About Lathornton

Author, Writer and Blogger: amoxiegirl.com

Oct. 8 – 11: Sobrado to Santiago de Compostela 

Oct. 8: Sobrado
Once again, we are dumbfounded to find that, even with all our searching weeks prior, we are unable to find a place to stay at the next stop. Keeping our new mantras in mind, we realize there’s nothing to do, but taxi on to Sobrado.

Sobrado is another small, old town with not much personality, but what makes it stand out is the Monasterio de Santa María de Sobrado de los Monjes. Originally built in 952, the monestary suffered devastation throughout the years until renovation began in 1954. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Devoid of furnishings, the starkness of the massive structure inside juxtaposes with the highly decorative Baroque architecture outside. You can see where the large central chimney and fireplace were added to create a kitchen in 1250 and imagine the monks huddling there to keep warm during the brutal Galician winters. The sound of the wind streaming through the cracks of the moss covered walls and the eerie silence in the cloister create a mystical feel.

Originally over 100 monks were assigned to the monestary, but now only 14 call this enormous structure home. Within the buildings is an albergue where you, along with 200 other pilgrims, can stay overnight for €6.

Actually, the Hotel San Marcus, our stop for the night, is also quite basic. Our unadorned room is clean and we prepare our own complimentary breakfast.

Oct. 9: Arzúa – 15 miles
Pavement is much harder on the feet and legs, so the trek today through small farm towns makes us a bit weary. To keep our spirits up, we chat with pilgrims from Ireland and South America. Our new Korean friend speaks no English or Spanish, but when we tell him we’re from Texas, he does know the word “cowboy” and makes it a point to yell it, smile and wave wherever he sees us.

We stop to chat with a “señora” (older woman) picking vegetables in her garden. She tells us what she’s picking and how she will prepare them. Funny, we pass all these gardens, yet you seldom see fruits or vegetables on restaurant menus- only lots of potatoes and salads.

We find a bench to sit and rest and an older man stops to greet us. He takes Michael’s hands in his and says “guapo” (handsome). Rather than reaching for my hands, he places his weathered hands on my cheeks, looks me right in the eyes, smiles and says “guapa” (pretty). For the rest of the afternoon, I feel as if I’ve had a blessing bestowed on me and keep thinking of that lovely old man.

Today, we’ve connected with the “Camino Frances” (French route) on our way to Santiago. Pilgrims can earn their “Compostela” (proof of pilgrimage document) by walking the 100 km (62 miles) from Sarria. Unfortunately, this route travels through older towns with little to no personality.

The Hotel Arzua is clean, but, once again, it’s rooms are unadorned. We give it the best shower award and are excited to be served eggs for breakfast.

Oct. 10: O Pedrouzo- 14 miles
After a nice breakfast, we’re disappointed to see it’s started raining. Outside, there’s a sea of peregrinos, all walking in the same direction. We laugh and agree it looks like rush hour in New York City.

There are no “Holas” or “Buen Caminos” this morning. Everyone is trudging along, with their heads down and hoods up. Good thing the paths are wide, in order to accommodate so many. We immediately sense a different vibe and after only a few minutes, we agree we already miss the quiet and the camaraderie of the Northern route.

Rather than comment about the nondescript O Pedrouzo and the Pension Residencia Platas, here’s a taste of some Spanish culinary humor I came across along the way:

                 Restaurant name was not reflected in waiter’s dress code.

Oct. 11: Santiago de Compostela – 14 miles
It is with mixed emotions that I put on my shoes for the last of our treks this morning. This time, I switched from wearing Merrell hiking boots to Hoka Trail Runners and I’m happy to report I have not suffered from one blister the entire trip!

Every place in town that’s open for breakfast is packed. I assist in ordering for some American pilgrims who seem overwhelmed and just want their “huevo fritos, tostada, zumo de naranja y cafe con leche” (fried eggs, toast, orange juice and cappuccino) so they can be on their way. Through farm towns and forests, the paths are wide and crowded. We chat with pilgrims from New York City and Texas, who are already planning their second Camino.

I remember this next part well; the excitement of seeing the city sign for Santiago, then realizing there’s still three miles to go to get to “Casco Viejo” (Old Town). This part of Santiago is an older business district, but then the streets start to narrow and wind. As we head to the entrance of the dark tunnel, we hear the sound of bagpipes and I get chills.

We come out the other side to see the sun shining on the magnificent Cathedral; a breathtaking site. The square is a sea of pilgrims hugging, laughing, crying, taking photos or just sitting/laying on the ground, taking it all in. Always a bit emotional, we hug and shed a few tears, though we’re not sure why. Are we happy or sad to be at the end of this long journey?

The streets are closed to traffic and there’s a feeling of celebration everywhere, as cafes, restaurants and shops overflow with tourists and pilgrims. We laugh that it’s easy to tell the difference. The pilgrims are the ones wearing the flip flops, a welcome respite from those big boots/shoes.

The Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was constructed between 1075 and 1211. Once again, I am mesmerized by its richly decorated Baroque interior all in gold, both grandiose and serene at the same time. Beneath the altar lies the tomb of St. James, a venerable site.

Give us a hotel with some stone and a few wooden beams and we’re happy, so even though we have to move hotels after day one, the Hostal Aires Nunes and Hostal San Clemente are sister hotels, close by and offer similar design.

We are enthralled with the history of the Camino at the Museum of Pilgrimage, get some more walking in at Parque Alameda and find a beautiful quiet spot for a glass of wine, away from the crowds, in the garden patio of the Hotel Costa Vella.

Each night, as I lay my head on my pillow, my mind starts to wander, as I sift through all the Camino experiences dancing in my head:

  • The deep connection forged with strangers, people I was always taught not to talk to.
  • The simple rhythm of each day and the freedom from the obligations of daily life.
  • The feeling of being stripped of your identity, as you take on the role of just another pilgrim.
  • How humility, gratitude and simplicity, once just words, will begin weaving themselves into my life.
  • The realization of the importance of taking one step at a time.
  • The privilege of discovering Spanish culture in slow motion.

Then, as I fall asleep to the sound of the Cathedral bells, I realize there’s nothing to do now, but sit back and let the magic of the Camino take over. There will be a lot for me to unpack once I get home.

Oct. 3 – 7: Villamartin Grande to Vilalba


Oct. 3: Villamartin Grande – 15 miles
There’s lots of conversation this morning between us, a man from Minnesota and a family from Alaska and Seattle. We’re back and forth between dirt and pavement. Once we all separate to walk at our own pace, the absolute quiet is startling, but wonderful.

Walking through the province of Asturias, their was a ruggedness to the landscape. Now in Galicia, the farmlands take on the look of a patchwork quilt. The different colors of green highlight the plow lines creating a unique design on each plot of land, some so vertical it makes you wonder how any machinery can navigate it.

You can hear a pin drop in the tiny village of Villamartin Grande. As we approach what we think is the albergue we have reserved, a sign says “Cerrado” (closed). For a moment, we are standing in shock alongside some French pilgrims, who also have a reservation, until we realize the sign is on the cafe, closed today for an emergency.

We are welcomed into Tentempé Peregrino and get settled. It’s plain and clean and we are glad they are offering a pilgrim meal, since there seems to be no other dining options available. A pilgrim’s meal is a gathering of pilgrims who come together over a meal. Sometimes it is prepared for you and sometimes you assist in its preparation.

Seven of us dine together (us along with another couple from Texas and three pilgrims from France). We all speak just enough of another language to be able to communicate. We talk and laugh while enjoying the the wine, the homemade meal and the camaraderie. Hard to believe two and a half hours ago, we were total strangers.


Oct. 4: Mondoñedo – 14 miles
A rooster’s crow disturbs the morning silence. We walk with the Texas couple and stop to admire the spider webs in various designs that adorn the fences. Fog and mist have crept in and surrounded the area, giving the landscape that mystical feel Galicia is known for.

We’re treated to a little bit of every surface today: pavement through towns and dirt paths in forests, with several steep ups and downs. Every day, townspeople walking greet us and point the way, cars beep their horns and wave. Mondoñedo is such an old town that the cars actually seem out of place. The Hotel Montero is both an albergue and a hotel. It’s plain, but clean and on the Camino route.

This trip, I was glad I asked both a yoga and fitness instructor for a suggested stretching workout. We’ve done it religiously every day and it’s seems to have made a difference. Each evening, we lie down backwards on the bed with our legs straight up against the headboard. The reverse blood flow works wonders. Sometimes our feet throb so much, they feel as if they have a heartbeat of their own.

Oct. 5: Abadin – 10 miles
The morning starts with a dilemma: should we take the shorter, but steeper mountain route and save three miles? Both routes have no services, but we are carrying enough water, some apples and in case of emergency, we can always break out our cocktail nuts. We opt for the mountain route. We’re above tree line and it’s cool, windy and quiet, but not as steep as we expected.

We’re told there is no reason for a map in this small, old town, so we are greatly impressed by Albergue Xabarin. Very contemporary in a gray and white color scheme, there’s great attention to detail. Colorful modern art by Spanish painter Pedro Campos Diaz graces the walls and it’s hard to believe they are actually paintings, not photographs. It’s a treat to prepare our own complimentary breakfast in the amazing stainless steel kitchen.

Oct. 6 – 7: Vilalba – 14 miles
Every morning when the alarm goes off, I give the weather report from bed. While it’s a good way to start the day, it may also be an excuse to stay under the covers just a bit longer. I’m sure if I start announcing the barometric pressure and due point I’ll be found out.

It’s drizzling, misting and cloudy, but at least the terrain is flat. With the sound of cow bells in the distance, we are navigating what looks like lime green Nerf Balls all over the ground, but in reality are chestnuts. Everywhere we go, we see townspeople crushing the Nerf layer with their foot, then collecting buckets of the chestnuts that are inside. We’ve come this far to not trip over a chestnut!

The sound of cow bells start to get closer and closer, until we find ourselves pushed off the road, which becomes a cow crossing.

Today, Michael and I met 42 years ago, so we decide to celebrate and stay at the Parador de Vilalba. It’s a small, quiet town and the perfect place to relax and enjoy a romantic dinner and reminisce. Located in the city’s old quarter, the hotel was designed around the tower that dates back to medieval times. From the hotel, a glass enclosed walkway leads to the tower and its exquisite Great Room.

Sept. 28 – Oct 2: Navia to Ribadeo

Sept. 28: Navia – 14 miles
I’m so busy chatting with a pilgrim from Michigan, all I know is that the terrain is flat. The young woman from Taiwan we greet each day is suffering from blisters. We give her some of the extra bandages Michael received at the clinic. I tell her (as best I can) that my name for her is “Fuerte” (strong); she’s traveled here alone, speaks no Spanish and very little English. 

One minute I’m considering taking off my jacket and infatuated with the group of trees that look like the talking trees from “The Wizard of Oz.” The next minute the wind picks up and it’s raining hard. My pants are drenched and stuck to me, but my feet are dry inside my shoes, I’m dry inside my coat and I’m inside myself, thinking and plodding along.

Casona Naviega is a renovated stately mansion in the English country style. I walk around the common areas, marveling at the furnishings and, when no one is looking, I gracefully glide down the staircase pretending to be welcoming my party guests. 

Casa Xusto sitting room

Sept. 29: La Caridad – 8 miles
After a lovely breakfast, with Spanish guitar music playing softly in the background, and a conversation with a woman from S. Africa who’s on the Camino, it’s not easy to open the door and head back out into the rain. Luckily, we’ve planned a short day.

Even though our pants are drenched again, this time our shoes are soaked, but we’re chatting away. We try taking turns singing Broadway show tunes, but quickly realize we only know the first line and the chorus of each song.

We arrive at Hotel Rural Casa Xusto early and are warmly greeted by Pepe, who takes such good care of us. He reminds us there will be a festival in town starting today and suggests making us a dinner reservation. For a fair price he will wash our wet/dirty clothes and deliver them in the evening. Then, while we’re waiting for our room to be ready, he brings us a beer and some jamón.

Jamón is a staple of Spanish cuisine. It’s similar to Italian prosciutto, but with a more intense flavor. The pork hind leg of the Spanish pig is dry cured in salt. Serrano is the more typical type. Ibérico, from black pigs, is the most expensive meat in the world, with a leg costing in the range of $4500. A sign of status is to impress your guests with your jamón displayed on a stand, ready for slicing.

Originally a 200 year old barn with a residence above, the usual stone, wooden beams and antique furnishings take on an enchanting, almost magical feel here. There’s a beautiful sitting area outside our room that we have all to ourselves. We fall asleep to the sounds of music, singing and fireworks. 

Sept. 30. – Oct. 2: Ribadeo- 16 miles
Today is our last day walking in the province of Asturias. 

We delay putting our wet shoes on as long as we can. Michael has a good laugh and wants no part of my invention. I take the small plastic bags that the bathroom glasses are wrapped in, put them over my socks and my feet stay dry all day.

The path today is fairly flat on rural farm roads. When our guidebook says that the route splits after the white house with the palm tree, we wonder- what happens if they decide to repaint the house?! 

We stop to view the ocean and continue along on a boardwalk. Then, we come to a pedestrian bridge, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. On one side is a high fence and the expressway and on the other side is a lower fence and the Calabrian Sea below. The bridge is just over a half mile long, but seems to go on forever and, with every truck passing in the right lane, we feel it reverberate. With heads down, we have no choice but to keep moving.

All along, we’ve been reserving rooms weeks ahead with no problems. After researching for hours at a time, we finally realize there’s absolutely no place to stay at our next stop until Monday, Oct. 3!  “Es lo que es!” (It is what it is!). “Monta las olas!” ( Ride the wave!) Ribadeo is our first town in the province of Galicia and the last town on the coast before we head inland; the perfect place to stop for an extra night! 

We explore the churches, historic buildings and neighborhoods in this seaside tourist town. Our hotel, La Casona de Lazúrtegui, is a casona-light; “casona” is mansion in Spanish. The rooms are plain, but the building has character and the lovely salon becomes our personal living room. 

As it turns out, this hotel is not available on Oct. 2, so we’re “forced” to stay at Parador de Ribadeo Lugo. Paradors are managed by a state-run company and located in historic Spanish buildings such as fortresses, monasteries, castles or prestigious homes. This historic home sits at the mouth of the Eo River and we spend the day here relaxing, inside and out, enjoying cocktails and dinner while taking in the views.

Sept. 24 – 27: Muros de Nalón to Luarca

Sept. 24: Muros de Nalón – 16 miles
We breakfast with a couple from England and a man from Poland who left his front door in May and has been walking ever since! It’s a pleasant walk through villages and dirt trails in the forest…until the rain starts.

We find ourselves sloshing through mud and over rocks and gnarled tree roots.  Navigating puddles and trenches takes total concentration and we are laser focused for what seems like hours. I’m not sure what’s more slippery; the ascents or the descents. The rain seems to be enjoying the game it’s playing with us. Every time we get too warm and take off our rain jackets, it starts up again.

We welcome the drizzle and the change from muddy forest to road. We chat with a woman from the Netherlands who regales us with stories about each of her Camino adventures over the last ten years. It’s a League of Nations, as we stand at a crossroads with pilgrims from all different countries trying to ascertain the correct route. The yellow arrows and the shells posted along the way are our guides. At the start, the base of the shell pointed the correct way, but now they are displayed both ways!

Casa Carmina has not opened for the day yet, so we wait on a bench across the street with some other pilgrims. The mother/daughter owners are a well-oiled machine, welcoming us early out of the drizzle and getting us settled. Rather than a room of bunk beds, we opt for a private room at this albergue. The weather clears and we enjoy some wine, sitting outside on their lovely grounds. We chat with a young woman from the Netherlands, who started cycling from the northern most part of her country and plans to end up at the southern most point of Portugal. And to make it even more of an experience, she’s camping along the way!

Sept. 25: Soto de Lunas – 14 miles
Another difficult day awaits us! It’s a repeat of yesterday and we’re fixated on every muddy step, with steep ups and downs. In between, we are treated to peeks of the ocean and walks through small towns.

There’s a convivial gathering in the crowded bar and dining room as we enter Hotel Valle de Luiñas. We are welcomed warmly at this lovely rural inn and told our bags have not arrived yet. We had planned to enjoy Sunday dinner here, so we wash our faces and hands and quickly sit down. With our muddy pants and boots hidden under the white tablecloth, we decide we don’t look too bad from the waist up.

The first one in the shower each day is responsible for giving the shower report. Is it slippery? Which are the hot/cold faucets? Sometimes they are opposite.  Does it leak? I purposely let Michael go first today.

Sept. 26: Cadavedo – 16 miles
The good news: the hotel is right on the Camino path. The bad news: our guidebook rated yesterday a two in difficulty and rates today a three! Right away, we come to a long tunnel which is so dark, we can’t see a thing. By the light of our phones we walk cautiously, trying to ascertain the terrain.

By days end, we will have tackled five water crossings, each with its own unique characteristics. Whether we’re balancing from rock to slick rock, deciding the sturdiest place to step on a tree root or wondering if it’s best to go straight through or around the perimeter, we can count on our our hiking poles to get us to the other side. The narrow path that follows takes us up a steep incline, but the view of the ocean at the top makes it all worthwhile.

We’re so happy to have arrived that we don’t mind climbing the grand staircase at Hotel Rural Casa Roja, a charming renovated country home. We never tire of the stone walls and beamed ceilings that these places all have in common. It’s not much of a town, but with lovely sitting areas, inside and out, we make sure to take advantage of both. But, not before buying a bottle of wine at the market conveniently located across the street.

Sept. 27: Luarca – 11 miles
We begin with jackets on, only to take them off a few minutes later. There’s no rain in the forecast, the temperature quickly rises from the 60’s to the 70’s and it’s cloudy; perfect for walking.

The forest path is steep, but surprisingly dry. The makeshift steps, made up of twisted tree roots and rocks, force us to contemplate every step, but rather than tiring me out, it leaves me with a peaceful feeling. Walking through the small farm towns is a welcome pleasure. The old stone dwellings that look as if they’ve seen better days seem to be magically transformed into homes with just the addition of their blooming flower boxes.

Luarca is an older seaside town. What makes it unique are the white homes balancing on the cliffs that encircle the Bay of Biscay. I am fascinated to see how they are connected and still standing! The streets are so incredibly steep, I wonder how they get around on icy/snowy days. Meanwhile, two “señoras” (older women) are arm in arm, talking and laughing, as they bypass us and make their way quickly down the street!

Built in 1906, the Hotel Villa de Luarca was a residence and our room looks out to a lovely little courtyard filled with flowers. Most towns close up in the late afternoon and as soon as they reopen again for the evening, the bars, restaurants and plazas quickly all come alive. After a quick walking tour of the historic quarter after dinner, it’s time for these two peregrinos to call  it a night.

Sept. 17 – 23: Gijón to Aviles

Sept. 17 – 22: Gijón
When we detect some swelling in his foot, we realize Michael’s blisters are still an issue. We decide to take a longer break and bus to Gijón. One of Spain’s largest cities, it’s double the size of Santander and another urban beach/lively promenade town. If you have to rest, this seems like just the place. The Hotel Hernan Cortés is a bit older, but has the lovely patina of a time gone by and is in a great location. 

Not wanting to walk too far, we notice people sitting on a stone wall with drinks, waiting for a band to begin to play. It’s a lovely spot with a view of the harbor, but we opt for a table instead. Just when I’m wondering what I can do to cheer Michael up, the band’s van pulls up right in front of us:             

We have a good laugh at the band’s name and from then on, it seems as if, once again, The Camino Provides, bringing the amusement right to us, so we don’t have to walk far. First, there’s the Asturias Cheese Festival (the province we’re in) with plenty of tastes. Then, a street demonstration of gladiator techniques performed by men in costume. Impromptu street parades and the sound of bagpipes are everywhere. Sitting on a bench and people watching on the promenade is a favorite Spanish pastime.

On Sundays, the stores are closed, but the plaza is lively, full of friends and families gathering together. It’s baptism day at the church we’re sitting outside of and we watch as families, dressed in their finest, visit and take photos of their beautiful babies. 

We walk on the beach, hoping the salt water will help heal Michael’s foot. I bury his feet in the cool sand, telling him it’s an old Spanish tradition. I can’t determine if the water’s too cold, but the waves always decide for me, knocking me over and tossing me around until I’m all salty, sandy and happy. With eyes closed, we lay on the beach breathing in the salty air. In the distance, we hear a flamenco guitarist playing alongside the sound of the crashing waves. I come up with a new mantra: “Monta las olas” (Ride the waves).

We are able to take advantage of the Menu Del Dia served from 1 – 4 p.m., rather than waiting for dinner, which doesn’t start until 8 p.m. For anywhere from €12€ – €19. it includes three courses, bread, water and a half bottle of wine, per person (usually you are charged for bread and water). My favorite is Fabada, a stew made of beans, Spanish sausage, potatoes and kale. Michael loves the Bacalao Viscaina, salted codfish stew cooked in tomatoes. While we pass so many homes with gardens each day, vegetables are rarely seen on menus, so we usually order a Salada Mixta, a big salad served with tuna. 

One of the more unique restaurants we dine in is called Toro. It’s an upscale Japanese all-you-can-eat restaurant. For €14 you can choose from 100 small plates. You  check off your choices on a form and hand it to the waiter, with one caveat: you will be charged €3f for every plate that you don’t finish! 

Michael has been wearing his boots a portion of each day and the insoles he bought have really helped. He says he’s ready to go again! On our last night, I make a toast: “Para sus ampollas!” (to your blisters!). If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have gotten to know beautiful Gijón. 

Sept. 23: Aviles – 18 miles
The long walk out of Gijón reminds me what a large city it really is. The route through an industrial area is is anything but scenic. The sounds of the pebbles crunching under our shoes and the cars on the nearby expressway have a certain rhythm that becomes the background to my thoughts.

The dilapidated stone buildings on the farm road we’re walking on don’t look inhabited, until I notice their TV antennas and electricity connections. In the middle of nowhere, we come upon a basket of broken tiles and markers The mountain of tiles has been created by Pilgrims, who have left a tribute to someone they are thinking of/praying for; very touching. 

Luckily, there’s a wide shoulder on the road we’re walking on and it finally leads us into town. It’s is so old and unattractive, until we turn the corner. The plaza is a registered historic district and the best preserved in the region. It looks like a movie set! 

The Hotel 40 Nudos is older and quite plain, with very clean rooms. It becomes one of our favorites when they serve us complimentary tapas with our wine- a treat for hungry pilgrims counting the minutes until 8 p.m. 

We dine at a pulperia and choose to have our octopus grilled, rather than boiled- it’s delicious! In the province of Galicia, the octopus is revered. Everything stops in order to celebrate everything octopus at their annual Pulperia Festival. We order a “jarra” (pitcher) of Galician wine served from a tap and realize we better forgo our usual toast and use two hands to pick up our bowls/glasses.

Sept. 13 – 16: Liendo to Santander

Sept. 13: Liendo- 15 miles
The day begins easily, walking along the coast and we take in the lovely views. We then turn inland, climbing higher and higher on a dirt road which never seems to end. Walking through a eucalyptus forest is our only distraction, with its magical feel and it’s wonderful scent.

At first glance, it looks as if Liendo isn’t much of a town; just a church and a few stores, until we turn the corner and view magnificent homes, one more impressive than the next. We slow down to admire their iron gates, red tiled roofs, patios and manicured gardens. Our hotel, Posada La Torre de La Quintana, a historic home from the 17th century, stands out the most and we are immediately charmed by its massive stone walls, wooden beamed ceilings and antique furnishings. In 2008, the home was turned into a rural inn, but we feel as if we are a guest in the home of an aristocratic family.

We dine with a couple from West Virginia and are entertained by their adventures of traveling the Camino via electric bicycle. When we mention we live near Austin, the husband says he knew it by my relaxed, chill vibe. Me?! Come to think of it, I haven’t thought about an Excel spreadsheet, planning or worrying since we’ve arrived in Spain. “Es lo que es,” is this the new Camino me? Michael seems.different too. Usually reserved, he greets everyone he passes with an “Hola” (Hello), including every dog (“Hola, Perro!”). After a lovely breakfast on the patio, it’s tIme to reluctantly say goodbye and continue on.

Sept. 14: San Miguel de Meruelo- 19 miles
With various options and unclear markings, it’s hard to discern the official route. We tread cautiously, not wanting to waste any steps. When our guidebook mentions to watch for drop offs along the rugged coast, especially in fog, we realize today will not be a relaxing walk, but at least it’s not foggy.

At first glance, it looks liked San Miguel de Meruelo isn’t much of a town. At second glance, it still isn’t. Hosteria Sol is an alburgue (pilgrim hostel) with small, clean rooms. The dining room is filled with books and jazz plays softly. A sign says “Por favor, a poco de paz- descanso,” (Please, some peace- rest!). A woman comes from the kitchen, welcomes us and gets us settled, but the owner is so grouchy. There is an article on the wall about him being an author, Maybe he has writer’s block?

There are limited restaurant choices in town, so we stay put for dinner. We dine with a couple from the Netherlands that are staying here too. We see fewer pilgrims than we did on the French route, but they are all very friendly.

Sept. 15 -16: Santander
As a pilgrim, it’s “Your Camino.” You can stay in a “donativo,” in a church on a floor mat for a donation, or a five star hotel. You can walk as much or as little as you’d like, completing your journey or continuing each year as vacation allows. You can travel on foot, bike or horseback. Buses, trains and taxis can move you along when you’d rather not. 

So, when Michael realizes his blisters were more serious than he’d thought, we decide to bus to Santander and give them time to heal during our rest day. Luckily, the Hotel Art Santander is located close to the street elevators and escalators and save us from walking up the steep city streets. It’s contemporary look and interesting art installations give it an edgy vibe.

Santander is one of those lucky cities with an urban beach in its center and a lively promenade alongside it. Built in 1904, the Mercado La Esperanza houses food stalls in its sprawling iron and glass Belle Époque building. What a wonderful way to grocery shop! I am mesmerized by the women fish mongers. With samurai-like knives and focused precision, they fillet fish as if it was an art form. When all three of them rapidly finish in unison, I start to clap and for just one moment, their intense countenances change to smiles. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sept. 8 – 12: Guernica to Castro Urdiales

Sept. 8: Guernica- 17 miles
Today we walk in rural countryside through forests and alongside flowing streams. It’s very hilly, but the sound of the rushing water is soothing and a stop at the the Zenarruza monastery provides a cool, peaceful place to rest.

We are heading towards what we think is the hotel, but once again, there is no signage. It’s been a long walk through the town and we’re hot, tired and very grateful to have arrived at Hotel Gernika. The classic hotel has an air of old world elegance and air conditioning! After showering, we enjoy a glass of wine in their beautiful solarium and wonder how we will be able to handle U.S. prices for a glass of wine, when we return, after paying anywhere from €1.60 to €3 here (exchange rate to U.S. dollar is almost equal).

Guernica is considered the spiritual center of the Basque Country and was the site of the aerial bombings of its civilians in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. In downtown Guernica, large black and white blowups of photos of the damaged city are front and center, serving as a reminder of the atrocities on that memorable day.

Sept. 9 – 10: Bilbao- 19 miles
From the city streets, we quickly find ourselves on an intense, narrow path through the woods. The ascents and descents are much more treacherous due to the slippery wet rocks and the mud. For miles, the smell of the eucalyptus trees is our only comfort and the only sound we can hear is our heavy breathing.

It wasn’t easy to find a mid price hotel in such a big city, so we splurge and stay at the Hotel Abando. Unlike all the other hotels to date, the staff hardly looks up when we arrive, is not very welcoming and is no help at all in finding us a laundromat. We are so happy to hear from our Danish friend, with an invitation to try a restaurant that has been recommended to him, we forget about our hotel experience. Our new mantra is “Es lo que es,”- it is what it is.

We spend most of our rest day at the Guggenheim Museum. Designed by Frank Gehry, its cutting edge design also reflects in its modern art exhibits. The main exhibit entitled “Motion- Autos, Art, Architecture” celebrates forty of the most distinctive cars in relation to beauty, rarity and technical progress. My favorite part of the exhibit is a vision of the future of cities presented by a number of universities from across the world.


Sept. 11: Santurzi – 12-1/2 miles
The bad news: today’s walk is along a river, industrial areas and rundown towns. The good news: it’s all flat! Not having to worry about every step you take gives us more time to a relax and think.

As we enter Santurzi, the juxtaposition of the two sides of the city is startling. The old neighborhoods we’re walking through transcend into a couple of blocks of modern condos and lovely mansions before our eyes.

The UHR Palacio de Orio is magnificent, but we’re disappointed the rooms are rather plain. We take some time to explore its nooks and crannies and imagine it in its heyday.

Sept. 12: Castro Urdiales- 18-1/2 miles
The city streets soon lead to a walking/bike path. There’s not much to see, but we’re grateful it’s flat…for now. We follow the yellow arrows (the official Camino way markings) past a very unusual site; cows grazing on a vertical pasture so steep that it appears they are hanging on with their hooves. This keeps us entertained until we arrive on a boardwalk that follows along the Atlantic Ocean, the crashing waves lulling us into a walking rhythm. Then, it’s up 120 stone steps and then we’re looking down at the ocean.

We follow a shortcut to the road. Luckily, there’s little traffic and a small shoulder we can walk on, single file. The gas station we stop at does not sell water, but a kind gentleman hears our plight and insists we take his cold bottle of water. They say the Camino provides and today we are blessed with more than one example.

We’re all set to walk the short distance to our hotel. Our app says only one and a half miles, but it also says it will take 43 minutes. What?! We’re done! We stop at a bar, order two beers and ask the bartender to please call a taxi, while we sit outside and wait. A few minutes later, she runs out to tell us a bus will be arriving in three minutes right down then block that can take us. With stealth like precision, we dump the water out of our water bottles, fill them with beer and run for the bus.

It takes me a minute or two to realize that all the passengers at the front of the bus are discussing where our hotel is and where we should get off. We are told to exit, thank everyone and are escorted by a woman passenger, who insists on walking us to our destination, after her long shift at as a waitress. We part company, but not after hugs all around.

Castro Urdiales is a popular seaside resort on the Bay of Biscay. The Las Rocas Playa Hotel’s large windows frame the lovely white stucco, red tiled roofed homes that line the street to the beach, mostly second homes. The hotel’s tranquil ivory and beige color scheme reminds us that our walking for the day is almost done. Just a quick visit to the beach (with just enough time to get our legs wet), then we’re enjoying dinner in their dining room, looking out those big windows and wishing we could stay just a bit longer.
















Sept. 3 – 7: San Sebastián to Extebarria

Sept. 3-4: San Sebastián
It’s taken the usual 24 hours for me to get over the sudden panic that sets in when you don’t feel your jewelry on your hands or wrists, They’ve all been left home for safe keeping, along with nail polish and most of my makeup, It will take another day for me to settle into the “Camino me.”

San Sebastián is one of those cities blessed with a beach in its center, The Bay of Biscay, the lovely parks and the lively Old Town make it sparkle. The joy and exuberance of the locals overflows from the bars and restaurants into the streets, as families and friends gather, standing or sitting on steps, and children play quietly nearby. Nary a sweatsuit to be seen, there’s an air of sophistication in everyone’s dress, even down to the babies,

We choose to stay at the Hotel Distrito Oeste, since it’s closer to the Camino start and walking distance to the square. Located in a quiet neighborhood, it’s white, stark, minimalist style is relaxing. The staff is very friendly and accommodating, even taking the time to explain why the whole city is dressed in the colors of their favorite boat racing teams this weekend.

Sept. 5: Zarautz- 13.5 miles
One minute we are walking through a lovely neighborhood and all of a sudden we find ourselves on a single path in the woods going straight up! Every once in a while, the Bay of Biscay peeks out, but there’s only time for a quick glance, Our total focus is on navigating the ups and downs and the rocks and boulders. For what seems like hours, we are in a meditative state, only looking up to say “Buen Camino” (good walk) to other pilgrims as they pass by. Lunch is a much welcome respite and we enjoy dining with a pilgrim from Washington D.C.

Zarautz is a beach town and a surfing mecca in the Basque region. The Pension Tixki Polit is rather basic, but the staff overwhelms us when they agree to do our laundry, but will not accept payment. We settle on purchasing them cold Coca Colas and everyone is happy.

The hotel is located right on the Musika Plaza. Every town, regardless of size, has a plaza, which brings people together with food, drink and music. We are surprised the revelry has continued so late on a Monday night, until we’re told tomorrow is a holiday in celebration of the 500th anniversary of a famous voyage to the new world by an explorer of Basque origin.

Sept 6: Itziar- 12 miles
We breakfast with a young Danish man, who convinces us an app is better than the book we are relying on and kindly sets us up with a Camino travel app. We start the day on a walking path along the Atlantic Ocean, this time able to take in the incredible views and greet passersby with a smile and an “Hola” (hello/hi).

We head up, in and out of the woods, sometimes withj spectacular views of the ocean or verdant farmlands, whose squares of various colors of green beam in the sunlight. This is about the time I remember the saying we came up with on our last Camino- In Spain, what comes up must go up!

We share our joke with a couple from Ireland and find we are staying at the same hotel. With no sign outside, we cross our fingers and hope this first building at the beginning of town is our final destination. Turns out, it is the Hotel Kanala!

Again, though the rooms are rather plain, the lovely welcome we receive and the inviting bar and dining room make up for it. There’s nothing nearby, so we’re in for the night and dine with our new Irish friends.

We are surprised by the elegant meal, from the delicious amuse bouche we begin with to the end of the meal, where what looks like a small mint on a plate becomes a warm towel once the waiter pours a bit of hot water on it.

Sept. 7: Extebarria- 17 miles
The single path of moss covered rocks and the trees canopied above make it look like an enchanted forest. All day, it’s a gradual incline that just keeps inclining! The click of our hiking poles on the ground, an occasional rooster crow or a cow bell is all we hear.

When we ask a woman for directions to our hotel, she insists on walking us there, probably thinking these hot, tired peregrinos (pilgrims) need a break. We warmly thank her and come upon an incredible stone building in the countryside.

The Hotel Antsotegi was a 600 year old foundry, now renovated into a country inn. The massive stone walls, wooden beams and rustic furniture make you want to stay and relax there a while, but we had to be content with the festive dinner we shared with our new friends from Ireland and Denmark, who all happened to be staying there, too. Who knows if we’ll ever see each other again, but tonight, we’re a Camino family.

Walking the Walk, Again…

Photo Walking the WalkA favorite keepsake, a sign that shows the distance from Georgetown, Texas to Santiago, Spain- 4772 miles.

For thousands of years, pilgrims have traveled the ancient paths to the cathedral in Santiago, Spain, where the remains of St. James lay to rest. The Camino de Santiago de Compostela – St. James under a field of stars – evokes physical, spiritual and mystical qualities. 

Inspired by the 2011 movie “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen, we walked the Camino Frances, the most popular route that begins in France, in 2016 and 2018. 

Funny how, back in 2016, we didn’t understand why so many “crazy pilgrims” kept returning year after year. Now, here we are setting out to walk the Camino del Norte, along the northern coast. 

Where else could you find such simplicity, a peaceful rhythm to each day, the camaraderie of strangers and be given the opportunity to pray with your feet? 

A Curly World

Photo Curly World

Whether wild or demure, never underestimate the power of a curl. Little is known about this type of hair, that I, along with approximately only 15% of the Caucasian population seem to have been born with. As I get to know them more personally, those little ringlets are always surprising me when I least expect it, going about their merry way, with no clue they are a constant metaphor for life. 

While straight hair is lighter, due to its individual strands, curly hair moves as one unit and gets less tangled. When this force fiercely bands together, the coils and twists always get their way. I have finally realized when I want to part my hair on the right side and those stubborn spirals decide to undercut me and make it a left part day, it’s a subtle reminder to just go with the flow. 

But, this wasn’t always the case. During my entire teen years, with songs by the Beach Boys playing nonstop in my head and dreams of having long, straight hair like the girls they sang about, I persistently waged war against my hair. Curl Free, to straighten my hair, led to ironing it- luckily, I remembered to use a towel between my hair and the iron. I finally realized it was time to throw in that towel when setting my wet hair in juice cans overnight resulted in the words “Tropicana” to be imprinted across my dry hair. 

Securing those untamed locks in a bun professionally steered me through my business years. It was an outspoken hairdresser that finally convinced me to cut my hair short. With nothing more than a photo from Playboy magazine, he was able to counter my objection of not wanting to look like a boy. 

I naively thought I had won the battle. This outwardly well-groomed appearance helped to create the no nonsense persona I always wanted. But, just because the curls were chopped off, doesn’t mean they, and the personality traits that accompany them, weren’t still there. So, who was I? Was I the straight as an arrow me, that meant business, or the curly fun-loving and outgoing me?

COVID kept us all from haircuts and as my curls began to reappear, I somehow felt comfortable to welcome them back, not that I had much choice. This time though, it seemed these old friends were popping up at a time when I had decided that maybe the methodical Linda could coexist with my alter ego, Lola. 

According to Glamour magazine, curls are one of the biggest beauty trends for 2022. “Expect to see curls everywhere!” they reported. Whether wavy, curly or kinky, the three types of curly hair are known to be easier to care for. Flowing freely, they are smugly aware that, as their numbers increase, curly heads could single handedly transform the hair care industry, with blow dryers, hot rollers and curling irons going the way of the bubble hair dryers and bobby pins. There’s a curly hair movement out there and it won’t stop until it makes waves.

 Author’s Note:

If you enjoyed this post, please scroll down, like it and feel free to share it!