Welcome Visitors

January 5th was a gloomy day. It is hard to be motivated to do anything in the flat short days after Christmas and New Year. I really was trying to persuade myself that I would go for the first walk in the park that would mark the beginning of the preparation for my next Camino. No use! Everything served as an excuse not to go out. Suddenly in the tree outside my window I noticed a fat robin. What really raised my spirits was the sight of his mate.

And there she is!

I don’t know why or how I decided who was he…and who was she….but somehow I did. I love robins for their confidence in human beings, for their beautiful fluting song in spring, for their quick run along the ground. These seemed very big to me and for a few moments I had my doubts but when one finally flew off and darted along a bare patch of grass close to a neighboring building he confirmed that he was indeed a robin. Some of these birds migrate but if there are enough berries around, some will stay, particularly in well-wooded areas. My “new” condo is close to one of the biggest parks in Montreal and this year, my neighbors tell me, for the first time wild turkeys appeared in the fall. If it’s good enough for turkeys, I guess robins can survive too.

It was such a hopeful thing to see that I finally pulled on my boots and made it to another park that was the site of my training for my last Camino, the Frances. That took place in September and October of 2021 and, like many, I became a Camino junkie. I watch lots of You Tube posts about the other routes. I was almost decided on the Portugese which is mainly costal and a lot flatter than the Camino Frances. However, I recently stumbled (sorry) on information about the LePuy route that is completely in France. It was developed by the French Hikers’ Association and so avoids all big towns. In the beginning it too is hilly and challenging but what appeals to me is the path through tiny medieval villages and the open wild feel of it.

Well, whichever one I choose, I will need to get moving again and say bye bye to the few pounds I picked up over the holidays. Back to the track I go and thanks to my red-breasted friends I did get motivated and did a measly five laps around the track. I could not climb up the toboggan hill as it was full of kids on their new sleds. No need to get bowled over, after all!

Thank you, robins. I looked up their symbolic meaning too and I am quite happy to adopt them as my “spirit animal”. Now, if only I could sing as well as they do. Another thing to work on in 2022. Happy New Year all of you.

OK it’s official

I have post Camino blues. Negotiating the red tape and Covid details of getting into Canada was distracting but, let’s face it, shopping for food and going through the mail is boring. My body misses the long routine of walking, walking, climbing up slopes, stopping to rest or drink cafe con leche.

The far horizon, the wind, the smell of things cannot be found nearby

I have no initiative to go out, to write, to cook. The weather was brilliant today but…well, as the Stoics would say, “ If a thing can be endured, endure it”. Funny, during the last few days in Europe, I was so anxious to come home and yet, there is something flat about being here.

Today is all saints day. Tomorrow I will climb up the mountain and visit my mother’s grave. I think that will fulfill the need to walk a long way and the need to connect with this place again.

One of her favorite flowers

Last Sleep

I did my Covid test today. Well within the 72 hrs by my calculations. Now fingers crossed for a negative result! I feel fine and tramp around the city for hours. I must say I have never blown my nose so much since I walked into Galicia! People say allergies or the very damp climate. Let us hope so.

Today I visited the museum of the cathedral . Good heavens! I could hear my Methodist grandmother‘S voice, “It’s a long way from Bethlehem”! Simplicity and poverty were not much in evidence. The amount of gold,silver and ( very interesting to me) tapestry and vestments on display was astounding.

The metal cape of the statue of St James

Because of Covid people are no longer allowed to climb up behind the altar and embrace the statue of the saint as was the custom. This is the cloak he wore to protect the statue from wearing away. I am very fond of opals and so admired the three up under the collar. I was eavesdropping on a guide who said people used to steal some jewels and swallow them to avoid detection. Then they would “ retrieve them somehow” ….so tactful! Anyway the whole place was dripping with gold, silver and beautiful paintings.

This nativity scene appealed to me

Seeing everything involved a lot of climbing up and down the most uneven and winding stairs. I hung onto the substantial railings which were always just a little too short so that the last bits involved a sort of “ leap of faith”. I have managed to survive unscathed and thought it would be a shame to spoil my record.

A banner from the Battle of Lepanto!

A modern note that somehow cheered me up was a loud demonstration in Cathedral Square in support of the rights of bus drivers going to the airport. My firm pro-workers’ rights position was tinged with a little worry in case I should not be able to get to that destination myself tomorrow. However, I must take the tough with the smooth not only on Camino pathways it seems. I am well and truly ready to come home and be with all my darlings for the winter. How wonderful it will be to sleep in my own bed again!

At the sea , at the sky, at the rocks

Sitting at the end…the beginning of the world

When I came into the Cathedral square on Sunday afternoon I was wet and cold. The sky was grey. The baroque roof line of the cathedral looked like an unfamiliar jumble to me. My Camino was over yet all I wanted to do was get into a warm shower and put on dry clothes. To ad insult to injury I got diverted by some traffic divisors (shades of Montreal) and came in through an alternate entry, completely missing the famous bagpiper.

Yesterday made up for that however. My friend, Chris welcomed me at the albergue and asked if I would like to come with her the next day on a bus tour to the coast. Now, some stalwarts walk another three days but we were both quite ready to put ourselves in the hands of a commercial tour guide and see the sights in comfort.

We stopped at this pretty village
The sky kept changing with new beauty from moment to moment
The sun came out for Finisterre
We stopped here, where a waterfall tumbled into the sea

But for me the wonder of the day was Muxia where ancient Celtic legends merge with stories of St. James. The turquoise underplay of waves, the sound of surf, the huge rocks, many with local beliefs of healing properties all made me want to stay. At last I felt the satisfaction of having walked day after day to reach my goal. I remembered the kindness and fellowship of fellow pilgrims and looked far out to the horizon, realizing that I could keep this wonder with me forever,

Many faces from along the Camino

I’ll walk in again!

The day started well enough walking in pitch dark led by a Spanish family whose dad had a head lantern. He led the way and they could have been going to Santiago or New York for all I knew or cared as we stumbled through the dark wood. Dawn came of course as it does

One of the high points of the day

It soon began to rain off and on and I was pleased to have decided to carry the dreaded poncho.

As the different routes converged more and more pilgrims crowded the roads

It was gratifying to see the numbers on the milestones go down but…. The fog and rain were so thick that it was impossible to see the famous sight of the cathedral from the hill of Monte de Gonzo.

Anyway I soldiered on and arrived around the back of the cathedral instead of making the traditional descent accompanied by the bagpiper. Really there was a lot of roadwork going on and only Google maps allowed me to stumble onto my albergue where ( yay!) my friend was already ensconced.

I have resolved to do the whole thing over again tomorrow so I can get the full emotional “ high” . Well, I admit to a tear in the eye when I finally found the piper.

Tomorrow Santiago?

If all goes well I will walk 20 km into Santiago tomorrow. All during this walk, pilgrimage, endeavour, hike, I have never said I was going to Santiago. I know that stuff happens. Ankles get twisted, passports get lost, pilgrims get sick or discouraged. I took it one or two days at a time. I walked with wonderful people, banal people, mentally disturbed people, lovable people, boring people, people I could trust and want to stay friends. And I walked a lot by myself and with myself.

Here are some things I saw today

Starting off
Can you see the yellow inside? There really is corn in there
A friend came to say hello
Well, not impossible!

Today in Arzua

There was an octopus festival. It was a civic holiday and curiously that meant that until 3 pm the restaurant kitchens were closed. The sidewalk tables were full of people drinking but nary a morsel was to be had for a poor pilgrim. So I trudged on, having bought two horrid peaches and a large bar of chocolate …on and on through the woodland paths where my app showed no sign of human habitation until, at last, Heidi’s albergue appeared.

A warm smile and a welcome

A towel for my shower! Washing my clothes as part of the price of my bed! Dinner at Seven! It was all worth it

Perhaps the last roses before Santiago

A short day tomorrow to the town just before my goal.

Galicia did its thing

Typical Galician corn crib

Pouring rain to start off and mists over the fields. Well, that’s Galicia. Can’t be green without rain. Ponchos are a pain . They protect you from the wet but they retain body heat and the next stop is stripping off a few layers to stay comfortable.

However by the time we had walked 5 or 6 km the sun came out over Portomarin and we were rewarded by vivid rainbows. The Spanish word is “arc iris” Hope I spelled that right! We climbed up to open heights where the sun and wind played to create a beautiful sky

We could have taken the pot of gold!
Here the wind started to pick up

I was lucky to walk with Anetta a seasoned Camino walker who set a steady pace that helped me get back up to covering the necessary kilometres. It was good to walk in silence and to share ideas, I found as I spoke to her the reason I was called to do the Camino. I owe her a lot.

On to another stage of my journey tomorrow

And here too pumpkins!

A dreamy day

Early set off

Met some nice people yesterday. One who keeps turning up-Peter, a German who touches the grass every morning as he sets off and who lays his hands upon the old gnarled chestnut trees. The others were an Italian couple, full of fun and a French pair walking together.

Today was the first day of the 100 km gang. These are pilgrims who do a short Camino to get their credential. I learned to my surprise that it is considered a plus on a CV in Spain. It is also a relatively cheap way of getting a walking holiday.

I seem to have underestimated how fast I can walk so I spent some time today booking ahead for a few days to come. I must say it is very pleasant to set out in the garden under a much needed sun/umbrella but I feel I really should be walking. Today I passed under the 100 k mark so this is the home stretch. My albergue really is lovely with state of the art shower and antique paintings all over.there is even a hairdryer-the first I have ever seen!

A horse who knows pilgrims have treats. He appreciated a plum!
MoMA cat guarding the albergue
Traffic on the Camino
Roof inside a “ donativo” take what you like to eat or drink and leave what you want
99 km to go!