Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Joy is in the Journey

It seems a lifetime ago that we were in the cockpit of a KC-10 flying from Travis AFB to South Carolina as we began our trek to the United Kingdom. As always, it had been a crazy time getting out of town and so getting to ride with the pilots for the entire flight across the United States was such a beautiful gift to me to as we began our sabbatical this fall. We love this mode of travel because it is unpredictable and out of our control and to truly receive the fullest benefit from it we  
must begin the process of relinquishing our own agendas so we can be free to truly enjoy the joy that is this journey.

Our sabbaticals have always been an opportunity in which we take the time to pull back from the busyness of life and open ourselves to a perspective that deepens and refines who we are. By sheer definition, we are learning something each and every time we indulge in this beautiful ritual and I find I have become both enamored and dependent on it. We happen to be blessed that in this season of our lives as we are able to do it in the beauty and solitude of long distance walking. Walking is akin to prayer for me and so I thrive on it. It is also a time for Tom and I to have some time together and savor moments that feel as if we have them for a lifetime instead of just the weeks or months and season that they really are. It is the beginning of a process I call retrospect…taking time to reflect on what is happening or has happened and allow myself to be made new by shedding the complacent parts of who I am and being open to the vulnerability and growth of who I can become. It is always a deeply spiritual journey and one I pray is from a perspective greater than mine. I found the words to a favorite song of mine lingering in my mind as this time drew near and I was excited for what was ahead…

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

I find I am craving depth, longing to go deeper and becoming intentional in my personal relationships with both my Creator and those He has given me to love. I do not need to do a lot of important things in this season, I am longing to do the significant ones. I felt a stirring in my heart to see my father for his birthday this year. I had not seen him for quite some time and, quite honestly, the timing for this trip was a bit inconvenient. We had planned our travels abroad with a specific date in mind which is something we rarely do. We love the spontaneity of our travels and deadlines can add pressures we do not want or need. We had the numerous ‘emergencies’ around here before we left which added to our fatigue and stress. It felt incredibly overwhelming to leave but also incredibly right at the same time. I arranged a flight and quickly called and my dad’s wife to let her know I was coming. It was to be a surprise. I called my sister along the way and she agreed to come out also. My relationship with my father is multifaceted and while not always easy, it is one that I have come to understand and love over the years. It was not until I was an adult that I could begin to understand an adult perspective of marriage and divorce. I was a young, vulnerable, teenage girl during that time of transition and while that season in my life was very difficult, it was the impetus of my formative process and without that season I do not believe I would be the woman I am today. Not an easy process, but, to me, one I would not change. While parts of it were intensely hard, it was also an incredibly beautiful visit and it evoked deep feelings of compassion, empathy, and love for my family. I never go astray when these feelings are brought up to the forefront of who I am. It was a most memorable time and I will always cherish it. Did I mention I pricked myself with a vine while doing yard work with my dad… 

To say the course of events that were to follow were crazy would be an understatement. The details are too long to enumerate but suffice to say the small prick of my skin developed into an autoimmune mediated response and subsequent infections of my skin. Our trip changed in a moment as we were grounded in Spain with daily medical appointments and hospital visits. Many things happened that we had not expected, planned, or wanted but when I think of it today I could not imagine a better way in which these events could play out. We were cared for by a wonderful physician and every physical need met without difficulty on our part. The staff and our friends on the Naval Base loved and looked after us as if we were family. Our ride home was comfortable and expedient and I appreciated the depth and tenderness of care Tom gave me during this period of vulnerability.

Take me deeper than than these feet could ever wander... 

 My prayer…fully answered! Just not the way I had planned or  expected. I have to admit, I love it 
when  my prayers are answered predictably and in beautiful and comfortable ways. Walking along the English countryside, staying at lovely farmhouses while enjoying the beauty of nature and adventure, then celebrating Tom’s birthday with our friends in London would have been my plan and preference if asked. Take me deeper...Our journey was just another way to go deeper, fully dependent upon His care and guidance and cleaving deeply to each other... than my feet could ever wander. It was what I had asked for...

We are home now. Resting as the season changes to my beloved fall. Waiting for the temperature to dip a little more so we can light a fire in our fireplace, watching the leaves begin to change to the beautiful hues of red, orange and gold, wanting to bake bread, cook soup, and spend time with you. Beginning to think of our next adventure but for now, just savoring the beauty and joy that was in this journey...

You are loved...

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Gentlemen's Walk

One of the most outstanding gifts we receive while on our travels are the friends we make along the way. We met a lovely couple from Pacific Grove while we were walking along the Portuguese Way and to this day they have become one of our favorites. Barbara and Terence Zito are definitely like minded travelers and so when we heard that they were going to the Cotswold in the UK we thought we should check this out. We became enamored by the English countryside (we were also watching Downtown Abby) and we decided that we would branch out try some walks in this area. We love Spain and had a few moments in which we felt as if we were betraying her but decided we could handle the change of venue.

We consulted with a few of our friends in the UK and came up with a list of three walks. The Coast to Coast walk which begins in St Bees on the Irish Sea and ends at the North Sea in Robin Hoods Bay. From there we had planned to walk along Cornwall on the Southwestern coast and then finish up with a walk through the Cotswold. If we were so inclined we might finish up with a short holiday London. 

These are much different walks than our traditional Spanish walks in that we will actually stay in some beautiful old English Victorian homes and small country estates. 'Upon arrival we will be served cream scones and a pot of tea' which I think will make my gentleman of a husband very happy. And, while I may long for a glass of wine, a piece of fresh baked bread, and a good goat cheese drizzled with olive oil, I can think of no better way to begin the celebration of Tom's Diamond Year, the 75th anniversary of his birth in this lovely setting! 

So with his loafers and a sweater vest packed we are off on another adventure. We are currently in South Carolina awaiting a flight eastward. Remembering always that the joy is in the journey...

Cheerio and Buen Camino...You are loved.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Life Well Lived

The Via de la Plata was an epic journey. The ever changing scenery captivated us as we passed through the many regions and seasons of Spain. Sevilla, The Extremadura, Castillo de Leon, Galicia, each region presenting us daily with the very best it had to offer and solidifying the love we have for this area. We were challenged  by the off road navigating, the length of our journey, and the significant weather extremes. This of course, was offset by the beauty of the area, our solitude along the way, and the experiences we had and the  people we met. We found it a beautiful experience and it renewed our passion to do it again. It will become one of my favorite stories to tell.

These journeys give me plenty of time to contemplate the innermost workings of my heart, mind, and soul. We received the news a few days after we had left that a dear friend of ours had passed away. While we had known of his illness for quite some time we had hoped he would, again, be waiting for us when we returned home. I know he played a round of golf a day or two before he died and so his wife would say he was doing the things he loved until the very end. I have thought about these words many times over the last several weeks.

We know this time was a gift to us. For me, my days were filled with thankfulness as I throughly enjoyed being exactly where I was. There was great peace and joy to be found in the simplicity of our walk and I thought about the things I want to fill my remaining days. This time is my someday life and I want it to be full of the things that move my heart and bring me peace and joy. It is not complex nor does it require a lot of work, I just have to be receptive to all that is waiting for me. I realize that I have lived a full and busy life filled with family, career, and missionary work, which are fine and noble pursuits but now is my time to be still in Him and wait to see what is ahead. I am excited and know I will not be disappointed in His plans for me. They are full and rich and in that I am certain and most thankful.

One of my all time favorite movies contains a quote I have never forgotten and found myself thinking about on these travels. "...the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these we stay alive for."  I would be foolish to settle for anything less.  

So I think of you as we head home. The anchor on my heart, the foundation of all that I am, and the integral and defining parts of my life well lived.

 You are loved. Buen Camino.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


While Finisterre was once known as the "End of the World", for those who seek the roads less traveled, the end of the Way is considered to be Muxia. For us, this was to be our final destination for this trip.  When we arrived we found Muxia to be somewhat of an enigma. It does not have that celebratory aura that Finisterre has and yet it gives one the sense of completeness. In fact, it's outward appearance is a bit solemn and devoid of the everyday busyness of life. The people we met were warm, kind, and validating to us in the completion of the final trek of our journey.

It was a very peaceful time and we enjoyed it very much. It's hard to imagine but people come from all over to visit this area. Muxia's claim to fame and the reason it is so intimately connected to the Camino story is to be found in the legend of the Nosa Senora da Barca, or Our Lady of the Boat at the headland of the Santuario da Virxe da Barca. The legend states that the mother of Jesus sailed to these area on a stone boat to tell the apostle James he had not failed in his evangelism attempts and call him back to Jerusalem. The boat is supposedly petrified in stone and stands erect at the headland near the 18th century sanctuary dedicated to this event. The sanctuary is a stunning sight as it hovers on the waters edge.

For us, it was a beautiful time of solitude and reflection. We have much to be thankful for and in these quiet moments we recognize our blessings. You are among them and we hold your heart next to ours. You are loved. Buen Camino.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

On the Road to Muxia

We had decided to alter the number of kilometers we walked each day because, quite frankly, we were getting a little tired after the nearly two months on the trail. We felt it was important to slow down a bit because this was a beautiful area and we wanted to really appreciate it and not just rush and walk through it. It took us a bit longer this way but we have no regrets about this decision.

We stayed in a lovely town called Lires at a beautiful pension. Our host, Paublo was born in this home which has been converted to a lovely restaurant as well as the pension. His mama Leta does all the cooking and it was superb. Beautiful seafood, padron peppers sauteed perfectly, fresh tomatoes, good wine and wonderful bread and cheese. It was heavenly.

In Spain, they celebrate  Mothers Day the first Sunday of May. A walking club from Asturias, Spain was also coming through and so a lot of the wives of the walking club members arrived in Lires to celebrate both Mothers Day and the arrival of their spouses. I had realize a few days ago that I would not be home for Mothers Day and was feeling incredibly homesick. In my limited Spanish and their limited English we managed to have a lovely afternoon eating the wonderful delights Leta had made and drinking wonderful Rioja wine. Leta sat with us for awhile and it almost eased my heart.

In the evening we walked through this lovely small village and met some of the people who make this area their home. We shared hugs and kisses and stories about our children. In the evening Pablo took us for a ride to watch the sunset over the ocean. It was incredibly beautiful and he was so kind to do this for us. It made the evening so very special. In an attempt to catch our breath for a moment, the beauty and kindness of strangers truly took our breath away. We are excited for what is ahead... Muxia tomorrow.

Love and miss you. Buen Camino.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


We had some unfinished business with The Way to Finesterre. We had planned to walk into both Finisterre and Muxia after we had completed the Camino Frances on our first pilgrimage in 2014 but we were bombarded with torrential rains when we arrived. We waited a few days to see if the storm would let up (it didn't) and then we made the decision to take the bus.  For a pilgrim with pride issues this can be a hard pill to swallow but we did it because we are pilgrims working on these kinds of pride issues.

We were dressed and ready in our rain gear as we boarded the bus and much to our surprise there was a break in the storm a little over half way there. We quickly asked the bus driver to pull over and he obliged us and we walked in. It was stunning and we had vowed to walk this route in its entirety when we were back this way.

Our next walk was through Portugal and it was challenging for many reasons. Tom had a routine surgery in which he developed an unusual complication. We were not sure if we could even make this walk and he did not get the go ahead until the day we left. It was a hard walk and when we completed it we were met in Santiago again with torrential rains. We would have to save this walk for another time.

The weather along the Via de la Plata was tumultuous. Heat, wind, hail, snow, and  copious amounts of rain. Some days were filled with a little bit of each of these types of weather. We got very good at adapting to the changes quickly. We prayed that if it was sunny when we arrived into Santiago we would finally walk into both Finesterre and Muxia. Our prayers were answered when we arrived with a warm, beautiful, sunny day. We took it as a sign and quickly set out.

 To say it was a stunning walk would be an understatement. Old villages, wooded pathways, gentle hills (mostly), with the promises of a glimpse of a beautiful turquoise blue sea just around the corner. The sun was warm upon our faces and the breeze cool upon our backs. We thought of the Celtic prayer many times during these days and were very appreciative that we were the recipients of such perfect weather.

Finesterre is the place you go to celebrate your accomplishment. It is a fun and festive place where everyone is happy that you have finally arrived. We met up with some people we had loss track of along the way and met some other people we had not seen at all on the trail. There was a parade when we arrived and after we enjoyed the festivities we sat on our balcony overlooking the sea and the two of us celebrated the beauty of this moment.

We received our Fisterana, our certificate that verifies we have made this pilgrimage to Finesterre. It is beautiful and we are glad that we have completed this journey. No regrets and nothing left undone.

So now it is on to Muxia. We are excited to see what lies ahead. We are thinking of you a lot these days. You would love it here.

You are loved. Buen Camino.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Santiago in the Horizon

There is an interesting set of 'mind shifts' that occur as our walk progresses over the several weeks we are on the trail. In the beginning we are excited and think we can conquer anything. For these first few days our daily walking goal (in our minds) in kilometers surpasses our collective ages but very soon we realize that those days have passed us and we must quickly adjust to the realities of this season of life and slow our pace down a bit. 

This is followed by a phase of, "What were we thinking? Are we ever going to be able to finish this walk?" We daydream about luxurious cruises, travels in which every moment of every day is filled with ease and all we have to do is enjoy it. Our shoes are soft, my hair has a style, and we even have a sweater when we feel a chill.

 Then we get into the challenge of our journey. Off the trail and cross country walking and the skill this poses consume our thoughts. We are feeling good about ourselves and our abilities to adapt to the ever changing course we are on. Our bodies are getting stronger. We are not novices any longer and we think even our children would be impressed with our skills and stamina. 

Suddenly, we begin to feel a bit tired and start counting the days until we finish. We look for shortcuts and, I'm not ashamed to say, sometimes we take them. The goal of our arrival into Santiago takes precedence over everything else. 

Another strange thing begins to happen as we draw close to our goal. We really aren't ready for this to end. We find ways to extend our days by looking for alternative routes that will take us out on the trail for a few more days as we hope to capture every last moment before we reach the end of our travels.

We are beset by a barrage of feelings as we near Santiago. How did we get here so fast? We are excited to be here, and yet... It is like receiving your diploma after a long hard course of study. Excited for the moment but also with the realization that change is inevitable. Are we ready for that change? How will we acclimate back to a life other than the one we have lived these last several weeks? It was hard and so very beautiful at the same time. The simplicity of it makes it hard to go back to the life that we left and yet, at the same time, we are so eager to be with those we love the most in the whole world.

When we walk into the Plaza Major all thoughts vanish and we are engulfed with the emotion of the moment. Each of our entries into the city have been through a different gate but there is familiarity and excitement as we begin the long walk into the Plaza and to the cathedral which marks the finish of the Via de la Plata. So many have gone before us and many will come after us but for now this moment is ours.

We concentrate on the words given to us at the pilgrim mass as we stand at the zero kilometer mark. "It is a good thing you have done pilgrim."  Yes, we have to agree. We can walk through the rest of it later.

You are loved. Buen Camino. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016



We had a fairly dry morning as we left Ourense. Today was to be one of our most strenuous walks with a steep ascent out of town. We would walk nearly 24 kilometers but the ascent would occur in the first 5 kilometers. Cea was to be our destination for the day and we began early as rain was expected later in the afternoon.  We had been intentional in our desire to stay in Cea. It is famous throughout Spain for its dense, flavorful Galician bread. Any place that is famous for it's bread must be worth staying in. In fact, it even has a bread museum. Imagine that.

Along the way we met a man who owned a Casa Rural  in Cotelas. Cotelas was not one of our destinations nor was it even on our radar. In fact, it was an 'alternate' route. We are inclined to ignore these offers to stay somewhere off the route  because they are usually a lot more work than they are worth. But there was something about this man that caught our attention and so we listened to what he had to say and even took his card with his address. Perhaps it was his sincere offer to help us if we should need anything during the day that prompted us to carry anything extra with us, even if it was just a small piece of paper.

As we walked we made the decision that we would stay with Antonio as his place was very traditional and  at an unbelievable good price. It would also cut about nine kilometers off our walk for the next day. 

We walked on and as the day progressed the trail suddenly became a stream. It took some skill on our  part to maneuver it and in spite of my 'skill' I fell into this stream. I was soaking wet and covered with mud.

It was a bit further than we had expected and by the time we got there I was dry and covered with mud. When we finally reached our Casa I felt as if we had come home. Mama Aurora showed us to our room and got my clothes washed. She cooked dinner for us. Pulpo (octopus Galician style), fresh Iberian ham and Galician cheese, pasta with garlic and tomatoes, and the famous Cea bread. They stood over us making sure we were full, warm, and content. Lots of homemade wine and limoncello and fresh made yogurt for desert. 

It was a stunning day. One I will treasure always. Thinking of are loved. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


 We were a bit surprised when arrived in Ourense as it was a much bigger city than we had expected. It turns out that this is really quite the tourist attraction and people travel here as their destination for a holiday. When we are arrived we already had reserved a room at the Hotel Mino and were pleasantly surprised at its' perfect location. It even had an elevator! Our room was red and the sheets were cool and white. It was perfect. And, we actually had two days of no rain!

We spent the day as tourist. The Plaza Major is famous because it is built on an incline. There are modern day shops and lovely restaurants with 'trendy' food. The tapas are not only tasty they a are beautiful. Very good indeed but I must admit, I still miss mama's homemade cooking over an open fire. 

One of the most memorable things we did was to visit the nature thermal springs across the river. We indulged ourselves for a couple of hours as we sat in the 'healing' warm waters. It was decadent and leisurely and we loved it! I have to admit it was certainly therapeutic. We are both refreshed and ready for what lies ahead.

We are on the final leg of our journey to Santiago. It has been a spectacular walk and we have been the recipients of many acts of kindness and have experienced many forms of beauty. We continue to learn so much and realize we have so much more to learn.

Thinking of you. You are loved. Buen Camino.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

On the Way to Ourense

When we finally arrived in Ourense we were exhausted and in need of a little rest. It was not the physical activity that had caused us this weariness but by a series of small events that reeked a bit a havoc on my day and in my heart.

When we awoke in A Gudina, as expected, there was a deluge of rain. We are still having to alter our walking plans daily because of the rapidly changing weather and road conditions. This does not usually pose a problem but for today we would have to walk along the busy highway in very rainy weather to get to where we wanted to be. This road would intersect the busy A52 several times and we would have to walk through some automobile  tunnels to get across and then back alongside the A52. We have done this before and on a clear day this is not desirable but on a rainy day it can be treacherous. We opted instead to catch a bus.

We love our walking days. Although we understand we have nothing to prove to anyone or to ourselves it is always a bit hard for us to  make the decision to catch a bus. I have to admit, in the morning when we looked out the window we knew this was the right decision.

It can be a bit challenging catching a train or bus in another country in which you do not have command of the language. Trying to get an understanding of both the timetables and location can be a bit challenging. Everyone had different advice for us and soon we were completely confused about where and when to go. Finally, a young man, who was also the taxi driver for this area gave us some explicit instructions. He took us to a cafe and told us,  "In about an hour stand in front of this cafe and when a blue and white bus comes by wave him down and tell him where you need to go. You will have to transfer once but he can help you with that." We understood what needed to be done, we only hoped we could communicate this well enough when the time came to execute this plan.

About ten minutes before the hour the taxi drive showed up at the cafe. He lifted the hatch back of his car and told us to stand under it while he hailed down the bus for us. What a gift to us! Several blue and white buses drove by before one finally stopped to pick us up. I am not sure how he knew which blue and white bus but he did and we were so very grateful. He told the bus driver where we needed to go and we were set. We got off where we were told to get off and interestingly enough the bus driver walked in with us and helped us make our connection. We had a bit of time so went to the nearest cafe and had wonderful cup of hot chocolate. Soon it was time to board the bus so we made a quick stop at the market for a few snacks for our trip. I know, we were not going that far but we have become smitten with these little packages of cookies so we picked up a couple to "sustain us" for the short ride.

We made the connection without a hitch. We sat in the front seat so we could see/remind the bus driver where we needed to get off. Midway I reached into my pocket and noticed that my phone was gone. We have these daily rituals that we perform because we are on the move so much and do not want to lose anything. I could not find my phone/camera nor could I remember when I had last felt it in my pocket. The bus driver could sense my despair and quickly pulled over. When we were at the next stop he allowed me to get out and check the underside  of the bus where my backpack was located. I could not find it! It is a brand new iPhone but the part that hurt my heart the most was all of my pictures were on it. Our trip, my grandkids, our family, first day of school photos of Parker and Miriam, Viviana's graduation that I look at daily to fill my heart when I am away from those I love the most in the world. We made the decision to go back to where we were and try to find my phone.

This would not be easy even if you were in your own country, speaking your own language, and might I add, driving your own car. After a bit of work we did get back to where we had been waiting to transfer buses. The phone was nowhere to be found. Such an interesting set of events followed as we tried to locate it. We met a man in the cafe we had been at earlier whose wife was the local English teacher and she would try to help us. We also contacted the taxi driver who had given us is card and told us to call if we needed help whatsoever. Between the two of them they were able to contact the bus company who contacted the bus driver and the phone was nowhere on the bus. I began to cry. I would certainly survive losing my phone but for just a moment I felt sad over the loss of my photos and all the tidbits of things I keep on it. I tried to explain this to the group of people who were trying so hard to help us and console me. "It is not the loss of my phone I mourn, just the loss of the photos that bring me such joy". Everyone was kind and comforting. We decided to move on and after an attempt to notify the police we went back to the bus station. While I was thanking the young man who helped us the bus driver from earlier in the morning came into the station and called Tom over. He had found my phone clipped into the seat of his bus. What an unlikely moment...that we would be exactly where we were and he would be there also. He remembered us sitting in the front seat and wanted to be sure that the phone was returned to us. After he gave it to Tom he quickly disappeared.

We caught a later bus and did make it into Ourense. We decided to add an extra day just to collect ourselves and rest before moving onward.

Always thinking of you. You are loved...Buen Camino. 

Nancy Stoeckel 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lubian and Onward

We are getting better at our navigational skills and now find that even if the roads are clear we have no hesitation to alter our trail if we find a better route. We have found this to be exciting and are enjoying all that we have been able to experience this way.

We do not see many other walkers this way and I have to admit that while I truly love this time of solitude I also love meeting fellow travelers on occasion. Today was such a day.

We were definitely off the Camino but out path transected part of the cyclist path today. In the middle of nowhere we looked up and saw two men riding down our road. They stopped and came over and we found out that they take a cycling trip every year together and had begun a little further south than we had and would soon complete their adventure. They lived in Belgium but one man was from France and the other from Romania. Dino, the man from Romania, made a beeline to Tom and immediately asked where we were from. When we said the USA he asked why he had a Romanian flag sewn on the back of his backpack. When we explained that we carried patches from our family back home and that our daughter had given us this patch because of the way it had changed her life after living there we were immediately connected. We would meet later in the evening and have dinner with them and hear of the many twists and turns their lives had taken and why they were both on the Camino today. It was a beautiful 'rags to riches' tale and we are honored to have heard it.

We still have rain nearly everyday but it is not as cold as it had once been. We are quite good at adjusting our attire as the weather dictates. We think of you many times through out these days. You are loved...Buen Camino.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Off the Camino

 We are technically off the Camino and, technically still on the Camino. Due to the weather and the closure of some of the mountainous trails we have been improvising and creating our own trails.  We are still heading in the same direction, through Galicia to Santiago de Compostela, but we are no longer using our guide book.  Instead, we are  accomplishing this on our own with the help of GPS and our maps. 

It has been exciting as we determine our destination for the day and then try to figure out how we are going to get there. For those of you in the know, you know this means I am relying entirely on Tom. It has brought us to places we had not expected to visit and we are seeing the nooks and crannies of this part of Spain. It has made all the difference in the world.

We walk through the small country villages that don't see any other walkers. People wave us down to ask us about our pilgrimage. We struggle a bit with the language but now know a few key phrases and people are happy to hear of our journey. We met a lady in Viera who was so happy we were going to Santiago she gave us some money and then asked us to pray for her on our arrival.

Some interesting things have happened along the way and I am again reminded that I have so much more to learn about life. Still processing these things and receptive to what God would have for me as I open myself up to further refinement. The hours along the way seem to fly by during these times of contemplation and I am grateful for the solitude and this time on the road less traveled.

I think of you each and every day and pray you feel the blessings of each and every day you have. You are so very loved...

Buen Camino.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Snow on the Camino Sanabres

 We had a sense that we would eventually run into inclement weather. The forecasts had been predicting snow and fellow travelers had confirmed these reports. As we headed further north we began to see snow on the mountaintops and as we neared those ranges we suspected we might actually experience a different kind of Camino. We had read and been told that theVia de la Plata is the 'warmest ' of all the Camino's and we were advised to be prepared for the heat. The good news was that the Camino Sanabres was condsidered to be a mild reprieve from the Plata and here we could expect cooler weather and as we enjoyed a reprieve from the warmth of our earlier days. When we heard reports of snow ahead I had to admit we were surprised. Our friend Bernard who had walked this route a year earlier was surprised as well. We had to send him pictures so he could see this with his own eyes. 
When we left Puebla de Sanabria it was cold and wet. We could see snow very close to us and suspected we might run into it on the trail. When we woke up the next day we put on every piece of clothing that we had brought with us in preparation for the impending weather. Within the hour snow began to fall and it was stunning. It seemed just the other day that our skin was burning from the noon sun and now we doing our best to warm ourselves as we walked along this way.
When we arrived in Lubian we encountered a rainbow. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful place to end our day. We stayed in a beautiful room above the Bar Javi. Our friends joined us for a lovely dinner and we chatted about the beauty and surprise of the days weather. 
Tomorrow we head out to La Gudina. We will alter our trail for the next few days. The weather conditions have closed the trails and so we will navigate on our own. We will touch bases with our traveling companions and then will set out on the old N525 and some back road trails to reach our destinations. A bit exciting I have to say. We will check in with you at the end of each day. We think of you so many times throughout our adventures. You are loved and thought of so very much. 
Buen Camino...

Camino Sanabres

Camino Sanabres

The Via de la Plata officially ends in Astorga where it joins the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela. There is another way to complete this walk while still ending in Santiago and it is to walk the Camino Sanabres. This walk begins at Puebla de Santabria and heads westward right above the Portuguese border through Galicia and onward to Santiago. We have decided to take this route for a couple of reasons. One, we have never walked this route before and are excited to see the area. Secondly, it is in Galicia and I have love for this area. I can not explain why exactly but my heart feels excited as if I am coming home. I can always tell when we are getting close to this region. I think that is the reason we are braving the elements to complete this walk.

The weather has been colder and wetter than usual. Many Spaniards say that they are having a late winter this year and they too are a bit surprised by the amounts of  rain and snow for this time of year. I have to admit,  there are times when I feel a bit anxious about it myself. The hardest part is right before I step out into the rain and take my first step. Once I get going I actually enjoy the walk. We have superb rain gear and remain fairly dry throughout the days. Because of the weather there are advisories against walking in mountainous areas and so our route has been redirected onto the old N525. It actually is a beautiful road and I think we saw no more than six cars today. This actually has shortened our walking days and we should be done around my birthday.

We have walked through many beautiful areas and have met many lovely people along the way. We  have had coffee in the mornings with a couple from Holland and suddenly not see them for a couple of days. Out of the blue, they will show up again and we will be sharing the same Casa or Albergue for a few nights. We had a lovely dinner with two Italian brothers and I will never forget when they pantomimed the dinner option of 'rabbit stew' for us. They were lovely to be with.

We walk through the canola fields and inhale the beauty. We never tire of the landscape and have to admit this has been one of our loveliest walks. Someone asked us if walking for so long was hard and the answer is yes, it is. But, it is so beautiful and for us their  really is no other way that we want to experience the culture and landscape of this country.

We will have a thousand stories when we return. Can't wait to share them with you. You are loved...

Buen Camino

Friday, April 15, 2016

El Cubo to Zamora

We stayed in a traditional Albergue in El Cubo de Tierra Del Vino and we had the loveliest time. We had heard that Spain was experiencing a late winter this year and the weather has been colder, wetter, and windier than usual. It is always a welcome sight when we near our 'home' for the day. We had heard about two options in town and are glad we stayed exactly where we were.

Mama Carmen greeted us at the door. She quickly lead us into a warm sitting room where she offered us cold wine, soft bread, and wonderful sausages. After a few moments of chatting with the other peregrino's who had just arrived she showed us to our room. Her son Manuel and his wife Mercedes came by to answer any questions we might have or to assist with any needs that might arise. A heavy storm was predicted for the next day and we had considered taking the bus. We got the information we needed in the event we decided to go this way.

We were invited to eat dinner with their family at the family home nearby. We gladly accepted. We sat at the dinner table with a lovely fire burning and ate a wonderful meal of soup, salad, chicken, bread, spaghetti, local wine poured from a ceramic pitcher, and then flan and fruit. It was a special evening and we felt loved and cared for.

In the morning we had decided if it was raining when we walked out of the door we would take the bus. As we said our goodbyes and looked out the door we could see that it would indeed be a day to get a ride into town. We had agreed to meet another couple at the bus stop if the conditions were such and as we begin to walk away Mama Carmen and one of her other sons picked us up and offered too drive us in to Zamora. Before we could speak otherwise we were well on our way. We appreciated the ride as the rain was so heavy we could barely see the countryside from our warm, dry seat in the car.

We checked into our room rather early and decided to bundle up and walk to the laundry mat to wash and dry our clothes. We drank hot chocolate and ate warm churros while we did this chore. There were a few hours during the day in which the rain subsided and we enjoyed the beautiful city of Zamora.

Back on the road to Montamarta tomorrow. Weather is much colder than we had expected but  the wind has always been at our backs. We will continue northward and are receptive to what lies ahead for us on this beautiful journey.

We find ourselves thinking of you as these days go by. Love this time to appreciate who you are to us. You are loved...Buen Camino.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Pieces of History Along the Way

Many of you may not know our dear friends Martin and Linda Smith but to us they are like gold. They were the first couple we met at the beginning of our Space A travel life. They took us under their wing and from them we learned the intricacies  of Space A travel. To this day, we still call upon Martin to help us with any travel questions we may have and he always has an answer. I bring this up because today we walked alongside Medina del Campos. While this is not a popular tourist attraction there is an interesting piece of history I happen to know and I know this because of Martin and Linda Smith. It was at their suggestion that we read the book Iberia by James Michener before traveling to Spain. We did and this was the beginning of our love affair with this country with its rich history and lovely culture. Had we not read the book we might not have known about the significance of this small town north of Salamanca.

Medina del Campos is the place that Queen Isabella died. King Fernando and Queen Isabella ruled in the late fifteenth century and are still called beloved in this country. The overcame the Moorish rule and restored Catholicism which is still widely practiced and held sacred today.  But, there is no monument that marks this as the sight of the place where one of Europe's noblest queens died. Instead, it houses the penitentiary of this region. In a country that has a monument for nearly everything and everybody I found this to be interesting. Not as interesting as the rest of her story. It is a long one and I think I shall have you over to tell you of it in its entirety. Sometimes I am in awe of the history we are walking through.

We will walk through many small villages before we arrive in Zamora. As comfortable and familiar as  the small village life is to us is as exciting as it is for us to stop in places like Zamora and Salamanca. We hear Zamora is a beautiful place and are happy to explore this area. We are excited as we continue to live life in this way and all that we are learning along the way.

We think of you throughout the days. You are loved. Buen Camino.

Sunday, April 10, 2016



It was interesting walking from San Pedro de la Rozados to Salamanca. We had immersed ourselves in the quiet countryside finding such beauty and solace in our solitude that it felt a bit hard to leave. We learned that there was one school in town and it was attended by sixteen students under the age of twelve. There were two teachers who handled everything except art, music, and gymnastics. Every one knew every one. We found this out in an interesting way when we accidentally took our room key with us after we had checked out. When we stopped for coffee in the next town (about 5 km away) Isabelle immediately recognized the key chain and said she would call Carmen for us and let her know we had it. Her daughter would even drive it over later. 

The countryside was stunning and the air was clear and brisk. We saw no one along the way and quickly were lost in our own thoughts again. We had a picnic atop the highest peak of the day and could barely make out Salamanca in the distance. We were about to transition from one world to another.

Salamanca has a rich history. It's Plaza Major is considered to be one of the best in the world. It is a continuous plaza, four stories high that had, at one time, been used as a bull ring. It is said that on  Friday and Saturday nights the sounds of a lively college crowd could rival those sounds from the crowds attending the bullfights from that long ago era.

It also houses one of the most prestigious colleges in the area. It was built in the mid-sixteenth century and during its first few years of enrollment had over 8,700 students registered in mathematics and medicine. The college is as beautiful as ever and we happened to be strolling through the grounds during a graduation ceremony. What a spectacular sight.

We stayed at a lovely little pension on the Calle Major. We could walk out of our door and be a part of the night life in an instant! Our host recommended some traditional places to eat and we tried all kinds of things which I will tell you about later. The wine was superb and the atmosphere wonderful. We stayed up late and slept in the next morning. It did not rain but was a bit cold. We stopped and bought some warm gloves and are now content and comfortable.

We are growing quite accustom to the nuances of rural Spain and have begun to fit in pretty well. There is always one little thing that indicates we are not from around here. It is our shoes. While everyone is wearing stylish shoes we can be found in either our sandals or boots. It give us away every time. Oh well, no posanada as our Viviana would say, no worries. We are enjoying the good life. Thinking of you and missing you very much.

 Buen Camino.