Madrid Day 2

Harwoods in MadridIt was so nice to sleep in a bed without using the special bed bug pillow or sleeping in our sleeping bags so that we didn’t touch the sheets. It was also great to be able to retrieve our clothes from a closet at opposed to our packs, use a real towel, not share a bathroom with strangers, not have to pack up all of our stuff right away, and not have to walk miles to go get breakfast. We dressed in our new clothes courtesy of the mall we explored near our hotel the night before (thought I still wore my spandex leggings that I had been hiking in). We enjoyed the breakfast buffet our hotel offered and were anxious to explore Madrid.

We asked for instructions for how to get downtown and were handed a map that must have been provided by McDonald’s as, in addition to all the historic landmarks and points Map of Madridof interest, all the downtown McDonald’s were pointed out disproportionately large on the map as well.  For some reason, the hotel did not have transportation to downtown, but a bus that would pick you up at night at 11 pm. We were told to catch a bus down the street, we were to take that bus to a light rail station and then navigate the light rail system to down town. It sounded easy enough, but making sure we got on the right bus light rail to madridheaded the right direction with the correct amount of money while not speaking Spanish was scary. We made it to the light rail which was deeply underground. As we descended the stairs I was surprised how far down we walked to reach the trains. We were able to select the right route, which would involve some train changes, and headed off for downtown Madrid.

Madrid (2)We selected a stop right in the center of town as our destination. Once we were above ground again, I was in awe of how bright and big the city looked. The enormous buildings were so elaborately constructed and you can get a feel for the history, grandiose design, and life that Madrid has to offer. There was a bookstore across the street from our stop and I really wanted to get a copy of Harry Potter in Spanish, so that was our first stop. From there we headed down the first grand street without a real plan in mind.

We took it all in and walked up and down and sideways along the streets of downtown. I handsome man in madridhave never been to New York, but in my mind, I imagine it to look somewhat similar. One one of the main streets we saw a few venues for Broadway type plays and shows. As we walked we talked about possibly going to see one at the end of our day. We walked miles and miles around Madrid. I know, after walking 150 plus miles, you’d think we’d have had enough, but there was so much to see. With the help of our McDonald’s map, Paul was an excellent guide. We found ourselves at an impressive building that apparently used to be the mail center for Madrid and one of the largest in the world in it’s day building madrid 2(per the videos they had playing in the lobby). I would have guessed that the Queen once lived there or something because of how fancy this building was. Down many of the side streets there were many little pop up shops with old books all over the place, it was really beautiful to see.

madrid park 3We took one of the long side streets of town to a park that Paul thought had looked interesting. It was the biggest, most beautiful park I had ever seen! It had green grass, trees, and fountains that were reminiscent of something I’d read about in a Dan Brown novel. The history of the city is amazing. There were a few food vendors in the park and a lot of people enjoying their day. Spain is a place for lovers! We witnessed this during our pilgrimage and it stayed true here in Madrid as well. Many couples laying together in the grass, lots of kissing, and lots of love. I could definitely love in a city with so much public displays of affection, it was refreshing. In the center of the park there was a huge lake where you could rent a row boat.

K rowing boat 3 handome man in boat

Not willing to pass up such a cute and romantic opportunity, the Harwoods soon had a boat of our own. We explored every inch of that man made lake and saw the park from the inside. There was a beautiful fountain on one side of the lake and we enjoyed floating madrid park fountainaround and people watching for what seemed like hours. We then headed towards where the hotel bus would be picking us up later so that we felt comfortable with the location and found a charming outdoor cafe to eat at.

After lunch we headed back to the center of the city and found ourselves at the coolest indoor market place I have ever seen in my life!!! There aren’t enough exclamation marks for how cool this place was. The Mercado de San Miguel was absolutely stunning! The bright array of the colors of food caught our eye from the windows and when we eneterd, our minds were blown. It was like a billion of the hippest boutique restaurants and specialty food shops were shrunk down to the size of a closet and put inside a building with such purpose that even the colors of the food on display seemed planned to make the most beautiful panoramic picture. As we walked through the market I dreamed of recreating this back home, I know it would be a huge success.

From the market we wandered over to a big outdoor plaza that was an empty square with street performers in the middle and shops and restaurants around the perimeter. One of these shops advertised horchata. Even though I had been warned it wasn’t the same as the Mexican horchata I loved so much, I had to try it. In my clumsy Spanish I tried to order “dos horachatas” and was confused when the man started scooping out some yellow icey looking substance into cups. I walked over to the sign with a picture of the milky looking horchata that I wanted and was informed that they didn’t have any. Did he think we would notice and would be happy with whatever lemonade slush he was trying to serve us! I politely declined and we left the store. On the edge of town we saw a huge government building, it was very grand and many people were walking around the front and waiting to get inside. We were told later that it was a palace of some sort. Next to the palace was a cool labyrinth garden that we looked down on.

As it was getting late in the day and my feet were pretty tired at this point (even though we didn’t have our packs on us any more, walking several miles still takes its toll after a while), we decided to head back to the center of the city. At this point we had narrowed down or show choices to either The Lion King or A Marte Cabaret, which appeared to be a burlesque show that was heavily advertised throughout the town. We ultimately decided that we could see The Lion King back in America one day if we wanted and since it was technically our honeymoon, why not go see the burlesque show. We purchased the two least expensive tickets the box office had to offer (pretty much the back row) and headed off to find some dinner. We ended up at a place across the street from the theater where we had used the restroom earlier that day. They had a very “American” menu and I think I ended up getting a hot dog or something similar. One of the most difficult things to get used to when eating out is that no one brings you a glass of water. I asked the waiter for a glass of water and he pretended to have no idea what I was talking about. Water? What is water? I pointed to the glass on the table next to us and said I want that.

After dinner we headed to our show. It seemed as if we were the first couple to arrive. Apparently they were not anticipating a busy night because instead of seating us in the cheap seats we selected, we were sat in the second row! We ordered a snack and settled in. Neither of us speak Spanish, so here is my summary of what the show is about from a contextual and visual observers point of view: The show starts with two explorers who are in search of something, based on the sounds, it appears that they are searching for an orgasm. They find themselves on a crazy disco planet full of partially nude singers, dancers, robots, and acrobats. A master of ceremonies guides you through each act. The performances were beautiful and as I dancer I could appreciate the talent. They lost us for a bit when there was a naked man with fake plastic hair who sang and smashed eggs on himself, but in the end it turns out that all the explorers and disco aliens had to do was look into their hearts this whole time because that is where the love is. We had a fun time.

We made our way to the edge of the city to await our ride back to the hotel. While we were there I spotted a cafe offering horchata.We made our way over there and Paul ordered a coffee and I got my horchata. It was… so gross! After all that, it was nothing like the sweet cinnamon rice drink from Mexico that I love. After a long day and many more miles of walking we rode back to the hotel. I was so tired I barely remember the ride back.


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Madrid Day 1

P1050043I was so excited to ride the train to Madrid. For some reason, I had it in my head that train travel was going to be a blast, especially after we were talked into getting four seats instead of 2. When we bought our train tickets, the man informed us that it included a train ticket to the Madrid airport, but we declined as we weren’t flying out for 2 more days. I took less care in packing my pack that morning, knowing that I wouldn’t need to carry my pack all day long and we headed to the train station. On our way it started raining, not enough to make us stop and change into rain gear, but enough to get wet. This was the first day I didn’t have to wear my boots so I was in my canvas evening flats, which, while a relief to my feet, I promptly regretted when they got soaked through. We were good on time so we took refuge from the rain at a cafe which was near the train station and happened to be the first open cafe we came across. We enjoyed our café con leche and the warmth of the cafe as long as we could, then when it was time to get going we quickly went down stairs to the train station. We found the platform for our train and boarded. After being notified that we were in the wrong car, we made our way to our seats. In my imagination, there would be a table in the middle of the four seats and we would be able to play the cards I hadP1050051 carried for 150 miles and not used yet, but there was not. This was not a problem at all! The space was glorious we had four seats that faced each other and could spread out. The best part was that we could sit across from each other and put our feet up. I hadn’t sat for an extended period of time since our plane ride. It was amazing. I took off my wet shoes and put my pack up with the luggage and pulled out my headphones in anticipation for the movie that would be playing. It couldn’t wait for this journey and to see the sights P1050049as we zoomed from Santiago to Madrid. Of course I am picturing this to go like we were on the Hogwarts Express and that a plump woman would be offering us snacks from the trolley. It wasn’t quite that, but it also wasn’t completely off. Later in the four hour train trip a woman did come by with a snack cart, but we didn’t need it because we had already been to the dining car a few times. The dining car was so exciting! I love that you can comfortably get up and walk around on a train. We walked to the dining car (in my wet socks) right after taking off to get breakfast. I got the biggest kick out of standing up and eating in a café going over a hundred miles an hour. It was probably obvious that this was my first adult train ride as I was going all over the dining car and lifting myself up on the bar and stretching, just because I could.


I was facing backward and got the view from the other side. It was mostly countryside with few things to actually look at, but I can’t stress enough how good sitting down in a comfortable space with the ability to stretch was. I didn’t care if there wasn’t much to see, I was so happy. Train travel is the only way to go. Plus there was going to be a movie to entertain us. Headphones in and fingers crossed that the movie would have English subtitles, then it starts…. it was Justin Beiber’s Believe! Seriously, on my exotic train ride through the Spanish countryside, I’m watching this guy. It was in English though, which P1050054was nice to hear after not hearing it for so long. On one of our trips to the dining car we asked the engineer how fast the train went and he told us that we would go 130 miles per hour (he told us the kilometers and we did the math to figure it out), but the train could go up to 150 miles per hour. I spent a good chunk of our train trip talking about how much I loved train travel and that I wish we had more passenger trains in the U.S. and that they would be affordable.

P1050088When we got off the train we asked if we could cash in on that free trip to the airport and they gave us a light rail pass to get there. So far so good. We had a heck of a time at the airport trying to get to our hotel though, which involved, not being able to figure out how to use the pay phones, not finding the information desk, not being able to get any help once we did find the information desk, and finally asking the hotel to pick us up. This experience took a lot longer than I had the patience for.

It was so nice to have a room with a door that locked so I could leave my stuff out and not have to worry about it. It was nice to have space that was temporarily ours that I would not be leaving first thing in the morning and I could actually “unpack” and spread out. There was a shower that didn’t require me to push a button every 30 seconds to keep it going and I didn’t have to wear flip flops in. Though still no conditioner, maybe this is an American thing, I couldn’t get conditioner for the life of me over there. There was a bed that I felt confident wouldn’t have bed bugs so I could sleep in the sheets rather than my sleeping bag. We looked into the option for getting our clothes cleaned and it was going to be ridiculously expensive, so Paul washed his clothes in the bathtub and again we hung our stuff out the window to dry. Our journey to the hotel took up a large part of our day so we ruled out going to downtown Madrid. We used the internet to see what was around the hotel and it was not much. But, we did see that there was a mall within walking distance that had good reviews. I bought a new clean shirt that I could wear for our big day in Madrid and a dress and tank top to take home. Paul got some new pants and a shirt and we picked up a couple of face masks as an impulse buy that we’d entertain ourselves with that night.

P1050279I was looking forward to really seeing Madrid the next day. We settled in with our face masks, a movie, and slept.

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Day Eleven Camino de Santiago

Day 11 Santiago!

We have arrived in Santiago! We are now at our albergue where we have a double bed and a door that slides shut. We have both showered and are getting ready to arrive and see the cathedral and to get our compostellas.

Back from a busy afterst james bestnoon. We got our compostellas and arrived at the cathedral. It really is a sight to see. The exterior is grand and beautiful. We weren’t allowed to touch the Tree of Jesse or touch our heads to the Maestro guy, as is custom for arriving pilgrims, because they were rope off (I did get to touch his forehead thanks to my long arms). I did get to lay my head on the shoulder of the statue of St. James, I gave word for José, as promised, and made my wish – A happy marriage- and I said, if I can have two wishes- A healthy child. I also got to pray at the remains of St. James. We ate lunch, got some train tickets, attended the mass at the cathedral at 7:30 pm, got chocolate and churros, stopped at the albergue and into Roger!!! (our English friend), if I could have seen one more pilgrim that we met on the way again, it would have been him. Paul and I got some pastries (we are out of control), left one on Roger’s bed and are now looking for a hotel for Madrid for the next two nights. I am excited for the train ride to Madrid tomorrow, it should be a blast. I guess this is the last day of the journey/ camino, so…

Buen Camino!

side of CathedralOnce we started walking this morning we were giving it everything we had. We estimated that we had about 6 miles to Santiago and though we planned to have plenty of time to get there, we really wanted to make the pilgrim’s mass at noon. The morning walk was nice lady from bookand through forests and soft ground. We stopped at the first café at a small city before Santiago to get some breakfast and walked on. Shortly after leaving the breakfast spot, we had some trouble finding our arrows, it took a little while to spot where to go next, but we found it and walked on. As the morning went on we noticed where we were in regard to the map and where we wanted to be and we needed to go faster to get to the mass on time, so we booked it. There was no place to get a stamp in the town we slept in and we needed two stamps in our credentials before we got to the city of Santiago. It seemed that the closer we got to Santiago, the less excited people were to give us stamps. The last day or so, people would unenthusiastically walk over to get their stamp out and just give it to us to fill out our credentials ourselves. I had a mild panic as we were just outside the city limits with one stamp for the day and no public place in sight, then we found a bar and I’m sure the man behind the bar lived us for not ordering anything and just asking for a stamp. The closer we got to Santiago this day, the arrows became more difficult to find. When we actually got to the city we got to an intersection with like 5 different ways you could go and there was no arrow in sight. We searched every paulinch of every building and light post we could see and could not find it!!! We now had about 15 minutes before the noon mass and no clue where to go. We made 150 miles with limited problems and now the timeframe and frustration got to us. We walked down a road for a bit hoping to spot an arrow, not find one, turn around, and try another. We finally just started walking towards the center of the city thinking we’d be able to spot the peak of such a famous cathedral and could see nothing other than the tall buildings surrounding us. It was the worst feeling. We stopped someone who looked like they may be able to help us and he pointed the general direction of the cathedral. We walked at a frantic pace and finally found what we were pretty sure was the Santiago cathedral. Was this the place though,  the sight didn’t take my breath away, I didn’t fall to my knees in awe of the magnificence, but we were there. It was about 5 after 12 and we hoped that being a little late to the pilgrims mass wouldn’t be a problem and walked up to the door only to be stopped by security and told that you cannot bring a backpack into the cathedral. At the pilgrim’s mass?!! How do they think we all got here? Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be, plus we were crabby from being rushed and lost, this was apparently the side entrance to the building, so we didn’t even approach it the way we were meant to. The new plan was to check into our albergue ‘The Last Stamp” – I love the name of it- freshen up, lighten up (literally and figuratively) and go back to the cathedral from the main entrance.

I was very happy to find that the albergue had a double bed kristenavailable in addition to all the bunk beds, we snatched it up right away. I wasn’t happy to pay for a private albergue after the inexpensive government run ones, but this was a luxury in comparison. Since we had a double bed instead of bunks, there was a sliding partition that gave us a little privacy, a window that overlooked the busy city street, and the bed was memory foam! Another huge plus for the room was that it had a locking cabinet for all of our stuff. We hadn’t worried much about our stuff being stolen the whole trip and could never lock it up, but this city was so busy and had a ton of tourists and it was just nice to have that extra little piece of mind.

We also got a map of the city and knew where to go to enter the cathedral properly. First, we needed our compstellas. This is what we came for, the certificate that said yes, we walked 150 miles to get to this place and were real pilgrims. The line to get in and check in to get our compostellas was fairly long. Even though we had freshened up and left our packs behind, it standing on our feet any longer didn’t feel good. check in for compostellaWhile one of us stood in line, the other would walk around a bit and explore. There was a vending machine there that sold non-alcoholic beer which I found to be very strange.  In line we saw the crazy German lady and her grandson. She took cuts in front of a lot of people and waited in line behind us. We hadn’t seen them in several days and we chatted about the last few days of the journey. There was a sense of pride mixed with my anticipation of going in to get my compostella. I was excited to add one more American to the registry and I was happy that I had officially done the Camino de Santiago. The line was outside, so I didn’t know what to expect when I got in. It was a long counter with about 6 people working it and one at a time you go in and show your pilgrim’s passport (credentials) as well as our actual passports and they made sure that we had the required stamps. Then, they write your name, in Latin, on the official compostella, which is also in Latin, and put it into a cardboard tube to keep it from getting smashed in your pack.  The pilgrims office, where we got our compostella, was near a place that we could buy train tickets, so we stopped in to get our tickets to Madrid for the morning. The ticket machine here happened to be down, so we would check back in later. Now that we had our compostellas, we went to the cathedral.

Seeing the cathedral from the front, it really is incredible. That is where I felt my moment, this was what we came so far to see. How much work that went into creating something so magnificent blows my mind. The cathedral is huge and has so many things to see, as well as other little chapels decorated in their own way that were off shoots of the main area. cross of St JamesOne of them had a service going on at one point and there was a choir singing beautifully. This service seemed to be an Asian service as the people and priest were Asian and were singing in a language I did not know (take the nationality with a grain of salt that I am horribly inaccurate when guessing people’s nationalities). In the center of the cathedral is what I could describe as the stage, where the priest performs the service. It was beautiful and elaborate. Near the top was the statue of St. James where tradition has it that you lay your head on his shoulder and make a wish. I was surprised at how short the line to get to it was, just a short walk up the stairs and there you were in a tiny room with a priest guy (not sure if he was a priest, but he was dressed like one) and the giant statue of St. James. Directly underneath this area, after a short flight of stairs under the main floor, is where the casket is and where the remains of the Apostle St. James are said to be buried. This is also a small room which has a window to view the casket and a small velvet kneeler to pray at. We saw that there was going to be a mass at 7:30 pm and decided to come back later.

We walked along the city streets and bought a couple of small souvenirs and searched for the best place to eat. We could be picky for once this whole trip and window shopped our pulpofood choices. Several places had a whole octopus (pulpo) with it’s head in a glass in the window- no thank you, we’ve had plenty. We settled at one place and ordered some white asparagus with mayonnaise, croquettes (which was Paul’s favorite at this point) and tortilla (which is not a tortilla at all, but a very thin omelet). We checked in at the train ticket place and the machine was still down, so we walked to the actual train station which was at the edge of the city – more walking. We had some trouble trying to get our train tickets due to us not speaking Spanish and not understanding what the man was dinnertrying to say. He finally pointed to the first window which was the one that had someone who spoke English. We still had a heck of a time trying to understand what this guy was saying because he was trying to get us to buy four tickets instead of two and said it would actually be cheaper, why wouldn’t we do that? It turns out that it is not less expensive than just two seats, but rather the cost of three, but either way the price was still significantly less than it would have been had we purchased our train tickets online in advance of our trip.

one of the oldest wayside crossesWe now had to book it back to the cathedral to catch the 7:30 mass and we wanted to drop some stuff off at the albergue. When we walked past the shared bathroom, I noticed a shirtless man brushing his teeth with a rabid looking foam toothpaste mouth. When he looked up into the mirror we shouted “Roger!”. I can’t believe he was there. He had suggested this albergue, but he was two whole days ahead of us and I thought we wouldn’t see him again. Unfortunately there was a limit to how tough he was and he had gotten shin splints and his ankle and lower leg were swollen. We caught up with him for a little bit and invited him to go to mass with us. He was exhausted and was shortly going to bed so he passed.

The mass was all in Spanish, but it is easy enough to follow the crowd with the standing up and sitting down and taking communion. After mass, we walked around for a while and explored the city. We wanted to get commemorative tattoos when we were there, but couldn’t find an open tattoo parlor. We did find more pastries though and we got one for Roger that we brought back to the albergue (he was asleep, so I placed it by his feet with a note from us). For some reason I was really excited for this train ride we would have in the morning.

we made it

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Day Ten Teo

font traditional woman

We blew past Padrón to get a head start on Santiago tomorrow. I can’t believe we will arrive tomorrow. There are only 8 of us at this albergue and 6 of us are American. All 8 of us had dinner together which was nice. We were walking troopers today. I am glad that we got back to walking though neighborhoods on small farms, these are my favorite parts of walking on this journey. I want to remember every detail and look forward to going through photos later on. Today was meant to be 11 miles, but we did about 17. Getting sleepy.

Buen Camino

bikes shell wall

There were more bikes again today. We saw one group that had sped past us earlier Paulstopped on the trail because something was wrong with one of their bikes. Huge proud wife moment when my MacGyver of a husband stops and helps repair the bike using a rock with a specific pointy end.  As we got closer to the town we were going to sleep at that night, a young Spanish girl came out of her house and tried to sell us handmade bracelets. Of course we bought a couple, though Paul got hustled on the price of his. I imagine this girl has a lot saved up as who can resist a handmade keepsake this close to the Camino. We train coinscrossed some train tracks and Paul had the brilliant idea to lay some euros on the tracks and see if the train would flatten them, but we had no clue if a train would be coming soon. Maybe one minute later, we heard the bells and the gates lowered, it was go time. Paul laid three euros on the track and we watched as the train came by and shot them around. After the train passed, we went out to collect them. We found two of them which were semi flattened and quite warm. We couldn’t find the third, but found a different, totally flattened one to take with us. Finally, we are staying with other American’s and it is the last night. It was us, the two men from Georgia, a couple from San Diego, and a German couple.   This albergue had heated floors and the alberguelaundry actually dried overnight, it was awesome. We each had so much space as there were two rooms full of bunk beds. It was nice to spread out and put our packs on empty bunks. There was a sign in the albergue left by previous pilgrims that outlined three choices for dinner the closest supposedly didn’t have the best food, the second closest was supposed to be good, and the farthest one was far for people who had walked all day. So the couple from San Diego and us decided to go to the second one. When we got their the Georgian’s were there already and they informed us that most of the menu options were unavailable, but we were there so we had ate what they would give us. pilgrim friendsWe talked about things we saw that day and I asked the others if they met the girl selling bracelets, to which one of the guys rolled up his sleeve and showed that he had purchased several bracelets. I knew that girl was doing well for herself.  As we were eating and talking the German couple walked in and sat at our table and the man said, “Guess who is the house father” as he pulled out the key to the albergue. The man who checked us in had apparently called it a night and have the key to them to lock up.  We ate and shared stories about our journey and our lives for a long time and it was a great way to spend the last night before Santiago.

last night before Santiago

In the bunk bed. Last night before Santiago!

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Day Nine Camino de Santiago

Caldas De Reis 14 1/2 miles


Miraculously, I’m feeling great! Last night I slept horribly with a lot of aches all over my legs. I had great spirits and energy this morning, then something awful happened to my ankle that slowed us down quite a bit. Paul gave me his ankle wrap and the second walking stick, we slowed our pace and I prayed. Now we are at the albergue, I have showered and I am feeling great. I saw a french bulldog today and it warmed my heart. I absolutely loved the café we rested at today. It was cozy and beautiful, even the Camino frenchiebathroom was pretty (speaking of which, I’m basically a pro at peeing in the wilderness- as long as I have tissue). We had amazing weather today which lifted our spirits. Back to the café, we sat at a table which was at the entrance, enjoyed juice and café con leche and bought snacks for the road. We took our time, enjoyed the view of the countryside , and I actually felt like I was on vacation. We are seeing a lot of pilgrims now, a lot of them were on bikes today. Our first couple of days on the journey we barely saw any pilgrims. I can’t believe we had an albergue to ourselves one night in the beginning. Our goal tomorrow is to go further than Padrón, the next town, so that we have a shorter day’s journey to Santiago. I am excited to see Santiago, but I also don’t want this to end.

Buen Camino!

waterfall resting pilgrims

This was the first night I remember being woken up from the ache in my legs they were protesting at this point. There wasn’t any way to stretch to fix it, just take ibuprofen and hope for the best. Paul was experiencing the same thing. The only way I can describe the pain in my ankles is that it felt as if a big vein had rolled over onto my ankle bone and that when it pressed against the side of my boot it was a horrible shooting pain. I’d be fine for a few steps and then it would hurt so badly I’d lose my breath, then be fine for a few more steps. This slowed us down a lot, but we worked together and got through. At this point in roman pilar with km countdownthe Journey the waymarkers were old Roman pillars with a kilometer countdown to Santiago. It was fun seeing how we kept getting closer and closer. We were overrun by bicyclists at this point. You can bike the Camino as well, but have to go twice as long. It was hard because they don’t give you any warning they are coming up behind you and the whiz past so fast. Paul was told by the Portuguese group of Pilgrims that there was an incredible waterfall, but it was a detour off the path. My legs and ankle were so achy and I didn’t want to walk any more than was required to I rested on a bench while Paul went to it. Per Paul, it was magnificent and it came from as far as the eye could see, like fluffy clouds coming down the mountainside.

This town had a lot of old public baths for pilgrims and we saw a few of them washing their pastries and teafeet in a bath outside of our albergue. This albergue actually had the option to wash laundry in an actually washing machine and a dryer (one day without wet socks drying off of my pack) for a small fee, but every time I tried to find the guy who worked the desk to ask for it, he wasn’t there. We ate dinner at the bar next to the albergue and ran into the two pilrgims from Georgia. One of them helped us to order some tapas, that weren’t crazy fish.We explored the town for a bit after dinner and stopped at a pastelería and ordered what seemed like one of everything, but actually about 5 small pastries to share and a couple of teas. Paul ended almost every day at this point with a mint tea. In Spain when you order a drink, they bring you a snack so whenever the woman brought us a tea, she gave us more pastries!

favorite cafeThe albergue was crowded. It was mostly bikers and they were so loud and stood around in their undies blocking the way to the laundry sink and bathroom. We had side by side bunk beds again, so we were close which was nice, but our legs ached this night too. We were taking ibuprofen every 4-6 hours just to maintain. It wasn’t a specific hurt, just achy protesting legs. But I’ll tell you, a shower and a change of clothes and shoes, made me a new woman every night.

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Day Eight Camino de Santiago

Pontevedra – 11 miles

bridge 8The majority of the walk today was great. At our first café stop the lady who was setting out the chairs had to wake up the café owner to serve us, even though it was almost 1/2 hour after the posted opening time. We walked through forest and climbed a bit, but the rest places and cafés were spaced much farther apart than I like. It rained all day again, which made the lack of warm resting places worse. Tonight we are staying at a private pension (kind of like a bed and breakfast) because the albergue is outside of the town center. We have our own room, but no private bathroom. While looking for  place to stay, we wandered through the town on tired feet while the rain beat down on us. It was really rough. I have showered  and we found a tv channel with English. TV is fun for something different until we eat dinner. My heels are very sore and I am a little worried about the blisters on my two littlest toes on both feet, literally, I have a blister that has blisters. Despite the groans from my body and the rain outside, my spirits are good. I am so fortunate to be here.

country 8Buen Camino

We had a lovely diner that did not consist of ham and cheese and are feeling much better.

dessert 8

I can tell, from reading my journal entry, that I was trying to convince myself to stay positive because the rain was brutal I felt beat down and tired. Going back to that morning at the café with the sleeping owner, I am pretty sure she hated our guts for waking her up, but other pilgrims came shortly after and she got some business. Before the other pilgrims came, we saw Roger walk up! He had breakfast with us and went on his way. With his pace and endurance, he was scheduled to get to Santiago two days before us. Bye Roger, it was great to know you. city 8

My journal description of the pension, is not quite accurate. There was no breakfast at the place we stayed. It was like we were in a room in someone’s apartment. We were still weary of the sheets from crazy bed bug stories so we slept in our sleeping bags. We asked the woman of the house if we could pay when we checked in because we wanted to leave early and had no clue when they would be awake. She didn’t understand us and told us to pay downstairs where the restaurant was. The restaurant was very nice and had a full real menu. It was more of a bar actually, as was every restaurant. The lady who was working was so nice to us and brought us a delicious dessert. We tried to pay for our room at the restaurant and that woman thought we were crazy. Back in our room, we were freezing. font 8We couldn’t get the heater to work and Paul found the woman of the house and asked how to turn it on, she said the heat didn’t come o until 10:30 pm, so we bundled up the best we could. Later she knocked on our door with a space heater in her hand and we tried one more time, we gave her money and asked her to stamp our pilgrims passport. After Tuí, you need two stamps per day to prove you’ve walked the Camino. She asked for our real passports and said that her husband could stamp our pilgrims passports. She indicated that she was going out and she took our passports with her. We were very nervous about this. I did not want to be separated from my real passport, but couldn’t communicate this with her. We just had to hope for the best. Later in the night she brought back all of our passports and paperwork and gave us our stamps.

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Day Seven Camino de Santiago

April 24, Rodondella

Wow, day 7, that is incredible! It doesn’t feel like we’ve been traveling that long, sadly, it means we are getting closer to the end. I will be excited to reach Santiago, but am afraid I will be a little depressed to return home and back to the daily grind. I feel different here, more self aware, and more self assured. While I am traveling with Paul to celebrate our anniversary, I have found that I am doing this for myself. The lessons I have learned and the wisdom received are for me. I don’t want to lose the way I feel here. Today we walked Roger19.1 miles. We weren’t sure going into the day if we’d make it all the way or choose to stop. We started walking early and needed our headlamps. We walked with Roger, from Great Britain, who didn’t have a light. It poured down rain most of the day. When the sun rose, Roger chose to stick with us and we had a new friend. His energy at the age of 62 is inspiring, he pushed us today. It was difficult, but I am glad we got to town early cause the three of us had time to get frozen yogurt (once the shop re-opened after siesta of course). Roger gets a kick out of old fashioned American things from the movies (like diners and drive in movies). It was hard to find an open café today because we started so early. We finally found one late in the morning and stopped for a café con leche and walked through the rain very far until we found a promising place for lunch, they weren’t serving lunch yet, but they ended up making us some giant warm sandwiches, which, given the day and our conditions was the best thing ever. I was pretty worn out by the end of the walk. We are resting for a bit, then we plan to have dinner with Roger.

Buen Camino!


Roger with shellRoger!!! Our favorite pilgrim by far. I loved this guy. Roger is a fireman, he has done the Camino Portuguese before and his energy and level of fitness was insane. He had incredible calves and walked super fast.  When we saw other pilgrims the next day, they were talking about how fast he was too. Since we had a goal of a long hike, I wanted to wake up really early. We weren’t sleeping great at this point, or for much of the trip for that matter. Paul didn’t want to set an alarm to wake up, in case we happened to sleep well that night, but said I could check on him if I happened to be up any time after 4:30. Since we were in bunk beds with strangers underneath us, we wanted to be quiet, so we carried our stuff out to the main area and packed up there. While we were packing our stuff, we saw another pilgrim with the same idea we had who was packing and he said, “I almost killed that bear last night!”. This is how I met Roger (Paul met him the night before while he taking a  shower- some albergues had better privacy in the shower than others). Roger was referring to a man who was snoring incredibly loud and Roger didn’t sleep a wink that night. Roger missed the turn off for the albergue in the town that we had slept at the day before, so he just kept walking. He ended up walking 60 kilometers that day. Paul gave Rogers some extra ear plugs and since it was so dark out we offered to walk with him and our headlamps. Nothing was open for breakfast, but we had bought some juice and breakfast stuff at the supermercado the night before. We offered some to Roger which he refused several times before giving in and eating a granola bar. He was so concerned about interrupting our honeymoon that he kept saying that he would “give us our privacy” (in a thick English accent) once the sun came up, then it was “I’ll give you your privacy” when we get to the next town, then it was after we stop next. We loved walking with Roger and we told him that he could spend the whole day with us if he wanted. Which, I am so glad he did. It was a very rainy day, and we stopped a few times to put all of our rain gear on  and take it off. Roger had a rain cover that was too small and he walked with an umbrella, the sight of it was funny. We walked through forest in the early morning, and then through a residential area. It was rainy and probably 5 am with no one in sight and we had to struggle to see the yellow arrows pointing the way. We walked down one residential street and a an happened to be in his front yard and he shouted to us in Spanish that we were going the wrong way and pointed to the direction of the Camino (we had missed an arrow which meant we missed a turn). We hadn’t gone too far out of the way and I thank God that man was there. It was mostly residential in the morning but as paththe sun started to rise we finally found a sign for some cafés. Breakfast at last! Nope. We walked towards one and saw a lady in a bathrobe who looked as if she had just woken up. She was telling us something in Spanish, but between the three of us we could only make out something about 9:30. Well it wasn’t close enough to 9:30 to stick around and wait so we walked on. There was a had been a sign for another café  that was off the path a bit, which didn’t sound good because I didn’t want to walk any more than I xuntahad to with a goal of 19 miles, but we wanted to get eat and sit down for a minute that the three of us decided to go walk to up to it – yes it was a decent climb up hill, which also made it less appealing. We got to the place and it looked deserted, there was no sign of life and no posted hours so we didn’t know if it would be worth waiting around for. So we walked back down to the trail – downhill wasn’t fun anymore by this day. It was almost harder for me than uphill. Paul didn’t like going uphill this day, I didn’t like going down (actually, by this point I didn’t like either and was done with the charming cobblestone roads- not so easy on the feet). Soft, level forest, or vineyard roads were the best. When we finally reached an actual town and saw the first café, it was such a welcomed sight. It felt surreal, like we were in a movie, the way we dashed in their, threw down our wet packs, and shed our dripping layers, saying “lo siento” to the woman who was working for the puddles we left on the floor. Three café con leches were drunk in record time. In Spain, you get a snack when you order a drink and we scarfed those down. Roger was grateful for the company and he quickly ordered us another round, on him. After resting for a bit, we reluctantly put our wet stuff back on and walked on.


This was the ugliest day of the trip, and not because of the weather. It was a walk down the longest industrial road ever. This road never seemed to end and it was so boring, as the guidebook has warned us it would be. Walking with a new friend made it so much better. Paul and Roger talked all day and I was grateful for the opportunity to hang back a bit and not talk. I was hungry again by the time we got to the endless road of factories, but there was not a café in sight. It made me want to open one right at the midpoint of the road (don’t the workers want a coffee and a snack). I know every pilgrim that would walk by would stop, there hadn’t been a café for a very long time or a bathroom… I had to pee so badly and there was no place to hide as it was factory after factory. When we got to what I had thought/ hoped would be the end of the road and realized it was just a curve, I couldn’t take it anymore. The locals had been so kind to pilgrims so far and I was by no means dangerous looking, so I went up to one of the businesses that had an office not far off the road, got buzzed in and tried desperately to ask the woman at the front desk for a baño as I dripped on the floor. Of course I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I gathered that she told be to go outside and around the building and that I would find a bathroom there.  All I found was the side of a building, in the rain and a security camera. I was so disappointed. So we walked on. I was so uncomfortable with my full bladder and could think of nothing else. I finally stepped behind some concrete at a construction site and found relief.  After we got off that awful road, we came to a bridge that crossed the over the train tracks, it was actually a short length across, but had a giant ramp up to it. As we walked over it, Paul and Roger questioned why we couldn’t just walk over the tracks and had to take this short bridge with a giant zigzag ramp as if to answer their question a train whizzed past underneath us so fast in an instant with no warning. We laughed as that answered that question.

fish pulpo

We walked for a very long time before we got to a town with food again. It was still rainy and per our guidebook there was only one café at this town. We were so happy to come in, take off our dripping stuff, and boots (ok, that was just me, but I had to). I had waterproof boots, but my socks still left moist footprints on the floor. It must have been obvious that we were looking for more than a café con leche because the first thing out of the young guy that was behind the counter said was they weren’t serving lunch for another hour and a half. Well we had to finish our 19 miles, we didn’t have an hour and  half. I thought my heart would break, but I couldn’t even deal with it and I headed off to the bathroom. When I came back up from the bathroom, Paul and Roger said that the guy could make us a ham and cheese sandwich. This was the happiest I’d ever been to be offered a ham and cheese sandwich! This was a huge warm sandwich that was more like some other kind of pork and it was soooo good. I milked it and ate so slowly. I was still eating when a loud group of Portuguese pilgrims came in which made us want to leave, they were nice and the leader of this group spoke some English, the crowd and the volume just seemed a bit of a shock after it had just been the three of us and the rain all day. I took the rest of my sandwich with me and we walked on again. We passed a frozen yogurt shop  on our way to the albergue in Rodondella that both Roger and I thought sounded amazing. It was siesta, so the shop and everything, but the bars were closed so we decided to check in and showeralbergue and go back at 5pm. This albergue was huge, there were different rooms and had bunk beds that were pushed together in twos. I was excited that I could actually sleep next to Paul and Roger took the top of our bunk. There were a lot of Pilgrims in each albergue at this point, a lot of Pilgrims start in Tuí as it is a long enough distance away to qualify for the compostella. The Portuguese group from the lunch place was there and it turns out that one of them is the snorer that kept Roger up the night before! We got our frozen yogurt looked around the town for a bit then went back to the albergue to rest before dinner. The three of us decided to try tapas and found a place that was open. They let us know that they didn’t serve dinner until 9pm, but could give us a small offering from the tapas menu. We needed to eat so we said ok. We couldn’t understand the menu, but knew we were ordering seafood. At one point the man brought raw dead fish out on a plate and seemed to ask Roger which one he wanted, we had no clue what was going on and inadvertently ordered all three. The man later returned with a plate that had the same fish fried, including two that had teeth and still had eyeballs and had its tail in its chompers along with a platter of octopus that was not fried like calamari and had the suction cup parts. This wasn’t filling at all, as we were too weirded out to eat much of it so we went looking for more. We found a pub that looked good so we went in and were told that they weren’t serving dinner yet, but we could see people eating. I don’t think we were asking for the right thing and between us and the people that ran the dining places, we couldn’t figure it out. We ended up at a pizza place where we talked for a while and learned more about Roger’s life. His wife passed away 5 years ago and when we asked him if he was interested in dating again, he said that he didn’t think it would be fair to whoever he was with because she would never be his wife. Oh gosh, this was one of the most romantic things I’ve ever heard. We walked around and stopped into a pastelería. Roger has a sweet tooth, just like me. We had our fill of delicious pastries and called it a night.This day would have been a lot rougher if it weren’t for Roger. I am so glad that we met him. We gained a new friend this day, but also lost something, a diamond from my engagement ring (boo). I guess I gave back to the Camino, maybe I am meant to return many times to “look for it” and repeatedly find myself. When we went to bed, Roger said that he’d be leaving early in the morning and that we’d have our privacy and when we got up, he was gone.


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Camino Things…

In my journal I kept track of a few small lists. Things of the Camino that I felt were worth remembering.


Life Lessons and Thoughts:

  • I was just as grateful to see a sign saying I was headed the wrong way as I was arrow on treeseeing an arrow indicating I was on the right path.
  • One step at a time, don’t go to extremes to correct something. (After feeling a little warm and taking off my jacket, scarf, and long sleeved shirt, then promptly feeling too cold)

Sounds of the Camino:  

  • Roosters!
  • Barking dogs 🙁
  • Birds 🙂
  • Fireworks (all day on Easter and the next day) – we claimed it was for our anniversary
  • Church bells 🙂
  • Waterfalls and springs

Rooster waterfall

Songs stuck in my head:P1040646

  • Me and Bobby McGee
  • Shelter from the Storm
  • The Weight
  • Here Comes the Sun (Paul and I sang this together, we did not know all of the words)

Things we want to have:

  • An espresso machine
  • More Kinder Bueno
  • Oddly enough, ham and cheese sandwiches (more me than Paul) street view day 1
  • The orange juice machine (we later found out it is called a Zumex and is very expensive)

Movies we want to watch when we get home:

  • The Labyrinth
  • Princess Bride
  • National Treasure
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Things that point to Future Harwood:P1040478

  • The ceramic gift with a man, woman, and child
  • Christina told me that a woman pregnant with twins had our hotel room two nights before us
  • We fed a pregnant cat
  • I lit electronic candles under a pregnant statue in a church in Tuí

Things I want to learn more about: P1040570

  • The cathedral in Tuí
  • Other languages

Foods of the Camino:

  • Ham and cheese sandwiches
  • Orange Fanta
  • Natural orange juice (naranja natural)
  • Pastries
  • Café con leche/ espresso
  • Kinder Bueno
  • Mint tea

P1040081 ham and cheese and pastries

Looking back on these lists makes me smile. For some reason I left it was important to keep track of these things.

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Day Six Camino de Santiago

Day 6 4/23/2014 – Tuí

ancient bathtub journalI am sitting on an ancient bathtub with Paul, eating Kinder Bueno (a yummy chocolate bar). 12 miles today and we crossed into Spain! We are halfway to Santiago!!! We stopped at a farmácia to get more ibuprofen and I asked the pharmacist which was his favorite place for dinner. He told us to follow him and he left his shop and walked us through the town to a restaurant. He shouted something in Spanish to the bar owner, who shouted something to the chef, who agreed to something, and there we were, he had ordered for us! It was such a neat experience. I like Spain so far, there are new friends Thomas and Carolinefriendly faces in our albergue, as there was on the road, and every café we stopped into. It is nice, like we are a group of friends with shared experiences. I was inspired today by a man who is living a dream I have. He is from Canada and he walked the Camino Portuguese, fell in love with it and is now building a beautiful albergue (which he gave us and Evelyn a tour of). It will have a café attached and it feels like it is almost in the middle of the forest. Ahh, to passionately pursue and commit to a dream. That is a dream, but what is my dream… maybe the Camino will answer this for me. For now, I always want to be happy, I want to be a positive light for others, I want to be in love and be loved, and I want to one day be an incredible mother.

view from albergue cemetery

This morning was fun, almost everyone from the group was at the first café, and the second… Our walk was through a lot of beautiful countryside, it was warm at times, but a good walk. We hope to rise early tomorrow and accomplish many miles while remaining healthy.

Buen Camino

In Spain, it was harder to find locals who spoke English and there were no more signs in tile work SantiagoEnglish. It was a bit isolating, but most pilgrims spoke some English so we could communicate with some people. There was a neat couple from Costa Rica, who spoke no English, and we tried hard to communicate with them, but it did not work. We saw them for several days and kept trying though. We went through a lot of ibuprofen. The good thing is that in Portugal and Spain it comes in 600 milligram tablets and it is very inexpensive. This blew our minds as it is quite expensive and only 200 milligrams in the States. The dinner that the pharmacist ordered for us ended up being chicken fingers, of all things. Our first dinner in Spain and we have chicken fingers! I will say that there was a good spicy dipping sauce. We took the left overs to carry with us the next day for a snack. We went to a Supermercado to buy some food for the next day as we knew there wouldn’t be many places to eat along the road and it was a many mile day. Fruit was easy to eat along the way, babybell cheese came in handy too.  Cafés were the most welcomed sight. You could spot one coming by the signature red umbrellas and tables. At this point we stopped at almost every one as they were spread far apart and we could use the break. We fell in love with café con leche, which is equal parts espresso and steamed milk in a small cup. Paul also became a straight up espresso drinker. We usually got a café con leche, pastry, Kinder Bueno for the road and fruit, if they had it. And ham and cheese sandwiched, that seemed to be the only actual food you could get. Paul was starting to hate the sight of a ham and cheese sandwich, while I was beginning to love it, I would get so hungry that I could kiss a ham and cheese sandwich.

leaving Portugal Spain

There was the most amazing cathedral in Tuí. I want to learn more about it. It made me think of a Dan Brown novel or the Knights Templar. It was beautiful and had statues and symbols of so many things that I knew nothing about… There is so much that I don’t know. We took a bridge to cross into Spain. There was a huge Portugal sign on the Portuguese side, a long bridge over  river, where Paul’s shirt fell off his pack, and a German couple (also Pilgrims) grabbed it for us and then a huge Spain sign on the Spanish side. This was our first night in a Xunta, which is the Spanish government run albergue. Thee had a fixed rate of 6 Euros a night, which was nice. This there were a lot of pilgrims over a few floors. We slept in bunk beds, we both were on the top bunk, with a stranger underneath. I can picture this place so vividly as I write.

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Day Five Camino de Santiago

4/22/14 Rubaies

arrowamazing waterfall

So far Ponté de Lima is my favorite city. There are a few people in the albergue that we met in the albergue last night. The woman from Holland is very nice and we run into her a lot. There are two men from New Zealand who are really cool as well. One of them passed out while riding his bike on the Camino, woke up in an ambulance, recovered for 10 days in a hospital, and is now walking to Santiago. That is dedication. We climbed a huge mountain today but were rewarded with a downhill trip to the albergue. Paul shipped 2 kilos of his stuff home this morning, so his load was lighter today. I had washed my clothes at the albergue in Ponté de Lima and hung them to dry, but it rained rainy dayovernight and my clothes were all wet. I hope they dry tonight. Tomorrow we are crossing into Tuí. I am excited for this. There is nothing really going on in this city, but we may go to the bar for dinner. Tuí should be much more exciting, plus it is in Spain! I felt homesick last night and we still have a ways to go, but I am very happy to be on this journey and will be proud to reach Santiago. The knee brace I got yesterday morning has helped so much. This is the best I’ve felt after a day of walking yet. 11 miles today. Paul’s ankle is hurting very bad, I hope the ankle brace helps him.

hand holdin

Reflecting on José and Christina again, I imagine they don’t fight. If Paul were dying, would I bother to point out every time he did something that annoyed me, or did something in a way I didn’t like? No. I’d like to remember this and live this way. Unless truly offended, why bother to make a bad situation by criticizing. I am wishing now that I could send a note to my family and let them know how the trip is going. There were two cowscows in the road today (I was hoping I would see that) and when we stopped to eat we encountered other pilgrims and two cats that caught mice for a treat of their own. It rained for about an hour this morning, which made the rain gear useful. I am getting better at peeing on the side of the trail. Paul and I have broken some bathroom/ modesty boundaries (mostly me). Last night, while feeling homesick, I wanted Paul near me for comfort. Then I had a strange feeling that Paul and I are strangers. We are married, that is ridiculous, but I can’t shake this feeling. Do we really know each other? Am I fully myself with him? This is a weird feeling, but an interesting one, like I am looking forward to getting to know each other. That is a journey itself.  Bom Camino!

cross and arrow albergue

Day 5 again, just had a great dinner at the one place in town. We went with Holland (I can’t pronounce her name), we met two American pilgrims there, the New Zealand guys came in and then the Irish girl we met earlier came in by herself and we invited her to eat with Holland and us. Her name is Evelyn an she is really cool. She considers herself a Lady Moc. She has her bag sent ahead and has a hair dryer and makeup. She was a semi-professional hurling player. Great conversation. By the end of the night 4 more pilgrims (Germans) from our albergue showed up. I love the moments with just Paul and I and I also love these interactions. One German couple told us that a lot of Germans are inspired to do the Camino because of a book written by a German comedian called something like, “I’m going away for a long time.” I’d like to check this book out. – OK good night.

Bom Camino

Up to this point, I had been sleeping in one set of clothes and walking in another. Since my bunk bedsday clothes were soaking wet in the morning, I had to walk in my night clothes, which had been relatively clean. We saw so many incredible things every day. It is interesting, the things I chose to write down and capture each evening. Our routine was that when we checked into our albergue each night, we would shower, then Paul would lay down for a bit and I would write. Then we’d go explore the town we were in and get dinner. It stayed light really late there. Oh, and we’d also rub each other’s feet after we were all fresh and clean again. This was a necessary part of the journey. I had never experienced the feeling of being homesick before. To be honest, I don’t think I ever thought that was a real thing. I can only describe it as a mild anxiety and general feeling that something isn’t right. This is likely what generated the whole, “Paul is a stranger feeling”. I cant really put into words what that feeling was like. It wasn’t a bad thing, it made me think for a minute almost like someone presented me with a handsome man and said, “this is your husband, figure it out.” I look back fondly at this feeling. I’m sure there is a lesson in it somewhere.

Ham and cheese & pastries! Again.

Ham and cheese & pastries! Again.

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