Friday, September 19, 2008

Well, I was really hoping to give you guys some photos...

I found a little computer place, but they don´t have ports for downloading photos - so I´m sorry about that. I am staying at a hotel here in Burgos and there is a computer in the lobby that I can use for a 1/2 hour at a time, but I don´t know if there is photo capability there either. So, you´ll just have to be a little patient.

I did write a couple of little essays for you to read if you like. And there are two random pictures below from a fairly boffed attempt at a computer shop five days ago in Najera.

How I´m doing? Thanks so much for asking.

I´m doing alright. The body´s holding up okay and my spirits are mostly good. I am still very much enjoying walking everyday and the countryside continues to bless me with some stunning landscape. As we move west I am getting to see the tail-end of the wildflowers; which had already folded their petals for the year where I was in the east.

Having a bit of a rough time at night, have stayed in some lovely, mellow alburgues where I get to sleep outside and they are not very crowded...but every evening is a bit of a challenge for me, so that´s getting a little old.

I´m about 19 days from Santiago at this point (barring rest days), couldn´t tell you the actual mileage, but it´s 475 kilometers away, so you´ll have to do your own math on that one. It´s less miles, I know that.

That´s kind of a fun little thing in that the days are laid out in kilometers, "man we have 24 kilometers to go today!" But in my guidebook they´ve been translated into miles, which psychologically works in my favor (24 works out to about 14 miles I think...something like that).

The Spanish continues to come along. I don´t get so shy in shops anymore. The way things are set up here pretty much forces you to use it. Today I wanted lunch, but I didn´t want to eat in a restaurant. So I had to go to the Fruteria to get some fruit and vegetables.

And you can´t just go in and wander around and pick pears and oranges out, touch melons. You can´t touch anything actually. You wait in line and then when your turn comes you tell the (always beautiful) woman what you would like and she picks it out for you. I have learned the names of the fruits and vegetables I generally get, and the women always smile when I try to pronounce the word for orange (naranja). But it´s not a smirky smile, it´s sweet.

So, having gotten my oranges, bananas, tomatoes, what-have-you, I then have to go to the meat guy (almost always a guy, but there are women carneceria shopkeepers...I very rarely see men running fruit shops although there was this one super sweet old guy in Najera who gave me an apricot for free because he thought my pack was too heavy and I deserved a treat.)

Anyway, the meat...okay, roast beef is impossible to find. If you want meat on your sandwich, your getting salami, chorizo or ham. Or canned fish of which they have no end to the variety of here. So you have to order some sliced meat from the meat guy.

Then you go to the panaderia and get your bread, again, you have to point to the one you want and she´ll wrap it in little piece of paper and hand it to you.

And there you go. Lunch. No fast food here. No rush in and rush out with a completed product. If you go to a restaurant for lunch, it´s an hour while you wait for you bread, then your first plate, then your second plate and so on.

It´s a nice system but...carry snacks with you.

Anyway, so I had my lunch in the plaza of the Cathedral, and watched other pilgrims slouch in from their travels. I love rest days. I love walking around without my backpack. It´s just good to take a break.

Anyway, I do hope to catch you up with pictures soon. Very much love to you all, know that I think of you everyday even if I can´t stay in touch regularly!


I am here in Burgos, one of the big, beautiful cities of the Leon region and spent about an hour at the grand Burgos Cathedral, a pretty stunning piece of art and architecture from the 13th and 14th centuries.

I continue to spend a lot of time in churches on this trip and haven´t tired of strolling through those gargantuan, thick wooden doors and having a twenty-five foot tall, gilded altar revealed to me.

You know, I´m not Catholic, though I was baptized as far as I know (Dad, Sharron, Rebecca?) my appeal to these places is not steeped in some sort of religious fervor. I think I´ve mentioned how familiar all this is to me, as if I´ve been in that time period, seeing it through the eyes of a 13th century being and being appropriately struck by it.

But as I was taking a gander at all the various chapels in the Cathedral, checking out the stained glass and trying to peer into tombs, it occured to me that it´s not just this time period that feels familiar.

I get the same sense when I sit in meditation in a Buddhist Temple, or hear Black spirituals, or see wheat sway in a warm breeze. To touch the bark of old oak or the soft, new needles of a fir tree. To feel my feet upon the shoreline of the ocean.

It´s the sacredness of these things that stir me more than perhaps the thing itself. And maybe it´s not that I´ve been here before, in another body, but that the soul itself appreciates what others have found sacred throughout time.

Hard to say of course, and I don´t want to pick it apart too much. Why question to death why one loves anything? Some may argue that my appreciation of this particular religious art negates the historical fact that so many nasty things were done in the name of said faith. Especially here in Spain.

To that I suppose I would say that there you are, human nature at its finest. Doing evil in the name of love.

I was walking a bit with my friend Angel the other day (we had to say goodbye yesterday, sadly...he was fun) and he was asking me why I like sleeping out in the woods. I told him I like being that close to God (he didn´t speak any English, so I didn´t get into my Goddess/Pagan need, the point was made). He said, "Dios es en su corazon. En el arbols, en el cielo, en la terra, si; pero, es muy importante que Dios es en su corazon."

If I spoke better Spanish I would have kidded with him that I lose my connection with my higher power when I have to sleep in a room with twenty snoring people, and that´s another reason I sleep outside...but we left it with our simple conversation. And it gave me something to think about for a time.

Sometimes I think I know what´s sacred and that it´ll always be that way. And then I´ll have a little comeuppance and have to recall the mistake of absolutes.

One of the things I do believe is true is when I get that sense of familiarity, of warmth or of joy in an object, or a vision that these things generally come out of nowhere. They happen in an instance, a little sneak attack of the spirit. And that´s when I know it´s real, that I´ve been touched. If there´s one thing I´ve learned about the Divine it´s that She likes to surprise you.

"Estoy americano"

I haven´t met many other americans on this trip. I´m not sure if that surprises me or not. Met a couple of women, one from Huntington Beach, the other from Idaho. I understand there is another woman from Portland about a day behind me named Janice, but we haven´t crossed paths yet.

It´s okay that there aren´t a lot of folks from the States here. I get enough time with them back home. It has made me a little bit of an anomaly on the trail, as well as becoming a debunker of myths about American culture.

Myth # 1: Wide Open Spaces

No matter who I´m talking to, whether they are from Finland or Italy, Germany or Japan...everyone seems to have this idea that our country is one big open road with nothing but empty landscape to be seen for miles.
"I think of American highway as straight line only, maybe nice for driving car...but not for motorcycle." This from a young guy from Italy who seemed to feel sad that all American drivers had no curves to wrap around. When I told him that no, really, we have curvy roads there...he seemed almost incredulous.

Most people know us from television shows, so it kinda surprises me that they think this since most of the shows that are shown here take place in cities. And in fact, New York seems to be the one place that everyone wants to go to. I met a woman from Finland who had planned a lifelong trip to New York city only to have it fall three months after 9-11. I asked her how that was for her, and she said the city was still beautiful and she loved the people, who she said were welcoming and kind and it gave her an interesting perspective on the city. They were going to cancel their trip, but were glad they didn´t. Me too.

Myth #2: Good think we have all that wide open space

"I understand that everyone in America is very fat, is this true?"

You wouldn´t believe how much I hear this. Other than the straight highway thing, it´s the one aspect of our country that people really enjoy talking about. In fact, it makes a little more sense to me, this sense we have this vast landscape. How else would we negotiate moving around without knocking each other over with our gordo-ness. So we talk about this, and the fact that our diet, which is to blame, is lurching its way across the ocean and turning everyone in Europe into gluttons. It´s always our fault, somehow.

No, I say, we are not all fat. Yes, we have a serious problem with obesity and there are all kinds of factors that go along with that. Sorry about McDonald´s coming to your country. Stop buying Big Macs.

Myth #3: What else is worth fighting for?

I was actually the most taken aback by the notion that everyone here seems to think the entire country not only wholeheartedly supports the Iraq war, but that we all stand behind Bush in that effort. This one was fairly easy for me to quell, and I was more than happy to do so. I haven´t met any Bush fans, from any country, and all are curious as to who I want to vote for and what the outcome of our election will be. I do find it telling that everyone I´ve talked to knows the names John McCain and Barack Obama. Even if they don´t speak English, they know these guys and kinda sort of what they stand for. Here´s a question for you; the leader of Spain. Norway? Any idea what their politics are? Democracy, monarchy...hmmm?

Yea, me neither. Kind of embarrassing. But it makes sense doesn´t it. If Norway was running around being a superpower...we´d know, wouldn´t we? Who´s the leader of China?


But, in all this conversation I haven´t met anyone who flat out doesn´t like Americans. In fact, most people are delightfully curious about the States. Most want to visit some day. My friend Carlos, who was sent to study business in the U.S. for eight months, has a lot of respect for us. He spend 4 months in Houston, and 4 in San Francisco.

"Jeez, could they have sent you to two more different cities?"

"Yes, it was...San Francisco, this was heaven. And Houston? How do you say..."


"Yes, this it the word." (oh, sorry Kristie)

Carlos said one of the things he likes about the U.S. is that we are "the land of dreams, I believe this to be true." It sounds like such an old world statement, but he really felt that way.

"This is why your country is great. If I am from, Pakistan, and I come to United States and say, 'I am good with math,' you will say, 'good, we will help you become a success.' If I am from Pakistan and come to Spain and say this, we will say, ´who the hell do you think you are?' This is the difference between our countries. You believe in the individual and helping that individual. This is better.

It´s an interesting perspective, but I appreciated it. He also really liked our diversity. I mean really, 300 million people live in the States and I bet you we have representatives from every nation in the world there. It´s kind of cool really.

Anyway, I´ve been here 6 weeks now and enjoy these conversations with people. The best part is that I´ve gotten over any sort of American guilt I showed up with and no longer flinch when someone asks me where I come from. No need for that.

Monday, September 15, 2008

while I´m waiting for pictures to come up...

Hey guys, I actually wrote this post about a week ago, but it never posted. I´m in Burgos on a rest day. I am hoping to get more stuff up here at some point today. This is a fairly lame post, and some how two pictures got lost between computers. Blast it. Anyway, I´ll talk to you all soonly...

I am on an amazingly slow computer, and I only have 30 minutes before this place
goes siesta, so you´ll be lucky to get two photos on this run. Hey, there´s one...

remember I was telling you about these bricks that built this 900 year old bridge? I think I told you...coulda just been in my head. Anyway, here´s a close-up of one of them. Neato, eh?

Here´s me with Hugh and Peter and Kinga so you could see what Hugh looks like...

I have a couple hundred photos by now...and as I´m trying to rush through this, it occurs to me that I really don´t know what you would like to see. I have a lot of pictures of roads, of church edifices and some fairly odd self-portraits of me. I will show you these sparingly.

I´m having a good day today. Only had to bunk with one person last night in a room, and even though she snored, I was able to get at least 6 hours of sleep. I´m about 90minutes away from my goal today...keeping it fairly simple and am only gonna do 14 miles today. I could push on a little more, but there´s no need.

I was thinking this morning that you may be wondering just what the hell do I think about all day out there on the road? I´m usually walking, or at least on the way for 8-10 hours a day. And I´ve made a few acquaintances, but I haven´t really kept up with them, or I´´ve left them behind. This trip so doesn´t seem about making friends for me.

I suppose I think a lot about what´s coming next. I have no idea. I think about things I want to write about, articles and such. I think about future travel. You know, this kind of stuff. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing really profound. Basic human stuff.

Okay...out of time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What town is this?

They are starting to blur, like the days. I´ve been thinking it´s Saturday all day today, but it´s´s Sunday. Doesn´t really matter out here.

I´m in a tiny village called Azofra, just outside of Najera, about 70 miles from Burgos. You all know where that is, right?

Had a stupid, stupid day yesterday and walked 40 kilometers. That´s like 25 miles or something insane like that. I´ve been just wanting to move these last couple of days and so did 30 kms the day before. At any rate, the 40 nearly killed me, but I couldn´t stop as there were no good camping places and I needed to get to the next town.

When I got there I discovered that the alburgue was full and so I had to pace around the town with my pack and look for somewhere to sleep. Don´t try this at home. Or abroad. I haven´t worked myself out that bad in awhile. And it´s not like I didn´t recover, but when you are that kind of haggard, you can make stupid mistakes like lose your wallet or your passport or go home with the first person who asks if you need a place to stay. This is okay when you are in the middle of the countryside (for some reason, I think), but not so good in a city.

I stumbled into an elegant hotel looking anything but, and the kindly barkeep told me their cheapest room was 100 euros. Mmmmm, no thanks. But she did direct me down the street to a place.

I found it and a character standing outside and I asked him in my worst possible Spanish if they had any rooms. He actually gave me the "once over," and said, "¿solo?"

"Si, para una solo."

And then he looked up and down the street, nodded his head and said, "vamos."

It all felt very cloak and dagger. And then I remembered that I just saw a group of older, less worn looking pilgrims just leaving him, and he didn´t let them in, so I felt sort of good about looking seedy enough to be let into this place.

And it turned out to be not seedy at all. I was just the right kind of people I suppose. I got a room, dinner and breakfast for 25 euros. My room was tiny, but it had a sink and a tv. There was a shared bath down the hall which I immediately went to and drew the hottest bath I could muster and soaked my aching feet, calves and shoulders.

I mean really, to treat my poor body this way after how good it´s been to me this past year. Criminal. So I tried to repair it the best way I knew how. I did a little self-massage and had some calcium-magnesium. And then, even though I didn´t want to, I went downstairs (ouch) for dinner.

When I got into town I was so depleted that I went to the first shop I found and bought an orange soda, a chocolate croissant and two bananas and gobbled them all down know that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (gene wilder version) when Charlie gets to eat a chocolate bar with some money he found in the street? The way he hoovers that thing down? That´s how I ate this stuff. In the shop. Causing the shopkeeper to pointedly raise his eyebrows at me. Didn´t care. I never travel without sustenance. I don´t know what was wrong with me yesterday.

Anyway, I hobbled down the stairs to dinner (a more pathetic sight you will never see) and tried to choose something that would do some good. It was another one of those "menu of the day" things where you could choose from 4 or 5 dishes for your first and second courses.

I chose pasta for energy for the next day, and steak to build back some muscle I very likely damaged. I also got chocolate mousse for dessert because even though I was stupid, I shouldn´t be sent to bed without dessert. C´mon.

After my meal I wobbled back upstairs, watched about 15 seconds of televsion and fell into the deepest sleep I have experienced on this trip and probably didn´t move for the next 9 hours. Twas good. Needed it.

I don´t sleep well in these alburgues as you can well imagine, and I hadn´t really slept at all the night before, couple of hours maybe. So, I was due.

Anyway, I took it easy on myself today. Only walked about 17 kms. Slowly. My body was surprisingly unsore and carried me well. It´s so good.

I´m in a pleasant little albuerge, sharing a room with one other person, a lovely woman from Dublin. And I´ll be keeping a fairly mellow pace for the next three or four days until I reach Burgos where I will be taking a day off.

Anyway, need to deal with my wet clothes now, take a shower and get ready for dinner. I still love being out here, walking. I walked all day through grape vines, as this is the premier wine-growing region of Spain. And no, I won´t be sampling any of that. Oh, check this out, there was even a free "wine font" yesterday. Seriously, like all the water fonts along the way, this one distributed wine. Can you imagine?
I´ll show you a picture of it when I get the next opportunity.

Love you guys...think of you ALL the time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

okey´s a few pics

Well, leave it to me to find a public library in the middle of Spain. I don´t have a lot of time to comment on these, so I´m just gonna put 'em up here and write about them later. Okay?
This one I took up on the ridge between France and Spain as I´m crossing the Pyrenees. This was taken the morning after I slept in that barn. Look how happy I am!

Oh, and these are going to be really randomly placed, ´cause I am pressed for time. Here´s my buddy Miguel. The sweetheart.

While I´m waiting for more pictures to post (it´s taking a really long time per picture) I can tell you that I am in the town of Estella, and it´s pretty bustling! I´m not in a huge hurry today, will probably only walk twelve miles. I am heading to the town of Villa Monjardin (!!!) to spend the night. It´s only about another 3 hours walk from here. I may press on to Los Arcos. We´ll see how I feel. It´s pretty windy and chilly out, so I will likely spend another night in the alburgue instead of camping.

Okay, this picture thing isn´t working very well on this computer, so this may be all you get for now. Me and Miguel.

Oop, here´s another one, this was taken outside a church in Pamplona. This statue is about 800 years old. I was talking with a German woman (new friend Victoria) and she was telling me that she thinks it´s funny that Americans are so fascinated with old things, ´cause here in Europe they´re so used to seeing them. I am fascinated with them. Think they´re cool.

Oh´s Peter and Kinga. How cute are they? Love these guys a lot. We had such a blast together, and they have got some great stories over theĆ­r travels in the world. Peter´s adventure aboard, well two adventures involving travel by train in India still have me laughing out loud when I think of them. Hope to see these guys again before I take off.

This is one of the Gaudi buildings, one of his more famous ones that I can´t remember the name of now, in Barcelona. Wild, ain´t it?

Okay, what else can I tell you? Mmmm, how about the alburgues? I´ve only stayed in three of them so far, having camped out the other nights I´ve been on the road. Some are private and have only 15 or so beds. Some are massive, with 100 beds. I will stay away from those.

Last night´s stay was actually really nice. They are cheapish, anywhere from 5-8 euros. They offer a cheapish meal for about the same price. Last night I was in a room with only 4 other people, which was great, and two of them I had dinner with, so it felt okay... oh, here´s another photo..., they have these signs posted for the walkers so we can know where we´re going. This one cracked me up because it´s so big...a lot of times there are just small yellow arrows painted on the ground and you have to really look for them. This one was like "HEY!! HEY THIS WAY!!"

Here´s another marker, up about nine feet on a building...this one´s more like it.

Here´s one more, you can get lost if you´re not paying attention. Do you see this one? Lots of times the locals will redirect a wayward pilgrim if they´re going the wrong way, which is right nice of ´em.

Okay...gonna have to sign off now...I´ve been here an hour and need to keep moving along. I´ll try to get more photos up for you in the next couple of days. Don´t libraries rock?

Here´s one last looking out over the Pyrenees. Love you guys.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Day six...or maybe seven

Hello all...I am getting ready to leave an alburgue here in Lorca, one of the last villages in the Basque country. The walking has been incredibly beautiful. Travelling on footpaths through gardens and farmlands; or on cobblestone paths over hills, through towns, over mountains. Yesterday I walked on a road built by Romans 2000 years ago. It´s amazing to stare down at these rocks and think about the hands that put them there.

A couple of days ago, going into Pamplona I crossed a 900 year old bridge. The bricks had these little marks in them. Some criss-crossing, some diagonal hatching. I wondered if these were put in by the brickmakers, sort of an individual marking system. I thought about the guys who laid these down, and what they might think of someone using their stones nearly 1000 years later to walk on. And what would they think of all the hustle and bustle and ipods and fancy backpacks.

Anyway, I am one sore puppy, but I am managing to walk about 12-14 miles a day. The pack has gotten a little lighter and I am getting stronger by the day. I probably won´t walk much more than 15 miles a day, ´cause I don´t really need to ... I think that´s plenty.

Anyway, need to get on the road. I´m sorry I wasn´t able to post pictures...I couldn´t find that place again in Pamplona and I needed to get the hell out of the city. It was too hot and too loud and crowded. I much prefer the quiet of these country paths.

Had dinner with a couple of fun people last night, woman from Germany (!!! Hi Jutta !!!) and a guy from Spain. We laughed a lot, mainly due to our bad Spanish. I actually spoke more Spanish than Veronica, but she speaks five languages fluently, including Persian and Croatian, so I´ve got nothing on her.

Anyway, lots and lots of love to you guys. Am taking a rest day in Burgos, about 3 days away. It´s a bigger city so maybe I can try the computer thing again.
Thanks for your sweet comment Carriefoot...and speaking of Kid, I am so glad he is moving to Ashland! A mini-reunion will have to take place!

Okey doke. I´m stalling. I´m sore. I´m having a great time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Howdy....found this little internet place that is cheapish. Best news is that they have a port I can download pictures on. Don´t know if I can do it yet, don´t have the cable with me, but I´m gonna try tomorrow so I can finally get some friggin´ pictures to you guys. That´d be swell wouldn´t it?

So...I am taking the day off the road to be a tourist here in Pamplona and to rest my bones for a day. It´s nice to walk around town with just my day pack on (rest of my gear is in my hotel room). I feel like a normal normal as I can possibly be considering.

It´s been a wonderful last few days. Walking through the Basque country, I´ve stayed the night outside a stunning church in Ronscevalles (I couldn´t handle sleeping in a dorm with 120 people), found a nice little spot in the woods in a pine forest outside Zubrick and last night hiked into the little village of Huerta, just outside Pamplona.

I stayed the night at a pilgrim´s hostel that was ridiculously under-utilized, lucky for me. I had a dorm room set for 10 all to myself. In fact, there were only 7 other pilgrims staying there, I was the only woman and therefore had pretty much all the facilities to myself. Bonus. The place was really clean, had nice hot showers and a laundry room with free soap and a place to hang stuff you washed by hand. Where were all these hostels on the Walk?

The laundry facility was especially great because everything I owned still had a lingering sheepy odor from my night in the barn outside St. Jean´s. I´m pretty friendly and can be downright charming when I want to...but no one is gonna make friends with someone that smells like wet hooves and wool. I want to kinda keep to myself on this trip...but not because no one wants to talk to "that sheep girl."

So far though, people have put up with me enough to let me know they´re from Italy and Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Scotland and even someone from California. It´s lovely to hear so many languages in one place, it makes me feel not so lonesome somehow.

My Spanish is coming along, I can pretty much get what I need from any shopkeeper. The post office lady was super nice this morning, and so was the woman at the "fruteria." Had a little difficulty trying to get pictures printed off my camera, but no blows were exhanged so it worked out okay.

Need to sign off for now, but I´m gonna come back here tomorrow (if I can find it) and try to show you some photos of the last couple of weeks. I miss you all, but know that I keep all your little faces close to my heart and in my doubt one of you makes me smile at some point during the day. Love you lots.

Oh, by the way...I got an offer from a travel company (from Singapore no less) that is interested in advertising on this sight. I´m not gonna do anything until I get home and can research this kind of stuff... but what do you think about that? Any thoughts?

Okay, talk to you tomorrow.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

accelerated post

I have like, 8 minutes on this computer (they charge you for it...) so I am going to give a fast-paced account of my last three days.

Got into St. Jean on Friday evening and stayed the night at a hostel in this crazy great ladies home, it was full of incense and cigarette smoke, cats and rabbits and her 12 year old son.

Hiked out late the next day and got myself stuck up in the Pyrenees in some insane wind. My walker family can relate to this wind, it was definitely like the wind in the desert, remember Desert Rock? It was like that, only a couple of degrees more, I had to use my walking stick on more than one occasion to keep from getting blown over. I took shelter in this little cinder block three-sided structure the shepherds use. At one point I went to find a better spot to maybe camp in and, I swear to God, the wind picked me up and knocked me on my ass. I decided I would try to sleep in the little structure anyway, got my bag unfolded...and it started to rain.

Had a bit of a panic, packed up, hoofed it back onto the road and saw a shepherd in his little truck. I motioned towards the farm and asked if I could stay in the barn. As it turns out, I happened to ask the guy who´s barn it is and he said it was fine.
It was a little sheepy, but it was dry and Dominique, the Basque shepherd (!!!) made me a cup of coffee. He didn´t speak any English, and I didn´t speak any French, but it was all good.

Tonight I am in Ronscevalles. I was going to camp, but it´s cold out, my bones are sore from hiking with a pack, so I´m gonna stay inside, I´m pretty wet and need to dry out. The church here is amazing.

The walk goes through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. It´s exactly what I had hoped for.

So far, so good.

Lots of love to everyone...hey Kataleen-san, sorry to hear about your wing there. Hope it´s feeling better.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Leaving Sanilles

Peter and Kinga will be driving me across the French border tomorrow morning to Lafont du Carol where I´ll be catching a train to Toulose, and then on to St. Jean Pied-de-Port. If all goes well, I should be checking into a hostel with all the other pilgrims Thursday night, and starting my journey towards Santiago on Friday morning.

First stop is Ronscevalles, but I´ll have to cross over the Pyrenees mountain range first. It´s one of the tougher stages of the entire walk, so I´m happy I´ll be putting it behind me on the first day.

But first I leave Sanilles, which has been my home now for three weeks and I´m so grateful I was able to land here and catch my breath before heading. The quiet and the serenity of the woods and the river, the wonderful people who have become my family, all the amazing food I´ve been presented´s all been such a gift.

I want to thank Hugh Coates for providing such a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Miguel for his tireless energy and patience with me. Peter and Kinga for their fast friendship and easy laughter over these days. I´ve also been fortunate to recently meet Susannah, a new volunteer here, and Alexi, who I met in my first days. Permanent residents Emilio and Juanho have also been particularly sweet.

Also want to mention my four-legged friends, el gato Justine, and los perros, Trixie and Bruna (my sentimental favorite), and Jasper, Peter and Kinga´s furry companion. The world is a sweeter place with these beings in the world.

I´ll miss my quiet nights outside the yurt with my evening cup of tea, listening to the owls wake up and chatter to each other. All the little lizards who scurry about, the flickers in the trees, the swallows and the bats; have all provided terrific company and have left me feeling not so lonely.

I have nearly 800 miles to travel over these next ten weeks. So far my body feels okay, my pack has been lightened a little bit and I´m ready to go.

I´ll be taking you all with me, my loved ones.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Short Delay

My sweet friends Peter and Kinga have returned from their time in Barcelona with family, and therefore I´m gonna hang with them here at Sanilles for a couple of days before I set off. Love those guys.

Thanks everyone for commenting...great to see you there Wako!! And thanks Kat-a-leen-san for sending along that spider news, nice that´s it´s such a positive sign!

It seems there is much internet access along the "camino," so I hope to be able to post frequently.

I think of you all everyday.

love, nik

Monday, September 1, 2008

Barcelona (Part Two)

So after sitting at the cafe for a little while, sipping my little tiny cup of coffee (I know, I hardly ever drink coffee, but honestly? I was too nervous about having to order tea in Spanish, I was able to handle cafe con leche...which I know is ridiculous, it´s unlikely someone´s going to pull out a gun and shoot me for misprouncing the phrase, "me gustaria te´por favor" - we´re funny, aren´t we?)- I decided to head over to the CaixaForum - a fairly new art space. It was free, which was very cool, and they had a Renassaince exhibit hanging there, which was exciting.

I love the medieval period. Always have. Gothic paintings, Renassaince´s always just felt sort of comfortable and warm to me, despite the frequency of scenes of torture (martyrdom of saints) and beheadings (John the Baptist´s head is always lolling about in some fashion). I kind of like the pained, pious looks of all those depicted, the wierd adult-faced cherubs floating around on-high, and checking out all the different ways Jesus and Mary show up. There was one painting, from the 14th century that had a very concerned-looking Jesus having words with Mary Magdalene, and I swear he was wearing some sort of cowboy hat. I´ve never seen that before. It was something. Cool painting.

In another wing they had a bizarre little exhibit that told the "forgotten" story of the Elf Wars in Spain, a re-telling of a history that has apparantly been erased from our memories. Unbeknownst to many, there were Elf People all around, but they were exterminated. This exhibit had a little movie, an interview with the last surviving member of the Elf Race, and even a faux archeological display of elf ruins - fairly well done. It was interesting in a creepy sort of way.

From the CaixaForum I went to the Barcelona National Museum of Art and saw more Gothic art. I could´ve spent hours in there, just looking out over the city from way up on top of that hill made me realize just how much there was to see. I spent some time listening to a Flamenco guitarist playing for coins outside and watching people pose for pictures. I almost asked someone to take my picture for me, but decided against it. I should´ve just taken pictures of the people who were posing - wonder how that would´ve gone over?

Cruised down the winding hill towards the center of town, a little cat stood there on footbridge, watching me. Found the Barri Gothic cathedral and the long, dark and narrow street that leads up to it. There were pieces of tile art set into the walls, it looked like they were depicting a story, as they were all captioned. I took pictures of all of them, so I´ll have to translate them later. This was probably my favorite place of the day. It was such a tight and narrow alleyway, but it was big enough for a constant flow of foot traffic for the shops that lay tucked into these beautiful old buildings.

I loved that in the midst of all of this art and ancient cathedrals, there were people living in all of these buildings, hanging laundry from the railings, tending to their shops on the street level, talking with their neighbors, old women moving arm and arm down the steet, kids revving around on bikes.

Earlier, I had the fleeting thought of hopping the "tourist" bus, which takes you around to the highlights of the city. I would´ve seen more, but I would´ve missed out on so much that it wouldn´t have been worth it. I wouldn´t have been able to duck down these alleyways and smell cooking from people´s kitchens, or see the men sitting in barber chairs, or hear people talk to each other over the counter at the carneceria. I wouldn´t have been able to linger at the church, and rest my hand on the 400 year old stone edifice, gazing up at the bell tower. I would´ve heard English spoken from loudpspeaker instead of the rush of Catalan and Castillian words vibrating off every wall, from every doorframe and window. In short, I would´ve missed seeing Barcelona.

I spent most of my day like this, just weaving in and out from place to place. Stopping here to listen to street music (New Orleans jazz seems to be a favorite), or resting at a cafe and just sit for a bit, watching.

My last place to visit was Gaudi´s last work, unfinished, the Sagrada Familia church, a massive thing that is still under construction. You should Google this. I went inside and took the lift up into one the spires. It gave me vertigo to look out over the edge, onto the street ridiculously far below, and at the other spires, so near me, several hundred feet off the ground. We had to climb back down the tight, curving staircase, which was equally nervewracking, got a little scared, but it turned out fine. Didn´t have to cause a scene or anything (I think I remember causing a scene on top of a ferris wheel once when I was very young, and they had to bring me back down..I do believe Matt was rocking the car back and forth, scaring the shit out of me), anyway, that didn´t happen.

I was exhausted by the end of it all, but felt like I saw a goodly portion of what I wanted to see and was okay to leave it at this point. When I got to the bus stop at Martinet, Hugh was there to pick me up which was a lovely surprise. I wasn´t looking forward to negotiating that spider again. But guess what...

After shaking out all my bedding back in the yurt and getting everything ready for bed, making sure there were no spiders anywhere, I turned around, just getting ready to switch off the light and there was a big spider on my pillow! A big spider. Jiminy crickets. I scooted it outside. Kathleen, could you look up "Spider" in your medicine cards book and give me the cliff note version of what spider is trying to tell me?

Anyway guys, I´m off tomorrow it looks like...should be in St. Jean Pied de Port tomorrow night and starting my walk on Wednesday. I´ll write you when I can, I think about you all and am so happy you´re out there!