Bye Bye Burgos, Hello Leon

Well sadly all good things must come to an end … and our time in beautiful Burgos did just that yesterday afternoon.

We had a 15:25 train from Burgos to our next sight seeing / break from walking day in Leon this time. We were primed to make the best of our amazing treat hotel and city though for the morning before departing.

To kick things off, we enjoyed quite thoroughly a breakfast for kings! The breaky buffet at the hotel was 7euros and check out our feast below. Crazy to think this is what we can get for 7euros in one place, but only get a piece of toast with jam and coffee or juice in another place for 5euros. We will be keeping our eyes open for deals like this from here on! Big breaky means skip lunch means save money!

After we stuffed ourselves quite completely. We put our packs in the left luggage room and ventured the old city again.

We headed in the direction of the massive chapel and came upon some stone stairs heading up to a hill above the city with a sign marked Castillo (castle) – ok! Slowly, being mindful this was a tourist day not a hump it up hills day, we made it up and up to a birds eye view of the city streets we had walked the night before. Here are a few of the pics up to and from the castle heights:

From up here for the first time we heard the Sunday bells from the massive chapel – wow is about all I can say to describe them. They are rung for 15mins every hour on Sundays and are just amazing. Like give you goose bumps amazing. From up high they sounded so smooth and combined but then from close to the cathedral you could pick out each individual bell. Depending where you stood in the plaza they sounded different again. The echo of the bells off the high buildings and stone was making a few dogs in town a little crazy. One poor pouch was going in circles barking trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. Hilarious. I posted a video recording of the bells on my Instagram @brandedavison if you want to hear them.

We could not resist a few more pics of the cathedral and plaza in the morning light as we walked around the area enjoying the bells:

Finally we enjoyed our last Burgos cafe con leche (coffee with milk) outside of our amazing hotel:

We made our way by bus #25 from Plaza de Espana over to the train station and then by train for 2 hours over to Leon. We had a bit of a wait so got some sunshine naps in first!

Before departing we had our final Burgos entertainment … a guy who was a bit sketch and carrying 2 backpacks was told by security to exit the train station as he did not have a ticket. Well wouldn’t you know it as soon as our train pulled in, the sketch guy dropped one bag and went barreling for the nearest open train door – knocking the poor ole security guard down and almost between the train and the platform in the process. Sketch guy hid somewhere in the train and they could not find him. So he did end up getting the free ride to Leon he was looking for in the first place. Gong show!

Any who, the train trip itself was a really nice way to see the landscape change from green Burgos to dry Leon. We left the chilly wind, humidity, high of 21C in Burgos and stepped of the train into the dry heat of 34C of Leon. We were happy to leave that oppressive, soggy humidity behind.

We are super excited to explore Leon today. Will it stand up to Burgos? The bar is set pretty high!! Stay tuned to find out …

Brande

101, 22, 21, 13, 7 and 15

Another beautiful day on the Camino complete here in Spain yesterday!

And nope the title of this blog post is not lottery numbers (well I guess they could be if you were so inclined). Rather they are the # of pilgrims passed on the route yesterday, the # of kilometres walked and the temp yesterday, the # of locals passed on the route and the # of snails who crossed my path yesterday, and the # of big bites I have that we are still trying to find the source of.

All in all, I am just glad none of those snails passed ME! Oh goodness that reminds me of Lana joking on the first day (the brutal uphill trial by Camino fire) that she was slow up the hills and some slug was like ‘hey passing on the left’ as it “sped” past her. Ha ha! A laugh we needed so bad at that exact moment.

Any who, the route yesterday was from Puenta La Reina to Estella, 22kms or 42,137 Fitbit steps and it was meant to be an easy no incline / no decline stroll from the elevation map. That was not exactly true. There were some serious hump it up and up and up spots in my mind. Granted my legs are feeling these 20+km days so I may just be fatigued and those hills were but mere speed bumps to the average pilgrim.

The day started with this amazing view of Puenta La Reina (Lana took this amazing pic):

And continued with the amazing beauty this path offers! Some highlights of the route were:

Making it to Estella for 1pm made for an awesome afternoon and evening. Lana and I hit up a pub in a busy plaza (the classic European square) for a Spanish spin on Radler Beer and some raciones (like tapas but not called tapas here in this region). Cheese ball things, baked bacon of sorts and some kind of cheeseburger slider thingy. Mmmm

Then headed up (another darn hill!) to our albergue to chill and do some laundry. With only one maybe two of everything like shirts and such you do as much laundry as walking it seems! Once the laundry was done, we did a freshen up and headed back down to town for some groceries.

After a grocery shop, a pharmacy stop for some cream for my bug bites (?), we accidentally also got a pizza for dinner … we ordered a delicious soft goat cheese with tomatoes and arugula pizza and a ceasar salad but ended up with a ceasar pizza of sorts. Looks like I should have practiced my Spanish a bit more. It worked out though. While scary in concept the pizza was actually amazing in taste!

Full and happy, I loaded up on allergy pills and allergy cream to try and get these bug bites or hives or something at bay so I could get some sleep. So itchy and sore! What a sleep it was, we had our own little twin bed room again and it was awesome! Snore galore!

Today we are up and at em heading for a tourist day in Burgos. But first a bus to Pamplona then a train to get there. Yahoo a no walking day – our feet are thankful!

Brande

Running of the Pilgrims

Yesterday we walked from Zubiri to Pamplona. A wonderful walk with some tough inclines, some veritable death trap declines and some easy strolls over 21km (37,865 steps). Just enough trail variation to keep you guessing what would be around the corner.

We began our day at 545am which you would think is early but so far is about the time we have been laying in bed waiting from the rest of the dorm to wake up so we could make an exit without waking everyone. I don’t think we are on the right time zone yet OR maybe going to bed by 9pm dog tired has something to do with it OR maybe listening to everyone snore all night makes you wanna just get the hell outta there!

By 615am I was down in the hostel living room working on a blog post and by 645 Lana and I were enjoying our breakfast. Breaky was included with the bed cost and it was, to be blunt, a disappointment but not at all surprising … basically a piece of very hard toast, jam (a choice of strawberry or peach), margarine, coffee or tea, and juice. Our albergue, Hazel Sticks, also included cafeteria fruit cocktail and some cornflakes. Oh and everyone got a piece of cake. Again I ask, where is this famous Spanish egg and potato omelet I keep hearing about!? Oh or maybe the churro with chocolate treat others fav for breaky?

Once breakfast wrapped up, we finished getting ready, published a blog post for you all, I filled water bladder and we were on our way. See yah Hazel Sticks of Zubiri and bring on Pamplona!

Our day started nice and easy. Lots of adjustments to make to boots and socks but we made great time. Passing town by town hoping to make it to Pamplona before the rain which was looming in the forecast and the sky began.

A quick highlight reel via photo for you:



Today we didn’t stop into any cafes for coffee and instead enjoyed our lunch in Irotz about half way and sat on a half stone wall in the amazing sunshine while we gave our bodies a break from our packs and our feet a break from the trail.

Once rested up a bit and bellies full, we were on our way again. The afternoon included a tough slog up and that don’t get any easier as the sun gets hotter. We were at 28C in the afternoon. Hot for sure but I was happy to be putting on sunscreen not my rain jacket.

Afternoon highlight reel:

Well the last 5+km were tough for sure – as great as Pamplona is there is just something exhausting about walking through a city compared to the country trail. There are benefits though I will admit! Like switching from boots to sneakers and being distracted by the sights and all you wanna capture on camera!

Just a few of the pics from Pamplona for you:

Yes that last one is from an awesome candy store and yes I may have added just a wee bit of weight to my pack in sour gum balls – hey burning that many calories in a day deserves a little pick me up, guilt free!

We enjoyed a yummy dinner that was altogether way to white so had to be followed by some red at the hostel as we wrapped up the day with showers, some social media time and journaling. This is usually when Lana and I sit and laugh our faces off by recalling the antics of the day as we scroll though pics!

By 9pm we were in our space pods and ready for a good night sleep! And I literally mean space pod, look at our beds:

Well that good night sleep was actually worst night sleep. Who knew space pods were also snore and fart amplifiers! A personal body sound speaker! Not ok!

Get me outta here and on the trail to Puenta La Reina!

Brande

Final Prep and Packing for the Camino

With just 3 sleeps left to departure for Paris then train onto St. Jean Pied de Port to start the first of 3 Camino trails things are starting to get very real – and I feel like I am taking over the house with all of the final prep bits!

My scrapbook / craft studio has become a large display case for what will go in my backpack on Friday morning and for the next 36 sleeps after live on my back day to day, kilometer after kilometer. Everything is laid in a specific order (to me). Rolled where final decision has been made and that item is for sure coming – and only folded if I am unsure if its the “one” that gets to come with me. Post-it notes where I still need to grab the stuff from drawers or the laundry room or the drying rack.

My scrapbook / craft table has become a language lesson centre with all of my language cheat sheets spread out and ready for me to add to as and when I hear a word or phase in French, Spanish or Portuguese from my playbacks I didn’t write down yet. I am starting to get the languages down pat (well good enough anyway) but my “accent” for each is sounding oddly blended. I am rolling Rs and sh’ing Sh all over the place, even when I don’t need to. I am hoping that the nice people of the countries we visit will just find me eccentric and dramatic but still understand me. (like y’all do here in Canada!)

My kitchen counter has become a language playback display case. Each day and sometimes more than once a day, I grab one of the language lesson playbacks and throw the ear plugs in and practice. My morning run today was Portuguese. I was French on the way to work and back, and am about to get some Spanish in this evening. I have to return all of these to the library on Friday morning before we depart on a jet plane – so packing in my final refreshers while I can. Muy bien!

Finally, my poor walls have also been dragged into this prep mayhem with a large (think movie poster size) packing list in red Sharpie taking up some serious real estate. What is certain is written out, and what is still up for final decision is written and circled. Thurs night (last night home) I will compare the poster list to what is on the floor and cross the items off accordingly with a black Sharpie if they are there and make the final cut for the journey. { If any of my staff are reading this this post, you now have proof that I subject myself to the sharpie and post-it poster ordeal too – it’s not just a special torture I save for you all. LOL } 

By Thursday night all of these spaces and places will be returned to normal, and the house will get one final deep clean from me … leaving my hubby with a beautiful and back to normal home while I am off putting miles on with Lana!

Weird. I couldn’t help thinking this morning that it was my last Tuesday waking up in my own bed until October. I think of all back-home comforts I will miss, the top of my list is my hubby (of course, big style) and the second is my comfy, amazing, no other pilgrims snoring or making other gaseous sounds, bed bug free, king size bed.

It’s the simple things in life, you know?

Brande

PS tres duerme

 

Wrapping Up My Camino Research

Camino Books

My research on what to expect, what to bring, what time of year to go, how long I would need, and so much more for my upcoming Camino de Santiago adventure started almost a decade ago, in 2008. Yup, 2008. I came across a great article in some magazine that sparked the ‘follow the Way’ bug in me!

Within weeks I bought and poured through A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago by John Brierley, the 2008 edition. My desire to clip a scallop shell to my pack and follow the yellow arrows of the Camino were never too far from the surface since. It’s now August 2017 and I am just 11 sleeps from departure.

In this last year I have done a lot of research to prepare for the journey. I thought I would share a bit about the non-fiction books I have read and the tips I derived from each for my Camino. Here goes:

Guidebook(s) to the Camino de Santiago, John Brierley 

As part of my research, I have read the 2017 version of the Guidebook for the Way of St. James (French Way) that I read back in 2008, the Portuguese Way (Camino Central), and the Muxia Circuit through Finisterre way – both the full Guidebooks and the shorter Map book versions. These books by Mr. Brierley are often referred to as the ‘bible of the Camino’ and for good reason. They have everything you need. Maps with breakdowns of the distance on different kinds of surfaces (woodland path vs forest roads), elevation gain, info about areas and places, where to stay and where to get your next cafe con leche. If you are going to walk the Camino and only had time to read one book, make it a Mr. Brierley guidebook!

TIP: I will be taking the Map versions of each of 3 of these Ways with me on the journey as we will be walking some or all of each. However … avert your eyes all book lovers this hurts my heart too … I have ripped out any page I don’t need to cut down on the size and weight of each book. Weight or lack thereof in your pack is critical for the Way.

I’m Off Then, Hape Kerkeling 

Here is where I admit I was seriously hoping to find a Bill Bryson book on the Camino. I have read every single one of his books and thought maybe there was a secret stash only those who have bought their flight to St. Jean Pied de Port where the St. James Way to Santiago starts know about. Nope. But a darn near close second was this book, It even had a recommendation from Mr. Hilarious Travel Exploits Bill Bryson himself. For good reason too – this book was an easy, entertaining and really enjoyable read.  Hape has a great way of explaining people and places with just enough detail to leave an impression and make you want to to head there to see it for yourself. On it!

TIP: Every chapter in this book finishes with an insight of the day. Most were really great reminders like drink more and some were quite profound. I have made a note in my journal to come up with an insight daily (and yes you will be subjected to each here on this blog). I want to see if mine too go from basic needs (drink more) to profound and insightful and often spiritual like Hape’s did by the time he reach Santiago.

The Way, My Way A Camino Memoir, Bill Bennett 

While this book was definitely about Bill’s Camino experience and included information on the route, walking, how his body held up (or didn’t);  it was also so much more. Bill really got into the story of other pilgrim’s. The getting to know them, learning why they were walking, and overall just making a real connection with other people’s and their story. He brought this all into his memoir. So it was really like reading the memoirs of many, not just Bill’s. The laughs throughout the book were icing on the cake.

TIP: Talk to people, engage and interact with other pilgrim’s. To some of you that may sound like a total no-brainer but for this introvert it is something I will have to really think about and force myself to do. I will though, commitment made (and now I want to build a fort in my room and hide lol).

What the Psychic Told the Pilgrm, Jane Christmas

Jane sets out on the Camino with a bunch of women she barely or does not know at all. After mentioning she is going to walk the Way to an acquaintance back home within chapters she is a Camino tour guide effectively to a bunch of other women. Of course you can guess that does not lend itself to a restful and spiritual Camino but rather a lonely, crazy making, frustrating one until Jane takes her Camino back.

TIP: Walk your Way, your way. I am heading to the Camino with my bestie Lana (and fellow blogger here on Running for the Gate) and we made a ‘pinky swear’ of sorts to make sure we do in fact walk the Way, our own way. We each have one “we are not walking today” card and neither of will walk that day AND we have unlimited with no judgement or shame “I am not walking today” where the other one can walk and we will meet up at our destination.

Call of the Camino, Robert Muller 

This book is half Robert’s account of his pilgrimage and half explanation of the myths and legends along the Camino route all intermixed throughout. I really liked this format. I geeked out and made notes so I could tell Lana about legends as we walk through certain areas and churches. I love the Rooster in the church story!  I also found personal Robert’s experience honest, easy to read and I hope my experience is something like his is on the Way. I loved how he, like Bill Bennett, also included the stories and his connection with other Pilgrim’s.

TIP: Learn about where you are going. Know some of the history, myths and legends of where you will be visiting. I do this for every trip and it really brings me joy. I find recognizing something, even a story or history of a building, while abroad helps with the homesickness that even the most experience travelers deal with.

Beun Camino! Camino de Santiago: A Father-Daughter Journey (ebook)

I am racing to read this book before I depart on my own Camino next week. The book is written jointly by Natasha (daughter) and Peter (dad). Each chapter has “Peter” sections and “Natasha” sections about the same day or trail section and has a whole bunch of history and legend of the Way and St. James throughout. So far it is really great!

TIP: If you are going to share your Camino, do it with someone you love – someone who encourages you but doesn’t pressure you – someone who will approach the Way in a similar frame of mind – someone who will also give you the room to make your Way, your way. I am super lucky to have this in my Camino mate Lana but I could have also happily and ecstatically walked with my Dad too. Wow, that would have been amazing! (Dad, there are a bunch of other routes to Santiago. What you doing next year?)

The Way of the Stars, Robert C. Sibley 

Robert has walked the Way of St. James twice. Do not be surprised by that – from what I have read once the Camino is in your blood you cannot help but want to do it again! The first time Robert walked it was alone and this second time he set off with his young adult son. Robert gives the details of his first walk and provides insights on how he now sees the Camino a second time but with his son at his side (or ahead on the trail). An easy read with lots of good chuckles throughout.

TIP: Bring something you learned on the Camino, home with you. Robert spends quite a bit of his story talking about being unconnected from the urban life, really enjoying the break from a commute and daily work demands. I want to focus on how good it feels to just walk and bring that home with me. Like not getting so caught up in the house needing to be vacuumed that I don’t go for a hike. The lint on the carpet can wait but my peace of mind shouldn’t.

The Journey In Between, Keith Foskett (ebook)

I saved the best (aka my favourite) for last. This book is awesome. Keith Foskett is a thru hiker and an author – my own dream. His Camino story hit home for me as it is blatantly obvious he loves nature and loves putting one foot in front of the other. Me too! I love eating up space and time with my own two feet then looking back and thinking “I did that”. Keith’s story made me laugh out loud, cringe at the pain of his blisters, agree audibility with his insights, and chomp at the bit to start my own Camino.

TIP: Almost all not-so-great-events will make a good story next week or next year. Even situations and circumstances that in the moment feel awful may be the best story you ever told. When I walked the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales in 2008 with a 102 fever due to infected spider bites it was awful BUT it makes a great story when trading travel experiences with others!

Well that’s my book list … so far. I have no doubt I will be adding to this list when I get back. Reading for nostalgic instead of research purposes. Really, my ultimate dream would be to add my own book to this list. Can you imagine!

Brande 

PS 11 Sleeps!

Speak, Parle, Hablo, Falo!

Oh goodness me, who do I think I am and what language am I even trying to speak!

My efforts to be prepared for the upcoming Camino Adventure in French, Spain and Portugal continue – and the current prep is all around communication! Making sure what I need is understood. You know just simple things like “do you have beds available?” or”two beers please?” and “where is the bathroom?” or “have you ever seen such a blister?” and “do you have bed bugs?” Oh and learning some basic polite phrases like good morning, have a good day, please and thank you too.

My plan (in action and so far quite interesting) is to use the months of June, July and in August to learn to speak Portuguese, brush up on the Spanish I learned in University, and hopefully drum up memories of the French I learned in grade school.

I have my trusty Pimsleur playback devices rented from my local library for free (I heart libraries) in each of the three languages. My rule is I must be doing my language learning while driving to and from anywhere. No more fun podcasts, audio books or chatting with family. Languages, linguas, langues, idiomas! Only. If you see a blond in a Tuscon in Vancouver butchering French, Spanish or Portuguese as she drives – that is me! Give me a wave!

June was designated Portuguese month and it is a doozy for me to pronounce this language. Portuguese in my mind is like trying to speak Spanish but with a saucy German accent. I have to keep saying “Sprichst du Deutsch?” (Do you speak German?) in my head over and over in order to get the sound right when trying to speak Portuguese. Yes this is the only German I know and I am probably butchering it too. If I am insulting anyone here, there is no offense meant – so far this is just the only way I can get the R rolling and the SH sounds of Portuguese to work with these wee, little, skinny chicken lips I have. Portuguese is such a cool language but wow a different sound than I have ever had to make. Some of the words in Portuguese are so much cooler than their English counter part. Like Lisbon sounds cool in English sure but in Portuguese it is Lisboa (pronounced in my mind like leash-boa) and that is  so much cooler. Yes I picture a dog with wearing a leash and a feather boa everytime I say it.

July is my refresh on Spanish and French month. We are only in France for a few days on the trip so I will run through the Pimsleur playback just once (OK maybe twice). I am well versed in how to order chocolate croissants and wine in French from my last visit and that is the most important stuff covered. Ha! But for Spanish, we do have a couple weeks in Spain so I will need to take that refresh a little more seriously. Spanish is the language I have spent the most time studying and using abroad. The simple stuff has come back pretty quick in the past so hopefully I have that same luck.

August will take me back to Portuguese for a final refresh. During this month I will make a language cheat sheet for my traveler’s notebook journal. A little reference sheet for the trip that I can peek at when the words elude me. You know something that has the word for wine, cheese, bread, blister, shower, thank you, etc. in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The important stuff!

Carrying a translation dictionary for each language is just too much weight for the average size backpacks we will be lugging about. So when a language does fail me (as I am sure it will many a time), I am not afraid to resort to hand signals, speaking the English words slower and louder (seems to be a universal thing to do), and breaking into random interpretive dance.

Brande 

PS 49 sleeps to departure!

Found in Translation

Oh goodness me –  just had to share!

Over the past few weeks, Lana and I have been busy planning our Great Camino Mash Up Adventure. This is our catch phrase name for the 5 weeks we get to spend in France, Spain and Portugal taking part in the best parts of 3 different Camino pilgrimages. Check out Planning is Half the Fun! for way too many details on just how knee deep into planning we have been.

While bouncing about the world wide web during a recent planning weekend, Lana and I were finding ourselves quite amused. Some of the information on accommodation or travel websites in Spain and Portugal were hilarious. Either they are just darn funny people by nature (I hope so as that will make this trip even more fun) or Google Translate has wreaked some humorous havoc on their web fronts!

We had to share a few of our favourites which at 2am after hours of planning had us in stitches – of course what isn’t funny in the middle of the night with your bestie!

  • you shall see on your left hand side, a skat-park
  • chronic melting of volunteers
  • book to secure your most satisfaction
  • the soul given by each of you, to you
  • sheet low to use and throw away

Now while most made us laugh, I couple hit a bit home. These two statements that were seemingly lost in translation … may have actually been found in translation. I am hit by a much deeper meaning to these – for our lives and for this adventure.

Despite the passage is forbidden, continue

Despite the passage is forbidden, continue. This one had me thinking about all of the hardships we may run into and need to work through on our adventure. To overcome and just keep on stepping. Blisters, injuries, weather, malfunctioning gear, health issues, or whatever. Just take the next small step towards our goal. Despite it continue.

Trust in God and tether your camel.

Trust in God and tether your camel. Well this one definitely hits home for me as I am a bit of a worrier, ok sometimes more than a bit. I think this one will be a great reminder to just give it to God and know he will take care of us. Tether that anxiety or grumpiness or weariness and trust … and keep those hiking boots moving forward.

Awesome mantras for the adventure ahead!

Brande