Saturday, May 31, 2014

Journey Home

I knew today had to come, the day where I left the Camino and started my journey home. I thought it would be harder, but the truth is: I'm ready. 

I woke up this morning and left my Albergue to meet Vera for breakfast. How do you say good bye to someone who hasn't left your side for the last month? With a hug and a promise to keep in touch and meet again next summer, I walked to the train station alone. It almost seems fitting that I finish this trip the way I started: solo on a train -- it's like the whole journey has come full circle. 

I slept most of the train ride, but the parts where I was awake were beautiful: the mountains are breathtaking whether you are standing on top of them or traveling at 240 kilometers per hour through them. When I arrived in Madrid, I took the metro, found my hostel, and rested a bit. My cold is really raging, so I thought at first that maybe I should just lay low and nap all day ... but that's no fun; and how often am I in Madrid?! So I headed towards the Prado, my favorite art museum and parked myself in the Greco section -- some of my favorite pieces!! The colors and the scenes really jump out at me. I spent most of the afternoon / evening there. After I left the Prado I grabbed some dinner (yes, I ate croquetas) and had some gelato before heading back to my hostel where I am tucked into bed and hoping for sleep. 

I didn't take any pictures today ... but here are a few to recap the journey: 

My first day as a pilgrim, getting ready to leave St. Jean. I had no idea what adventures were in store for me! 

The day I met Vera. 

The night I met Jarek and Gosia. 

Climbing mountains. 

Crossing bridges. 

Trekking through forests. 

Loving the sun. 

Not loving the rain. 



Lots of laughter. 

And prayer. 



A successful culmination of an incredible pilgrimage. 

The wall in my sleep room here at the hostel has a quote painted on it: Not all who wander are lost. Well isn't that the story of my life? It is the quote that inspired the title of this blog (wander with a purpose). Sometimes (or in recent discoveries: always), things really do just happen the way they should. 

Buen Camino. 


Friday, May 30, 2014

Santiago Day Three

This morning I slept in -- kind of. The people in my sleep room started stirring around six am, but I ignored the russling and slept until half past eight. Vera and I then got ready and went out for breakfast. It was so strange not to see Jarek and Gosia this morning! (And by strange, I mean sad.) I hope they had a good night in their Albergue and are enjoying walking in the sunshine today! At breakfast we ran into Kate and Clyde, the couple from Las Vegas I met on the bus from Bayonne to St. Jean. What a surprise to see them here!! I mean, not really, because this is where everyone ends up ... but it was nice to see them! 

After breakfast we went to the Pilgrim Museum -- they had a really neat interactive pilgrim simulation where you pretended to be an "old time pilgrim" from the Middle Ages walking to Santiago with characters along the way that would explain different parts if the journey, the experience, and the cathedral. They also had an interesting section on musical instruments found in the artwork in the cathedral. After the museum we looked in a few shops and then went back to the Albergue to rest a bit -- I know we aren't doing a lot, but our brains and bodies are exhausted! (Plus my plague like cough has returned, so I only sleep about half the hours I am in bed at night.) 

When we were sufficiently rested, we ventured out and went to the cathedral museum -- such beautiful sculptures and paintings!!! Unfortunately no cameras were allowed, so I cannot share my viewings, but take my word for it: it was worth seeing. I especially love the many depictions of Mary -- always so calm and loving and peaceful. After the museum we sat outside of the cathedral amongst many other pilgrims and soaked in the sun as we sat in awe of the towering cathedral before us. Can you imagine building something so immense and intricate hundreds of years ago? Crazy. It is also a fabulous place to so some people watching: pilgrims who have just arrived, exhausted and triumphant; tourists groups with guides taking photos and learning the history; children chasing pigeons and laughing as they fly away; Santiago residents hurrying through, avoiding eye contact so as not to be asked to take a picture; beggars missing limbs, walking with limps, dressed in rags seeking donations from anyone who will look their way -- such a busy place, yet peaceful; a place where thousands of pilgrims over hundreds of years have stood in awe and victory. 

Tonight was special, because Vera's parents were flying into Santiago to meet her. They are both such lovely people; I am so glad I got to meet them!! We went for dinner (delicious tapas) and drinks (vino tinto, of course) and walked around Santiago a bit before heading back to the Albergue. And that's where I am now, all packed up and preparing myself for tomorrow: the start of the journey home. 

Here are a few pictures from today: 

Part of the inner courtyard we saw during the cathedral tour. 

They said no pictures INSIDE, but this little chapel was kind of outside ... ish ... I mean, I was standing outside when I took the picture, so that's okay, right? 

From the inside looking out -- also: beautiful weather today!! 

Selfie in front of the cathedral!! 

Yummmmmmmm -- tapas!! 

That's right -- we ordered pulpo. 

Yummy lemon desert!! 

Vera's parents brought us these badges "I walked the Camino Frances" -- can I sew this onto all of my shirts? (They also brought me kinder eggs!!!) 

We started together, and we finished together. I sure am going to miss her!!! Good thing we are planning a trip to Krakow next summer (get ready Jarek and Gosia -- we're coming to see you!!). 

 And one more picture of the cathedral before it is time to say good bye. 

Tonight was my last night in Santiago -- tomorrow morning I hop a train to Madrid and the following day a plane will bring me home. A piece of me is sad to be going home, to be leaving my exploring adventures behind and returning to the familiar; but a bigger piece of me is ready to return, to integrate my new self into my old life, to see my family and friends and coworkers, and to begin new adventures that have destinations much bigger than Santiago. 

Buen Camino. 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Santiago Day Two

This morning we rose at eight am when the hospitalero at the Albergue walked into our sleep room, flipped on all the lights, and shouted: buenos dias!! Humph. Today was a little different, because instead of putting on my boots, I put on my chacos -- my time of walking thirty kilometers a day have come to an end. Jarek, Gosia, and I put on our packs and ventured out to the cathedral -- in the rain. Of course. (But maybe .... it will be sunny tomorrow.) There we met Vera (she had reservations last night at a closer (more expensive) Albergue) and headed to breakfast. We stretched breakfast out to a little after ten, but too soon it was time for Jarek and Gosia to keep moving -- thy are walking to Finnesterra and then to Muxia. We said our good byes, and off they went. Good byes are awful!! I so badly wanted to pick up my pack and follow them; but my Camino ends in Santiago. Vera and I left quickly (and tried not to cry as we) went to her Albergue to check me in. I dropped off my pack and we were back out in the rain, headed towards the cathedral to get a good seat for mass! 

Today is the Feast of the Ascension, which aside from being a holy day is a festival here in Santiago (maybe in all of Spain? I don't know.) so the church was filled with priests, the bishop, military carrying banners and flags, choirs, and many tourists and pilgrims. At the start of mass, they welcome the pilgrims and announce the names of the countries from which pilgrims have arrived since the last mass and from which point they started: the first countries they read were "Arriving from St. Jean Pied de Port are pilgrims from the United States and Holland" -- that's Vera and me!! We heard yesterday that the incense burner they used wasn't the real one and that they would use the real one today since it was a feast day -- lies. It was the real one yesterday. So we watched again today as the team of men lifted and swung the giant incense burner across the church. I think they had a little more umph today, because that incense burner really flew!!! 

After mass Vera and I headed back to the Albergue. It was still raining, and I really REALLY needed to do some laundry. After all my clothes was washed and dried and I had rested a bit, we went back into the cathedral so that Vera could touch the shoulders of St. James (she wasn't with us yesterday when we had done it). We stayed there for a bit, and I had the chance to pray quietly in some of the beautiful side chapels. And when we had had enough of the cathedral, we headed out into the city to the street with all the souvenir shops -- to be fair you have to look inside every one!! haha We spent a couple hours looking through t shirts and trinkets and jewelry and shot glasses, but let's be honest: the best "souvenir" is one that money can't buy, because you pay with your feet -- my compestella. (Note: I still spent too much money buying things I didn't really need ...) And guess who we ran into while we were shopping? Olivier!!! It was so good to see him!! He leaves Santiago tomorrow, so there was not much time for visiting; but it was so nice to know that he made it to Santiago. 

At seven we headed back to the cathedral plaza to meet the ladies from the UK -- we ran into them yesterday and had arranged to have dinner tonight. We are dinner at a really great restaurant: lentils for course one, pork cordon blue with salad and chips for course two, tarts de Santiago for desert (though I ordered ice cream ... the waiter had a mix up. haha) and plenty of vino y pan. It was really nice to catch up with the UK ladies and share our Camino experiences. They are so sweet to us (they bought our dinner) -- it is sad to say good bye to them, too! 

And now I am back in my Albergue, all tucked into bed. 

Here are a few pictures from today (though I didn't take too many!!): 

Early morning rainy photo shoot with my pack in front of the cathedral. 

A view of the church from the main entrance. 

Huuuuuuge pipe organ!! (This is only one side!!!) 

It's getting ready to swing!! I actually took video of it today, but the blog won't let me post video from my phone ... so if you want to see it in motion, just remind me next time you see me! 

Altarpiece in one of the side chapels -- gorgeous. 

Jarek and Gosia yesterday in the cathedral -- I'm really missing you guys tonight!! 

And my bed for tonight. 

Tomorrow will be a leisurely day: we have every intention of sleeping in followed by attending mass and visiting both the Cathedral Museum and the Pilgrim Museum. Hopefully it will be sunny tomorrow so that we can also visit the really beautiful park! Tomorrow evening Vera's parents are flying into Santiago to join her, so I will join them for dinner. 

I have such mixed emotions at the end if today: I am joyous for completing my journey, crushed to see fellow pilgrims leave, excited for new adventures tomorrow, and (slowly) ready to travel back home for the journey that awaits me there. But for now: sleep. Not walking all day has worn me out! 

Buen Camino. 


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day Thirty Two: Monte do Gozo to Santiago

For the last month, I have gotten up every morning, strapped on my boots and my backpack, and walked up mountains, across masetas, through forests and mud and towns, with cows and horses and dogs and roosters, and down steep, stony hills -- so it would seem that this morning, eight hundred and five kilometers later, when we walked into Santiago it would have felt different -- like a relief or an ending or an accomplishment .... but it just felt like life. Of course I was happy to have made it, but it just didn't seem real. It wasn't until after mass and then our return to the cathedral that the full sense of what I had finished sunk in. 

We arrived in Santiago just before nine am and promptly went to get breakfast. It was starting to rain and the front of the cathedral is being renovated (read as: there is ugly scaffolding and tarps everywhere) so we found a warm spot for a celebratory breakfast and to wait for the cathedral to be open for mass. Pilgrim's Mass starts at noon, so just before eleven we ventured in to grab our seats. It is fun to attend a mass that is being held in your honor -- so much praise and admiration and love is shown to the pilgrims! At the end of mass, a team of men gathered in the front of the church and swung the giant incense burner across the front of the church (though it isn't the actual big one -- they only use that in special occasions which tomorrow happens to be; so we will attend mass again tomorrow!). At mass we ran into the Hungarian couple that we met at Tomas's "cabin" -- what a fun surprise!! We arranged to meet them later for drinks before their plane leaves this evening. After mass, we went to find an Albergue. We chose one that was least expensive, so it was a two kilometer walk from the center of town; but it is clean and not very full, so that is nice. After a short rest, we marched back into the city center and went back to take a look at the cathedral. This is when the end of my Camino really took shape for me. 

So at the completion of your Camino, tradition says that you are supposed to attend mass, go to confession, and pray before the relics of St. James the Apostle for the Holy Father, and then you receive your compestella (thus eliminating or greatly reducing the time you spend in purgatory). When I entered the cathedral for the second time, the atmosphere was different. The holy building wasn't packed with pilgrims and tourists who wanted to watch the incense burner swing and take pictures, but rather with pilgrims who were there for prayer and to take in the beauty of the old church. The center alter is amazing -- St. James is displayed prominently in the altarpiece, sculpted in gold surrounded by Christ, the Blessed Mother, and so many angels. The side alters and chapels compete for most beautiful with moving depictions and sculptures of Christ and Mary; my favorite side chapel, however, was one that seemed devoted to pilgrims: St. James in the altarpiece and seashells adorning the walls (this side chapel also had a really fabulous ceiling). I had already attended mass, so next was prayer before the relecs of St. James. We descended down into the crypt, and behind the glass was a beautifully ornate silver casket that holds the body of St. James. I knelt before it and prayed and lit candles for myself and for my family. I then went to confession -- Fr. Marcus from Italy said that my five hundred miles was penance enough. haha 

After I had completed all of these things (plus placed my hands on the shoulders of St. James and thanked him for such an amazing journey) it was time to meet up with the Hungarian couple for drinks -- it is so nice to see familiar pilgrims!! And then, we made our way to the Pilgrim's Office to stand in line to receive our compestella. They write your name on your certificate in Latin -- my name in Latin is apparently close to Genevieve Marrium ... who knew? And with a stamp and a smile and a congratulations, I became a certified finished pilgrim. Wahoo!! 

We next headed to dinner, just Vera and Jarek and Gosia and I, and ate a pilgrim menu, of course! And now we are back at our Albergue. 

Here are a few pictures from today: 

We made it!!! 

Selfies inside the cathedral while waiting for mass to start. 

There goes the incense burner!! In general I am extremely anti-photo durning mass ... but this is my only exception. 

Holy Water fountain inside the cathedral. 

My favorite side chapel.  

The Tomas's Cabin crew -- alive and well and successfully in Santiago! 

We made it!!! 

Our toes may never be the same ... 

Dinner!!! I hade the soup -- delicious! 

And me with my compestella standing outside of the Cathedral. I did it!! 

Tomorrow will be really hard, for it is the day of the first good bye: Jarek and Gosia will wake up tomorrow and continue walking to Finnesterra. I can't even express how much I will miss seeing them every day or how badly I want to keep walking, too. Though we have only known each other for three weeks, it seems like a lifetime. They have both helped me so much on my journey in ways they don't even know. Please pray for them as they continue their journey. I will stay in Santiago for a few days (as will Vera) -- I am excited to spend some time in prayer in the cathedral tomorrow. Thank you so much everyone for your prayers and support -- I know they helped me reach Santiago!! 

Buen Camino. 


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day Thirty One: Santa Irena to Monte de Gozo

I can't even believe that I have been walking for an entire month. Four hundred ninety seven miles down, three miles to go. Why stop with only three miles to go? I'll get to that. 

This morning we woke a little earlier that desired due to some particularly noisy pilgrims in our sleep room, but that's okay; it was probably good for us. We packed up and headed out in the path. At the first town we came to, we stopped for breakfast -- no surprise that it was cafe con leche and tostadas (why break tradition now?). Today was a short day: less than twenty kilometers! So instead of stopping for lunch, we marched straight through to our final destination: Monte de Gozo. I thought today would be easy thanks to the short distance, but the Camino wouldn't be the Camino if the path wasn't filled with climbs; so climb we did! We got to walk through my favorite landscape, the quiet, green forests, a good portion of the way. We arrived at our Albergue (one owned and run by a Polish priest) before one o'clock -- a new record! We checked in, rested, grabbed some lunch, and then rested some more! haha 

Today my head was filled with so many thoughts: how close we are to the end, how excited I am to get to Santiago, how sad I will be to say good bye to Vera and Jarek and Gosia, how thankful I am for this incredible journey, and how proud I am of my internal transformation. I kept thinking today of Nelson Mandella's inauguration speech, and his words really spoke to me: 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." 

 I think I have learned a lot about myself on this journey: in the silence, through my interactions with other pilgrims, during prayer, and with each step I took. I know that the person that started the way in St. Jean is not the person who will walk into Santiago tomorrow -- though most of her is still there. And now (other than leaving my friends) I am no longer sad to see this journey end but am happy for the experiences I have gathered and excited to return home to new adventures and to "let my light shine, so as to give others permission to do the same". 

After an afternoon of rest, we walked up to a tiny church and went to mass -- that was said in Polish (it is a goo thing that mass basically the same no matter te language, because I only know one Polish word / phrase and it is not used at mass.) Then we went for dinner. Unfortunately the restaurant we were at didn't offer a pilgrim menu, so instead we had burgers, beer, and kinder eggs. And now we are back at the Albergue, all tucked into bed, ready to rise early tomorrow and take our final steps to Santiago. 

Here are a few pictures from today: 

I'm going to miss this!!! 

This way to Santiago!! 

I think part of what makes the Camino so peaceful is the lack if choice -- oh sure you can pick your meals and your friends and your Albergue, but the path: it is chosen. You follow the arrows, follow the trail. You spend five hundred miles following a path so that when you step off you are prepared to make a path for yourself. 

Oh yeah -- we're getting close alright! 

How do we spend our last night as pilgrims? Discussing our journey? Sharing deep philosophical thoughts? Nope: we played with the toys inside our kinder eggs. 

And my bed for the night. 

Well, cyber pilgrims: tomorrow is the day we have all been inching closer to -- I can't wait to take it all in! Pray for us and all the pilgrims who enter Santiago tomorrow (an pray for sun!!!). 

Buen Camino. 


Monday, May 26, 2014

Day Thirty: Melide to Santa Irena

Praise The Lord, another dry day!! Our morning started out slow and later than the average pilgrim (per our usual). We made our way to breakfast where we ran into none other than the two Dutch men from Ages!! Boy have we been missing them! We enjoy reminiscing about that evening often, so it was great to see them again. Marius had run into some problems with walking, so they took a bus part of the way, which is how they caught back up to us. We ate our breakfast of tostadas and cafe con leche and then headed on our way -- we had a lot of ground to cover! 

Shortly after exiting the city, we ran into the fifty kilometer mark. I know I sound like a broken record, but I just can't believe how far we've walked!! Today everyone seemed to be tired: I think we are all feeling the effects of doing near thirty kilometer days multiple days in a row. But that did not slow us down too much! When we hit the sixteen kilometer mark, we stopped for lunch with the Dutch men -- they were staying in that town for the day whereas we were only at our halfway point. A burger and fries later, we were back on the path. A little outside the town, we ran into a church that was open. We took a moment to go inside and spend some time in prayer. I pray often while I am walking, but it feels "more official" if I can spend at least a few minutes in a church. This church was simple but lovely; a great place to share some thoughts and five some thanks to God. 

Today I felt like my brain moved at a speed double to my feet -- I could barely concentrate on one thought before another demanded my attention. It is as if my mind knows that its time for quiet, slow, peaceful contemplation is almost over and thus every idea must come forward before time runs out. Once I get back home, everything will move so quickly. After a lot of walking, we arrived in Santa Irena, our resting place for the night. We checked into our Albergue, showered, rested, and then went out for dinner. After last night's adventure with the pulpo, I was happy to see that the menu contained croquetas and papas fritas, which is exactly what all four of us ordered. We thought it better not to press our luck slipping into our Albergue after ten again tonight, so instead after dinner we sat in the Albergue kitchen, talking and drinking sangria that Jarek carried in his backpack for over fifteen kilometers. 

And now I am in my bed, exhausted. But a good exhausted: my body is tired from a long day of walking, my mind is tired after a long day of thought, and my spirit is tired after a long day of prayer. 

Here are a few pictures fr today: 

It's easy to find your boots when you're the last four out of the Albergue!! 

Fifty kilometers to go!! 

A pretty spot for prayer. 

The crucifix surrounded by prayer cards, all of which depict Mary from different countries, stories, and traditions. 

Little town, it's a quiet village; everyday, like the one before. Little town, full of little people waking up to say ... Bonjour! 

I know it looks stormy, but we stayed nice and dry. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm playing Oregan Trail: You must ford the river; you lose two oxen. 

I'm going to miss these pretty views! 

I have spent a lot of time the last few days really analyzing and thinking about myself: the way I am living, the way I view myself, the way I think others view me, where my life is headed. Self reflection is hard -- sometimes we are too critical, sometimes too forgiving; sometimes we are unable to see our flaws or see flaws that were never there. Nevertheless, this has been a productive analysis I believe -- I am happy with what I've discovered and can feel such a change in my heart. 

Time for sleep -- tomorrow is a short day, but even short days require rest! 

Buen Camino.