About Lathornton

Author, Writer and Blogger: amoxiegirl.com

“Hello, Universe?…This is Linda Calling”


You can’t just call the universe and ask it to provide you with something that you want. Or, can you?

I have been doing this for years, never realizing there was a whole philosophy built around my practice. The fact that it’s actually worked has given me a deeper sense of belief.

In her book, The Secret, Rhonda Byrne is a bit analytical, but I like the author’s use of the straightforward mantras: “Ask, believe, receive; If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand; Thoughts become their physical equivalents.” Byrne bases her theories on the Law of Attraction, which states that the universe is governed by a matching of frequencies of a person’s experiences with their thoughts. Thoughts are a form of energy; positive thoughts bring positive outcomes and likewise, negative thoughts bring negative outcomes.

Intrigued by the concept, I started with a simple exercise, which seemed easy enough. I was to think of an old friend and see if they somehow came back into my life. I did and they did! Now, armed with confidence, I began focusing on something I wanted or wanted to happen. Thinking it best to confide in someone, so documented proof was established, I regaled Mr. Wiz* with my new practices and focus goals, who, with a wide-eyed stare, seemed relieved when I also mentioned that no involvement on his part was necessary.

Sure, the whole premise of lifting up your energized thoughts and placing them on a fast track to the cosmos may lack scientific evidence, but for me, I can only relate my own experiences. Now, every day, with eyes closed and arms outstretched, I envision and say (either to myself or out loud) something I wish for. I try to only focus on one request at a time.

Since colliding with the universe, so many of my desires have come to fruition, there are too many to count! From small everyday requests to life changing experiences, I can see that there Is a “method to this madness.”

Just to name a few, I have been hired for a corporate position I may not have been entirely qualified for, but knew I could do (repeating daily the voicemail I would record on my first day might have moved that wish along), found a photographer to take free headshots not once, but twice, located the special olive oil I was searching for, found my lost wedding ring and became a journalist!

Lately, I have taken my practice outside, arms outstretched, while imagining the rays of the sun are sparkling down on me and igniting my frequencies. Coincidentally, this was around the same time Mr. Wiz decided our patio needed side privacy panels.

There’s no right way or wrong way to approach this practice. For me, I enjoy the mystical side of it all, so my way works for me. You can do what is comfortable for you. The point is, give it a try! Really, what have you got to lose?

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:
If you enjoyed this post, please scroll down, like it and feel free to share it!

The Latin From Manhattan

She had fibbed to her friends. She told them she was busy, but instead had decided she would venture out solo and go dancing. Guided by her independent spirit, she was determined to have a good time. Excitedly, she chose her outfit carefully. Making sure the padded shoulders of her dress were adjusted properly, the line down the back of each leg was straight as she put on her hose and any scuffs were cleaned off her ankle strap shoes, she then carefully removed the metal clip that crimped and waved her hair in the front ever so slightly.

She barreled down the stairs and called to her mother that she was leaving. As she closed the front door, she smirked when she heard her mother’s usual comment “Don’t forget to walk near the street and not too close to the buildings.” It was July 4, 1948, and a young girl could venture out alone, as long as she remembered to be cautious.

She changed into her dance shoes and then checked her walking shoes and purse into a cubby, receiving a ticket from the coat check girl. As always, she remembered to fold up some money and hide it in the secret compartment of her purse, just in case.

“Do you wan to dunce?” He wasn’t sure why he had faked a Spanish accent. He had entered the army with it and then returned home without it after World War II. What was he thinking? He smiled to think that maybe he was channeling Cèsar Romero, the famous actor that routinely played “Latin Lover” roles.

He had decided to go out alone that night, bored with heading to the same places with the same crowd. He was restless, always eager to try something new. All these thoughts sped through his mind, when just a few seconds later, the beautiful petite blonde, with the soft waves of her shoulder length hair framing her face, turned and with a lovely smile said “Yes!”

They lost count of how many dances they had danced in a row. Known as the most famous dance hall in the world, New York City’s Roseland Ballroom was at its capacity crowd that night, as almost 3000 people glided around the dance floor. According to an article from The New Yorker, “People accustomed to nightclub life often find the atmosphere slightly phantasmal. The ceiling is hung with dark-blue muslin studded with tiny electric bulbs that give a night-sky effect. The room is lit by neon lamps, graduating in shade from deep pink to lemon yellow. In their dim rays, knots of patrons drift to and from the dance floor with a curiously delicate air, fluorescing a bit as they go.”

The marquee featured the word “Roseland” in script, all aglow in white lights. Underneath, the simple caption, “Dance in air cooled comfort,” reminded those fortunate enough to be inside that tonight they would be enjoying a luxury not available in most homes. Finally and most important, tonight’s bands were displayed: Tommy Reynolds and his Orchestra along with Stella Lopez and Her Rumbas.

He bought her a drink, and they sipped slowly and chatted, he captivated by her sweet smile and her spunk and she, intrigued by his swagger and good looks. This time, he spoke without an accent, hoping she wouldn’t notice the change. She did… and years later, they would still laugh about that night.

He asked if he could escort her home, not knowing she lived in West New York, New Jersey. He didn’t care. Being a “city boy,” he didn’t realize she was taking him the long way home via bus, then ferry and then, up the hill to her house. She didn’t want the night to end.

Hours later, returning back to New York, he walked down the middle of the quiet street, humming and dreamily recounting how, when the clock struck midnight on the ferry, she had said it was officially her birthday and how he had asked if he could kiss her on the cheek. It was brazen of him, but he was happy that, once again, she had smiled and said “Yes!”

I smile every time I recount the story of how my parents met and I say “Yes!” – to being independent, to going it alone and to seeking out new adventures. And, when all else fails, to go dancing!

Post Script #1:
The original Roseland Ballroom, located in the theater district at Broadway and 51st Street was demolished in 1956. It was then resurrected on the site of a former indoor ice-skating rink on 52nd Street and finally closed in 2014 to make way for a 62-story luxury apartment building.

Post Script #2:
According to my parents, the photograph that accompanies this post graced the cover of a Latin magazine that was popular in Manhattan at the time. Their copies were lost over time and after intense research, the cover photograph could not be tracked down.

Author’s Note:
If you enjoyed this post, please scroll down, like it and feel free to share it!

Mocktails for Two?

Someone was trying to tell me something. In the course of one week, I received three messages that arrived in three different ways. Needless to say, they all grabbed my attention:

Dr. Lori Palazzo

I had just finished a story for the Georgetown View about a primary care doctor that closed her practice in order to focus on integrative medicine; finding the root cause of an illness and treating it with healthy supplements and diet, rather than just prescribing another pill.

I wondered how I could politely broach the question of why patients would pay “out of pocket” for her services that were not covered by health insurance. By the time our interview was over, I knew exactly why.

Apparently, Mr. Wiz,* my copy editor, realized it too. By the time he finished reading the story, he turned to me and said “I think I’ll make an appointment to see Dr. P before your article is published and she gets swamped with calls.”

I joined Mr. Wiz on each of his appointments during the three month program he had signed up for. During that course of time, he/we learned how to read food labels, started focusing more on a vegetarian diet (consisting of whole grains, veggies, legumes, fruits and nuts) and stopped drinking alcohol.

The blood and stool tests, much more comprehensive, revealed some issues that could be treated with nutritional supplements. Soon, Mr. Wiz was off three medications and had shed 15 pounds. I was feeling better too.

Green Chef

Out of the blue, Big A* sent us a coupon to try a new food delivery system he and LL* had started using. They highly recommended it for its flavor and portion control.

Excited, we sat down immediately at the computer to choose our meals and decided it was a good time to try the vegetarian options. Worrying it might be too difficult to cancel if we didn’t like it, we closed out of it and forgot about it…until a carton arrived a few days later with four meals!

I like to cook, but it was nice to not have to plan and shop for meals for a change. Every ingredient except butter, oil, salt and pepper is included in each package and menu cards give detailed cooking instructions. Just when you think you can recreate these delicious meals on your own, you open up the sauce packet and realize the amazing “secret sauces” cannot be replicated.

We’ve found having four night’s meals delivered every other week is a good balance and has elevated our culinary palate, introducing us to new spices and flavor combinations. Surprisingly, this self- proclaimed “meat girl” has welcomed the new veggie diet and never looked back.

Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington

I was at the gym and tuned in to my favorite podcast. Strangely, it somehow skipped to one I hadn’t listened to in a long while. All of a sudden, Ruby Warrington was being interviewed about her book “Sober Curious.” I was so shocked, but something told me to keep listening. I then read the book and it’s helped me realize/figure out a few things.

Never preachy and with a dry wit, Warrington gives her take on why we should reevaluate our relationship with alcohol. Her Club Soda NYC events grew from a few interested people meeting in her living room to hundreds of young professionals gathering for mocktails, panel discussions and socializing. The book, published in 2018, has been the catalyst for a new movement that elevates sobriety from church basement A.A. meetings to a hip lifestyle where it’s celebrated.

After four months of not drinking alcohol, I can assure you the hardest part is not the drinking, per se, it’s the ceremony around it. With no wine to discuss, order or enjoy, on our first evening dining out, we were finished and back in the restaurant parking lot 21 minutes later.

Eat, Drink and be Merry Confused

With an overabundance of information in my head, kale on my plate and club soda in my frig, I set out to find where I truly belonged in all of these lifestyle changes/trends.

Ben Branson, founder of Seedip, an alcohol-free distiller, believes we are now defining ourselves by what we don’t do. He says “Suddenly, someone who doesn’t do things becomes a better person: “I don’t eat meat,” or “I don’t smoke,” or “I don’t drink alcohol.”

Rosamund Dean’s book “Mindful Drinking” gave those who didn’t want to totally abstain from liquor an approach where you drink less and think about it more. As she says “Everyone is either a wine guzzling party animal or a clean-living health freak. Personally, I believe the middle ground is the healthiest place to be.”

I would like to introduce you to the new me. I am a mindful drinker, with a newfound respect for alcohol and a goal not to imbibe Monday – Thursday. Continuing in that vein, I am a flexitarian- a vegetarian that may eat meat, poultry and fish on occasion.

I am a believer the real message I received that fateful week was that gray is the new black and white!

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Image by Gabriele M. Reinhardt from Pixabay

Author’s Note:
If you enjoyed this post, please scroll down, like it and feel free to share it!


Stepping Up and Out in Croatia- October 2022

Traveling to Croatia is not for the faint of heart. Between the uneven steps everywhere, that seem to lead to the sky, and the steep limestone streets, worn to a lovely patina, but slippery when wet, you would be smart to come prepared with sneakers/walking shoes. That said, every step you take will be well worth it!

Located in Southeastern Europe, this small country borders Slovenia, Hungary and Serbia. Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Croatia has strived to keep its head above water since the 7th century by being innovative and one step ahead of its enemies. Curving the massive stone walls that protected its cities, this design was more resistant to cannon fire than straight sided fortresses. This helped protect their trading port that rivaled Venice. This small, but mighty country has worked hard to stay afloat, especially after its devastating civil war in the 1990’s. 

The red tiled roofs on the homes nestled into the limestone hills gives the scenery a Mediterranean look, as the Adriatic Sea sparkles below. Blessed with a perfect climate, ancient sites, wonderful food and a grasp of the importance of hospitality, Croatia has become a top tourist destination. 

Touting itself as the quintessential summer destination, massive crowds from over ten cruise ships docking at once have caused their UNESCO World Heritage Site status to be in question. In October, prices drop, crowds dwindle and with temperatures in the 70’s, you can still swim (bring your flip flops; beaches are rocky).

Our taxi stops abruptly. The driver tells us in broken English that he cannot drive any further into the Old City. Just when we’re wondering which way to walk, we see Mario running towards us calling our name. Sent from the hotel to personally carry our luggage and walk us to our hotel, we are already impressed with the Marmont Heritage Hotel. It’s a charming, small hotel (21 rooms) with views of Old Town and Diocletian Palace.

At first glance, Croatia’s second largest city seems so perfect. With its striking scenery and palm trees all overlooking the bright blue Adriatic Sea, it looks like a movie set. Actually, Game of Thrones was filmed throughout Croatia. 

Built in the 4th century AD, by the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, his Palace’s preserved remains form half of Old Town. Museums, shops, restaurants and over 1000 people reside within the walls of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s hard to fathom the historical significance and sheer age of the sights before you.

Diocletian’s mausoleum has been repurposed into the Cathedral of St. Duje and stands as the oldest cathedral in the world. You can enjoy a coffee or a cocktail, sitting on a pillow on the steps of Peristil Square, the original Roman court. Even the Kappa traditional music performed in the square has been granted UNESCO status. The steps taper as you climb the bell tower, but the view at the top is worth it. Make sure to rub the toe of the Grgur Ninski statue for good luck. 

A cocktail with a view is our reward for walking up the steep hill and the many steps amid a forest of pine trees and a peak into an old Jewish cemetery, on our way to Marjan, a hill on the peninsula of the city. Our first Croatian meal introduces us to their Italian influenced cuisine. At Apetit, a 15th century palazzo, the four of us dine on eggplant tempura, seabass, black rice made with squid ink and beef with gnocchi; sharing prevents having to choose just one entrée. After dinner, there’s still time for a lovely stroll on The Riva, the promenade known as “Split’s living room.”.

The catamaran from Split to Hvar is large, with comfortable seats and beautiful views. We are warmly welcomed at the dock by a hotel representative, who scoops up our luggage and leads the way. 

This picturesque city has that Wow Factor. The boats and yachts regally swaying in the harbor, the wide, café lined walkways bordering the sea perfect for people watching, this town is sophisticated enough for Prince Harry sightings (pre-Meghan), but casually elegant, so that the city seems unaffected by it all. Metal signs politely announce the fines imposed for improper behavior. Diagonal red lines through a series of drawings get the point across: no bathing suits and no public consumption of alcohol along the main thoroughfares. 

Any hotel that welcomes you with champagne at check-in quickly rises to a favorite. The Adriana Hotel and Spa is contemporary and tastefully furnished in soft colors, but adding just a touch of blue, everywhere you look, to remind you the sea is nearby. Our room is a relaxing haven with spectacular views and an impressive two-person jacuzzi. The hotel’s outdoor pool, patio area and indoor infinity pool remind us to save time to experience them all. With displays of food that are almost too beautiful to eat, such as honey slowly dripping from its honeycomb into a silver bowl, this could very well be the best buffet breakfast we’ve ever encountered. 

It’s a 25-minute walk up to Fortica Spanjola, the town’s fortress and a 16th century prison, but the views make it worthwhile. According to local law, it was abandoned and left for the fairies to dance in at night. That story, along with the gardens and walkways that zig zag down the hill and lead to patios and homes built into the side of the hill, give the area a magical feel. 

We didn’t come all this way to not swim in the Adriatic Sea. We cross the rocky beach and take turns climbing down a ladder into the water. It’s not what we expected, but once we are swimming, it’s hard not to remain a bit longer.

Dalmatino, with its wonderful food served by a highly professional, yet personable staff, gets our vote for our favorite meal. A “Booze Bouche” of carob and brandy playfully replaces the usual Amuse Bouche. Feasting on tuna tartare, gnocchi, sea bass and filet, we couldn’t resist sharing a piece of grandma’s homemade cake. 

The live music we hear coming from the bar, Central Park, perks us up and we decide to stop for a nightcap. Many nightcaps and dances later, we have made some new friends from Canada and Sweden

After another smooth catamaran ride, we arrive at Dubrovnik’s busy port and secure a taxi to our hotel. The Hotel Imperial Dubrovnik is a Hilton property. Classically elegant, its housed in a historic building, just outside the walls of Old Town, dating back to 1897.

Old Town is known as being one of the most perfectly preserved medieval cities in the world. Traffic free and surrounded by rugged limestone mountains and the sun dabbled Adriatic Sea, its steep, winding steps and narrow walkways lure you into the joy of wandering around until you get lost.

It’s a tourist tradition to walk the wall and you’ll pay $33 for the privilege. Be prepared for very steep steps to get to the top, then it’s a 1¼ mile walk all around. Enjoy amazing views, and cafes and shops to stop at along the way. 

Banje Beach is just a short walk from Old Town. Nestled within the impressive coastline, it’s not a sandy beach, but at least pebbles have replaced the rocks we encountered in Hvar and It’s hard not to spend the entire day swimming.

While we did enjoy the dark, quaint Bakus Wine Bar and our chat with a couple from England, the Buza Bar is not to be missed. You enter through a hole in the wall (“buza” is Croatian for hole) and come out the other side to view a bar and tables built on the cliffs. Included in our visit was a show; teenagers jumping from the cliffs, down 30 feet into the water!

The Forty-Four Restaurant stood out, not only for its food, but its presentation. The server wore white gloves and the breaded artichokes with cheese, Korčula macaroni with beef and goat cheese and sea bass with chick peas, swiss chard and tomatoes were creatively served in lovey pottery dishes. 

“Forced” to stay an extra day due to flight changes and with our hotel sold out, we head to the Prijeko Palace for the night. With assistance of the Croatian government, the 15th century palace has been renovated back to its former glory, with a quirky twist. Each of the nine rooms/suites are colorfully decorated in styles ranging from modern to Baroque. The avant-garde rooms are the backdrop for the explosions of photography that line the walls. 

Our travel partners having left for Italy. It’s just the two of us and we decide on a romantic dinner at the palace’s rooftop terrace restaurant, Stara Loza. We are surprised to see what looks like a young girl sitting on the ledge of the wall, but realize it’s an incredible lifelike, life- size sculpture. We smile to think their art had its way of startling us again. 

With lovely vistas of the city, we dine on tuna tartare, veal risotto and squid with potatoes and avocado. It’s one of those perfect evenings. I smile at the older French couple sitting next to us and say ‘Isn’t this just one of the best places in the world?!” That leads to a discussion of their favorite travel destinations.

I take a moment to jot them all down and smile, thinking how this wonderful adventure we’ve had has culminated into a list of where we need to head to next. 

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.