Category Archives: Marcia Shaver

Zafra

Zafra is a beautiful little town located at the base of the Sierra de Castellar mountains. It was once home to 3 very large convents built in the 16th Century. I think it would not have been a bad choice for a woman to live as a nun in former times. It was safe, serene, and relatively secure. You were spared a life of poverty and endless childbearing, with a chance to get an education above what most women could hope for. You even got the chance to live your faith by helping the community in some orders.

The Castle dominates the skyline, and beneath it spill the streets of the old town in a jumble. They are narrow and cobbled, bordered by white washed houses. Many of the iron balconies are already overflowing with flowers, some so thick that they create a screen. Palms sway above the rooftops and trees with brilliant pink blossoms are tucked into corners.  You wind down these pleasant streets and suddenly you are in the multi-arcaded Plaza Grande. In the 1400’s this was a marketplace, built to provide shade from the relentless sunshine. Zafra has been an important market town since those days because of the quality of it’s local goods and handicrafts. But tonight it was a great place to have dinner and a glass of wine, watching the crowds of people stroll, shop, laugh, eat and socialize. It was a bit like being back in Sevilla on this warm evening.

At our Albergue we Judy began talking to a man in the courtyard. She stopped and said, “Do you speak English?” He immediately replied, “And Australian too!” She asked, “Alan?”, to which he replied “Judy?” Amazingly, they had been conversing on a Camino forum  at home in Australia but had never met each other, and tonight he was our room mate.  Fancy that! It’s another Camino miracle. We so enjoyed our evening together at the Plaza Grande. He is a kind and intelligent man with mischief in his eyes and a contagious smile. He has walked many Caminos, and it seems to be his passion. It is wonderful to be around someone so filled with good cheer, the spirit of the Camino shining through.

Rest Day to explore Zafra. Distance walked 5.27 miles / 8.5 Kilometers

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.”

Advertisements

The Fortress of Zafra

The massive stone walls and turrets are golden in the evening light, silhouetted boldly against the clear blue sky. It dominates the skyline with its strength and sheer size. I think of all the history that has marched across this very spot, so many civilizations built and destroyed. Each unique and varied culture has left it’s mark on the psyche of the people now inhabiting this pretty little town. It reminds me never to take things for granted, never to say “Some day I will do this or see that.” We can never be sure what the future will bring. Life is too short for anger and conflict of our own making. We  should walk joyfully, loving our friends and family with a passion like there is no tomorrow.

“The Fortress of Zafra”, 12 X 16 oil on canvas.

Zafra is and interesting little city boasting pre-historic settlements and a large Bronze Age community. Straddling the Via Pecuria, it was an important Roman stopping point between Sevilla and Merida. It was “La Safra”, or Muslim “Cafra”, until King Ferdinand III conquered it in 1241. The city is centered on The Alcazar, or castle, built in 1437 which was formerly a Moorish fortress.  The interior was destroyed by Napoleon in 1822. It was exquisitely restored and today it serves as the Parador of Zafra, the town’s most distinguished hotel.

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.”


Fuente de Cantos to Zafra

Last night I thought, “If I get to the first village and can not walk on because I am so ill, I will get a ride to Zafra and find a Doctor.” However, this morning I felt much better and was cheered up by Judy. She said, “We are super women! Not only that, the blokes are all staring at us because we are so good looking!” Yeah, that is the spirit! We proved it too, because we walked out of Fuente de Cantos at 8:35 and did not arrive at our Albergue in Zafra until nearly 5:00 and over 16 miles, making a very full day of walking.

It was sunny once again, although the temperatures were cooler. We walked on country lanes across vast expanses of rolling hills covered in vibrantly yellow-green wheat. Men were out hunting with their greyhounds and the wind whispered across the hills.

There were miles of silvery gray olive trees with a  riot of colorful flowers beneath their twisted trunks. Vineyards, not yet leafed out, followed the contours of the hills. They are like lines drawn across the landscape, becoming smaller and smaller until they disappear into infinity.

There was standing water everywhere from the rains yesterday. We had to ford several streams and walk around boggy spots in the trail. Small shapes of water in the fields reflected the blue sky and added a cool crispness to the land.

We are staying 2 nights in a beautifully restored Convent that is now an Albergue Turistico. We are sharing a room with Karl Martin. (I wonder what the sisters of old would have thought of that!) We had been unable to find Conchas, or the traditional scallop shells, to tie on our packs marking us as Pilgrims. Karl found a restaurant selling Conchas and bought one for me. He knew that I was disappointed not to have one for this journey, so he gave it to me with a shy, sweet smile. I was very touched by his simple gesture of kindness. It made me feel that the spirit of giving just for the pleasure of it that exists on the Camino is alive and well.

Distance from   Fuente de Cantos to Zafra=16.2  Miles / 26 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked 17.81 Miles / 28.5 Kilometers

Accommodations= Albergue Turistico in a restored convent of St. Francis. 22 places in rooms for 4 persons with private bath in each room. Beautiful, quiet, directly across and down 1 block from the castle. The Albergue Turisticos allow you to stay multiple nights (and make reservations) since they are privately owned. 10 Euro per person, 12 Euro including breakfast of coffee or tea or hot chocolate, toast, juice and fruit.

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.”


The Way Near Monesterio

As I step softly through the tall grass dotted with salmon colored flowers, there is a hush over the land. I can hear the crunch of the yellow ocher gravel pathway under my boots and the tap, tap, tap of my walking sticks. I wind my way through soft gray stones peeking out of the grass and rising like small mountains to navigate. I think of the centuries it has taken to clear these fertile pastures  by hand of  so many stones. Patiently stacked one by one, they now form the walls enclosing each field and leading me down the quiet lanes. I savor this moment of perfection, learning not to rush onward. I am practicing finding joy and beauty that surrounds me in the present, waiting patiently for my mind to slow down.

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.”

 


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.”


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


%d bloggers like this: