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 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 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 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 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 our Irish friend calls us!

Thursday 26 September 2019

Thursday Sept 26th

We “vamoosed” from our excellent abode this morning at 8:30. Our host shooed us out saying vamoose vamoose.....meant in the kindest way. Her husband drove us back to where we left off yesterday.
The walk was really nice and shady on mostly country roads. The sky was broken sun and overcast so quite the best temperature for walking. On  Our first stop for coffee ther3 were many pilgrims we had seen over the last week. We sat in a small annex or private room and every inch of wall had someone’s name , date and sometimes a message on it, so we added “pilgrims four”.
As we went past a small school a man was leaning over the wall and called out to ask us where we were from.....we said Vancouver and he wanted to tell us a story.....that morning a group of Americans had walked by and he invited them into the school to meet the kindergarten children. The Americans sang “head and shoulders, knees and toes” complete with actions then the children sang it for them  in Spanish. He told us awhile back they had a girl come in and speak to them, she was an rcmp from Whistler, she told them about the skiing and showed them her picture in her red serge uniform. Of course we told him that we knew Whistler very well and three of us had places there. Small world, I’ll have to find out where the officer is now....her name is Patty R.
As we walk our feet are often crunching chestnuts and pine nuts, so many underfoot! I’ve been bonked on the head a couple of times.
We ran into our kiwi friends about mid day and said goodbye as we won’t see them again.....they had been good fun. At 18.9 kms we reached Padron, a significant town famous as it as the Place where St. James (called Santiago) body was brought in an apostolic boat in the 1st century and moored.  In the church of Saint James of Padron the Roman alter stone called the Pedron is at the bottom of the main alter in the church.  It felt a bit surreal to be in the presence of something so, old and important to the CaminoSantiago. Leaving the church we stopped for our daily tradition of grande beers!
We had the bar man call us a taxi as our accommodation for the night was again off site some 5 kms away.  We arrived at a Casa rural and were shown to our nice rooms. Jan had a rest while myself, Sandy and Joanie  washed out some socks.  A glass of wine in the garden and dinner at 7. Dinner was humongous! Large bowl of lentil soup, a huge plate of ribs and a platter of salted potatoes! One glass of wine each, dessert was a type of apple flan topped with a coffee type of ice cream.......then came the homemade grappa! It was white lightening I’m sure, ghastly but it had to be drunk or they would be insulted.
We thought we would maybe play some cards to pass time before bed and peeked into the lounge to see if there would be room.....a lady saw us and waved us in. Wendy and her husband Darryl are from Northern Ireland, Belfast area. We really enjoyed their company and loved their accents! Many funny stories were told of different travels they and we had taken. We discussed Guinness drinking, Rugby, skiing and a multitude of laughs. They are off on a bus to Santiago tomorrow as poor Wendy is suffering with blisters.  So “with a click of the gate” we took a few photos with Darryl in the middle and said our goodnights. Darryl and Wendy may read the “blog” so I hope I’ve got that last bit right!
It was an entertaining night.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

Two Days Worth

First off.....I didn’t post yesterday as we had no wifi at our amazing resting place last night. It was out in the country off the Camino route. I will attempt a recap!
We were walking out of Pontevedra, late in the morning. An older fatherly type of guy was motioning to rapid Spanish ....we weren’t sure but thought he probably wanted to point us in the right direction for the Camino. After further pantomime We realized he was wanting us to see a large metal structure right in the middle of the street, it was the numbers 64.500 which was the exact distance to Santiago from that point. He looked so pleased when we “got” it and stopped to take a photo.  We find it is the old ladies and men who are happiest to see pilgrims and always wish us Bon Camino! Walking along the path we met a girl from Germany, she would now be known as “Germany” .  Joanie is the talkative one of our foursome ❤️And soon she is finding out this girls story and telling her ours. It makes for an interesting way to pas the time.  We walk with different people for a time then part ways. We stopped st an old abandoned church to change socks, bandaids and empty Little Rock’s from shoes.
Further on we stop at a cafe and meet up with an older guy we call “Alaska” . He’s not moving too fast. Walking on to San Amaro we phone our taxi pickup to be taken to our off route home for the night.  It was an estate turned into a Casa rural, still owned by the same family who owned it in the 1700’s.  Our rooms were lovely, made from converted stables, the only thing “stable” about them was the horse double doors. The grounds were idyllic and you could imagine what a grand life it was back in those days. There was a swimming pool, children’s swing set, peachier trees, fig trees, grapevines. There were 5 guests besides us four....the others were kiwis. We had a nice conversation with them out on the patio while drinking local wine.  We all were in the dining room for dinner at 8. Unfortunately this is where it was not so good! First course, gigantic mista salads were nice, second course was an inedible pork dish with chips. 🤭🤢 followed by a volcano cake. Sandy had chosen a scrambled egg dish which she really liked.....while 3 of had pork.

The next morning we took a taxi back to the bar in San Amoro where  we had been picked up the afternoon start our walk without a missed step!
Today the forecast was for a smidgeon of rain, a few drops materialized but that was it. It was warm with the occasional breeze. The route was through lots of vineyards and mostly flat, and not often on the road. A group of young men all dressed in army fatigues passed us at a quick pace and we noticed they were all carrying guns.  Other than more pilgrims heading for Santiago we saw lots of chickens , heard a lot of dogs and roosters, sheep, goats and large ducks, a  huge turkey and a few donkeys.
The kilometres were short today...approximately 20 to Caldas de Reis. We arrived in the town at about 1pm and crossed a bridge and into a bar at the waters edge for lunch. We ordered white wine, lemonade and water, octopus, tiny fried green salted peppers, squid, chorizo and bread. Two young girls from Holland arrived and we were updated on their last day or so walking.
We were to phone our accommodation when we were ready for pickup as our resting place was again at a Casa rural off site. Multiple phone calls were not answered so we called a taxi to take us to it. We arrived to find the hostess was not there as she was ill and had recruited her mother to look after us. Her mother did not answer the phone as she did not speak English! All ended well, a phone call to the daughter and we were reimbursed for our taxi. We love the big old Casa, the grounds , swimming pool, there used to be wine making as well, but unused now, we lugged our suitcases elevator. We did some hand laundry and hung it out the window to dry.
Three of the kiwis from last night as also here tonight. Dinner was at 7 and was a tender beef dish with potatoes and a tomato salad equally delicious. ....oh our started was the scrambled egg dish.  Dessert was like an Icelandic  skyr and was really good, Jan will make this for us when we are home.
Tomorrow we will taxi back to the Camino where we left off.....a short day 20kms.

Ps. I must make a correction.....on an earlier post while we were in Paris I erroneously had Van Morrison in a grave (he is still with us) it is Jim Morrison who lies in Paris.  Another post may have stated  we walked 50,000 kms....when it was actually 50,000 STEPS.

Monday 23 September 2019

Monday 23rd sept Redondela to Pontevedra

We had a nice breakfast in our “Casa rural” 😳🤣this morning. We were the last to leave and the hostess of our breakfast asked if we would like to take bread with it would just be grown out. She proceeded to make us ham and cheese sandwiches for the road. This was much appreciated as often we find when we reach lunchtime, or just hungry time, we are usually in the middle of nowhere.
The route took us through town, it was early and traffic was whizzing around, kids were going to school and we were searching for the yellow arrows that would lead us to our “way”.  As was often the case we would inquire “which way?” , of a person who looked like a local and the local would Point us in the right direction. This time it was an elderly man who gave us direction and then I guess he figured we would never find it without him so he walked with us to the edge of town.
There was a lot of elevation to begin and the weather was threatening rain. We were seeing a lot more  pilgrims, ones we had never seen before as well.  We were now within 100 kms of Santiago, give or take a few kms. In order to receive a compestella from the official pilgrim office you must prove you have walked the last 100 miles. You do this by collecting stamps in an official pilgrim booklet....and a sworn statement that yes, you did walk the distance.
So the trail was very busy with walkers, there were people in groups of 6 or more and some singles. A lot of people looked like they couldn’t walk half the distance but one foot after another and they were doing it! We met up with people we hadn’t seen for a couple of days. Lots of Canadians on the route.
We walked for awhile with a girl, Christine, from Norway, she was a huffing and puffing, preferring to jog a little then rest. I was concerned, she was alone, the tour group she was with had gone ahead. I suggested she should be using poles, at which time she took mine thinking I had offered them!  I didn’t mind and they really seemed to help her. After walking together for more than half an hour she told me she couldn’t talk, handed me back my poles and said I should catch up with my friends.  It wasn’t too long before she caught up with us again. You really meet all kinds!
We stopped for coffee in a town called Arcade, very nice coffees and gratis little cakes. The place was  super busy serving all the pilgrims.  Some of our route was on very busy road with huge trucks driving very fast.....going uphill too, but much was through wide forest paths as well, a nice diversion  took us along a path by a small river. The rain held off but there was a stiff breeze. We came across a box of fruit that had been left for pilgrims to help themselves. Another time we saw a large display on a fence with hundreds of pilgrim shells, people had written their name and or country where they had come from on the shells.
We reached our destination, Pontevedra at about 2:30 after 20 kms and stopped for beer before checking into hotel Avenida. We showered and did some laundry.
Later on we did a stroll around town, visited a couple of large churches, had a glass of wine at a sidewalk near the square, were entertained by a couple of gypsy boys and their fire sticks.
At 8pm we could enter a restaurant for service earlier. We shared 3 dishes, one, new to us was roasted small green peppers which were delicious. Wine, water and a milk pudding with 4 spoons finished off our meal.  At 9:30 we walked back to our hotel.....pilgrims go to bed early and rise early......although tomorrow is a short day for us.
Fit bit is registering 36,700 steps!

Sunday 22 September 2019

From Vigo to Redondela Sep 22 Sunday

This  morning two of us (Jan and myself) had slept well, Sandy and Joanie had not.  Our hotel was in the old town although a modern hotel. Across the street was a disco, The young congregate there after late dining about the time we go to bed. These discos are extremely loud, seem  to be in buildings with no windows, large doors which are constantly opening so the occupants can come out and is deafening!  When we were leaving the hotel about 9 am we could see across the street young people were still standing outside smoking and drinking beer.  Seriously when do they sleep or work for that matter.
We left on our way, following yellow arrows out of town. We seemed to be gaining elevation, but gradually. Soon we were above the town with an amazing view of the red roofed houses below and the sea beyond.  We are becoming quite accustomed to the trail and today the temperature was perfect. The forecast was for rain and as we were leaving the hotel we stood undercover watching it, then it miraculously stopped!  We were lucky as the rest of the day was dry. There were many more pilgrims now as there is just 100km to Santiago, which is the minimum number of miles you must walk to receive a compestella from the official pilgrim office. Also we were in the area where several different routes converge. Sometimes we walked through wide forest paths, other times it was narrow winding roads by lovely and not so lovely houses. Below there was a bridge (Rando Bridge) in the same design as our port Mann bridge. In the port we could also see some structures which appeared to be in orderly rows, looking like rafts of some kind, nobody on the trail knew what they were, we eventually came across a local who spoke both English and Spanish and found out they were mussel farms.
At about 1 pm we came across a sign painted on the road directing us around a corner, up a steep incline for about 50 meters to a nice little cafe where we stopped for coffee. We were Back on the trail after about 40 minutes. Today our kms were only 16 so we were taking our time, we arrived early for checking into our Casa rural. We have stayed in this type of accommodation on previous caminos and were looking forward...very much to enjoying it today. We stopped at a bar for beer and then crossed the street to our Casa. To say we were disappointed is a bit of an understatement. This place was more of a hostel than anything we have stayed in, but what can you do! We did have two rooms with our own bathrooms but they were very bare bones. But we are pilgrims and make the best of it. After showers three of us walked into town to  see what there was to see. Lots of people, families out enjoying their Sunday, town is nothing special but ok. There is a large viaduct which is for  train travel, built in the Roman style, although not in Roman times as it didn’t look that old. After a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe we returned to our “hostel” to pick up Jan and we went for dinner. Dinner was a bit of a bust as it was an unappetizing plate of veal with French fries. We did enjoy fresh salad of lettuce, tomato and raw onion.....and the ever present fresh bread.
Back to our accommodation we played a few games of cards and called it a night. Tomorrow we have around 20km and forecast is mixed...maybe rain maybe sun. We are ready to move on.

Saturday 21 September 2019

Saturday in Vigo

Today was a rest day!
We woke at the usual time....7:30 and did some laundry in the sink in our room. We went for breakfast about 10am in our hotel ...Hotel Junquera which is just outside the main pedestrian shopping street in Vigo.
It was raining quite heavily so we were feeling quite glad we were not walking! We took a taxi to the largest shopping mall in the area, it seemed like everyone had the same idea.
We scouted out the shops and bought a few things then had lunch and ice cream.  It was raining when we went out for the taxi, which appeared quickly.  It was my turn to pay so I sat in front. I’ve always been curious how the various locals learn English so I asked the driver a question in that regard .....he thought I was talking to the girls in the back initially! When he realized I was talking to him he burst into gales of laughter!! I had noticed his radio station was playing songs in English so asked if he learned English from the radio? This was apparent very funny! We had a little discussion about types of music...I asked if he knew the Beatles ....he did but liked the Rolling Stones. Anyway his English wasn’t very good but neither was my Spanish. I still believe the locals learn their English from the tourists and if they want to....from tv and radio. After all the Beatles and Rolling Stones don’t sing in Spanish.
We were still weary from our previous days hike so another rest before the evening. We made our way to an art museum where we discovered there was no exhibit,BUT a dance and acting class was on if we wanted to go....we did but it was basically a pantomime and when you don’t get the language.....not understood.
Back wandering the pedestrian shopping street Joanie was successful in a boot purchase. We had time for a glass of wi e at a sidewalk bar before the dinner hours started at 8:15.  Sandy had researched and found a restaurant that served Paella . We had a delicious  meal, met 4 pilgrims who had walked
in the torrential rain today.
A walk back to our hotel ended the day over, tomorrow it’s back to hiking..
Mur x

Sept 20 Friday Biaona To Vigo

We left about 9 this  morning.....all of us were tired as the noise of the locals partying went on till 3am, our rooms were above the party street. I guess we did get to sleep till someone rolled their suitcase over the cobbles at 6am.  Breakfast  was at a bar down the road from our hotel, we expected the usual bar breakfast of toast and jam but were pleasantly surprised to get toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, fresh oj  and very good coffees. 
We started walking through the old town. There are several different routes you can take....the seaside route, the coastal route or what is called the original route.  It can be confusing as there are bits of all the routes you want and bits you don’t. We hate walking on the road beside the traffic, prefer the beach and also like the forest trails.  So today we were doing a bit of everything, which adds kilometres and other things.  Sometimes we would be walking inland up a hill only to level out for 100 meters and then Go down to seaside again. 
Down at the water we cross a Roman bridge built in the first half of the 13th century. (Picture on Instagram and fb, or I’ve emailed you) the design is a mix of semicircular arch’s some pointed. It has 10 spans, double system of cutwaters to resist better action of water and tide. In middle of bridge there is a cross with the image of St Telmo, patron saint of sailors. NOW the interesting part....Fertility rites were celebrated upon this bridge:  after midnight , woman who could not get pregnant had to persuade the first man crossing the bridge to pour water onto their wombs and to be godfathers of their babies. So much for the olden days! 
We walk to the town of Nigran (some signs say Nigrain) and stop at what looks to be the last stop before the path leads up into trees. Very friendly cafe people, lovely coffees and we were each given a small seashell with a hole to thread a string, to put on our packs. Only Sandy had brought her she’ll from one of our previous caminos.  We bought some cheese, chocolate and peanuts and were off. 
We seemed to be zig zagging all day, uphill then down then up again.  Going through yet another village at siesta time we sat upon a wall to eat our food. We hadn’t seen any other pilgrims for awhile but as we sat looking out st a great view of the village below and the sea beyond several groups came by, two girls from Maine took our photo, which we loved! It’s nice when we can get all 4 of us in a picture together .  As we were getting closer to Vigo we were again on the beach, the breeze was so welcome as we were getting hot and sweaty ......tide had packed the sand so it was easy walking....till we had to cross a small part by going in the water! 
Our lovely day was about to turn not so nice as we entered the outskirts of Vigo. We walked for a long while on concrete right beside the shipyards .....huge boats , one looked like a cruise ship being built. We contemplated taking a taxi to our hotel which was only just less than 4km.....but as we stopped for a beer we decided we could make seemed impossible to get a taxi at that point anyway! Finally walking through what looked like a fairly upscale shopping street we arrived at our hotel. Collapsed on the beds for a rest. It was 7 o’clock! Dinner in Spain starts at 8.  We chose an Italian restaurant not far from the hotel and got there just before 9. Dinner was delicious and likewise the wine. We shared salads and pastas. Back at our hotel Junquera. ......on Uruguay Street! We had a glass of wine in the hotel one there but us! It was a long bits registered over 50 kms. 

Thursday 19 September 2019

Sept. 19 leaving Oia

We were up, packed and down for breakfast by 8 this morning.  The sweet woman who was our host knew not a word of English. She would cone up to us with her phone and say some phrase in Spanish, a few seconds later her phone on speaker would say...for example...would you like coffee or tea. This would go on until she knew all that we wanted to eat!  I was amazed as I thought she was phoning a friend, then I realized she was talking to Suri or Alexa! It was certainly efficient and amusing. We walked out of town on the seaside route, passing a woman who was pushing a wheelbarrow, I tried to speak with her to ask what she was looking for in the fields but we couldn’t communicate.....she did say bon Camino!, she knew we were pilgrims!
Today was not as misty as yesterday, there were some plots of land between us and the sea, we startled a beautiful young black calf who was near the fence.....his cost was unmarked and still curly.
At different times during the day we would meet up with other pilgrims, often ones we had seen in previous days. It is fun to find out where others are from and why they are walking. There are a group of English women who met in France and now all live there, in villages nearby to each other. I found out they too had husbands at home who didn’t at all mind when they went off on adventuresome hikes/walks.
As everyone has their own pace, much time we are on our own. The seaside route at times took us uphill to a roadway....not as pleasant and hard on the feet.  We were happy when the route would take us either down to the sea or up a mountain trail. Today we had a mountain trail with fantastic views of the town below......we listened to music on our phones/iPods for awhile, or the quiet of the forest and birds. There was evidence of horse Pooh...and we learned the mountain has a herd of wild ponies...unfortunately we didn’t see any.
After we descended the mountain into a large village there was no sign of life other than barking dogs and crowing roosters as we passed through. Must have been siesta time.
Our destination was Baiona a big town on the sea. Our instruction were detailed...there will be a sport field on your left then pass 2 churches on the right, find a particular street, your hotel is the Mosquito Pensione. As was our practice we stopped at a tapas bar for beer and some tapas as it was 3:30 ish and Spanish restaurants don’t reopen till 8. Snacks were scallops in the shell, garlic prawns, patadas, and bread to sop up the olive oil and garlic! Yum. I had another beer while Joanie, Jan and Sandy had a local white wine. Before we left the tapas bar we were given 4 liquors popular here . We retired to our Mosquito pensione for showers and a rest till later.
We heard a lot of noise sounding like it was on huge speakers and wondered if this racket would go on all night. Venturing out to the Main Street we saw there was a bike race just ending as the winner rode by carrying a huge bouquet of flowers. Joanie spotted an ice cream shop and we had dessert before dinner!
The town has a fortress that juts out onto the water, it has been turned into a parador hotel. We were able to walk around the perimeter by way of a walkway that was high above the ground with magnificent views in all directions.
At 8pm we came back to our street to find dinner....we chose a little place down a narrow street very close to our hotel and had salad with prawns, steak with salad, red wine and sangria. There were other pilgrims in the restaurant and the evening ended with two other local couples chatting with us, advising us on route choices for tomorrow......a really fun night.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Leaving A Guarda Sept 18/19

Today was a shorter hike/walk.....only 14km to the next town.  There is an interesting site one can visit ......problem is, it’s up a mountain and not on our route. We decided to hire a taxi to take us there, it was a harrowing ride. The road curled around and around until we were above the clouds. The roads here are not known for safety rails! It was quite an experience to be above the mist of the town and then above the clouds in blue sky. You could see Portugal in the distance.
The site is a Celtic hut settlement dated 500BC, it was in remarkable condition and there were dozens of individual huts, all circular and built close together. There were many stairs leading to other structures, churches and such.  We took photos while our taxi driver waited to tak3 us back to tow to begin our walk.
We again chose the coastal route and had it for about half our journey, this is the day that the coastal and inland meet up, so we were at times on hard pavement 😡. We came across a roadside hut that was run by a single young man, who was very busy making drinks for about 10 pilgrims that had arrived before us. We all agreed the cappuccinos were the best yet! It is always fun to chat with other pilgrims, where are you from? Where are you going? Have you hiked here before? Is this your first Camino? Many are not on their first......just like us.
Back on the sea route it is quite cool as the mist was with us all day, it never lifted. The “way” is peaceful. Towards the end of the day we came across a little church that was open for pilgrims. Inside there was a simple alter and two rows of wooden chairs. A little basket contained strips of paper with prayers written on them. The idea is you chose a bit of paper and say a prayer as indicated.....problem was the writing was in Spanish.  We all had a little quiet time, I was being grateful for my life, family, and for the ability to be “here”.  The church had a bell over the entrance and we were able to make it ding dong.  Leaving the church about 100 yds down the road there was a fountain, someone had placed a leaf in the spout to create a good flow to fill your camelback.
We were coming into the town of Oia, our hotel is the Casa Puerta Oia, pretty much in the town center. As we like to have grande beer when the day is done we went up a flight of steps to a rooftop terrace where lots of people, locals and pilgrims were kicking back enjoying the area and the view out to sea. Oia is a port town built around a piece of the Atlantic Ocean. It was only 2:30 in the afternoon. 14 Km was the distance town to town but we had a lot of side tracking so actually had clocked more.
A rest, shower and a little laundry in our rooms and back out for dinner at 8 pm. Dinner was hake, with potatoes and a fresh green salad. Desert was called “grandmas cake” . There were just a few in the restaurant.....all pilgrims, a couple from New Zealand, couple from Germany, couple fromPerth Aus, and guy from Paris.  After dinner we went to a small lounge in our hotel and the four of us played a card game called golf, that has nothing to do with golf!
I will mention here.....a couple of days ago I wrote about  a long very high bridge we crossed, it was call the Eiffel as it was designed by Gustav Eiffel of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The bridge is 580 meters in length.  .

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Monday And Tuesday

Hi Family and friends,
I will attempt to remember yesterday and today.  After arriving in Ancora yesterday I was feeling chilled, had a sore muscle in my back and the Internet was intermittent! So blogging was out.
Leaving Ancora about 9 am choosing to walk the coastal route. There are actually two routes you can take, one right on the beach and the other more inland. The beach route is partly on the sand (difficult) and also on boardwalk. It is glorious to be near the sea as the breeze is so welcome after some stifling hot and hilly days.  While we were still in the town of Ancora we noticed a large white ship docked at the shore, closer inspection revealed it was/is a hospital ship. It was called the St David and went out to sea to support injured fishermen and sailed waters as far away as Greenland and Newfoundland.  The day was cobblestones, sand, boardwalk, a walk through a grove of Eucalyptus trees. We also had a spot of rain and met up with quite a few other pilgrims, many from the west coast of North America, Edmonton, (almost west coast!)  Penticton, Oregon, Seattle, and others from South Africa, Australia , Brazil.  Interestingly we would say most hikers are women, there are very few men, although we do see more groups of men doing the route by bicycle.
So far we are all doing quite well in the foot department, Jan has a couple of minor blisters which are under control, Joanie had the misfortune of breaking a tooth!
When we arrived in Ancora we did what all self respecting pilgrims do and rewarded ourselves with cold beers in the town square. Sandy then noticed a dental office not more than 10 yds away.....Joanie went in and two lovely young women, the dentist and her hygienist soon had her tooth back in temporarily till she returns home. Now she can smile for the rest of the trip!
We made our way to our hotel and a nice dinner and bed.
Tuesday, today we left Ancora for a 20 km walk and decided again on the coastal route.  The tide was out, it was very misty and a little bit chilly. We saw people collecting something in plastic bags all along the beach on and occasionally under  rocks, and decided it might be cockles or snails.
We stopped in the town of Carminha as we wanted a cash machine in a bank that was open just in case the bank machine decided to keep a debit card! All went well. Next up was a farmacia for foot aid. We sat in square for a coffee and a custard tart, traditional for Portugal.
This was our last Portuguese coffee as we were now taking a ferry to Spain. The ferry wasn't till 2:30 and so we hired a water taxi for 5 euros each.  The boat which was more like a Boston whaler had no life jackets and could take 5 at a time, took 10 minutes to get to Spain. We walked the seaside route the rest of the way, partly on trails, partly on the beach boardwalk again. We all feel very fortunate to be on this journey, especially together❤️.
Coming into  Guarda we consult our directions, which are actually quite detailed to direct us to our hotel.....up past the church, turn, left, turn right, walk 10 meters etc. But in the square we sit for the big beer to finish the day.
Dinner tonight we will walk downhill to the restaurant.

Sunday 15 September 2019

Hardest Day!

We left Esponsende this morning at 8:30, which is a lateish start for us. The temperature was to be about 26 degrees.  This route takes us along the seaside so a welcoming breeze was blowing. The beach is the Sauve Mar Beach, we were following the yellow arrows through pleasant areas where people had a variety of homes, some quite grand and others no so. There were lots of beautiful flowers that we could see over the sometimes high walls. The road parallel to the sea was a board walk but soon we were on uneven cobbles. The “way” is pretty well marked and we are used to looking for markers on the roads, sides of buildings and poles as we walk. Though there are many pilgrims on the walk we don’t actually pass that many, we seem to be fairly spread out. This is Sunday and we pass a church from which we hear beautiful voices singing, a choir perhaps and then the sermon from the priest is also broadcast. There are several churches in a village but only one appears to being used.
Our path has mountains on our right and distant sights of the sea on our left. We are climbing quite a lot, the heat is intensive! The water in our camelbacks is becoming warm.....but we must drink as the sweat is pouring off us!
At about 1pm we stop at the M bar and cafe for lunch.  Some pilgrims who had arrived before us had the salad which they said was we ordered it also along with cold lemonade.  It was good to sit and relax, refuel ! Soon we were on the road again for another stretch of elevation! We had another  12 km to go today to reach our booked accommodation.
We all turned on our music which seemed to motivate us to move!
The town we were to stay in called, Viana do Castelo was reached by crossing a very long bridge. It was extremely windy which was a welcome respite from the heat but the narrow path over the bridge was high over the river so a stumble would have been disastrous ! Once over the bridge we descended again to street level and looked for our accommodation.
We eventually found it and were met by a very nice young man who was able to help us out in several ways, dinner, beer, and tips for the morning.
After making ourselves more presentable we were off for cold beer! We sat at an outdoor patio bar and had grande beers then walked about 50 steps to a Sports Bar .....with white tablecloth service, for our gratis dinner. .....we all chose the local cod specialty, with vegetables.  After enjoying some assorted appies our dinner arrived.....enough for 8....not 4.  We were served by a very nice young man who I’m sure was much amused by us!  Our meal seemed to include as much as we wanted to drink, we only managed 2 bottles of local white! , which seems to be the “green” variety, in other words new! We each ordered dessert and so ended our night.
We retired to our hotel.......this IS Sunday and the young man in charge was leaving his post at 9pm. As he expected we would be later he gave us the code to enter......after mucho vino we had several tries and much laughter before we successfully opened the door.
As we plan to leave before the breakfast is served there were 4 boxed breakfasts waiting for us on the front desk.
As mentioned this was the hardest day....a lot of elevation and kilometres. Tomorrow will be slightly less and terrain will be flatter, temperatures also cooler.
And so another adventure was had on the Camino.

Saturday 14 September 2019

Last day of relative leisure.

This morning we had the luxury of no early alarm!  However Jan and I were down for breakfast by shortly after 8.  We were met by joanie and Sandy later as they had slept in! Our pick up was for 3pm so we had time that was unplanned. Joanie and Sandy took an Uber to the Crystal Palace, had a wander in the garden as the palace was closed for renovations and then found a book market where they purchased a little book on the Portuguese Camino.
Jan and I walked a few paces from our hotel and scouted out the mall. Nuff said, we had an enjoyable time!
We returned to the hotel to check out and had them hold our bags till our departure.  An Uber was called and we were off to walk over the St Louis Bridge. Porto is a very hilly town, with streets zig zagging every which way so one can easily get mixed up and end up back where they started.   Our uber driver was new and he even got lost!  The bridge is situated high above the river and affords magnificent views of a large part of Porto. We stopped often on the bridge to take photos, and ask others to take photos of all 4 of us. We seemed to be asking the same fellow several times. He didn’t seem to mind and as he took a photo he would say, ok I’m going to press the princess button now! After the second time he said, don’t forget the tip!
When we reached the opposite side of the bridge we walked down a very steep cobbled  incline to the waterfront which was busy with people. A very pretty scene with sailboats and tourist boats on the water and puffy clouds in the sky, picture perfect. There were many market stalls selling the usual tourist fare, and cellars with wines and port.  We took a seat at the outdoor patio of Sandeman Port and ordered water and a pitcher of refreshing red sangria. It really hit the spot as the day was really hot again. As it was getting near time to leave Porto we called another Uber and got back in time for our pickup. We were going to Epsonsende where we will start our hike in earnest....26 km. The drive took just under an hour and we arrived at a charming seaside location, wind blowing in the palm trees, at least 8 kite surfers in the bay.  We were soon outside walking the length of the sea wall.
Dinner at our hotel was delicious, as was the “green” Portuguese wine. (Green means it is a new wine, not aged at all, and not strong.)
After dinner we moved to a glassed in lounge area and played a card game called Golf.....simple but fun. Back in our rooms we looked out gear for tomorrow.
Hiking starts in earnest!

Friday 13 September 2019

Auvers-sur-Oise !

Today was the day! I have been wanting to make the trip to this little town for the last three visits to Paris!
Auvers-sur-Oise is situated about 50 minutes outside Paris. It is where Van Gogh spent his last days.  We rose early to make the most of the day, took the metro to St Lazare train station.....metro very busy with people heading to work! We bought breakfast to have on the train and we were off.  Direct trains only operate on weekends so we had one change to make.  On arrival in the town we walked  to the information centre, had a quick coffee and started to follow the brass medallions in the path which simply said Vincent. ( I apologize I cannot post pictures here, but if you follow me on Instagram murielvacationgirl you will see pictures there). Our first visit was to the bedroom Vincent lived in a hotel near the station. It was a sad little room, empty now except for a chair very similar to one which is in many of his paintings. We had a private speaking tour from a young girl who was obviously passionate about the story she told of this amazing man who was liked by so many in the village.  Vincent only lived here for 70 days, and in this time he painted over 78 paintings and drew many sketches and drawings.  He died in the room we were privileged to be standing in. Next we went into a small simple theatre area where a film of his paintings and their locations was presented to very beautiful peaceful music.  I would say the four of us were very moved by the experience.
Leaving the hotel we continued to follow the brass Vincent medallions through the town. We walked up a path to the cornfield where he painted crows in the cornfield.....and there was the field full of corn.  At the end of his life Vincent had grown full of dispare took his life in that cornfield.  He did not die right away but managed to make his way part way out to help, he was taken to his room where he lived for two days, long enough that his beloved brother Theo was able to come from Paris to be with him. A very sad loss for the world. We continued on to the church and to the home of Dr Gachet who was a friend and doctor to Vincent and many other of the impressionist artists. Vincent’s brother Theo died one year later and his wife arranged to have him buried next to Vincent in the cemetery. Theo’s wife was responsible for arranging shows of Vincent’s works, making them known and loved in the art world. In his lifetime he sold only one painting I believe it was for 200francs.
It was such an amazing day, we had to hurry back to the train station as they were only every two hours. Back in Paris we decided to go have a look at the Eiffel Tower, and have a drink at a bar nearby, famous for its cakes.  To our surprise a friend of Jans from her university days came in and of course joined us for awhile!  It was a long day and we headed back to the metro and our hotel.

Today, Friday 13 we flew to Porto.  Our flight was really early so we were up at 4:30am. Unbelievably tired! The metro and trains were on strike so roads would likely be busier than usual.  As it happened the trip which we had allowed one hour took barely 30 minutes.
We were met in Porto by the company who we booked our Camino with and driven to our hotel. We left our luggage at the hotel and set off by bus to meet our tour guide, previously booked, for an art tour of the city, which would also include the many tiled buildings, churches, walls which Porto is famous for. The crowning jewel was the train station, depicted in mostly blue and white tile was a complete battlefield. Our guide Marcos said he could also get us into a famous bookstore if we paid a further 2e trance fees. Well this bookstore, which was an architectural beauty was also famous because J.K.Rowling of Harry Potter fame had written some of her work there. The line up to enter was very long but Marcos being a tour guide could bypass it with two clients, as we were 4 we had to purchase 2 more tickets. The bookstore was very crowded inside but definitely worth the visit. Hundreds of books from floor to ceiling, many first edition old books, many miniature sculptures of an artist was alongside their book. I believe the shop had the distinction of being the oldest in the world. One last interesting thing was that we had seen several young people, boys and girls, dressed in huge black cape style coats, one boy even had horn rimmed black glasses...a la Harry Potter Style. It turns out the students themselves were the inspiration for Rowling, not the other way around.  Rowlings first husband was from Porto and her daughter was born there, hence her residence here.
Soon we were saying goodbye to our art tour friend as we now had to meet our food tour Guide!
It was incredibly hot, at this point 37 degrees!  We had time for a beer before we met up with her.
First stop with Helene was a shop called Casanatal (meaning Christmas) (not sure why) reportedly the oldest store in Porto, it sold very fresh and hard to find foods. An interesting food was large pieces of dried cod.....which could be refrigerated and placed in water, which would be changed every 8 hrs for several days .....we were assured it would be as fresh as the day it was caught, and could be kept in its original dried state for over a year.   We moved on to many different food shops, markets and restaurants to try all different meats, cheeses, sardines (delicious), fruits, chocolate, and Port. Port which we had thought was an English invention, actually was first made in Porto. Also found out a bottle of port should be drank in entirety the day it is opened, and if kept should be refrigerated and drank within a month. So I’ll be throwing out the one in our cupboard which has been there as long as I remember!we finished up our foody afternoon with a lovely fresh white wine which we drank from porcelain bowls along with a lovely ham and prosciutto and a black very dense bread. Helene ordered an Uber for us and we were off. Our Uber driver was a nice fellow who told us his wife had done 2 Caminos. It’s the thing to do in this part of the world.
It’s been an exceptionally long day and tomorrow we will start off leisurely and we will transfer to the start of the walk tomorrow at 3pm.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Monet’s Garden at Giverny❤️

We were very early risers today! We had tickets for Monet’s garden in Giverny, a 45 minute train ride from Paris. It is important to get to the garden for the days opening in Order to minimize the number of people who will also be trying to do the same thing!!
A metro ride in rush hour traffic when you are half asleep and haven't yet had coffee is not that pleasant. However we reached St. Lazare train station and purchased 4 tickets (£44) to Giverny on the 8:45.
Next up was a take away breakfast of fruit, quiche and coffee. We found a compartment in 2nd class and settled in. On arrival in the town of Vernon we quickly made our way out of the station to the taxis., it seemed everyone on the train was headed where we were! Most of the others were directed to a tourist bus while we were in a faster vehicle! We arrived in Giverny very shortly and made our way to queue at the entrance, only to discover if you already had tickets you could use another entrance, which we did.  Joanie had been here before so knew we should make our way quickly to the waterlily pond with the Japanese bridge....the most photographed and iconic well known spot.  We were there before anyone and had it to ourselves for a short time. The weather was very slightly overcast which is ideal for photos. The rest of the garden is really quite magical, so artfully designed as to appear in a natural state, it resembles a full English garden with every flower, bush, bulb , tree you can imagine. The narrow pathways and several bridges are a delight around every corner. Needless to say this was a bucket list item for all of us. There were flowers we had never seen before, Japanese maples that were like bonsais, thick trunks which made you realize they were years old, but actually still small in size. There were many colours of dahlias, some the size of dinner plates! Other flowers so tiny the buds looked like bugs on a feathery branch. It was difficult to choose a favourite, there were trellises full with climbing roses. Off to one corner we saw beautiful speckled chickens pecking in their enclosure.  After we had our fill of the outside we entered Monet’s home, which was as it was when he lived there. Very french in style and colour, his studio still with the same furnishings as there had been. It was a bit surreal to be there where he had lived and worked. By this time it was getting increasingly busier and we had a last walk around the garden and the bridge over the lily pond. ❤️.
We were quite hungry now and but decided first to visit a museum just down the road which was featuring an exhibit of Ker-Xavier Roussell and Pierre Bonnard.  It was a disappointment as we didn’t care for the Roussell works and there was  only one of Bonnards! We did have lunch in the museum restaurant which was very delicious, French onion soup and of course the best French bread, Joanie and Sandy also shared a bowl of mussels.....declared scrumptious!  We had seen a little garden cafe where a woman was selling crepes at an outside we shared chocolate crepes as an end to lunch.
It was time to head back to Vernon for the train, so we walked through the streets of Giverny thinking we would come across the taxis.....but we did not, and ended up walking around 6km to the station. It was very warm by this time and we were ready for some cold water.....purchased our train tickets and were soon heading back to Paris.
Arriving back we took the metro to the Bastille and stopped for cold beer at an outdoor cafe to watch Parisiennes  stroll by.
After beer we visited a few shops for some fine French cheeses, some salads, some charcuterie , two desserts to share, wine and chocolate.  Our hotel had a little central garden courtyard and we planned to have a picnic there.
Another wonderful day in Paris had come to an end.  4 happy pilgrims xx

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Busy, full day in Paris

This morning we were up early, had breakfast at our hotel and by 9 we were on the metro.  We had tickets for the 10:30 showing of the Van Gogh Luminaries.  Not wanting to be late we had given ourselves ample time.   So of course we were early and had a wander around a couple of small parks in the area. The luminaire show was awe inspiring, a magical show of the works of Vincent Van Gogh projected onto two story high walls in a darkened room. Silence was required while viewing the paintings moving around the walls to fitting music. Most, if not all of his works were projected, hard to find the right words to describe the feelings that were evoked in us all.
We spent about 2 plus hours there.
Leaving the show we bought some water and walked to Pere Lachaise cemetary. The largest in the world. A map is required to navigate your way around. We were interested in the final resting places of Van Morrison, who died in Paris at 27 years of age and Oscar Wild who also died young at age 46.
It took us quite awhile but we eventually found them both. Morrison’s grave has a wire fence around it as many visitors were treating it was the case when we were there! Several youngish girls had climbed inside the enclosure for photos....which were taken by their parents! We found the same at Oscar Wilds grave.  Oscar died a poor man and his gravestone was a simple marker until a wealthy French woman, a patron of the arts paid to have a large sculpture and plaque bearing his name. This sculpture was defaced by females kissing it with red lipstick, so a glass enclosure was placed all around it......females now kiss the glass! A small sign asks that the grave be treated with respect as it is the family of Oscar Wild who pay to have it cleaned. Further on we viewed several memorial tombstones inscribed with a lot of names, though the writing was French we were able to see one was in memory of all who had perished in a DC10 aircraft.  There were a large number of memorials to the Jewish people who had died in the camps, some very graphic sculptures went with these memorials. After spending about 2 hours in the cemetery we took the metro to the Montemarte area stopping for a much needed drink and sandwich. The temperature in Paris today was really warm , 23 degrees! Next on our agenda was a climb up to Sacre Coeur , which is a high point for a view of Paris and a beautiful basicila at the top. We didn’t count the steps but there were well over 100 I’m sure!  We took a few photos with the help of a willing tourist. Coming down from the basicila we found an outdoor cafe/bar for a cold beer. We next took the metro back to the Bastille area to walk the Garden Hi line which is an old rail line turned into a paved garden walk.....very beautiful roses, hibiscus, grasses, some seating along the way, some art murals, a waterway, bamboo tunnel, many young people using it as a jogging track. All this above the streets, below back at ground level, many arty shops, ateliers, and cafes.  We had salad and pizza and more beer! This area is quite close to our hotel so we were walking “home” when we came across a lively Dance class.....stopped to watch for a while. Back at the hotel for bed as we have a full and early  day tomorrow going to Monets home and garden At Giverny.

Monday 9 September 2019

Arrived in Paris. Sept 9/2019

This morning it was raining in Scotland...first wet day since I got here.  Mike had arranged for his neighbour to drive me to the park and ride, just 5 minutes away by car so I could get the airport transport.  Bill insisted on driving me all the way to the airport, refused my offer of payment saying it was Scottish hospitality!  We had a conversation about Canada as he had visited North Vancouver several times having a cousin there. Again evidence of a small world.
Edinburgh airport is a nice manageable size, security line was not too slow and my flight took off a little early.
Joanie, Sandy and Jan were arriving from Vancouver close to the same time as my arrival from Edinburgh and we arranged to text each other as we were arriving in different terminals.   Passport control lines were quite long but actually moved quickly.  The girls were sitting just outside my gate when I came through.  We went outside to join the taxi line.  Soon we were in and heading to our hotel in rush hour traffic.   Our driver didn’t say too much at first, probably because I was talking so much. 🤭 the traffic was slow and the driver started pointing out the migrant refugees we were beginning to see on the roads, sitting on the cement barriers, on the grass laybys., more and more of them were approaching the slowed traffic looking for money. Next we were seeing tents....literally for miles! The tents were obviously supplied to them as they were all the same size and colour. There were hundreds of them and the people around them were all young men. Our taxi driver gave us a running commentary on the evils of the situation telling us how many millions, yes millions, there were and from which countries they had come. Even though he was mostly speaking French we got it! It was quite an eye opener as to what can happen with open borders, weak government and no ocean to cross. I feel sorry for life in Paris. 😢
We arrived at the hotel Castex in the Bastille area of the Mairas, plunked down our bags and went across the street to St Antoine’s restaurant.  We ordered a bunch of appetizers to share and a bottle of Rose’, then a walk around a couple of blocks, some herbal tea and sleep zzzzzzz we have a full day tomorrow. Grass doesn’t grow under the feet of pilgrims!


Sunday 8 September 2019

Last day in Edinburgh

I can’t believe the time has gone in already!
This morning Mike and Helen were off on their holiday with Craig and John, going down toEngland to where Mike grew up. I was getting organized to go into Edinburgh.  I walked to the station, it’s called Dunfermline Queen Margaret as it is very near the hospital as opposed to Dunfermline Town which is the stop next to it. The walk to the station takes about 5 minutes or less so very convenient, and you’re in Waverley station within 30 minutes.
I made my way to George street to have a look at The Dome...beautiful..indeed as my sister said, definitely worth a look.  It was full of diners at lunch time. Back out on the street I walked another block to the Portrait Gallery on Queen street. Another absolutely stunning architectural marvel., the frescoes in the main entrance hall make one stand and stare.
Before I ventured into the gallery rooms I had lunch in the gallery cafe.....also a busy place. I had the best mushroom soup ever with a herbed scone. I had to “exit through the gift shop” so naturally I bought a book, then spent a couple of hours viewing and reading about Scottish portraits, Scottish artists, Scottish history often accompanied the portraits as it was the Earls, lords, Queens and government figures that were painted. The photography exhibit I found fascinating and I spent a lot of time viewing them. My artist girls, pearly girls ❤️, know how I love to paint women myself.
I left the art world and made my way to Princess street to get a bus to the Gyll, it is a shopping centre about 15 minutes away.  I was meeting my cousin Sandra there and we would drive to Queensferry to have dinner with her brother Andrew and sister Rina....neither of whom I had seen since I was 16. We were seated in a conservatory restaurant looking out at my favourite happens to be red and quite an icon in the world. 😁 Andrew had brought an envelope of old photos, some even of me and my brother and sister which my mother had sent to his mother. My favourite photo was of my granny, Auntie Chris and (neighbour) Mamie on a motorcycle with great granny in the sidecar. Priceless and in very good condition.
I have certainly spent a lot of time with family, which was just what I wanted to do!
I can’t thank everyone enough for how welcome they made me and how they took the time to come out and celebrate! Special thanks to Mike and Helen who welcomed me with open arms! They also insisted I do no work, no helping in the house!
I had a grand time with family.....that’s what it’s all about!
I forgot to mention that yesterday, a cruise ship sat under my favourite bridge and we found out it was the ship that our friends Ray and Lynda Stevenson were on. Tomorrow the Stevenson’s also go to Paris, my brother Cliff and his wife Mary will arrive in Paris and so will I .  Small world coincidences!
Goodbye Scotland till next time 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Saturday 7 September 2019

Lunch with the Relatives

What a day! A quiet morning then we got ready for the lunch! A phone call came from Elaine up north in Elgin......she, Craig and young Sophia were coming!  A 3+ hour journey and then a return trip. Helen and I (and Mike) were so pleased! We left the house at 2pm.....and already I forget the name of the restaurant was in Dalgety Bay.  It was sunny and there was a bit of a chill. The restaurant had a separate space with a table set for 20. Attending.....Moira, Sara and her dad Gordon , Craig and John, Brian, his daughter Stella and granddaughter Emma,We were joined by hubby and older daughter after her soccer game, Elaine, Craig and Sophia......Helen, Mike and me. Hope I haven’t forgotten anyone. 🤭 lots of chatter going on as it is a challenge to manage impromptu get togethers. My head was taking it all in and trying to remember the stories. Some got lost on the way and never made it!  Sometime after we had eaten a fabulous lunch there seemed to be “something” going on and I thought maybe a birthday as I saw a card down the table. Well, as it turned out the card was for me to wish me good luck on the rest of my holiday! I was a little choked up and couldn’t  read the card so saved it for later. I thanked them all in a few short words for making me so welcome. Next thing out comes a beautiful cake.....complete with an icing photo on top of Brenda, Moira, Helen and myself. Brenda we were sorry to miss you, I know you had a long standing engagement.  Helen has saved you a piece of cake.....a part with your picture on it.
I was truly touched at the warm welcome and thought put into the afternoon. ❤️
We left the restaurant about 5 o’clock and Craig, Elaine and Sophia came back to the house for tea and another little visit before the long drive home. Elaine, who is a very beautiful girl/woman bears a family resemblance to my younger self...I told her looking at me she might see her older self. Haha!
I really feel connected to them all now.  My family knows I felt a vacuum growing up with no cousins or real aunties as they were all here in Scotland.
We were all still so full from our lunch that we passed on dinner.
Helen and Mike did a little prep for their trip tomorrow and it was bed for us all.  I will be taking the train to town and later meeting 3 cousins for dinner.
Cherries the noo! Xo

Friday 6 September 2019

Edinburgh Scotland

Hello family and friends,
Well here I am again in the place of my birth! 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿  I had a fairly uneventful flight from Vancouver to Amsterdam, then a long wait in Amsterdam before the short flight to Edinburgh. I was met by cousin Helen and her hubby Mike. I had assured them I would find my way but it was nice to be met.
We got started right away with tea and chatting. They are the most hospitable hosts and won’t let me help with anything!
My first full day started off leisurely and I did not feel too jet lagged.  Early afternoon Helens sisters Moira and Brenda arrived for lunch. It was wonderful catching up and hearing them reminiscing about life when they were young.  Meanwhile Mike makes more tea and cleans up after us.  Brenda is  crafty and kindly brought me a little bag of her work.  Next we were off to Queensferry which is a village underneath the iconic Forth Bridge, always such a beautiful site to see sparkling in the splendid sunshine.  We stopped to pick up flowers to take to brother Allan’s grave, Allan passed away recently. I was glad I had met him when I visited in May 2018.  You probably know I love/ enjoy cemeteries, especially old ones with their wonderful headstones. Allan’s had a beautiful wooden cross which had been made by his grandson. The sisters shared a few family memories as we viewed other family members resting places and tidied up the flowers, adding fresh water.  I was always learning something new about our big family.
It was back to Queensferry to sit and gaze at the 3 bridge crossings, the iconic one is for trains, the two newer ones are for car traffic and for busses. I was pleased to again travel on all three!  We then went to a nice coffee shop, where Brenda’s grandson Sam worked part time, unfortunately he was not on shift.....I got some photos of a large cruise ship sitting right under the bridge. I will post pictures on Instagram as I have not mastered them on the blog. 😡.... well we stayed out so long yakking we decided we may as well carry on for dinner......a pub with fish and chips worked just fine. I was concerned we were a bit noisy in the pub as we were hooting it up ! Before we knew it, it was 11pm and we drove Brenda and Moira to their homes and were back in Dunfermline for the end of a good night....cuppa tea and bed. Moira gave me a big bag of photos to look through.
My second full day....which was today I ventured into Edinburgh on my own. I got the train which is just down the road....I could have walked but Mike gave me a lift. 30 minutes to Waverley station in the heart of Princess street. I started the long walk to the Royal Botanical Gardens. I particularly wanted to visit the Glass houses (greenhouses) to see the large Asian water lilies.....sort of like trays with raised edges. After walking for about an hour, consulting a map and asking several people who looked like they might be locals (I was only wrong 2 times) I made it, noticing my journey had been basically downhill! Never mind I was there.....for a very short time as I was told the glass houses were closed today due to the wind! back I went toward Princess street, now looking for the Torrance gallery on Dundas street. I again inquired of a few more people on the street and found Dundas was a street of many galleries. The Torrance is very small but had quite a lot of Julie Dumbartons works. It was not busy so I spent a fair bit of time chatting to the young lady in charge.
Leaving the gallery I popped into a Tesco express for a bottle of water and a bag of maltezers! Yum.
Back up on Princess street I made my way back down to Waverley for the discover my off peak return ticket was now not enough for peak return so purchased a top up on my ticket and was off back to Dumfermline where Mike picked me up at the station. A nice surprise, Craig (Helens son) and John arrived for dinner. They were joking how nice it was to get a 4 course meal ......since I was visiting. We had a nice evening and ended it all till tomorrow when a large number of family are meeting for an afternoon lunch......I’m honoured they are all coming to see me.
Now it’s really late so I’m closing off till another day. ❤️