Saturday, September 30, 2017

Camino thoughts

In Finisterre at the 0.0K
Well my friends, now this camino is over and it is time to contemplate. The second week which was in Spain was harder for me than the first from a physical standpoint as my physical problems compounded with the accumulated mileage. I am sure you are thinking that I should have stopped but each day everything was OK in the morning and increased as the day went on so I went with my instinct to keep on as I could. I always told myself if I got to the point that I could not keep on, I would stop. Herein lies my lessons and work - how do I know when enough is enough? I am sitting here in Burgos, Spain for 2 days and doing nothing but sit and think and write (you are getting my instant thoughts) and hopefully my little physical problems will go as they came and I can attribute them all to overlong mileage on my feet on many days. We did do lots of walking training in Mexico, US, Germany and England before the camino but I guess not long enough and not everyday which is the difference. 17 miles on the last day into Santiago was the longest!
Starting the day in Arcade, Spain

Entering Spain in Tui.
I was graced with two new good 'besties' from Australia - Anne and Michael and they walked with us for several days but it was our last that was the most meaningful as we were able to distract each other, listen to our life stories, support each other on our ongoing spiritual walks as well as sing together. We had lots of fun and it helps to remind me how important community is in my life. I sometimes think that I would rather be alone but when times like this come along and one meets new friends and we just feel like we have been friends forever - this is a moment of joy and grace. There were other friends we ran into here and there that were fun and interesting as well.

Small buildings to keep grain
Those of you out there in our family and friend land often ask us about our "friends" and how and why we seem to have so many and why we stay connected with so many. Each of you know how we became friends and how important we are to each other. I feel we are all teachers and students for each other in life. I told Anne how I was looking for some lessons on this camino and after listening to me tell my story and connections and family life she was able to hear things and make suggestions that I will take with me for my future thinking.

Folks wonder why we would do a camino more than once. The first (French route across northern Spain in 2012) was longer and more arduous. This one easier in time and logistics was harder for me physically.
Scenery along the coast of Spain

I suppose I am always wondering in life if there are answers to the big questions - Why are we here? What am I put on this earth to do? How do I connect my head to my heart? How do I connect my head to my body? How do I accept my aging? 
Spa town of Caldas de Reis
with thermal waters

I thought that walking a camino might give me answers to questions but the thing I realized is that there are not always clear answers as the questions are always changing. The beauty of the land, the joy of exercise and moving my body, the challenge of something difficult, the happiness with Richard each day as we set off for the next town, the new friends along the way - these are the gifts. Are they answers to questions - maybe yes....maybe I am here on this earth to be in community, to share life experience, to listen, to help others, to be close to my higher power, to pray for my friends and family (I did place many stones on alters along the way) and to JUST BE.

Thanks for traveling along the "way" of my mind on this lovely morning in Spain.
Tomorrow we are off to Pau, France to stay in a little studio apartment for two weeks and have our first experience of French culture together. Au revoir mes amis.
Anne and Irma before Arcade

Notes to remember:

  • We walked about 140 miles.
  • Met Irma from Switzerland who now lives in Melbourne, Australia - she fell out of bunkbed and was sent to hospital. Broke her arm/wrist and continued but we never saw her again after Arcade.
  • Met Allistar and Aislinn who live in Brussels. They walked with us several days and we had meals together and enjoyed our day on the bus to Finesterre after reaching Santiago.
  • Will surely see Anne and Michael in Australia someday in the future.
  • Beautiful scenery - Eucalyptus trees, grape vines, fig trees, orange and lemon trees, chestnuts, apples, maples, pine - green everywhere.
  • Loved our support company - Portugal Green Walks.
  • Read blog about food - not the easiest for a gluten free vegan but we managed everyday.           
  • Remember our ritual of strong decaf coffee at every stop - different than our usual tea.
  • I am ready to make another walking trip but less mileage per day is my future.
Richard is "tree bathing"
And thoughts from Ricardo

There are as many reasons to walk a camino as there are not and I think that every reason seems to have equal value. So why did I choose to do it again? Did I not learn what I needed from the first one to Santiago through the French route five years ago? That is a question that I've asked myself and I am unable to answer it with much clarity. 

However, here are my thoughts after this camino. First of all I like challenges and putting myself in uncomfortable situations which I enjoy and walking 140 miles to a religious site meets this criterion. Was this enough of a reason to take on this journey from Porto, Portugal to Santiago, Spain? Maybe yes, but walking everyday is a journey and does the destination really matter anymore? 

This is how I feel about life now, just living one day at a time which is my life camino. Caminos show me that we are human and fragile and being with other people from all over the world helps me to realize that we are all equal and deserve the same respect and consideration. I have come to see the world without borders and everybody in it as my brother and sister. After the walk I was certainly glad that we finished and now is the time to take the much needed rest. So like life, with yin & yang or hard & soft, these opposites were demonstrated in this camino where every day I needed to take inventory of my stuff and my body, then walk just walk. 
We reached Santiago with besties Anne
and Michael.

Yes I was very happy to do this camino and if my body allows I would do it again but now I rest.
Sending love,

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Porto and the first week of the Camino

The Camino begins
We arrived in Portugal about 2 weeks ago from England. Each leg of our trip provides new and different views, cultures, language and experiences for the body, mind and spirit.

Our first week was a return to a favorite city Porto (and the same Airbnb on Rua da Alegria 62).  Porto is such a walkable city and we continued our "training" for the big camino by visiting many old and new sites by foot. A thrill is always searching out good veg restaurants and now, with Molly (our Iphone with googlemaps) we find anything we want with ease. 
The houses of Riberia, along the river

Unfortunately I have a bit of sciatica so Porto provided us with an opportunity to visit an acupuncturist-massage therapist who gave me two treatments during the week. I am learning ways to manage it for this long walk as there are only short moments of discomfort and thankfully only at the end of the day. Not sure how I got it but I am hoping it disappears as easily as it came.

For anyone interested in the food and restaurants during our stay in Porto, please visit my blog at:

Symphony Orchestra of Porto
Our new activities in Porto included a night concert of the Symphony Orchestra of Porto, the 6 Bridge boat tour, a long walk to Matinoshos and a repeat of a favorite restaurant, DaTerra, the big Mercado Bohao, the art musuem and gardens of Serralves.

We visited Palacio de Cristal with beautiful gardens and grounds and view of River Duoro and then to Museu Romantico and Casa Tait - both were closed but we walked the extensive grounds.
Ricardo's favorite - pastel de Nata

Here are my thoughts about visiting the same place twice (or more). My memories that are vivid about some things and vague about others are renewed. It is fun to be able to take the public transportation because we knew a bit more about where we were going. Going to the same Airbnb as last time made it feel like going "home". Drawing at the same place as before is interesting. I never have forgotten a place that I sat and drew so going back to the tea house at the Casa da Cha - at the Art Museum Seravales and drawing the houses along the riverfront of the Duoro River was a great way to reinforce my memory. 
Typical Portuguese roofs

After 6 days in our Airbnb we moved to the Hotel Trinidade in a different area of town. We did this because we were now beginning our 2 weeks with Portuguese Green Walks. They are providing accommodations and transporting our luggage during this Camino de Santiago. We are walking ourselves, but with this support.


I am writing this from Valenca in Portugal which is just over the river from Tui, Spain where we will be tomorrow in the early morning. We are taking a day rest in the middle of this 12 day walk and all is going very well. As I am keeping records of each day, each city visited and our mileage, I will not list it all here. We are averaging about 20k (12 miles) per day and with the addition of Portuguese Green Walks, our life is easier. We do not have to wonder where we will sleep and can carry just a day pack with snacks, jacket, drawing book, etc. which is much easier on the body. So far I think we will both agree that it has been great and the scenery is wonderful. We travel on various paths - cobblestones, tarmac, dirt, old Roman roads and the terrain is up and down with only one major uphill climb of 1200' (so far).
Grapes ready for harvest
Much of the land is farmed - cornfields and grapes are the most common along with Eucalyptus and portuguese greens that are served in soup or steamed are common on small private land and around houses. (You can be sure that I am happy when I am served these greens in a restaurant). I am going to write about food on the other blog - rural Portugal is not the easiest for the veg folks but where there is a will, there is a way. 

Entrance to fortressed city
of Valenca, Portugal
We have met folks along the way - spent the most time with an Australian couple and their 26 year old daughter and 24 year old nephew as they have been staying in the same places as we have. Many Germans are traveling along the way - old and young alike. We have met only one from the United States. Topic of conversation with many is what our thoughts are about politics in the USA. We have met no one who understands how we might have elected 45 as our President and of course, we have no explanation.

We are looking forward to the Spanish part of this Camino and you will hear more when we end.
We pick up stones and
leave a prayer

Please know that our thoughts are with all our friends affected by the hurricanes and earthquakes. We are very aware of what is going on in the world and are saddened by this situation.

Once again, thank you for traveling with us.

Words from Ricardo on Portugal and the Camino 

We had another great week in Porto, Portugal, one of our favorite cities. Even though I was unable to master much of the Portuguese language by using my Spanish and at times English I was more or less able to be understood. Most Portuguese speak two languages and the second is either English or Spanish.  

Porto is a very vegetarian friendly place with a lot of culture, pride, very laid back and safe.  Porto has not just a wide river running through it but a great beach for surfing, swimming and for us just  - to lay on the sand.  

After this fun filled week we began our second Camino de Santiago which ends at the burial place of the bones of St James.  I'm writing this as we begin the second half of this journey into Spain.  The total walk of 12 walking days has an average of 12 miles/day. So far it has been a complete joy with ample time to reflect.  Much time and prayers have been given for all the people suffering from the hurricanes and earthquakes this month. 

Our weather has been perfect - cool mornings and never more than 70 degrees in the afternoons. Soon the rainy season will begin. Susan wrote more of the details but for me I just like to add a little of my thoughts.  

I have tremendous pleasure in walking and as long as my body allows, I will walk. This type of walk is always a challenge, but with this comes a deeper understanding of the world connection around us.  I now see life more and more through the eyes of others while meeting with so many humans from all over the world, walking near me.  Life is full of many kinds of caminos and this is just one of them.  

May you all have a great Camino today.
Your buddy,

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Buxton rocks!

We are now ending the second leg of our European Trip spending time in Buxton, England with our long-time friends that we met in North Carolina who are more like family. We visited here in the winter of 2016 and promised ourselves that we would return when the land was green instead of snow covered. This was a chance to be with Dan, Fi, Aidan (14) and Will (9) as they spent the last week of their summer vacation with us. As I write this they have all returned to work or school. Together we walked over 70 miles and ate our way through the beautiful Peak District.
I will highlight some of the best memories so that when we return we will remember what we did and where we walked.
  • We walked to Solomon's Temple, Bishop's Lane and the golf course, took Robbie (a dog) for a walk, to Roaches with a stop at Roaches Tea Room, Derbyshire Dales National Park with a stop at Biggan Hall for High Tea, Monsal Trail with a stop at Hassop's for another delicious meal. How amazing that through all these hills and dales one always finds a spot for tea and a meal. Richard has sampled all the scones and crumpets along the way. 
    Buxton Pavilion Garden
  •  We went with Fi to a horse event where we learned about natural horsemanship. It was the introduction to her several day workshop
  • Massages with Pierre at home for Susan, Dan and Richard. We had our sore walking muscles attended to.
  • Walking around Buxton has much to offer - one day had the Green Man Gallery and tea at the oldest building in England. Another for the historical tram ride and high tea at the Palace Hotel. 
    The heather is blooming
  • We timed it right to be here to attend Dan's citizenship ceremony. 
  • A visit to Manchester which included Dan and Ricardo's visit to the Kadampa Buddhist Center for meditation and a return to the Earth Cafe followed by the Manchester Art Gallery. 
    Manchester is pride friendly
  • A visit to the town of Macclesfield, visiting King Edward's Chapel - the oldest Unitarian Church in England. Then it was off to the Silk Museum and to learn the interesting history of Silk in this town.
  • A new city for us was Liverpool for Ricardo to meet his sister Maria (who lives in N. Ireland) and my chance to see the Beatles Story and Museum. It brought me back to the 60's and 70's with such deep music history. 
    Liverpool is pride friendly too.
  • We attended the practice session of the Burbage Brass Band with Aidan on the drums. 
  • We finished this excellent trip with a day at the award winning Devonshire Spa right here in Buxton with steam, sauna, hydrotherapy waters, foot baths and aromatherapy room. Yes we are spoiled to the max. 

The best, though, was our many hours of walking and talking together and witnessing these two great boys as they grow to be men. Having an extended period of time to just "be" together is a bonus to us as we travel the world. I am so very grateful to them for their love and hospitality and we look forward to our next time together.

Now for a few words from Ricardo.

Our time here in England has ended and we are leaving hungry for more. We visited Manchester, Macclesfield, Liverpool and spent our nights here in old Buxton.  There were many walking adventures on the old pathways through the high peaks and old railway trails. Lastly, we ended with a relaxing spa treatment at the famous Devonshire spa.  Here in Buxton we have long time friends who have become family over time and every moment with them is always a joy especially watching their two children Aidan and Will growing up to become good citizens of the world.

This charming English town is a destination place for many with great hikes, history, food, people and healthy thermal waters. This was our second time here and are looking forward to our return. I want to thank our friends/family Dan, Fiona, Aiden and Will  for opening their doors again to us and showing us even more of the magic here in the Peak District.
Richard's sister, Maria

Another very special events was when my sister Maria met me in Liverpool the home of the Beatles. It has been 5 years since we last were together and were able to fill in many of the blanks of the past 5 years which was very enjoyable. 
I feel very honored to have the time and resources to travel with Susan and to share this time with all those that are dear to me.