Tuesday 8 October 2019

Final reflection CONTINUED

In summing up my reflection, it was very special to share this Camino with Jan, Sandy and Joanie, we all love and support each other with every step.
I’m forever grateful for their friendship
Till the next time xo
( I meant to put our reflections all on one page but this blogging sometimes has a mind of its own !)

Final Reflection from all the Pilgrims

The Pilgrims are now home and adjusting to life and all that entails.  I asked Joanie, Sandy and Jan to write their thoughts for the blog.
Sandy writes:
Hi Muriel,
I so admire and appreciate you for writing the blog .  It is not easy! So many have loved the blog!!! I saw Donna at church and she was raving about it and your excellent style. (Here I will add....thank you Sandy and Donna M.)
Here is my reflection (Sandy)
When I told people we were going on another Camino, they generally looked puzzled and asked “why”.  My answer was vague. I would say I don’t know, it is hard to describe, there is something about it , we like it!  After this past Camino, I have decided I like the simplicity. Our lives are very busy and we are pulled in many directions and we are intertwined in many people's lives.  On the Camino our only purpose is to walk to the next town. We can slow down and enjoy the beauty of the world God has created!!
At the end of the day, we are physically exhausted but mentally rested and spiritually lifted!
One of my favourite days this Camino was the day we went from Portugal to Spain.  We had a short, exhilarating boat ride on a small boat as we crossed to the next country. Then we began a magical walk!!  We were beside the ocean and we could feel the mist on our faces. We could hear the waves and the foghorns blaring. There were few pilgrims and it felt like we were alone.  Eventually, we walked into an old town so extraordinarily different from Vancouver!  The old buildings, the narrow cobbled streets and the open squares where people are laughing, drinking and eating. We sat down for our grande beers!!  A very special day shared with three special friends!

Thoughts from Sandy Pilgrim 2.

Jan writes:
Dear P’s
It is difficult to summarize my favourite thing about our latest Camino!
I think for me I loved being close to the water. I enjoyed walking along the water hearing the waves
 and looking at the spectacular scenery!  It was special being with the three of you sharing this amazing journey!
Jan/ P4 xxx

Joanie writes:
Hi Muriel
You should know that I received many positive comments on your blog, some nights I wondered how you had the energy to write it, it really was a labour of love, thanks so much.
As requested my thoughts:
Third time lucky, Camino #3 Portuguese route was my favourite and amazingly we 4 didn’t have any real problems with feet, healthy weather, missed flights etc. Yes, we had blisters, cuts, a cracked tooth - we didn’t walk as fast or far as some but we continued to smile (for me after I had my tooth fixed 😁) , greet fellow pilgrims with a “Buen Camino” and “where are you from” . Meeting fellow pilgrims is one of my best memories. Over the 3 Caminos in 2 countries we walked over 1000 kms, all the while we drank lots of cafe con leche, laughed, prayed, had many many grande beer, great conversations, most importantly we supported each other physically and spiritually.
We 4 P’s are lucky and so blessed that we could do the 3 caminos together, they were the best of times.  Dear pilgrims Sandy, Muriel and Jan, love you and thank you.
Joanie P1

My Camino Reflection.....Muriel P3
We did so many wonderful things it is difficult to choose which was the most meaningful , because it was ALL meaningful. I would agree that the ocean played a big part as well as the simplicity of walking and opportunity for self reflection .  With all our needs being met we just had to “walk”
Two events that had a lasting impression were not on the actual walk. From Paris we traveled to Auvers sur Oise which is where Van Gogh spent his last days. It was moving to stand in his very bedroom where he lived and to walk where he walked and painted. The Anne Frank museum moved me to tears.

Tuesday 1 October 2019

Last day in “Dam” Amsterdam ❤️

We decided last night that today we would try to use the word dam as often as we could just for Fun!
Today we had tickets for The Van Gogh museum that would get us in at 9:30.  The graduated entry is a “dam” good idea.....as it makes for easier viewing without unlimited “dam” people!
All of us  “dam” girls are huge fans of Vincent Van Gogh.....as you will have no “dam” doubt noticed by this being the third Van Gogh  event we  have attended on this “dam” holiday. The museum is amazing, the largest collection of his work in the world. Myself and Jan, Joanie and Sandy are very familiar with much of the details of his life and works but never tire of  reading about him again.  The museum has some paintings we have never seen in original form before, and some we had also never seen at all.  The painting Van Gogh considered to be his best work is called The Potato Eaters, but his favourite was the painting of his bedroom.  I bought a cushion cover of that painting. Jan and Sandy bought books.
As the “dam” morning went on more and more people were entering the museum and of course there is no provision to make the earlier people leave.....us included. After about 2 1/2 hours we reluctantly left for a bite to eat before our next excursion.  We stopped at a Dutch pancake house for crepes with bananas and chocolate and shared a toasted sandwich.  At 2pm we had booked a canal boat ride with The Dam Boat Guys. They really are called the damn boat guys! Our boat was open to the “dam” elements, unlike some of the bigger boats which had see through rain covers, but which also carried loads of people and got the tour via a loudspeaker. Our boat had 10 guests and a personable guide with a good sense of humour.  It started off well with introductions and everyone saying where they were from. 4 were from Seattle, 2 from near Manchester in the UK and the four of us.  Ollie our guide was a “dam” Dutchman. He said smokers had to sit in the back, and 2 of the Seattle people sat there right away.....I think they may have had a joint. Anyway they were all “dam” good fun.  All was well till the “dam” heavens opened and out came the umbrellas......soon they were not enough so Ollie parked under a “dam” bridge and we got out the heavy all encompassing rain ponchos.  Once we were all covered up we set sail again.  The tour was 1 1/2 hours and took us to parts of Amsterdam we hadn’t gotten to. We did learn about some history of the canals, architecture and such.   Holland has a monarchy and the Queen of Holland was on a visit to Canada when she was expecting a child.....yes ,the child was born in Ottawa, Canada turned a part of the hospital into Dutch territory so that the infant could be considered Dutch born and an heir to the throne.   Every year on the date of the child’s birth the Dutch send tulips to Canada.  That’s “dam” special.
After our boat ride we went to Dam Square which is where the Royal Palace is.....and a large shopping centre where we went inside to see the architecture, and bought a few gifts to take home.
Returning to the street we made our way to a restaurant recommend by our boatman, but discovered a reservation would have been necessary. Back out on the dark wet street we went to an Italian place very near our hotel.  All in all we had a “dam” great day.
Tomorrow we hope to enjoy a delicious pancake at”The Happy Pig” and depending on the weather may get up to something else As Well!
We will be checking out of “dam” Amsterdam and checking in with KLM for our flight home .

Monday 30 September 2019

Monday in Amsterdam

We walked in the rain this morning to the Anne Frank museum. It is probably the most well done, emotional experience I’ve ever had.  We were there approximately 2 hours. The tickets are bought for a particular time of day as the number of  visitors is strictly controlled. There is a respectful hush from everyone as you listen to the audio as you go around the rooms in the annex where the Von Frank family lived hidden for two years before they were discovered. We all felt very moved and somber as we exited the museum and continued on down the street to our next destination. I would recommend that you all put this museum on your bucket list.
We went to the central train station and bought tickets to Harlaam.  This little town is similar to Amsterdam though much smaller, it takes 30 minutes on the train to get there. We went to a place called A Crepe Affair and had chocolate banana crepes and coffees! Delicious but big, we realized we could have easily shared two instead one each! After wandering the streets and several shops looking at shoes and clothing we broke down and made a purchase each! The weather brightened up considerably which was great for wandering.  Google told us the 10 best things to do or see.  There are 10 “secret gardens” in Harlaam and we found a beautiful one! It had a big iron gate, inside there was a pathway around a square garden patch, the perimeter was rimmed with attached townhouses who had nicely planted bushes and pots. It was very charming!
Next we wanted to see the working windmill.....very large and right on the edge of one-off the many canals.  a couple of young girls asked us to take their photo by the windmill and they then took ours! We found out they were just visiting for 5 days and were from Boston. They naturally inquired why we were all wearing the same T-shirts......so we told them our friends had recently holidayed in France and had taken photos of themselves wearing berets........we wanted to show them we could do the same so wore black and white T-shirts.   We did get amusing looks and stares most of the day everywhere we went.
We still had to find the “beer church” a church that was now a bar/restaurant. Sandy’s daughters had recommended it as a must see.  It was quite awesome, it is called Jopen afterbthe beer 5hey make on the premises. Three of us had jopen gerstebier and one Life is a beach. Joanie and sandy shared a  flight of 3 with an appy called van dobben bitterballen basically beef with mustard!  You can imagine how difficult this Dutch language is to pronounce! Makes it difficult when navigating the streets as well. Not to mention the thousands of bikes that whip around so fast.....AND they have the right a-way unless there is a traffic light.
We did find another secret garden as we were making our way to the train station.....it was about the same size as the previous one and a little less manicured , included a small lake like fountain in the middle and lots of flowers, again a ring of homes all around the perimeter. Our other find in an alleyway was a Jewish memorial.
Once we were back in Amsterdam, exiting the train station I discovered if you didn’t exit the turnstile when your ticket opened it in a timely fashion it would close and not allow you out.....this is to stop you handing your ticket to a friend to use it as well. A station attendant had to let me out! It takes time to learn how to operate in different cities.
For dinner Sandy’s daughters had suggest we go to the Jordaan area to a place called Salmuera.....an Argentina restaurant famous for its steak.  It had great food and atmosphere. The waiter looked at us in our matching striped T-shirts and looking puzzled said wow and was laughing! He said we looked like we just got out of jail.
We walked home via the Dam Square and saw the Royal Palace......nice at night with few people about.
Good night Amsterdam. Zzzzzzzzz

Sunday 29 September 2019

Santiago to Amsterdam

We left Santiago in a cab this morning at 5:15.....the streets were dark and as we were leaving a group of young people, mostly boys but a couple of girls, strolled by on their way home from the usual all night partying they get up to. The streets were quiet so he trip to the airport was uneventful and we lined up at the Iberia counter. Our flight was on time, we transferred in Madrid and arrived in Amsterdam around noon.   We caught the train to the Center of town and then a taxi to our hotel. We seem to be in a lively area close to shops, museums, restaurants and coffee houses.
First off we needed to get something to eat so dropped off our bags and ventured out. We chose a Bakery Cafe where we had delicious pumpkin soup, with chunks of bread and avocado toast with lox salmon. We noticed a place across the street which served special pancakes, it is called The Happy Pig.  The pancakes seem like crepes with different fillings, we haven’t actually tried them yet but plan to soon.
As our time here is short we had to get cracking on all the things we want to see and do!  I should mention it is raining and quite windy!  We walked, dodging bicycles, tram cars and people who were all over the place, to the Rijksmuseum .  The paintings are mainly Dutch, with some Rembrandts, and only three Van Goghs. Van Goghs self portrait was wonderful to see, although we were surprised at its small size. The main painting is called The Night Watch by Rembrandt. At this time it is attracting a lot of attention as it is currently being scanned millimeter by millimetre using an X-ray fluorescence  scanner.  This detects the various chemical elements in the paint such as calcium, iron, potassium and cobalt. From these scans the pigments used by the artist can be deduced.  This provides insight into Rembrandt's creative process. Fifty six scans are required to fully map the Night Watch . One scan takes 24 hours. This process is set up so is fully visible to all visitors for viewing.  This is being done as it was last treated 40+ years ago . The varnish and over paintings have discoloured and the canvas is slightly deformed.  Technology is truly mind boggling!  What on earth would Rembrandt think?
We left the museum to have a quick look at the garden (pouring rain) where a few of Louise Bourgeois’ spider sculptures are on display. Feeling very thirsty we found a cosy bar for a round of beer. Next we wandered around deciding on a place for dinner. We chose a wood fired pizza place, pizza was good, the owner/waiter was not great we thought.
We were all feeling a bit weary having been up so early so we came back to the hotel to plan our  activities for tomorrow. We are hoping for a bit less rain.

Saturday 28 September 2019

Last day hiking in to Santiago!

We were up early for breakfast at 7:45. Juice, cereal, coffee, croissants, toast, melon, cheese and ham.
Our suitcases are to be in the foyer of the hotel by 8:30 for pick up. We were on the trail by 8:45. It was only 17 degrees and not yet fully light with a lot of mist in the air.  The only solution was to start moving.  We didn’t have too many kms to go (14) but knew there would be hills involved. We only have this day in Santiago as we fly to Amsterdam early tomorrow morning, so we wanted to get in as early as possible.  There were a lot of pilgrims en route. We made a stop for coffee at a place on the road and were off again. It is fun seeing the numbers on the Camino markers go down.  Everybody looks happy today, still chatting to each other and telling a little about themselves and their travels. We met a guy on his own who was from upstate New York, he had done a number of hikes, including Hadrians Wall and another in Wales. Three young girls from Germany had done 100 kms  in 6 days as they had to fly home for work. They were basically walking into the cathedral and getting a bus out of town this evening.
As we came into the city Center the yellow Camino arrows were harder to find and at times we consulted our instructions (we were entering the city from a different direction this time) or else we followed pilgrims in front who looked like they knew the way.
We arrived at the cathedral and it looked glorious, much nicer than our previous visit as now the scaffolding was removed and the building pristine clean. The inside is now undergoing renovations and cleaning so mass is not held. One can still go inside and line up to “hug” the statue of St James in the Center of the church and go underground and see the silver chest which hold his remains.
We had done all these rituals last visits as well.
Next we had a wander around the old city, had an ice cream and Jan and I purchased little silver shells for our bracelets. We found a nice Italian restaurant, shared some pastas, salads and wine, finishing with our first piece of Santiago cake.
Back at the hotel we were happy our luggage had arrived so having decided an early night was in order....joanie and sandy went out to our favourite garden bar while jan and I had showers .
Our flight is at 6:40 tomorrow and we will hit the ground running in Amsterdam

Friday 27 September 2019

2nd last day

Friday sept 27, we have breakfast and say goodbye to our hosts and the new Irish friends we met just yesterday .  Darryl and Wendy were at the door to wish us Bon Camino. We had such fun with them last night.
It was raining and we were wearing raincoats, our packs were covered and we were off.....driven 5 kms back to where we had stopped walking the day before......seemed silly as we would be passing by this exact same spot in about an hour!
Even though it was raining we were comfortable and walking at a leisurely pace as we did not have far to go today.
We came to the first coffee bar and it was very busy, due to the rain. Other than a bit of time besideba busy highway the route was quite pleasant through residential, vineyards and rural cornfields, sheep, pigs, goats and always chickens and roosters crowing.
We were reminded of our own health and full of gratitude when a couple of times today we saw a group of people traveling together, one of which was in a wheel chair, powered by his arms peddling, assisted by his friends pushing him up hills. We gave them a hearty clap at the top!
At our 14 km mark we stopped for a snack and chatted to an older Aussie couple who were also there, they were seemingly following the more spiritual route and and come last year but because the line up at the pilgrim office had over a two hour wait they had not gone to the cathedral! We told them it was not necessary to get a compestella before going to the cathedral.....so we hoped this year they would make it!
We had hiked to Teo which is where the apostle’s disciples came in search of a burial place for their master.
The rain had stopped for the rest of the day but we were chilled to the bone by our sweaty clothes.
We were picked up by our transport and taken to our hotel gastronomic Casa Rosalia which is an
ancient farmhouse 14 kms from Santiago.
On arrival we showered and waited for the arrival of our suitcases.
Before dinner we sat in the garden by the pool for a glass of wine and played cards. When the waiter brought our wine, he knocked over a full glass of wine on the uneven cement table which covered Joanie on her pants, shawl and splashed on her face! The glass smashing to bits on the table and
 grass.  Joanie graciously told the server not to fuss, accidents happen!
We then went to the dining room for shared mussels, melon and prosciutto, salmon
and veal with ice cream for dessert. All accompanied by local vino tinto and blanco!
As an aside I must mention....two girls we had encountered a day before were also there and we had had a misunderstanding with some wifi info they seemed to take offence to.  Joanie asked if they had got on wifi and if they had the password? They were a bit dim and did not get the reference!  I guess you had to be there!!!
We has a great dinner, mussels, melon with prosciutto , veal with chips, (ever present) and salmon with salad, finishing with ice cream laced with some chocolate. We had a lot of laughs and retired for the evening before 11pm . Tomorrow is our last day walking the Camino. Then.,,.when we will fly to Amsterdam for a few days  before flying home to Vancouver .
Goodnight from the four chick-etas....as our Irish friend calls us!