Spain 2017: Camino de Santiago Sept. 15 – Oct. 03

The Camino de Santiago has been a pilgrimage for millions of people for more than a thousand years. Ever since the remains of St. James the Apostle were said to have been found here in 813AD, pilgrims have made their way to the sanctuary at Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.

More than just a walk, the Camino is regarded as a journey of the mind, body and spirit and modern pilgrims do it for personal, spiritual and inspirational reasons.  As in life, everyone experiences their journey in a different way.


Our route in Spain begins in Pamplona and ends in Santiago de Compostela.


I arrived in Barcelona at 11:00 am today.  It was an overnight flight from  Charlotte.  It’s cool and rainy here today.  I got to my hotel, settled in and located my cycling friend Diana.  We decided to take the “hop on hop off” bus to get a feel for the city. It’s a nice city and I hope the sun comes out tomorrow.  We checked out the flowers that were left for the victims of the latest terrorist attack.

We also took a tour of Casa Bastilo. It is a renowned building located in the center of Barcelona and is one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces.

Like everything Gaudí designed, it is only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense.  There are few straight lines, and much of the façade is decorated with a colorful mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles.  The roof is arched and was likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur.




After our tour of Casa  Bastilo, we found a Tapas restaurant and enjoyed some food and wine.  It was a good day.

Antoni Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi’s architecture is scattered throughout Barcelona.

We started the day by checking out Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.  It is an international centre for spirituality which invites people of all backgrounds and faiths to share in a sense of life based on love, harmony, good, generosity and peace.





Then we toured the home that he built in Barcelona where he lived from 1908 – 1927.  Although his architecture is very ornate and modernistic, he lived a very simple minimalistic life.






Casa Mila was our next stop.  It was designed by Antoni Gaudí and built between 1906 and 1910.



I thought Some of the rooftop sculptures that he designed looked rather sinister, like medieval warriors.



On our way back from exploring Gaudi’s structures we stopped at a Tapas bar for a late lunch.



Later in the evening we went to a Flamenco Dance show.  The dancers put on a very high energy and passionate show.  It was a great ending to a great day!

Last Day in Barcelona

Today we hooked up with a bicycle tour group to explore the city by bicycle.

There were 19 of us on the bicycle tour and I was the only one that showed up with a helmet.  Aren’t these people worried about head injuries??  Anyway I felt like quite a nerd with my helmet on so I took it off halfway through the tour.  Peer pressure!


We rode by an arena that had previously been a bull fighting arena. Bull fighting was banned in Barcelona in 2001 after many protests by animal rights activists.  These arenas are now used for  other events.



After the bicycle tour, Diana and I explored the city by foot.  The Arc de Triomf was built to be the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair.



There is amazing architecture throughout Barcelona.  We just touched on a few during our short stay in the city.




We leave in the morning via train to Pamplona where our bicycle tour of the Camino trail begins.


We took the train from Barcelona to Pamplona this morning.  It was a very pleasant 4 hour train ride through small villages and farmland.  We were ready to get out of the city crowds and start the Camino bike tour!  We met up with several other women, 13 total I think, and we were all fitted for our rental bikes.  I brought my seat and pedals, as many other women did, and we set up our bikes according to our riding preferences.

Pamplona train station

We explored Pamplona before our bike fitting and before we met the other cyclists.








A street where Running of the Bulls takes place every year in July.


Bull fighting still takes place in Pamplona.


Running of the Bulls sculpture in Pamplona.



After our our rental bike fitting, we all walked up to the Pilgrim’s Hostal to get our Pilgrim Passport.  We will each get our passport stamped along the way to document our progress as we cycle the Camino.


The camino shell is found in many places along the Camino path.



I got my passport with a starting point stamp. Every day we will add a stamp to our passports to document our journey.


Nancy from New Mexico holding her passport. She is learning Spanish and is very helpful to the rest of us who wish they had spent some time learning the basics of the language. She helped all of us order our dinner this evening!


Diana and me after we received our Pilgrim Passports


Sitting with us at our table for dinner is an amazing woman who will be riding the Camino trail with us.  Her name is Glenna, she is from California and she is 85 years old!!  She has lived an incredible life and we all loved sitting back over dinner and hearing about her cycling adventures.  She has children older than me and everyone else sitting at our dinner table!  I will add more about Glenna as our tour continues.


Pamplona to Estella

After breakfast, we cycled out of town into the rural countryside. Our first stop was the 12th century Church of Saint Maru Eunate where we got our passports stamped.  From there, we made our way to the town of Estella where we spent the night.  We rode a hilly 33 miles today.

We stopped to get our passports stamped.

Lunch stop.


Carol and Candace on the Camino Trail.




Pat with her Bike Friday.


Our hotel for the night.

Estella to Laguardia

Today’s bike ride took us through rural Navarre and Basque farmland. We spent the night in Laguardia, just off the Camino in Rioja wine country. An advantage of cycling over walking is our ability to detour and not miss some of the important places in Spain. Rioja wines are considered some of the best in the world.  We rode 39 miles today.  This ride is much hillier than I thought!

Soon after we got our first passport stamp for the day, we came across the wine fountain.  Instead of water, wine comes out of the fountain!

We rode past many wind mills along the way.

Just before we stopped for lunch, we came across a sheep herder with his dog.  It was great to watch his dog keeping all those sheep together.


We rode past many vineyards today!

We had dinner in the town of Laguardia.



bread, bread and more bread!




Laguardia to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

We spent the first part of the day exploring Rioja wine country, cycling past vineyards and wineries.  We rode past one of Frank Gehry´s architectural masterpieces in El Ciego.

Then it was back to the Camino to our overnight in a former pilgrim’s hospital in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The town was founded by the energetic hermit Santo Domingo, who built a bridge, road and hospital for the pilgrims. The King took notice of his good works and commissioned a great cathedral. It’s now home to a hen and rooster in honor of a miracle that is said to have occurred here 600 years ago.  38 miles today.





Frank Gehry architecture





Vineyards along the way.





We passed a festival where some men were cooking a huge pot of paella. They invited us to join their festival but we had to keep moving.


We stopped for lunch at a little grocery store where the owner made us a cheese and meat sandwich.



Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Burgos

Today’s beautiful ride took us through the Goose Hills. Yellow arrows and scallop shells carved into stone marked our way. We ended the day in the great cathedral city of Burgos. Stunning from the outside, the grand cathedral sits in the center of the town’s square and a short walk from our hotel.

Along the way we passed the sanctuary of San Juan de Ortega.  Total distance = 56 miles.


Convent where the nuns will stamp your passport. They also make and sell exquisite chocolate truffles


Nancy having a conversation with the nun about the chocolates she sells.


The nun stamped my passport and I bought some chocolates from her.


Pilgrim statue in front of the convent.


Our next stop was San Juan de Ortega.  This was once one of the most important stops along the Camino.  St. John of Ortega was St. Domingo´s principal helper who later went on to build more hospitals and churches for the pilgrims.  He is buried in the church here.  Queen Isabel was cured of her infertility after praying at San Juan´s tomb and in thanks had the original little chapel completely rebuilt.  The pilgrim´s hostal is still run in the old tradition by the parish priest.  We also had our passports stamped here.

San Juan de Ortega





After a long climb, we made it to Burgos. our final destination for the day.


We checked into our hotel and walked over to the town center of Burgos for dinner.


Burgos cathedral.





I have been converted to red wine. This wine is delicious and available in the USA. I will be looking for it when I get home.


Burgos to Carrion de Los Condes


After breakfast, we left Burgos on a bike path. The day began with rolling hills but turned into the flattest section of the Camino. We cycled past fields of grains and sunflowers and wind farms. We stopped to admire the 11th century Romanesque church of San Martin full of beautifully detailed sculptures.  Then we stopped at the huge church of Santa Maria la Blanca.

It was a very tough day for riding.  The flattest section of the Camino was actually the hardest for cycling because of the strong headwind.  We were all exhausted by the end of the day.

Total distance today = 60 miles.



We stopped for picnic lunch along the way. Lucia prepared a wonderful lunch for us!