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We drove from Florida to Lexington VA Friday . Stela is very happy to be staying there with Meg and Steve. No more travel for her for weeks!
Yesterday we drove to Pam and James’ in Fredericksburg Va. We packed, repacked, repacked again. It was such fun!
We flew from Richmond earlier today and will leave Atlanta for Madrid shortly. Yes!
Thursday was a beautiful travel day. We left at 6:00 and had daylight by 7:00. The sun was shining all the way to Lexington. We arrived right on time at 6:00.
Stela, whose full name is Princesa Compostela, behaved so well on the ride that we hated to leave her behind. On the other hand, she was so happy to be sitting on the sofa with Steve and Meg when we left, that we were a bit nostalgic for the evenings in Gainesville when she helps Russ play the piano :)
On this equally gorgeous Friday morning, we drove a short 3 hours to Pam and James' in Fredericksburg. The drive brought us over a mountain and along a winding blue highway. Nice!
Now! The four of us are going to pack, unpack, and repack for the last time. The most fun of all!
Russ and Stela opted for a final 5-mile walk. Russ carried his backpack with 17 pounds of weight. For training, we load our packs with bottles of water to reach our desired weight.
I opted for a final day at the Devil’s Millhopper. Picture 1 is my pile of "counting rocks." My selfie was taken while I rested partway up on about climb #6. Picture 3 is my rocks all lined up after Climb #10.
As usual, it was crowded on Saturday at the Millhopper. Lots of weekend exercisers were there. The Ranger was giving a guided walk. Four or five families were in awe of the place and taking tons of photos. Two exercising moms were there with three girls. One was running the steps, trying to "beat mom's best record".
The other two were playing at the top and eyeing my rocks. Hmmm, thought I. I decided to try a strategic move. I asked them to move a rock for me each time I came back up . . . and not to let anybody else move them, which might make me lose count. Ha! I won. They did not randomly move my rocks around.
Also, with some considerable effort involving getting pre-approval from our credit card company for an Internet purchase on a foreign website, we bought our bus tickets to get from Madrid airport to Pamplona. We start on a jet plane, move down the travel chain to a bus, and finally arrive in Pamplona to walk to our hotel. From the modern world to the pilgrim world!
Our final preparations are in full swing. We are maintaining our morning walking schedule and wearing our backpacks most days. We notified the bank and credit cards of travel plans.
In Cedar Key we closed up the house and put the garden to bed for a month.
(I am finding the Weebly app very hard to use on my phone and will try to find an easier program because I know this will take too long on the trail.)
We ordered an international travel plan for our phones. Silly expensive at $70 per phone for a month, but that was the best Verizon had to offer us. It gives us each 100 minutes of voice, 100 incoming texts, unlimited outgoing texts, and .5Gb of data.
Our packing lists are almost complete. We are weighing every item on a kitchen scale and making choices with weight as a primary factor.
Russ is spraying our backpacks, sleeping bags, and a few other items with Permethrin to discourage bedbugs. Our entomologist neighbor told us it does not kill them, but makes their little feet burn so they go away. We are hoping that it is not needed!
I tried to buy bus tickets today to go from the Madrid airport to Pamplona. The bus is almost full and we would each have to ride with a stranger for the 5 hour trip. Hmmm, probably that is the spirit of the Camino, but I’ll try the train first before I go for it :) Onward!
Our decision to walk this year was slow in coming. After taking 2018 off from walking in order for Peg to be co-chair of the American Pilgrims on the Camino's Annual Gathering, we thought perhaps it was time for a different type of adventure. In July, we realized that was wrong. Why stop walking the Camino when it still is calling us to come! We just could not stay away.
We mentioned to Pam and James that we thought we would go in October. Pam said Ola! Buen Camino! James said "cafe con leche"! Pam said "cerveza y vino tinto"! James said "We're in!" Decision made. The four of us will walk.
Russ and I have walked only a tiny bit of the Camino Frances in Spain since 2013. Instead we have been walking the sections in France and Portugal. We are eager to be in Spain again. Our goal this year will be to walk from Pamplona to Burgos in about 14 days. Pamplona is at the start of the first elevation below, at 460 meters. Burgos is at the end of the second one, at 864m.
It is hard to train in Florida in the summer because of the heat. Luckily, we had planned to spend several weeks in Star Lake, NY in August. We could walk three to five hilly miles a day there. Sweet! September, since coming back to Florida, has been harder but we have done pretty well. We are walking at least 20 training miles a week, including a 5-mile and a 7-mile, with our backpacks, during these last few weeks. I, Peg, have also been working to overcome "flatlander legs" by climbing the 132 steps at the Devil's Millhopper State Park each week, increasing my number of times down and up each time. I also try to get to yoga at least once a week to stretch out those leg muscles.
We didn't really need to, but we bought new backpacks . . . in pursuit of the hikers holy grail -- the perfect pack. Other new gear also twisted our arms. We will soon determine our packing list and share it and the weights.
The planning is a serious part of the adventure for me. We have selected a small "pilgrim" hotel for our stay in Pamplona . . . Hotel Eslava. We also selected albergues for our first two nights on the trail. We reserved at the Camino del Pardon and Casa Maralotz, each of which has a small number of dorm-style accommodations and a couple of private rooms, as well (we hear) as great food and hospitality.
The Camino is on. It will be a slow and easy pace. Already, I wish it could be longer.
After our lovely day in Conques, we took a bus back to Le Puy. the ride was less nice than expected because the bus was hot and the seats were uncomfortable. The bus stopped at about 10 towns and took more than 4 hours to to get us there. We spent the night in a convent. It was our most Spartan accommodation and was at the top of 70+ steps, after we climbed up past the cathedral in town. Wow, are we strong now! Dinner at the convent was made and served by the nuns, who are from Africa.
We did some sightseeing at night and had a fab breakfast in the morning....not at the convent. Then we took a bus and a train back to Lyon. We stayed at a surprising nice Ibis Budget Hotel at the airport. The rooms were clean and comfortable. There was a decent little restaurant. They had breakfast available starting at 3:00 am and shuttles too. We took a 4:30 shuttle and had coffee at the airport before our 6:25am flight to Paris, Atlanta, Gainesville/Richmond.
Au revoir, Chemin de St Jacques.
It is Friday morning in Conques. We are in another world...living on the fourth floor in an abbey, up a stone circular stairway inside a turret, in a corner room with two sets of bunk beds, an ensuite bathroom, and windows on two sides so it is bright and airy.
Yesterday evening we sat in a cafe on the square and watched the other pilgrims arrive in town. We had dinner with 30+ others in the abbey dining hall. At our table were two childhood chums from Texas who hadn't spent time together in 30 years and now are walking together. One is exec director of an NGO in Ethiopia where he's lived for 16 years. The other lives in Spain and consults on multi-cultural assimilation. There was a father and daughter who are walking together. She manages a restaurant at Disney-Paris we didn't get what he or the 9th guy at the table do for work, but we know they are can laugh and joke and be happy dinner companions.
After dinner, we wandered briefly, went to bed early, and slept in late. After breakfast, we went in search of a good spot to sit and sketch. Later we walked around, watched the other pilgrims, and relaxed on a cafe/bar before dinner and an evening walk-about.
Today is Thursday. It was our last day of walking for this year's Camino. We walked about 14 miles, from Golinhac to Conques. It was in the 50s when we started out from the chalet/cabin we rented at Pole Touristique last night. Too bad it was too cold for the swimming pool. They even would loan you a swim suit.
All day, the trail was through actively farmed lands. Farmers were haying. Tractors were all around. We were high on the lands and it was consistently beautiful.
We had one long, relatively gradual downhill, one long steep uphill, and another long, steep, rocky downhill. We walked through three wonderful little villages.
Conques is amazing but we were too tired to takes pictures today. Tomorrow we will hang here for the day and can send pictures.
Now we are resting in our double bunk bedded room at the very top of the abbey.
Reading from the Beginning to the End
If you'd prefer to read about our Camino trips from their beginning points to our return, rather than blog-style . . . from the most recent post backwards in time . . . go to the section labeled Our Caminos.
Peg and Russ Hall
- Second Wind
- Why Walk It?
- Step 1. Planning Your Camino -- What kind, Where, When, How far, Alone, Getting there . . .
- Step 2. Getting Ready -- Training, Packing, Gear, Clothes, Electronics, Passports, TSA . . .
- Step 3. Being There -- Money, Lodgings, Food, Language . . .
- Step 4. Adapting -- Guidebooks, Websites, Trail conditions, Schedule, Water, Weather, Pain, Hazards, Phones . . .
- Step 5. Being a Pilgrim and a Tourist -- Types of pilgrimmage, Roman roads, Medieval life, Wonders . . .
- Step 6. Living the Lessons of the Camino -- Once or again, Connecting at home, Being hospitaleros . . .
- Who Are We?
- All of Our Caminos
- Camino 2019 Blog