Wednesday, June 11, 2008

final words: epilogue

hey everyone,

in case you're interested: has all of the pictures from my pilgrimage. hopefully sometime I will go through and label all of them...

this will be my last entry in an effort to sum up the end of the trip and to post some final pictures that I promised you earlier. on our free day in Santiago we started by going to a museum that had parts of the original cathedral (9th century) on display along with plenty of art from the tenth century on of Santiago, Christ, Mary, and everything else you can imagine. the cathedral is constructed on a hill in Santiago so climbing to floors will bring you to the cloister which is level with the east entrance of the cathedral. after touring we attended the pilgrim's mass at noon where we received recognition for completing the pilgrimage the day before. After this we went down into the actual crypt where Santiago's (James's) bones are held. It was interesting. After this we left the cathedral and went to each lunch as a group. We went to a small tapas bar where we had small appetizer like portions instead of a huge meal. After this we all went in search of an ice cream shop for about twenty minutes without success. After giving up all hope we ended up finding one (actually Grace found it ) hidden away in an old bar that had a nice piano and everything. We all relaxed together for the afternoon enjoying the last half day in Santiago together. After this we got to go to the church's famous rooftop tour where we actually walked around on top of the roof of the cathedral. (The face of the cathedral is actually a baroque facade built in the sixteenth century in front of the original cathedral which was built in the twelve century in romanesque style.) This tour was impressive and included beautiful views of the city. After this we returned to the piano room where I was able to play for some of the people in our group for a while. We then took care of our last minute things before we returned to the hotel. At this point we all geared up for dinner, which was a very nice thank you to our guide Curtis and our professor Dr. Dyer and her husband Steve Hodge for everything that they did for us on the road. At this point we all said our goodbyes and started packing. The first group left for the airport at 6:00 AM, and I ended up eating breakfast at 7:30 and left at 8:00. I ended up having to pay a fee for my bag weighing more than the limit on the way to Madrid, but thankfully once I made it there I didn't have to pay any extra because my final destination was in the United States rather than the EU. Anyway after much traveling and attempted sleeping with several movies and CDs finished I finally arrived at Houston. After racing through customs I was relieved to see my family (mom, dad, and older brother Clint) waiting for me at the gate . All in all it was a once in a lifetime experience, and I hope to do this again sometime soon. I really enjoyed getting to know our entire group on the camino. We definitely had all kinds of experiences together, and I definitely grew a lot as a person as a result. I appreciate everything guys- we definitely should get together sometime in CS! Here are some last few pictures:the night before we all left at dinner
the cathedral by night
curtis, matt, and I
the headline the day that I left
breakfast with Dr. Dyer, Mr. Hodge, and Curtis the morning I left

from the top (looking down onto mass)
the clocktower of the church
samuel- our friend from canada with Bre and Grace
piano time in Santiago
one of the baroque towers
the tunas in the plaza
good ol' cafe con leche
in the cloister of the cathedral (where the monks would live)
the view from the rooftop tour of the cathedral
our house that we stayed in at Santa Irene (one day away!)
blister surgery
we finally made it to the cathedral in Santiago!
the other side of the cathedral (plaza de platerias)
We finally made it, it's chill time!
one of our dinners in portomarin, the Enrique cooked some great treats for us
our humble stay in San Xulian del camino
dinner in arzua
we're getting close!
we finally made it!
horseback riding in portomarin
last night with the guys in portomarin (francis from belgium on left and nile from england)
the celtic influence on Ocebreiro
the entry into portomarin

Saturday, June 7, 2008

we finally arrived

hello everyone,

yesterday we finished hiking! no more walking for us except around the city. We stayed in a house in Santa Irene two nights ago, and we enjoyed some downtime to rest our feet for the final day. yesterday we left at 730 to finish the 24 km that we lacked on the pilgrimage. we got to stop at the historic spot where pilgrims would race to the top of a hill in order to be the first to see the spires of the cathedral in Santiago. we passed a monument to the former Pope JP2- who did the pilgrimage twice in his life, and we finally crossetd the tracks into the city. it was definitely the most anticipated arrival in any city that I have ever experienced (it was a total of 2 miles getting into the historical district). We finally made it to the cathedral where we took a lot of pictues (sadly those will have to wait again), and we made our way around to the the cathedral to the oficina del peregrino where we received our final credentials for completing the pilgrimage. It was oddly quick, but we made our way to lunch and relaxed the rest of the day shopping around the city. We can finally buy souvenirs without worying about carrying them across Spain with us. Last night we got the rare treat of watching them swing the botofumeiro (giant incense burner made of solid silver that they only swing- giant pendulum effect- for special days or for people who give a lot of money to the church´s maintenance fund. It was pretty slick. After this we went back to the hotel for dinner where we had trout and vegetable lasagna. later we returned to the main plaza where we listened to the tunas perform. what a night! anyway we´ll be here one more day bfore I head back , and then I´ll be sure to add pictures that I haven´t been able to at this point. I´ll see yall soon!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

horsebacking riding, hiking 32k, and hiking 26 k

wow, it has really been an intense last two days since I last posted. At the rancho, we all got together to go horseback riding. We rode all over the owner Mario´s land, and we ended up climbing up on this hill that overlooked the entire valley. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far. It was definitely an incredible experience. After this we all got together for the end of our day of rest to dine under the cuisine of the chef Enrique at the ranch. There´s something about homeade food when you´ve been walking around town or hiking across the mountains all day that definitely cannot be topped. We managed to go into town one last time, and we were fortunate to spend some time with our Belgian and English friends from the camino. Now we are actually a day behind them due to our rest period, but we hope to meet up with them in Santiago on Friday. Yesterday we started from Portomarín and hiked all day through quite a sampler of rain, cold, humidity, and brilliant sunlight. All in all we made it about 32 km (somewhere around 19 miles), which has been our longest day yet. We stayed in a tiny village called San Xulian (pronounced Hoo-lee-aan in Galllego- which is the official language of the province of Galicia). In Spain each province has their own history since the time of the Romans, so the national identity typically comes in second under the provincial one. A good example of this is our pride in Texas, but here they take it to a whole new level which even includes violent separtism (the extreme Basques and ETA- check it on Wikipedia if you´re curios). Our albergue was nice and homely. The diner last night was definitely one of the best that we have had so far. When Spainards eat- they know how to do it. It started with a sort of soup, followed by tortilla española (potato egg omlette), salad with tuna (atún), rosemary porkchops- a great taste, and of course queso con membrillo (dessert cheese with a sort of candy) for dessert. We were all out of commission last night by 10:30PM and got up to go again this morning around 6:30 AM. We left San Xulian at around 7:30 after a hearty breakfast. I went ahead with some of the guys of the group on the camino. At our first stop we heard the news about Obama being the candidate on the television (it was kind of surreal to explain to the lady at the bar (every place to stop on the camino to eat or drink anything is referred to as a bar in Spain) why we were surprised, and it brought us back to what´s going on in the states as well. We continued today through several small towns and one larger one where we receieved sellos (stamps on our pilgrim´s passports from everywhere we go on the camino) from a local priest in Melide. Today was a grueling day after such a long day yesterday, but we managed to make it to our hotel in the outskirts of Arzúa. This is definitely a more white collar city as well as province. The people here are down-to-earth and very in touch with their roots. We spend most of our time walking through villages where the cows are still herded through at the end of each afternoon (in otherwards plenty of leftovers along the trail for us to dodge). We encounter quite a variety of smells on the camino as well in these parts from chicken coops to open pastures of grazing dairy cattle to urban mazes. I was hoping this computer would have functioning USB ports, but I guess pictures will have to wait. I hope that things are going well for everyone back home. We have to more twenty kilometer days before we arrive in Santiago! It should be incredible, and I can´t wait to inundate everyone with all sorts of pictures. Hasta luego...

Monday, June 2, 2008

day of rest

Yesterday we left sarria for portomarín. This was a long trek through many small agricultural cities where the streets are lined with manure, and the smell will leave you wanting some fresh air. The views from these small camino driven villages are incredible. The computer that I am at today will not let me publish photos, so those will have to wait. We arrived at around two in the afternoon yesterday and rested up for a late afternoon lunch. In Spain on Sundays the main meal is actually eaten in the late afternoon (much preferred to the late evening meals which we have grown accustomed to. We are staying at a ranch that is located directly on the river that borders portomarín. The views are incredible, and the rooms are great. We are taking a day to be interviewed for our progress on the coursework which we have been completing for three and a half weeks up to this point. After this we are all planing on going horseback riding at the ranch. Currently Mario and I are seeing what there is to see in Portomarín while the others are going through their interviews. Tonight we are all giving our presentations for our coursework, and we will definitely rest up for the last leg of the camino. We are less than 90 km away, and this is evident by the sheer number of tourists which we are encountering on a daily basis. Yesterday on the trail I met my third American on the camino. She is a NY policewoman named Chris and was a fiery character. We´ve been enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the ranch, but we were sad to say goodbye to our walking buddies from Belgium, the UK, and Scandanavia as they continued this morning. We all met up last night in the town to enjoy some cidra (specialty of Galicia) and enjoy the town a bit. We plan to meet up with them again in Santiago. At this point we are all loving the food in Galicia. Their specialties include a particular soup which consists of a meat broth with potatoes and some sort of green leafy vegetable (the english name escapes me). The camino is what keeps these rural areas alive in Northern Spain. It is amazing to meet people who have been serving and spending time with peregrinos (pilgrims) their entire lives. I hope things are going well back home, and I will post pictures soon.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

tricastela, ponferrada pics...

villafranca view

we made it to galicia (after the mountain day)- Ocebriero
the templar castle in ponferrada
a view from the castle of the templars
the same

hey everyone,

last night we had dinner in tricastela and went to sleep early with the chorus of snores accompanying our slumber in the albergue. It was actually the nicest albergue that we have stayed in to this point. Today we walked 11 miles to sarria where we have had time to research for our projects and get ready for the rigorous interviews which are scheduled for the next day or two. The walk today was great. It was through the mountains and clouds. We passed through several small rural villages and stopped for coffee with some locals. once we got here we met our hospitalero jose from Barcelona. He is a great guy, and he also served us dinner at the bar next door. The specialty of the house is called aguardiente, and we enjoyed it tonight. We had the pleasure of meeting a celebrity at dinner tonight. Grace and I had a wager that a random British guy was in the movie Hot Fuzz, and so I asked him if he had ever heard of the movie. He reluctantly told us that he was actually in the movie! I couldn´t believe my ears. I got to meet a belgian guy yesterday named francis, and we talked about all kinds of things from politics, eco

nomics, culture, and even food. The people on the camino are the best part. I do not have too much time as the internet café is about to close its doors. I hope all is going well.

Friday, May 30, 2008

o cebreiro lo magnífico

we stayed in ponferrada two nights ago and left for the longest day yet -31 km (18miles) yesterday morning at 7:30 AM. We spent the first ten kilometers underneath a huge highway overpass through the mountains. after lunch we started the infamous final ten km up 2000 feet in the rain and mud. The views were incredible. As we were hiking we could see for miles and miles across the mountain. It was definitely a moving experience. after we finally made it we crashed in our rooms, and I made my way to a bar where I met some interesting characters. the first was a lady from london who definitely had the thickest accent I have ever heard. truth be told her parents were iraqi, but she was born in london. After we talked politics and culture for a while an Irish lady named Noel from Dublin joined in with Lynette and me. It was nice to have a break from the hiking and the weather. The little city was definitely a tourist trap as there were many buses with German, English, and Belgium tourists everywhere. There were all kinds of little shops with all kinds of junk for sale that had to do with the camino. We ate dinner together Galician style with octupus (pulpo), torilla española(spanish omlette), jamón(ham), ensalda griega(greek salad), y pan(bread). I don´t have much more time, but after dinner we enjoyed some good ol´ aggie dominoes and some warm colacao. The city was actually in the clouds, and as we walked back to our hotel the eerie glow of the street lights made us think of the locals´ghost stories that had been told after dinner. this morning we walked to tricastela where we are now staying in the albergue. It has been nice to have a little bit of free time to relax and reccuperate. We had a day today of only 12 miles (22 km). It has rained most of the afternoon, and sadly the computer won´t allow me to get pictures for today, so I will have to do more next time I can. I hope everything is going well, and there should be more soon!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

from ponferrada to villafranca del bierzo

last night was quite an interesting evening. a couple of guys with us had some injuries that had to get taken care of while we went around ponferrada. We had a good time in a more urban (sketchy) spanish city. there were definitely some loud pollos in the street that were turning some heads and even scaring dogs. we had a great dinner last night and I have a new favorite dish- arroz a la cubana- this is rice (arroz) covered in two fried eggs (huevos fritos) and a red sauce (salsa roja). It was an incredible first dish. In Spain they typically serve you the menú del día which consists of two courses (separate from each other) and a dessert. Last night we were lucky enough to try the famous honey from the region (el bierzo). It was incredible.So far the best desserts have been fresh fruit (somehow it tastes better here) and arroz con leche (a type of tapioca that is great. The most interesting desert we have tried is called cuajada (sometimes guajada). It is a basque favorite that is pretty much cottage cheese (It didn´t bode to well for me so I refer to it as leche vieja (old milk)).

We all crashed last night after doing some good ol´laundry in the sink and woke up this morning to hit the road again. We took the scenic route around town and ended up following the highway for the first few hours accidentally (Rather than following the camino through the countryside). It ended up being a blessing because it knocked off 3 or 4 kilometers off our day. We stopped in several small towns to enjoy the coffee, juice, or just to rest our feet. We met up for our mid-day meal near Rieros which was about an hour or two from our destination. The last several miles were through vineyards and cool rain. It was a nice change from the musty overcast days that we have been experiencing the last day or two. By the time we reached the valley and quaint village that is villafranca the sun was beating down on us and we were incredibly thankful for anyplace to sit. Luckily for us we were able to visit the puerta del perdon when we arrived which was used in the middle ages for pilgrims who wouldn´t be able to finish the trip to santiago (sins forgiven as you pass through).

I haven´t had much of a chance to take pictures since yesterday and this computer will not accept my converter, so that will have to wait. This is a great little town that was historically settled by the French (villa de Francs- villafranca). We are staying in an old church that was once inhabited by monks. It is called hospedería de san nicolas. We have a crazy and infamous day tomorrow as we will go about 34 kilometers through mountains and valleys. I hope things are going well for everyone, and I will be sure to keep the trip details coming. feel free to pop me an email if you have any questions or anything...

Thanks and gig ´em