Thursday, April 5, 2012

only the beginning

Cape Finisterre. Maarten, I, Martin, Lisa. We dont know where Tibo is.. but I am sure he was having his own kind of fun haha. Wines, cigars, and great friends watching the sun set down...
Leaning up against an old ruin drinking tea. Tibo said try not to pose and act natural. Haha sure. Photo taken at Estella, Spain.

Just before Azqueta, Spain in the Basque Country when I walked alone for a day.
The Camino ends to some at Santiago de Compostela. (Where St James' bones lay to rest at the cathedral). To others when reaching Cape Finisterre and or Muxia. To me I like to think that I will take the Camino with me. The spirit of the Camino that is. I mean to say all the things it has taught me about life, people, patience, self acceptance... Slowing down to enjoy the beauty in front of you. Letting tomorrow drift into its own worries. Happiness from simplicity, friendship, and love. I hope the spirit of it continues to work deep inside each of us who have walked it and thereby effecting the people we come in to contact with in the future.

Grapevines...just before Azqueta, Spain in the Basque Country.
Taken inside an albergue (hostel for pilgrims) in Santo Domingo. This is before i discovered
the power of SPF lotion haha. Evo - Belgian and Ghert - German.
We started in St Jean Pied de Port, France 26th February and reached Santiago de Compostela, Spain on 23rd March. 27 Days and approx 500miles later. On average people take 34 days. Yeah we walked faster but that is because we liked walking faster haha. After Santiago the younger people of the group Maarten, Martin, Tibo, Lisa, and I walked to Cape Finisterre (another 57 miles) where we officially celebrated the "beginning" of the Camino...Sadly Ghert, and Evo flew back home to Germany and Belgium and could not join us to Finisterre. Lovingly we called them "the couple". They liked to walk together away from us loud kids haha just kidding.

Tibo in Santo Domingo soaking his tired feet on the finest vinegar, salt, and warm water of the region after a long day of walking in the rain. He is a Belgian actor and philosopher and stars in a nominated movie called Bullhead (Rundskop). 

Martin aahhhh resting for just a bit on our way to Atapuerca, Spain. I gotta hand it to him he was plagued with blisters and he handled them quite well. Strong walker.
The Mona Lisa with now Rosy cheeks. Sorry Lisa I couldnt help but post this. One package and it says everything hilarious to the typical male. Now she gets why it was so funny to the guys...
Anthony - American, Lisa - German (before the rosy cheeks haha), Jose - Spaniard. We haven't seen the Anthony in a while but I am sure he is in good spirit. Photo taken at Estella, Spain.

One of the best towns we passed through. Taken on a bike by the wonderful Dutchman Erwin. For those of us who walked our path is that on the left going through the town itself. Imagine seeing this in person... Cirauqui, Spain in the Basque Country.
 I mentioned Cape Finisterre. Well we got there and burned something as a symbolic gesture to whatever we each of us felt to. I burnt an underwear i used that day so I didnt have to wash it that night haha. But more reason than that ;)

Bottles of wine, cigar, and friends. Martin, Lisa, and Maarten at Finisterre.
 After an extra day in Finisterre I walked to Muxia alone. Someone told me recently that in order to truly appreciate beauty it has to be shared with someone. I didn't believe this at first but when I got to Muxia I realized it was quite true...
At Muxia in front of the church.Beauty needs to be shared.

Buen Camino.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Almost to the finish line

The Meseta before Castrojeriz, Spain
Well I know it has been a while since I have posted a blog but trust me after a long day of walking the last thing one wants to do is find a computer with internet and write something. I thought it would be easy to find a cafe along the Camino but not so. Most are slow computers with minimal capabilities and usually no internet. I apologize however because I did promise to write at least once a week and I have not done so. :) I really do apologize.

Tonite we (my friends Martin-German, Lisa-Germa, and Marteen-Belgian) are at Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain. Approximately 115miles left to Santiago de Compostela. We are staying in a nice private Albergue (Albergue De La Piedra) that has this wonderful moderm computer that reads SD cards :) After soaking my feet in warm water and salt I felt compeled to write something. It has been quite a journey from Saint Jean Pied de Port, France and going westerly across the wonderful nothern part of Spain. Alot of days it has been somewhat a trial for the feet but mostly the mind. Pain is afterall all in the mind (but you should probably listen to it once in a while).

A Spanish pilgrim left her worned out shoe on the Camino just before Viana, Spain. I later notice who the pilgrim was when I saw her wearing mismatch shoes in Navarette, Spain.
After passing Viana, Spain most of the beauty of the country seemed to have become a thing of the past but we have been rewarded occasionally with beauty such as the Meseta pictured above. Alot of the big cities that we have passed have each of their beautiful old world history (ie churces) but mostly have been an annoyance to the feet. The concrete road has become the worst enemy to walking comfortably in my opinion. However sooner or later we find a nice quiet dirt path and feel that we are finally walking on a cloud (sorta). I have started the walk with very interesting people from all backgrounds and countries. It has become such a great introduction to different viewpoints and life stories. My friends that I have met along the way (whom I considered lifelong friends) has become the core reason why this walk will always be in my mind and heart. I thank them for such great memories. The walk is not over but will soon be. The feet is ready to say I am done as well as the mind but my heart says I want it to continue much longer.

Oh yeah my camera broke because I dropped it twice so I have missed some good shots. Will need to buy one before Santiago.

Until next time. Buen Camino.

After reaching a nice incline hike to the beginning of the second Meseta before Castrojeriz, Spain.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Buen Camino...

In Zubiri... 12.5miles after Roncesvalles. Tired feet at end of the day. From left to right Martin (German), Tebo (Belgian), and I

From right to left: Tony (Italian German), Robert (Aussie), Ivo (Belgian), and I
So it has been a little difficult finding an internet connection as most places are close after a certain time here in Spain. I apologize.

I made it to St Jean Pied de Port (Northwestern France) 2 days ago after taking a train from Paris. It was finally nice to get away from the city life and come to a quaint town such as St Jean. The place itself is beautiful and is right by the foot of the Pyrenees and close to the Spanish border. I immediately met another Australian by the name of Robert who currently working in the UK. He has quite the sense of humor and we immediately hit it off. Once I got into the Hostel near the Pilgrim´s office I met Tony and Ivo (both who completed the Camino last year).

We started as 4 people and then grew into greater than 10 people from all different countries (mostly in Europe). I am the only American in the group so far. It is just amazing the difference in each of us and from the difference of culture but we all share one goal... That is to finish the Camino for our own personal reasons (spiritual, religious, person, health...). It has simply not have been to just walk and enjoy the beauty of the Basque country side but to also develop comradery and enjoy each others company. Comradery like the military.

The first trip from St Jean to Roncesvalles was greater than 15 miles. It was with 21-22 pounds on the shoulders traversing through the snow covered trach of the Valcarlos path. It was my intent to begin on the Route of Napolean but from the warnings of the locals this much more scenic and mountainous path was covered in very high snow. You have to listen to what the locals say otherwise you get into trouble... It of course broke my heart because I was dead set on beginning on the Napolean.

On way to Roncesvalles after Valcarlos. Track covered in snow and alot of uphill walking.
Anyways I would like to write more (I know Tamara dont want to read) but there are other Pilgrims who want to use this single computer. It has been great so far and look forward to our walk to Pamplona tomorrow (city of the running of the bulls). 
Yup 490 more miles to Santiago. From right to left: Brian (English), Ian (English), and I. Taken after we left Roncesvalles.

Buen Camino.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ooo La la

Jake and I
Aaron and I in Bruges at an African  underground  (physically)  themed bar
You know Paris is a pretty neat city! On my first day I discovered a free walking tour. Not really free but they work on tips. I got to learn alot of general information and manage to see most of what a tourist needed to see in about 3 hours. I hanged out with an American named Jake from New York after the tour and we got to see the Eifel lit up at night. Unfortunately the photo of him and I look like crap.

(Side note in Bruges that I wanted to shout out)
Met an American from Wiscounsin studying
in England and his name is Aaron. Me and him hanged out and enjoyed ourselves to some really good Belgian beer at this really cool African themed bar filled with kids probably as young as 16. You know I been drinking quite a bit of beer in this whole vacation. More so than what I drink at home. I am cutting down.

Anyway back to Paris... So yada yada I did not go to the Louvre museum because I know it would have bored me to death ;) Nope I feel like I did not miss a single thing! Hey look at least I have a picture standing right to it....

Center of the Louvre

It is respectful to the dead to be put on display like this?

Went to the catacomb and saw a million dead people for 8 Euros. It was rather interesting to see such a massive collection of human remains! Just to think they were once breathing living human beings now entombed forever in this dark tunnel for tourist to gawk at everyday... Take my organs just dont put me on display.

Tamara and I
Alex and I
I met up with Tamara in Paris who I first met in Rome at the hostel. She is a really wonderful lady who just loves to create art and very passionate about it too. She took the time to show me around Paris and I am grateful she did because I would have not discovered some of the things she showed me. Thank you Tamara. I hope to see you again in the near future!

I just love meeting all these people. This Alex kid from California have been travelling for over a year now. He just came from East Asia and we spent the night shooting the breeze with some wine. Yeah I know I need to not drink for a bit but being in Europe I think it is mandatory to do so. Really cool guy. He is what I call a drifter but with money to spend haha.

Camino here I come..

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Brussels and Bruges

Drinking cup of delicious Belgian coco at the famous brussels market

Yongmin and I at the market square
So I made it to Brussels after a short trip from Amsterdam. Originally planned on staying in Bruges but a couple I met in Amsterdam Gina and Jeffrey recommended I stay with this guy who host "couch surfers". This is an online community that have members from all over the world and participate in hosting people that travel to their hometowns. For free in return for companionship and making new friends. This man Rudy lives in Brussels and was kind enough to open up his penthouse for 2 nites. Such a wonderful person who cooked us dinner and had a fridge stocked up with GREAT Belgian beers. Got to meet Yongmin a Korean who is traveling Europe and have stayed with Rudy for over 3 weeks now. Great guy who is at a very difficult situation in his life at this time.Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of Rudy and I but I hope he makes it back to Africa his homeland so I can one day visit him there. Overall Brussels was nice but was actually eager to visit Bruges also.

So on the way to Bruges I met this very lovely lady name Francine. I accidently sat in first class when the ticket guy notice this and kicked me to 2nd. I am very glad this happened because there happened to be an empty seat by Francine. She and I had a great conversation about her life and mine. So affirming how many great people you meet out of the blue. One moment they are strangers the next they are lifelong friends.

Made it to Bruges and immediately started exploring. First thing you notice is that it has that quaint old European town feel to it. Kinda like from the movies. Very small town that can be explored in one day.

Alot of old looking buildings and I am sure filled with great arts however I am not so interested in that as you know. Made it to a brewery called Brewery De Halve Maan. They make 4 kinds of beers that are just that typical amazing Belgian beer. Paid 6.50 Euros for a 45 min tour giving the old history of this brewery. I got a free blond beer at the end of the tour but I preferred the double pictured on the right. Anyways this is for now. I leave for Paris tomorrow.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Aussies do travel around (and Amsterdam)

In the first of five towns in the Cinque Terres, Riomaggiore.

So getting out of Rome was fairly exciting and was a welcomed changed as I got tired of how busy Rome was. Sure it was filled with great history to the bream but walking throught the Basilica Museum did not excite me much. Filled with enormous amount of art but I soon discovered museums are not my thing. I did get to meet a French girl name Tamara who is a graphic artist hoping to live in California so she can work more hours...but of course because it is a passion not "work" :) We had a pretty nice conversation and hope to see her again when I come to Paris.

Squid. Delicious but alittle too salty.
A view from La Spezia's boardwalk
I took a comfortable train ride north of Rome to a seaside town called La Spezia where nearby a place called the Cinque Terres (translated to the five lands) was situated. I was fairly excited when I got there as I got a room to my own. A plus to this was the possibilities for new types of food aside for the sandwiches and pizza. Immediately got recommended a mom and pop catch-of-the-day type of restaurant  by the water and only 5 min away. They had squid in the menu and immediately ordered it. For the price and a big change from what I been eating it was good.

Fast forward to the next day I took a simple 15min train rain to Cinque Terres. At first I insisted that I will hike from La Spezia to Cinque Terres to the hostel manager but he pointed out that there was a mountain in the way... That made me laugh.

They had this awesome path built right on the side of the cliff to be able to hike from town #1 to town #5 but unfortunately there was a recent mud slide that desvated the towns so only a partial path between town #1 to town #2 was available. I know this sucked!! I was hoping to be able to just stroll to all 5 towns in one day.

View on the path going to Riomaggiore (first Cinque Terres town)
To my surprise (haha) I met a newly wed Aussie couple Dave and Lean on the cliff path and we hanged out for the rest of the day. Very cool guys. (I haven't placed names on previous blogs of people I've met so I made the extra effort to do so now!)

Felix, Anthonio, Dave, and Lean
Since most of the paths were shut down we three decided to take the back road for soon we found out why not too many tourist went that way. Along the way we met up with two more tourist Anthonio and Felix, a father (from Brazil) and son (from London) sitting on the side of the road looking a bit lost. We decided to bring them along with us. The trek in total probably took us 3 hours as it really led to some rather cautionary path up on the mountain side. With snow and ice on the unpaved path walking took longer than advertised. But in the end it was totally worth it as we all bonded as a group. Time after time it has proven that making friends along the way was easier and makes discovering new places greatly special.

Dave, Lean, and I taking a coffee break before taking train back to La Spezia at end of the day

Dave and Lean invited me to their hometown in Adelaide, Australia that I can't think of the name right now (and it is not Melbourne or Sydney haha). I will have to take up the offer in the near future! 
In the end my trip to La Spezia was fine however meeting Dave and Lean made it much much more special. I definitely could not wait to get out of Italy and onto Amsterdam.
While biking on the bike tour through streets of Amsterdam.
So I made it to Amsterdam after taking a short plane from Milan. Found my boarding and got placed in a room filled with 3 Romanians. Kinda shady looking group but nice enough. They are good people. Eugene is a body builder and the other 2 are good friends of body building Eugene :) One of them caught up to me after I left my scrarf in the common hall yesterday!

Carl and I
First stop with the bike tour by some of the famous museums in Amsterdam (ie Van Gogh)
Today I took up a great bike tour from Mike's Bike shop close to were I am staying. The tour lasted approx 3 hours and included 8 other tourist from USA and 2 students from France. Our guide was Carl who is a pot head and a great entertainer :) Truthfully it was hard to keep up with the guy as he knew so much about the places we stopped at and he simply liked to talk.

On one of our stop we made was a coffee shop called the Grey Area. They call these places coffee shop but they are simply places to buy marijuana. Didn't find a coffee. Some of the people in our group legally
bought some samples and we went on our way.

Part of the tour went through the red light district. Enough said.
Christine, Me, and Jeff

I met a couple from Boston: Christine and Jeff. Jeff is a famous chef ;) and I forgot to ask what Christine do for a living. Very cool people.

Anyways I am tired and that is all I have for today. Much more happend but the nice lady at this computer let me use their employee pc to let me upload pics and I should get going. Three more days in Amsterdam and I am already enjoying this place more than Italy. Hell they got all kinds of food here!

Friday, February 10, 2012


Constantine Arch and the Colosseum
Sorry for not posting anything recently. This entry is a combo of last 3 days. Arrived in Rome on the 8th. I was not really feeling the ride to the city. Snow on the ground (first since 1980s) and grafitti all over the place. Traffic was crazy and incompareble to DC. Could not check in to my room until noon as they were cleaning them so I hanged around the train terminal falling asleep. Otherwise uneventful first day and I slept from noon till 2000.

I cant say I am really liking the food here. Not only are they expensive for what you get compared to Barcelona but mostly pasta and sandwiches (duh i know haha). Never was big into Italian food. So I been getting food from the grocery store which are cheaper and alright in taste haha.

Met some more Aussies last night. They do get around.

I had a late start on my 2nd day. First walked around the Colosseum. Pretty impressive monument however I enjoyed the Arch outside the Colosseum much more. The details of sculpting and the fact that there was alot less tourist (such as myself) around the Arch made it more enjoyable. For anyone visiting Rome you have to know that it is extremely focused on tourist and hawkers are everywhere trying to sell you this and that. After this I walked around the Roman Forum just a close proximity to the Colosseum. 

Got lost after for a bit and indervently ended up at the Trivi fountain. Yup was pretty crowded. I thought February was suppose to mean alot less tourist??

My favorite of the day has to be the Pantheon. Not only was it free to come in but a much impressive monument (in my opinion) and wonderful arts inside.

The great thing about Rome is most of the places a tourist would want to visit are within walking distances if your willing to simply walk and follow a map.
Went to visit the Basillica by Vatican City today and was quite daunting how enormouse the place was to visit. I mean the amount of arts (sculptures, paintings, Egyptian artifact) was just mind blowing. I met some Moroccans today and ended walking around with them. A daughter and a mother. I only went to the Vatican courtyard and did not have time to see inside the buildings. Today's weather was a mix of snow and rain. Pretty miserable for everyone but who cares when you spend most of your time indoors. I've learned that museums and religious artifacts are not my favorite things to look at and rather prefer walking around and meeting the people. (And enjoy the food but that has not happened here yet). I can't wait to get out of here and take a train to Cinque Terres. A much smaller place and more intimate look at the Italian culture. You can guess that Rome is not on my top list of all time.

The Pantheon. The flags are from a party of senior Italian citizens who want their needs heard.

Front of the Pantheon.

Moroccan family I met and decided to walk around with them. They speak French.

Japanese english students living in Ireland staying in same hostel. We had to do the peace sign because it is compulsory to do so when taking pics of Asian people :)

Vatican. Rain and snow.