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


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…..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    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


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’?


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 :-)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Camino moments....

As the days wear on and pilgrim feet fight to maneuver another stretch of cobblestone pathway….As the skies split open against the force of torrents of rain bursting to be set free…
As 6.5 more kilometres until the next stop  becomes 10.2…..bodies and emotions falter under the weight of a questioning mind:  Why am I doing this?

And then there are the brief moments of awe that remind us of our ‘why’ - hold on to these for they will bring you through fellow pilgrim.

...tinkling bells in the distance calling us to peek over a rock wall and have a chat with the cows grazing in their field

… clang….clang….clang….. Church bells strike while walking through a ghost village

… a hearty ‘Buen Camino’ rings out as a cycling pilgrim pulls ahead on the path

… evening vespers sung by nuns in candlelit churches, as they have for a thousand years

… joyous laughter as reuniting pilgrims embrace after several days apart

… a cafe con leche 1 ½ hours after beginning the day’s walk

… the farmer gifting fresh grapes from his harvest as we pass

… quiet moments when all of time and space become one with the soul

… spiderwebs of morning dew glittering across an open corn field

… children giggling as they yell “ Hello!” - practicing their English

… falling into bed alongside other weary souls with no cares other than sleep

… simple meals, prepared with love by volunteer albergue staff  here only to serve the pilgrim   on his way

…  meseta sunrises blazing tangerine streaks across vast skies

…  the Milky Way, stretched for miles, beneath  the Iberian heavens

And this, the setting of the sun as the day closes….these wonders of man and God are the ‘why’ we go on...these moments are the gifts of the Camino.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

" Is it gelling?"

“ Are you enjoying this one? Is it gelling?”

Ahhhh, there is the question, asked in precisely the specific way that triggers me to write--finally.
Is it gelling?  Perhaps---at times --- not really -- at times.

Some days are blessed with incredible connections; moments when I stand with goosebumps at the profound knowledge that I am surrounded by my angels.

And then...void.  
“ Now why am I here?  What is this about?”
Questioning the purpose of this walk.  Questioning what I am to write about; to share.
Yes, there have been miraculous moments  … moments designed to let me know that
the laws of attraction are in action.  Moments orchestrated with such precision it becomes impossible to question the connection between my soul and those that have moved into the next realm.

And, touching stories from other pilgrims, magic moments in their walks which validate that, in fact, this amazing ability to draw to ourselves that which we believe to be real and true can take a physical form.  We can manifest.

If I were to categorize this Camino Portuguese experience right now- today- I would call it the Camino of Intention.
Each and every day I wake, stretch the aching pilgrim muscles and lay very still for a few moments consciously intending my day:

“ I am filled with gratitude that the walk today will be one of joy and peace.  I know I will be safe in my travels and pilgrims I meet will add a special ‘something’ to the day.  I am grateful for the time and the financial means to walk this walk, open to hearing all the Universe intends for me to learn on this day.  
I am forever grateful that Sis, Jeannie and MJ are with me and make themselves known in their unique ways. Thank you!”

Now, of course every morning is not the same...there have been extremely specific intentions set forth on some mornings. The type of detailed requests  of which many would say
“ Oh c’mon Kate.  You cannot expect to see, hear, know the answer to that.”  Yet, invariably,
Those intentions come to pass in a manner I recognize.    

What I can say, is that each and every day I have been given a clear signal that I am heard.  Each and every day, at moments in time that simply cannot be questioned, guidance has been given...signals have been shown.

And so, I walk each day wondering what magic moment will occur.  Do I catch them all? No.
Do I catch enough?  Oh Yes!  

Mary, thank you for the question, at the right moment on the precise day it was needed --
Yes- it IS gelling.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


It is in the act of walking, one foot before the other along an ancient camino path, that my heart begins to sing again!  Today was that day, even if only for the shortest of distances as I found my way from the train station at Mealhada out to the albegue where I am currently sitting, cooled by the breeze flitting the leaves of a lime tree overhead.

Tomorrow the true walk begins.

Today, I am finally with other pilgrims and feel a sense of connectedness, a belonging.
The last several days of sightseeing, wandering and capturing photos to share with friends and loved ones  has all been a gift for which I am eternally grateful.  However, I have felt incredibly alone.  An aloneness I do not not recall since the days hiking in Patagonia last year.

In my daily world I am surrounded by loving family and friends.  I am blessed to have my son and his family close - and after years of my living overseas, this is the greatest gift.  My home is with my sister, who is my  my greatest, dearest, truest friend in the world, and my nephew.  They welcomed me in two years ago and we have formed a family unit which works well for the three of us.

My life is full and never do I feel alone.  So, these last few days have come as a bit of a surprise; a realization that when planted somewhere in the world without others to share the experience,in person, it all feels rather empty...lacks meaning.

And so, although surrounded by primarily French pilgrims today, I am at home.  Backpacks rest in the corner of the dormitory room; fellow walkers whisper at mid afternoon so as not to wake each other from a mid-day rest; my washed clothing hangs alongside socks and tee shirts belonging to people I will never see again.  We take turns buying a coffee, water...a beer.  We share the olive plate
I purchased and discuss the next days' journey... in broken English accented by smiles and nods.

I am a peregrina once again.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Thoughts from Coimbra --

Here is what I know to be true-

….I can walk whatever portions of this Camino Portuguese I choose, which means if the heatwave continues I can adjust- -nothing to prove. WHAT a freeing place to be in life!

… Sis is with me --- 711 has shown up three times in 1 ½ days as I contemplate what day I will actually start the walk…. All is in order, all will be well

…  I am perfectly capable of following a map ( those of you who know me KNOW this is a camino gift!:-)    Walk a camino path and follow the markers problem. Navigate a city- Trouble!  BUT, I have, I did and I will continue!  Thank you, Sis!

… this is a Camino of trust...setting intentions with gratitude each morning then letting go and knowing all is in order.  Each time I find myself even the slightest worried about something: finding my way through the city, late airplane connections, the heat….I remember that I already addressed it and surrendered KNOWING everything is working out intended.

… Portuguese people are warm,kind, and helpful

…  afternoons are the best time to snag the shower in a hostel ...those of you walking know this is true :-)

…  the ‘clang’ of the church bells told the wealth of a city in olden days.  Poorer city or village, clangy bells…cheaper metal....wealthy city, glorious tolling bells, musical.  I love them all.

… breakfast in Portugal is a carb load --  Bread, butter and jam, baby spiced pancakes, marble cake… yummy!

… European coffee is still my favorite!

… I walk knowing that I will learn what I am meant to learn when the time is right.  My soul knows all is in order

… I will indeed have a Bom Caminho!