Amenal to Santiago de Compostela…just the beginning

Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela

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Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this note finds you, as always, happy, healthy and full of light and love. Wherever you are right now in the world, I hope you are waking to a glorious morning, having a productive and joy-filled day, winding down with a relaxing evening, or enjoying a sound and restful sleep.

As for me, I woke this morning with a great sense of anticipation and joy…we were walking to Santiago de Compostela today! Although I have been grateful for every day on the Camino, I have to say that this day, the day I was going to walk into Santiago with my newfound — and who I am sure will be lifelong — friends, was a an especially meaningful day.

We started walking around 8:45 in the morning, and as we left Amenal we passed a basket of apples with an umbrella over it saying, “free for Pilgrims,” a lovely start to the day!

As we kept on walking through the village, we were singing Italian songs (I have no idea the words but by this time I could hum the tune and even sing a few bars :)), and we crossed a small bridge by a very picturesque house and pond/stream.

Such a peaceful way to start your day on the Camino!

As we kept walking through the fields and forest, we could see the sun slowly rising in the east as it started to shine through the trees.

Looking ahead to our fairly steep climb out of the village, we could see where the trees were starting to thin out and we would soon see the sun in all of it’s glory. As we climbed the 500 meters up, I turned around and gasped at the sun and landscape — it was stunning (my picture doesn’t do it justice):

The morning was truly in its fullest glory on the Camino!

As we continued to walk toward Santiago, we entered the slightly larger town of Arzua. You can always tell when a town on the Camino is going to be a slightly larger one because (1) it has sidewalks and (2) it has a farmacia (pharmacy). On the Camino, the flashing, green cross of the local farmacia is like a clarion call to those in need.

I have to say, the pharmacists in Spain were terrific at dealing with whatever ailments we pilgrims had. Blisters, sore muscles, headaches, upset stomachs or worse, they *always* had something for you and were friendly and helpful. Thank you very much to the farmaceuticas and farmaceuticos who helped me along the Way.

As we strolled along the sidewalk and through town, we came upon Don and Jackie (from Texas) and of course a gaggle of our Italian friends, all having espresso or cafe con leche in the local bar.

After a quick coffee, chat, pats on the back and, of course, Buen Caminos, we headed on our way through town. As we passed a white wall decorated with flower pots (so like the people on the Camino to do this), I saw a sign that reminded me of home:

At the end of town, I saw a nun in her habit on the side of the Camino asking for donations for the poor. After giving I asked her if we could have a photo together. She said, “Si, for 50 euros,” and cracked up laughing! Oh man, she was a hoot!

After saying goodbye to the sister we left town and up ahead was a tunnel of trees on the Way:

I don’t know why I decided to take a short video at this moment, maybe because of the music I could hear playing through the trees, but I wanted to capture this simple moment on the Camino:

As we left the forest behind us, we entered into the small villages located on the outskirts of Santiago. There was a beautiful little chapel, and my friends who I have walked with off and on from Oviedo — Enrique (Spain) and Cleber (Brazil) — stopped to pay our respects at the church, to get a stamp in our credencial, and of course snap a couple of photos! 😉

As we kept walking uphill toward Santiago, we kept bumping into our friends from the Primitivo. This time it was Kevin and his mother from Rome:

Seeing them made my heart sing! They were one of my favorite stories on the Camino, as here was a young man, 24 years old I think, wanting to walk the Camino with his mother to, as he said to me, “I want to create an even stronger connection with my mother.” Awww…love this! He was also very articulate in English about some of the challenges facing Italy. He also shared with me that he was currently a cook in a restaurant and that his dream was to own his own restaurant in/near Rome. I *loved* hearing him share this dream with me and I am going to introduce him to my Italian friends in the Bay Area, Enzo and Tulio Rosano, who had a similar dream and have accomplished them all (and then some). They will be able to give him advice that I cannot. Love this young man!

As we continued to get closer and closer to Santiago, we approached Monte do Gozo or the Mount of Joy, where I had my first glance ever of the Santiago Cathedral. Here is the sculpture on the mount…

…and here is my first view of the cathedral from that spot. Santiago!

While the cathedral was still about 2-3 kilometers away, I felt overjoyed with seeing it with my own eyes for the first time. I was so thankful to be here…and in a very short amount of time I would be in Santiago!

These next two kilometers flew by… I normally walk around 5 kilometers per hour, so 2 kilometers was normally around 25 minutes. I feel like I was there in 5! The first sign I saw was this:

And then I saw a Camino de Santiago street sign with a very pilgrimesque structure behind it, spelling out Santiago de Compostela using various bits of pilgrim flotsam and jetsam:

After passing this sign we started to enter the winding streets of the beautiful city of Santiago. As we passed the newer parts of the city, we began winding our way down to the old part of town and the cathedral. The excitement was building…especially as we walked through the lovely narrow streets and saw other pilgrims and their excitement! I glanced down beneath my feet and saw the first scallop shell in the old part of Santiago:

As we continued to wind our way down to the cathedral, we passed through an arch where a man was playing the bagpipe to welcome the pilgrims into the square:

And now, I was just steps away from the square….and VOILA!!! I was in front of one of the most beautiful cathedrals on earth, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the resting place of Saint James the Greater, apostle of Jesus, and patron saint of Spain.

The spirit in that square was palpable and indescribable. Heartfelt feelings of happiness, gratitude, belief, love…the collective feeling in that square from pilgrims and visitors alike was simply overwhelming. There were hugs and high fives, tears and triumphs, friends and families, all a mass of humanity celebrating an accomplishment together. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

After spending over an hour in the square, it was time to walk down to the pilgrim office to get my Compostela, the official certification from the Cathedral of your pilgrimage. While I was waiting for my turn (you get a number and can scan a QRC code to see when your number is up), several of my friends called me over to their table where they were waiting as well. One of my friends remembered that today was my 55th birthday, and started to sing happy birthday in english. Well what happened next was amazing… the rest of these special people that I walked with started to sing happy birthday in their language! So on this beautiful day in Santiago, I heard “Happy Birthday” sung to me in 6 different languages! What a gift…if I had to be away from my family on my birthday, I can’t imagine a better way to spend the day than walking into Santiago de Compostela and being cared for by my Camino friends. God bless them all!

After the singing and hugs and handshakes and eating a Spanish tortilla and having a few beers, it was my turn to get my Compostela. As I went through the process, i showed the man behind the counter my credencial de peregrino with all of the sellos (stamps) from Oviedo to Santiago, and described some of my adventures. He was gentle and kind, listening intently and smiling knowingly as I told my tale. He then, very carefully, wrote my name in Latin on the Compostela — and here it is:

So there you have it: the story of my 14-day journey on the Camino Primitivo. But as you can see from these stories, it felt like much more than 14 days…it felt like I lived a lifetime on the Way. And as I reflected on the final lesson for today, it struck me that this is not the end, it is just the beginning. Although it started as a journey to reach the destination of Santiago de Compostela, think it is actually the beginning of a journey into the rest of my life. I may have reached Santiago and received a Compostela, but the real accomplishment was realizing, deep in my soul, that the Way is just that…the Way…and not the destination. I think the metaphor that the Way is life, implies that the lessons learned on the Camino are the lessons for life: true empathy, joyfulness, gaining new perspectives, remembering that you are never alone, living life, seizing the day, cherishing the moments, taking the time to just be, remembering to laugh, persevering, being grateful, and seeing the beauty all around us. And if I added one more to this list of lessons, it would simply be to love, love fully, love with all of your heart, and know that you are loved back, by family, friends, people you haven’t met yet, the universe, God…there is a lot of love out there and just know that you are a part of it.

Peace and love to you all, and one final, Buen Camino,

Brian

🙏🏼👣

Castaneda to Amenal…beauty is all around us

Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela

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Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this note finds you happy, healthy and enjoying life and everything around you.

As I get closer to Santiago, I feel the love and beauty all around me more than ever before. Ever since I started this journey in Oviedo, I have grown more aware of the things around me, from breathing in the fresh air of the mountains, to enjoying the vivid colors and aromatic fragrances of the flowers, to noticing the sunlight shining through the trees. I have often wondered why I feel this way on the Camino, and the only thing I can think of — besides the spiritual — is that for the first time in many, many years I have slowed down for an extended period of time and, as I said in a previous, I am just being. I think, however, that this beauty is all around us, even in our every day life, if we just slow down, even for a brief moment, and simply experience and appreciate it. No matter where we live, we can see beauty all around us, because I think life inherently is beautiful. When we all wake up in the morning, we can breathe deeply and be grateful for being alive; we can enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a home just starting to wake up in the morning; we can drive, bike, or walk to work and enjoy the morning sunshine (or rain ;-)); and we can enjoy our work and be thankful for our colleagues. I guess I am saying this “out loud” as a reminder to myself to do more of this at home; to slow down, to just be, and to notice the beauty all around me. If I do this, then I will never actually leave the Camino and the Camino will never actually leave me. Beauty is everywhere if we just take the time to see it and experience it, that’s the lesson of the Camino for today.

The walk from Castaneda to Amenal was a pleasant enough walk, but most of all was full of beauty…

The beauty of the flowers on the Camino…

The beauty — and the incredible straight line-ness — of the trees in Galicia on the Camino…

And the beauty of the people on the Camino…

The day ended with a lovely meal at the hotel of my friends from Italy. Martin, my friend from Berlin, joined me in walking the two kilometers to the restaurant to meet our friends. After a lovely dinner full of good food, wine and laughter, Martin and I needed to either walk back to the hotel or call a taxi. At this point it was pretty late and getting a taxi was iffy, and this leads to a story the just reinforces several of the lessons I have already learned from the Camino. The waitress, who spoke broken english but was fully engaged in our table all night, offered to give us a ride to the hotel where we were staying because it was on her way home! She told us her husband and daughters were waiting for her to come home and that she had to leave soon, but was happy to take us to our hotel as it was right on the way. It was an amazing offer and one we readily accepted. Another Camino Angel…

As I closed for the evening, I reflected on the day and the beauty I experienced and felt a sense of joy and gratitude for the day. It may have seemed like an unremarkable day by some standards, but by my Camino way of thinking, it was an absolutely perfect day, filled with beauty and love, which I believe was the lesson of the Camino.

Peace,

Brian

Ferreira to Castaneda…a full and grateful heart

Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela

***

Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this note finds you happy, healthy and full of love and light! The walk today was going to be a long one, ~33 kilometers or ~20 miles, but the weather was expected to be perfect for walking, with a range from 68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. I decided to get going early and as I walked through small villages and fields of corn, a feeling of overwhelming gratitude washed over me. I thought about how fortunate I am to have such a loving family and how, while I missed them, I could be on this pilgrimage knowing that they were all okay and in their right places. I thought about how grateful I am for my friends, from all around the world, met over the years in work and play, who enrich my life in immeasurable ways. I thought about how thankful I am to be healthy and able to experience the world this way, walking from village to village, feeling strong and joyful. I thought about how blessed we are to have a world filled with beauty and wonder, a shining sun in a blue sky, beautiful flowers, abundant fruit on the tree and happy children.

Finally, I felt a deep sense of appreciation for my faith and the spiritual journey I am on, as I try and determine how to spend the rest of my life, pursuing the second mountain, the sacred dance. While this is not just a lesson from the Camino, it really was a powerful feeling today, this feeling of gratitude for all of my blessings.

The walk today was like many of the other walks, although I did experience for the first time a real traffic jam on the Camino:

It was so fun (and funny) to watch these dairy cows go by, and the farmers got a kick out of me filming them. Since I have been on the Camino, I haven’t once thought about the traffic on highway 101, yet this procession and this one brought me back there: 😉

It struck me that this farmer seemed to employ a bit of “technology” (the tractor and the dogs) to make this work a little easier on him.

After the Camino 101 I began to do the major climb for today which was simply called Alto (“high”) on the topo map I was using. Given the terrain I had climbed through on the Hospitales Route this was not that high (~710 m or 2100 feet), but it was fairly steep and when I got on top of the ridge the view was lovely:

As I kept walking along the ridge, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks: I saw two rock formations that symbolized David Brooks metaphor in his book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

The gratitude I felt for being able to walk the Camino and think about a second mountain in life soared. And while I haven’t exactly figured out what my second mountain is yet, I do know that it has to be centered around giving back to those less fortunate than I. This is the real purpose of my Camino.

As I walked down Alto, enjoying the sunshine and breathing in the fresh air, I started singing and before I knew it the 6 kilometers to Melide had passed and of course I had to stop at the famous Pulperia Ezequiel, one of the original pilgrim restaurants on the Camino that served Galician-style octopus in olive oil. People sat at tables on benches, family-style, and the restaurant had full maps of the Camino on the wall. Although the sign said buen vino (good wine), I stuck with the Camino staple, Estrella Galicia beer.

This was a wonderful respite after 23 km as I still had almost 10 km to go. Melide is a pretty cool town with much to see and I don’t think I did it justice. Melide is also where the Camino Primitivo intersects the Camino Frances, and for these last two stages I would see more people than on the entire Primitivo.

I left the restaurant and meandered through the town, snapping pictures and dragging my tired body to the small and non-descript village of Castaneda.

As I walked toward the setting sun and my little casa for the night, I again reflected on the day and the gratitude I felt simply to be alive, walking the Camino and experiencing life to the fullest. I think this feeling is something I will remember from this particular day on the Camino, that of a full and grateful heart.

Peace and love,

Brian

From Lugo to Ferreira…a lesson in perseverance

Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela

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Dear Family and Friends,

I hope this note finds you happy, healthy and with a full heart. As I sit here with my coffee in the (very) early hours of the day preparing to write this note, I thank God (and the universe) for all of my blessings, the biggest one being the people in my life.

After a wonderful night sleep in Hotel Brios, it was time to go walk the ancient Roman wall surrounding the old town in Lugo. This wall was built between 263 and 276 AD to defend the Roman town of Lucas Augusti (present day Lugo) against local tribesmen and Germanic invaders. The impressive UNESCO-listed wall (Muralla Romana de Lugo) is up to 7 meters wide and has 85 towers and 10 gates, including the one leading out of town for the road to Ferreira. As for today’s purpose of the muralla romana? It is now a wonderful place for walkers and joggers and photos as we discovered this morning:

Pictures of, and on, the ancient Roman Wall in Lugo.

After walking the 2-km wall encircling the old town of Lugo, my friends and I explored the inner portion of the city that we didn’t reach the evening before. What a beautifully kept old town! From the two (three?) strong Romans welcoming you to their city (and the knowledge within) to the beautiful 17th and 18th century architecture and gardens, to the under-plexiglass view of the remainder of a Roman bath (piscina), the Plaza Major was fantastic. Have a look:

This morning in Lugo was really special and it was difficult to leave such a beautiful, history-rich place. However, we knew we had a fairly long walk ahead (26.2 km), and needed to get going. One of the 10 gates in the wall is called Porta Miñá or Porta do Carme, which leads toward the ancient Roman bridge over the River Miño, on our way to Santiago. Of course at the bridge we encountered a Roman guarding the way but he offered us safe passage across the bridge:

After crossing the bridge we started our relatively long trek to Ferreira. I have to say, without being negative, that this was my least favorite part of the trip thus far. The main reason being that while we were passing through some beautiful country, the Camino was almost all asphalt, with very little of the Way being on dirt trails. This was really disappointing for two reasons: one, asphalt is hot and very hard on the feet/knees, and two, we were walking by fields that very easily could have given up 10 feet of the back end of their property to create a trail at the back end of their property/meadow. This was a very difficult and tiring day, going up and down on asphalt, with very little services on the way. I think the circumstances of the day’s walk go me thinking about my Canadian friend Missy Kennedy, whom I first met on the Hospitales route over the mountain, when she was struggling to walk with bad blisters, yet never complained and just mindfully powered through it. When I asked her how she did it, here is what she said:

“…although blisters really sucked during the Camino, they were a part of my journey and reminded me why I was there. Life sometimes sucks and seems unfair but there is nothing more rewarding than finding the mind and body connection to overcome the obstacles surrounding you!”

I think Missy provided the lesson of the Camino today: she had experienced great pain and suffering with her feet, had faced significant obstacles considering how crucial healthy feet are to doing the Camino, but she persevered and, in the end, triumphed over everything she faced. While this may seem relatively minor compared to what many of us have or will face in life, it’s actually not; it is a great metaphor for life. We have all dealt with obstacles in our lives, and we have all been given the choice to either give up, or to press on and do your best to overcome these obstacles. The lesson from the Camino, illustrated so beautifully in Missy’s quote, is to somehow find the mind / body connection to overcome the obstacles, and in the end, experience the joy and satisfaction of overcoming them, or at least fail valiantly. This reminds me of my favorite quote of all time, a quote by Teddy Roosevelt in his speech, “Citizen in the Republic,” at the Sorbonne in Paris on April 23rd, 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I love this. Unfortunately, people don’t talk like this anymore.

As we were getting closer to Ferreira and more tired by the step, we came across a veritable oasis called O Candida albergue in San Roman de Retorta, and of course it was filled with our friends relaxing, talking, eating and drinking:

Fortunately after this oasis, we only had 6.6 km left to our destination, Ferreira. And honestly, the time dragged by. Every step was a heavy one, but as the last of the sun pierced the forest…

…I came upon the lovely albergue of A Nave, my oasis for the night! I walked inside and here is what I saw:

The owners were a relatively young couple who were working hard to create a great environment for their guests. It was clear they had worked hard and looked after every detail, and as I walked down a hallway full of dream catchers I went into my room which was wonderfully clean and simple:

This was heaven to me as I showered, relaxed and waited for dinner. And the communal dinner was nothing short of AMAZING.

The meal for the evening was paella, and was prepared by the owner in an enormous pan…I have never seen anything like it. Take a look:

This was an amazing preparation and the food served was as delicious as it looked. I took this picture of the communal dinner… approximately 30 people, all from the Camino Primitivo group!

Here’s a few pics from dinner that show how much we all enjoyed the food and the company:

When dinner was over I was absolutely shattered (thanks again to my British friends for that perfectly descriptive word), and it was time for bed. All-in-all it had been a good day, starting with Lugo Romana and ending with a communal dinner with paella and friends. But I will say that the bits in the middle were pretty tough, and it took perseverance to push through it. Thank you to the Camino and my friend Missy for the lesson of the day: persevere and reap the rewards!

Peace,

Brian

🙏🏼👣

O’Cadavo to Lugo: live, love and laugh

Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela

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Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this note finds you happy, healthy and surrounded by your loved ones. I am thankful that as I continue my journey to Santiago I am in good health and even better spirits. Although I absolutely loved Asturias and miss it, I decided to fully embrace Galicia, the home of Santiago de Compostela. I love the calligraphy they use on the mileage markers in Galicia:

And the history of Galicia is fascinating. Galicia’s name comes from the Celtic Gallaeci, the tribe that lived there when the region was conquered by the Roman legions around 137 BCE. In Roman and Visigothic times Galicia stretched south to the Duero River and eastward to beyond the city of León and formed part of the archdiocese of Braga (source: Encyclopedia Brittannica). The region was annexed by the Romans in the time of Caesar Augustus during the Cantabrian Wars, wars that initiated the assimilation of the Gallaeci into Latin culture. Even to this day they speak a different language, Gallego, which is a mixture of Celtic and Latin, and is one of the two official languages in the region. Gallego is spoken by approximately 2.4 million people. I intend to continue my study of this area during the rest of my journey and after I return home.

After a reasonable climb out of O’Cadavo in the morning we walked into the cute village of Vilabade, a Franciscan community since the 15th century and a major pilgrim stopping point since that time. The Gothic church in the town was lovely…called the Iglesia de Santa Maria but also known as the Catedral de Castroverde, it was built in 1457 and is considered a national monument. The church was indeed lovely, but the people were even lovelier! There was a woman in the church stamping our credencial with her stamp, and offered a selection of small Camino items for sale. She warmly welcomed me to take pictures of the church…here are a few:

The sella (stamp) of the church in Vilabade

And the man selling snacks and drinks to pilgrims was a crackup! Here he is in a couple of pictures… you get the drift: 😉

This day was starting out right…full of belly laughing on the Camino!

As we continued to walk on the (now) relatively flat road to Lugo, we bumped into some of our friends on the way, friends from the original cohort of people who left around the same time from Oviedo. Since this was going to be a long walk to Lugo — 31 km in all — we decided to take our time and stop along the way for some food and drink at a local place in Castroverde. As we gathered in a cute bar and had bocadillos and cervesa’s, more laughter ensued…

Some of the team stayed behind (battered feet needed mending), but five of us headed off to what we thought would be our last stop in Gondar (the last services available until Lugo)…

Fellow pilgrims and now friends 🙂

On our way to Gondar, we were caught by surprise by a *beautiful* little place in Soutomerille…

This place was wonderfully rustic and when I looked in I heard a chorus of “Brian!” and saw several more of my Spanish “brothers on the Camino,” resting and laughing and, of course, having a cervesa (San Miguel is especially common on the Camino):

As I looked around at this lovely, rustic place, I saw the owner and his mom, abuela in Spanish, nonna in Italian, grandmother in English. Well…abuela was really adorable and when she saw me take a picture with her son I asked her if she would like to take a picture with me and she said yes! So here are two of my favorite pictures on the Camino, mainly because of the wonderful feeling of that albergue and the people in it:

After these photos and saying goodbye to abuela, we got a quick tour of the place from her son. We were stunned! It was one of the nicest albergues on the Camino Primitivo, and I know if I ever pass this way again I will be staying here!

After we departed A Pocina de Muniz and were walking the last several kilometers to Lugo, the trail mainly wandered between broad green meadows, small forests and a handful of houses scattered here and there. Despite my feet being worn out and getting tenderer (is that a word?) by the minute, I managed to snap a few photos along the way to share with you:

After the final kilometers of rural walking and scenery came my first views of the city of Lugo:

We finally made it to the Hostal Brios, our place for the evening. Our feet were exhausted, but there was no rest…we all needed to shower, change and head out into the town of Lugo, a vibrant city teeming with life and the only city in the world where the old town is completely encircled by a Roman wall (2 km in length). A brief history on Lugo from Encyclopedia Brittanica:

Lugo originated as the Roman Lucus Augusti, and its Roman walls, which were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2000, remain a public walkway. The city was occupied by Suebi (Suevi), Moors, and Normans and was recaptured by King Alfonso III of Asturias and Leon in the 10th century.

After getting cleaned up and resting for just a few minutes, I headed back out into the city to enjoy the company of my fellow pilgrims and see some of Lugo at night. It was a wonderful night of friends, food, history and, of course, laughter. I can’t imagine a better to finish a long day on the Camino than this:

What a fantastic night! We had so much fun together, probably 15-20 of us pilgrims hanging out in ancient Roman town in northern Spain. All I can say is….FUN!

Since it was after midnight and I was pooped, I only got one glimpse of the top of the Roman wall (picture above) and decided that I would walk the entire 2 km of it in the morning. And as I walked back to my room, I reflected on the entire day, from the first step leaving O’Cadavo to the moment I headed back to my room, and the thing I remembered the most about the day was the laughter. I laughed from sunup to sundown, and at times I laughed so hard my stomach hurt! And as I continued to reflect, I realized that many times during the day I was laughing and I wasn’t sure why, because the funny comment was in Spanish or Italian or German…who knows, the joke could have been about me but it didn’t matter. It felt so good to laugh I just did! The laughter made the 31 km go down quite easily, kind of like a spoonful of sugar with medicine. I think this is the lesson of the Camino for me today. Laugh more. For as Mark Twain once said:

Humanity has unquestionably one really effective weapon — laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution — these can lift at a colossal humbug — push at it a little, weaken it a little, century-by-century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” — Mark Twain

Not even exhausted legs or blisters from the Camino can withstand the assault of laughter.

Live, love and laugh. The lesson of the Camino.

Peace,

Brian

A Fonsagrada to O’Cadavo.. taking time to just be

Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela

***

Dear Friends and Family,

It’s been a couple of days since I have written you because of the combination of tiredness, fixing my feet, and social interaction. Sleep has come much more to me these days, which is a good thing, but all-in-all makes timely writing more difficult. Apologies for this.

Anyway, this day was a relatively quiet day on the Camino after the craziness of A Fonsagrada. In fact, since the whole town didn’t sleep last night, all of the shops were closed (seriously)…we didn’t even see the people at the albergue! They just told us the night before to leave the key on the desk and buen camino! These people really have their priorities straight! 🙂

The walk out of A Fonsagrada was much easier than the walk in, with a slight drop in elevation (~100m) to Padron,

Followed by a slight climb through beautiful countryside to the remains of the pilgrim Hospital de Montmouto.

This was a very interesting historical stop, as this hospital was founded by Peter the Cruel in 1360 to serve pilgrims and was still in use in the 20th century. There was also a small chapel at the site and some dolmens in the field behind the hospital. Take a look:

Chapel of Montouto

Short video of the remains of the Hospital de Montouto

Dolmens behind the Hospital de Montmouto (photo courtesy casocadabo.es)

My friend Jerome from Portland posing at the Camino sign in front of Hospital de Montmouto

I am not sure why but this particular day I was tired and running out of energy. Also because A Fonsagrada was sleeping off their party, there were no provisions available and I was food. Just as I was considering to eat some shoe leather, we came upon an oasis directly in the middle of our walk to O’Cadavo. It was called Paradavella.

 

Thank heavens for Paradavella! I could take my shoes and socks off, refix my feet, eat a Spanish tostada (not what you think, it’s basically thick toast with butter and jam), and a coffee con leche (x2). Oh my goodness I needed this! Jerome and his boys joined me and we all seemed to feel better.

As we were wrapping up our stay, this young man walked in. He had a big backpack on and was clearly camping on the Camino. He was an incredibly well spoken young man and as I found out an entrepreneur from France. He was on his sabbatical from his last startup. I truly get it as doing the Camino really does get the mind moving in new ways. I think this is a wonderful way to get the creative juices flowing and as a result innovative ideas may follow. He agreed to a selfie with Jerome and I:

The afternoon walk was much, much easier with full bellies and fixed feet. We meandered through beautiful countryside filled with flowers and cute homes.

As I walked through the last forest, passed the last farm…

…and into the small village of O’Cadavo (my stopping place for the night), I reflected on the day and realized for the first time in a long time my mind wasn’t churning and spinning and thinking intensely. Nothing spectacular happened today, I was just walking, walking on the Camino. And I was just being. Being in the moment. Being in the simplicity or simply being. I was truly at peace this day. And as I write this I can only wonder why this is so hard to do? I think this is the lesson of the Camino for me today: be still, listen, and find the time to just be.

Peace and love,

Brian

Castro to A Fonsagrada: moments to cherish

Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela

***

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope this this note finds you well and that this has been a happy and successful week. Here on the Camino, time is both fast and slow as we walk in, and toward, our objective. I say “walk in,” because I have discovered over the past two weeks of walking on the Camino through beautiful country and with authentic people, that the objective is not just to reach Santiago…the Way is as important as the destination. While no revelation for many of you, this was an important lesson for me to learn, to really feel and understand in my soul, that there is no there there. I know that when I reach Santiago I will feel a rush of emotions — joy, sadness, a sense of accomplishment and maybe even relief, awe, humility, gratitude, longing, reflective the list goes on — yet what the Camino has taught me is that this isn’t the end, but rather another moment on the time-space continuum. A moment to reflect on life and all of the wonderful things in it, moment to love and to be loved, and a moment to give thanks for all of the blessings in my life. The Camino is a great teacher, and I hope that as my life goes on, I will bring those teachings with me into whatever I do or wherever I go next. James Taylor said it best when he said that, “the secret of life is enjoying the passing of time, there ain’t nothin’ to it, anyone can do it,” and that, my dear friends and family, is what I think the lesson of the Camino is for today.

Castro to A Fonsagrada

Today started out with a lovely but simple breakfast that Carmen had prepared. If you recall, Carmen Alvarez is the great granddaughter living in Casa Ferreira, the caregiver of the place, her parents and the school children she teaches in Oviedo during the “offseason” (not Camino season). As I walked down the stairs from my room, bleary-eyed and still waking up, this is the setting and breakfast in front of me:

The breakfast was homemade bread and cake, homemade jam (5 flavors: blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, Peach and kiwi), fresh-squeezed orange juice and coffee con leche. Are you kidding me?! When does she find the time to make all of this wonderful food?

After breakfast, I headed off for A Fonsagrada, on what I was told would be a difficult day. I had no idea what that meant but it proved to be the toughest (hiking) day on the Camino so far. Fortunately, my friends from Italy asked if I would like to hike with them, so after they snapped a selfie with Carmen and I, we headed up the hill.

I say hill but these were fairly steep and very continuous climbs up the side of the mountain. We climbed over 750 meters as we wound our way up to near where the windmills were on the ridge. I don’t have many snapshots as my head was down working, but here are a few for you:

A bit further on the trail we came to the border between the autonomous region of Asturias (the one we had been in since Oviedo), and the autonomous region of Galicia. This was both a sad moment and a happy one, as I was sad to be leaving Asturias and the warmth of its people, the depth of its charm and the taste of its food (fabada is unbelievable), but I was happy to be entering the region and where Santiago was to be found. It was a beautiful moment in time, with one foot in the past (Asturias) and one foot in the future (Galicia).

After walking and climbing for the rest of the afternoon, the final two kilometers in the earl evening into A Fonsagrada were incredibly steep and a real challenge for all of us. By this time, we had been joined by Don and Jackie from Texas and a whole hoard of Italian climbers (young) and a Spanish couple, Alberto and Esperanza (remember from Sumblismo?) In an case, it took everything we had to make it up that last bit of the trail to town.

A Fonsagrada was an interesting town to visit. The town has a population of around 3,600 people and is at an elevation of ~3200 feet (we started the day in Castro under 1000 feet). The parish church in town is dedicated to Mary and has a cute little pilgrim office attached to it, run by volunteers and the local priest.

A Fonsagrada parish church and pilgrim office (small stone building). I stayed in a private aubergue where most of our entire cohort that had left from Oviedo roughly at the same time stayed (right down that side street from the church).

The church itself was simple yet beautiful, and one of my favorite so far because of the warmth of the priest. Here are just a couple of photos of the inside of the church to give a feeling for it. I lit that candle for peace.

At 8 o’clock we held a “pilgrim mass,” where pilgrims from all nations came together for a few Bible readings (read by pilgrims in English), a short sermon was given by the priest (in Spanish), communion was offered, and then one of the most special moments on the Camino was the special “pilgrim’s blessing.” The priest invited us all up onto the platform where he stood, and handed out a booklet with the prayer in it. He then told us that each language would read a stanza in the prayer, starting with English and followed by German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. It was absolutely touching the way he brought all of us into the mass in this way. I don’t have any pictures of this ceremony of course, but I did take some snaps of the prayer booklet after if you would like to read it:

I felt so blessed to be on the Camino and in that moment…I will never forget it.

Now that my soul had been nourished it was time to get some of the food that Galicia is famous for: pulpo (octopus). Several of us went together to eat at Pulpeira Caldeira and we were not disappointed! In a word, the pulpo was amazing, seasoned with olive oil and some spicy red salt…my mouth is watering writing this!

And look how when I poured the olive oil onto my plate it looked like a pilgrim’s foot! This was indeed a special meal.

And just when I thought to myself that this evening couldn’t be an better, I discovered that there was a fair in town (A Fonsagrada is famous for it’s fairs), called the Fair of the Horses. Our first hint that there was something special gong on today was the dancing outside of the church before and during our mass:

The second hint that something fun (and a little crazy) was going on was the light show and people in the street:

And the third hint we got was the setup of a fairly substantial stage where the traditional dancers had been performing. This led to an all out dance party until 4 or 5 am!! Young and old came out for the festivities, and the place was filled with pilgrims as well. It was a night never to be forgotten:

We all danced with each other and the locals, and at around midnight the performer (she was a one woman band!) played Desposito after which I decided to call it a night.

As I said, the evening went on until early into the next morning, but fortunately I was so tired I didn’t care and drifted off with a big smile on my face and into a deep sleep, the best sleep on the Camino thus far.

Peace,

Brian

Exploring, discovering and learning about the world