a wandering woman writes

Monday, October 22, 2007

Found: in the guestbook of the Albergue San Miguel

Written last night, before I arrived:

"Before the new chapter can begin, the old chapter must be closed.

Change from being who you were to being who you are."

It's signed Paulo Coehlo, so I'll venture it's a quote, unless of course, Mr. Coehlo stopped by here last night....

One small request, Camino: Any chance "she who I am" could have a stronger right ankle than "she who I was"?

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Meanwhile, in the department of lost and found...


The loveliest viera (scallop shell) you've ever seen
, a gift from the owner of the marisquería in Virgen del Camino, outside León. He answered my plea for whatever he was willing to feed a hungry peregrina at 730 pm with a delicious ración of Pulpo al Gallego, a chunk of crusty bread and a bottle of wine. Now I know why I never chose to buy a pre-drilled pre-painted "Camino de Santiago" ready-made souvenir shell for my trusty backpack. My ración of pulpo and a just-as-it-is viera were waiting just outside León.

A tremendous advertising opportunity for El Corte Inglés, when this peregrina marched into the central León store, backpack and all, rode the escalator to the 6th floor, and purchased a new hiking pole, to go. I threw in a pair of gloves (getting chilly in the morning out here!) and a new pair of after-walking socks. The highly amused salesman assured me I'd find another El Corte Inglés in the center of Santiago, should I feel like a post-Camino shopping spree.

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Who says the Camino lacks a sense of humor?

Greetings from Hospital de Órbigo, a picturesque little town at the end of an ancient and storied bridge, and a Camino stop between León and Astorga.

I've suddenly found myself prepared to spend hours at this laptop. Catch up at this blog. Answer all the e-mails I forwarded myself before leaving Salamanca, sure I'd find the time to respond while on the Camino. Write the Great American Novel, perhaps.

At least a pair of chapters.

I'm still again, you see.

Still, and comfortably settled for the night at the Albergue San Miguel, where this morning's soundtrack has left me chuckling, hand raised in a toast to the Camino - teacher, jokester. Wiseguy.

Alanis Morisette greeted me at the albergue this morning.
"You live, you learn
You love, you learn
You cry, you learn
You lose. you learn
You bleed, you learn
You scream, you learn...."

I was just adding "you walk, you learn" when someone jumped the CD ahead to "Isn't It Ironic?"

You know the tune:
"..A traffic jam when you're already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It's meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn't it ironic...don't you think
A little too ironic...and, yeah, I really do think...

It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid..."

It's like spraining the same ankle twice in a single Camino.

I don't, in fact, know what the chances are, although I may have time to do the calculations between ice applications this afternoon, but yes, yesterday morning, while meandering along a nice flat stretch of Camino, I slipped on a path of loose stones (having inexplicably decided not to use my new hiking pole to protect the ankle) and retwisted the Ankle of Always.

It's three shades of purple and the perfectly rounded shape of one of those yellow Spanish peaches I love so, but I've assured myself, the kind hospitaleros who have taken me in, and my ankle that I'll be back on the road tomorrow, God and Voltarén willing.

Meanwhile, this albergue offers paints and brushes and canvasses and free play in the painting workshop, so we'll soon know if the ankle has twisted only to allow me to discover my inner Picasso.

We each arrive to the Camino with every one of our weaknesses along for the ride, it would seem - and the Camino proceeds to carry each of them out into the open, where he shines a spotlight on them, points a giant yellow arrow, and dares each of us -"See it? do something about it!" Shall we guess that one of my weaknesses resides at the end of my right leg? Or in the hurry with which I carry it?

All the more to celebrate on arrival in Santiago in 12 or 13 days, wouldn't you say? Arriving, safe, sound, and all the wiser, on the Ankle of Always.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

More lost and found

More lost and found on the Camino de Santiago:


My floppy sun hat. Twice. Found and returned safe and sound, also twice, by a very tall angel of a German peregrino named Niils. Hat angel Niils.


Ultra cool silicone inserts for my boots. SO comfy. God love the pharmacists of Spain!

The magical powers of Voltarén -- a Novartis anti-inflammatory and my new best friend.

back again soon...walk into León tomorrow

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¡Viva España!

Forgive me for not linking...short on time, but I have finally stumbled across the lyrics to the Manola Escobar tune I learned so very, very well while racing recklessly through La Rioja in the Peugot of El Gran Antonio (read back a few if you missed the post, will link later). Will be back to translate, too!

A Taste:
Spain always has been an always will be an eternal paradise.
Without equal.
That´s why you hear this refrain: que viva España
Que viva España
And they will always remember: Que viva España
The people sing with ardor
Que viva España
Life has another color
Spain is the best!

I haven't had time to watch (or sound to listen) but see if this is a video of Manolo singing the tune:

Manolo Escobar

Entre flores fandanguillos y alegrías nació
Mi españa la tierra del amor
Solo dios pudiera hacer tanta belleza y es imposible
Que pueda haber dos
Y todo el mundo sabe que es verdad y lloran cuando
Tienen que marchar
Por eso se oye este refrán, que viva españa
Y siempre la recordarán que viva españa
La gente canta con ardor, que viva españa
La vida tiene otro color, españa es la mejor
En las tardes soleadas de corrida la gente aclama
Al diestro con fervor
Y el saluda paseando a su cuadrilla con esa gracia
De torero español
La plaza con sus oles vibra ya y empieza nuestra
Fiesta nacional
Por eso se oye este refrán, que viva españa
Y siempre la recordarán que viva españa
La gente canta con ardor, que viva españa
La vida tiene otro color, españa es la mejor
Que bonito es el mar mediterráneo su costa brava y
Su costa del sol
La sardana y el fandango me emocionan porque en
Sus notas hay vida y hay calor
España siempre ha sido y será eterno paraiso
Sin igual.
Por eso se oye este refrán, que viva españa
Y siempre la recordarán que viva españa
La gente canta con ardor, que viva españa
La vida tiene otro color, españa es la mejor

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lost and found on the Camino de Santiago


1. More than a few contact lenses. Though I did find the one I thought I'd lost yesterday. Found it in my eye, I did. Down to three lenses, all just a tad worn.

2. 1 pair after-walking socks, left in the albergue in Terradillos de los Templarios.

3. All sense of linear time. And the date.

4. 1 hiking pole. I left it in the first bar on the way in to Burgos, and have since heard it was last seen happily leaning against a table near the door, by pilgrims who spotted it without knowing it was mine. May you be happy there, trusty pole.

5. So many people I would have liked to have gotten to know better.

6. At least a pant size
, judging by my sudden and increasingly urgent need for a belt.


Ah, here I can only begin to list....

1. At least a dozen muscles I promise you I never knew I was carrying round with me.

2. Time. Lots and lots and lots of time.

3. The undeniable advantages of doing this Camino when you speak Spanish.....and English.

4. Herculean generosity. Can't think of a better way to describe it.

5. Comida picante in Spain. Yes!! In Spain! Go to Navarra, now, and order alubias rojas (red beans)...then sit back and wait. Before you know it you will be sitting before a bowl of fabulously tasty alubias - served with a nice stack of hot (ok, semi hot) peppers. Similar to pepperoncini, for example. Heavenly.

Much more to come......

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Hats off to the Junta of Castilla y Leon

Greetings from El Burgo de Ranero, between Sahugún and León, where the older folks are friendly, the houses are made of mud (amazing thing, I kid you not, old houses and new houses alike), and the children surf the afternoon away (next to wandering peregrinas) in a deluxe 10-station cybercenter, completely free, compliments of my local government, the Junta of Castilla y León.

I might add that the pharmacy in town is a delightful spot for an afternoon shopping spree. I went for the echinacia, the ibuprofen, and a nice new box of bandaids.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Another day, another unexpected adventure

Another day, another unexpected adventure.

And at least 3 new songs to sing on the Camino.

When the 3 españolas -a pair from Menorca and their friend the Barcelonesa, the same three who taught me to lose at cards last night - asked if I'd like to join them on an excursion to the Monastery of San Millán de La Cogolla, 20 km from Azofra, I immediately signed on. I've stopped walking early today, after only 16 km, certain that my beautifully recovered ankle is not yet up to a 31 km day, which I'd be facing if I headed on to the next albergue.

We hired a taxi driver, who drove in from Nájera. His name is Antonio; his business card calls him "El Gran Antonio".

El Gran Antonio sings. We drove to the monastery in a luxury, super comfortable Peugot with a singing taxi driver named El Gran Antonio.

The monastery is closed Mondays, as it turns out, although we did manage to talk our way into visiting the older monastery tucked into the side of the mountain above, alongside the caves where God spoke to San Millán. That's a story for another day.

Today's tale closes with 2 menorquinas, a barcelonesa , a wandering American and a troubador taxi driver driving through the pueblos of Rioja with Manola Escobar blasting on the car stereo....only to returning through the same pueblos an hour or two later, singing "Vive España" at the top of their lungs...

Here, discover Manolo Escobar. (I just did.)

I'll search next session for the lyrics to my favorite of the trip's tunes....
but for now..

"Vive España
España es la mejor....." (that's the song, honest...)

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Day....wait, what day is this again?

Greetings from beautiful downtown Azofra, in La Rioja!

Internet access has been hard to come by, especially since I try to stop in the smaller pueblos and smaller albergues. But this tiny, tired-looking town not only serves one hell of a tortilla sandwich (a entire tortilla de patata arranged on a barra of crusty bread) but also offers a newly constructed, high tech (double rooms... we're sleeping only 2 to a room!) albergue. The paisano to my right at the town bar assured me this was "the best albergue on the Camino". And, so, of course, in the best albergue Azofra can offer, the townsfolk have installed two pay-for-internet stations.

And here I am!

I have this desperate desire to write something brilliant, or at least worthy of this trip, but since I doubt I'll last long here at the keyboard this afternoon, I'll settle for a quick, less than brilliant update.

Tomorrow I'll walk through Santo Domingo de la Calzada. An important stop, and one you'll likely be able to find online if you'd like to track me. I'll try to catch up on Google maps if I hit a more comfortable internet stop.

Meanwhile, here's a bit of what you can look forward to reading, once I settle in to write this story. Let's call it the adventures of la ingeniosa hidalga de Salamanca. Some day soon you'll read:

Chapter One
In which our heroine sprains her ankle just before entering the lovely town of Santa Cilia, in Aragon. Noticing it hurts less than her "usual" ankle twist - and if you've been reading this blog you know there is indeed a "usual" wandering woman ankle twist - our hiking hidalga decides it is not a sprain and walks 10 kilometers more, just enough to reach the equally lovely, if unfortunately VERTICAL, town of Arrés. There she is warmly greeted by Basque hopitaleros Mari Paz and Anton, a dozen intriguing and incredibly generous pilgrims, and an icepack.

Chapter Two
In which our heroine sits still for 3 days with her leg on ice, while she learns, among other things, the following:
1) Patience
2) What I like to call "Slow Camino." Each one of us is here doing his or her own own Camino, at his or her pace, and the Camino of our ingenious hidalga, it would seem, includes a good long period of rest. And reflection. Along with plenty of hello-goodbyes and buen caminos to the pilgrims passing through the albergues where she sits, very very still.
3) Last, she learns to graciously accept kindness and generosity from complete strangers, including a handful with whom she shares not even a common language.
A veteran peregrino gives her a bandage for her ankle, a smiling German woman insists our heroine take double doses of the special homeopathic brew she's carried to the camino - a few drops on the ankle and a few more on the tongue. A young Canadian offers up an antinflammatory patch someone gave him when he came down with tendonitis early in the Camino, somewhere in the French Pyrenees.
4) Did I mention patience?

Chapter Three
In which our immobile peregrina is serenaded for hours by a guitar plucking Spanish albañil walking the Camino for a week's vacation, Jaca to Sanguesa.

.....and on and on we will go to last evening's chapter, in which she spends the night in a huge stone palacio refurbished by a bodega, where she drinks more exquisite Rioja (the vino del autor, best offered by this bodega) than she cares to recall, munches on jamón, chorizo picante, salchichón and learns to lose at Spanish card games.

more to come next internet stop...

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