It’s been a rough month here at home, which is why there haven’t been any posts for awhile! There simply hasn’t been enough time for blogging!
There have been some incredible highs and some devastating lows, but through it all we’ve journeyed together as a family and made it to the other side of the mountain… our legs might be shaky and we are pretty tired, but we’ve made it!
This post will be all about Momma T’s journey towards, on, and beyond El Camino in Spain. In looking back at the photos that she sent while she was away, it seems like the journey was about experiencing the culture through good food, good friends, and good spirits!
It was fitting then that before she left, we had a wonderful evening out at Vij’s, a restaurant that we’ve wanted to visit for several years and just never had the time to get there. We are thankful to family who babysat Miss D so that we could have a meal out together.
Momma T left Vancouver on Saturday April 22, traveling via London, England (9 hour flight) and then onto her final destination of Barcelona, Spain. She met her travelling friend A at a restaurant in Heathrow airport and they made the last leg of the journey together.
Day 1 – Barcelona, 14,912 steps
Today they took the subway and then train to find their way to Montserrat, a Benedictine monk mountain retreat about one hour north west of Barcelona.
Day 2 – Barcelona, 17,644 steps (13.7 km)
Today Tracy and A explored the Barcelona waterfront and were excited to find that there was a Mexican tall ship in the harbour, which was inviting tourists on board to view and have photos taken with the uniformed crew! The two women also visited the Sagrada Familia basilica
After exploring some of the waterfront (and boarding a Mexican tall ship, with military crew present!), we then meandered the streets to the Sagrada Familia basilica, a beautiful Roman Catholic church designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.
The inside of this amazing place of worship is made of all different stones, and designed so that you feel like you are in a forest, with carvings of a leaf-like ceiling, and then stained glass windows that make you feel like the light is seeping in through the forest walls.
Day 3 – Leaving Barcelona, 17,305 steps (11.6 km)
The weather this morning was rainy and windy, which meant that a planned boat excursion was cancelled. Instead they did some window shopping and visited the Barcelona History Museum on their way to the train station and the 12 hour trip to Sarria where their Camino walk would begin!
Day 4 – Sarria, 12,798 steps (7.9 km)
Momma T and A arrived in Sarria at 9am on a brisk, sunny morning (4 degrees!), after a rough night with just a little sleep on the train. They gathered their things and walked to the hotel. You know the city is behind you when you lie on your bed, wind blowing in, no car motors, and you hear the cock-a-doodle-do of the roosters all afternoon. Welcome to the country-side!
Later that eventing the 10 women that formed their tour group met at the hotel to have an orientation meeting, then we walked to a local restaurant for a great meal. This Camino adventure is about to begin! We got to know each other in the group. There are two (60+) women from Arizona (AKA “the Arizona’s”), Marcia in early 50’s, Momma T and her friend A, and then 5 Hispanic women from LA, who are 60+ years… all the women are fiercely daring and have lots of spunk and life in them.
Day 5 – Sarria to Portomarin, 36,177 steps (25.8 km), 7 hours of walking
Tracy and her friend were excited to finally start their Camino today! The tour guide walked with them for about an hour before leaving them to walk at their own pace.
The path was much more hilly than anticipated and T was pretty tired at the end of the day. She is rapidly learning to like Spanish wine… particularly since it is less expensive than pop or even water in many places! And so refreshing midday and with her meal at the end of the walk!
Day 6 – Portomarin to Palas de Rei, 42,241 steps (33.2 km)
Today’s elevation gain was substantial (see photo below) and daunting!
In the words of Momma T:
“Today it was hard to get those muscles going again, but after a light breakfast (smoked meats, cheese, and hard boiled eggs), we were off. By 10:30am we had walked 11km and made a cafe stop for a second breakfast. We weren’t even halfway!! We basically average 4km/hr, depending on the number of hills. I’m very thankful to be using poles, takes some pressure of my knees/legs and builds the strength in my arms too. Saw a couple of churches, and it was a cool, sunny day. At 2:30pm, with about 5km left, it was time for a break and we discovered this amazing “lemon beer” — OMG!! Delicious!!”
Today was an important day as T recognized a dear friend who had passed away in the last year. Before she left on this journey, Mr. H had asked Momma T to take a special stone and his photo of our dear friend and to leave her in a special place on the path, so that “God would help her find her way to heaven.” Today Momma T found that place: an old stone cross beside a centuries old chestnut tree. T spent a few moments in prayer and thinking of our friend and her family. Before leaving on the trip, T had called this family to tell them of Mr. H’s request. Our friend told T that it had been their plan to walk the Camino themselves, before Marlene had taken ill.
Day 7 – Palas de Rei to Castaneda, 38,579 steps (26.6 km)
Not exactly the weather forecast that you want to wake up to when doing El Camino…
And it didn’t get much better! The hikers faced every kind of weather this day: snow, hail, thunder, lightening, rain, and yes, sunshine! What is a hiker to do when facing this? Dress in layers and use socks as mittens in a pinch!
In the words of “Scaredy Squirrel”… this was NOT part of the plan!
Day 8 – Castenada to ? (TBC), 29,661 steps (20.8 km)
Momma T hit her wall today and had a super hard day of walking. After slogging through 15 km in pain, dragging feet that felt like they were cement blocks and calf muscles that kept seizing up, she took a ride for the final 7 km. She is super disappointed in herself but I believe she has nothing to feel bad about… she made the best decision she could in that moment and truly, the only decision that would preserve her strength for the remainder of the trip. I’m super proud of her! It’s hard to make that decision!
Day 9: — to Santiago, 31,631 steps (22.6 km)
Knowing that they would be arriving in Santiago today was a good motivating factor on the road. There was a steady climb upwards at one point that stopped just at the boundary of the airport. They then walked around the airport, amazed by the planes taking off and landing right above us.
After they got away from the airport there was a chance to stop of a small bite to eat. Most of the walking at this point was on gravel or paved roads/paths. T put her poles away as they were walking mostly on roads rather than the gravel and the sound of the poles on the road was quite loud, intruding on the sacredness of the journey. Sadly, T didn’t realize the full benefit of of poles until she was much closer to Santiago, when she started to get substantial knee pain. She believes this was due to the pressure on her knee with every steep descent and then climbing up and up… unfortunately the pain has continued well past the end of the trip and will result in several physiotherapy appointments, along with icing every day!
Day 10 – Santiago
Happy Birthday to Miss A, traveling companion of Momma T! Today they enjoyed massages and a lot of relaxation around the village of Santiago.
Day 11 – Santiago to Porto, Portugal
Today, Momma T successfully got her official “Compostela” or certificate, showing that she has completed El Camino. They then travelled just 4 hours via bus to Porto Portugal, finding their AirBNB accommodation and relaxing the remainder of the day.
Day 12 – Porto
Today, T and A took a boat tour of the Douro River.
The Douro River is a major waterway that flows from Spain and across the entire Douro River Valley in the Northern Portuguese countryside. It is known for its quiet tranquility, showcasing Portugal’s stunning river-based cities, from vibrant Pinhao to old world Porto, a city that has been deemed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Day 13 – Porto to Sintra, via Lisbon
Today Momma T finally saw a castle,, which she’s desperately wanted to see for years!
They travelled by train to Sintra, a picturesque community set in the cooler hillside of Portugal. The cooler climate was attractive to nobility in by gone eras and so there are many castles, beautiful gardens, and extravagant homes to view.
Day 14 – Porto to Lisbon
Momma T said good-bye to her friend A today, but met up with a friend that she’d met earlier in the trip… J! T and J shared the Air BNB accommodation that T had booked and together they took in the tourist sights of the next few days.
T and J started their time in Lisbon with a “Hop On Hop Off” open air bus tour. With T’s knee still bothering her, walking any distance was a challenge. Much time was spent enjoying the local cuisine as she rested comfortably in cafes! They did see some great sights while in Lisbon though including a tile museum, and an art museum.
Day 15 – Lisbon
Final day of the holiday and T said good-bye to J, enjoying some time to just relax in quiet solitude before the long journey home again!
Good food along the way:
Momma T enjoyed much of the cuisine in Spain and Portugal, thankfully documenting much of it for us to live vicariously through her!
Here are some of the meals & “tapas” that she experienced… in no particular order!
And so we can see that T’s time in Spain and Portugal definitely had more highs than lows, new experiences and friends, and delicious tastes!
… Coming soon: “While you were gone”… tales from the rest of the family while T was traveling! Perhaps not as exotic as castles, boat cruises and pilgrimages, but just as life altering for us all!