Monday, October 17, 2016

ARRIVING.......

What a day!  The final day of this trek had me wandering heavily trafficked streets, cars whizzing by, for most of six hours.  Of course, had I contemplated where I was, the immense size of the grand city I was entering, there would be no surprise at hours of suberbs to be crossed before arriving at Vatican City.
Signage, which had been plentiful and correct this entire journey, disappeared for the most part. The welcomed brown and white Via Francigena signs which had guided me for weeks were nowhere in sight.  Red and white Via Francigena stickers wrapped on lampposts and traffic light posts were few and far between.  Challenge....definitely the word of the day!

I was blessed, however, with relatively dry conditions.....a Godsend, really, as the weather forecast had been for a very wet and grey Monday.  And, to top it off, the sun shone bright and beautiful as I exited the remarkable city park of Monte Mario, down into the streets of Rome itself.

St. Peter's Square, jam packed with tourists, was empty of other Pelligrini......at least none having just arrived packs and poles in tow.  I was intently aware of eyes watching this tall, tired woman standing in awe of the glory surrounding her.  With more and more pelligrini on the trail, the sight of heavily laden backpacks and walking sticks are becoming more the norm.....yet, for this brief time, I was the anomaly.

Upon checking in with the Swiss Guard, I was directed to the office in the square which would issue my final stamp and the Latin Testimonium document certifying I had completed my journey.  Watching the young woman carefully write my name, I found myself wanting to swing around and shout to the tourists behind me, "Look! I made it....."
All they really wanted was my time with the agent to end so they could buy their tour tickets.The  line was growing.....and impatient.
I decided Silence was best.
So I quietly watched her complete her task  as a rush of emotion touched my heart.  A year later and a third major walk complete.

What will come next?


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

ENTERING SANTIAGO.......









Sunday, two days until I fly back to the States.  Hard to imagine two months has passed -  blink and it is gone.
And here I sit, one last time, in Rovinj, Croatia wrapping up my European visit.
Rovinj, where I started this amazing spiritual sojourn. Surrounded by the incredible beauty and calm of this medieval Adriatic town, wrapped in the energies which started this 5 year Camino I have been experiencing, I am home.

Summer 2011, the knowledge I would walk my first Camino became a force directing me toward the walk of a lifetime, the Camino Frances. That it would not occur until the fall of 2014 was simply the Universe in action.  It occurred when it was meant to occur - as is the case when we let the Universe work.
As many of you are aware, this powerful soul knowledge I was to walk was unquestionable. That the first Camino would lead to a hike in Patagonia, a Camino along the Via Francigena and this last walk,the Camino Portuguese, certainly was nowhere on my agenda when those first synchronicities, those first whisperings of the Universe, began in 2011.

Yet, here I am in my final two days back where it began; back in my European home of Rovinj.
A perfect place to reflect.

The question most asked over these last few days, since the completion of my walk, is simply
“ How did it feel walking into Santiago a second time? I imagine it must have been a very different experience.”

Yes, the completion of my Camino Portuguese, my 360 kilometers (give or take a few) was indeed different.  Entry to Praca Cervantes in Santiago de Compostela in 2014 brought forth powerful emotions. Tears of joy, physical exhaustion, immense elation, were uncontrollable.  It is a moment in time forever locked in my heart, and soul.

This year, my entry to Praca Cervantes, the plaza with its signature fountain which greets pilgrims walking in from five separate Caminos to Santiago, was calm.  Peace settled on my heart as I gazed around, expecting a wellspring of emotion once again.

No, the tears were nowhere to be found. The overwhelming emotion of two years ago was replaced with quiet, peaceful, soulful calm.
A simple knowledge that I was done drew my breath as I gazed down the street which would lead me toward the Cathedral - the official end of the journey.  

In the past 10 days since walking into Santiago, I have  found myself consciously giving thought as to why the ending of this particular Camino seems so... I don’t even know the correct word to use... neutral, perhaps.  Not negative- not positive, joyful or saddened - simply, neutral.  Peaceful, calm, quiet, settled…. Neutral.  Balanced.  Balanced might be a better word.  No sense of ecstatic joy- no sense of bittersweet sadness -at the completion, but rather, balance.

Time alone on this walk has been plentiful.  The greatest lesson: recognizing that I am truly content to be on my own - my company with myself is perfect. When those ‘alone’ moments in time arise, I can now welcome them.  
Sitting solo at a sidewalk cafe, my glass of wine or morning cafe con leche in hand,watching the people come and go...now, this seems perfectly natural…. No sense of awkward… odd.
This Camino has been my lesson in finding happiness and peace within myself - wholly, fully, completely.  I am enough.

In the coming home to Rovinj, the final ribbon on the gift of this journey, I am complete.
The same salted air; breezes blowing gentle as I climb the hill to stand in the shadow of Saint Euphemia’s tower; energies of over a thousand years of history swirling - energies which gave rise to this five year journey I have traveled - wrap me snug.  They whisper that I have done well -- I have listened.  I have  learned.  My circle, for now, is complete.   

They whisper “ Go home now”

I can leave.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Holy Door of St. James in Santiago





Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I knew this year had been granted significance as a Holy Year by Pope Francis- the Year of Mercy.  And with that declaration came the opening of the Holy Door at the Cathedral of Santiago --- out of sync from it's regular years ( those in which the Feast of Saint James, July 25th, happens to fall on a Sunday).

I attach a link to a brief article expaining the process by which the door is ceremoniously opened and the importance to Catholics of walking through that speciifc door.

And, I am grateful for the experience of entering the Cathedral and the Tomb of Saint James through this centuries old passage ... sacred in Catholicism.

For Catholics it is an especially sacred blessing to see this sight. For pilgrims having walked hundreds of kilometers, for whatever their reasons, it still holds deeply emotional connection...a final
blessing at the end of an extraordinary walk.

Also, some photos from my time outside the Holy Door today, watching as fellow pilgrims and visitors queue to hug the shoulders of the incredibly ornate silver and gold statue of Saint James, high above the Altar; then entering the lower quarters, where the bones of St. James are said be laid.



https://www.ultreyatours.com/blog/the-year-of-mercy-in-santiago-de-compostela/





~~ Author   Award Winning Bestseller  ' A Camino of the Soul: Learning to Listen When the Universe Whsipers'

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Peregrina....a Sunday in Finisterre

….. Sleepy peregrine boys, rustling awake with a start, as I round the corner of the stone church portico, hoping to find Mass in session. No Sunday Mass, just a couple sleepy pilgrims stretched on their mats

…..Langostiere beach, over 2 km of pristine white sand, so laden with seashells the outgoing waves create the music of wind chimes softly catching a breeze….

…..Seagulls squawk, shrill screams urging me to awaken and start a new day

….Click...click...click… walking sticks tap the stone of Rui Santa Catarina just below my open windows. Pilgrims marching in the early morning through a sleepy Finisterre

... A wander on the city beach collecting sea glass for my dear artist friend Jan

….Joyous reunions as pilgrims see each from afar, rushing to embrace in welcome
“ When did you arrive? Did you walk the last four days here? Ohhhh, I am so glad to see you again!”  English, Portuguese, Italian, German, Czech, French… It doesn’t matter… The message is understood

…. Cafes buzzing with the passionate voices of Spaniards as mid- day Sunday draws them together in family and community

….Sipping a cold cerveza in the noon day sun, my legs stretched out, welcoming the rest; listening, as a myriad of nationalities chat in harmony around me

…..Bells tolling the hour...a tinny Clang..Clang .Clang….these are not the bells of a wealthy town

…. Enthusiastic futbol announcers blaring from cafe doorways -- TV’s scream the plays of the day as locals and pilgrims alike yell as they pound fists in celebration of their teams

…. 7:30 AM - Feet moving quickly along the street below as cafes prepare to open- only the early morning pilgrims will greet a Sunday at this hour

…. Children trudging up the beach from a romp in the sea, pants slipped to the ankles, a jacket warming chilly shoulders

…. The aroma of garlic and onions wafts from windows above the street front businesses  - A Sunday meal in the making

.....  Hearts!  Capturing hearts and sending prayers for loved ones


Peregrina, I soak in the moments, willing my senses to always remember this Sunday in Finisterre









Friday, September 30, 2016

Seminario Menor- Santiago














Two days...for two full days my backpack has sat hunkered in a corner of my
small, efficient semenario room at Seminario Menor in Santiago de Compostela.
A pilgrim albergue like no other I have experienced, the quiet, calm grace of this remarkable
venue has seeped into body and soul.  


Sunsets on the portico shared with pilgrims from varying countries; a multitude of different  camino treks: Portuguese, Norte, Franc√™s, Ingles, Via de la Plata….all coming together at this  final melting pot of pilgrim community… we are here...Santiago!


Earlier in the day we stood waiting. Some glancing at watches, others settled on century old marble stairs, I found my spirit strangely at ease. Calm… present….the doors will open when the doors open.  
Anxious pilgrims  walked forward, rattling door handles as if to alert the attendants they were late -- doors open at 1:30PM-- it is now past 1:32PM!  
Bless them, the Germans are first to rally when a set time marker has not been met.  Time - the exact mark of time - so ingrained in the culture. For the community at large it keeps a people and a country precise.  It is their gift; it is their curse.  


And me, my spirit?   Peaceful. Truly, utterly, at peace with where I stood; the lack of concept in time.  Those who know me will have a giggle at this.  
“ Kate, waiting?  Kate , peaceful while waiting?”  Waiting has always been a challenge--- ask my Mom…. it is our joke.  Her daughter has lacked patience in waiting for many a year!


And yet, 1:30 Pm slid into 1:45 PM, with others rattling iron door handles, while I leaned against my trekking poles; sore tired feet my only minor annoyance.


Bolts clanged from the other side of solid wooden doors as keys, first one then the next, were wiggled  into well used locks. Double doors, opened wide immediately, framing a smiling face
As she welcomed us in with a warm, inviting  “ Buenas Dias”


Halls stretched on as we found our way past lavoratories --16 private toilet stalls, 8 per side, co-ed--;  Shower rooms - again 16, each with locking doors although a co-ed facility, and a separate room, almost comical in its rows upon rows of sinks.  This facility had been structured to house many; priests, students, nuns...all on the same time schedule day after day- it was obvious.
As a pilgrim albergue, housing well over 100-150 pilgrims, it is perfect!


For 3Euros extra per night  I have booked a private room , celebrating my two nights at the end of my pilgrimage.  
A twin bed; a small, practical desk and chair;  a sink and mirror grace my room. Barren.
 And yet, I am fully aware I have been gifted a room once slated for those with a touch of authority.
And how do I know?  3 windows!  Three windows open  to the inner courtyard and a magnificent bell tower.  And, even more evident, my room sits next door to a private bathroom for toilet facilities.  Yes, I am certainly housed in a monastic room whose inhabitants thwarted power!


But, where did I start?
Oh yes, my backpack, dropped and hunkered  in a corner.  Until today, this misty grey Santiago morning, two days later.  
Lifted and strapped to my back, boots tightened for proper support,  I am once again peregrina… ready to walk.  

It may be a short day, but I am dressed in my battle armour and entering the world anxious to see what it brings!




~~ Author Award winning Bestseller ' A Camino of the Soul: Learning to Listen When the Universe Whispers'

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

VIGO!







Plaza del Autobus  Tourismo- that MUST be where I am!
That HAS to be where I am as hoards of humanity scurry by my table, determined to catch their bus lest it leave them behind. Currently I see five busses waiting to gather their inhabitants and continue on down the road to the next site...wherever that may be.

As for me, I have arrived in Vigo after a simple walk of appx. 20 km. Baiona to Vigo via the old Camino route for the first 2 kilometers, until I crossed the river at Ramallosa -on a pedestrian bridge which is considered to be one of the finest Roman bridges in Galicia!
And then, because I simply didn’t want a 28km day, I opted to walk the PR 522, which actually was a grand choice.  20 km. To the same destination. That works!

Plenty of cafes along the way as I passed through Nigran and on to smaller roadside villages. Although a major thoroughfare connecting Baiona to Vigo, a pedestrian path, augmented by actual sidewalks through the towns, made for a safe and easy crossing. At the high points the sea peeked through off to my left….hazy in the foggy mist, but there, visible to this searching set of eyes.

And then….Vigo.  This is the largest port in the country of Spain ( according to my chatty cabbie...more about that later). I internally question if it really beats out Barcelona, but opted for
“ Ohhhh, si? Numero Uno en Espana? Wow!”  He was pleased.

So, why a chatty cabbie?  Well, the PR 522 was a perfect pathway to Vigo UNTIL about 2km outside of the city limits ( felt like I had been within the city for at LEAST 2k by then). At about 2km to go, according to plentiful road signs,  yellow arrows appeared pointing me to the right , off the main road. As I saw the expanse of major metropolis before me, I decided it was simply the easy way to bypass much of the port area, and I followed.  I have trusted the arrows..follow them now!

Down a side street and around a bend and soon I was walking under a major freeway viaduct...a freeway I had yet to see from my safe haven of the PR522.  For the first time in many, many days the path following the arrows did not feel ‘right’.  Yellow arrows marked the way….yet my head said  "Nope!”

  What if this is the marker that bypasses Vigo and heads straight toward Redondel-…..tomorrow’s walk? .   I promptly did an about face and trekked myself back to the safety of the PR522….. Which, of course, now showed NO yellow arrows for guidance.

Just this morning I was laughing at the situation: 59 years old, traveling solo through Portugal and Spain, on a path traversed for centuries by pilgrims.  Not once have I felt unsafe, uncertain...jumpy at the noises of nature in the brush when in the forest, or cars and people whizzing past when on a roadway….I have felt safe and secure in my pilgrimage.

Vigo, something about it had been tugging at my brain for the last couple weeks.  I have had no desire to walked through Vigo; no desire to see anything it has to offer ( although as a true pilgrim to Santiago it is on my way and deserves its due course).  And here I was on the near edge, looking toward a sprawling metropolis before me and I did it….I ducked Into a cafe and politely asked the young lady if she would call me a cab, showing her my destination in the Casco of Vigo.  Chuckles from a couple older gentlemen at the bar...not sure what that was about….but within five minutes I was ensconced in a cab with a polite, rather grungy looking, chatty cabbie who brought me right to the door of Hostal Real on Calle Real, Vigo.

I am two hours ahead of my pre determine arrival time and no one is at the Hostal….and the Hostal looks scary….one star on the sign scary.  Hummmmm, just under a number 8 rating on bookings.com…..well, it IS old town, and I know buildings in old town can look VERY scary from the outside and yet house a lovely home away from home.   Since no one is available to meet me, I place a call ( thank you young Spaniards from Vodaphone for getting me hooked up here in Spain) and reach the hostess.

I am early she politely informs me.  I had said 2 PM and my room will not be ready until then.  Can I please come back?
Fair enough..I have been in this business for a hundred years and know how it works. She is right...I need to kill a little time.

  Ergo, here I am at Plaza del  Autobus Tourismo, my cerveca   and slice of quite yummy tortilla Espanola, keeping me company while I watch the tourists wander back to their busses.
And, I am waiting to see if Hostal Real will meet its mark or , if outside scary is matched by Iinterior scary…..SO hoping to find a little slice of heaven behind these doors!



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  UPDATE    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

HOSTAL REAL, FOR E18 FOR A PRIVATE ROOM W SHARED BATH IS PERFECTLY FINE!
YEA!!!!!!!







Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Chores in Baiona....













Ahhhh, peregrina!  Your feet and legs are aching, screaming for rest,even after several hours slee they demand a reprieve. Will you listen?  Will you heed the words of so many peregrine before you and ‘listen to your body’?

Yes!

And so, here I sit at the lavandaria, thrilled at the ease of the process.
‘ Soap, do I need soap?” I attempt to ask the handsome young Spaniard manning the spotlessly clean facility. My Spanish, I am ashamed to say, is limited at best.
He opens the door to a back room, showing me the soap containers already dispensing the needed amounts once the machines are underway. Ha! Perfect!  2euros and everything except what I am wearing will be clean….now as I type this, I realize I forgot to take off my fleece to pop it in. Damn!

“ Senor, por favor, es possible abierto la Porta y lava esta?” Not grammatically correct, but he gets my point and shakes his head. Nope. No opening the door to wash the fleece.

Baiona is brilliantly clear today...the haze has lifted and a multitude of sailing yachts gleam in the morning sun.
I have walked the entire malecon, almost twice now, and it is just noon.

A visit to the tourist kiosk in Search of The information I will need tomorrow on just how to exit this city by the bay (following the Camino arrows of course) , followed cafe con leche  and a humongous croissant.  She has the answers, Ms. tourist Kiosk lady,  and maps out two possible routes for my morning exit.
 The malecon, on which I arrived yesterday, although certainly a possibility, is not the ‘true’ Camino path. Since I have taken an unscheduled day,it is time to get back on true course north to Santiago.  Her map marks the way and I am assured the yellow arrows to Santiago  will be back in my future.

Also on my ‘to do’ list was a stop at Vodaphone for a SIM card and a Spanish cell number.
Pretty easy breezy, except I found myself a bit taken back by the extreme amount of time spent entering my passport info.
Hmmmmm, am I somehow wanted in this country I left two years ago?  Is there  a bank balance owing,  property tax awaiting payment? A little surprise waiting?
Will the Guardia Civil be arriving any minute to whisk me off for questioning?
My God he is taking a long time entering data.
What mind games we play!

Yes, passport Info was taken in Portugal as well. That efficient young lady certainly won the ‘ ‘take care of the customer and get them back on their way’ race.  Always a little slower in Spain….I am wise to remember this! And, overall, it is so much of what I love about this culture.

And, with that...laundry is ready for the dryer!  Oh my God….my clothes smell remarkable!
What a difference a lavandaria makes over bar soup in the bathroom sink!
 If only I could have sat here naked for this brief time and had them all done :-)