San Martin Fromista


Monday, June 20, 2016
Castrojeriz to Fromista
Day 20

When we arrived in Fromista, the church door was open, so we immediately went in. St. Martin Church was a lovely, pure Romanesque church.  James Michener wrote about his love for Romanesque and how he preferred it to Gothic. I wondered if this was the church he wrote about, but it wasn’t. He would have loved it.

Facing a 24 km leg, James’s feet hurting, and no bus service to/from an intermediate  town, we elected to take a taxi to Fromista. I ended up being very pleased with this decision since it allowed us to tour St. Martin’s, across the Plaza from our hotel. We had a lovely (too expensive) a la carte  lunch on the terrace facing the church. Lots of problems with the Internet. It is just not robust enough in these small towns to support lots of photographs, and I get tired of fighting it.

Steps Today: 4,508

Angel of Mercy

Sunday, June 19
Hornillos (Isar) to Castrojeriz
Day 19

These small towns up on the Meseta are almost ghost towns, with very small populations. Without the influx of business from pilgrims, some of them probably would be ghost towns. This was the day of Angel the Truffle Hunter and the white butterflies. The butterflies fluttered all around us, and sometimes I shortened my step to avoid running into one.  I’ve seen them elsewhere, but not in such numbers as here.

We walked from Hornillos to Hontanas.  A nice, cool day, but a very rocky road. My left pinkie toe was really complaining. In Hontanas, we had lunch, then I asked the barkeep  to phone for a taxi for me. A guy sitting at the bar offered to drive me. When he saw James, he said, “Oh, there are two of you.” Clearly he had been thinking he was offering a ride to a single woman traveling alone.

I am not sure if I would have accepted his offer if I had been alone. The Camino is by and large safe, but still….Once in his car, he introduced himself as Angel. He rapidly said that he was a truffle hunter. He offered to show us his truffles and his house. I probably would have declined, but James had heard of the high value and rarity of truffles and wanted to take a look. With James along, I didn’t say anything, and we stopped at Angel’s house. He showed us a plastic container with truffles, and indicated more containers in his refrigerator. He estimated that he had 2000€ worth of truffles there. Since truffles have a very short shelf life, he needed to get his truffles to market quickly.

I asked him how he found the truffles, since I had read that pigs were outstanding truffle hunters. Angel said that he used a dog, who was a top truffle hunter, and such a dog was highly valuable.

His house abuts a beautiful ruined church, which he said is his now. Angel had a dog with him in his car, not the truffle hunter, he said, but Cherie, “his wife.”  I think in offering to take me to Castrojeriz he was scouting out a potential foreign wife. Anyway, he offered us a ride, and an interesting story, so we were content.  I wish I had taken a photo of Angel, but I didn’t.

Steps Today: 20,750

For photos, see June 19: Hornillos to Hostanas

Hanging Shoes


Saturday, June 18, 2016
Burgos to Hornillos (Isar)
Day 18

Leaving Burgos, we walked along the street on the high side of the cathedral. From that perspective, the cathedral’s spires were gorgeously  outlined against tbe blue sky. Our departure took us by the University of Burgos, which looked to be a thoroughly modern campus. Once out in the countryside, we saw how rocky yet fertile the soil is. And with less to look at, we had time to observe some things more  closely.

All along The Way we have seen discarded objects. Mostly it has been hiking boots and athletic shoes, but once we even saw an abandoned metal suitcase out in the middle of nowhere. At first, the discarded items were usually left on a roadside marker or pile of stones, but folks are getting more creative.

We saw a couple of variations of hanging shoes on this day. The first one was as we walked through the university, and I suspect students might have been responsible for that one. But the tableau above is quite far out in the countryside. I couldn’t help thinking of the  Clint Eastwood film, Hang ‘Em High. I think a number  of those “spaghetti  westerns” of his were shot here in Spain.

We planned to walk to Tardajos and take a bus from there. The hotel receptionist in Burgos had told us that was possible, after phoning the bus station. It tuned out that the information wasy wrong. No buses served Tardajos.

We asked about taxis, but  they wanted 30 € for 10 kms, so we walked  the whole way.  This was one the few times  we did the whole distance, 21 kms, double our usual amount. Camino conditions were good–a cool day, a relatively  flat road, and a good road surface except for the last steep decline  into Hornillos, when I used my walking sticks.  We actually stayed in a nice Casa rural in Isar, an even smaller village not far from Hornillos.

Steps Today: 37,430

For photos of our walk, see Burgos to Hornillos

Burgos Continued


Friday, June 17
Day 17

Burgos was cold and rainy for our entire visit. Professor Henry Higgins may teach Eliza Doolittle that the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains, but our experience is that it all lands on Burgos.

The town’s squares are anything but, all being eccentrically  shaped. We walked through many of them multiple times–El Cid Plaza, Freedom Plaza, Plaza Mayor, etc.–but none of them looked like a traditional central city Spanish plaza. Burgos certainly has its own character!  I have linked some more photos  of Burgos’s treasures.

Today was errands day.  We spent the morning tracking down a laundromat (not easy; Burgos doesn’t seem to have many of them, despite being a city).

In the afternoon, we went back to the music store, where James exchanged his full-sized guitar for a smaller, traveling one that will fit in his backpack. Then he went back to the hotel before his new guitar got rained on, while I carried on trying, unsuccessfully, to solve my camera problems by visiting a camera store and then a phone store. After  wasting multiple hours over several days trying to fix this issue, I finally gave up.

With James bummed out about having to give up his full-sized guitar and me grumpy about not being able to use my camera, we went out to dinner to change the mood via ordering roast pig- a specialty at the restaurant we went to–and downing a pitcher of sangria. Not a bad way to end the day.

Steps Today: 13,547

More photos can be viewed at: Burgos II

Burgos Cathedral

Thursday, June 16, 2016
Day 16

Burgos Cathedral is the third largest in Spain, with only the cathedrals in Seville and Toledo being larger. Besides the central nave and aisles, there are many, many side chapels (18, I think).

As one guide book said, any one of these chapels, transferred to a museum in the USA, would be considered a masterwork of the collection. Here, all crowded together, it becomes, as James remarked, “overwhelming.” So much beauty crowded into such a relatively small area!

The Cathedral also boasts a two-story cloister, something I have never seen before. I was particularly impressed with the cupolas and ceilings. Like the one pictured here, several of them are spectacular.

Burgos is also crowded with mementos of El Cid, an interesting hero since he fought for both Christian kings and Muslim overlords. El Cid is buried in the cathedral, and we took a photo of his gravestone.

After breakfast, we headed out for the guitar store. On the way, we saw an open church and popped in. Saint Lesmes, whose lovely mausoleum is right there in the center of the church, is the patron saint of Burgos. At the guitar shop James tried out many guitars, then selected a full-size Alhambra. He went back to the hotel while I went searching for an Internet cafe or something similar, still trying to solve my camera problem. In the afternoon off to the Cathedral for an extended visit. We had hoped to go to a musical performance in the evening but we were just too tired.

Steps Today: 13,179

For additional photos, go to June 16, 2016: Burgos.

Who Is That Masked Man?

Sometimes there are benches for weary pilgrims.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Day 15
Belorado to Burgos

The road between Belorado and Espinosa del Camino was good. We had been extraordinarily blessed with good weather over the past few days–cool, overcast, and windy. So windy, in fact, that James employed a bandana to keep the grit out of his still-congested mouth and noise.

This day showed one of the glitches of our walk-ride Half-Fast plan. We walked halfway, but then there was no bus to our next end-of-stage stopping point, San Juan de Ortega.  So we elected to take the bus all the way to Burgos, where we were spending the night anyway.

At lunchtime, before we caught the bus, there occurred  a small Camino drama. Two girls came into the restaurant where we were eating, one of them crying. They tried to explain to the restaurant head what had happened, but they couldn’t surmount the language barrier.

I was called in to translate, which I did. The girls had been ripped off by an unscrupulous albergue (hostal) guy, who also threatened to sic the police on them. The restaurant owner was able to assure them not to worry, though he was unable to help them recover  the money the guy had taken from them.

Once we were on the bus, the rain started pelting down, and we felt lucky to be out of it. By the time we reached Burgos, cool had turned  to cold, the start of an unseasonably  cold snap. In Burgos, our first city since Pamplona, we did some shopping for items we needed–velcro, skin lotion, a cable to connect my camera to my tablet. This was my second (unsuccessful) attempt to solve this technology  black hole.

Steps Today: 21,976

To see photos from along the way, go to Belorado to Espinosa del Camino.


The Camino Meets “The Way”


Wednesday, June 14
Day 14
Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado

On entering Belorado, one of the first things we stumbled upon was this plaque, set into the pavement stones, showing Martin Sheen’s foot and hand print and signature. As we walked through the town, which obviously has gone to a great effort to beautify the streets, we saw many more of these plaques for others associated with the film The Way.

It was fun to seek out Emilio Estevez’s plaque and to try to figure out to whom the other plaques pertained.  I was told that in the  Tourist Information  Office they give out maps showing where all the plaques are. It’s Belorado’s own version of the Hollywood  Walk of Fame. Obviously the cast of The Way beat us to Belorado. Nobody asked us for our hand/footprints.  For more photos of Belorado, see our page of photos.

We walked from Santo Domingo to Redecilla del Camino, then took a bus the rest of the way. It was another great day for walking–cool, overcast, and good road surfaces. We ducked into the local church for a quick look. The priest was leading choir members and pilgrims in an international religious sing-along. Then we went to a local restaurant where we were invited to join five other pilgrims  for a convivial  dinner. Great fun!

Steps Today: 23,137

See more photos at June 14, 2016: Santo Domingo to Belorado












Chickens in the Church


Monday, June 13, 2016
Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Day 13

What a change from Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada!

The cathedral was open for  business, and full of visitors there to see the famous cock  and hen, kept in a lovely coop high up on the cathedral wall. These are the only chickens in a church in Christendom, allowed to be there by a specific Papal ruling. The chickens are supposed to be the direct descendants of the original miraculous chickens. In this story, a cooked cock and hen sprang back to life, fully fledged, in order to prove the innocence of a falsely accused pilgrim.

Santo Domingo himself, who is buried in the cathedral, is a delightful saint. Turned away by two snobby monasteries who thought he was too stupid to be a monk, he dedicated his life to helping pilgrims and ended up with a town and cathedral named after him.

Although James was still not feeling well, we did walk half-way to Santo Domingo. While James slept in the afternoon, I explored the cathedral and a souvenir shop or two.  In the evening James and I returned to the cathedral for a guided tour.

The  guide was a very erudite gentleman who seemed to take delight in debunking some Christian myths. He pointed out what I already knew–from living in Portugal–that the story of the chicken(s) springing back to life is a common tale from many places in Europe. Santo Domingo de la Calzada has the distinction, though, of backing up the story by keeping chickens in the cathedral and by having had a pope give his backing to the miracle.

Steps Today: 21,976

Be sure to check out the additional photographs at June 13: Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Najera Closes Its Doors


Sunday, June 12
Logroño to Najera
Day 12

In contrast to Logroño, which had been so lively with the fair, Najera felt dead. Closed up. We went to see the monastery, which has the tombs of a number of very early kings and queens. It was closed. I asked a gentleman standing outside a side chapel door if it would open later in the afternoon. “No,” he said. “It’s Sunday.”

How about Monday morning? I asked, thinking to stop in before we headed off.

“No,” he replied.  “It’s closed on Mondays.” So no monastery for us.

On the way back to the hotel, I spied a shop with lovely Spanish ceramics (ceramics are a weakness of mine) in the window and an open shop door, so I went in. A lady immediately came over and began shooing  me out.

“A quick look around, please,” I implored.

“No,” she replied, “it’s Sunday. We’re closed.”

On down the street, we did see a church open for business–a funeral. The street outside the church was packed with people; obviously the whole town had turned out. I was surprised, since at home funerals usually aren’t held on Sundays.

Anyway, we can’t tell you much about Najera, since it turned its back to us, except that there were a lot of interesting shields and escutcheons  on the outside of buildings.

This day presented a lot of problems for us.  Two issues combined to stop us from walking. First, James  was feeling really poorly. Second, we couldn’t discover an intermediate bus stop between Logrono and Najera. So we took the bus the whole way. Then I made a mistake and started using my camera rather than my phone or tablet to take photos. This has turned out to be a big technological interface problem that I have spent hours and hours on, but can’t solve.

Steps Today: 9,986

For some photos, please go to June 12: Logrono to Najera



Fair Logroño


Saturday, June 11, 2016
Day 11

The Saint Bernabe Fair was in full swing in Logroño. Buskers and fair-goers dressed in medieval and regional costumes were out in full force. Stalls were everywhere, with huge cheese wheels and delicious regional sweets on sale. The streets were thronged with families out until midnight. Rick Steves in his book on Spain says Logroño is skippable, but we found the fair to be great fun.

We also visited St. James Church, where Josemaría Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, worshipped and discovered his vocation.

In our photo today, notice the bagpipes. Evidently bagpipes are historically an instrument of this region.

This was a rest day, and we needed it. James is feeling really poorly with his cold.

Steps Today: 6,760

You can see more photos of the fair and the town at June 11: Logrono.