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I have been dreaming of my camino de Santiago de Compostela like forever. I realized that dream on the first week of May 2015. Yes, just this year. And just nearly 3 months ago. I waited for many of my friends to join me, only to decide to do it solo. Well, not exactly solo. I joined caminoways which organized my camino for 6 walking days and booked all my hotel and luggage transfers, as well as my breakfasts and dinners. I dreaded walking so far only to find no decent accommodations and sleeping without dinner. I decided well. The pre-booked hotels and meals were all good, and all I worried about is finishing the day’s walk. All of 113 kilometers in 6 walking days. Minimum daily walk is 15 kilometers. Other days, we walked 30 kilometers including detours! 


 

On the Feast Day of Saint James (July 25), I mused over my own camino. Interestingly, I thought back to all those moments when I felt God’s presence in the green fields, the moist smell of the forest, the encounters with grazing farm animals, the non-verbal interactions via sign language with friendly locals, the centuries-old medieval bridges crossed by many pilgrims before me, the tiny, dark churches in the quaint hamlets we passed, the muddied paths and puddles of rainwater along the trail. NEVER did the pain of walking so many miles in the rain cross my mind. If at all, I look at my little toes and reminisce how I persevered to finish my camino. A little triumphant sensation there, I confess. 


 

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time savoring my camino moments after my walk. Soon after, I met up with cousins visiting Madrid and then I had to fly to Berlin to meet up with friends before flying into Copenhagen to join our Scandinavian cruise. After sailing back to Denmark, I then flew back to Madrid with a couple of friends to join up with 2 more couples flying in from USA. The reunion lasted 3 weeks and covered many side trips from Madrid including bus and train trips to Burgos, Bilbao, Getaria, San Sebastian, Lourdes (in France), Irun, Santiago de Compostela (yes, I went back too soon), Muxia, Fisterra, Oporto, Fatima and Lisbon.  The adventure with friends left me no time to really indulge in more musings over my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Besides, the experience was clouded by a couple more pilgrimages to Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal. It’s an altogether wonderful experience. Really. Just that I would have wanted to relive the memory of EVERY SINGLE DAY of my camino and remember how all the yellow arrows directed me throughout my weeklong camino. 


 

I have been “on the go” since May. Even well before that, as I spent a week in Madrid doing more “practice walks” before hopping on that 6 hour train to Santiago de Compostela. When I returned to Manila mid-June, I only had a week to prepare for my family from Sydney spending a whole month with us. Plus there’s the Bangkok wedding which the entire family and a few friends (all 23 of us!) attended. On the feast day of Saint James, the last batch of my OZ family took the flight back to Sydney. I am left with many happy memories of family reunions, wedding, Bangkok sidetrips, and quite honestly, bonding across 4 generations within our family.  Such memories would last me many lifetimes. As would my “me-moments with my God” during my camino. I find it a luxury to indulge myself with those lovely images and experiences from my camino now. No matter what you hear or read, your Camino is YOUR CAMINO.  It’s a personal experience — an adventure, if you like — that is completely your own. I walked more than a hundred kilometers but more than half of those walking ALONE. Alone with my thoughts. In sync with Nature, and over-the-top with the wondrous solitude to pray as much and as long for others, and for myself and my family. Before the walk, I listed a hundred names of people I’d pray for. A kilometer for each, some of whom I do not know at all. The thought of praying for someone else pulled me through. Funny that whenever I prayed for myself, I’d always catch myself praying for “no blisters”. More so whenever I stop to change my socks, wiggle my toes and slather my feet with Vaseline. I even picked up the habit of ordering a beer to “reward” myself every afternoon, and some glasses of red wine come dinner time. Every morning when I woke up, I prayed and thanked the Lord for the renewed energy, well-rested limbs, and newfound enthusiasm for another day’s walk. I never lost the excitement over what I’ll find along the camino trail. Somehow, I likewise looked forward to the mid-morning and late lunch breaks  when I find myself interacting with fellow pilgrims from different countries. One funny thing here is finding yourself deep in conversation with another pilgrim whose name you never asked. Yet you remember his nationality, from where he started his camino, and how long he has been walking.  Other times, you’d be walking with a few for about a mile, engaged in serious and not-so-serious conversations, before bidding each other “Buen Camino”. If you meet them at your next coffee break, you greet each other like long lost friends. Such is the camino routine and vibes and I gladly eased into this  “behavior”. 


 

I finished my camino without any blisters. I pity those who trudged on with blisters, nasty sore toes,  and for a few, lost toenails.  Thankful every time I reached our hotel even when there were days we were soaking from the rain. Nothing beats that first beer of the day. Except perhaps that first minute when you soak your tired feet in a tub filled with hot water. Many times I fell asleep till the water turned really cold around my swollen feet. Every night, I’d wash my hair and then wear my camino clothes for the next day. Yes, fat chance I’d jump into my pajamas and then change into my camino shirt and shorts the following morning. Happened only on the first night. 😄 Waking up every morning was a breeze as I only needed to brush my teeth, put on my socks and shoes, and walk out the room. I’m not embarassed to admit this. Really. And it’s one good advice I’d give anyone planning a camino. Starting the day right, with as much ease and convenience, is the way to go. 


 

SLOW. I’m beginning to like this word. It is NOT a contest. Why rush? You have the WHOLE DAY to do it. My daily camino started every morning at a convenient time of 8:30 am. It helps a lot that you know you have a room in the next hotel where you’d finish your day’s walk.  Invariably, I’m done by mid-afternoon. And that includes coffee breaks, lunch breaks, pee breaks, oxygen breaks, and the occasional beer or wine. Mind you, I lingered over my lunch. It’s a major social activity for the day. A time to meet new walking buddies, swap first-aid plasters and ointments, listen to more (Irish) jokes 😄, “score” some passing hunks on bikes 😜, and share some energy bars sitting and adding weight to your backpacks. Altogether, these breaks are all too important to rest your limbs and maintain your sanity. When you start having a conversation with your leg muscles, your hip joints or your little toes, you know it’s time for a cafe con leche, cafe cortado, cerveza, rioja, or a bocadillo. 👣👣👣


 

Will I do another camino in my lifetime? I’ve met many septuagenarians who whizzed past me. Many walked alone. Many on their 2nd or 3rd camino. I would love to do this again. Perhaps walk the whole hog from St. Jean or Roncesvalles — but in installments. Like a week or 2 at a time.  Let’s see. Meanwhile, BUEN CAMINO! 


 

For more details and photos, check out my blog here.  And yes, do share your own camino memories here. 😀


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Our Bangkok Cribs

Floating Market

Elephant Ride

Bang Pa-In Palace

Ayutthaya UNESCO Heritage Site

A Thai Engagement Procession

A Thai-Buddhist Wedding Ceremony

Art In Paradise Trick-Eye Museum

Chocolate Ville

Terminal 21
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MADRID

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/homebased-in-madrid/

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/death-in-the-afternoon/

BURGOS

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/el-cids-burgos

SAN SEBASTIAN

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/eating-around-san-sebastian-spain/

BILBAO 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/the-euskotren-to-bilbao/

GETARIA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/balenciaga-de-getaria-viva-vasco/

LOURDES 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/be-still-back-in-lourdes-france/

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/menos-emocional-en-santiago-de-compostela/

FINISTERRE & MUXIA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/game-over-in-finisterre-y-muxia/

FATIMA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/one-morning-in-fatima/

SINTRA 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/sintra-a-royal-favorite/

LISBON 

https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/san-antonio-festival-in-lisbon/

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Do subscribe to my other blogsite “retirement suits me” for my latest blogs on our Scandinavian adventure. (https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com)

AN AMUSING SHOCKER IN BERLIN: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/berlin-a-kiss-is-just-a-kiss/


POTSDAM, a day trip from Berlin: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/poofed-in-potsdam/


Prepping for the Cruise in COPENHAGEN: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/copenhagens-treats/


CRUISING ABOARD ROYAL CARRIBEAN Serenade of the Seas: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/were-cruising-day-1-2/


A DAY IN STOCKHOLM: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/stockholm-land-of-ocs/


A DAY IN LOVELY TALLINN, ESTONIA: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/stunning-estonia/


PETERHOF PALACE IN ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA: https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/peterhofs-great-summer-playground/


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  • “You must remember this….. a kiss is just a kiss…..” — remember the song (As Tears Go By) made famous by Louis Armstrong? 



I Do. More so now after a visit to Berlin’s East Side Gallery. It’s really street art. Graffiti, if you like. But if your art is inspired by the world-famous mouth-to-mouth kiss between Soviet leader Brezhnev and then Eastern Germany President Honecker, then it’s bound to stir controversy.

Frankly, it shouldn’t. There is a typical form of greeting between and among communist leaders, meant to convey that “special connection” among Communist brothers. There’s the so-called socialist fraternal kiss and socialist fraternal embrace. How so? Preceded by an embrace, statesmen from Comm countries do a series of 3 kisses on alternate cheeks. But when such leaders are exceptionally close, they kiss each other on the mouth instead. Yes, mouth-to-mouth as in lips-to-lips. 


The iconic bro-kiss-inspired mural done by Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel in 1990 is now the star attraction in the East Side Gallery on a yet another iconic remnant of a wall that divided Berlin — and the entire country — for over 28 years. Now that the Wall’s non-existent, will the world see less of this fraternal love? 😘


MY DEAR READERS:

This site is having photo uploading issues at the moment. Thus, I’m switching to my other site for more recent blog postings. I would really appreciate it if you likewise subscribe/follow my other site: retirementsuitsme. Below is the link:

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https://retirementsuitsme.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/berlin-a-kiss-is-just-a-kiss/


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The BUTAFUMEIRO  (incensory) and the TIRABOLEIROS (incense carriers robed in red). The magnificent scene of the smoking, swinging incensory during the Pilgrim’s Mass in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is forever etched in my memory.


Many come to Santiago de Compostela and consider this the highlight of their trip. I admit it’s quite a spectacle. And a fitting end to a 113km camino desde Sarria in Lugo.  Many others walked longer distances — a few limping along with blistered feet, wind- and sun-burned, some a few kilos lighter. Me? Not a kilo lighter. But I may have developed leg muscles and swollen feet from all the walking. As well as sunspots across my face. I now realize they’re not big issues with me. 

What are the big issues then? The distance — how can I forget the day we walked 32.6 kms? And the weather. I don’t mind if it’s cold or sunny. But it’s a pain to get in and out of poncho raincoats! Many times too I’d put on the poncho before my backpack — which meant I had to redo everything so the backpack stays covered by the poncho. The mud? I don’t mind, except when it’s slippery. The uphill climbs…. Oh Lord. Thirty years of smoking took its toll. I felt like a really really old lady — hunchbacked and all with a backpack and poncho — with every step I took on steep inclines. Yet still, no big issues. Amused myself enough on those climbs. Happy thoughts! 

Go slow. Listen to the birds. Feel the sweet, moist smell of the forests. Mind the yellow arrows. Let Maryanne entertain you with her lovely singing voice. Be impressed with 70+ y.o. Herta’s camino pace — slow, deliberate and sure. Catch the funny exchange between buddies Carole and Helen. These 2 kept me amused often enough. May and Beth will keep you distracted from the muscle pains as they regale you with many interesting and funny stories. Such good walking companions! When Ann W and Sue wait up at the bend for you, and ask how you’re doing, you feel touched by the kindness. And how inspiring to find a mother-daughter team walking with you. Ann C and Missy make me consider another camino with my grandchildren. That is, if I can keep myself in good shape like Herta! And Chus. What would we do without young, lovely Chus? Thank you all, witches. I mean, ladies. Missing you all already! 

So, my camino ends for now. But the memories linger. We made it! 

DAY 1: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/03/my-camino-switching-off-for-a-week/
DAY 2: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/05/day-2-a-very-wet-camino/

DAY 3: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/day-3-camino-back-into-the-woods/

DAY 4: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/my-camino-day-4-the-best/

DAY 5: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/camino-day-5-can-you-believe-it/

DAY 6: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/my-camino-its-over-but-not-really/

Witches away!


http://youtu.be/ByPqqO8Qwus
   

 


The peregrinos are coming to town. It’s a Friday and the noontime and evening masses for pilgrims at the lovely Romanesque cathedral in Santiago de Compostela will have 8 robed men swinging the butafumeiro across the isles. As I soldiered on on this wet and windy day, many younger pilgrims zoomed past me, unmindful of the cold and rain. They could reach Santiago in time for the mass at noon. 


 
Believe me, getting in and out of your rain poncho can be a mood spoiler. Much more so for those wearing rain pants. But it’s the last day. Our last 15 kms. As the Irish, German and locals zipped past on foot or on bikes, each had an expectant look.  “Buen Camino” which means “Have a good camino or walk” has also substituted for “hello” and “excuse me” or “move aside” as when they overtake you along the trail. 

  

Most peregrinos stop at Monte do Gozo to have their first glimpse of the spires of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It’s the last hill before reaching Santiago, about 4 kilometers away. Windy, overcast sky, cold and wet, we made a collective sigh of relief that the “end” is near. Our hearts felt the church spires beckoning us to march on. 
  

   
 

As soon as we stood before the Church, the dam broke. I cried. Such joy to be here. Such an honor to make this pilgrimage. All worth the wet, cold, windy camino days. The swollen feet from all the walking and the swollen hand from holding the shaft or walking stick.  This “jubilada” (retiree — which is what they registered at the Pilgrims’ Office when asked my profession) made it! And I’m happy that we made this hike in 6 days, feeling every step of the pilgrimage. Gracias, Señor.

  

 
  
The Pilgrim’s Mass at 7:30pm had the entire cathedral filled up as early as half hour before the service. Came a good hour early and claimed front seat. Soon after the service, the tiraboleiros prepared to swing the metal thurible. Botafumeiro is that giant thurible or incensory that they swing across the isles, up and down, pulled by 8 men in deep red robes. Botafumeiro in Galician means smoke-expeller. And the robed men in charge of the swinging thurible are called tiraboleiros which mean incense carrier in Galician. 

 
  

Such a fitting end to this pilgrimage. Feeling blessed. Unlike those who made the 300-800km journey (or even longer), I can’t claim any lifechanging miracle. But I have a newfound discovery. Life, as with uphill climbs, need NOT be rushed. It’s hard. But taking breaks –a breather– every so often makes a seemingly impossible task doable. Often enough, I had to remind myself to slow dow and walk in a relaxed manner. As with life, we sometimes do things just to get it over with. In this Camino, I discovered SLOW works. 

Gracias, Señor. Gracias, San Tiago de Compostela. Gracias to my nueva amigas : Maria Chus, Herta, Beth, Maryanne, May, Anne W, Helen, Carole, Ann, Misty, Sue. God bless you all😘

http://youtu.be/ByPqqO8Qwus

  

CAMINO DAY 5: Can you believe it?


I CAN. HARDLY. BELIEVE IT. Five days of walking from Sarria in Lugo to Amenal, just 15 kms away from Santiago de Compostela. When we went past the 20 km marker, I felt like screaming for joy. Never mind that the next 5kms towards our hotel seemed like an eternity. We were tired, after all. 

   


Been blessed with enough stamina and willpower to hurdle this camino which our guide Maria says isn’t exactly 113 total, but much more. In fact, she said we’ve actually done the minimum 100 kms yesterday to earn a Compostela. She measures our mileage each day but only tells us when day’s over. A little white lie, Maria would say. 

  


But naaaahhh. Having gone this far, we’re not about to hop on a cab to Santiago. Well, there’s only tomorrow’s 15 kms towards Santiago de Compostela, so I feel more confident. Tired? Very! And blessed. No blisters. My little toes gave me problems since Day 2, but me and my toes will survive this. 

  


Today’s walk was like yesterday’s —- into the woodlands in many portions, some meters of walking along the roads, pleasant weather. But more excitement today as we chanced upon Terry Porter, ex NBA player, now coach. Spanish media trailed him from the pitstop beer garden to the last 6 kilometers to Amenal. Took photos even if I didn’t even know the guy. Tried catching up with him but at over 6 feet, those long strides would make us eat dust. Well, the chance encounter was a good distraction for me and my sore legs. 😞 

  

By this time, I have grown accustomed to more oxygen breaks to pace myself (thanks for the breathing/pacing lessons, Herta!) , zumo (juice) de naranja replenishments every 5-8 kms, and vino o cerveza only at day’s end. I’ve even grown excited over these camino breaks for coffee, snacks, cerveza and chats with fellow pilgrims. Some cafe bars are ok, but got to say the food menu hardly changed. It’s the same cerveza, tea, jamon y quezo sandwich, naranja juice, ensalada, tortilla. The defining mark rests in how they do their coffee and the state of their washrooms 😉

   



My right knee started feeling funny after 12kms but my new friend Herta gave me something to spray on it to ease the pain. I am excited for tomorrow’s final leg and happy it’s the last day. My endurance would be severely tested beyond tomorrow, for sure.

   


Day 5. It’s more crowded now as we neared Santiago de Compostela. A bunch of cyclists, a group of German and Irish students, a gang of friendly and hilarious Irish women, many having reached this point after weeks on the camino. And many with their entire pack on their backs! This last 100 kms is nothing compared to what these men and women have been through. It’s embarrassing to even talk about how my right knee started feeling funny in today’s walk. Or how my pinky toes are giving me a problem. In fact, I feel guilty just looking tired 😢
 

Funny how one starts thinking it will be another “short hike”. You see, the camino trail should have covered 28 kilometers but a great decision was made to “break” this legbreaker into 2 days. Entonces, it’s 28 kms in 2 days. Enough reason to start a tad perky yesterday and today. But it rained yesterday. Not so today. 


  

  

We left our hotel in Melide around 9:30am and walked a bit off the trail to visit this pulperia, a church and a zapateria. Another reason to feel perky after a “late start”. For the first time, there was a mass service on this Wednesday during this camino journey. Great start! 


  

  

 

By the time we were ready to resume our camino, 2 in our group had new leather boots in their backpacks. If we weren’t full from breakfast, we could have spent more time in that pulperia. 


  

  
  

Enjoyed the best weather today. Cold when we started, but sun’s out and trail’s lovely as we weaved through Galicia’s countryside. This part — from Melide to Arzua — is very interesting.  We shared the camino path with cows, had lunch in a small cafe bar (Santiago) whose pet dog attempted to follow us as we were leaving. Friendly dog, friendly cafe bar owner. He gave us so many “freebies” like more cheese, jamon, cake etc. Lovely man! 


  

  
This part of the Camino is the best so far. “Only” 14 kilometers today through one of the picturesque parts of Galicia. Both the farmlands and villages are charming. 

 

  

Though I struggled with the uphill climbs — 30 years of heavy smoking do that to you! — I enjoyed the hike. It helps too that we didn’t get rained out today. 

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