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.