Monday, June 11, 2012

One week, plus some

Hello, The last few days have been interesting. I celebrated my 24th birthday on a hot, sunny day. I walked much of the walk with a meteorologist from Barcelona who is walking part of the walk with his uncle. Our destination was a decent sized town, considering some of the pueblos I have stayed in on this trip! The hostel was large and clean. After cleaning up, I had a yummy sandwich and ran into some other pilgrims I had met earlier. I went to mass in the evening in a beautiful church, and then joined some new friends for dinner. It was a delightful evening, and a very simple birthday, but one I am sure I will remember! Thursday and Friday I walked a bit further than my guidebook suggested for those days (30-35km, I think), mainly because I was feeling energetic and figured I might as well take advantage of the energy. Saturday ended up being a very long, exhausting day, and I hit a wall, so to speak. I tried to take a detour to visit an abbey that St. Francis visited when he walked this walk (which is a pretty neat fact in itself!), but after going 6km off of the track, I found it to be closed. Needless to say, I was disappointed. But I continued walking and when I reached my intended stopping point, I was less than impressed with the location and decided to go another 7km to Santo Domingo. All in all, I think I walked arounf 40km that day, which was quite a lot. I reached the hostel in a daze. But, after a much needed talk with a specialist tending to my blisters (poor guy, I don´t think he signed up for free therapy sessions), and a decent night of sleep (I was between two serious snorers!) I felt better. And the last two days have been significantly more positive. I think I needed to let the past week really catch up with me, which it did, in full force. Thankfully, my feet are doing slightly better. My knees are still sore, but I figure if they get me to Santiago, I´ll be pleased. I reflected yesterday with my friend Tim, from Arizona, about our first week on the trail. I don´t really know what I expected, but somehow it is different from my expectations. It is hard to believe it has been over a week, but even harder to believe I still have so far to go! My favorite part so far is meeting so many wonderful people. I have some anecdotes, but I´ll save those for another day. Thank you for all the encouragement and prayers. Un abrazo.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It´s a Simple Life

(I apologize in advance for the strange formatting/layout. It is the best I can do on the hostel computers!) I have started to settle into a routine; it already feels like I have been on the trail a month rather than four short (actually, long) days. Here is what a day in the life of a Camino-walker (at least this one) is like: I wake up when I hear other people rustling, or when my alarm goes off at 6:00 (usually I don´t need the alarm). I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth and splash water on my face. There isn´t much need for primping on the trip, so after sun screen and deodorant (there is a great need for both of these, however) I consider myself ready. Then I focus on my feet. I do the best I can with the blisters that have formed, and then take all the preventative steps I can...and I put on my boots, which hurt. I fill up my water bottle and take a vitamin C tablet. If I have something for breakfast, I munch while I am getting ready, otherwise I stop at the nearest cafe for a quick croissant or toast and coffee. Usually I am on the ¨road¨ by 7:00 or a bit before. I start my walk with a rosary. After I finish praying, I stop to stretch my musclese a bit. And then...I just keep walking, chatting here or there with people on the walk; at the very least wishing them all a ¨buen camino!¨ I snack when I feel hungry, and drink lots of water through the day. I have found that I walk best if I am well fed...though that is no surprise. Depending on the size of villages/towns I pass through, I might stop for a sandwich around mid-day. I reach my destination about six hours after I leave, usually between 1:00-2:00pm, give or take. In the mornings I always tell myself I will walk a bit further, but by the time I see the name of the pueblo matches the ¨end point¨ in my guidebook, I am ready for a break. I check into the hostel, and immediately dig out my (hopefully) clean clothes and shower items. I take a quick shower (sometimes longer if I am lucky and there is still hot water!) and put on the shorts and shirt that I will wear the next day. I wash clothes if I need to. After that I look into food. Some days I will just have a snack and wait for a big dinner later, but today I had a big lunch, so will find something lighter for dinner. After I am fed I do some reading and journaling, and some prayers, if it is quiet. At this point I want a nap, but try to stay awake until bedtime, to ensure a good night of sleep (assuming there are no snorers in my room...which is unlikely). I find ways to kill time until dinner; in the smaller pueblos there isn´t much to do or see, so they are quiet afternoons. After dinner I read for a bit more and then organize my bag so I can leave as easily and as quietly as possible in the morning. And then it starts again! Here are a few pictures of my trip so far: My pilgrim credential, which I get stamped at each hostel, and my shell, which I wear tied to my backpack. First day climb over the Pyrenees! My motto. Prayers are appreciated, especially for my sore feet and knees! And please know that I am praying for all of you! Un abrazo fuerte.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ready, Steady, Go!

And...she is off! I started the Camino de Santiago! On Friday I took a bus to Madrid, a train to Pamplona, and another bus over the mountains into France, to Saint Jean de Pied de Port. I registered with the Pilgrim office, picked out my shell and ¨passport¨ and nestled into a hostel for the evening. Bright and early Saturday morning I set off for the first leg, which is also (hopefully) the most difficult of the journey. I literally climed the Pyrenees from France into Spain. I was off to a difficult start. I eventually found a good pace for me (I sent the marathoner I started with ahead-and he ended up finishing 2 hours ahead of me!), and settled into a rhythm. I tell you, it was rough, but the views were worth it 100%. I started day two with some angry feet, and by the end of the day I had my first blister. Day two had less of an intense climb, but was more difficult because I had sore muscles. Each time I started to think (complain to myself) about the pain, I offered it up for someone. Needless to say, a lot of people were prayed for...I am quite a whiner, even when I am my own-and only-audience! Here I am at the end of day three. Still achy as all get out, and with a sore knee to boot. I am hoping the knee pain will cease soon. The scenery is just beautiful, but I pass through small villages, too. Sometimes the path winds through the woods (which always reminds me of home) and sometimes it follows a busy street. Today I went through Pamplona, Hemingway´s stomping grounds and home to the famous running of the bulls. I took a turn through the Cathedral before buying ibuprofen and blister pads at the pharmacy. And now I am settled into a lovely little hostel just outside of Pamplona for the evening. I have met people from all over the world (though a proportionally large number of Australians), both young and old. Yesterday I spent much of the day with two Australian friends, both 65. If they can walk (and pass me!) this trek, so can I! I will update again as soon as I am able. Un abrazo muy fuerte.

Up to Speed

I realize I haven´t written in over a started to fly after Elizabeth´s trip! Jarrod came at the beginning of May, and after that, what little time I had left I filled with hikes, a wedding (not my own, a coworker´s!), cooking lessons (I learned gazpacho and tortilla espanñola from a friend), nights dancing with friends, and playing tour guide to a friend from Salamanca. It was a wonderful, busy end to the school year. (Jarrod and I had a blast in Madrid, Toledo, and Barcelona! Sorry I haven´t potsted any pictures...). And now, on to the next adventure: El Camino de Santiago! In short (ha) it is a 500 mile hike across northern Spain, and should take me about a month! I hope to finish just in time to head to Toledo to get my luggage, and catch my flight in Madrid on July 6th! Actually, I would love to finish earlier, but my feet will make the final call. We shall see. I have to pay for internet access most places, but I will try to update as often as I am able! However, in an effort to take on the ¨pilgrimage spirit¨ I am trying to disconnect, just a bit. Also, I hope to get pictures uploaded, but that is proving complicated. Un abrazo muy fuerte.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Semana Santa Recap

It was such, SUCH a joy to have Elizabeth here with me in Spain for two weeks. The time was special and my only complaint is that it went too quickly!

Easter Sunday (in front of the Cathedral, in Toledo):

I had to work the first week after she arrived. She came with me to school for one day of teaching and for a field trip. The kids loved her! They thought it was so, so funny that we look so similar. And yes, Dad, many people asked if we were twins. And yes, many also asked if she is older...When I am 45 I will appreciate that, right?!

We began our travels in Madrid. We stayed in a simple hotel in Plaza San Miguel. It was well situated (near the main sights) and is home to the Mercado San Miguel, which is well known for fresh foods and delicious tapas.

We toured the Royal Palace, the Prado Art Museum, the Cathedral, Sorolla's House and Art Museum, Parque del Buen Retiro, and only a few stores! We also took a day trip to nearby El Escorial to tour the impressive monastery (more like a palace!) there. It was a busy few days, but we had beautiful weather!

Churros con chocolate:

Parque del Buen Retiro:

Royal Palace:

Sorolla House/Museum:

Monastery, El Escorial:

From Madrid we traveled by bus to Cordoba. There we encountered our first Semana Santa procession! We also toured the incredible Mosque (which was turned into a Cathedral during the Reconquista). Our stay was short but sweet!

Processions (Cordoba):

La Mezquita:

From Cordoba we went to Sevilla. Sevilla is THE destination for Semana Santa processions. It was packed-absolutely packed; the crowds were exhausting and overwhelming. We did see some amazing floats, and I very grateful I experienced a Sevillana Semana Santa. We also toured the Cathedral (which holds a world record for size!). climbed the impressive bell tower, and took in the royal palace. And we saw a flamenco show!

Cathedral in Sevilla:

View from the top of the tower (which was how Muslims were called to prayer before the Reconquista; a horse carried the prayer leader all the way up!):


The beautiful gardens:

Plaza de España (my new favorite place!):

Unfortunately, as we left Cordoba the weather changed, and we had to deal with rain for the rest of our trip. We actually ended up taking a night bus home, because the most famous processions were canceled due to the rain (they take place from 11:00pm on Holy Thursday until the afternoon of Good Friday).

We then had a quiet Easter weekend together in Toledo. I think we were both grateful for a more relaxed pace. And, we watched more processions from my balcony! The processions were very different between Andalucia (Cordoba and Sevilla) and Toledo; in Sevilla it is more like a noisy parade, a spectacle, a party. In Toledo the processions are much more solemn (at least on Good Friday, fittingly) and have a more religious feel. I appreciated that.

Good Friday procession (Toledo):

I forgot! We spent our afternoons in Toledo touring all the sights and eating at my favorite spots.

Toledo Cathedral:

(At night, obviously)

(interior, also obvious, I suppose)

Isn't she a beauty?

As I said, it was a wonderful two weeks! I hope to soon have my pictures edited and uploaded to my Picasa page soon! In the morning I am heading to my beloved Salamanca in the morning! I am looking forward to showing my friends around my old stomping grounds!

My time here is going so quickly! It is hard to believe...but, in two weeks Jarrod will be here-I can't wait!

Un abrazo.

Friday, March 30, 2012


My little sister, Elizabeth, is here in SPAIN! It is so fun having her with me. Today (as soon as I finish writing this) we start our travels!

She joined me at school Tuesday and Wednesday (we went on a hiking excursion with 4th grade on Wednesday!). We were asked many times if we were twins!

We are going to experience Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Andalucia next week! I have heard it is amazing.

All our love!
-Sarah and Elizabeth, The Twins

Monday, March 19, 2012

Beach Escape

My friends and I ran off the the Canary Islands this weekend for some sun and fun! We went to Gran Canaria which is pretty touristy and not that pretty. Of course, the ocean can never be anything but beautiful, and there is a mountainous backdrop to enjoy. And I certainly cannot complain about the sunshine and relaxation-it was a nice weekend! The wind on the beach was intense, and I only pulled my camera out for a few quick pictures. And I "borrowed" a few from Megan's camera. Here is what I have to share!

Even more sunshine is heading my way: my baby sister Elizabeth will be here on Sunday! I can't wait!