Joined June 2021 Message
  • Day46

    Layover in London

    August 16 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Got up at 4:15 for our flight. The Barcelona airport was JAMMED when we got there at 5:15. After wrestling with an unfriendly and low functioning but required British covid tracker software program, we FINALLY got our boarding passes and headed through security, passport control, and another one that I’m not really sure what it was. We cleared everything by 6:30 and just had to get to the gate for our 7:10 departure. My brother was near to committing fratricide when I stopped at a Starbucks and grab a quick coffee. It was “quick” by Starbucks of Spain standards, and the gate turned out to be a LONG ways away. But we made it with LOTS of time (by my standards anyway).

    Our 6 hour layover in London is almost over. A picture of my brother guarding our packs is below. Next stop is Seattle. I’ll sleep in my own bed tonight!
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    Cherie Bernave

    Welcome home peregrino👣

  • Day44

    Barcelona - Day 3

    August 14 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 26 °C

    We started the day walking a couple of miles up to a clinic to get the covid tests required to get back into the US. I am happy to announce that we have been certified virus-free, and so will be on our way back home tomorrow!

    After a celebratory breakfast we walked a short distance to the Sagrada Familia. It’s a cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi that has been under construction for 130 years. It is a spectacular, organic, awe inspiring structure. Dale had seen it on a previous trip to Barcelona, so he left me to tour the interior and museum. Unfortunately, they don’t have a ticket office. Only online sales. My credit card refused to work on their site, so the Sagrada Familia tour will be saved until Debbie and I return to Barcelona.

    I spent the afternoon wandering the narrow streets of the old town and taking a tour of a house Gaudi designed for his main patron and good friend, Güell. We ate our last dinner in Spain, and went to bed early. We have an early flight out, first to London and then on to Seattle.
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  • Day44

    Barcelona - Day 2

    August 14 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Slept in and got rested up. Went to the Mercata de la Boqueria, a huge, semi outdoor market for fruits and produce. Then we walked across town and up a hill (of course), to Park Güell, the architectural masterpiece by Antoni Gaudi. It was intended to be a housing development, but it became a gigantic art piece instead. It’s several miles of complex paths and streets through some incredible architecture, all overlooking the city of Barcelona. We finished the day people watching with a bottle of wine on the tiny hotel balcony overlooking Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a divided boulevard with open air cafes and booths in the courtyard style median. It’s the happening place to be in Barcelona.Read more

  • Day43


    August 13 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    We got up early and made our way to the train station. Pulled out of Santiago de Compostela in the dark. It was a 4.5 hour ride to Madrid at speeds getting up to 150 mph. We changed trains (and stations) at Madrid. Then on to Barcelona at speeds of up to 180 mph. I really like the train system they have. Got to our hotel without problems, go dinner, and after a call with Debbie, got to sleep. I haven’t slept well the last few nights and needed a good night. Maybe it’s due to not walking all day anymore.Read more

    Cherie Bernave

    Safe travels home!

  • Day42

    Santiago de Compostela - Day 2

    August 12 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    I got up early and went to the 7:30 Pilgrims Mass at the cathedral. My brother stayed in his bed in spite of my urging to avoid the sin of slothfulness. It was an impressive ceremony, even though they did not do the incensor swing. I did go through the crypt holding the remains of Saint James, see photo.

    We went back to try to get our Compostela certificates, only to find out the numbers didn’t continue from the day before and we had to get new numbers and start over. That was a disappointment. Dale decided the certificate from his first Camino was enough for him, but I went ahead and started the process again.

    While waiting for my number to come up at the Compostela office, we went to a museum at the cathedral. It had a lot of exhibits ic the history of the cathedral and on Maestro Mateo, the main man who made it happen. We got to go up a ways in the cathedral and look out over the square.

    I went back to the Compostela office in the afternoon to wait and make sure I got my certificate. I kept running into people we have met on the trail, which was nice. Eventually it was my turn, and after a brief interview I walked out with my Compostela in hand.

    We have been staying at an old monastery right across from the cathedral. It’s huge and has been converted into an upscale hotel. They kept a bunch of rooms for pilgrims at reduced price however, which is cool. The pilgrim rooms are very basic monks quarters, but the price is right and the location can’t be beat. We turned in early, we are taking a 6:30 AM train to Barcelona tomorrow morning.
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    Connie Merrell

    Love the picture of you and your certificate!!


    Nice! Can you get one for me?😎 [Tim]

    Phil Merrell

    Sure, give me another 5 weeks!

  • Day41

    Santiago de Compostela!

    August 11 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    We’re here! It’s rather stunning. Got up early as usual, just to have the last day be the same as we have been doing for the last five weeks. Foggy morning, then the sun started breaking through the trees. The last 6 miles into Santiago just flew by, and then we were there! A huge square in front of a cathedral. It’s full of people who have walked there from all over Spain and Europe. Ever person there is HAPPY! People are seeing people that they met on the trail weeks ago. It’s like meeting old friends you haven’t seen in ages. I got very choked up and emotional. Ran out of words, which is unusual for me.

    We started the process to get our Compostela certificates, but covid has made a mess of that too. We have a number, like in a store, for an interview with a church representative. Got our number soon after we got in, this morning, but at the end of the day we still had a ways to go. We’re hopeful we will get our certificates tomorrow, because we leave early Friday morning for Barcelona.

    Tomorrow I plan on going to early Pilgrims Mass at the cathedral. I’m not Catholic, but it’s open to pilgrims and supposed to be special. There are some cathedral tours we can take and we need to go to the train station for our tickets to Barcelona. Other than that, we plan on relaxing and relaxing, with maybe some relaxing mixed in.
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    Connie Merrell

    Emotional just looking at your video and what it means to all you pilgrims to finish your journey!!

    Cherie Bernave

    Congratulations!! I can’t wait to hear about your trip and share experiences!! Hope you have a safe trip home👣


    Congratulations to the Brothers Merrell!! Have a safe trip home. Phil, Debbie has one helluva “Honey Do” list waiting for you. Best regards, Tim. 😎 [Tim]

  • Day40


    August 10 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    We coffee’d up at the place we slept in last night, and were walking by 7:15. Another chilly, beautiful morning. Still not seeing the crowd on the trail since we shifted off stage. We continued walking through mostly forest of pine and eucalyptus trees with farms and villages scattered along the way. We ended up walking past all of the places that had kitchens open for breakfast, so we made do with some fruit and more coffee.

    This is our last full day of walking, a relatively short eleven miles . We will have six miles to go tomorrow morning that will get us to Santiago de Compostela, and the end of our journey. It’s been a fantastic experience, but it’s time for this boy to go home. We will stay in Santiago for a couple of days to see the cathedral, go to the pilgrim’s mass, and get our certificates. Hopefully we will run into some of the friends we have made along the trail. Friday we will take the train to Barcelona, get our covid tests, and fly home on Monday. Looking forward to hugging Deb and sleeping in my own bed!

    I have some thoughts about this trip that I will try to write up in the next day or so.

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    Anner C

    Just spectacular Phil. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. I loved it. Congratulations, my friend.

  • Day39


    August 9 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    Our plan of getting off the published stages has worked great! We started walking today with a few other people and soon the pack was nicely spread out. Until a couple of hours along when a bus of German people pulled past us and unloaded 40 people who started walking as we got to them. I think the bus picks them up at the end of each day, takes them to a hotel for the night, and brings them back to the Camino the next day. We let them go ahead of us at first, and later passed them when they stopped for a rest. A little forced marching got us ahead enough that we could relax and enjoy the rest of the walk.

    We have been seeing more eucalyptus trees for the last couple of days. They are getting to be the predominant species. When we first encountered them, we thought a farmer had sprayed chemicals recently. Gradually, we recognized that it was a Vick’s vaporub smell like used in a vaporizer.

    The countryside we are passing through is mostly forest. It’s been tree tunnels providing shade most of the time. Really pleasant! The weather continues to be fantastic. We wear our jackets in the morning, and it hasn’t gotten above 80 for weeks. It’s really unusual, and we’re not complaining.

    Tomorrow we have a walk of about 11 miles. That will put us about 6 miles outside of Santiago de Compostela, and the end of our walk across Spain! So we will cross the finish line this Wednesday! It seems startling, like it snuck up on us or something.
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  • Day38


    August 8 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    We have been having problems finding rooms for the last week. I think it’s partly the result of more people wanting private rooms because of covid. It’s also that there are just plain more people walking as we get closer to Santiago de Compostela. Several different Camino routes merge into the route we are on in this last part. The Camino guides and apps break the entire walk into “stages” which are roughly a day’s walk, ending at Compostela. Most stages are between 11 and 15 miles long, and end at a town big enough to handle the demand. The couple of guides we have been using use roughly the same stages, which tends to concentrate people in the same towns. This becomes an issue when suddenly there are more people using the same stages. We were not enjoying and have not been comfortable wearing masks while walking with so many people. So we decided to get off the normal stages, and to start and finish the rest of our walks in the middle of the commonly recognized stages. I know, I know, I never go against the grain. But we took a taxi 7 miles past the hordes of people walking out of Portomarin this morning, and started our 14 mile walk in relative solitude. And it was great, and we got rooms in the off-stage towns for the rest of the Camino, and everything is great!

    Started seeing some strange small structures as we walked into Galacia. See the picture below. Could not figure out what they were about. Turns out that they are used for drying corn.

    Hard to believe we’re in the last week of our walk across Spain.
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  • Day38


    August 8 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    As we headed out of Sarria, we joined a crowd of people just starting out on their Caminos. In order to qualify as a Camino and get a Compostela certificate, you have to walk at least the last 100 kilometers. Sarria is a good sized small city that is just over 100 km. limit. So LOTS of people from all over Spain join the Camino there. It’s a week or less hike that is encouraged and supported in Spain. Which is a good and even admirable thing. But to us, after wandering across the vast lonely stretches of the Meseta, it’s suddenly like trying to get out of Seattle on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend.

    We did cross an actual milestone today. We passed the 100.000 km. milepost from Santiago de Compostela (Europeans use commas instead of decimal points , and mileposts are measured to 3 decimal places). It’s so surprising that within a week we will be done walking across Spain.

    So we got to Portomarín, which is a pretty town on a hillside but along a river. Did laundry, got our dinner, started to wind up the day, and all of a sudden some really loud blues music starts up. Turns out it’s Saturday evening and the local arts commission”music in the square” program is on! Left a short video clip below. I went up and listened for a while and they weren’t bad at all. It was a really nice setting on the square next to the church.
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    great pics! [Linda Howell]

    Cherie Bernave

    You’re in the home stretch! So excited for you😎. Buen Camino 👣


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