Fog City Boy on the Camino Frances
Hendersonville, North Carolina – May 26, 2015
The flight to Paris was uneventful (recall that this is the best kind), but about 3 hours late. Even so, I found my lodging (conveniently located at the Charles de Gaulle Airport) timely, checked in, and formulated a plan to explore Paris the next day. As Ginna can attest, I am a cheap date in any big city in the world. Buy me a one-day pass on the subway system, and I’m set for the day.
In fact, the next day I did explore the vaunted Paris Metro, as well as one of several surface tram lines that ring the city. They are slow but elegant.
I find more interest in observing how people lead their daily lives than by wandering slowly through a museum that interprets how they did it hundreds of years ago. So I had a good walk down Avenue de la Grande Armee from the “Grande Arche” (a newly built and imposing structure anchoring a modern office, shopping, and residential complex, and dedicated to humanitarian ideals) about two kilometers to the Arc de Triomphe (dedicated to military victories) .
I encountered many Parisians swiftly going about their business, tourists wandering about, and traffic moving with dispatch. En route, I found one of the things I had been missing for six weeks: A Chinese Restaurant! My Camino now was complete. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Paris, eat Chinese. I ordered a plate of mixed vegetables, and almost inhaled the brocoli-carrots-cabbage-mushroom melange.
I must report that the food on the Camino Frances was noticeably better than the food last year on the Camino Portugues. I think it may be the influence of Spain’s neighbor to the northeast. Even so, vegetables were scarce on the menus del peregrino.
I walked from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower and was truly impressed. Next time I am in Paris, I will know to reserve a lift ticket a week or more in advance!
I enjoyed my brief sojourn in Paris. It truly is the beautiful city it is reputed to be.
The next day found me on an airplane en route to Hendersonville, arriving about midnight local time (6 am Camino time) where I have been recouperating from jet lag and enjoying the opportunities to tell tales of the Camino!
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I have been able to upload and embed in this blog entry a number of short videos I took during my peregrenacion. Together they constitute a video complement the still photos I have shared previously. I hope you enjoy them!
On the first day from St. Jean, the Way follows the Rio Chapilets. Lots of water. Beautiful scenery.
It is fed by numerous waterfalls and rivulets along the way. Here is one.
The outskirts of Pamplona boasted bridges and water works dating to Roman times.
Three days after Pamplona,I overnighted in the small town of Estella (population 14,000). It was a Friday evening and about 5 pm, many families converged on the town square. There was a musical ensemble in traditional garb playing tradtional music. But, soccer is king for youngsters there, and everywhere along The Way.
Hornillos del Camino is a very small town of 60 souls, though the number of residences would suggest a much greater population. The municipal alberque had not opened at the time I arrived (I stayed at a different alberque, in any case), but I caught s panorama of this dusty little town, including the Iglesia Santa Maria and the town square before it. The town and surrounding farms are part of the great Meseta. The tractors and other farm equipment require the entire roadway, and they don’t slow down. Peregrino beware!
The Catedral de Santa Maria in Burgos dates from the 13th Century. It is extraordinary.
I have previously addressed the long, steep climb from just outside Castrojeriz. Here’s the warning sign to serve as a refresher:
The reward after the ascent is the extraordinary panorama looking back down at the velley below.
Once upon the high Meseta, the verdant farmland stretches for as far as the eye can see.
In Carrion de los Condes on April 24th, I was treated to a regional event that featured serious farm equipment all over town. The townsfolk enjoyed watching the preparations. Loudspeakers delivered exhortations and upbeat music for the occasion!
Villafranca del Bierzo is the gateway to some serious mountain paths that will challenge the peregrino. In Spain, where there are mountains, there will be plenty of water, as well.
I overnighted in the small village of Trabadelo. Elle, a young woman from Holland, presides over the Casa Rural El Puente Peregrino. A vegetarian menu is available and Elle was extremely helpful in securing lodging for me further along the way.
The Way then continues its climb into Galicia.
Finally, O’Cebreiro, and the most wonderful panoramas of the Camino Frances.
The young fellow at the end of the clip is named Frazier. He and five other members of his Canadian family walked along with me for three days.
I arrived in Santiago several days later. As previously reported, a video of the swinging of the Botafumeiro is embedded at the end of FCB #10. After the pilgrims’ mass on the evening I arrived, along with other peregrinos who had just completed their peregrenacions, I visited the closely guarded crypt under the alter containing a casket holding relics of St. James and of his followers. The video is quite brief.
I lited a candle for a friend who has gone on to her final resting place.
The cathedral and other religious buildings that form the core of the old city are spectacular. But Santiago is more than just a destination, more than simply the Camino de Santiago. It is a substantial city and regional seat of government. There was a vibrant festival in full swing during the weekend I arrived. Here are two clips that capture the mood of secular Santiago:
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I’m home. I have read comments that many of you made to the blog as I published from time to time. I appreciate the comments and encouragement. I had more than one of you suggest that rather than discard my boots, I have them bronzed. Alas, the boots are with me no more.
So I can’t close with a picture of my boots on the floor to reassure the gentle reader that, yes, there is another walk in my future. But rest assured, there will be one.
Another Camino? Perhaps. Likely the Camino Finesterre from Santiago to the Spanish coast – about a 60 kilometer walk. And I very much want to return to St. Jean and walk the Napoleon Route over the Pyranees – rather than around the mountain as I was forced to do this time because of the weather.
One of the other traditional Caminos with destination Santiago? Perhaps. But the world offers many other walks and beautiful countrysides. The South Island in New Zealand is highly rated. And a coast to coast walk in England or Scotland sounds promising as well.
So, the boots aren’t off. They are gone!
But the feet are with me still, and they are sound.
I will do one more posting with reflections about the Camino just completed, and the Camino Portugues last year. Stay tuned!
Thank you for following this chronicle.
And, happy trails!