Roncesvalles Means Charlemagne, Roland, and Sancho the Strong

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Thursday, June 2, 2016
Day 2
Valcarlos to Roncesvalles

In Roncesvalles, history comes alive. This is where Roland, of the famous Song of Roland, fought his last battle for Charlemagne and died. Here too 7’2″ King Sancho “the Strong” of Navarre, who battled  to expel  the  Moors from Southern Spain, is buried. It’s a tiny town but packed with history.

I woke up this morning with a swollen arm, a legacy of my cancer surgery (lymphadema). That means no more weight (backpack) on my shoulder for a while. I also doubt I could have made the steep climb up the mountain. So we rode a taxi in comfort from Valcarlos to Roncesvalles and spent the day exploring the town.

Steps Today: 11,242

There are some additional photos at June 2, 2016: Valcarlos to Roncesvalles.

And We’re Off!

(Photo by Leon at the Pilgrim’s Office)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Day 1
St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to Valcarlos, Spain

In James Michener’s Iberia, he says that all Medieval pilgrims had four essential items: a warm cloak that could also be used as a blanket or pillow; an eight-foot staff for walking and for keeping off aggressive dogs, spangled with gourds used to hold drinking water; sturdy sandals; and a wide brimmed floppy hat. As we set off on our journey from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, we are not that different from those earlier pilgrims. We have our impermeable jackets on or strapped to our backpacks. Our walking sticks, while not eight feet long, are fairly tall. Instead of gourds, we have fancy new hydration (water) packs, but they serve the same purpose as the gourds. Back in Houston we spent a lot of time trying to locate the right, sturdy but comfortable, hiking boots. And we both have our hats. Mine is wide brimmed. James’s can more correctly be deemed “jaunty.” You’ll see it in a future post. And of course we both carry our cockle shells, mine affixed to my backpack.

This was a very rough day for me. More steps than ever, many of them uphill. I was ready to quit 2/3rds of the way to Valcarlos, but James urged me on and I finally straggled in quite late.

Steps Today: 28,164

St. James the Pilgrim

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Pamplona to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
Camino Day Minus 1

In Pamplona this morning, we visited Saint Saturnin church. St Saturnin proselitized in Pamplona and converted the first Christians there. He was later martyred. The statue of St James the Pilgrim is one of many beautiful statues in the church, including one of Mary, the Virgin of the Camino, dating from 1487.

Steps Today: 10,749

Yes, We Drank the Whole Thing

Monday, May 30, 2016
Madrid to Soria to Pamplona
Camino Day Minus 2

Our first night in Spain, and we were tired after following up the flight to Madrid with a bus ride to Pamplona.

After checking in at our hotel, we took a nap. Then up and out for dinner. Thank goodness the Spanish eat late. We found a nice neighborhood restaurant with a “Menu of the Day” that came with wine, beer, or bottled water. James asked for beer, but I went for the wine. The waiter brought a full bottle of a Navarrese wine.

I asked, “Am I supposed to have a glass of this?”

He replied, “The bottle comes with the meal.”

So, yes, we drank the whole thing. James helped. The best sleep aid possible for two jet-lagged pilgrims.

Last Drinks in the USA, or, James Saved the Day

Wednesday, May 29  2016
Houston, Texas, to Washington, DC, to Madrid, Spain
Camino Day Minus 3 (Continued)

I had planned to take a picture of us outside the front door with our suitcases as we got ready to leave on our pilgrimage. But we were too rushed, so instead you are seeing our last drinks in the USA before we board the plane to Spain. James with his Blue Moon including an orange slice and me with my Plain Jane Miller Light.

James deserved the premium beer. He saved the day this morning. Our “Super” Shuttle (Blue Van) driver left without us after waiting maybe a minute. I was freaking out. I was having no luck with booking another driver or a taxi. It is Memorial Day weekend, after all. Parking at the airport for such a long trip would be outrageously expensive.

James suggested Uber. The Uber guy arrived in six minutes and was fabulous. We made it to the airport with time to spare. Hooray for Uber (my first Uber ride) and James! And bottoms up to the Camino.

Signs, Omens, Portents

Sunday, May 29, 2016
Houston, Texas
Camino Day Minus 3

I had planned to take this trip in 2014, as my first major trip after retiring. Cancer intervened, so I postponed.

This past winter I finally felt well enough to reschedule the walk. I had an itinerary and reservations and everything. Then a family imbroglio intervened, and I was forced to postpone again.

Next I found out that my copy of Iberia had gone walk-about–sort of fitting, in a funny way.

I was forced to ponder whether God, or fate, or the stars perhaps didn’t want me to take the trip. Maybe I was stubbornly ignoring the signs and trying to force my will on what should be. I learned quite early in my life that, despite what we are taught and believe, we are not masters of our own fate; things happen over which we have no control.

Then this past Tuesday I went out to lunch at a Chinese restaurant. I almost never eat the fortune cookie, but this time I did. My fortune: “Only those who dare truly live.” Finally, a sign telling me to carry on.

So Many Books, So Few Pounds Available

Saturday, May 28, 2016
Houston, Texas
Camino Day Minus 4

Starting this blog is an experiment; it’s my first blog, and I’m not at all sure what I am doing. When I scheduled my walk on the Camino, I thought I would be walking alone. I tried to think about what could set my blog apart from other blogs and other books on the Camino.

I knew I was not going to be a “hard-core” pilgrim. At my age, and with my compromised health, I needed to be a bit forgiving to my body. So I thought a blog focused on walking the “easy” way might be useful and interesting. Hence I named my blog “Camino for Boomers.”

Since that decision, my son James, 24 years old, has decided to walk with me. He is going to participate in the walk and in the blog–so suddenly the name of the blog is not quite so accurate.  Except, maybe his participation has given me my first tip for Boomers:  If you can arrange to walk with a younger person, even for a portion of the walk, do it.

James has already helped with a number of aspects of preparing for the trip. He has packed safety items and a medical kit. And maybe he’ll even carry a book or two for me.

Getting Ready to Go

 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Houston
Camino Day Minus 7

James and I have been getting ready to go on our Great Camino de Santiago Adventure for weeks. James already has his clothes in his backpack. My clothes have been in and out of my suitcase several times, as I add and discard items and weigh the results. Fifty pounds is the max. Camino Ways will have my suitcase and his large backpack moved to the next hotel as we walk the Camino. James would like to schlep all his stuff himself, but not me!