Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winding down 2012 in Guanajuato on our anniversary

Colorful Guanajuato
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to us (22 years married and 25 together!) and greetings and happy new year to all. I realized that 5ive months have passed since I updated my blog - surely not because we have not had things to do - just because we are now living a "kind-of-regular life" in San Miguel and so most of the pictures have been seen before. Many of you have been kept up on facebook but here you will find it all in a nutshell. I am reviewing the last few months, mostly for myself and for Ricardo so when we want to remember what we did when, I can find it somewhere.

Now I am writing from a little casita in the city of Guanajuato which is the capitol of the state of Guanajuato where SMA is located. We had visited many times before, but never over night. It is a lively, bustling city (small) with many very colorful buildings. We are glad to be here and now it is on our list for a month sometime in the future.
The nearby Presa - only 10 min walk
from our casita in GTO (Guanajuato)

Visits from our NC friends Howard and Lily
who are in SMA for two months and came to
GTO to explore new places
Sunset at Playa Blanca

Two young ladies at Casa Hogar - Santa Julia
where Ricardo and I volunteered with these girls
to make printed greeting cards for Christmas.

Sunrise on the camino

Our shadows on the Camino

Hay bales on the camino 

Tolantogo - amigos

The pools at Tolantogo

The river at Tolantogo

Me - in my acting debut

Vegetarian Paella - after our trip to Spain

Reunion with old friends in July
 - Mary Jane Hall - Long Island, NY

Good friend Janet Walerstein
in July, NY

Joan Fenton - my mother's BEST friend
when they were 10 years old in NYC - and
her daughter Suzy Bond - our cousin.
My mother introduced Joan to her cousin Karl
and they were married. Such a wonderful
time to be together at Cape Cod and hear
good stories about our mother when
she was a young lady.
We spent the week before Christmas at the beach - Playa Blanca which is just south of Zihuataneo (near Barra de Potosi). It was a very relaxing beach holiday with ocean, pool, walks on the beach and hanging with our friends - Barbara/David and Cindy/Ravi.

Richard and I continue to do many volunteer activities and one very special one was working with the young girls at the local orphanage in SMA teaching them stencil printing - to make holiday cards to sell.
I have been attending a painting class at the Casa de Cultura which is for Mexicans and at the moment (when my friend Marcia is not here) I am the only "gringa". I have worked on a series of 5 paintings of my memories (from photos) of the Camino de Santiago and here are 3 for you to see. I hope to be able to take classes again in the new year.

In October we went to Tolantongo with Barbara and David - fantastic hot springs and aqua blue river about 4 hours from SMA. Again, a great place to relax. We keep discovering that Mexico has so many special places to visit.

August and September were spent getting back into the SMA life - entertaining, Spanish classes, yoga and for me - acting classes. It was a year to attempt a new creative endeavor but not sure that it is for me. I enjoyed a pantomime class and hope to take a series of them in 2013 but the memorizing part of acting is not for me - a little too stressful. I figure if I am going to spend time memorizing - I might as well do it in Spanish for now. I am glad I gave it a try.

Our summer was spent visiting our many friends and family from NC to NY to MA and the usual Vogel gathering at Cape Cod. Since our last gathering in 2012 we have two new family members - Ethan Ginsburg and Hudson Henry Wu. I cannot wait to meet them in July of 2013. I also had a chance to visit with some of my great ol' girlfriends who are living on LI. I love that each year we have a few folks that we have not seen that we can connect with.

As we go forward to 2013 may I take this time to thank all of you who are part of our lives. We are enriched by each person we know and are grateful to travel this life together with you. With love from Ricardo and I.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Yes, it is possible to walk the Camino de Santiago as a vegan (and gluten and sugar-free)!

Many fruit and veggie markets along the way
I am a 65 year old woman and along with my husband walked the Camino de Santiago in May/June 2012. I have been vegan for over 15 years and before leaving for Spain I often checked on various websites to find information about being vegan on the Camino…but to no avail. It is for this reason that I decided to keep notes of what I ate during our trip to remind myself how it was possible, though difficult. Because I have a minor problem with wheat and other gluten products, I was also very conscious of the details of how I remained this way for 99% of my Camino.
For me, the desire to be vegan stems from three different “routes”. First is for the benefit to our planet, secondly are the health benefits for me and thirdly for the lives of animals. I practice yoga regularly and believe in “ahimsa” which means “do no harm”. This fits with my spiritual practice and is important for me. Also important for me is to let others live as they wish so my intention here is to provide information to those who are interested in traveling the Camino this way and not to profess that this is the “only” way. You see, one of the main lessons that we both learned on the Camino is that it represents life itself and that there is no “one” way to do this. Each of us needs to find ones own special “way” and though planning is important, letting go is also important. Trying to control oneself or others at all times is impossible.
Spain, in general, is a meat and fish eating country and for sure this was true in the north. Many people did not have any concept at all of what the words vegetarian and vegan mean (a bit like 15 years ago in the USA). I realized early on that I needed to ask many questions in restaurants before choosing items. My level of Spanish was sufficient for understanding all food labels and this would have been difficult without the language. One interesting note about buying vegetables in stores…many would not allow us to choose and bag our own vegetables. One has to wait for a store employee to choose them and weigh and bag them. Their reason is that they do not like the food to be handled by many people to prevent bruising of the fruits/vegetables. They also want to reduce the transmission of germs. Many of the stores had beautiful displays.
Here are the basics of our eating on the Camino:
Restaurant in a big city
 (I don't remember which one)
Padron (peppers with salt) ...
we loved these!
  • ·         Most days I started off eating fruit and/or 1 or 2 rice or corn cakes for breakfast with a cup of tea. The most common activity for most pilgrims is to stop for a “cafĂ© con leche” after 1-2 hours of walking and I would usually have a cup of tea. For those vegans who eat bread there was usually bread or toast available in most of the “bars” where one eats and or drinks all day. Juice, often fresh, was always available.
  • ·         Lunch would usually include nuts, corncakes and fruit. There were a few times during the early days on the camino when there was no option at all and so my “off vegan” moments included what the Spanish call a Spanish tortilla, torta or omelette which consisted of mostly potato, onion and some egg. For me I felt that the protein was important when I did not have any nuts or beans. After several days on the camino I discovered stores that had both nuts and beans – usually lentils and garbanzos and here and there red or other beans. Some might cringe at the following…I put my beans or lentils in little baggies and ate them cold along the way, with my spork. I actually liked this snack, sometime scooped with some endive or lettuce.
  • ·         Snacks were nuts, fruit, veggies, beans, corn or rice cakes (bread for Richard), potato chips, occasional dark chocolate (sugar free for me).
  • ·         Dinner for most folks was a “Pilgrim’s Meal” – 3 courses including wine or water. These meals always contained fish or meat and for us was not a favorite as we also do not drink alcohol. We did, however, manage and usually had a salad (reminding them to hold the tuna and egg), a vegetable dish (many times was white asparagus or menestre de verduras -vegetable stew). Pasta with tomato sauce or some vegetables was often an option for the pilgrim meals and I did it eat it on a very rare occasion, though it does not sit well in my stomach. In the several cities including Pamplona, Burgos, Leon and Santiago we found vegetarian restaurants and a great vegan restaurant in Burgos. We found vegetarian paella in many restaurants and this was a delicious alternative.
  •  However, many nights I concocted our own meals in the many albergues that have kitchens. This usually involved going shopping in the little villages for some vegetables and beans. Using either a stove or microwave I was able to cook delicious meals. There were often some spices or condiments in the albergues that could be used by pilgrims. From time to time I found microwaveable rice in small packets that I served with a hot meal and we often had salads to go with the meals. Richard would enjoy the many breads of Spain which were available in every town.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Richard's thoughts on the Camino

Notes from Richard on the Camino
After being away from the Camino de Santiago for a bit, I feel the need to jot down my thoughts about the experience and to share them.  Before I continue any further I must say up front that I enjoyed the experience and learned allot about not just me but about my relationships with people and things.   I began the journey with the attitude that it was going to be a “walk in the park” and just that. I was so surprised to find out that it wasn’t.  I also thought that more than minimal training is all that I would need and if more was needed the Camino is where I would develop my strength.  The Camino works not only on your body but equally on your spirit.

My hubris as always was my Achilles heel, and once again it would get the best of me.  I was humbled and awed at the same time on an almost daily basis.  During the 40 days that we traveled I came to realize that doing a Camino is a solo experience. One has to figure out the day-to-day logistics while engaging with not just others but mostly oneself.  You see, when I walked everyday on the Camino the need to control became my fools game and an “ah ha” moment for me.  I had no control and when I chose to live only in the moment which may seem simple but is forever changing and complicated; things became as they should be for me.  This experience changed me and definitely made a great impact on how I feel about the world around me. I am so honored and fortunate to be able to have these types of experiences.  When I was able to give up my control or my idea of control and realize that this need was pulling me down not only physically but emotionally everything changed.  You see the Camino always gives you what you need and I needed a good dose of reality.  Not that I will stop being concerned about others but just knowing that believing that I should have this type of control was crazy.  By this control I mean obsessively worrying about other’s safety, happiness, etc.
Walking or trying to walk 500 miles with a back pack is not for everyone. I would not even recommend it unless one feels the urge. But, if you do then go for it and there are many ways to do it as in your own life which will always be the right way.  One will learn one’s limits and will do the Camino at one’s own pace.  The Camino is mostly a solitary experience which can be shared somewhat but experienced better alone and maybe life is the same way - we live and share but ultimately we are alone.

Even though I am considered to be an extrovert and believe I am, I have come to appreciate quiet and less of a need to state my positions or my viewpoints.  The time on the Camino for daily thoughts and opinions morphs with so much time to think and what became clear to me was how I could never again judge another.  We have had similar physical challenges in the past, but this one was truly a gift and one that I will never forget. My Camino now begins everyday for the rest of my life.  As with so many of our adventures Susan has been the one to come up with the idea.  I am so thankful for her joy and gusto for life and the willingness to take the chance to experience and grow.  I hope to always be willing and able to enjoy the challenges that life brings.
Those of you who have read Susan’s blog know the rest and if you have any questions please feel free to ask me.  I am always happy to share my feelings.

On lighter note - things one must not do:
  • 1.       If you sit on your Kindle it will break.
  • 2.       Spend money for good fitted socks or you will spend a fortune trying to fix your feet.
  • 3.       Ibuprofen is a stock that I which I bought years ago.
  • 4.       When you finish a Camino stop traveling and breathe just breathe.
  • 5.       With every pound you carry on your back you will pay a price as you do with negative feelings.
  • 6.       Realize that in life we are all on a Camino but just may not be aware of it.
  • 7.       It is not the destination but the journey even through the end can be very pleasant.
  • 8.       Coffee is a drug and when you stop drinking it your head will hurt.
  • 9.       Sometimes rain is more enjoyable then sun and heat.
  • 10.   Always drink plenty of water.
  • 11.   Most of all never think you are better than anybody else.
  • 12.   At the end of the day playing with your stuff (back pack things) can be fun especially when it all that you have.
  • 13.   Technology for me is always fun and the I Touch kept us in touch with you all.

Your friend,
A choice stone in a choice place

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Barcelona and Madrid...the grand finale to our Spain travels

long winding mosaic seating at Parc Guell

Parc Guell - all designed by Gaudi
We have now been back in the USA for several weeks (Boston, Cape Cod, Long Island NY and now North Carolina). I did not want to miss reminding myself (and the rest of you) of our last days in Spain where we enjoyed Barcelona, Madrid and Toledo.

After winding down in Santiago for a few days we headed by plane to Barcelona. It is a very lively, beautiful city full of interesting architecture and art. Unlike the time on the camino, we stayed in city hotels which for us was disconcerting. We had been used to albergues with kitchens and very low prices and now in the big city got more luxury, paid more but with much less service. We love being able to make our own tea and snacks without having to go out for meals all the time. On the other hand, we found some really great vegetarian restaurants in both Barcelona and Madrid. Always two sides to everything.

Gaudi architecture

More Gaudi architecture
Neither of us knew much about the architect Gaudi before coming to Spain and in Barcelona discovered his amazing, creative and very different work. It is a very walkable city and so we just went from one great museum or park to another to see his work. The best for us was the "Sagrada Familia" - a church started just about one hundred years ago that is still unfinished. There are no photos that could do justice to this awesome Cathedral.
Sagrada Familia
Sculpture in Sagrada Familia

Impossible to capture this church

Sculpture in Miro Museum, Barcelona

Amazing Water show to Music with lights

Water show to music in Barcelona
We went to both the Picasso Museum as well as the Miro Museum. No matter where you walk in the city there is music, art, water fountains (see pictures) and activity. As in much of the rest of Spain, there is an afternoon siesta and then most of the dinner restaurants open after 8pm and stay open late. By the time we were in the big cities, we were used to the late night eating schedule.
our favorite - roasted peppers with sea salt

going up to Monserrat
A view from Monserrat

our favorite...apples!

We discovered that Monserrat was a 1 hour train ride from Barcelona so we went there. It is a Monastery built high in the mountains among rock formations. It has been another pilgrimage site for many in Europe for centuries. There was a beautiful walking trail, church and views. Gave another view of mountains in Spain that we had not seen before.
in the church at Monserrat

Market in Barcelon

The beach in Barcelona
Right in the city is a beautiful beach for swimming, etc. As it was the summer, it was filled with people and activity. Right along the beach was this Fish sculpture by Gehry (whom we learned about while in Bilbao),

For me, one of the great things about traveling is the artists that I have heard about during my life but whose works I have never seen. Spain is filled with such art.
Gehry "fish" commissioned for
the Barcelona Olympics in 1992

On the waterfront in Barcelona

Prado in Madrid

Madrid is another example. I have always heard about the "Prado" museum. We spent some time visiting the Old Masters....amazing art but not my taste or style. I am glad that I am able to see some that I like and some that I can appreciate for technical expertise but am able to walk away from. (Probably not a statement that will make me popular among my many artist friends!)
Jewish temple which has now been converted
to a church in Toledo....home of three
religions - Islam, Jewish and Catholic

From Madrid we took a day trip to Toledo which was interesting as it was a city that was the home of Islam, Jewish and Catholics for many peacefully together. I wish it could be like that again in this world.
typical jewelry made in Toledo



After several days in Madrid we decided that we had enough of city life and really were "travel weary". All together this has been 4 months of travel with nearly different places most nights. We decided to head back to USA one week early which was a good decision for us - we needed a little rest before doing the USA family and friends travel along the East Coast.

Mostly we are grateful that we were able to do this incredible trip, see so many things, walk most of the walk that we had intended, returned to the same physical condition as we left, had such wonderful support from all of you, learned some good personal lessons and are here to tell the story.

FYI, we head back to San Miguel de Allende, MX in August and will probably stay there for most of the next 6-9 months.