Week 240 November 3, 2018

This week started with Loren caregiving his Mom as per his usual weekly schedule, and with me running usual weekly errands, but I was shocked this week with seeing Santa Claus chocolate candy being stocked on shelves at the supermarket. Then I saw a huge Christmas tree and holiday decorations at the Mall. THEN I saw holiday cards for sale at the Post Office! The topper that evening was seeing a Disney holiday show advertisement during a Warrior’s game. But, if all that were not enough, the next day I saw a Christmas tree on a neighbor’s porch. This was all before Halloween… Too much!


We heard this week from our dear friends from Shanghai who we had met in Nepal while they were on their honeymoon. This year they completed their French Way of El Camino de Santiago de Compostella – you can see her holding their Certificates in the photo below. And, lucky them, they continued on past Santiago to the Atlantic Coast for the Finesterra Camino – the ‘End of the World’ at Cape Fisterra.

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On Tuesday I taught three Bikram Yoga classes in the same day. I think that is my first time doing so and I will do so again next week. I have had a regular routine of teaching the 6am and 7:45am classes each week on Tuesdays. It was nice this week to also teach the 6:30pm, to see different students and to offer them a different teacher at that time. Then it was time for the holiday of the week, Halloween. We started our day with having two long put-off important meetings with a tax accountant and an attorney,

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and that evening, the 13 year old boy who is also staying long term at our AirBnB wore an FBI costume this year, and he wrote up a citation for Loren which included such creative violations as: Failure to wear a costume, Insufficient laughing, and Inappropriate dance moves! 

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Our friend and his Mom then went off to their church for a Halloween party, while Loren and I went off Trick or Treating at a friends’ daughter’s home where our friends were helping hand out candy. We took them the treat of a bottle of bubbly to celebrate our one friend’s retirement, memorably on the day of Halloween. She was duly surprised and touched, and we were delighted to help commemorate the special day.

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Loren and I have now traveled to Lodi, California for our first of their 22nd annual Sand Hill Crane Festivals. We had been enamored of the crane preserves and foundations we had previously stopped to see on our journeying in Nebraska and Wisconsin. These had reminded us of cranes that we had seen in the wild in Florida, Africa and Bhutan. Now this weekend festival offers us an opportunity to witness an actual migration of Sand Hill Cranes in person, which we understand is on par with the wondrous Wildebeest migration, which we had also witnessed when we were in Africa. 

On our drive to arrive here yesterday, we saw a flock of about a dozen Sand Hill Cranes with their black tipped huge wingspan fly right over our car. We saw a few larger flocks in the distance as we continued onward. We then stopped along the way for a little break and an easy hike at Big Break, where we saw the vast California Delta up close.

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As we continued our walk, we found that the regional park included several placards with information about the delta’s history and its environs. We even saw a little girl catch her first fish with the help of her grandparents while we were here. 

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The park also hosts a wonderful diorama map laid out, showing the delta, Mount Diablo with its wide range, and the major central valley cities. There is a cute video on the park’s website with a 7 year old boy showing off the full schematic – you can visit it at: https://youtu.be/EyCfw0XH_tM

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Loren and I then arrived yesterday evening where we are staying for a couple of nights at an AirBnB on a ranch, complete with at least a dozen horses, a herd of sheep, three dogs and the rancher couple who created this place 40 years ago. Our accommodation is in their private Bunk House, a perfect setting for a respite before the festival activities start up later this afternoon.

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I will always remember how when Loren pointed out some construction cranes that we saw in Italy, our friends there said they are called Grus, like the bird. It was only then that I connected that our construction cranes were likely also named for the enormous bird! I am excited to see how many of the other species of bird on this checklist we might encounter on the three tours that we have signed up for over today and tomorrow. 


Week 184 October 7, 2017 – 3.5 years on our Journey!

Last week I did not mention the very long walk – over an hour – with our packs on our fronts and backs from the Torino – Turin, train station to our AirBnB. This, on top of an early morning, and of walking from our Barcelona AirBnB, standing the entire way on the lengthy metro ride to the airport for our flight, and, an enjoyable though late night dinner date, all made for a long, however, memorable, day. On the bright side, I must capture how our AirBnB in Torino had the most creative use of space – with a complete kitchen in a closet! I continue to be amazed by what the world has shown me is possible.

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We had hoped to visit precious cousins near Asti this week, unfortunately they had come down with the flu. We are sending them our continued good wishes, and, our thanks again to other dear cousins in the States who persuaded us to have our flu shots before we left for overseas. So, we decided to take a train to visit nearby Alba, where Nutella is made by the same family who make the Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Sadly, especially for Loren, we discovered that they do not offer tours of their factory – to protect the recipe

When we left Torino for Alba, there was a mixup that was our fault – since the Bar, or what in the US would be called a Cafe across the street from our AirBnB had no internet, and, with no SIM cards in our phones, we are limited technologically. As a result we were unable to check into our AirBnB until 6pm, instead of at 1pm as we had anticipated. I sat with our packs in the Bar while Loren found a park near a hotel where we could have open wifi, so at 3 pm we moved with our backpacks to sit in the park for a while. Then, Loren went to find the tourist office while I stayed with our belongings in the park.

After an hour and a half, I become a little concerned, and by 2 hours, I started using Google translate to be able to say in Italian, “Please can you help with these backpacks? My husband has not returned after 2 hours from the tourist office, and we are due at our hosts’ home at 18:00 (6pm). I am becoming concerned…” Just as I had finished with that bit of translation, Loren arrived! I had forgotten that he was also taking care of another errand. We then agreed how important a backup plan is should we be separated again.

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Alba was on our wish list for their upcoming Internazionale del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba – White Truffel – mushroom – Festival, on the weekend. Instead of staying in town for that, we splurged on two small tartufo bianco at a tartufo shop. The nero – black ones, though less expensive, had less aroma. We were assured that they had all just been dug up in the forest in the past hour with the traditional trusty help by the keen nose of the shopkeeper’s dog! We then took them to an osteria – tavern, the one recommended by our AirBnB host, to slice over a pasta dish for dinner. Afterwards, digestifs of Grapa, Sambuca and Brandy were included, gratis. The experience was caro – expensive, literally dear, yet unique and unforgettable.

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Reflecting on our recent visit in Spain, I remembered that I had written this Haiku in January, 2017, when Loren had not been interested in visiting Spain because he had been there 40 years ago:

   Claire Adalyn Wright
      Austin to Boston

      New York to Yorkshire; Maine… will 
      I ever see Spain?

And now I can say that I have been to Spain! I am so very grateful for our extended travels Journey and for Loren’s change of heart. I have been working on another poem of sorts, simply titled “Places Poem” for now, which takes off on that Haiku. I hope to continue to flesh it out from its poetic skeleton, and will share it after that. 

Also on traveling in Spain, my brother has suggested that I am having, “The ultimate geography lesson,” on this Journey. Yes, that is absolutely true, and, more! Like, when I see an image of the globe in Europe, it is most often oriented, not with North and South America facing me, but from the European and African perspective. Of course! But, I have had to look twice as this view seems odd, surprising, and remarkable.


Or, when at first I had seen so many references in Spain to familiar names and places — Florida, San Francisco, San Joaquin (said w-ah-keen), San Jose, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and also others in Portugal, I had been tickled. Then, it really sunk in how the Spanish had settled in Florida then California, a few centuries ago. Now, being an American in Spain I was very moved by that awareness of connection, just as I was moved by Antoni Gaudi’s expression of his religious faith at Sagrada Familia in Barcelona last week. I can only convey my experiences in mere words – how I wish that everyone could travel and see, and learn so much, about the world as Loren and I are doing on our Journey.

Back to our present week in Alba, of the Piemonte – Piedmont, region of Italy, the weather has been overcast and chilly. Despite the initial mixup, we have enjoyed this lovely AirBnB apartment, which is full of interesting artwork.

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One day Loren and I decided to take a local bus to a small village nearby, called Cortemilia. Before we left, the sun appeared, making a more cheerful day, and accentuating the changing leaves. We hiked up to al Castello (the Castle) then walked around the town. We visited a couple of churches, enjoyed a picnic lunch, and strolled by the river with the fall colors evident

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Then, we were sure to have a piece of yummy Torta di Nocciole delle Langhe – hazelnut tort cake of the local area, for which this village is famous. It is made with fresh nocciolas – hazelnuts. Before our return bus ride, I also noticed the famous historic Italian poet Dante honored with his own street name here, as he is in so many Italian villages, towns and cities…

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We also have been doing more future travel planning, currently having quite the time trying to understand the often contradictory information about the Visa application process, requirements, and time limits for India. Given what I am reading online, I think we will be extremely lucky if we are able to procure the proper Visas for the timeframe that we hope to be there. 

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Tomorrow we will take a train to Acqui Terme, near where our other cousins live…
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Week 183 September 30, 2017

I apologize for our post being late this week. Due to limited free time, Loren and I were unable to find a secure wifi spot in Barcelona… I had paid an enormous price in my time once before for using an open network, so, if our posts are late again you will please understand why.
In Madrid at the beginning of this week, we learned that more than 3 million people call this city home. And on the weekend in September it seemed that nearly all of them, plus a huge number of tourists, were out and about. We encountered them from Plaza de Espana to Gran Via, Porta del Sol to Plaza Mayor, The Prado to El Retiro Park and Puerto de Alcala. Loren and I were ultimately able to find a quiet park to have our picnic supper near the Royal Palace and Gardens one evening.
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We also were able to take daily Bikram Yoga classes. It felt great to be in the hot room again. Even with the classes being taught in Spanish, I heard a very few words in English and recognized some Sanskrit names of the postures. And, I could comprehend so many of the words for inhale, exhale, hands, arms, feet, knee, breathe, stomach, and stretch, for example, all the basics of yoga. It is fortunate that the Bikram method is the same 26 postures every time, as Loren and I already know how to do them in any language.
Our greatest sightseeing pleasure in Madrid was visiting Museo del Prado with its vast collection of masterpieces, many of mythological and biblical scenes, and Renaissance works. Loren realized how these were created before the invention of photography, making the art that much more important to those living in the day. What a lucky legacy for us now. We were advised by friends to see one part of The Prado then go back the next day to see the other as it is too much to take in on one visit. We actually split our time there over three visits, yet I still missed out on all of what I had hoped to see.
The most incredible moment included that I have always wanted to see Murillo’s Immaculate Conception in person. It is one of two smaller copies that I had gazed at in my grandparents home over all the years of my youth. I had seen the other, Rafaelo’s Madonna of the Chair, some years ago in Florence. Now I have seen it too! Three other masters who brought me delight at The Prado were Carracci with his Venus and Adonis for how magnificently he captures Venus’ loving rapture, Rubens’ Birth of the Milky Way for its irreverence, and, Durer’s Eve, Adam, and Adam and Eve for their personification. There were no photos allowed, which is a good thing, because if I had taken time to make photos, I would have seen even less of the immense, both in number and in size in many cases, collection.
We then flew to Barcelona where we had 5 nights booked for the last few days of our visit in Spain. Each of them were packed full of adventure. You may have heard the news that Catalunya had an upcoming vote to secede from Spain, while we were there. At first we saw some flags and banners in favor and only a very few showing support for remaining part of Spain. Then while we were there we saw more and bigger independence flags and banners appear, and, as you may know, it passed. We wish all the Spanish and Catalunyans the best in determining what comes next.
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We so appreciated seeing all that we could of Barcelona. It is hard to say which we enjoyed most. First, the historic Mercat del Born gave us an appreciation of Catalunya’s heritage. Then the Picasso Museum, showing many examples of his youthful prodigious and classical talent, was enlightening. We also appreciated that we had studied Velasquez’ Las Meninas in Madrid, as Picasso had later devoted himself to recreate it 58 times, in his most unique style. 
Then we explored a bit of Antoni Gaudi’s works at the Gaudi Exhibition Center. We splurged on the virtual reality glasses option there, allowing us to watch him direct some work on The Crypt at Colonia Guell. What an outstanding creative architect and artist! We also strolled part of La Rambla – a pedestrian walkway, stepping onto a side street to see Palau Guell, designed by Gaudi for his benefactor, Eusebi Guell, with ornamental lighting on the roof. We then continued our walk back to our AirBnB near the harbor and saw the very tall Monument to Columbus.
We took a full day tour to see Girona and Figueres. We had a good tour guide in Girona who shared about how flies are sacred here for their part in winning a war with the French, and, of the well preserved Jewish Quarter after the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Afterwards Loren and I visited the Jewish History museum here.
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The tour also took us to the Salvadore Dali Theater museum. Yet again, we appreciated having seen Velasquez’s Las Meninas in Madrid, as Dali also incorporated a copy of it in some of his art. Dali is another very uniquely talented artist. While most of his art was difficult for me to appreciate, I very much enjoyed his jewelry designs. My favorite was The Eye of Time.
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Then on our last full day in Barcelona, we visited both Gaudi’s intricately beautiful Parc Guell,
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and, the culmination of Gaudi’s life work at Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) church. Loren had seen it when only a few of the grand spires were completed 40 years ago. Today it is a building that can be entered and appreciated. Gaudi was devout in his faith, and he had a keen sense of how nature could be woven into architecture. I was moved again and again both outside and inside this magnificent, one of a kind temple. The structure, which he took over as architect in 1883, is scheduled to be completed in the 100th year of his death, in 2026. Loren and I hope to return to see it again then.
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Now we are just leaving from a too quick overnight in Torino (Turin), Italy, where we had a lovely and delicious dinner reunion with a couple who we had met in Croatia a year ago.

Week 182 September 23, 2017

Loren and I flew into Malaga in southern Spain on Saturday morning, when it seemed that half of Britain was also arriving. The weather is warmer than it had been along the Galician coast in the northwest, and the Basque region in the north, of Spain. Here we stopped only long enough to rent a car, then drove southwest, spending time first in Marbella, which translates to Beautiful Beach, where we also enjoyed a picnic lunch on a cool – literally and figuratively, tile bench in the shade of ancient trees and greenery.
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Then we drove on to Gibraltar, currently a United Kingdom Territory, to see the Rock. We had to ask for our passports to be stamped as we passed out of Spain. I was startled at how narrow the Gibraltar Straight is in actuality – ok, it appears so on the map, but I could actually wave to the not too distant mountains in Morocco. We had views of the sunset illuminating Gibraltar from our stay that night in nearby La Linea, Spain.
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This week we spent mostly in the region of Andalucía or Andalusía – whichever spelling you prefer. More important, I had to learn how to pronounce it – it is said Andaluthia. Similarly Thank You is said, Grathias, not Gracias, as I had learned from Miss Marin, my Spanish teacher in Eastview Junior High School back in grades 7 and 8. I appreciate all that she taught me, though sadly it was too little. 
Loren and I stayed just the one night in La Linea de Conception where Gibraltar was beautifully visible, then we drove on to Seville for two nights. Our AirBnB host kindly oriented us to many of the old town highlights. We definitely did not plan to stay here long enough, but with the help of his advice, map and brochure, we did see a lot, feeling like we had stayed longer. We toured La Catedral (the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See), the third largest in the world after St. Peter’s Basilica of The Vatican, and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The most interesting sight here for me was the tomb of Christopher Columbus – Cristobal Colon in Spanish, or Cristoforo Colombo in Italian.
We ate vegetarian tapas both before and after indulging in two delightful hours of Roman baths that included a massage. We then had an entertaining show of intense, expressive Flamenco dancing – as there were no photos allowed I am including my photo of their advertisement.
We finished our very full day at the unique Metropol Parasol for a view of the old town lights at night. A local bar offered a drink, gratis, with our tickets. We enjoyed that had with a snack, and this is where Loren befriended a friendly young man to join him at his table as all the other tables were full. We enjoyed talking with he and his friends, one an “Italian in name only,” and the other, a German with Turkish heritage who is living briefly in Seville, who teased for us to adopt her to join in our Journey. If only we could! Both young men are studying aerospace engineering, wow!
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The next morning Loren and I had an audio guide through the Alcazar, including its sweeping gardens. We ended our stay in Seville with a visit to the Flamenco museum.
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We then bade our AirBnB host and his precious cat farewell, and drove to Cordoba. With only one night here we settled in then walked the veinte minutos – 20 minutes, to the center of the old town. We had a picnic supper on a bench at the river, crossed the ancient Roman bridge to the Moorish tower, and back, and, walked the extensive outer perimeter of Meqzuita de Cordoba, which was cerrado – closed, for the night.
In the morning we were all set to return to old town but, fortunately, stopped at our car first and found a note on the windshield asking us to not park where we had been directed by our AirBnB host’s teenage son. But, unfortunately Loren and I had different ideas on what to do about it. I started the car to find another spot but he refused to get in.  Instead he walked around the nearby narrow lanes to look for a place. Not agreeing to the spot that he was trying to create, and with him still refusing to get in the car, I drove around “the block.”
Bad idea. I am our driver, Loren is our navigator. In these very old towns, some of the streets are one way, are often too narrow for a car and a pedestrian to simultaneously traverse, and, are anything but laid out in a grid. Thank goodness I had had the idea to download my own set of offline maps for backup, so I was able to find a place to pull over on a little wider street, activate the GPS and drive back. Meanwhile, Loren had found a more reasonable place to park. Phew! We agreed we would not do that again.
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With parking solved, we continued on by foot to Mezquita Mosque/Cathedral and entered an immense gateway. On seeing the majority of the vast garden area I thought it encompassed the entire enclosure that we had seen from outside the night before. But, Loren pointed out that we had not yet seen the mosque/cathedral, whose entrance and exit were nearly hidden in the far corners. The tremendous temple behind one of the garden walls is incredibly larger than the gardens, and is most impressive. Additionally, the conversion of parts of it from an ancient mosque into a cathedral is astonishing. As with most things, our photos just do not do justice to what our eyes behold.
We returned to our car to leave Cordoba for Grenada. We drove by hectares and hectares of spectacular groves of olive trees, from saplings to mature. We arrived in time to walk up to the Mirador St. Nicolas for a view of the Alhambra and the surrounding sprawling city just before dark.
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The next day we spent the United Nations designated International Day of Peace on a group tour of the Alhambra. Its Generalife – said Hen-er-ah-lee-feh, was once a summer palace with substantial prized gardens. As well we toured a few other various palaces, saw the outside of the Alcazaba – military fortress, and several ruins. It is all too much to see in one visit. But, our tour guide gave us a wonderful sense of it, along with much helpful information.
One thing we had not known is that Granada in English translates to pomegranate, and, yes, we did see some pomegranate trees here. Another is that Washington Irving, as an ambassador to Spain, lived at Alhambra and wrote Tales of the Alhambra while here. I was moved to find him honored with various statues, tributes and placards around the buildings and grounds. And, we also learned that Granada was the final place from which the Moors were ousted by the Spanish with help from the Pope in 1492, the same year when the Jews were later expelled from Spain, and, the same year that Queen Isabella subsequently funded Columbus’ first voyage.
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Now Loren and I have flown to Madrid where we will be staying for a few days. Ciao for now!

Week 181 September 16, 2017

After resting up and looking around a bit in Santiago this week, Loren and I were on the move again in Spain. Somehow, we booked a flight to Bilbao, through Barcelona… In retrospect we flew clear across the country, and, nearly all the way back in the process. What a lesson in planning we have learned. However, the kicker was that my backpack did not show up in Bilbao. It was my turn, given that Loren had had the same experience on arriving in Marrakech, Morocco last July. So, we filed the necessary paperwork and received their apologies in a letter in English. As we left I kept my fingers crossed…
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As is often the case but usually left unsaid we need to express our thanks to family and friends who contribute ideas of where to go and what to see. This week especially, family and friends come to mind in that we briefly visited Bilbao – only long enough to see the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum that was recommended. It is unique, extremely different from my 30+ memories of the New York City site. Guggenheim architecture brought a bizarre, quaint redesign to a former unattractive part of this town. For some reason, I could not stop thinking of Bilbo in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit while we were there…
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From Bilbao we went to the amazing Picos de Europa mountains, again recommended to us. As I drove the meandering then winding landscape, it elicited such remarks from Loren as “charming,” “picturesque,” “scenic,” and “spectacular,” for the beaches, valleys and mountains we passed. As dusk turned dark, he added several “Wow!” exclamations for the discernible outlines of pyramidal peaks and narrow canyons. We are so glad that we chose to visit this area for a few days to see more of it during daylight.
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I had written recently on this blog of how, when we were in Portugal’s Duoro region, I could not shift out of second gear for the curves in the roads. This week I must report that I could barely shift out of first gear for some of the mountainous turns in the Picos! One day we drove high up in the area, and, after a picnic lunch we took a leisurely hike in the vast mountains.
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We found ourselves among cows, mules and donkeys, not far from herds of sheep and some goats. We visited a refugio – pronounced re-few–hee-oh, for a refreshing drink, where we learned the name of one young donkey is Pepa, and that she is a señorita. After checking out the interior of the refugio, she decidedly checked us out! Loren and I had first encountered a refugio in Italy with our friends near Verona, where it is pronounced re-few-gee-oh. As Pepa trotted off again, it was entertaining to see her kick up her hind heels. By that evening we had heard nothing from the airline about my backpack. They said it could take 48 hours…
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The next day we started out early in the morning by foot for a strenuous hike. We had a time limit – to meet up with a tour company at the far end of the canyon for a 4 wheel drive excursion through farm roads in the area. Loren and I pushed ourselves about halfway through to the end to make our commitment, only to find that the tour had been rescheduled for a 45 minute later departure.
We appreciated the frequently heard Spanish advice, tranquillo – relax, and indulged in a beer with our hiking boots off while we waited. That evening there was still no word from the airline at our hostal, and we were all set to get help with calling them after dinner since it was now more than 48 hours, but, to my delight, during dinner we had the good news that my bag would arrive by 10pm. Bueno! Good! Thankfully just as in Morocco we had stayed in the same area long enough for it to be found and delivered.
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Our last full day in the Picos was spent driving around the area, which included seeing a cave chapel and taking a short hike.
Today on leaving, we took take the return long beautiful drive towards Bilbao, mainly in rain or heavy clouds, to spend the night closer to the airport for an early morning flight to southern Spain. We took photos at the lovely beach of Orinon, then, after stopping in Castro Urdiales to see if we could have a massage but found the place closed for a holiday, we drove on to San Sebastian. We still had too little time there to walk the promenade or take a boat ride to Santa Clara island to hike, which is right in the harbor, so this is yet another place that I hope we might return to someday…
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Week 180 September 9, 2017

Dear Family and Friends, thank you for reaching out to us here and via email or other ways to contact us, Loren and I always appreciate hearing from you! 

An extra overnight in Tui was just what we had needed, given the time change from Portugal to Spain which cost us a lost hour. We spent a most enjoyable evening with Arturo, our AirBnB host, who took us to a friend’s finca (farm) to see veinte vaca y un toro – 20 cows and a bull, as well as a prized stallion and 3 young mares.

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Arturo then drove us to his parents’ home. Here we toured their finca including goats and fruit trees, had a light meal with his father Tomas’ delicious homemade wine, and, finished the evening with a treat of an ancient Galician custom of after dinner liqueurs. The atmosphere changed from one of light chatter to a serious urgency of closing shutters and lowering of lights. Loren read the instructed incantation in Spanish, while Arthur put flame to a pot of alcohol, at the same time his mother Dori and sister Noami feverishly chopped and added fresh fruits to it. It was very tasty! Spain is known as the California of Europe and the region Galicia is nicknamed Galifornia. We felt so at home!
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Then we embarked on a milestone adventure. Back in 2014 when Loren and I were in Missoula, Montana we saw the movie, Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, at a theater. I wrote then on this blog, “Here is another possible goal for down our journey road!” Who knew that my wistful comment would become reality? Recent yoga classes, hikes in New York and in Portugal were good physical prep. We hired a travel company to transport our backpacks and arrange accommodation each night. We are among the nearly 300,000 who arrived in Santiago, and of 14% who traveled the Portuguese Way.
The best way to describe our experience is to share my poem with a few photos:
Divine Distractions
A plethora of scallop shell markers, yellow wooden arrows nailed to trees, pointers of yellow and blue paint on pavement and poles, leading to Saint James’ remains.
Chapels, churches, church bells, cathedrals, cathedral bells, a convent, a monastery. A Sunday mass amplified over the countryside. The lure to finish for noon’s Pilgrim Mass.
Statues, tributes, memorials, monuments. Via Romana XIX ancient route indicators. Any number of signposts, street signs, roadside progress maps. A glass or more of wine.
Scooters, cars, motorcycles, trucks, tractors, trailers, trains. Houses, farms, businesses, buildings. Stone structures of the ages. A 1906 Reserva Especial cerveza.
Forest paths, country lanes, city streets – dirt, gravel, cobblestone, tarmac. Stray dogs, cats. Barking dogs inside gated fences. Hungry cats meowing. A taste of Albariño wine.
Multitudes of grape or kiwi vines propped on historic granite pillars, providing arbors for shade. Blue grapes, red grapes, green grapes, white grapes, hang in bunches on the vines.
Laden fruit trees – apple, peach, pear prevalent; fig, and quince, too. Low rock walls covered with moss. Beautiful flowers. Delightful songbirds. A bottle of wine.
Abundant vegetable gardens of squash, kale, beans, melons, peppers, tomatoes, protected by creative, entertaining scarecrows. Vegetation of all sorts. Another bottle of wine.
Varied landscapes. Scents of mint, eucalyptus. Flowing waters in brooks, creeks, rivers, ponds, the Atlantic ocean. Silent counting, recounting, to 100 on steep uphill climbs.
Coops full of clucking chickens. Crowing of roosters, even the sighting of some. Elevated concrete or wooden corn cribs, both new and ancient. An Estrella Galicia Cerveza Especial.
The occasional horse in a grassy field. Herds of sheep. Bleating of goats. A single donkey. A gaggle of geese. Unexpected hunters’ gunfire. Fireworks. A 1906 Red Vintage cerveza.
Solo bicyclists, in pairs, even groups. Once 16: first 8, then 1, then 5 including one boy, then 2 including one lone woman – almost all clad in the same outfit. Yet another bottle of wine.
Locals, some with dogs on or off leash. Sounds of others’ singing, chanting, cheering, even raucous revelry. A gift of ear plugs. Comfort in the cantor’s sweet voice and song leading.
Numerous other walkers, pilgrims. Words spoken in accents from dialects of Spanish, Portuguese, German, Irish, Italian, American English, Dutch, Slovene, likely some others.
Camaraderie at rest stops on benches, at picnic tables, in cafes, bars, hotel restaurants. More connection while obtaining required stamps, or soaking of feet in caldas termas.
Making new friends, sharing advice, exchanging ideas, meaningful conversations, and, so many Buen Camino’s of encouragement given and received from friendly well-wishers.
All divinely distracting our minds from aches, pains and tender feet, from hiking Tui to Porrino, Arcade to Pontevedra, Caldas de Reis to Padron, Rua de Francos to Santiago.
Culminating in the Certificates commemorating the over 100 memorable kilometers walked on the Portuguese Way of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, with my best friend.
Claire Adalyn Wright
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P.S. Our Pilgrim Mass at Catedral de Santiago included the swinging of the Botafumeiro. As it is not always used, we were privileged to witness the several priests offering it!
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P.P.S. Loren and I celebrated 26 years of marriage on September 1, and, we celebrated Loren’s birthday on the 5th with fun help from special friends on the Camino.
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Week 179 September 2, 2017

When Loren and I left Rio Caldo, Portugal, we drove on a gorgeous, long, windy road up a mountain to Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres, which is a border park to Spain’s Baixa Limia Serra do Xures Parque Natural. We are uncertain if our four hour hike across seven bridges – and one natural bridge that I found – took us over the border, but for certain we drove through the park in Espana afterwards, for a shorter route to reach our AirBnB, Casa do Preto – House of Black, in Portugal. There was no need to show our passaportas anyway, as both countries are within the European Union.

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Contrary to what our friends Marisa and Vieira advised about Pitões das Junias: “There is nothing there!” – we enjoyed visiting a growing community. We understand from new hiking friends there that in the past few years it has been named among the top 10 villages of Portugal. On our first day in Pitões (said p-tosh) we took a long day hike – down one mountain and up another, to see an igreja – church and back. On the way there, we stopped at a swimming hole where Loren dove in for a refreshing respite.

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The next day, a group of more than thirty members of the nearby Vila Real city hiking club showed up en masse at the restaurant at our overnight accommodation.


Loren befriended them and we had the fortune to join in their day hike to an abandoned mosteiro – monastery, a cascata – waterfall, and then a little bit more walking with them around Pitões. I counted 217 stairs on the way back up from one of the viewpoints of the cascata.

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Afterwards, they bestowed us gifts from their club and a pair of hand made hiking poles, saying this represents a connection between America and Portugal. Very special!

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Loren and I took another, shorter walk before leaving Pitões, then drove on to the Douro region. It was like driving to Napa in California, except that the vineyards are planted on extremely steep, terraced mountainsides, offering dramatic views into canyons with each turn of the winding road. We drove through Alijo, stopped in Favaios for a tour and tasting at Cooperativa Adega winery, then, drove on to our AirBnB in Pinhão (peen-yow).


Our studio apartment here was in a home high on a steep incline from the main street where we had parked our car. I counted 69 stairs back down. We were greeted with the news that “This week will be tropical,” and learned how lucky we are in that their recent heat wave of 50 degrees celsius, which is 122 degrees Fahrenheit, had just passed with the day’s thunderstorm. We were grateful for the abundance of ripe, flavorful figs and several green bell peppers offered to us from the rear yard. The tomatoes sadly were scorched in the heat, and the pears and peaches not quite ready to enjoy. One day we hiked way up a mountain behind our house to Quinta do Jalloto, (Jalloto Winery), after enjoying a cup of Galone (coffee light) at our hosts’ cafe.

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On our hike, Loren picked ripe grapes that were growing alongside the road, then he found sweet peaches for us to taste! We also collected some ripe almonds that were popping out of their skins to take back to crack open later. Olives, apricots, and citrus trees were plentiful too, though the olives and fruits were not yet ready other than some of the oranges. All these varieties are familiar to us from the San Francisco Bay Area. At Jalloto, we tasted more wine varieties. My question is: How does one taste wines, find a flavor one likes, and not buy oneself a bottle? Even with the hiking here, and the Bikram yoga and hiking that we did in New England and New York, I am still carrying too many excess pounds… no wonder.


On our last full day in Portugal, we were slow to leave the apartment, which turned out to be a good thing… There came a knock at our door from one of our hosts who asked if we were ready to leave. Leave? She then told us that we had agreed to move to a different apartment for the last night, and she needed us to move within the hour as new guests were arriving! Loren vaguely remembered that he had agreed to this some time ago, but I was totally surprised. I had completely settled in… Fortunately with traveling light we were moved in an hour, and, to our pleasure the second accommodation seemed a bit nicer. We had only 49 stairs to the main street front this one.

Even with our delayed departure for the day, we still had time to drive a lovely windy road from Pinhão to the town of Regua, then on to the city of Lamego where we had a delightful afternoon observing and participating in some activities for Festa Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. We parked our car, hiked down to the city center, then up the few hundred steps at the far end of town to the Santuario Nossa Senhora dos Remédios cathedral.

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We had been told that there are nearly 700 steps up to the cathedral, but, they seemed way too easy – I was sure it was maybe 200 or so. However, later I confirmed it online to be almost 700. Inside the church was beautiful. We took a peaceful dirt path back down to the city center, bought some delectable cheese, olives, beans and pastries, then hiked back up to our car for the delightful return drive.


On our way to return the rental car, we took another exquisite scenic drive on roads so full of curves that I could barely take my eyes off the road or even shift out of 2nd gear – I would no sooner put the car in 3rd then have to immediately downshift for the next curve. I am leaving Portugal with – as is true of almost every place that we have traveled – a hope and desire to return. For now, what I take with me is the memory of how friendly, kind, honest and helpful the people are. I also have the new knowledge that Portugal is the largest exporter of cork in the world from the bark of their cork trees. And, that Portuguese is among the top 10 spoken world languages, per lists topped by Mandarin, Spanish and English.


A quick afternoon bus ride has brought us to Spain – I say quick because it arrived in Tui or Tuy – it appears that you can choose either of these as your preferred spelling, same as with Porto or Oporto in Portugal – more than an hour earlier than scheduled, and no, the driver was not exceeding the speed limit. We hiked a quarter of a mile uphill from the gas station where we were dropped off, with all our belongings strapped on us or carried in our hands.

We have two nights at Arturo’s AirBnB; from here we will begin our weeklong sojourn on a part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela – the Walk to Santiago of the Field of Stars, also known as Saint James Way. We spotted our first scallop shell image in Lamego, Portugal, being one of the yellow directional pointers which we will be seeking many more of during this coming week. It is said that the lines represent the different routes that people travel from all over the world, to arrive at the end point: the believed tomb of Saint James in Santiago, Spain.