For pilgrims and others …

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt’s been over a week and some that I have been at the albergue and some of you have asked me why I enjoy being part of that environment. Let me try to summarize this as best as I can.

When pilgrims arrive tired, exhausted and simply want a bed for the night and I see their faces light up when we tell them we have room for them – that makes me feel happy.

When they look surprised when I speak French or English, that makes me feel happy.

When they need help to make a reservation in Spanish and I can help them, that makes me feel happy.

When the pilgrims leave the dinner table rested and fed, that makes me happy.

When pilgrims just want to chat about their experiences and I can take the time to listen, that makes me happy.

When pilgrims leave in the morning and thank us and occasionally (ok, more than occasionally) we get hugs, that makes me happy.

When we clean the last dish and wash the last glass, and the pilgrims are all tucked in their sleeping bags asleep, that makes me happy.

When we finish getting the beds ready, the floor swept and the food restocked ready for another day, that makes me happy.

Giving back can happen in many ways, and somehow being able to be here for the pilgrims and for my good friend Bruno (who is one of the most dedicated hard-working person I know on the Camino), that makes me happy.

It’s simple yet the words don’t really convey the joy I have being part of this! I know I will miss this lifestyle when I leave … I have learned a lot and received even more…
I am truly blessed!

Cheers from Moratinos

I was saddened but now …

I was saddened but now…

Sadness does not last forever when we walk in the direction of that which we always desired – Paulo Coelho

Day after day my sadness grew. I witnessed ugly attitudes, selfish ways, uncivilized actions and it saddened me. Where had the spirit of the Camino gone?

Crowds of pilgrims rushing from one albergue to the next, walking at the speed of light. What might they be missing with only the focus of getting a bed or getting to the next location?

The idea of stopping to smell the roses was overtaken by the feet stepping on the roses for the sake of distance and progress.

My first Camino although made at the exact same date two years ago was so different… Pilgrims seeking to cover distance did so in conscious ways so as not to impose on others. Care was taken so not to disturb those who followed a different schedule.

Now things have changed and I felt the spirit of the Camino was gone… And would I ever find it again?

Then I landed here in Moratinos at my friend Bruno’s albergue! Here is an owner who truly cares about the pilgrims. He cares about his albergue and he offers a home-cooked meal in the tradition of his hone country Italy.

When team Nestor arrived here we chanced upon a community lunch and we were welcomed with open arms and plates full of food! Another Facebook friend Rebekah and her husband spent time with us and I started to feel the spirit cone back. I offered Bruno to stay for a while and help him out; being with the pilgrims at day end, seeing them enjoying the meal and chatting with them made the spirit of the Camino come alive.

I am peaceful here and although there is lots of work it’s truly not work for me. It feels like … giving back to the Camino and to Bruno who opened his door to me in 2011 (I was his first pilgrim guest!) and he shared his experience of building his albergue. 

His gift to me of letting me share my time with him and learn about the albergue life is what life is all about!

The Camino spirit is alive and well, at the very least in Moratinos! When I leave here to head to Santiago I know I will be refreshed and ready for my next volunteer time. 

Cheers from Moratinos
PS I will rejoin team Nestor in a week or so and we will all head to Santiago again!

Photo catch up

Bruno has let me use his computer therefore I can update my blog with a few pictures from the past week. These are just a few of my favorites. The one that I absolutely adore is the one of the older couple with their fresh snails – we chanced on them as we got closer to Moratinos, and they were happy to tell us all about their harvest. She even shared her famous secret recipe for the snails a la “Spanish style” and invited me to dine with them to try them out, but I still had some walking to do!

The picture of me with my backpack is a one that I wanted as my business card has the same pose but from my first Camino – – absolute same location!!

Cheers from the Camino!







Update – mid point to Santiago

Update May 13  – halfway point to Santiago

It’s been a few days since my last update since these last locations had limited WIFI. It’s hard to believe I am halfway to Santiago already!

I cannot say it’s been a breeze, believe me! Before Marie-Jo and Patrick went back to France, we talked about the fact the first Camino was as difficult but we likely forgot about the hard parts!

I personally know I have a lot more challenges this time. First with my bronchitis then my knee problem. The bronchitis has disappeared and now that Jean has taped my  knee I can walk without knee pain. 

My feet still are sore each night but that’s par for the course – that never really goes away… Even on the last day!

The Camino has also been challenging due to the amount of pilgrims this year. Many of the albergues are full early on. This results in many pilgrims getting up very early (5 am) trying to beat the rush. There were some last Camino but they got up quietly and tried to be prepared as to cause the least amount of disturbance to all the other pilgrims.

Well, this seems to have gone out the window this year! People are turning on lights, packing their entire bags or talking to each other – quite frustrating for those who aren’t  playing the get to the albergue first game.

There have been a few times Daniele and Jean had to use the tent, and I get a room somewhere, but we still opt to take our time and enjoy each moment.

I’ve met many Canadians this time around and even today I met a Mom and daughter from Gatineau. We’ve formed a larger group of a mix of French and Quebec folks with whom we regularly meet for dinner.

This will change tomorrow as we plan on spending the day in Moratinos at my friend Bruno’s albergue which is only 13 km away. Most of our new friends will walk to the next logical step which is typically 18 – 22 km away. Such is often the case as people follow their set schedules.

It was great having Marie-Jo and Patrick with us but their time was limited and they are missed.

It”s also very strange walking the familiar road. I am remembering so many experiences past. On one hand it makes me look forward to the fun experiences AND makes me dread the challenging ones. Yet I am still able to discover new things and of course meet a whole new set of people! That is a true highlight of doing the Camino!

I look forward to sharing more pictures next time I have access to a computer and I’m able to transfer my camera pictures to my blog. 

Until then I am sending you good thoughts from the Camino

May 9th Update – Haro to Burgos

First and foremost, please keep my sister Denise in your prayers as she suffered a heart attack, was treated with an angioplasty procedure and is resting in the Ottawa Heart Institute. She is in one of the best hospital for this type of situation, I trust that all will go well and she will be healing quickly.

We´ve had a few days without good internet access, so I will be catching up on the past few days. We are currently in Burgos with a rest day, while Mari-Jo and Patrick have concluded their Camino travels for this year.




The first three pictures are of a church in Haro, a small town.





The tomb you see is of San Juan de Ortega, better known as Saint John the Hermit (c. 1050–1143), who was born near Burgos, Spain, and became a priest at a young age.



The gentleman beside me is Bernard from… Ottawa! Yes, Ottawa !! We met at the cross, and we walked about two hours together. Turns out we even attended the same Pilgrim Association meetings but never actually recognized each other or met. Quite amazing to come so far and meet someone who lives 20 minutes from me! We will meet again this summer and exchange stories!


The last two pictures are from the city of Burgos. This is where I originally started my Camino in 2011. It´s very strange to be back again in this city, knowing that from this point on, the Camino will look very familiar!



cheers from Burgos Spain

When best of plans don’t go as planned

“Planning is helpful. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll seldom get it. But, no matter how well you plan, you will fare better if you expect the unexpected. The unexpected, by nature, comes unseen, unthought, unenvisioned. All you can do is plan to go unplanned, prepare to be unprepared, make going with the flow part of your agenda, for the most successful among us envision, plan, and prepare, but cast all aside as needed, while those who are unable to go with the flow often suffer, if they survive.”
― David W. Jones, Moses and Mickey Mouse: How to Find Holy Ground in the Magic Kingdom and Other Unusual Places

It was refreshing to read this today. All the best laid plans can so easily be changed, at times by ourselves at times, by circumstances beyond our choice. Team Nestor, together for the 10 or 12 days needed to complete the Camino Interior. Everything seemed planned, figured out and timed well. Along came bronchitis and knee problems – – and, true to myself, as I said multiple times before heading out here, I needed to make choices that would ensure my ability to complete the entire 6 to 7 weeks of walking needed to get to Santiago.

At first I figured one rest day would suffice, and I would catch up with the group. What I didn’t anticipate was that unlike the Camino Frances, the Camino Interior maps through very small remote villages that often are not easy to reach by standard bus or train. In the case of the little village of La Puebla de Arganzon, trains do run, but sporadically, and not on weekends.

I opted to go with the known – and when faced with the choice of destinations, I decided to return to the town that I knew, rather than chance heading to another town where albergues or accomadations could be unavailable. This however, left me further out from the Team, and when they proposed I meet them tonight at their camping location (where they had rented a chalet) I discovered again that not only were there no trains, buses to get me there, but a taxi ride of more than 50 km would have been exorbitant. Therefore, I have one more night apart from the group but at least I am in a town that I NOW know well and really enjoy – Vitoria.

Last night, wanting to do something fun and different, I chanced upon the local theater building and saw that people were lined up for a performance. I checked with the ticket vendors and discovered that a small jazz band was playing. For a mere 9 Euros ($12) I sat and listened to a great group (all Spanish but the lead singer sang in English) and I hear what was likely one of the best rendition of the song “You know how I feel” and at that moment, I remember thinking that the best laid plans are good, but the unexpected, the spur-of-the-moment experiences such as this one – – well, one can only enjoy and fully experience.

Granted, I have missed some days of walking with the group, and no doubt some great dinners and conversations… but I discovered a new city, took beautiful pictures, attended an all Spanish mass, and experienced a concert that I will not forget.

When best of plans don’t go as planned we can either get upset or we can ride the wave and see where it takes us.
I’m riding high!

I made my way by bus back to Vitoria, but this time I am staying in the albergue which is brand new, modern, huge, clean and only 10 Euros a night.
Today was the outdoor market so I took a stroll to see what vendors are selling today.

And yes, you will see in one of the pictures that the meat is of TORO – not cow, but bull. Not surprising at all.









Jean’s birthday celebration


May 3rd was Jean’s birthday. We planned a nice evening dinner together but first we had a 22.5 km trek to complete.
We left Vitoria and headed towards our end destination of Puebla de Arganzon.





We stopped for lunch and celebrated Jean’s birthday with wine and chocolate. We also took the time to have a short nap before a 300 m climb and a 500 m descent.





Once we arrived and unpacked, we headed to the local bar for a pilgrim dinner and another celebration of Jean’s birthday. We all had a great time!





Due to the day’s descent, I am faced once again with a non-walk day to let my knee get better. Team Nestor left this am and I will take the bus back to Vitoria then tommorrow rejoin them at their location. I am really happy we were all together for Jean’s special day!

Vitoria – of churches and history

Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spanish: Vitoria [biˈtoɾja]; Basque: Gasteiz [ɡas̺teis̻]; officially Vitoria-Gasteiz) is the capital city of the province of Álava and of the autonomous community of the Basque Country in northern Spain with a population of 235,661 people. It is the second largest Basque city. The dwellers of the city are called vitorianos or gasteiztarrak, while traditionally they are dubbed babazorros (Basque for ‘bean eaters’).

This city is absolutely charming, mixing both old and new together. I have this quaint little hotel room a few steps from the Museum Artium, Museum of Contemporary Art. I took a walk through the old part of town, and visited a cathedral as well as the Museum of of Sacred Art. What amazed me most about the Sacred Art Museum is the fact that there are no barriers to the art – ancient stones, statues, paintings are mere inches away from us. I obviously can´t show you all the pictures I took, but here are a few that really moved me.

If you want more information, let me know which pictures are of interest to you, otherwise, enjoy the show!












Tomorrow we head towards La Puebla de Arganzon, an 18 km walk.
Cheers from Basque Country

Team Nestor made the local newspaper


Our arrival in the village of Beasain caused quite a stir! While I was out looking for a pharmacy, the local newspaper editor approached the team to write something up. Here is the rough translation of the article published in the El Diario Vasco 30th of March.

They are not lost, on the contrary, nor are they recreatng Sancho Panza. However their passage in the streets of Iturrioz and Nagusia, around 17:45 got the attention of other walkers. He is a pilgrim from France who, along with his donkey baptized Nestor, covering the Camino Santiago via the Interior route.

He´s not alone, but with his ladyfriend, a French couple from France and a Canadian pilgrim from Ottawa who went ahead of them. They are staying in the albergue de Igartza. They arrived here, at the end of this stage. Jean Eloy accomodated the donkey near a field close to the train track to allow it its little piece of ¨greenery¨. The donkey could then rest and regain his strength for the next day. Jean stayed in the albergue with his companion Daniele, and friends Marie’Jo and Patrick.

¨Two years ago, along with Nestor, we completed the Camino Frances; we did it in 2 months and 10 days. With the other couple and Sylvie, the Canadian, we took to the road. We established a relationship which developed into friendship and we were excited to plan our Camino del Interior¨stated Jean.

To Santiago on June 10th
Until now, he cover stages of between 25 and 35 km, and Nestor did well. In consideration of this, they expect to arrive in Santiago June 10th.

The albergue provided the support of the hospitalero Miguel Zulaika who explained that to cover the next stage to Zegama they would follow roads through Olaberria, however there would be many stairs to traverse. Impediment for sure, for Nestor who has his own credential with the stamps of all the albergues.

The night found the four pilgrims in the albergue, however the Canadian pilgrim stricken with congestion problems, and so to no disturb the others, opted to stay in a nearby hotel.

The hospitalero explained that up to now, 27 pilgrims had stayed in the albergue ¨the Tower of Babel¨which offers cover to Basque, Cataluna, Andaluce, Canaries, French, Italian, Australian and Dutch pilgrims.