Part I: Camino 2013

The map of the el Camino de Santiago de Compostela route called Camino Francés. It starts at St. Jean Pied de Port in France, crosses the Pyrenees into Spain, and ends at Santiago de Compostela, a distance of about 800 km. The dates that we reached the larger towns shown on this map are shown in red.
We began walking September 16/13. We're feeling so healthy and joyful - we must be very annoying to the people we run into!
Basque country
Basque country 2
Slow and steady 1...
Water fountains are along the way, and the quality of the spring water is superb!
Day 5: Gregorian chants and frankincense in a tiny cell off from the main cathedral in Pamplona.
Madonna and Child
Asno (Spanish for ass, in case you were wondering...!)
We get up every morning around 6:30 and are usually walking by 7:30. We stop for breakfast around 8 or 9, lunch around 12, and settle into a hostel or aubergue in early afternoon. Supper is usually at 7:30 or 8:00, and we're in bed by 9 or 9:30. We pass small villages about every hour, and walk between 15 and 30 km a day.
The el Camino is a thousand-year-old pilgrimage route, and every village has a huge church. Here is a walk-by of a medium-sized church's front and side altars. Subtlety is not a feature of Spanish churches, and South American gold is everywhere.
We walk by kilometres and kilometres of vineyards. Grapes are everywhere, at least in the Rioja region. The wine is astonishing, very inexpensive, and served with every meal. As we write this, we are sitting on a patio in Granon across from the church, drinking a bottle of Rioja. We went for the expensive one - 6 Euros (about $8). It's hard to imagine being able to afford a bottle of wine of this quality back home... we may be a while getting back!
We weren't fooling about wine being everywhere - here's a wine fountain where you can fill up your water bottle with wine if you prefer. A community of monks served pilgrims here since the 10th century. (This wine is nothing to get too excited about, in case you were wondering!)
Slow and steady 2 - Fellow peregrinos on the el Camino. Mom escorts her little one across the trail, watching out for the snail collectors that patrol the trails collecting bags of snails...
Roxanne needed a headstand...
Slow and steady 3 - we tend to spend a lot of time looking down at the path to avoid rocks and holes and puddles, so notice a lot of small fellow-travellers. They're easier to photograph than the magnificent views all around - photos don't seem to do the views justice.
Alburgue 1 - here we are in one of the alburgues - the hostels for the peregrinos (pilgrims) on the el Camino. This is a room for 6 (three bunk-beds). The cost is 5 to 10 Euros a night (about $14 to $28 for the two of us).
Alburge 2 - here is an habitación doble - a room for two with a shared bathroom. This one cost $25 Euros per night (about $35). Double rooms with a private bath cost about $50. Sorry about the darkness of the movie - I haven't figured out how to brighten up movies yet...
View out the window of the habitación doble. There's a large white goose and a bunch of chickens in the back yard of the house behind us. The goose honks maniacally whenever the church bells ring.
One of the delightful things about northern Spain is how the Spanish have managed to integrate the old city gates and other ruins into their everyday life.
Here is the outside of the Cathedral at Burgos - a monument to seemingly unrestrained excess! Most of the churches we visited had at least some sense of peacefulness and piety, but this one was unsettling in its completely over-the-top extravagance. The massive statues and monuments that the various bishops had made of themselves didn't help. Wheew!!!
We usually start walking about 7:30 in the morning, have breakfast around 8:30 (toast and cafe con leche - half expresso coffee and half steamed milk), and pick up oranges and bananas around 10:30 at small local grocery stores.
By noon or 1:00 we've arrived at our destination for the day. After finding an albergue, having showers and hand-washing our clothes (socks, shirts and underwear, every day), we go looking for lunch. Tapas are snacks that can be hot or cold, and come in a bewildering variety. Here we had sandwiches and some olives, along with the delightful local wine. We're running out of room on this page, so please scroll back up to the top of this page and choose (on the left) the next page: el Camino, Oct. (a).