Camino Del Norte, Spain
  • May16

    Ready for the Camino del Norte!

    May 16, 2019 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 25 °C

    Hello again, Friends and Family!

    We weren’t home very long after last year’s Camino before John started asking me, “Aren’t there other caminos besides the Frances?” So we started looking at maps and descriptions. We settled on the Le Puy route in France, ending in the Pyrenees, and started making plans. But we soon realized both of us just wanted to be back in Spain — to walk into a little town and see those welcoming red and green plastic chairs in front of the local bar, to rest our weary bones and have a coffee and chocolate croissant, or a fresh orange juice, where we’d hear “Buen Camino!” many times a day, enjoy Spanish food and hospitality... and of course, to walk again into Santiago.

    We decided to walk the Camino del Norte, which begins at the French border in Irun, Spain, and ends 500 miles later in Santiago de Compostela. It’s another of the old pilgrim paths, but because it follows the northern coastline of Spain, it’s also popular with tourists. With fewer pilgrims, the flavor might be a bit different. But I’ve promised John we’ll still stay in a few albergues so he still feels like he’s a pilgrim!

    Our training is done, our gear is spread out all over the guest bed... we’ll start walking two weeks from today!
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  • May28

    Things are looking up!

    May 28, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We’ve had a tough few days. Our flights into Paris were smooth, had a 4-hour layover before our train, then almost missed our connection in Bordeaux. Had to run for the train! Arrived in Hendaye, France, and walked into Irun, Spain.

    Our first day’s walk on Thursday started out well. We had a tough climb up Mt. Jazkibel, but we were rewarded with great views and a beautiful walk through quiet pastures.

    Halfway down the mountain, we ran into 2 Frenchwomen who raved about the “breathtaking” alternate route along the coastline. They convinced us to take it. Well, it was breathtaking, all right — but we thought it was our last breaths we were taking! We ended up climbing on a rocky path just wide enough for our feet, with huge rocks on one side and a sheer drop on the other. In several places we had to hold onto wire cables attached to the rocks. A couple of hours later (seemed like a week), we finally got down to the road. John wanted to hunt down those two Frenchwomen and give them hell!

    If you look at the last photo, we were waaaaay up there by the brown rocks. Wish I’d taken a pic of the path itself, but we were just trying to keep from going over the side!
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  • Jun1

    Things are looking up, cont'd

    June 1, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Needless to say, we slept well in San Sebastián on Thursday night. Friday’s walk included a few climbs through shady paths and would have been much more enjoyable if we hadn’t been wiped out from the day before. Met some nice American folks from CA and MT — most others we’ve met have been French, German or Dutch. The last couple of miles (photo #1) were on a rocky path we guessed was an old Roman road — the Romans settled a lot of this area and mined extensively.

    Spent Friday night in a comfortable hotel in the little town of Orio, looked after by the nice folks in photo #3.

    So today is Saturday, and we’re in Zumaia after a great walk along the coast. We passed through two lovely fishing villages and even enjoyed our first chocolate croissants! The walk from Zauratz to Getaria was along a 2.17-mile seaside promenade (you can just make it out in photo #8).

    Looking forward to a good meal, another good night’s sleep, and a short walk tomorrow to Deba (where we’ll sleep in an Albergue in an old train station — John is quite excited about that).
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  • Jun4

    Basque Country

    June 4, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    No WiFi for a couple of days — sorry!

    We’ve been traveling in Basque Country these 6 days. It’s an autonomous part of Spain with very strong cultural ties. The Basque language isn’t related to any other linguistic group, so many of the signs here are in Basque and Spanish.

    It’s a mountainous region of cattle and sheep farms, pine forestry and eucalyptus forests. Our daily stages have been pretty tough, with lots of climbs and descents each day over a variety of surfaces — cobbles, clay, gravel, and soft forest paths. The houses are beautiful (see photos), with window boxes of geraniums and colorful yards — very prosperous.

    Fewer pilgrims than on the Camino Frances, but still a United Nations of folks: French, Dutch, Icelandic, Czech, German, American. Tonight there are 8 people we’ve met on the trail, all staying at this same hotel.

    Weather has been gorgeous, warmest day 82, mist days in the 60’s, a nice cool wind blowing. But looks like rain tomorrow.
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  • Jun5

    Mud and More Mud

    June 5, 2019 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    We walked out of Gernika this morning in a light drizzle— a shame, because it’s a beautiful city and quite meaningful to the Basques. During WW2, General Franco called on the Nazi Luftwaffe to bomb the town, which was a stronghold of Basque Republicans. More than 1600 civilians died, a scene memorialized by Picasso in his painting “Guernica.”

    The light drizzle stayed with us all morning, sometimes turning into a pretty good rain. We climbed 300 meters outside of town, and the way turned into muddy, clay-ey logging roads that seemed to go on forever. More ups and downs, another 300 m climb and then the nastiest, slickest muddy descent I’ve seen on Camino. I fell once and couldn’t get up! (See lovely photo below). After 9 miles with no coffee or food, we arrived in a little Basque town where a local lady told John, “In this town we only speak Basque.” He told her, “Well, in this town I only speak English!”

    Late lunch of fish soup, beef stew and local wine. And only 6 miles to Bilbao tomorrow! Everyone says the Norte gets easier after Bilbao. We hope Everyone is right.
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  • Jun5

    Videos from Zumaia

    June 5, 2019 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    A couple of videos for you—

  • Jun7

    Short Days

    June 7, 2019 in Spain ⋅ 🌬 16 °C

    Thursday and Friday turned sunny again, and we had short walks of about 7 and 8 miles. That gave us time to have lunch, shower and nap, which helps us to recover.

    Bilbao was our favorite town so far. With over 1 million people, it’s the largest city in the Basque Country, a combination of vintage buildings and cutting-edge modern architecture. Its crown jewel is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, opened in 1997 and financed by the citizens of Bilbao (photos below).

    John was thrilled to find a KFC while I was thrilled to find tapas and a nice red wine. Our pension room was located on a narrow street with a couple of bars. They closed at midnight, but folks carried on talking and singing for a couple more hours. Then around 3:30, the street cleaning machine fired up below our window and proceeded to hose down the street. So we were already awake when Ronny texted us that our pecan tree was pretty well destroyed, along with other tree damage, on a storm that moved through San Antonio yesterday. Messy, but looks like no structural damage.

    Tonight we’re in Portugalete, a port town near Bilbao, in a very comfortable hotel. We crossed the river into town via the Viscaya Bridge, an iron and steel cable bridge built in 1893 (photos below). A shuttle that hangs from the bridge frame can hold 6 vehicles and several dozen people. Cost to cross was €0.45. Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” was playing on the way over — how appropriate!
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  • Jun8

    Too Much Highway

    June 8, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    From Portugalete we first stayed in Castro Urdiales, and tonight in Laredo (obviously not the one in Texas). In order to save some miles, we had to walk these two days alongside the N-634 national highway. That’s a lot of asphalt, and too many cars whizzing by. We seem to be past that now (we hope).

    We’re back near the sea, so we’ve had some nice scenery along the way, too, as you can see from the photos. But being in a Spanish beach town on a Saturday night also means a lot of noisemaking — all night! The streets finally quieted down about 6:30 a.m., just as we were waking up!

    One last note about Portugalete: The streets leading into town from the river are so steep, there are a series of people movers on the sidewalks! Maybe the is the future of Camino?
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  • Jun10

    Camino Flowers

    June 10, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    Weather on the northern coast has been unseasonably cool this year, so some of the flowers are just now blooming out — especially the hydrangeas. I’ve never seen so many hydrangeas! And it seems every house has at least a few geraniums.

    Here are some pics —
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