Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday, June 3 - Madrid

Now the sun is out, the weather is hot and dry and so it was a perfect day to walk around this beautiful city of Madrid. Our only goal was to find again the tapas marketplace we had visited four years ago. We had confidence that it would not be hard to find because we knew it was near the Playa Mayor...and it was exactly where we left it four years ago. Tapas, wine and this time there were even a couple of vegetarian options!
Madrid - a little busier than the Camino.
Tapas Market
Yogurt Shooters!
Central Madrid is a beautiful vibrant city that mixes busy high traffic avenues and wide tree lined boulevards with all these twisty turny narrow streets which every few blocks open out into a lovely welcoming square and the squares are usually rimmed with lots open patio restaurants and cafés. So a day of touring Madrid is a day of drifting from one café to another and we do that very well.
In another Camino coincidence as we were walking along one small boulevard we ran into Fransisco and Jeanette, the two American hospitalero volunteers we had recently met in Santiago at the Pilgrims' Office. Now what are the chances of being tourists, foreigners in fact, in one of the largest cities of the world and meeting someone you know? Serendipity!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sunday, June 1 - Santiago to Madrid - by train

One last morning strolling through the streets of Santiago. It was a perfect walking day; sunny, dry and quite cool but the only hiking we had to do was a fifteen minute walk to the train station to catch the train to Madrid, the first stage of our trip home. Of course we arrived at the train station three hours too early but you know that old adage, 'if you aren't at work 15 minutes early, you are late'. Well with us and travelling, 'if you aren't three hours early you are late'.
The train ride was so easy and comfortable and we had booked 'preferente' so there was lots of room, movies and a cafeteria for snacks. Preference didn't mean on time however; we arrived 45 minutes late and I was worried about checking in to our hotel at 11:30pm but in Madrid that was no problem and not even a problem going out to eat a late night snack at midnight.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Saturday, June1 - Santiago

What a crazy day and a crazy way to relax. A perfect example of carpes diem or just seize the opportunity to eat, drink and be merry. Dayton and I followed up a breakfast of fresh hot churros and tea with a visit to the pilgrims' museum and a tour of the rooftops of the cathedral. So far that was not the crazy fun part of the day. The rooftop tour was in Spanish and as boring as it was cold. Seriously the tour guide did not take a breath for one hour and all I got was a few 'nosotros' 'más o menos' and 'romanticos' and not one idea of what he was going on about. So much for my Spanish lessons.
Afterward we met up with Paige and Janice. Paige took us to a local market, that she discovered tucked away in the labyrinth of streets in the old town and there they all had a most unique culinary experience. This market had a myriad of stalls of fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood surrounded and mixed in with lots of patio style tables and 'eating perches' and cocinas (kitchens).You order your seafood from the market stalls and then have the cocinas cook it and serve it to you. The waiters bring you back your cooked food with their bread and wine. There is a minimal service charge for preparing and serving, maybe 3€ a person and of course you have to pay for your wine. Dayton, Janice and Paige enjoyed, in order, octopus, barnacles, razor clams, raw oysters and then langoustines while I ate my weight in fresh rustico bread. There were a few glasses of vino tinto consumed and the sun was not over the yard arm yet. This will go down as a wonderful Camino memory.
Another interesting Camino moment was later in the afternoon as Dayton and I were wandering the streets and shops. We were walking and heard someone call out, "Hey you, from London, Ontario"! We responded appropriately, "Yes, that will be us", and this couple introduced themselves and mentioned that they had remembered us from the Sunday afternoon talk at Novak's outdoor store that we had done in March the year before. They had come to learn more about the Camino and here they were in Santiago having just finished their Camino Frances. Interestingly enough this is how we first met Janice as well and all three were in Santiago at the same time as us.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Friday, May 31 - Muxia to Santiago

Four years ago today, my birthday, I was celebrating the completion of our Camino Frances at 'the end of the world' Finisterre, two years ago we were finishing up our seventeen day stint as hospitaleros in Estella, Spain and this year I am back at the end of the world in Muxia at the end of another long walk. Synchronicity? Symmetry? I don't know but it's a neat connection for me.
It was a lazy morning in Muxia, a 'sleep in morning' if not for all the stray cats caterwauling outside our hotel terrace. We packed up our backpacks and had nothing else to do but enjoy a leisurely breakfast and chat with all the other pilgrims who were 'done' as well. We walked the harbour and then backed to the hotel. True to her word Paige arrived, shortly after noon hour, having walked the 29kms from Finisterre. Paige is a good fast walker but she said it was a tough day, a 'call a cab' day but like most pilgrims you just gut it out. We had a lively lunch with her and anyone and everyone else sitting in the hotel bar, as everyone was in a friendly meet and greet mood, and then went to catch the bus to Santiago.
In Santiago, we had made arrangements to meet up with a fellow Londoner, Janice, who was finishing up her Camino Frances and my little birthday celebration turned into wine and tapas, Mass at the Cathedral, followed up by wine and tapas and dinner. All in all a pretty good day and a pretty good birthday. And I just love reading all the Facebook and email birthday good wishes. Love it.