Tag Archives: Practicalities

A Miracle Foot Cure

Hanging around the square today I met Sergio, a very tall, big, outgoing Spain man about 30 years old. He was very excited about practicing his English skills. He carried a notebook with all the new words he was learning, how to pronounce them, and the subtleties what they meant. His English is nearly perfect. We spent 2 hours discussing everything from American TV series to politics while Sergio diligently took notes.

We were discussing foot care and blisters. He got very excited and began raving about his great thing he had devised. He never gets blisters! He explained that you pad your whole heel with this miracle product and tape it securely in place. It absorbs the sweat. It is fantastic! He did not know the word for it in English, but he was anxious to show me the miracle product. After rooting around in his pack, he came back proudly holding a feminine hygiene product. With is pencil and notebook poised, he asked what I call this. I was not about to get into a discussion on all the different varieties available, so I merely said, “It is called a sanitary pad.” After documenting this new word and practicing how to say it about 15 times, he confided, “Of course this is for women. In Spain it can be a problem for a man to buy such a thing. We are a very Macho country. The last time I was buying it the shop keeper was not wanting to sell it to me. I put my hands on my hips and declared loudly,”My name is Sharon!” After much hilarity, I assured him that he is definitely not a Sharon type.

Distance from  Embalse de Alcantara to Canaveral= 9  Miles / 14 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 12.2 Miles / 20  Kilometers

Accommodations= Municipal Albergue, rustic. 6 places, kitchen, free. Pick up the key and get your stamp in the Bar / Hostal Malaga on the main road leaving town. You may also stay at the Hostal Malaga for 15 Euro.

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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It is not always easy

I am hoping that I have had my worst day and that things will improve from here on out. It was very hard limping along on my blisters. I must have been favoring my feet and not lifting them as high as usual. The trail was very rocky and uneven. I fell down hard, gashing my knee and elbow. Alan tried to help me and I almost crippled the poor guy. I was just dead weight and had no strength to stand up. We removed my pack, finally pushed and pulled me into an upright position, and off we went. Not more than 10 minutes later I fell again. This time I was dizzy and nauseated. I just had to sit there for awhile, and kindly Alan gave me the best comfort food in the universe, chocolate. I cleaned the bleeding parts with alcohol wipes and antibiotic ointment, then bandaged them with big pads and tape. I drank lots of water. Everyone was very concerned and walked slowly with me as we continued painfully along. Wouldn’t you know we had scheduled a long day? By the time we struggled into the center of Caceres, it was 3:00 and 95* F. I was really dehydrated because I had run out of water, and I was suffering with the heat.

By tonight my ankle was beginning to swell where I twisted it today. I decided it was time to peel the Compeed off of my blisters and take a look at them. I got a very nasty surprise: they had not healed. They were about the size of my thumb, 1 inch wide and 1 ½ inch long, and an angry red color. I was afraid they were infected, so I immediately went to the Farmacia. The woman tut-tutted when she saw them and hauled out a veterinary sized needle, a bottle of iodine, a big box of gauze pads, more tape, and bigger pads of Compeed. She told me to pop and drain the blisters, scrub them with iodine, reapply the compeed and make a big padded boot out of the gauze and tape. I was instructed to repeat this process each day until they healed. When I asked if I could continue walking tomorrow, she rolled her eyes and I am pretty sure I heard the word retardamente.

I limped out of the Farmacia, biting my lip, carrying a bushel sized bag of medical equipment. Judy, Alan and Kess looked very concerned. I told them to get a big bottle of medicinal wine ready for when I returned, because this treatment was going to hurt like a mother.

It did not actually hurt as much as I thought it would, and the pressure is now relieved. It was lucky for me that we had planned a rest day tomorrow to see Caceres.

I returned to the Plaza and found a table full of Australian, Dutch and German Pilgrims waiting for me. I propped my feet up and we enjoyed a pleasant evening eating lentil soup, ice cream cones, and sipping wine. We watched the sun turn the old city into gold. This town looks like it will be amazing if I can walk to see it.

Distance from   Aldea de Cano to Caceres=14.4  Miles / 23 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 17.47 Miles / 28+  Kilometers Steadily up all day.

Accommodations=  We stayed at the very helpful and friendly Pensione Carretero, 25 Euro for a double room or 12.5 Euro per person. Large room with shared bathroom. Right on the main square, the Plaza Mayor. There is an Albergue Turistico near the main square, 70 places, 16 Euro or 18 Euro with breakfast. Additionally, there is the Albergue Las Valetas, 17 Euro or 20 Euro with breakfast.

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.”

Please help others find this blog by Liking me on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ArtistsJourney Tell your friends!

Señor Spandex

We have been for shadowed several days by a huge, gregarious Spanish Pilgrim who snores like a jack hammer. Señor del Ronquido, or Mr. Snorer!

This is a muy grande Peregrino, yet he is attired in short, tight , black pantalones lycra. He has 2 tight, equally shocking, spandex shirts. One is a flourescent orange sleeveless number, and one is hot red and yellow which makes him look like the massive Spanish flag flying over a Futbol (soccer) game. This is, believe me, a fashion statement that should not be made. The truly appalling thing is that there is no bicycle attached to this wardrobe. We have dubbed him Senor Spandex.

This afternoon he flirted  with a couple of us, telling us that we were muy guapa, or very handsome women. When I confessed to Judy, she said I would have to keep an eye on him. I refuse to keep an eye on any man who wears pantalones like that, so I have assigned the duty back to Judy. She was taking her job seriously when he emerged from the bathroom with a fiendish look on his face and a pair of nail clippers that  looked like pliers designed during the Spanish Inquisition. He asked her to cut his toenails, as he has not seen them in at least 2 years, and he fears they have become claws. (true) Horrified, Judy refused due to the fact that she has a foot fetish, and immediately resigned as watcher. No action from the ladies for Senor Spandex!

This evening, he tried to talk Alan, Judy and another Pilgrim out of the private room they were all sharing. He played on their conscience with a confession of snoring so loudly that he keeps everyone awake. At first they gracefully gave up the room for the greater good. They agreed to sleep on rubber pads on the cold, hard kitchen floor and save all of us. I then pointed out that there was a 3 foot square window in the bedroom wall with no glass, so their sacrifice would not help us. Foiled in his plan to snatch a private room, a loud discussion in heated Spanish ensued. He went to sleep off his full bottle of wine and do a very accurate impression of a rumbling mountain. We jammed our earplugs in so far that we felt we might suffer brain damage and pulled our pillows over our heads. What will tomorrow bring?

Distance from   Aljucen to Alcuescar=12.67  Miles / 20 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 14.13 Miles / 23 Kilometers

Accommodations=  Albergue at the Casa de la Misericordia monastery, Donation. Apx. 30 places. Communal dinner.

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.”

Please help others find this blog by Liking me on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ArtistsJourney Tell your friends!

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.”

Guillena to Castilblanco de los Arroyos

This morning I asked Judy, the Australian woman, if she wanted to walk with us. What a treat she turned out to be! Filled with a can-do spirit, good humor and a smiling personality, she made the miles slip by easily. After 2 hair raising miles on the busy main road, we turned up the hill through olive groves and rolling hills planted with sunflowers. The silvery colored olive groves gave way to oak forests carpeted with intensely purple Spanish lavender, and bushes of rock roses bursting with cream-colored flowers sporting burgundy centers. It was a long, steady climb up through the fragrant flowers and herds of brown cows. The cubic white houses of  Castilblanco de los Arroyos spill down the hillsides, forming graphic patterns of light and shadow against the blue sky.

In town we found a pretty church with multiple stork nests on high places. Many of the storks were involved in what we think is a mating ritual. They move their heads in intricate ways, fluff out their wing feathers, and communicate with a series of clacking noises by slapping their bills together.Their rhythms and dance were fascinating to watch and listen to. The storks migrate each year between Spain and North Africa, and some of the nests have been occupied for hundreds of years.

This morning I woke up with a sore throat and by tonight it was obvious that I needed help. I located the Farmacia, whining, “yo Soy inferma” (I am sick) while pointing to my throat. “Necesito dormir.” (I need to sleep) Presto! Drugs to make me sleep, something to snort for my nose, and some tasty orange things to chew up every 4 hours. The Farmacias in Spain are great! You can get over the counter, reasonably priced medicines that in America would require a visit to the Doctor and a prescription. Feeling much better already, we went to a sidewalk cafe to meet other Pilgrims. I was trying to ask what they served breakfast, and the owner flagged a Spanish man over. He started explaining in perfect, fluent, rapid German exactly what was on the menu. I had this completely dumbfounded look on my face, as my German is worse than my Spanish. He kept trying and trying until I finally said, “Yo soy Americana”. The entire bar was in hysterics. My German genetics must have been showing powerfully because they were really sure that was where I came from. It was so much fun because everyone started talking among the tables and laughing under the stars of the clear, warm Spanish night. What a sweet way to end a beautiful day of walking.


Distance from Guillena to Castilblanco de los Arroyos= 11.4 Miles

Actual Distance Walked=11.80 Miles

Accommodations= Municipal 24 Bed Albergue above the town, 5 Euro.

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.


Meeting the People: How’s your Spanish?

It was another 80* day with blue skies as we began walking our Camino. As we were walking along the side of the road just out of Italica, an old man in a small truck honked and pulled to the side of the road. We had just seen him do this to Judy, an Australian Pilgrim who was just ahead of us. Assuming he had something helpful and of great significance to tell us, like the road was under construction and there was a detour that was not clearly marked, I stopped at his open car window. Tiny and shrunken, he whispered something in a raspy voice like it was his dying breath. I motioned to my ear indicating that I could not hear him and he  waved me closer. I leaned into the “caro”, getting my pack stuck and knocking my hat off in the process, as I listened intently. He mumbled some more and as I leaned closer I heard the word “Beso“, or kiss. As I started to retreat he grabbed my arm in a vise like grim, be lying his status as a near invalid. As I tried in vain to exit the window, he told me to “entrada el coache”, or get in the car. I don’t think so! Pervert Alert! I told him I am married  and pointed to my wedding ring. Unfazed, and not relinquishing his iron grip, he somehow managed to pant a kiss on my cheek and stroke my arm. Where did that other hand come from? I don’t want to know! Desperately I blurted out the most ridiculous thing in bad Spanish, “Mi esposo is muy grande!  Es muy fuerte y tormentoso!” This sort of means, ” My husband is right behind us and really big . He is strong and has a stormy personality!”  He released me quickly and we continued on our way  laughing.

We  soon crossed under the freeway and were in rolling hills and lovely farm country. The farm land is very rich, and men are out on their John Deere tractors tilling and planting. I understand they grow acres of sunflowers and cotton here, so that may have been what they are planting. In other fields, The wheat is already about 8 inches tall and a bright green carpet on the rolling hills. It was very warm walking but the color of blue in the skies is so intense that I would not want it any other way. We saw our first storks of the journey circling above an area of wetlands. Small black winged, white birds with long orange legs fished along the edges of the marsh. In the mud by the stream we saw a perfect paw print of a rare, endangered Iberian Lynx.

This morning’s walk was just over 8 miles to a little whitewashed town called Guillena.  We had entered town by a different route than our guide book described due to a washed out trail. A nicely dressed man offered to show us to the Hostal Frances where we were going to stay.  It was getting to be such a long distance that I began wondering if he was another pervert. Just then  a short, round Senora eyed us suspiciously and began talking to him. Looking very uneasy and beginning to sweat, he proclaimed, ” I am taking these 2 Pilgrims to their hostal! Tell my wife I will be home soon! Nice to see you, Maria!” Satisfied, she waddled off and we proceeded much more quickly onward. He delivered us to our door as promised,  bowed, and wished us a Buen Camino.

We wandered through the delightful old section of town and found a good looking local bar for lunch.   There were all these cured hams hanging everywhere, and the owners were very friendly because we were trying so hard to learn how to say the name of their little town correctly. We ate huge  ham and cheese bacadillas, or sandwiches, accompanied by a beautiful local wine, as we were tutored by the entire bar full of patrons on how to correctly pronounce “Guillena”.    I would say it exactly like he did and he would patiently say , “No Senora, Guee Jee NA!”, and I would say it again perfectly. He would patiently say No Senora, Guee Jee NA …… around and around we went with everyone contributing to my lesson. I finally got it right but I still don’t know what I said differently. We had a very jolly time and then proceeded directly to siesta!

So how do you know who the good guys are and who the perverts are? My philosophy is to stay open, smile, and try to interact with anyone I can on a positive basis. I listen hard to understand some of their language and respond as well as I can in my very basic Spanish.  The one thing that does not change is the smile on my face and the sincerity that I hope projects  from my heart to them. They love the fact that you are trying. It is a miracle every time that I get to see how wonderful, helpful, sincere, and fun the Spanish truly are. Once in a while you encounter a bad guy, just like in any society. You do have to be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your intuition. But would I miss all the interaction with the great people because I am afraid to smile? Not on your life!


Distance from Italica/Santiponce to Guillena= 7.2 miles

Actual Distance walked= 12.15 miles

Accomodations= Hostal Bar Frances, main street toward the end of Guillena, only a moderately nice room above the bar for an incredibly expensive 46 Euro for a double room. (Included breakfast of 1 piece of toast and 1 cup of coffee) We were told by the people here that there is a nicely remodeled municipal Albergue here now the church, which would be worth checking out if we had not already paid at the hostel Bar Frances. Albergue photo from Karl Martin Nagl, Germany:

Sevilla to the Roman city of Italica

We walked through the lovely pedestrian streets of the Santa Cruz district for the last time as we left beautiful Sevilla, pausing at the Cathedral to ask for safe passage. A ray of sunlight illuminated the statue of Santiago Peregrino, or St. James the Pilgrim, on the facade. Just then a man asked us if we were Pilgrims. He then spoke to us very sincerely in quiet, gentle Spanish for close to 5 minutes. He said a lot that I did not understand, but that was not important. It was the touching of hearts that counted.  I did understand that he felt deeply in his heart, bringing tears to his eyes, that our commitment to walk such a long way to Santiago was very important. He seemed to be saying he was a Pilgrim himself, and gave us a blessing for a good journey.

Modern day Santiponce is the site of the ruins of the Roman town of Italica.  They were not very well-preserved and they were, well, ruins! After Pompeii and Herculaneum they seemed like little wall footprints. However, there  was a coliseum, a well-preserved theater, extensive baths, and some beautiful mosaics still in place.  It is lovely to  imagine the past glory of what once stood in this very spot.  The sculptures, extensive mosaics and other artifacts that we saw yesterday in the archaeological museum paint a more clear picture of the former opulence.  The site itself sits in a beautiful open field with rolling hills where you can  see the layers of history. Sevilla shimmered  in the distance and the modern town of Santiponce began right at the edge of the ruins. Today there was a delightful wedding fiesta in progress amid the pagan temples and the coliseum where gladiators once fought!

Italica was founded in 206 BC and thrived for about 400 years before it went into decline. As the first Roman settlement in the south of the Iberian peninsula, it quickly became an important city. It was founded as a home for soldiers injured in the Roman-Carthagenian Wars,  and the Emperor Hadrian lived here. The Emperor Trajan was born in Italica,  and he was the very first Roman Emperor to come from the colonies. He was one of the greatest rulers of the Roman empire.

Distance from Seville to Santiponce/Italica = 6 miles.

Actual distance walked= 9.31 miles.

Accommodations= Hotel Anfiteatro Romano across from the Roman ruins, a very nice hotel priced at 45 Euro for a double room.


On The Road Again

One of the great things about walking the Camino de Santiago is the opportunity to learn.  Despite my best efforts to keep my blog current, things did not go as planned. Does this sound like a metaphor for life? Hopefully, if you are planning to travel abroad this information will help you. I found it was impossible to send photos home because no one will allow you to download anything on their computer. This means you can’t post photos to flickr, a blog, or anywhere else. Internet cafe’s are becoming a thing of the past just like phone booths, as everyone seems to carry their own smart devices. If you have a smart phone or I-Pad from the USA it does not necessarily work in Europe, despite the assurances of the manufacturers. However, if you are planning to do emails from Spain, I did find out that most medium sized and larger towns have a library, or Biblioteca, where you can use the computers and access the internet free. I was disappointed that I could not do my blog as I went along, yet it was an incredible and amazing journey, so this seems like a small thing n the big scheme of life.

I will tell you that I made it to Santiago across a beautiful and varied countryside, covering over 800 miles on foot. I will begin my blog posts again next week, complete with photos and daily mileage/ accommodation information, as a travel log. I have updated the posts from Sevilla with photos, so you can revisit that incredible city a bit more visually.  I hope you will follow along on my adventure even though it is not in “real time”. Please join me as I relive this wonderful journey.


Photos: Marcia at the o.oo Kilometer marker, signifying the end of the Camino  at Finisterre, the End of the Earth.

Marcia celebrating being a victorious Pirigrina at the town of Muxia on the northwest coast of Spain.

Sunset over the Atlantic where the next landfall is the Americas.


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.


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