Walking in Spain: “I just had to do it”

An article by Ken Budd in July’s AARP’s magazine resonated with me:

Whatever scares you, do it. Now. Escaping your comfort zone can make you happier, smarter, more confident, more grateful, and more satisfied with life -while strengthening ties to the people you love.

Doing what scared me, and escaping my comfort zone, is exactly what I did when I walked the Camino.

Even though I’ve wanted to walk along the Camino for almost twenty years, I could easily have said, “Oh well, I waited too long. I’m almost a senior citizen, I have fibromyalgia, too many food allergies plus I.B.S (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and I’m scared to travel alone.”

I haven’t mentioned my various aches and pains, or food allergies before. It’s too boring. Try to imagine the difficulty of traveling as a simple pilgrim when you’re allergic to basics like wheat, cheese, lentils, nightshade vegetables (tomato, potato, green peppers etc), plus chicken (!).

After Sarah Eagle-Woman (an Urban Shaman and fourth generation Apache Medicine Woman) told me earlier this year that my animal totem was a horse, and I was meant to face my fear, I knew I just had to do it.

When I reached Santiago and the monk gave me my Compostela (certificate on completing the pilgrimage) with my name in Latin, I felt so proud, my eyes filled with tears.  I wasn’t the only pilgrim to weep.

When a blogger receives an award, you’re expected to share a list of things about yourself. Here’s my list from the Camino.

0 blisters on my feet

but many others weren’t so lucky

Judite’s blisters (photographed on day 5). She walked in those sandals.

1 toilet for everyone

outdoor toilet

2 people hiking with their dogs.

Dogs aren’t allowed in hostels, human and dog have to sleep outside.

This guy’s from Switzerland and hiking with his dog “Kira”.

The Swiss guy and his dog “Kira”.

Grainne (pronounced Granya) walked 573km from Ireland to Santiago with her dog Finbar.

Grainne and her dog Finbar in Santiago

Grainne walked with a purpose: to raise money and awareness for

  1.  Paco Larrañaga, a man who has spent almost fifteen years in prison (in both the Philippines and Spain) for a crime  he didn’t commit, and
  2. as Finbarr is a rescue dog, a percentage of the money will go to the Friends of Animals Rescue Centre Mullingar and the Dog Action Welfare Group Cork in Ireland.

She left her cards along the route

3 Courses in a Pilgrim’s Meal

After many years of eating a restricted diet I’m now able to eat small quantities of wheat, white cheese made from goat or sheep milk,  a bite of a tomato and a few fries. Each time I looked at the menu I wasn’t sure whether I’d find something I could eat.

Menu del Peregrino E9.00.

Menu del Peregrino:

  1. Starter (usually soup, sometimes a salad),
  2. Main course of meat or fish,
  3. and for Dessert, a choice of fruit, yoghurt or a slice of the Tarta de Santiago (St. James Tart):

When it’s made well Santiago tart is spongy to the touch and delicate on the palate, with a distinct almond flavor.

Santiago Tart

Note: Choice of Wine OR water. Not both.

4 bug bites

Origin unknown. Discovered in Santiago. Two on left arm, one on left cheek, one on right wrist.  Sue Kenney thought they were bed bug bites. Back at home I washed everything in hot water, and put everything in the dryer – even my backpack, and pure wool socks – and what I could fit in the freezer spent a week there. So far so good. No more bites (plus touch wood I haven’t seen anything jumping about).

5 euros for my walking stick

my stick

6:30 a.m. rise and shine every day

early morning shadows

7 animals along The Way

1. chickens in every farm

2. Cows…

…. more cows

…. and more cows

and still more cows blocking the road…

3. Dogs in front of every house!

4. Horses

5. Pigs

6. Yes I saw an ostrich!

7. Sheep

8. Walk up to eight hours each day

9 favorite meals

  • i. Soup:

Caldo verde (at last a green vegetable)

lentil soup

I really missed my greens.

I don’t know whether the Spanish don’t eat vegetables, but I can tell you that pilgrims meals didn’t include them. The only time we saw vegetables was in soup.

.

.

  • ii. Tortilla francesa

“Tortilla de esparragus”

This very tasty asparagus omelette – called “tortilla francesa” in Spain – cost E3.30

The guy in the bar didn’t speak English and he confused me by asking whether I wanted bread.  (I realized later that you could get it as an omelette sandwich.)

.

  • iii. Breakfast for pilgrims is Tostada, with jam and cafe con leche.

The tostada isn’t just bread toasted in the pop-up toaster. It’s made from thick slices of Calabrese bread and toasted over a special gas thingie that goes round slowly and tastes completely different from “American toast”. Yum-my!

(I ate more bread on the Camino than ever before, and had no problems!)

Breakfast: tostada and cafe con leche

Calabrese bread

Even the cafe con leche tasted better than coffee back home.

Why?

Is it because they heated the milk?

an egg with my breakfast tostada

  • iv. Jamón

Jamón serrano  is made from the Landrace breed of white pig which has been dry cured for six to twenty-four months. It’s served raw, in thin slices, on bread.

Jamon de serrano is sliced with this contraption.

Jamon

Galicia’s at the coast so of course you eat fresh fish…

  • v. Pulpo (isn’t orange pulp – though every bar had freshly squeezed O.J. which was wonderful – but Spanish for “Octopus”).

Wherever I went in Spain the Pulpo was boiled, sliced into chunks, tossed with olive oil and paprika, and served with toothpicks on round wooden plates. Cooked this way it’s a delicious firm fish (not tough and chewy like in the States). Don’t stop yourself from tasting this simple, tasty Galician meal by the “yuk” factor, as most of the women in our group. Just try it. You’ll be glad you did.

Pulpo (Octopus).

The pulpo in the above photo which I ate at Ezekiels, the famous pulpería in Melide, cost me E6.50.

  • vi. Langostinos

When Maria ordered “Langostino” she thought she’d ordered lobster, and was disappointed when she saw these creatures on her plate. Until she tried one. Oh my god they were the most juicy, delicious “prawns” I’ve ever eaten.

prawns

  • vii. Sardines

You haven’t eaten sardines until you’ve eaten them fresh like this. They aren’t even distant cousins to the canned variety. I hope you’ll try them!

Fresh sardines

.

  • viii.  Spanish cheese

Maria bought these two wheels of cheese from the cheese maker – the woman in the middle – who sold it to her unwrapped like this.

We ate it for breakfast next morning. It was light and slightly crumbly…

Maria and Sue with the farmer and her cheese

  • 9.  The best pilgrim’s meal at a refugio… 

She cooked a meal for twenty-one people …

… in this kitchen, on this stove

Three soups, three main courses – meatballs, and chicken and a pasta dish with cheese – plus about half-a-dozen deserts

… My plate of meatballs

10 Pilgrim essentials

  • backpack
  • sleeping bag
  • hiking boots
  • hiking socks (Merino wool)
  • one quick dry – not cotton – button front shirt with long sleeves
  • one quick dry – not cotton – tee-shirt
  • one quick dry pants (with zip off bottoms that become shorts)
  • hat
  • jacket/rain coat
  • shower shoes

My faithful boots

Lise’s backpack was a much better size. Mine was too big for me. It was full of stuff I thought I needed…

Lise and yours truly setting out on day one

… On day five I gave my pillow to this nice young man who worked at a Monastery

He already loves my pillow

11. I walked 11 days on my Camino

12. Our group of twelve

Just before we started hiking on Day 1 (photo credit Sue Kenney)

Congratulations for reading all the way to the end. I know it was long.

– with thanks to Priya who gave me the title to this post in a comment….

My previous posts on The Camino:

About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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55 Responses to Walking in Spain: “I just had to do it”

  1. Trish says:

    Hi,
    Would you be interested in trading guest blog post on our blog, http://onetravelbloggers.com/? We are a blog whose audience enjoys reading anything about travel (e.g. “Best spots in Philly”, “Top 10 beaches in Spain”, “How to travel around Tokyo on a budget”, etc). And, of course, you’ll receive a FOLLOWED link to your blog or page of your choice.
    Please let me know if you’re interested. I think you’d be a great fit with our audience, and we’d also like to talk with you about other partnerships.
    Talk to you soon

  2. Really good post and more inspiration for me to tackle the walk! Thanks.

  3. Priya says:

    read this on my mobile phone – twice. bela is almost asleep. you make me want to hug you over and over again.
    There is so much I want to say and ask. but for now just 3 things. 1. your food acceptance is such a beautiful reward for just doing it. 2. love the ‘pillow guy’ and that you gave your pillow to him. 3. by the time i finished reading and seeing the post, i wanted to do it, too!
    haven’t ever used a phone to comment. hope this reaches.

    • dearrosie says:

      Salaam Priya,
      Yes your comment reached me via your cell phone from half-way round the world. Isn’t technology amazing? Thank you for writing, and for your hugs. And for giving me the title to the post.

      It’s such a small thing to be be able to eat whatever is on the menu that most people don’t even think twice about it.

      The pillow guy was Italian. He was really kind to me when I tried to use the computer in the Monastery to write an email home.

      I hope you can do a walk like this one day Priya.

  4. wightrabbit says:

    Wonderful snapshots of your pilgrimage, Rosie ~ the early morning shadows are just magic! Your attitude towards taking on this challenge is inspiring ~ although I share your concerns about food allergies (chicken?), I wouldn’t want to miss out on exciting new experiences because of them. Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Jacqueline,
      I just took on the challenge of doing the walk without thinking that I’d be inspiring others. I’m really thrilled to know that my determination to succeed has inspired you too.

      So happy you like the photo of the early morning shadows. It was a foggy cool morning and the sun started breaking through the mist.

      I don’t expect that there are many people in the world allergic to chicken.

      Thank you for your comment.

  5. Sue Kenney says:

    Rosie, you’ve captured so many special moments on our group Camino, Many thanks for sharing your experience with others. Love and light, Sue

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Sue,
      Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. I’m so glad I joined your group along the Camino. Even though I’d never met you, I knew I’d like you after I read your Camino memoir, and that first day before we started the walk when you lined us up with the rope (photo #12) I knew I was walking with a kindred spirit, someone with a sense of humor. 🙂

      I’m so frustrated that I live too far away to join you on your 425 kilometer hike along the Bruce Trail (north of Toronto) in September 2012.

  6. shoreacres says:

    So much here to love – especially the cows and the octopus! I first came across the octopus in a tapas bar in Madrid, and it was wonderful.

    Food allergies are hard. I had a friend who couldn’t eat corn or wheat at all – my goodness, with the ubiquity of corn syrup in this country, things got tough. Yogurt and ketchup have corn syrup! I’m glad you were able to cope, and I must say, so many of your photos of the food look wonderful!

    And by the way – remember what I said about the path leading on? It looks to me from your exchange with Trish that you’re not quite done with your walk. 😉

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Linda,
      I’m delighted to hear that you’ve also enjoyed “pulpo” in Madrid.

      I’m also allergic to corn. I didn’t mention the entire list…! I don’t eat any prepared foods or stuff like ketchup or “supermarket yoghurts” with the added corn syrup and artificial coloring. We buy our vegetables from the farmer’s market and I basically eat steamed greens with a small piece of meat or fish, plus rice or rice pasta.

      Thank you for reminding me of the path that leads on… I feel claustrophobic standing behind my cash register. The great outdoors and all those paths are calling me…

  7. Peter Robin says:

    Cousin Rosanne!!! Well this must have been a real exciting trip for you, looks like you had fun! Did you get really high temperatures? How many hours a day did you walk for?
    We enjoyed the photos and Soooo glad you got to do something you always wanted to do.

    Much love from your cousins in England Peter & Pam. xx

  8. Mahalia says:

    Beautiful post! I read it aloud over breakfast here, and Sweetheart said, see, this is why we should go to Spain (in May perhaps!). Thanks for sharing your pictures and experiences with us.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Mahalia and your Sweetheart,
      I’m delighted to know that you both enjoyed reading about my Camino challenges, and are now feeling inspired to go too. I hope you don’t have to wait as long as I did, but if you do it’s still OK. It’ll be the right time for you.

      I can’t profess to be an authority on Spain, but I think walking in May (spring) or September/October (fall) would both be good times.

  9. aFrankAngle says:

    Besides the content, I enjoyed the way you put this together with numbers.

  10. I love your 1-12. I am so glad your “Camino” posts keep coming. Still we learn more about your experience and inspire us to take in the view simply and logically along our paths.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello Georgette,
      Thank your for letting me know you’re still enjoying reading about my Camino. As I worked on this post and it got longer and longer, I wondered whether anyone was interested to know any more about it, and whether anyone would bother to read it to the end. It reminded me of John McCain in the previous election, and how every time he spoke he would mention “prisoner-of-war”. I don’t want that to be me. Hello I’m Rosie and do you know I walked the Camino…? 🙂

  11. My goodness but the richness of your experience really came through in this wonderful post, Rosie! I am jsut delighted and touched by the way you have shared the experience of overcoming fear in taking a trip that could so easily have been pushed aside forever. You had plenty of good reasons NOT to go, but in going, you’ve experienced a treasure! The photos are wonderful, and the one of the blisters is a perfect way to make perseverance visual! Good for you!! Debra

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Debra,
      Many thanks for your enthusiastic comment. It makes me so happy to know I was able to communicate something of the richness of the experience through my words and pictures. As I wrote in another comment, while I was writing this post I wondered whether you all were interested to know any more about the Camino, and wasn’t sure whether anyone would bother to read it to the end.

      It was difficult to photograph Judite’s blisters because she had so many of them. I hope she comes by and leaves a comment. The poor woman ended up walking for several days (including the big climb up to O’Cebreiro) in these sandals – which are not meant for long distance hiking.

  12. sonali says:

    Briliant. Hats off to you for all your courage, Rosie! I’m so glad you made it through. Sometime in life I wish to walk the same terrain. I will surely remember you then and take tips from you. The pictures show the fun, hardship, adventure. Its amazing what you’ve achieved. 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello Sonali,
      Thank you for coming by and joining the conversation. I’m happy to know my walk has inspired you 🙂 and I’ll be delighted to encourage you in any way that I can if you decide to undertake a similar walk.

      It was exactly as you said: walking the Camino we had lots of “fun, hardship, and adventure”

  13. Arindam says:

    Excellent! You are an real inspiration for everyone. You just proved it, Nothing is impossible for a willing heart. What a beautiful pictures to go with the description. I like this post a lot Rosie Auntie. I just want to say three things about your post-
    1. Wonderful 2. Wonderful 3. Wonderful 🙂

  14. sybil says:

    What a wonderful adventure that was ! Thanks for taking us along. Stepping outside your comfort zone is such a challenge, but oh the feeling of accomplishment.

  15. Sue Kenney says:

    Rosie, so glad we were able to walk together on the Camino. You were such an integral part of the group and a delight to behold! Maybe we’ll walk together one day. You never know.
    Love and light,
    Sue

    • dearrosie says:

      Ola Sue,
      Thank you for your very sweet comment. I can’t think of anything I’d like more than to walk with you again.

      Aw shucks, how gratifying to know “I was a delight to behold.”

      Yes it was a challenge but there were so many fun and funny occasions I really should do a post with them. I don’t think any of us will forget that awful night of snoring, and how we ended up giggling like school kids. 🙂

  16. souldipper says:

    I haven’t gone anywhere, Rosie! I’ve been on my own Camino, but I love every one of these photos and insights. I am very respectful of your having mustered the courage to do this trip in spite of some pretty serious food issues. Well done. You’ve done much more than simply satisfy a lifelong dream.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you Amy. It pleases me to know that you’ve been able to enjoy the Camino through the words and pictures in my posts.

      I did achieve so much more than satisfy a long held dream. I think we too often run away from challenging situations when simply tackling them with confidence would bring us so many rewards.

      I think I was more nervous of a fibromyalgia flare-up than the food allergies!

  17. Val says:

    Good heavens this post is amazing, Rosie. Why the heck haven’t you been Freshly Pressed?!

    I’ve gotta email you about something… off to my email now!

  18. Every photo is a celebration of life and it’s exciting adventures. What a beautiful and exciting journey. I don’t mind getting the blisters myself if I will experience a once in a lifetime event as wonderful as this. Great times with great friends and family. Amen to this, “Whatever scares you, do it. Now. Escaping your comfort zone can make you happier, smarter, more confident, more grateful, and more satisfied with life -while strengthening ties to the people you love.” Thanks.

  19. munchow says:

    Such an inspiring and fun post to read. I am glad you faced your fears. Seems like walking the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela did good for you – except maybe for some bug bites. Great spirit!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello Otto
      The bug bites FREAKED me out! I thought I had the plague or something equally scary when I saw those huge welts on my cheek and arms.

      Walking along the road to Santiago de Compostela was the best thing I’ve ever done. Period. I learned (and as I’m still digesting it all I’m still learning) so much about myself and the world and life…

  20. Hi Rosie,
    What an awesome post and such a pleasure to read! It felt like the twelve days of Christmas (but not, of course :P)…favourite shot is that rooster on the road….and all that tasty food–YUM!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello Anne,
      When another blogger says my post “is a pleasure to read” and compares it to the 12 Days of Christmas, it feels as if I’ve been given a huge award and one that is much more prestigious than if my post had been chosen as one of the Freshly Pressed. Thank you for that!

      I love roosters and took many photos of them along the Way. I’m glad you liked the one I chose.
      And the food … oh man the food…

  21. theonlycin says:

    You were very brave, Rosie. Thanks for sharing this. All the food looks delish, but the octopus made me drool!

    • dearrosie says:

      Welcome back Cin 🙂
      I had no idea that octopus could be so tasty and delicious. I don’t know why squid and octopus are always chewy when I’ve eaten it in the States. I wonder whether that’s simply from overcooking it?

  22. Kathy says:

    Rosie, I really enjoyed reading this and thinking about your pilgrimage some more. Your pictures were great, and it was entertaining how you laid it out. Wondering how challenging it was to hike up to 8 hours a day? Did you train for this at all? (You probably mentioned it somewhere.) I am so inspired by this. All these photos and details make it even more appealing.

    P.S. Just read somewhere how bread in Europe doesn’t upset gluten sufferers as much as bread from the states. The article speculated it had to do with the milling process.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Kathy,
      I’m so happy to know you’re not only enjoying reading my posts on my pilgrimage, but that you’re feeling inspired by it.

      Was it challenging to hike up to 8 hours a day? Yes, especially when it was so unseasonably hot. The hardest day was when we climbed up to O’Cebrero (which is at 4,100 feet) and it was such a hot day. I wrote about it in this post:
      rosannefreed.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/walking-in-spain-the-camino-to-santiago/

      I didn’t “train” like an Olympic athlete so I didn’t lift weights at the gym, or do aerobics classes, but I did yoga, went on 3-4 mile walks in my neighborhood and every Saturday Mr F, and I and our dog Monty went for an 8-12 mile hike in the mountains around L.A.. We also joined a group hiking the BackBone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains – I’ve written posts of those hikes some of which were really strenuous. That’s how I learned the difference between walking and hiking.

      I was very interested to read what you said about the bread in Europe. I was so grateful – though I couldn’t understand why – I didn’t get cramps or feel bloated after eating all that bread.

  23. My dear friend Rosie, I’m so glad you let me know about this piece. It is truly special, and will stay with me for a long time. I’d never heard of “Walking The Camino,” and I can’t imagine a better introduction to it than through your beautiful words and pictures.

    It sounds like the trip changed and inspired you in many ways. You broke through your fears, you were rewarded, as Priya said, with your food acceptance, and you have incredible memories now to pull you away from your cash register.

    Thank you for letting us know about your food allergies, fibromyalgia and IBS. Those are not easy things to share, and you are brave for doing so. For many others, I’m certain those conditions would have put a stop to their plans before they were even made. I hope you feel proud in that you were the exception. You acknowledge that those illnesses are a part of your life, yet you were not bound by them on this journey — you truly created your own path, one your mind and body had no choice but to agree with.

    I am so happy for you! Perhaps someday I will Walk The Camino. It sounds like quite an experience. There are so many places in this world I want to see, and I want my children to see, and it is always a great inspiration to read of happy trails like yours.

    • dearrosie says:

      Welcome back Melissa 🙂
      Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to leave a comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading the post, perhaps you too will walk as a pilgrim one day. If not, you’ve walked it with me.

      If you’re interested in finding out more about The Camino, in my earlier posts I included background information, history and photos of the scenery (the links are at the end of the post).

      Like you, I have never been one to lay on the couch in my pajamas giving in to various aches and pains, that’s how I manage to stand at work all day, and why I took on the challenge of doing the walk.

  24. nrhatch says:

    This is a lovely recap of your trip, Rosie . . . except for the buggy bites. Ouch.

    • dearrosie says:

      Nice to know you enjoyed reading my summary of the pilgrimage Nancy.

      When a friend of mine in Canada discovered she had a bedbug infestation in her house she had to throw out everything – including her mattress and her books – so I was hysterical that I’d brought some bugs back home …
      I was surprised that I was the only one in the group who got bitten.

  25. Enjoyed your adventure. I will be taking my first step June 1st, I’m excited!. I am 68, and I am ready. I will be walking with no money of food, depending on others to share their food with me. Do you think they will? I live in Thailand but will be walking to save a life in Kenya with an orphanage I am helping to start. Life is exciting! Jim http://wp.me/P2xjTs-dK

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Jim,
      I thank you for joining the conversation. You are walking for a very good cause and I wish you Buen Camino! for your pilgrimage.

      The Camino is a special place where instant life-long friendships are formed with strangers but I can’t say whether people will be generous about sharing their food with you because most of the people walking have limited funds.
      I think you’re very brave to go without money. Please write and tell me about your pilgrimage

  26. dearrosie says:

    I just discovered on the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) Facebook page that Jim Kaszynski (who left the above comment) passed away earlier this month.
    R.I.P dear pilgrim.

    https://www.facebook.com/jim.kaszynski?fref=ts

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