West Highland Way: Drymen to Rowardennan

Sunday, August 30, 2015:  Day two…WWW_Day2-1090332Glenalva B & B near Drymen, Scotland provided a restful sleep and we go downstairs to another delicious smoked salmon and egg breakfast. Shared a breakfast table and delightfully, entertaining conversation with two Scottish gentlemen, Thomas and Allan, who are also walking to Rowardennan today. We chat throughout the day while walking, so we are slowly making new friends along the trail. Fascinating people and their stories add another dimension which makes the hiking experience rewarding on a social level.

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Glenalva B & B displays the spirit of the trail with boots as flower pots.

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Early in the day, we miss a sign and take the wrong path (along with other hikers), which means we must backtrack. Many hikers are now passing us, including a large group of Austrians on a group hiking tour. About an hour and a half later, Randy looks back and notices our starting point is right across the meadow as he points with his walking stick. Slow progress…

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The trail climbs through a section of forestry before crossing moorland to reach Conic Hill.

We spend some time today visiting with a college girl from Colorado who is interning while going to school and traveling in the U.K. I enjoy listening to hopes and dreams of young people as they explore and discover their paths in life. I guess that’s the optimistic teacher in me.

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Up, up and away, we climb…

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We finally reach the top and the views of Loch Lomond are spectacular, although it starts to drizzle. (The video at the bottom of this post will show the panoramic view from the top of Conic Hill.)

 


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Sunday is a popular day for hiking. We meet many day hikers who must have parked at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and approach Conic Hill from the opposite side.

 

WWW_Day2-1090462eOne of many “kissing gates.”  It allows people to pass through but not livestock.

WWW_Day2-1090494eWe hike along the banks of Loch Lomond as we proceed along the trail. We find the last stretch today to be quite rocky and somewhat challenging.  We are thinking that today is about as challenging as it gets. (After all, the Youtube videos look pretty tame!)

Towards the end of the day, we strike up a conversation with a lovely couple (Belfast, Northern Ireland/Ukraine), which makes the path seem less severe. Thank you, Michael and Stacy (Anistacia).

 

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The last couple of miles seem to take forever as we sludge past the Rowardennan Hotel, envious of those stopping here for the night. Wondering…  will we ever get there?  Exhausted, we arrive at the Rowardennan Youth Hostel  (Yes, old people can stay in youth hostels!) after our hilly hike and happy to have beds. It does appear as though our backpacks exploded upon arrival.

WWW_Day2-1090509eLucky for us, a bar and food are available a few feet away from our beds, so life is grand.  We are invited to sit with two new trail friends from England, Mandy and Karen. Such fun and interesting gals and both have travel tales from around the globe!

Bonnie N’ Blonde is a locally brewed beer from Loch Lomond Brewery and hit the spot after walking 14.5 miles carrying a backpack up and down hills and scrambling some rocks.  Tomorrow will be MUCH easier, right?

Below is a short video/slide show featuring highlights of day two on the West Highland Way:

Exploring Paris: Art, toilets & crepes, oh my!

 

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Looks like we have security at the Artists’ Market in Montmartre area of Paris, France. Watch out, Bad Guys!

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 Place du Tertre is where the legends of 20th century art used to roam. Now it’s filled with watercolors, portrait sketchers and caricaturists.

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 Picasso, Vlamenck, Derain, Soutine, Modigliani, Van Gogh and countless others lived and worked in these narrow streets.

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 Wall plaques identify buildings and cafes as historic with crucial info such as “Hemmingway once peed in our bathroom…” etc.  ~ http://www.aparisguide.com/montmartre/

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Speaking of toilets, we find dire shortages of bathroom facilities throughout the city (which explains the frequent urine smells in stairways and in the metro.) and begin to plan our itinerary around estimated time of need. (I believe Joan may be researching the next toilet location as she waits her turn.) A few rare instances one may find a futuristic looking toilet pod as pictured above and below. ( Paris Sanisette:  Click on this link for detailed operation instructions.)

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The door closes after the previous user and it takes a full minute for the empty toilet pod to go through its disinfecting cycle before the next person can use it. A robotic arm comes out to scrub the toilet and the floor is cleaned so I patiently wait my turn. That extra minute between users is a long time if a person has to REALLY go and there is a long line. Wish me luck as I allow the doors to the unknown to close upon me. If I fall asleep in there or find myself locked in, it will automatically open after 15 minutes. So they say…

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With that business taken care of we can focus on finding real French crepes since all of this tourist activity has made us hungry. This crepe vendor looks authentic enough, right? 2014Paris-1080006dmvDoesn’t that look just nummy…?

I’ll marry you anywhere as long as it’s Paris

Love is in the air as we tour Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France and see wedding photo sessions on the cathedral grounds. My shots are quick little snaps from quite a distance and just for giggles and kicks.

Every day of the year, masses, vespers and the sacrament of reconciliation are celebrated at Notre-Dame de Paris. Since the cathedral is no longer a parish, baptisms, marriages and funerals are no longer held there. Even though weddings are no longer performed in the cathedral, it doesn’t stop brides from using the grounds to jazz up their wedding photos.

2014Paris-1080081hfm20fp20popcmUnlike Minnesota or South Dakota, only brides and grooms appear to be photographed as no bridesmaids or groomsmen can be seen anywhere.

2014Paris-1080080dmvAlthough he was quite close to the action, I believe this photographer is a tourist since the real photographer was shooting Canon and orchestrating the posing.

2014Paris-1080040hfm40fp40pop40plcrIs he wearing flip-flops?  Might as well be comfortable.2014Paris-1080032dmvcrThis photographer carries flowers, brides arm and his camera is under the flowers. What a guy!

2014Paris-1080026dmvkpPigeons are plentiful around the cathedral. Bread for sale…

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2014Paris-1080036dmvThe line to enter the Cathedral of Notre Dame moves faster than it appears.

2014Paris-1080039dmvcr Gypsies are known to run begging, pick-pocket and other scams in the Paris tourist areas and metro. This little lady is working the line for the Notre Dame Cathedral.

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2014Paris-1080044dmvConstruction began in 1163, and Notre-Dame would be completed some 100 years later, in 1272. Click on the link for more information – The Official Notre Dame website.

 

 

 

Strolling Santiago de Compostela

2014Camino-1070857dmvView from our small third floor room with 5 bunk beds for a total of 10 persons in our room. Cozy…

 

2014Camino-1070858plcrWe call Roots & Boots our home for two nights. It is in the old part of town, three levels of multiple rooms down narrow hallways with as many bunk beds as they can possibly put in each room.  We had two bathrooms for our floor, so we had to be patient or find an open bathroom on another floor…maybe.

We shared a room with sheep farmer from Portugal, college students waiting for housing and a grandfather/grandson pair (Sweden? ), as well as another silent partner that did not converse with us.
2014Camino-1070813dmvcrRandy is wearing his strolling attire today, so let’s start exploring.
2014Camino-1070810dmv Interesting, but I don’t think I’ll put these sculptures on my deck.

2014Camino-1070830plThank you, Random Strolling Ladies, for following the photography Rule of Three and Odd Numbers.

2014Camino-1070832dmvcrShe must be my relative since Pemble women are known to wear bright red attire.

2014Camino-1070834dmvObviously, she draws the attention of old and young alike.

2014Camino-1070838dmvcrSign reads:  Painter looking for work urgently – I’m hungry. 

2014Camino-1070881dmvcrYou’re going strolling whether you want to, or not!

2014Camino-1070829plBeggar outside the coffee shop.

2014Camino-1070855dmvNeighborhood near our hostel.

2014Camino-1070871dmvWe crossed through Alameda Park several times as it was between our hostel and the city center. The origin of the park goes back to the donation of the grounds to the city by the Counts of Altamira around the middle of the 16th century.

2014Camino-1070824plcrHarry Potter influence here?

2014Camino-1070867dmvWe see many monuments amidst the garden area of the park.  Mirador da Alameda.  Translation: Viewpoint of Alameda

2014Camino-1070883dmvWe are thrilled to meet up with Al, our Spanish friend that we met at the pilgrim meal in Fonfria just past O’Cebreiro. I sincerely hope he is doing well with his new job in South America.

2014Camino-1070889dmvThese Italian pilgrims are all smiles and glad to be done with their journey.  We shared the trail frequently with them the past few days. A smile is comprehended in any language.

2014Camino-1070841dmvWe attend the Pilgrim Mass and they did not swing “the thing.”( Botafumeiro) We are 0 for 2 on this, so if I ever return to the Camino experience again I will not be leaving until they do swing “the thing.”

2014Camino-1070845dmvOutside the church, I notice this beggar who is prepared for rain with an umbrella tucked behind her.  I’m guessing she is a Gypsy, which is a slang term for the Romani people that frequent European countries.  More to come on this topic in future blog posts.

2014Camino-1070826plcrThese gypsies appear to be quite stern.  Is this an omen?

 

The Rain in Spain…Camino Day #12 ~ Arzua to O Pedrouzo

I look down from the albergue window as a lone, wet pilgrim shuffles down the dark street below. A-a-a-rgh!!
2014Camino-1070700bgI am also dismayed by the bathroom situation this morning.  Rule of albergue ettiquette:  When sharing a bathroom with twenty-some people, do not spread out a whole trunk load of make-up and proceed to tie up the bathroom and sink for 40 minutes.  Nobody cares what you look like on a wet, miserable day like today!  End of rant…

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2014Camino-1070713dmvGenerally speaking, the stage goes along dirt tracks, with some stretches through secondary roads and also through paths parallel to the road. Yes, this must be Galicia because it is raining.

2014Camino-1070718dmvNot sure I’d want to push a stroller, with a little one, across northern Spain in the rain.  …yet, he smiles.

2014Camino-1070719dmvDefinitely a rain coat kind of day.

2014Camino-1070721dmvMeanwhile, we seek refuge from the elements in a cafe with hot coffee. Not many photos taken today due to the wet conditions.  The rain did let up long enough for a short video:

2014Camino-1070725dmvThese speedy hikers arrive early and find a window seat to enjoy the view of wet hikers strolling past them. It looks like Bryon’s new insoles are helping the blister situation.

2014Camino-1070723dmvHooray!  After about 18 kilometers, we arrive at our destination, O Pedrouzo, and check into Pension A Solaina.

One more day of hiking to go.  Am I happy or forlorn?  Both?

 

 

 

 

 

Camino Day #11 ~ Melide to Arzua

palas-de-rei-to-arzua-elevation-map2(Map reads left to right)
2014Camino-1070637dmvWe leave Melide, Spain with a little extra spring in our step since today will not be a 30 mile day.

2014Camino-1070640dmvA good day to chit-chat along the way while drinking in the views.

2014Camino-1070647dmvMeanwhile, a couple of tough guys make their way up the hill. Blisters are plaguing Bryon due to the 30 mile hike yesterday.

2014Camino-1070653dmvWell, Madre, time to get Bossy.

2014Camino-1070656dmvclShe obliges her owner and dutifully follows as she does every day at milking time.

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2014Camino-1070662dmvPilgrims take a break by the river near Ribadiso, Spain.

2014Camino-1070668dmvcrYour rug is beautiful!

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2014Camino-1070673dmvA graffiti filled tunnel provides reading material.

2014Camino-1070674dmvRocks and flowers left by pilgrims alongside this farmyard.

2014Camino-1070677dmvAnother good drying day, but will it last?

2014Camino-1070688dmvWe arrive in Arzua, Spain and look for our albergue.

2014Camino-1070678dmvYep, here it is.  Ah-h-h-h-h… home at last (for tonight)

2014Camino-1070683dmvWe settle in (looks like we’ll have several neighbors) and decide it’s time to do some laundry.

2014Camino-1070679dmvRandy washes.

2014Camino-1070680dmvJoan hangs clothing to dry while I take pictures. We all have our roles in life!

2014Camino-1070696dmvMmmmmm… Paella  on display right on the sidewalk. Not sure if this is enticing if it has been here all afternoon.

2014Camino-1070695dmvWe decide it’s worth the risk and go for it and order paella.  They must have been expecting us since the menu is in English.

(I should have lined my body up with the picture of the good looking gal on the ad so it looked like it was me!)

Another pleasant day, but the air is cooler and the sky is darkening.  Makes me wonder what tomorrow will be like?

 

 

 

 

Camino Day #8: Fonfria to Sarria

2014Camino-1070432kpdmvWe’ve had our typical breakfast of tostadas (toast) and coffee only to step outside and discover pea soup fog this morning as we leave Fonfria, Spain. Kind of pretty in a surreal way, but not good for viewing scenery.

2014Camino-1070437kpdmv50Fog clears off and the trail starts descending, steep in places.

2014Camino-1070440dmvpopIt’s turning out to be a lovely day as we walk through the quaint village of Biduedo Above is a tiny chapel dedicated to San Pedro.

2014Camino-1070442dmvcrArrows continue to point the way.  I sure hope we keep seeing these helpful guides.

2014Camino-1070443dmvclThis little guy is quite friendly and does not pose a threat.

2014Camino-1070445pldmvThis spectator doesn’t seem to mind our presence, either.

2014Camino-1070446pldmvclHey, you are walking the opposite way!  Inquiring minds want to know…  We stop to chat and discover he is Australian and walking backwards to meet his wife who is walking with her sister.  Hmmm… familiar story here.  I play back the camera images from the albergue near Vega de Valcarce and it is confirmed that we are both talking about the same lovely Australian sisters.  Technology is useful, even on the Camino.

2014Camino-1070447pldmvMeet World Peace.

2014Camino-1070448hfm20pop40dmvRandy poses for a photo opp with Australia and World Peace.

The trail now descends down to the small hamlet of Pasantes.

2014Camino-1070450pldmvHuge size to this tree so it may be worth stopping to read the sign. Locals claim this unusually shaped chestnut tree to be around 800 years old. An albergue is located right next to the tree.

2014Camino-1070451dmvplNeed to take a picture since I know I won’t remember what it said.

2014Camino-1070454dmvSparse population with just a few homes and yards appearing along the trail. It’s another good day for laundry.

2014Camino-1070459hfm20pop50clWe stop for coffee in the town of Triacastela and meet this American woman walking the Camino alone from Burgos to Santiago.  Flight landed on her first day at  4:00 p.m. and she started walking immediately, arriving at an albergue at 8 or 9 p.m. after walking in the dark. Brave lady!

We leave Triacastela and need to choose the best route to Sarria. Left or right?  O.K., left it is.

2014Camino-1070462dmvcrWe pass a church with its adjoining cemetery.

2014Camino-1070465dmvcrGardens are maturing all around the old cemetery.

 

2014Camino-1070469dmv Thank you, Random Gardener, for wearing a color complementary to green.

2014Camino-1070473dmvcrOpen areas nestled in with wooded areas are used for growing crops for feed that are cut by hand.

2014Camino-1070477dmvcrThis section of the path is steep and slippery and we don’t see any other pilgrims.  Are we lost?  Did we miss a sign?  We come to a fork in the road and see no yellow arrows. Should we turn back? Should we panic? We gingerly trek to the right. Thank goodness... we finally see a yellow arrow.

2014Camino-1070479dmvplcl50crColoring with his daughter in front of his home along the Camino de Santiago.  What a great dad!

2014Camino-1070480kpdmv50crThe Camino takes us along the village of Samos and the Benedictine Monasterio de San Julián de Samos. It was founded in the 6th century by San Martin Dumiense and renovated by San Fructuoso in the 7th century. Unfortunately soon after the monastery was renovated it was abandoned because of the Moorish invasion and it wasn’t until the Asturian King Fruela I reconquered the area did the monks return. Some years later King Fruela was assassinated and the monks gave refuge to the King’s wife and son, who was later to become Alfonso II of Asturias. Because of this the monastery was granted royal protection.  ~ Galicia Guide

2014Camino-1070484poppldmv13th century Iglesia San Salvador. The belfry is a later 19th century addition.

2014Camino-1070481dmvkpcrPilgrim Statue along the Camino route.

2014Camino-1070485dmvcrFinally, we reach the town of Sarria.  How much further to the albergue?  Elizabeth and Bryon have gone ahead to get us booked into the albergue in time so we try to make radio contact now. We make contact and we must keep going through town to the other side.  A-r-g-h…

2014Camino-1070488dmvcrReally, this many steps?  We’ve already gone about 30 + kilometers (extra credit since we find out later that we took the long route) and we are hungry and tired. Our albergue is at the top of these stairs, but at least we see the yellow arrow indicating it is on the Camino route.

O.K., here we go...  anything for a bed to sleep in tonight.

 

Galicia and O’Cebreiro

2014Camino-1070328dmvcrWe are now officially in Galicia. This part of the country has an economy based on fishing, farming, agriculture and increasingly tourism.  While the population is Spanish, they see themselves primarily as “Gallegos.”   When the Galicians talk about nationalism, they are generally referring to the “nation of Galicia”  rather than the nation of Spain.  ~ http://www.galiciaguide.com

2014caminoblog-1070340In O Cebreiro, all roads lead to the village church. Founded in the year 836, Santa María la Real (Royal St. Mary’s) is supposedly the oldest church on the entire French Road of the Camino de Santiago. The building is embedded into the ground, with sunken floors that added protection against winter storms.

2014caminoblog-1070342 At a desk, a clerk stamps pilgrims’ credentials and sells votive candles.

2014caminoblog-1070343The building is quite spacious inside.

2014caminoblog-1070347Many are only short-term pilgrims and are dropped off by large tour buses that wait while they explore the village and pay their respects with a candle purchase.

2014caminoblog-1070350 Villagers lived in stone huts called pallozas until as recently as the 1960’s.  Upon entering a palloza, which typically housed a dozen people (and their animals), you’ll find two simple rooms: the only “private” room in the house, belonging to the parents, and a living area around a fire. Surrounding the fire are clever benches (which were also used as very hard beds) with pull-down counters so they could double as a table at mealtime. Cooking was done over the fire using a chain hanging from a big beam, while giant black-metal spirals suspended from the ceiling were used to smoke chorizo.

2014caminoblog-1070352Attached to the living area is a miniature “barn,” where animals lived on the lower level, and people — kept warm by all that livestock body heat — slept on the upper level. Thanks to the ideal insulation provided by the thatch, and the warmth from the fire and animals, it was toasty even through the difficult winter.  ~ Thank you, Rick Steves, for the fun facts to know and tell.

2014caminoblog-1070356It was a little on the cool side and this cat has found a nice sunny spot to guard the beer crate in back of an old cafe.

2014caminoblog-1070360Shopping is available at the horreo (granary).

2014caminoblog-1070361… and here it is, but store is closed.

2014caminoblog-1070358Have no fear!  Gypsies decide to set up shop right by a cafe sign so I guess I can shop, after all!

2014caminoblog-1070362  I’m taking photos of the cute dog, right?  Oh, and there just happens to be Gyspies in the background.

2014caminoblog-1070367Group shot just outside O’Cebreiro as we begin our descent to the other side of the mountain. We’ve enjoyed our little noon break in this quaint village with so much Celtic influence and history.

Now it’s back to hiking with Fonfria as our destination.  We enjoy conversations with other Pilgrims, but I can’t say the trail is over-crowded.

End of Day #6 – Strolling Ambasmestas

camino-frances-25vegaMap reads from right to left.

We started at Villafranca del Bierzo and stop for the night at Ambasmestas, Spain, one kilometer from Vega De Valcarce which is situated at the bottom of the mountain, O’cebreiro.   It is a quaint, little village with plenty of local color, but not many people.

2014Camino-1070242cr 2014Camino-1070243crWho’s the creeper in the window?

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2014Camino-1070255dmvcrIt’s a pleasant evening for conversation.  Probably discussing politics or those crazy pilgrims.2014Camino-1070256dmvcr

2014Camino-1070257dmvcrInteresting albergue.  They do allow pets, however.2014Camino-1070262crIt’s a nice, warm evening so we are able to hand wash and dry our clothing in the window.  We meet two lovely sisters from Australia and share Camino experiences with them.  I will soon find out that snapping photos can be helpful when tracking down pilgrims on the trail.

 

Camino Fast Forward… to Pamplona

The end of Camino Day Three is becoming more challenging.  No beds to be found in Zubiri (Rats!) No beds to be found in Larrasoana (Double Rats!).

Not being able to bring a bed back to Joan, waiting at the Rabies Bridge, we collect her and locate a cafe with wireless capabilities.

Time to figure out what Plan B should look like.  Elizabeth, A.K.A. Guru of Travel, works the daylights out of Joan’s Ipad at a cafe in Zubiri and she and Joan team up to find enough beds in Pamplona, Spain. Fast forward, via taxi, about 12.5 miles.

2014Camino-1070091dmv We end day three with a stay in a hotel near the Camino route about three miles from the city center. Day four begins with a leisurely three mile walk to the historic city center, which is quite easy compared to the previous days.
2014Camino-1070098dmvcrIt appears other tourists are eager to greet us, ignoring the poor homeless man.

2014Camino-1070095dmvcrWhile passing a city park I observe that kids are kids the world around, complete with moms overseeing their activities and sharing a conversation.

2014Camino-1070100dmvcrAfter a little bit of wandering and asking directions, we find our place of lodging  (above and on the left) and are early enough to get five beds.  This albergue opens at 1:00 p.m. daily and will fill up by 2:30 p.m. today. Finding beds has become a race in itself due to the number of people walking and biking the Camino this time of year.

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A little background on our lodging tonight:

2014Camino-1070120dmvAnother way of re-purposing, which is a trend these days.

2014Camino-1070117dmvPosters advertise bull fights, but no running of the bulls… that’s O.K.

2014Camino-1070096dmvcrNow, which street do they run the bulls?  Could be any of these or all of these.

2014Camino-1070097dmvcr Quite narrow and I would surely be trampled!

2014Camino-1070132dmvWe tour the massive Pamplona Cathedral, mostly dating from the 15th century.

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2014Camino-1070129dmvcrRandy visits with the French monk that we met the day before while on the path.

2014Camino-1070138dmvDo I see a clothesline through these enormous pillars?  Adrenaline rush.

2014Camino-1070134dmvMy day is complete.  Boom!

2014Camino-1070160dmvThe guy in the red t-shirt seems to be training for the running of the bulls!

2014Camino-1070113dmvTime to locate a meal for these starving pilgrims and Menu del dia is a favorite.

2014Camino-1070176dmvYum!?

2014Camino-1070106dmvTraditional paella is on the menu… why not?

2014Camino-1070121dmvHome, sweet home, for tonight.  Our tummies are full and it’s time to call it a day.  Tomorrow includes another Fast Forward, as scheduled in our original Plan A.

2014Camino-1070126dmvThis creepy doll is across the street from our albergue… watching us as we sleep.

Sweet dreams…?