The Big Adventure

19 September 2019 | Burgos, Spain
18 September 2019 | Burgos, Spain
17 September 2019 | Atapuerca, Spain
16 September 2019 | Belorado, Spain
15 September 2019 | Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain
14 September 2019 | Najera, Spain
13 September 2019 | Ventosa, Spain population 175
12 September 2019 | Logrono, Spain
11 September 2019 | Viana, Spain
10 September 2019 | Los Arcos, Spain
09 September 2019 | Estrella, Spain
08 September 2019 | Puente la Reina, Spain
07 September 2019 | Pamplona
06 September 2019 | Pamplona, Spain
05 September 2019 | Larrasoana, Spain
04 September 2019 | Espinal, Spain
03 September 2019 | Orisson
02 September 2019 | St Jean Pied de Port, France
01 September 2019 | Pamplona, Spain
31 August 2019 | In flight

R and R

19 September 2019 | Burgos, Spain
Andrea Berndt | Sunny
A rest day in Burgos is very welcome. We were able to sleep in and recharge as we played tourist at a leisurely pace. When we went in search of breakfast around 9, there wasn't much activity on the streets. Slowly the city began to show signs of life around 11. We were drawn to the Cathedral of Burgos, an immense, incredibly ornate Gothic cathedral that almost looks as if it were made of spun sugar. The cornerstone was laid almost 800 years ago and completed 22 years later. The architecture, stone carvings, wrought iron work, wooden carving and stained glass take your breath away. It is light and airy, not the least bit dark or dreary like many cathedrals. The altar pieces and artwork include a painting by none other than Leonardo da Vinci. Much history is contained within these walls with tombs of royalty and important figures such as El Cid (not Charleton Heston, but the real deal). El Cid was quite the warrior and mercenary of 11th century Spain, fighting on behalf of both Christian and Muslim kings depending on circumstances. After finishing at the cathedral we took a touristy little train ride through the city and past many of the sights. We even passed by the town's botanical garden... the quickest I've ever dragged Mike through one. We stopped for the menu del dia, a 3 course lunch of gazpacho soup, lamb chops with potatoes (somehow potatoes show up at just about every meal) and flan. We are doing our best to partake of local specialties. The midday meal seems to be served between 1-3, after which everything, and I do mean everything, closes down until 5pm. The streets are deserted during siesta time and they might as well roll up the sidewalks. Then at 5 the city miraculously comes alive again. People emerge in full force and all the shops open back up. Families, friends, all sorts come out to promenade, from the very young in strollers or carriages to the elderly with canes or wheelchairs. It's a very social time and staying home vegetating in front of the television doesn't appear to be an option. The layout of the town with multiple squares, parks, and sidewalk cafes encourages social interaction. Wouldn't it be nice if we could import this to the USA? We met up with our new Camino friend Helen for tapas and ended the day comparing notes on experiences so far and plans for the next few days. It's off to Rabe de la Calzada for tomorrow.

Rocks R Us

18 September 2019 | Burgos, Spain
Andrea Berndt | Sunny
We shared a delightful dinner at our hotel with Clive and Michael, 2 British gentlemen we had met previously in Belorado and Christine, a French physician. In Atapuerca, population 124, you're bound to run into people you know. We all headed to bed early, exhausted from the extra long walk. In our room under the eaves it was reminiscent of being on the boat when a big rain storm hit in the middle of the night. I listened to the rat-a-tat-tat of the rain above me while Mike leapt out of bed to close the hatch or rather the skylight. I think we tossed and turned a lot during the night from over exhaustion. By morning it was obvious that Mike would be out of commission due to shin splints. His left shin is red and swollen. He agreed, after much persuasion, to take a cab to Burgos where we have a scheduled rest day. Hopefully with 2 days rest, ice, elevation, and ibuprofen he'll be able to get back on track. I left him with Jennifer our innkeeper, with instructions to have the arrival beverages ready for when we got to Burgos. I started out for Burgos thinking it should be a fairly easy day with just one little hill at the beginning, followed by a straight shot of relatively flat terrain to the destination. The path up the hill was a sea of rocks and any earth that might have been mixed in had been washed by the wayside into a thick and tenacious mud. In proper billy goat fashion I picked my way up the hill with my poles to compensate for only having 2 rather than 4 legs. Down the hill to the first rest stop in Cardenuela Riopico I ran into Clive and Michael. The three of us fell into a steady rhythm and walked together the rest of the way to Burgos, solving the world's problems along the way. Thank heavens for their company as the Camino was mostly paved roads poorly marked, going through the industrial section of Villafria which then merged into Burgos. It was quite the slog, and I was very glad to have the companionship of these fascinating fellows. Burgos is the end of the line for them and I was sorry to say goodbye as we went our separate ways to lodging. Perhaps we'll run into them tomorrow as we're all spending an extra day here.

Nature and more nature

17 September 2019 | Atapuerca, Spain
Andrea Berndt | Sunny
2 weeks on the Camino...269.6 km down, 510.3 to go and we're still walking, talking to each other, and smiling after completing 30 km, our longest day. Last night for dinner Mike had alubianas (red beans) with morcillo, a local blood sausage, hoping to be jet propelled. Alas he had to make it all under his own power. We got an early start, leaving under the light of a full moon as we exited Belorado. We were treated to an exquisite sunrise before Tosantos. We kept trucking until we reached Espinosa del Camino for our morning coffee/ orange juice stop. We are communing with Mother Nature in all her glory, interrupted only by periodic little villages. The wide open fields have recently been harvested and we're seeing birds for a change and lots of bugs from freshly mowed fields. Field mice are also thriving and a good mouser is worth her weight in gold in the villages. One brought her catch to an area beside one of our coffee stops. She entertained the pilgrims with her game of cat and mouse, tossing her treasure into the air and leaping sideways in between pounces. Poor little mouse didn't stand a chance. The rich brown earth of freshly tilled fields was so inviting, I was tempted to run my fingers through it. Knowing I was facing 30 kms kept me on track. Most of the day was a steady ascent on a hill that just wouldn't end. When we thought the trail had leveled off, we'd come around a bend and continue to climb. Evidence of last nights rain in the form of mini ponds to transverse and lots of red clay mud kept us zigzagging, adding to the distance to our destination. We passed through pine scented forests carpeted with ferns. In the clearing pretty little flowers sprung from the ground similar to the way crocus emerge through snow. It was also the first time we've seen cattle and horses grazing in a field since the Pyrenees. We finally reached Atapuerca, an archeological site where human remains over 800,000 years old have been discovered and tonight's destination, around 2:30. Our lodging for the night is ancient, with stone walls over 2 feet thick and massive rustic wooden beams crisscrossing the low ceiling of our room under the eaves. In the description of the facility they listed having toilet paper (wahoo!) with sheets and towels available for a fee. Bedbugs free of charge... only kidding I hope. Should be an interesting night.

Destiny

16 September 2019 | Belorado, Spain
Andrea Berndt | Overcast
Last night on the way to dinner we stopped in to visit the Catedral de Santo Domingo de la Calzada. They had a pilgrim admission rate, but I had forgotten to bring my pilgrim credencial. Silly girl. The guy at the entrance took one look at us and our feet and declared we were pilgrims. The Spanish people tend to be very stylish and few would venture out in our plain attire and sandals, not to mention all the moleskin. What we thought would be a quick look see easily turned into an hour as we wandered around the immense structure filled with elaborate altars, a crypt, and the infamous chicken coop with a live chicken and rooster (yes, in the church up high behind glass and a wrought iron grill). We learned more about Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Turns out he was not a monk, having applied to the monastery and was rejected. He became somewhat of a hermit and dedicated his life to looking after the pilgrims by building bridges, roads and hospices for pilgrims. Some refer to him as the most important engineer from the 11th and 12th centuries. Moral of the story... not getting into your first choice school is nothing new and just because you don't, doesn't mean the end of your future. You can still accomplish great things. The elaborate churches and cathedrals we have seen so far are a testimony to the immense power, riches and influence of the church long ago. What a contrast to today, when many are fighting for survival as many people are "born" into a particular faith but do not practice it. We got an early start this morning since rain was in the forecast. We were hoping to cover the 14+ miles to Belorado before the rain set in. We are leaving behind the vineyards of the La Rioja region and heading into the wheat and corn fields of Castile. At our morning coffee stop in Granon we shared a table with a Dutch father and son duo. The son had just graduated from school and his father was treating (?) him to the Camino. What an experience and bond to share, though it may be awhile before the son truly appreciates the gift. We also ran into our British friend Helen and our Venezuelan friends Jonathan and Marina. We're all headed to Belorado and we beat the rain!

Small world

15 September 2019 | Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain
Andrea Berndt | Intermittent rain
We decided to send our backpacks ahead today, as both of us have picked up the Camino cough and are engaged in a serious competition to see who can hock up a lung first. For the record, Mike is winning. It's supposed to be partly sunny today with rain later in the week. Fortunately from our sailing days we know that the weather forecast is simply a starting point and it's always a good idea to take a look and trust what you see. Those clouds on the horizon sure look like rain ahead. So after we left our backpacks containing our ponchos at the pick up point, we quickly retraced our steps to retrieve the ponchos. Sure enough, within the hour we were wearing them. I also got a chance to try out my new tips. The diamond girls (my poles) have small points that not only make quite a clatter on city streets, but can be downright tricky when they catch in cracks. We finally found a pair of rubber tips that fit and easily slip on when needed. Whenever we passed through a town today, Mike was sure to say "nice tips!" My mother definitely got it right when she told us we were easily amused. We came across a couple today who had baby on board signs dangling from their backpacks. Couldn't resist such a conversation piece. Jonathan and Marina are from Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, currently residing in Texas. They were familiar with Puerto la Cruz, where I grew up. Small world. We agreed that the current situation is very sad and they said their family didn't want them to come home because of it. Marina is 4 months pregnant and what a shame to not be able to share this time with her family. We had a lively discussion of the importance of leadership and voting. When we get to the Cruz de Ferro, we'll be praying for Venezuela as well as the USA. Entering the town of Ciruena, ancient was juxtaposed with modern as we passed by a golf course. Now how many pilgrims do you suppose are toting golf clubs in their packs? We all have our own ideas of the essentials. We arrived in Santo Domingo de la Calzada around 1pm. Santo Domingo was an 11th century monk/engineer who dedicated his life to looking out for the pilgrims by building many of the roads, bridges, churches and hospices to facilitate the journey. He located this town strategically to facilitate safe passage for pilgrims. We are treating ourselves to a stay at Parador Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda, located in the medieval Monastery of San Francisco. The historic site with thick stone walls is truly amazing. Should be a quiet place for a good nights rest.

Small towns versus cities

14 September 2019 | Najera, Spain
Andrea Berndt | Sunny
Our stopover in Ventosa, population 175, was a delight. We stayed in an 18th century stone house that had been restored. Our proprietress was very gracious and prepared a delicious paella dinner that we shared with a British couple. They did the last 100 km of the Camino in May with a group of friends. It was such a positive experience that they decided to come back and do the entire Camino Frances in September. A lively dinner conversation ensued. Brexit is a hot topic and all the Brits we've met so far would prefer to remain in the EU. Time will tell. Even though Najera, our next stop, is a hop, skip and a jump down the road, we got an early start. It's rather warm in La Rioja, and better to walk before the heat of day sets in. As we walked through the vineyards I tried to restrain myself. Do I really need another picture of grapevines?? I resisted temptation until I spotted green as opposed to purple grapes. Different variety justified more photos. Even though La Rioja region is noted for red wines, they also produce some whites. Red rose hips, figs, apples and loquats merited equal time. Short days are perfect for stopping to smell the roses. Entering Najera, population 8k, you can't help but feel welcome when you pass a sign saying "Peregrino: En Najera, najerino" in essence pilgrim, in Najera you are one of us. The flavor of the Camino is very different in small towns versus cities like Pamplona. Small towns embrace pilgrims as a vital part of life and the economy. In cities pilgrims are those somewhat bedraggled figures who might smell a little too tired and whose contribution to the economy is diluted out by other industries. While each has its place, we prefer the charm of the villages. Before we started, though, our joke was that if we got separated along the way, we'd meet at the second bar. The beer is supposedly more expensive at the first place. Works fine in the bigger places, but when you're passing through a one horse town, you gotta go with what you have and stop when you can. No guarantees of a second place. As it turns out, Najera is small enough to be welcoming, but large enough for multiple options. It's Saturday and the town is a buzz of activity. Folks are in the markets, children and families in the park engaging in serial tug of war competitions and jumping in a moon bounce while the music blares. We visited the Monastery of Santa Maria la Real, an impressive Gothic structure with roots in Spanish history and royalty. The church was constructed around 1422, the cloister added between 1517-18, and the main altar of the church around 1690. While originally for Benedictine monks and the burial grounds for Rioja, Navarrese, and Basque royalty, the buildings were repurposed multiple times until 1889 when it was designated a national monument and Franciscans took up occupancy. The intricately carved stone archways resemble lace indicating amazing craftsmanship considering the tools of the time. The woodwork in the choir loft and altarpieces are equally phenomenal. We were glad we arrived when we did and had the opportunity to see it all, as flowers adorn the pews and altar in preparation for a wedding. As we left, the street leading to the church was filling with Najerans decked out in their finest, headed for the wedding.
Vessel Name: Free Spirit
Vessel Make/Model: Saga 43
Hailing Port: Palm Harbor, FL
Crew: Andrea & Mike Berndt
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Free Spirit's Photos -

Who: Andrea & Mike Berndt
Port: Palm Harbor, FL