Joined September 2022
  • Day22

    Epilogue

    October 24, 2022 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 45 °F

    After spending a couple of days in Barcelona I flew back home yesterday. Barcelona is a lovely city, but to be honest, everything after Santiago was anticlimactic.

    On the morning of October 3, my departure day, I woke up with a knot in my gut. It was the first time my body recognized the anxiety that had been hovering around my brain -(just behind the excitement)-in anticipation of my trip. The night before I had read a post on my Camino FB group that it had not been a good experience for the writer-in fact had been traumatizing. And then in the comment section all these people related their own negative experiences. So then the dreaded “what ifs” began.

    I - not for the first time- reminded myself to let go of any expectations and instead to just look at what was immediately in front of me at any given moment. I happen to be a person that typically welcomes surprises and interruptions. Adaptability has always been number 1 or 2 on my Strengthsfinders assessments, so given that, I am probably somewhat wired to walk into the unknown. And anyhow, I reasoned, it’s not like I am going to be without a lot of resources.

    Along the way, whenever walking and talking with someone I would ask them , “Why do you walk?”, The answers varied. “Because I’m 73 and I still can”. “I needed to do something just for me- not my family or friends or work”. “I love the camaraderie of the Camino family”. “It makes me feel like a real man to do this”. “I just needed to get quiet”.
    When someone asked me the same question the answer was something like, “I needed to challenge myself and this seems like such an adventure and it feels empowering”, or some version of that.

    And that was true. But as I began to get into the rhythm of each day, my original reasons began to give way to “Because I am noticing so much more about what surrounds me”, and “Because it’s an opportunity for me to gain perspective and to see the interconnectedness of different areas of my life”, and “Because it is teaching me to be open to people that can make my world bigger” and “Because I have become acutely aware that my joy is not dependent on circumstances”. All hoped for but unexpected benefits.

    And now I am not the same. Is anyone after an experience like this? I’m not gonna turn my life upside down or join a convent or anything, (mostly because I’m not Catholic), but something has changed inside me and it’s impossible for me to put what it is into words.

    It’s kinda cheesy, but it makes me think of that line from the song “For Good” in Wicked. “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better. All I know is I’ve been changed for good”.

    The journey’s not over.
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  • Day17

    Santiago!

    October 19, 2022 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 61 °F

    I woke up today to thunder, lightening, and pounding rain. Uh oh.
    By the time I packed up to go for the day the rain had stopped, although the wind had picked up a lot! But it felt delicious to be out in just the wind before the rain. It was a short walk today to Santiago so I wasn’t too worried, but I stopped for a coffee about 3 miles in and then it started to pour! I mean, being out in it would actually hurt. There were a bunch of pilgrims in the cafe just waiting for the rain to let up.
    Once it lessened I got going while the going was good. It was supposed to rain all day, but wonder of wonders, the sky began to clear. There were many pilgrims walking in this last little bit before the cathedral. A man whom I had not met struck up a conversation. He was from Germany, (Herbert) and had come by himself as his wife had no interest. He is the father of 4 girls and said he had gotten them through school and out of the house and it was time to do this for himself. He talked about how he had been thinking about his whole life on his walk and had one day walked with another man and they told each other stories about their lives. I got the impression that he had spent his adult life working and raising his family and hadn’t had time until now to do any reflecting. It was fun to listen to him. We decided to finish together.
    As we entered the square of the cathedral we both began to tear up. And as we walked farther in we began to see all of those that we had each been walking with. Even people that had arrived the day before- 2 days before in the case of my Scottish ladies- were in the square- everyone hugging and crying. Martin was there and asked me if I had lost my sunglasses the previous day. I actually didn’t know that I had cuz I had no need of them but sure enough, they were gone. AND one of my water bottles. Martin had picked them both up and carried them hoping we would meet in the square. Really touched! The whole scene was really something. We took many pictures with different combinations of people and decided to go to the 7:30 Pilgrim’s mass together.
    In the meantime I checked into the Parador and went to the Pilgrim’s office to present my Pilgrims passport to get my Compostela. And now I’m an official Camino completer!
    Met my new friends and went into the cathedral. Such a beautiful space. Although I didn’t understand a word spoken by the priest, the whole scene was moving. AND as a bonus they swung the botafumeiro, which is a huge ball of burning incense. They usually only do it on Fridays, so we were really lucky!
    I bailed on going out for dinner, (I mean- it WAS 8:30 plus I was just spent). I’m gonna give it a few days just to reflect on the whole experience before I write anymore.
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    Traveler

    I just love all of this!

    10/20/22Reply
    Traveler

    Your description of coming into the square almost sounded like what it is like arriving in Heaven- after a long journey, seeing the people that wove in and out of your journey having all reached your destination. Thank you Ughs for taking us along your pilgrimage. Loved every step of it (and never broke a sweat😉).

    10/21/22Reply
    Traveler

    OMG, I’m so very sad for me to see that your travels are coming to an end. Thank you so much for “taking me” along with you. I’ve so enjoyed your photos and learning about the people you’ve met! Your Mass near the end was wonderful to learn about. Reminds me of going to the chapel in Lugano, Switzerland-all in Italian. I loved it and I got to know the people by my several trips to Mass there! Continue safe travels, dear friend! 🤗👍💕😇👏🙏😘😘

    10/21/22Reply
     
  • Day16

    Santiago Eve

    October 18, 2022 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 63 °F

    I can’t believe that tomorrow I will be in Santiago! What an experience this has been.
    Got up early this morning to catch the boat to Pontecessures. It left at 8:30 and when I walked down to the pier at 8:00 it was still pitch black outside. And no coffee shops were even open yet! I guess when you’re eating dinner at 10:00 your day tends to start a little later.
    The boat ride was really beautiful and really fun. We sailed by mussel farms and shrimpers all clustered together, crosses out on little rocky promontories, went through large sections of watery mist where I felt like I was on a ghost ship…Many of the peregrinos that I have met along the way were on board. We took a couple of group pictures. (In the one above we have Sylvia and Natalia- my “A Cantina” girls, Noa from Israel, Martin from Germany, and Joan from Seattle. Her husband Mark was taking the picture). And it occurred to me that this has become a little community. Some whose names I know, (like Vidar from Norway who I met on my first day walking and seems I am constantly crossing paths with- he sings “Jolene” every time he sees me cuz that’s how he remembers my name), some who I have spent time talking to and some that I have just seen around a lot. But there is a familiarity and warmth with each other that is so comforting. Many of them were walking all the way to Santiago today, (that’s almost 30 kms- my feet hurt just thinking about it!) so it’s quite possible I won’t see them again. Others, I will most likely see in the square by the cathedral tomorrow. And we will all celebrate in our own way.
    As for me, I think the duration of this walk has been just about right. Today as I was walking I found myself thinking, “There’s some sheep. I have enough pictures of sheep.”, or “Man, my feet hurt! When am I gonna get there?” The sense of constant wonder and excitement has faded, as it tends to do and that’s my signal to self that I need to take what I learned here and move forward to the next thing.
    That’s NOT to say that I’m not thinking about doing the Camino France, which is twice as long. But if I did that, I would like to have some company at least part of the time, so who wants to go. ?😀. I think I could probably talk Grant into doing a week, but the other three are open…
    But there I go getting ahead of myself! Let’s finish this one before thinking about the next.
    To tomorrow- the end of a wonderful adventure!
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    It has been really fun to read all of your posts and to view photos of your journey. I admire what you have accomplished and have even wondered if I could ever do such an adventure. Who knows. Maybe I’ll be joining you for one week in France. Love you and enjoy the rest of your trip. Will you be throwing away any clothes? 🤪 [Rebecca]

    10/18/22Reply
    Eileen Mitchell

    Ha! Most likely! I notice that one of my tee shirts has developed little holes from the rubbing of my pack strap!

    10/19/22Reply
    Eileen Mitchell

    And yes! Let’s do the Francois!

    10/19/22Reply
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  • Day15

    Monday- Aarmenteira to Vilanove de Arous

    October 17, 2022 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 63 °F

    When I woke up from a decent night’s sleep I said to myself, “Eileen, get a grip! Of course you’re gonna get your heinie back up to that monastery and do the Camino the RIGHT way.” (Thanks for those of you encouraging me). So that’s what I did. After breakfasting on café con leche, frutas, and about a whole loaf’s worth of bread products I called a cab and headed back up the mountain. And, as per usual, my concerns were totally unfounded.
    It was an absolutely spectacular walk! All along a gurgling stream-(although it made me have to pee the whole way)- with intermittent waterfalls- it was just lovely. I took tons of pictures and the rain once again held off.
    After the path of water and stone, I started to see more and more pilgrims. We were all funneling toward Vilanova de Arousa to get on a boat to Pontecessures tomorrow so the population was more dense than usual. Had many pleasant conversations and one quite deep one with a young guy from the Czech Republic. Very interesting. He was a massage therapist from Prague and I can’t say I didn’t think about asking him if he’d like to make a few bucks while here, but then considered it may be inappropriate..
    BTW for whatever reason, the Czech Republic seems to be disproportionately represented among the pilgrims. No idea why.
    I had a little beagle companion for part of my walk today. No collar, but he looked healthy.
    Today was the last 15+ mile walk and I am beginning to feel sad that it is coming to an end. So many thoughts and feelings. And I also miss Grant and the kids and grandkids. I think that’s what is called a dialectic- two things that shouldn’t both be true but are.
    Tonight I am in an adorable little apartment just a block from the boat pier, and it has a washer and dryer! My clothes are getting a proper washing for the first time in weeks! I’m gonna smell so good!!!
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  • Day14

    The Day the Rain Came

    October 16, 2022 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 61 °F

    So I’ve been fretting over the weather forecast. Every day it looks like it’s gonna be nothin but rain and so far we have been given a reprieve. Until today. And even then it didn’t start until halfway through the walk. And like Grant says, “It’s just part of the deal”. (Now you know who NOT to go to when you’re shopping for sympathy!)
    Today was the steepest climb of the Camino. After leaving Pontevedra this morning I turned left to take the Variante Espiritual. Although the entire Camino system is considered a spiritual quest, the spiritual variant in particular is extra. Legend is that it follows the path of the remains of St James when his followers stole his headless body after his execution in Jerusalem, put it in a rudderless boat, and sailed it back to Iberia, the site of his great ministry.
    I ran into Heather and Alden leaving Pontevedra. They were also doing the SV, but were just doing the first 11kms today. Heather said that after seeing the weather forecast she had tried to cancel their reservations but wasn’t able to.
    The sky looked ominous so my goal was to cover as much ground as possible before the rain came. The first 5 miles were quite pleasant and then the climb started. I ran into a couple of Spanish women I had spoken to previously. They were looking at a huge pumpkin in a garden and talking about making pumpkin soup- (sopa de calabaza). Sounded good to me!
    Onward and upward! I started to feel my lack of sleep from last night. Too much Coke Zero kept me awake and just thinking about the rain on the steep climb today- catastrophizing and awfulizing and participating in every other type of disordered thinking. I was imagining my body being swept away in a mudslide. Overreaction, you say? Perhaps.
    I came across a cooler with drinks for peregrinos. A man was standing by it. I had my earbuds in listening to a little Brandi Carlile so I didn’t hear him say “good morning” several times until he spoke really forcefully. He wanted to show me his house, which was lovely with a wonderful view. He was German and did not speak English so we tried to muddle through in Spanish. Then he took me to a water fountain insisting I fill my water bottle. Then he told me that the current climb continued for 4 kilometers and there were no facilities on the way. Then he gave me his business card, which was a picture of him being knighted by these men in priest like clothing. His name was Ramon and he said he was a “sir”. On the back of the card was a picture of him in full military regalia with a uniform covered in medals. At the moment I can’t find the card but as soon as I do I’ll give him the full Google treatment.
    Anyway, shortly thereafter it started raining. Finally got to try out my Sea to Summit rain poncho. As I kept climbing I noticed that I hadn’t seen anyone in quite a while. And in fact, I didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the trek.
    As it turns out the most difficult part was not the climb. That was all on paved or gravel roads, so plenty of traction. But shortly before getting to the monastery was a descent through a ravine over a lot of moss covered rock, which was really slippery. And I’m old. And have osteoporosis. So I sat on my butt so as not to fall. So embarrassing!
    And now I have a quandary. I took a taxi down to my accommodation for the night with the intent of taking one back up tomorrow to continue the Camino, but the descent from the monastery is called something like “the path of stone and water”. I’m afraid it’s gonna be the same as that little piece of ravine right before the monastery. Walking from there is a 25 km walk and it’s bound to be slow. And the weather forecast is like 100% chance of rain all day tomorrow. OR I could just walk to my destination from where I currently am. Google maps puts it at an hour and a half. I know me and my Catholic guilt, though. I guess I’ll see how I feel in the morning.
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    Traveler

    These pictures are so gorgeous!!!

    10/16/22Reply
    Traveler

    Again I’m chuckling-not about the different kinds of land you are foraging forward on but your humorous way of sharing it with “us”. The pictures are awesome. 👍👏🤗

    10/16/22Reply
    Traveler

    I love he Church with the green doors-do glad I could see inside…

    10/16/22Reply
    Eileen Mitchell

    Yeah. Me too. It’s like a geode. Plain on the outside, but magnificent on the inside.

    10/17/22Reply
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  • Day13

    If It’s Saturday It Must Be Ponte Vedra

    October 15, 2022 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 66 °F

    Well, I thankfully slept through last night’s hauntings. Because I’m sure they happened! And when I got up this morning and went down to breakfast, my suspicions were confirmed. There was only one place set. I was totally alone in that creepy place. Shivers down my spine!

    Today’s walk was fantastic. One of the very best days. The predicted rain held off but it was cloudy which kept things cool. There were lots of pilgrims because Redondela- where I stayed last night- is where all 3 Portuguese caminos come together. So I spent time walking and talking with various groups.
    Heather and Alden- an older couple from the states who did the whole French Camino last year. He just had a stent put in his heart so I felt compelled to share with him that I was a recent graduate of EMT school. I think he felt very reassured.😀

    Then I walked with my Scottish ladies. They are very enjoyable company.

    Then I walked a while with Marta and Madelin- ages 29 and 31 from Portugal. Madelin makes earrings- a thing she started during the pandemic- she markets them on Instagram. Marta is a singer by education but is going back to school to study psychology- having been the beneficiary of several years of therapy herself- the reason many of us enter the field. They both talked about how the rise in popularity of Portugal as a destination for ex pats has affected the native Portuguese and their hopes for prosperity. Ex pats come with all their money and drive the prices up and the low paid Portuguese can’t afford to move out on their own. Both of these women were still at home with their parents. We also talked more about fado singing, as Marta sometimes sings in that style. She agreed with the concept that the more you have lived the more emotive your fado.

    Then I stopped and spoke to Kristen from Oregon. Asking her why she chose to walk she said- “I’m not sure. Maybe because I’m 73 and it’s now or never!”

    Then it was time to break off on my own. I think I’m a recluse at heart. But it was so great. I listened to Bernstein’s Mass- something I haven’t listened to in at least 30 years. It is such a wonderful piece of music and perfect for setting the mood on this cloudy day. When I ran across Marta and Madelin later I asked Marta if she knew of it. She said, “Yes- I have sung it!” Music. Bringing the world together!😀😀

    I’m in Pontevedra tonight in the Parador. Seems to be a happening place. I may even go out and explore after a brief rest.
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    Traveler

    I am so proud of all the friends you're making!

    10/15/22Reply
    Traveler

    What interesting people you are finding on your treks that you can converse with and enjoy for many reasons! AND, they are giving you so much info to tuck away. 👍☀️💕🙏😇

    10/15/22Reply
     
  • Day12

    Thurs- Fri. Baiona-Vigo-Redondela

    October 14, 2022 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 66 °F

    I didn’t journal yesterday cuz I was tired and crabby. It wasn’t my favorite day. A lot of walking close to busy roads and traffic, through sand, and just town after town. It created a lot of noise in my head. So today I walked without any ear buds in. It was wonderful!
    And today was WAY better. Literally climbed out of the city of Vigo and took the high road over to Redondela. I have been taking pictures like crazy, where I don’t usually take any pictures. I think it’s cuz when I walk alone I just notice so much more. It’s been a great experience from that perspective.
    Met another Martin- this one from Germany- I shared one of my apples with him. Sat at lunch with the Scottish ladies who whole heartedly agreed with me about yesterday’s walk. They ended up getting lost in the city. We all agreed that Vigo seems to be a very nice city, but once you’ve seen one city you’ve seen them all. And we all agreed that it is much more interesting to walk the little country roads.
    My total mileage to this point is just shy of 140 and I have 5 more walking days to get to Santiago. The weather until now has been perfect, but the forecast is for rain for the rest of my time here. Let’s hope the forecast is just as accurate as it is in the US 😬😬😬. Got some big climbing days for the next 2 stages.
    I’m staying in another “charm hotel-(according to Portugal Green Walks). It’s this old castle- very dark inside- and I’m sure it’s haunted. You can just tell these things. PLUS it’s at least a mile and a half from town, they only serve breakfast, and I am jonesin’ for a Coke Zero!
    But I am tough! I am a warrior! And I will survive!
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    Traveler

    Fellow survivor here - no DMD in Whistler. For 6 days!!

    10/14/22Reply
    Traveler

    Your wonderful sense of humor stays in the forefront! Can’t wait for the next chapter in this wonderful journey! 🤗👍💕😇🙏👏

    10/15/22Reply
     
  • Day10

    Miercoles (Thats Spanish for Wednesday)

    October 12, 2022 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 66 °F

    So. It’s possible I over estimated my ability to converse in Spanish. I noticed it this morning in the breakfast room of my “Charm hotel” (more on that momentarily). There were 4 other women who spoke ONLY Spanish- no English. I clearly had my work cut out for me! One of them asked me where I was from. “Los Estados Unidos”, I replied. “Y tu?”.
    “A Canita” she said. “”Adonde es?” I asked. I had never heard of the country A Canita. Her look clearly screamed, “Stupido Americano!” She said “Sud America!” Then I realized she was saying Argentina.
    So what the tour company called a charm hotel was actually a bed and breakfast type place in this tiny town called Oia. When I checked in the hostess said there was only one restaurante in town for dinner and did not open until 8:00. I decided to forego that and went to a frutería and picked up some apples, chips, and cookies and brought it back to my room. Dinner is served! On the way to the little store I had to cross by this area of the shore where there was a huge pile of seaweed and who knows what else. The stench coming off of that was stomach turning and the flies were all over me. Yuck.
    As I spent more time in this little room I realized that it smelled like my mom’s house. And that is NOT a warm, fuzzy association. So needless to say, I was ready to go this morning.
    A 13 mile walk today. Met a couple of peregrinos. Nathan from Colorado walking with his mother, (such a good boy) and a couple of women- one from Rochester, MN. Many beautiful parts, a good climb or two, (I really like the climbs. Love how strong my legs feel), and an unexpected pleasant surprise coming into the beautiful town of Baiona.. I believe that this is where the ship The Pinta departed from and it was the place that news of the discovery of the New World first came. In fact, today was a national holiday commemorating that event. As I walked into town, I heard shots being fired. Looking around, no one was ducking for cover, so I nervously continued, but then a couple of really big booms that had to have been cannons. So I’m pretty sure they were having some kind of celebration down at the docks. (Can’t get much past this girl!).
    I’m staying in a Parador- the first of 4 that I will stay in on this trip. The paradors are all built in historic structures. This particular one is in an old castle. I fell in love with the Parador system on my previous trip to Spain in 2003. (One of the few things I remember from that trip. I was a hot mess due to my marriage coming to an end. But I digress…)
    I came upon a little group of sheep- all huddled together. Amid the cluster was a small wounded lamb, clearly suffering. All the other sheep were surrounding him as if to reassure and comfort him. There’s a metaphor or two in that scene.
    I used to think that a walking tour of a country would be really limiting in what you would be able to see. But since I’ve been walking I realize just how much MORE I see. I mean I’m pretty sure that I would have just driven by that backyard full of creepy Carnival characters (see below) and not even noticed!
    I did find the place to lay Kate’s stone today.
    The day ended with news that our old grand dog, Bruce Wayne, had crossed over. I will be praying for the Wertish family as I walk today.
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  • Day9

    Hola España!

    October 11, 2022 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 66 °F

    The day started with a totally bizarre experience. I ran into a woman who I had spoken to at a Brandi Carlile concert in July! Her name is Kay Kay, (yes, really! Her first and last name are the same) and we decided we are destined to be friends. We are planning on getting together after we both get home.
    Anyhow…after that I walked down to the water taxi, plunked down my 6 Euros and boarded the teeny tiny boat to cross the river. Voila! I’m in Spain! And to my sister’s point, I can now ply my fluent Spanglish with wild abandon! I’m walking by the coast again but it’s more forest-y if that makes sense. I’ve cooled my heels somewhat on collecting pilgrim friends. Allowing it to happen naturally instead of trying to collect them like tokens.. But I am seeing what people mean when they talk about a Camino family. You do see many of the same people throughout, and when you run into each other it’s like long lost friends- greeting with a hug. I think it’s sort of like when kids go to summer camp - the friendships form so quickly because of shared experience.
    I ran into Almuria (the South African vía Dublín nurse) yesterday in Caminha. She didn’t have the time off to do the whole Camino so she was heading for the train station to take her through the next couple of stages. Today I saw Silva from the Czech Republic. She had caught up to her friend Hannah and they were making slow but steady progress.
    My body and feet seem to be holding up ok so far. I have made a resolution to stay away from the bakery. Lycra only stretches so far..
    About a mile out of Oia, where I am staying tonight, I came upon a small field with a beautiful black horse. It was overlooking a gorgeous section of coast. I have been looking for a place to leave Katie’s stone, and in my mind’s eye I had been looking for maybe a big field with horses. But with the view from this place I started thinking maybe this was it. I ultimately decided to wait and think about it overnight and if I felt that was it I’ll go back in the morning. Then, as I was looking through my pictures from the day, I noticed that I had taken 4-5 pics of cats. I HATE cats. But Kate loved them. So now I’m thinking it’s a sign. I’m gonna sleep on it.
    I mean- I know that Kate is in a better place already. The stone placing thing is more for me. When I think of her last days I have this image in my head of her all alone, laying prone in that hospital with nobody she loved there to rub her back or hold her hand. I want to replace that image with one of her in a setting in which I know she would have found joy.
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    Traveler

    Love this mom. ❤️

    10/11/22Reply
    Traveler

    Such a heart felt post, dear friend! 👍🤗💕😇🙏🥲☀️

    10/12/22Reply
    Traveler

    I love this so much mom.

    10/12/22Reply
    Traveler

    Love, love this ❤️and Ughs- ur such a good writer!

    10/12/22Reply
     

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