully considered each item, knowing that I can buy any pharmacy needs in Spain.

I wear almost exclusively ExOfficio travel clothing because it is practical and stylish. These clothes are wrinkle resistant, weigh only ounces, and  dry in a minimum of time. These features are really important when you are washing by hand and do not have a dryer, as is typical in most other parts of the world. For example, I bought several types of Sports Bras, and the ExOfficio was dry overnight while one brand took 3 days to dry!

I chose black and khaki pants, shoes, and skirt. This way I can add color with different t-shirts. I separate my things into categories such as “Sleep” or “Underwear”. I then pack them by category in 1-gallon plastic ziplock bags. This allows me to dump everything out on my bunk when I get to an Albergue and quickly see what I need. It also offers waterproofing and keeps your clothes looking less wrinkled.

This system makes it very easy to find what you want quickly, instead of rummaging through your pack and getting frustrated. It is quite amazing that all of these things fit easily into my backpack that I will carry on the plane, and later the entire length of Spain. The black bag on the right has the items I want to access on the plane, but it easily fits into the top of my pack. The only items that I will be required to check through are my trekking poles and pocket knife. This provides a good feeling of security because I know that all of my carefully selected, lightweight, broken in  equipment will arrive safely for the journey.

I now need to turn my mind toward the Camino and away from my busy life. It is good to think of walking through the countryside each day, carrying everything that I will need. I look forward to this new adventure with gratitude and a sense of wonder.

Buen Camino!

Packing list

Clothes
3 pairs underwear
2 sports bras
4 pairs socks/ different weights to allow for foot swelling
3 fast-drying T-shirts
1 pair silk boxer shorts (or something to sleep in)
1 long-sleeve, lightweight travel shirt
1 long-sleeve , lightweight T-Shirt
1 pair long travel pants
1 pair Capri-length yoga pants or other comfortable walking pants
1 travel-weight skirt
1 waterproof and windproof jacket
1 long-sleeve fleece jacket with a full zip
1 pair rain pants
1 pair gloves
1 “Buff”or scarf
1 OR brand wind stopper” ski hat
1 sun-blocking hat
1 pair hiking boots
1 pair alternate footbed liners for your boots
1 pair Crocks

Accessories
1 water bottle or hydration system
1 small nylon shoulder bag or daypack: count the ounces!
Sunglasses/ reading glasses
1 pair earplugs
1 small fast-drying travel towel + washcloth
1 mini headlight
1 small sewing kit with 3 or 4 safety pins
1 stretchy travel laundry line with 4-6 plastic clips and a sink plug
1 small clock or watch that you can read in the dark
1 pair nail clippers
1 pocketknife
1 scallop shell: purchase in Spain or France

Toiletries/First Aid (See also “Purchase in Spain,”)
1 travel-size shampoo
1 small soap
1 toothbrush
1 small toothpaste
Dental floss
1 small sunscreen for your face
1 razor
1 set tweezers
1 chapstick
1 small bottle ibuprofen
Personal medications
A few Band-Aids / needle for blisters

Other items
1 well designed backpack
1 backpack rain cover
1 sleeping bag with waterproof stuff sack or sleep-sack for summer
1 pair trekking poles
1 “portable bathroom”
Several zip-lock plastic bags
1 journal and pen
1 camera, extra batteries, charger and plug adapter, extra memory chips
1 phone and charger
1 guidebook to the Camino / Spanish phrasebook

Art Materials
1 sketchbook 8 ½ “ Square
Small selection of Colored Pencils, 2 black pens, 1 eraser, 1 mini pencil sharpener


How to Walk 550 miles and lose Three Stinking Pounds

The food and wine in Spain are wonderful. I am looking to indulging fully in the local cuisine and hedonistically enjoying each and every bite!

As we climbed mountains, forded rivers, slogged through mud, as traversed the open plains carrying 20 to 30 pounds in our backpacks, we burned bazillions of calories. We also ate like we have never been able to eat before. That level of exercise day after day uses up your body reserves of energy, and you can not get enough to eat. It was so awesome to know that you could devour everything in sight and not gain any weight.

Some days we had picnics under the open skies consisting of fresh bread, fruit, chocolate, salami, olives and cheese.

Other days we ate these huge Spanish Sandwiches called Bocadillas that consisted of a 3 egg omelette with ham and cheese, and an entire loaf of bread. Yes, they really are that big! Although you could not even get your mouth around them, somehow they seem to disappear on a regular basis.

We had Café con Leche (strong coffee with hot milk similar to a latte) and fresh hot donuts at every opportunity.

We feasted in wonderful restaurants in the cities, and ate huge communal Pilgrim dinners each night at 8:30. We often thought we would perish without food by the time they began to serve dinner at Ocho media, or 8:30.

And then there was dolce, or dessert….

At the end of the trip Tannis had lost 10% of her body weight and I lost 3 pounds. However, I had re-arranged the package, my muscles were a rock and my bottom looked fantastic!


A Revolting Discovery

I was just thinking of how comfy and broken in my hiking boots were. I turned them upside down to discover that the tread was worn down in several places nearly to the substructure. I guess I broke them in too well. This is terrible! The last thing you want to do is set out on a long trek with brand new boots. Your boots will take a lot of abuse and are the very foundation that you will be walking on.

This brings up the lesson that you should do a complete equipment check a month or 2 before departure. If some items are worn out, broken or missing you still have time to make wise decisions about what to purchase, and order it if necessary. Check to see if the mouthpiece and the water bladder are in good shape in your hydration system. Can you imagine starting a trek with a leaky hydration system that gets everything in your pack damp, wets your pants for you, and does not quench your thirst to boot? Think about any pack straps or buckles that rubbed you wrong and do something to correct the situation. Make sure your camera and phone batteries will take a charge, and if they will not buy new ones. Re waterproof your pack, boots and jacket. Well, you get the idea: I am talking about a very thorough equipment check.

When I realized the poor condition of my boots I immediately walked the 2 miles to REI and selected new ones. Of course the model I loved was no longer available, so I had to choose a different style and brand. I walked in those for a week and realized they were not quite right, so it was back to REI. I finally got a pair that I hope will be great. I have adequate time to field test them and break them in before I leave for Spain. Of course this means wearing them 24-7, and my husband does not like that very much in bed at night. It is my turn to disturb his sleeping for once!


The Camino de Santiago is about to be discovered in America

Although the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is well-known in many parts of the world, it is just coming to the attention of Americans. Only 2% of those who finish the Camino are from all the Americas, but I believe that is about to change as our awareness grows.

PBS is completing a documentary on the Camino de Santiago that should air within the year. The film beautifully captures the feeling of the landscape, the spirit of community, and the varied people walking this ancient Pilgrimage Route. For a preview of this documentary, you may view a trailer on the web at: http://www.caminodocumentary.org

Additionally, “The Way” produced by Emilio Estevez, has been released in Europe to wonderful reviews. This film is scheduled to be released in theaters in America in the fall of 2011. Martin Sheen portrays an American father who travels to France to recover the body of his estranged son, who died while traveling the Route Napoleon in his first days on the Camino. The father is compelled to walk the Camino himself, carrying his son’s ashes, and finish the journey together.    http://theway-themovie.com

The “American Pilgrims on the Camino” is a nationally based society of people who support the Camino. The very first regional chapter was authorized in March 2010, and it is right here in the Puget Sound area. There are approximately 65 local members, with a rapidly growing interest. http://www.americanpilgrims.com

The Artist’s Journey is a fun, positive look at two American women experiencing the Camino day to day. It is a refreshingly honest book that will transport you every step of the way, and is a different view than offered by other books on this subject. Visually rich, it will be a great addition to your bookshelves! For a look at the drawings contained in the book, please visit  www.theartistsjourney.com


Trail Markings: Finding your Way

The trails on all branches of the Camino are well-marked by volunteers with either a yellow arrow or by a scallop shell, which is the symbol of the Way. Scallops are plentiful on the coast of Galicia near Santiago de Compostela, and are associated with a miracle tied to St. James. Interestingly enough, the scallop shell is also linked to the pagan Goddess Venus who represents rebirth and regeneration. Both of these meanings are certainly relevant, as it is a place of great spiritual renewal and well as a pathway of every day miracles.

You really cannot get lost on the Camino. Some of the markings are a bit more obscure (Notice that Tannis is standing directly on top of the yellow arrow), while others are more obvious. However, there is always a sign if you look hard enough. Just in case you do get lost, there are always fellow Pilgrims and friendly local people who will help you find your way.


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