Posted by: pilgrims1326 | May 4, 2011

Day 5 Tuesday – Crew Assembles

Took one last walk up the street to see the awesome Cathedral of St. Marie of Leon which would be impossible to duplicate today. Left out suitcases in the lobby by noon and met with our travel group at 2:30. There are 13 pilgrims plus leaders – Jason,ebullient and knowledgable with dry British wit, and Ria, kind, well-travelled with a quiet humor that merges well with Jason’s and sets a relaxed tone. We are all impressed with how organized and professional they are. ” You are here to walk the camino. it is not a race – your speed is your speed – just enjoy yourselves” We got our scallop shell – the symbol of all St. James’ pilgrims – to tie on our backpacks -learned that the pilgrim greeting is “buen camino”, to always follow the painted yellow arrows, and to try to collect a full passport of stamps before reaching Compestela from churches , inns/eateries/retailers along the increasingly lucrative route” – then we will get a certificate and be at the Pilgrims mass. Our group is wonderful and diverse: a couple from Namibia (S. Africa), Luz from Puerto Rico, now a military wife in Germany who is taking a break from family life, Diane from Australia plus two brothers and their wives from Queensland – any group w/five Aussies has to be fun, a lovely couple from Norway, and wouldn’t you know – a Baptist seminarian from Va. Who gets ordained next month and then begins an assignment as chaplain in the Natl. Park Service.
We were then driven in our little bus 1-1/2 hrs to begin a 3 mile walk UP O’Cabreieo,a refurbished hill town w/stone streets stone houses and slate roofs. Our lodgings were a former monastery/hospital – spare, charming and conducive to amplifying any sound. THe walk was grueling and we arrived at the top breathless having trained arduously at sea level! We lit a candle at the little church manned by a single silent monk for our families and the gift of being able to make the trip- a sweet, dear moment. LIfe on the hill is very quiet, dark and cold. After a wonderful group dinner and getting to know one another, we all retired to our cells for a fast night’s sleep. Aside from the uphill torment, this was going to be an interesting adventure!

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Posted by: pilgrims1326 | May 2, 2011

Day 4 Madrid to Leon

Sleep was elusive except when it was time to pack and leave. We hoisted on our backpacks (not a feminine accessory!) and grabbed our one suitcase each for the taxi ride to Chamartin Station. We sat and watched the people parade by until they posted our train. The entire Spain train thing is modern, clean, efficient, comfortable and fast. At one time we were speeding along the rails at 247 Km per hour – you figure it out – but the ride was smooth and quiet. The only problem is when you enter or leave a tunnel at those speeds your ear drums get a real workout. After two and one- hours we arrived exactly on time in the ancient of Leon. It dates to Roman times and was the base for the VII Roman Legion garrison. Leon is from the word for “legion”, and was eventually the capitol of the kingdoms of Asturias and Leon. Its history includes occupation by Visigoths, Moors and Christians.

At the top of the hill we saw the fabled gothic dream – The Cathedral of Leon – in a constant state of repair and maintenance to preserve it from the elements and time. Some pictures today but more tomorrow.

Sometime during the day we heard the news about Osama Bin Laden’s death, but could not get any details because there were no English broadcast available. After all these years the evil of evils is gone and I feel amazingly flat emotionally about it. He was an embarrassment to all that is good in Islam and he changed the way we live and trust. For years I fantasized about what could be done to him, about the friends and associates lost on those downed flights, about the horrors we know they endured, but now I just to tired to work up that hate again. Perhaps his will be the last death and now the children of Abraham – Muslims, Jews and Christians can celebrate both our common roots and our intriguing differences. To life ……!

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Posted by: pilgrims1326 | May 1, 2011

Day 3 Sunday, May Day and Mother’s Day in Spain

All of our good intentions and we managed to sleep past noon – guess we needed the sleep. Went next door to the Palace Hotel for lunch, but it was Sunday Brunch and Opera and cost 79 euros apiece, so – we sat on the other side of the wall in the bar area, had breakfast and still had the opera! We peasants are so gauche….

We walked across to the Prado for a few more hours of culture, but is was closed! On a Sunday!! So we did what any good tourist does – hopped on the nearest red double decker bus, sat on the top in the open air, took an hour’s ride with earphones in place. So easy….

It was a beautiful day, all the boulevard trees were full and bright green, people strolling everywhere, church bells ringing…. You have to love Madrid.

Had a 9 pm dinner at DiBocca – were the first customers and the maitre de sat us in the window – guess he thought we were some sort of draw…felt like monkeys….but, in they came. The place filled up quickly and we didn’t even get free vino for our attractiveness. Met an American couple who admired our window presence and who were just starting their fifth year of assignment in Paris….promised to light a candle for them in Compestela. I had ravioli stuffed with cheese, pears and walnuts…purr.

It was after 10 pm and the streets were still crammed – the sign of a lively city indeed.

We leave by train for Leon in the morning with backpacks and one suitcase each – leaving our city clothes at the hotel till we return on the 14th. Fortunately we inquired about the train station – Chamartin. We thought we departed from nearby Alocha Station, but trains there only go south. Chamartin – a taxi ride away – goes north to Leon. We stay there tomorrow, Monday, and meet up with the tour Tuesday afternoon. We really hate to leave this wonderful city, but are really looking forward to starting our trek!

Ultreya!!

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