All posts by karenfranza

Oviedo to Madrid to Chicago to Norfolk VA

July 2 – Had to get up early this morning to catch our train.  Our hotel graciously set out our breakfast buffet a half hour early, so we wouldn’t have to travel without our daily caffeine and jamon allotment.  We booked our train ticket to Madrid about five days ago, and were surprised to find all the second class tickets sold out, so we are riding first class in reserved seats.  This turns out to be the same as a second class seat, except you are offered a free Spanish newspaper and charged twice the price!  Four hours of high speed rail later, we are in Madrid.

To simplify our lives, Jim booked us in at a very nice hotel right at the train station, so we can easily catch the train to the airport in the morning.  We did a final day’s worth of laundry, watched some strange but English language tv, and repacked our packs to go on the airplane, stowing our hiking sticks and everything that was in the outer pockets.  We had purchased some fragile souvenirs, which I will hand carry, rather than entrust to the baggage handlers.  We are ready to go home.

July 3 – Walked back to the train station, and waited on a 20 minute line to purchase a ticket for the 10 minute ride to the airport.  The very nice man at check in informed us that he could only see one flight for us in his computer, from Madrid to Chicago, and that we would have to go to American Airlines in Chicago to print our second boarding pass for our flight to Norfolk.  Oh well.  Air travel!

We were amazed and amused to encounter a singing trans stewardess belting out “I’ve Gotta Be Me” in a husky baritone in the duty-free shop.  We slugged the free Jagermeister shot offered, and applauded enthusiastically.

Then we were up and away for our nine hour flight back to the USA.  Adios, Spain, we’ll miss you!

After getting through Customs and retrieving our bags, we tried to collect our boarding passes for Norfolk.  The not-a-people-person service rep informed us, quite harshly, that we had no reservation, and weren’t going anywhere.  Jim produced the paper booking confirmation he had been toting around for three months, and she told us that American no longer had that flight, and so had canceled our reservation.  Hadn’t they informed us?  Well no, they hadn’t, but as they also hadn’t refunded our fares, I thought we were in a pretty good position to insist that it was incumbent on American Airlines to get us home.  Seeing that we weren’t going to go away, the rep eventually relented and put us on the next flight.  Peter came and picked us up, and we were home by 11pm eastern, which was 5am the next day as far as our bodies were concerned.  A little sleep is all we need.  Until next time!

More Oviedo

June 30 – What a wonderful city!  We were encouraged to try the unique Asturian cuisine, so we headed to the street of tourist restaurants.  Here we dined on cream of seafood soup, Asturian beans, fried veal and chicken filets stuffed with ham and cheese (like a cordon bleu except with red sauce), and Asturian hard cider.  Very good, but that much food almost killed us.  I guess our bodies are remembering that we are no longer hiking.

We visited the Museo Bella Artes, displaying paintings of many renowned Spanish artists.  There was a room filled with El Greco that contained his renditions of the twelve Apostles.  I hate to tell you this, but he used the same model for many of them.  In some they were even wearing the same outfit!  I guess he never considered that someday they would all be displayed side by side…

Lots of Mary Magdalenes here:

This little angel, up in the corner, had more detail than the rest of the whole painting.  Look at those dimples!

Can you tell these are by the same artist?


I liked the clouds in this one:

There is a Picasso here:

And a Salvatore Dali:

Lexi and Emma – your art could hang in a museum someday!

We walked through the Parque de San Francisco.  Cool and green.  You’ll notice it is still jacket weather here – in the 50s this morning.  I could get used to this kind of summer weather!

The native dancers and pipers entertained us in the square, and buskers filled the streets with music.


One more church before we go, the Iglesia Juan Baptiste:

I kind of like the scruffy look of these apostles, don’t you?

Inside there was a columbarium with some unusual art:


Woody Allen, you are right – we love Oviedo!

Gijón to Oviedo

June 29 – Today’s journey is just 30 minutes south by bus to Woody Allen’s favorite Spanish city, Oviedo.  This Asturias city is also part of the Camino del Norte (Camino de la Costa) and the Camino Primativo, and will be our last stop before returning to Madrid for our flight home.  

We arrived at the bus station at 10:45, and bought tickets for the 10:45 bus.  Two minutes later, we were on our way!

Our hotel is in the Old City.  The buildings are beautiful.

There are lots of statues on the street:

There is a statue of Woody Allen here, as he declared Oviedo his favorite city when he was here filming Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which I guess has a nicer ring than Vicky Cristina Oviedo.

We visited the Archeological Museum, housed in an old monestery.

This is St Anne, holding Mary, holding Jesus:

How nice to die with a dog at your feet!

Even nicer with a dog and trusty servant at your feet!

Jim tried a sample of the local cheese – very nice!

We visited the Catedral de San Salvador de Oviedo, one of the most preeminent cathedrals in Spain.  They say, “Who goes to Santiago but not to Salvador, visits the servant but not the Lord.”

The main altar tells the life of Jesus in pictorial form, for those in centuries past who could not read.

Riding into Jerusalem:



The assumption of Mary.  The scene to the left shows the wedding at Cana.  Although the story says there were six jars of water turned into wine, the retablo only shows five because…

One of the jars is here at the cathedral!

The cathedral also houses the companion piece to the Shroud of Turin; the cloth that was wrapped around Jesus’ head when he was laid in the tomb.  This is a picture of the cloth, as the actual cloth is stored to prevent deterioration and only brought out three times a year.  Analysis of the cloth indicates that Jesus’ blood type was AB.  The room is called the Camera Santa, and also houses relics of many saints and the Virgin Mary. Don’t ask how you get relics from someone who was assumed into heaven – it’s a mystery.

The Apostles surround the relics.  St James with his shell and walking stick is shown with St John:

St Thomas has eyes of blue sapphire, for those who believe but have not seen.

Santa Eulalia of Mérida is entombed here.

To be continued…

Ribadeo to Gijón

June 27 – Our whirlwind tour of northern Spain continued this morning as we hopped back on the train in Ribadeo and continued east along the coast for a four hour ride to Gijón.  Rain threatened, making for some ominous cloud pix out the train window.

Gijón is in the province of Asturias – we are no longer in Galicia, so the train announcements are only in Spanish, instead of Spanish and Galego.  It is hailed as a unique city with its own cuisine and culture.  We are staying right outside of the Old City, which is on a peninsula jutting north into the Atlantic.

There are Roman ruins here, and a statue of Octavius Caesar.

These old doors were not made with Jim in mind.

The Iglesia San Pedro has a golden chapel that was breathtakingly beautiful in the morning light.

Old battlements face the ocean.

There is a modern sculpture here called Elogio del Horizonte, which is the symbol of the city:

We walked through the old city:

There is a new clock tower built on an old Roman base:

We visited the art museum:

There was a huge retablo upstairs that was sculpted, then pressed into copper.  Below is a small section of the scene.

Cool stuff.

We walked back along the boardwalk that bordered a very narrow beach, where some brave souls were swimming on a cool and breezy day.

At the other end of the beach is a statue called Madre del Emigrantes, showing all the emotions of a mother as her children sail away:

Beautiful city!

A Coruña to Ferrol to Ribadeo

June 25 –  Back on the train this morning for a two hour ride east around Spain’s rocky northern coast, which landed us in Ferrol.  This little town is where, back in the day, the English would land by boat to start their Camino Ingles.  The Ingles only takes about one week to walk, so Jim thought we should see the town.  Some English hikers we met in Santiago said it was very pretty.

Sure enough, Jim found the first shell marker, and we walked the Camino through town.

This is not a beach resort, but more of a working harbor like Norfolk.  Lots of cranes and military ships.

A pretty marina too.

It is Sunday, so absolutely no shops are open, but we had a delicious Turkish doner lunch and a walk around town.  

Lots of flowers in the Praza España.

The municipal palace:

A pink church:

A spotted car and a spotted dog:

The fortress around the port:

Ferrol has the distinction of being the birthplace of the Spanish dictator Franco.  We are only here for one night, and enjoyed seeing this pretty little town.
June 26 – the breakfast buffet at our hotel was truly grand, including two kinds of eggs, exotic fresh fruit, and lots of decadent breads and pastries.  At some point very soon, we’re going to have to convince our bodies that we are no longer hiking, and return to a sensible calorie count.  Today was not that day.

Walked back to the train station and purchased tickets to our next destination, Ribadeo.  This was advertised as a quaint ride on a small gauge modern train, along the beautiful rocky northern coast.  The train was indeed modern, but the track ran alternately through mountain tunnels and deep forest, so that all we could see out the windows was either the pure black of a tunnel or densely green boughs growing so close to the tracks that they scratched the windows and roof throughout our ride.  So, no stunning pix of the coast – sorry!

The view did open up for the last hour of our three hour ride, but the day turned gray and rainy.  Glad we’re not walking!

Ribadeo is a town on the Camino El Norte.  As soon as we got off the train we saw the yellow arrows, and followed them past the chapel of Lazarus.  Inside was a statue that looks like San Roche eating an ice cream.  Hmmmm.

We’re staying in a quaint hotel with no wifi or air con.  However, the hotel has a stable of bicycles for guests to ride!  Although the skies were overcast, we took some bikes out for a spin around town, and only got a little wet.  

Some interesting wall art:

Here’s this little guy again.  I wonder who he is?

I have no explanation for these very tall folks either…

It’s true what they say – it’s like riding a bicycle:  you never forget!  Lexi and Emma, there’s a bike in Gramma’s future!

Santiago to A Coruña 

June 22 – We came to Spain for 90 days, as that is the maximum time an American can spend in the EU as a tourist, and we didn’t know exactly how long it would take us to complete our Camiño.  So now our pilgrimage is done, and we have a little time left before our flight home.  We spoke to many other pilgrims who walked different routes to Santiago, and we decided to check out some other towns in northern Spain before returning to Madrid.

Our first stop is A Coruña, just a 45 minute train ride north to the coast.  In celebration of our Camiño, Jim booked us in a classy hotel with an ocean view – a real step up from an albergue!  Here is the view out our window:

We have our own little sandy beach with clear blue water, but the weather is a bit chilly for swimming.

A Coruña is famous for having the oldest working lighthouse, built in the first century by the Romans to keep ships from crashing into the rocks of the promontory.  Today it is called Hercules Tower, and is the town’s main tourist attraction.

Views from the top of the tower:

The tower is in the center of a statuary garden crisscrossed with walkways and bike paths.

This is Hercules on the Argonaut ship:

This one is called the Family, but it reminds me of the standing stones in the Outlander books.  Trivia:  I read the first Outlander book years ago, and read the remaining 7 books (each 800-1000 pages long) in the last two months.  Don’t judge – sometimes a little historical sci-fi romance is just what you need to get your mind off your sore feet…

Here is Jim with King Carlos III.

The city has a pretty marina.

…and white fronted art galleries frequented by Pablo Picasso when he grew up here.

The municipal buildings are magnificent:

This is Maria Pita, who bravely fought off British invaders:

We are here, by chance, on this town’s biggest festival weekend, the Nativity of St John the Baptist.  There will be bonfires on the beach accompanied by the grilling of sardines, much drinking and partying tonight.  A band and a medievally dressed parade meandered through the main streets:

The main church in town is St George’s, who adorned the altar with the vanquished dragon:

Many Marys here too:

Down the street is the Iglexa do Santiago:

There were pretty Madonnas there too.

We stopped for a midday meal at a place that advertised all things octopus, including pulpo empanadas.  Now that we’re on the coast, seafood is cheap and plentiful.

We strolled through a Museo displaying old Roman artifacts 

…a reproduction of an ancient boat made of wicker and covered with animal hides:

…and an eerily beautiful cistern.

We ended the day with a walk around the Finisterrae Aquarium.

A relaxing day in a beautiful town.

More Santiago de Compostela 

June 21 – What else is there to see in Santiago?  Buskers of every description:

Shops and souvenirs of all types, for every price range.  There are traditional silver shops, and jewelry made of black jet.  How about a shop that exclusively sells American junk food?  One thing I don’t see in the window is peanut butter, which is just not available in Spain.  Can’t wait to get home and make a PB and banana sandwich!

This is Tarte de Santiago- a delicious almond cake on display in a panderia.

A Pilgrims Museum, for those who wish to learn more about the history of the Camiño and Santiago.  How many St Jameses can you see?

Apostolic brothers:  James and John, Andrew and Peter.

Still not sure which one is James?  Hint:  he’s the only one sporting orange.

There are protests to join:

Jazz concerts in the square:

And silly statues:

A delightful city!

Santiago de Compostela 

June 20 – We walked into the city of Santiago de Compostela yesterday morning, drenched with sweat, smelling a little gamy, with backpacks, walking sticks and face-cracking smiles.  Pilgrims and tourists crowded the narrow streets, then spread out in the big square.  As we walked toward our pension, an English woman looked at my sweaty self, gave me a thumbs-up and said, “Well done!”  I burst into tears, of course. I am so happy to be here!  1000 kilometers – my toenails will never be the same, but we are strong, we had no injuries, and we had the best time ever!

After getting our Compostela completion certificates from the pilgrim office, we, like everyone, went to the cathedral.  The city of Santiago really revolves around this place.  At the end of our third Camiño, visiting the cathedral was like coming home.

Every time we have been here, the cathedral has been covered in scaffolding.  They are trying to preserve this place for future generations of pilgrims.  Many of the external images are deteriorating:

You can see which ones have been replaced.

Inside, St. James still shines.

…and his bones still rest in the crypt below.

As pilgrims, we walked to the bones of St. James the Apostle in intercession for several of our loved ones who are going through difficult times.  We thought about you every day as we walked.  Your hopes and prayers have been laid at his feet.  May you derive strength and peace from this knowledge.

We climbed the steps behind the altar to embrace the Saint.

We attended the daily Pilgrims Mass, heard our country and route called out in the Prayers of the Peregrinos, sang Ubi Caritas, and watched the grand Botefumeiro swing through the pilgrims, delivering sweet incense as a powerful anthem filled the worship space.  Although cautioned in four languages that this is part of the sacred service and not a show, a spontaneous burst of applause thundered through the cathedral as the last organ chords were played.

When St James is not shown as a Peregrino, he is often depicted as the Moorslayer, who came on a white horse to lead the Spaniards in successful battle to drive the Moors out of Spain.

Signs of the shell and the red St James cross are everywhere.

Although the cathedral was built in the Roman period, they went crazy with baroque additions.  So many fat little pink cherubs and angels!

Some nice Madonnas too:

I don’t know why these upside down heads are looking at St Christopher – do you?

More about the city in the next post.

Bandeira to Lestado to Santiago de Compostela

June 18 – Today is going to be the hottest day of the unusual heat wave that we’ve been walking in all week – supposed to be 95 degrees by noon, so we decided to get an early start again and try not to fry our brains.  (The high temperature is usually in the 70s here, and these pleasant temps will return next week.) 13 miles today to Lestado.  On the road at 6am, just so I can share the sunrise with you:

Got to say good morning to a horse, and do some shady woods walking.


At the top of our climb, got to see the mist settling in the valley, looking surreal.

We had a reverse mountain climb today – a steep downhill to Ponte Ulla, then back up the other side:

The Rio Ulla:

We are staying tonight in a Casa Rural that is a mile from the nearest restaurant, so the Señora cooked us Sunday dinner, and invited us to swim in the pool!  So nice.  A little St. James in the garden.

This is the penultimate day of our hike, so we’re engaging in a lot of reflection on the very excellent time we’ve had.  Great weather, wonderful food, the ability to customize our stages, usually having private accommodations.  Breathtaking views, interesting cities.  Eight miles to go.

June 19 – Our Señora made us a breakfast that couldn’t be beat, then sent us on our way.  The heat wave hasn’t broken, so today is supposed to be the hottest day of the week.  Luckily we are not far from our goal.  The morning sun.

The sleepy town.

Feeling a bit Van Gogh-ish.

There’s the city on the hill.

Here we go!


Not long now!

A little more woods, 

A steep climb along the busy highway, 

Then we are in the city!  See the towers of the Cathedral?

We waited on line for an hour (not a long wait from what we’ve heard) at the Pilgrim office to get our official Compostela, signifying that we have completed 1007 kilometers from Sevilla to Santiago.

A volunteer outside the Pilgrim office took our picture to commemorate our success.

We are here!  Zero miles to go.  Stay tuned for our tour of the city.

Castro Dozón to Lalín to Bandeira

June 16 – Well, even when you have your own room, an albergue is still an albergue.  The troops started getting up at 5am, slamming doors, whistling, and generally depriving the rest of us of our forty winks.  Eleven miles planned for today, and it is supposed to get up to ninety degrees, so just as well that we got an early start.  The nice thing about Spanish weather is that the high temperature of the day doesn’t occur until 6pm, by which time we have been indoors for several hours.

Misty morning:

You know how you can edit a photo to remove ‘red eye’?  I would love somebody to invent the feature that gets rid of ‘power line’. Just touch a button and all the power lines would disappear from your scenic shots.  Google!  Apple!  Do you hear me?  Please start working on this right away!

Ha!  Look in the lower left at what this farmer is using for a scarecrow:


We walked along the highway for a while.

Said good morning to St. James in a pretty garden.

Walked in the shady woods and saw a mole (I think!)

Appreciated the mountain views:

Stayed at a hostal with no air con, but the best meal ever.  Our waitress spoke the clearest Spanish we’ve heard in months – so easy to understand!  Turns out she’s from South America.  I’m sure going to miss this Camiño.  33 miles to go.

June 17 – We did a lot of tossing and turning in the night – with the window open, the highway was noisy, and with the window closed, it was just too hot.  Finally gave it up and got dressed at 5:30, and we were on the road by 6am.  Twelve miles today, and it’s supposed to be hotter than yesterday, so it’s good that we got an early start.  Pretty sunrise.

We knew there was a café on the road, but it was too early for it to be open.  Surprise!  The door was ajar, and the Señora made us cafe con leche at 6:30.  Now we can do some walking!  Passed under the highway and into the woods.

Here’s an old bridge over a quiet river.

Another Santiago in a churchyard along the road.

Then back to the woods again.  It’s nice and cool in the shade.

A bit of rock hopping down a stream:

Some pretty flowers:

Then by noon, we were in town.  I laughed to see this sign advertising bacon and eggs for breakfast – we’ve had nothing but toast for months!Found the Dia before it closed to get provisions.  No air con again, but our room is not facing the street, so we should be able to open the windows this evening.  21 miles to go.