When all is said and done the big question remains. Did walking the Camino change you? This has been pondered since the beginning and the answer can only be, YES. There are subtle changes in what is important and what is not. In the rush to get things done, really there is no hurry. Along the way, often I would say, it is not a race, it is a journey and purposely walk slower to take in the vistas which were beautiful. When you view something that takes your breath away, you don’t want it to end. Many cities, towns, hamlets and villages are ones I would easily go back to visit as a tourist. Many people have asked me if I would ever do the Camino again. The answer is no. I would do something different but the Camino is for me, something that cannot be repeated. I would worry that too many comparisons to the previous walk would be made although the experience does make you know what mistakes were made and how you would do it differently. The only thing I would change would be to make the trip longer and take more rest breaks in towns on days when the museums would be open to explore.
My trip was meant to be spiritual enrichment and I believe that goal was accomplished. Leaving the states on a Feast Day (Aug. 22nd Queenship of Mary) and returning home on Oct 1st (the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux) was my plan from the beginning. And my favorite number 8 played a big role in choosing this year to walk. This trip was everything and more.
Purely acknowledging that it was the hardest thing I ever did in my life and will likely not be topped is one facet of determination. My faith played an incredible role in pushing me from day to day, from climbing the Pyrenees to walking in heat, rain, wind and the morning chill. I chose to avoid walking in the dark and for me it was a good decision even if it meant getting in to a destination city later than expected. And of course, I did not carry all my belongings on my back which for the majority of the people who did deserve the admiration of all of us. I was impressed every day with the stories of survival, trust in humanity, God and the faith of so many who shared their stories with me along the Way. Walking the Camino alone was the best and I met many women and men who were alone but as I continually wrote, on the Camino, you are never alone. I spoke the Rosary out loud most days and usually there was nothing one to hear me but if someone passed me and heard me recite the prayers, they would just bow their head and move along. I never heard another person say, hey do you want to recite the Rosary together? In the beginning, I asked but no one wanted to pray, at least not out loud. Often I would call out to the Blessed Mother for a helping hand to make it to the top of a hill or down a rock mountain.
The desire to pray, memorize specific things that have been hard all proved to be easy when you have all the time to focus on the task at hand. If we poured our self into doing whatever it is that we want to accomplish, it can be done with determination. It is my belief that if I can walk the Camino, anyone can. Meeting an 82 year old grandmother from the UK with the spunk and tenacity of one half her age made me stronger. The three women from Finland who then became two as one had to leave with her bad knee, pushed me beyond myself. The Camino even took the young with ankle, blister and knee problems.
The miracles too happen every day, if you are open to accept them as miracles. Besides Leon being lost three times and returned three times, there were countless stories of injuries being cured, faith being healed, atheists turning to our Lord and many people walking in Thanksgiving for previous healing of friends, like the Italian priests did for their brother and the man named Jose Maria who was healed of cancer last year and just wanted two weeks off to walk. And how could anyone forget the gal named Esther walking with us to the Pilgrims office only to have her daughter surprise her by flying to Santiago with her granddaughter and waiting three hours for her to cross paths. If you took a survey of each person awaiting their Compostela at the Pilgrim Office, you would get a variety of answers but the drive to make it to the end is shared by all. In the new exercise craze many will tell you that they are not religious but had chosen the Camino because of the diversity of the terrain but in the end, the visual beauty of the St. James Cathedral welcoming everyone through her doors as the Universal Church shows the spiritual side of such an accomplishment. Yes, we all did it. Am I proud of this accomplishment. Yes, indeed but it does not define who I am, I already know myself pretty well. My faith means everything, my family comes second and my desire to live the best life and use my talents the way God would want is all I need.
On a personal note, it is important to me that you all who read what I wrote every day, be thanked. Often your comments meant more to me than you could possibly know. They gave me a reason to push on, deal with the blisters and poor feet and desire to see what was around the bend. Many people leave their camera’s home but knowing how much I love looking at them later was not going to be an option. Sharing this journey was always important to me especially being alone. So thank you all from the bottom of my heart for caring enough to comment and taking this journey with me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Until the next adventure. It is a certainty that almost any trip I take in the future will not mirror this one but there is a huge world out their waiting for me and what I will write about it. Like the old children’s book called the Hundred Penny Box, Life is like a Box of Pennies, you never know how many pennies a life will hold therefore the story continues………
04 Oct 2015 Leave a comment
04 Oct 2015 2 Comments
Here are some photos of hotels, airports and Leon.
The Moure Hotel below. And a series of Leon. He was able to sit in the middle seat because both seats next to me were empty. How lucky is that? Photos out window are landing in Heathrow. So green.
04 Oct 2015 Leave a comment
Here are some more photos.
04 Oct 2015 Leave a comment
Yes, it is actually Sunday but since coming home on Thursday night, my sleep was more important than trying to play catch up but since now I am well rested and going back to work tomorrow, now it is time to show my last day in Santiago and travel on Thursday. Then I will write some journey reflections because the journey does not end with travel.
Wednesday, my hotel was so nice and the staff couldn’t be better. It was a nice place to stay at the Moure. Since my plane to Madrid for an overnight was not scheduled until the evening (after 5pm), I decided to make the most of my last day in Santiago. Of course that meant starting the day with Mass, so going back to my favorite priest (the Irish Fr. Joe), I walked to the Cathedral and attended the English Mass at 10:30am. In the Chapel, I ran into the two women who are teachers and traveled together, one form Perth, Australia (Denise) and the other from the UK (Linda). It was so good to see they made it to Santiago given Denise’s sore leg. She was the one who missed a step in Leon and had to miss walking the messeta portion but she managed to walk the last 100 miles which is all that is needed to achieve the Compostela. Linda had walked like I did from St. Jean. We sat together during Mass and afterwards I told them to ask if the Botafumerio would be swaying (if someone paid) and indeed someone had paid so they waited for the Noon Mass so they could see it. Since I had already seen it twice, I went to the Adoration Chapel for some final prayers in silence. It is a beautiful chapel centered around peace and tranquility and the only chapel with cushions on the kneelers. I could kneel all day on them and when most chapels and churches in all of Europe do not have them, you have a real appreciation for the people kneeling at any point. Of course they do stand a lot more than we do during the Mass probably for that very reason.
After Adoration, I went to the tourism office to see which museum would be best given my time allotment and was told to go see the main museum of Galicia which is called, Museo do Pobo Galego. On the way there, I saw the two pilgrims that had come all the way from Nice, France with two donkeys and they had just arrived that morning. The photo I took shows the male owner in the hat looking up with two round tubes from their Compostelas in his hand. His wife was not in the photo. Then I stopped on the way past the Cathedral at a Benedictine Church that I had admired on my way my hotel but every time I went by it was closed. Lucky me again, as it was open and there was a very small museum to visit at the little cost of 1.50 euros. Of course I paid the Sister and she conned me into purchasing a book about the life and death of St. James. Didn’t mind that 5 euros either because it has a wonderful novena prayer at the end. One can never do too many Novena’s, right?
Finally, getting to the Museo do Pobo Galego, I roamed the hallways and have come to the conclusion that every civilization began in a similar manner. You could have been standing in the middle of Williamsburg, VA or the early days of NYC or any museum which shows the industrial advancements to their civilization. The parallels we draw are amazing and as much as I love history, it is yet another place that I could have spent all day. Instead I read fast, walked fast and covered the whole building in two hours. As I was leaving, a group had come in for tickets later that day and I asked them where they were from. The man told me upper UK near Scotland and I said that I had met a couple along the way from there and low and behold, they were the group that Kevin and Rosaleen had been waiting for in Sarria to walk the last kilometers with this Church group. Is it a small world or what?
Returning to the hotel, I booked a 3pm taxi to the airport. Driver got me there in no time and Leon and I had time for a small snack before heading to the gate. Had to drink all my water before going through security. Flight on Iberia was great and it was the first time I had been on an Iberia plane.
Landed and decided to take a taxi to hotel in Madrid even though I was staying close to the airport and could have taken the Metro but by then I just wanted comfort. The hotel was ClementBarajasHotel and certainly five star quality. The staff here too was nice and helped me print my boarding passes for Thursday’s trip home via Heathrow. Unbeknowst to me, British Airways had changed my first flight from Madrid to Heathrow to an Iberia flight. And again, my luck there was a free shuttle to the airport in the morning so I saved 20 euros. Didn’t mind getting there early because I had to change my seat to an aisle. The staff at Iberia were awesome and I got a great aisle seat and the two next to me were empty so you know I just had to take some fun photos with Leon. Thankfully, my luggage was checked all the way to Dulles so transferring to another terminal at Heathrow was not that bad. They have a process where they do not list the gate until 45 minutes before boarding so everyone crowds into an area to watch the screens and the farthest terminal takes 30 minutes by transit to get there so of course having got lucky when I went to Spain, this time returning to the states, I would certainly be the farthest gate. I have great legs so no problem here. After boarding, we waited and waited and finally the Captain came on the PA and said that we had a mechanical problem that required the engineers to come aboard. Two hour delay but we made up on in the air.
I was pleasently surprised to be picked up by both husband and son and learned about all the rain we were having. Yes, I love to travel but since this was a journey, it was nice to be home. I quoted The Wizard of Oz so many times with the Emerald City being in view so “There is no Place Like Home”.
I will post some photos and write a reflection later. Enjoy the pictures. Not sure if I can send more since I am on home internet. Will try 8 at a time.
30 Sep 2015 Leave a comment
These are views or vistas as I call them from the roof. If you are afraid of heights or have crappy shoes, this is not the tour for you. The roof is made of granite that we walked on and is in the form of steps. It was created like that so that the Cathedral could be defended from enemies and the step forms were helpful in running across without falling. Where you see the scaffolding that is where we came onto the roof through a very tight and very steep stairwell that was similar to climbing the Blarney Castle last year. You had to use two hands in some parts to pull yourself up. Good thing I did not attempt this on Monday after getting here.
The photo with the greenish cross and one right after was used down on the street for the pilgrims to burn their clothes after arriving in Santiago. No one knows when the pit and cross was brought from the street to the roof. It is now ornamental. Leon is not afraid of heights. He came out a couple of times then was re-pinned in my bag.
Okay, one more set and I am off to explore until 2:30p. My plane does not leave until 5 something for Madrid so I am going to see if I can explore a museum or two. Let’s just see how these little feet can travel.
30 Sep 2015 Leave a comment
I received a note from the WordPress team that says videos are not supported by the app but they would look into modifying that fact. Doesn’t do me a lot of good but perhaps when I get home, I can upload it to You Tube and share that way. Here are some photos from the Cathedral tour. Many are simply chapels surrounding the main nave of the Cathedral. After the inside few, I will show you the rooftop which was amazing. Everyone on Facebook has already seen these and commented about the sky. It was a perfect evening. I had dinner with my friend from Denmark and she left this morning for home. So enjoy the next two or three sets of photos. I took a lot of pictures.
The silver box below is the bones of St. James. It is in the crypt below the altar and you go under a small doorway through a tunnel to get there and it comes right out the other side. After the sign showing the English Mass the chapel where it is held is next. We were packed in like sardines and when I was on line for Confession, it was getting close and I had someone hold a seat for me. So nearing the 10:30a start time I told the priest that I wanted to make the Mass. In his Irish accent he said, don’t worry, I am saying the Mass. I cracked up and Fr. Joe was amazing. He told everyone to sit for the entire Mass because of the space issue (truthfully this chapel would fail the fire safety code) because it was too distracting to him in the small space with everyone getting up and down. Another laugh. Then he had everyone in the entire chapel say thier name, where they were from and where they walked from and how they got to Santiago. Walk, bike, horse, plane, train, bus, taxi. You name it there were a large variety. I loved him instantly, he is from Cork, Ireland.