Category Archives: pilgrimage

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

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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.


Stampede!

The past  few days the landscape has changed to a much less cultivated way. We have been walking through 2 national parks where there are miles of cork oak and Holm oak trees spreading their twisted branches to silhouette against the blue skies. Below the trees there is a carpet of bright green grass with white daisies, pink, lavender, yellow and blue wildflowers. The trees throw deep shadows in interesting patterns over this beautiful land. In the higher mountains there is tall pink heather and yellow scotch broom surrounding rocky outcroppings. It is hard climbing in some places and our feet are beginning to tell the miles.

The skies are an incredible color. In the early morning as the sun rises it is a deep violet-blue that lightens to an intense cobalt as far as the eye can see. It has been in the high 80ś every day, which is perfect. We have started earlier each day because the early morning light is so incredibly beautiful and the temperatures are cool. It gets very warm for walking with a backpack by mid day.

We have been following the Via Pecuaria, an ancient Roman road stretching to the north. Militarios, or monolithic type stones about 5 feet tall, are scattered along the way. The Romans placed them at regular intervals to accurately marked the distances of the Via Pecuaria. Today some remain upright in their original positions,  while others lie in the fields. It is amazing to think of this timeless landscape having been walked this very way for so long.

It is entertaining to walk through the unfenced landscape filled with animals milling around us. There are  flocks of sheep and lambs,  cows, and pigs roaming the forests. The herds of goats have tiny new kids, which can not have been over 12 inches tall. Two friendly horses came up to me for a scratch and nuzzled me behind the ears. The pigs root around to find the acorns that have fallen from the trees for their dinner. This gives them their distinctive black color, and gives a unique flavor when they become jamon! (ham) As we walked past a serene pond, I tried to talk to them. I started a pig stampede! You can not believe how fast they can move. It was hilarious how fast they ran, jumping, snorting,  and wringing their tails, and bucking. I laughed until I had tears running down my face and my stomach hurt. Who knew they would be so frisky in the wild?

Distance from  Almaden de la Plata to El Real de la Jara= 10.2 Miles

Actual Distance Walked 12.24 Miles

Accommodations= We stayed in a private home, the Alajameinto Molina, for 10 Euro per person. It is a quiet, lovely home with a shaded patio, a fluffy gray cat, and bedrooms for 2 persons. They have been welcoming guests for many years.

There is an Albergue at the beginning of town, but it was very small, damp feeling and not very clean.

www.theartistsjourney.com


The Virgin of Granada

A lovely church dedicated to the Virgin of Granada dominates the town square of Guillena. It was built at the beginning of the 1400’s  in the Mudejar style, which blends Islamic and Christian design elements. I was attracted to the tile imagery set into the white wall of the church.  The virgin portrayed is known as “Our lady of Sorrows“. The late afternoon sun warmed my back as I sat drawing her, wondering of her significance to the town. She holds the crown of thorns and a piece of cloth in her hands, as a halo of thorns circles her head. Tears appear on her face as she walks away from the scene of the crucifixion in her royal purple robes. Although this is a sad scene, the portrait somehow touched me deeply.

Why did the people of this small Spanish town choose her to be their patron saint? What are their deeply held beliefs? She seemed to be saying to me that no matter how terrible things seem, you must still walk on with dignity. We are capable of bearing the unimaginable. Things have to get better from here on out.  She reminded me of the deeper and more significant meaning of things that happen to us,     setting us on our personal Pilgrimages through life.   She seemed to be looking to the  light on the wall to her left, and traveling toward it. Symbolically, it cast a lovely multi-colored shadow. Do we walk to the light or to the darkness, or do we always encounter both on our journey?

This drawing was rendered in Faber Castel colored pencil and highlighted with a Micron ink pen. I used a Bee Paper Company Professional Series, 93 Lb.  Heavyweight drawing paper, 9 X 9 inches. It stood up well to the pressure applied by the color pencils, and had a nice tooth (texture) for layering the color.   This is the first drawing that I have done in colored pencil. I liked the waxy textures achieved by the layering of colors, and the variety that can be achieved with only a few basic colors.

www.theartistsjourney.com


Gothic Cathedrals and Moorish Mosques

The tomb of Christopher Columbus (Seville cath...

Image via Wikipedia

We spent most of the day in the gigantic Cathedral. It is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, and its designers recognized the fact that future generations would possibly think them mad. It is, counting Christian Cathedrals of all periods, the third largest in the world surpassed only by St. Peter´s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. It is a collection of magnificent rib vaults, stained glass, inlaid marble floors and priceless paintings and sculpture. There is enough gold and silver in there to sink several ships, and the wood carvings on the choir and pipe organs defies belief in its beauty. It was intended to be gilded, but is so much more beautiful and understated in its natural finish. It is here that Christopher Columbus is entombed, carried by figures representing  the four original provinces of Old Spain.

The most fascinating part of the Cathedral to me was the bell tower, which actually was part of a 12th Century Mosque. The beautiful Mosque was demolished in a fit of “We won, you lost” attitude after the reconquista when the Moors were driven out of Spain. This is a beautiful Cathedral, but the question haunts me, “Wouldn´t it have been just as beautiful if it was built next door and the Mosque was allowed to remain?” this attitude of crush the looser is wrong today as the radical Muslims wage jihad, and it was wrong when the Christians did it in the Crusades and the Inquisition. I wish we could learn not to do that. Spain shows us how, in many ways, the blend of societies and art forms can be more beautiful than any of them standing alone. Yet here is a victory Cathedral over the remains of something that was once holy to another group. It was really a thought provoking day, and as we stood at the top of the bell tower looking out over this city that has seen so much it seemed very powerful.

We toured around the city for about an hour on an open air bus, then hit the tapas bars for snacks magnifique! The wine in the grocery store, a really nice Templarinillo red, was only 1.15 Euro per botella! And the wine at the sidewalk cafe where we had tapas was 2 Euro per glass, also a very smooth Rioja.

So that was our day……I cannot believe it all happened today. We will crash and do something equally great tomorrow, then our stay in lovely, light filled Seville will come to an end.

www.theartistsjourney.com


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