Our Detailed Camino Itinerary – April and May, 2013

February 24, 2018

This time in 2013 Anita and I were doing a lot of hiking to prepare ourselves for our Camino Santiago hike across Northern Spain: our favourite trip of all time.

I know many of you are preparing for your own pilgrimage. I am therefore re-posting our own experience. You will find much detailed information and lovely photos of our own experience plus places to stay along the route and iconic things to see and stories.

Sincerely hope that this helps!

Our Camino Frances with more info:

Passport Page 1
Passport Page 1
Passport Page 2
Passport Page 2
Our Eclectic Camino Map
Our Eclectic Camino Map

Mon Apr 22, 2013: In transit from Toronto to Paris

Tue Apr 23: In transit from Paris to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

The plan:CDG to Paris Gare du Nord every 5 to 7 minutes; takes ~25 min; TGV 8537 dep Paris Montparnasse 12h27 arr Bayonne 17h32; TER 67331 dep Bayonne 18:07 arr  Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port 19:33 Note: We missed our train from Montparnasse by buying the wrong ticket from the airport. Human help is sadly absent or too far away in Paris stations and we let a local buy our tickets for us. Our ticket didn’t let us on the subway at Montparnasse – the right one should have. For these tricky situations take the time to find an information kiosk. Don’t panic. We caught a later train to Bayonne (more money) and took a taxi from there to SJPdP for € 110!!

Stayed at Hotel Itzalpea 5 Place du Trinquet,  SJPdP Tel 33559370366  itzalpea@wanadoo.fr (€78/nt)

Wed Ap 24:  SJPdP

Got our Carnets de Pèlerin (Passports), bought hiking poles at La Boutique du Pèlerin, walked around St. Jean to check the way out of town, ate a lunch by the river, walked up above the town to the citadelle and ate dinner for the second time at Chez Dédé. Yum.

Thu Ap 25:  Begin Camino: Walk 8 km from Saint-Jean to Orisson

Stay at Private Refugio Orisson – Half Board 32 € (yes, that’s thirty-two monopolistic euros per person)   refuge.orisson@wanadoo.fr  Tel: 34681497956

Fri Apr 26: Walk 17.1 km from Orisson to Roncesvalles

Stay at Hotel Roncesvalles,  Mayor, Roncesvalles Tel +34948760105info@hotelroncesvalles.com Cost: 70 € using booking.com Arrived at 17:30 after a cold, wet 10 hour hike from Orisson. Borrowed rice to save my camera and we washed and dried our very muddy boots and rain pants in the lovely suite’s huge shower area. Ate our pilgrim meal at the hotel.

Sat Apr 27: Visit Roncesvalles; Taxi to Pamplona

Roncesvalles: Visited the Real Collegiata de Santa María (see above photos), Capilla de Sancti Spiritus, Capilla de Santiago, Battle of Roncesvalles Monument, the Silo of Charlemagne and the Museo.Ate lunch at nearby Casa Sabina, whose chef is also responsible for the kitchen at H. Roncesvalles.

Taxied (€55) to Pamplona, skipping one stage – Zubiri.
Book Early the Hostal Navarra Nr bus stn Db-€60 Calle Tudela 9, tel 948-225-164 There was no room when we called the day before. We stayed at Pension Arrieta (€ 40)  34-948-228-459, which has two nearby locations. The wifi is in the building with no elevator. Felt like we were disturbing the family whenever we went back there to ask questions or use the Internet, but they were nice and polite.We visited the cathedral: Choir contains “Mary of the Adopted Child; Mary is original but child is not; Tomb of Chas III in nave ooh aah.Ate supper at the Bar La Granja for € 33. A local bride-to-be, dressed in toilet paper and accompanied by friends, was one of the customers.

Continue reading “Our Detailed Camino Itinerary – April and May, 2013”


Our CBC: A Weapon of Mass Delusion

To The National,
If I needed proof that The National are pure and simple toeing the anti-Assad, anti-Russia line – I certainly got it last night. The White Helmets Acting Company put on their slick multi-million dollar show once more, getting prime coverage in the phoney (since 2013) “WMD-use” assault on Assad.
The CBC presented or ignored other issues in this segment designed to minimize awareness of the deadly, horrific interference committed during the continued, uninvited American presence in Syria.  We all know the consistent history of US-led criminal wars upon many other worldwide regime-change binge targets.
But to my point: I am now convinced in the insincerity  of virtually all CBC TV hosts. There have to be some doubters among you. Most of you are much too smart not to realize what is going on. So isn’t it about time for some resistance from at least some of you who are caving in or playing along with the relentless distraction and dumbing down (yes, you too, Carole MacNeil) of TV viewers to the point that they swallow or obsequiously read/hear what you and all of the international “quality” media are dishing out via the long-familiar, must be tired and jaded, faces on RussiaGate, Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Iraq etc.
This sort of stuff is so bad it has probably been responsible for breaking up some homes, where one partner retches loudly while the other simply keeps swallowing.
I remember as a pre-teen in the early 1950’s thinking that Russians were sub-human. Working in Britain in the early 1970’s I learned how much contempt the Brits once had for refugees from Eastern Europe. Do we want to go back to that? Seriously?
Perhaps your justification for weaponizing the news comes from a “patriotic” feeling that couch potatoes should be primed with propaganda as preparation for WWIII.
As a grandparent in these times, I can only shudder.

A Special Book


I have just finished The Stones Speak by the prolific, much-loved, 20th Century writer, Thórbergur Thórdarson, born in 1888, who grew up on a remote family farm named Hali in southeastern Iceland, very near to Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest peak in Iceland at 2119 metres.

I bought the book at the Þórbergssetur museum, where our tour group stopped on July 18th, two days into our 10 day bus tour. The centre was built in 2006 in Hali, (near Reynivellir in Southeast Iceland) and is dedicated to this unique man. He was largely self-educated, being too poor to attend high school or university.

The Stones Speak, translated in 2012 by Professor Julian Melton d’Arcy of the U. of Iceland, is Thórdarson’s only complete book that has been translated into English. Written when he was in his 60’s, this is an inspired, witty and sometimes caustic collection of his earliest memories – those of a precocious, hypersensitive visionary who lived very close to nature.

The book is, in my opinion, a must-read for folks who plan to visit Iceland and really want to work at understanding its recent (20th C.) history and its people. The introduction and notes by d’Arcy deserve to be read both before and after reading the book. They even contain the simplest, best guide to Icelandic pronunciation that I have found.

I went to Iceland because it was my wife’s choice and must confess that, uncharacteristically, my only research before the trip was to google the heck out of each place we were visiting on our Ring Road tour and look for things worth escaping from the pre-arranged options to see. And because we were arriving in Reykjavík (KEF) at 6 AM on the red-eye from Toronto on July 16th I was looking keenly for the most interesting places we might explore that day on our own. Our Grand Hotel was only a half-hour walk or a # 15 city bus from the centre of town. These were, for this dyed-in-the-wool self-directed traveler, the vital facts, since we were not due to meet our tour director at the hotel until 5:30 P.M.

Combined with the superb tour itself, reading The Stones Speak has given me wonderful, intensely personal insight/hindsight into the unique Icelandic people. It was, for me, not an easy read. It does not grab you like The DaVinci Code. I put it down and picked it up several times, as I have done with Proust, until realizing that, by making margin notes and studying maps and breaking down words in what is for the superbly gifted Daniel Tammet this oh-so-special language, I fell in love with Iceland and humanity in general, starting with the folks in 1890’s Suðursveit. 

If you have already visited Iceland, take the time to study The Stones Speak. You will, through it, reconnect with human nature and, perhaps, yourself.

P.S. If you have not gone yet, check out Guide To Iceland, a great website community to which my post travel research luckily led me. They justifiably claim to be an “unrivalled source of information.”


Going By In A Bus

Jöjullsárlon Glacial Lagoon – Iceland


Literally “going by in a bus.”

We passed the above on our way to visit the author Thórdarson memorial site in nearby Hali. Our date with the above lagoon was later that afternoon. There were poles quickly and determinedly going by the window as I shot AVCHD video with my Sony Alpha A-6000 using Sony’s e-mount SEL18-55mm zoom lens that has internal stabilization.

This is a screenshot I took while editing the video. The stains on the baby icebergs are volcanic fallout probably from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in southern Iceland. The added colour in the ice enhances the photo.

Behind, and just below the Parasitic Jaeger in full flight, is the gloomy-faced glacier whose calving produces the ice in the lagoon. For me the image creates a very special mood. I am grateful to my A-6000 and to the photography djinns for my being on the correct side of the bus as we whisked by between posts on our way to tea and a tour at the Hali Farm.

We had paid days in advance for a large, yellow, amphibious duck boat tour of the lagoon. When we arrived from Hali it was raining and I had to leave my camera in the bus and don rain pants, etc. For someone who has seen the Rockies’ Columbia Ice Field close up, this wasn’t much ice and the hectic decision making and running around caused by the bad weather induced me to tune out. We were treated to what seemed like standard tourist jokes by the young, non-icelandic park guide on the boat.

We dutifully chomped on 1000 year old glacier ice that he used a pick to break off for us from an armful-sized chunk.  To his credit, he held it in his bare hand with long-suffering, smiling patience. The chunk must have been captured earlier and kept in a fridge because we never saw him collect it. I was relieved when it was thrown back. Maybe it was, too.

Pale blue or not, it tasted like… ice. No hint of blueberry. To my undiscerning palette, it didn’t seem to have gone bad during that thousand years. Whatever molecules, if any, it may have absorbed from Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 were invisible and tasteless.

There were many similar craft chugging down into the water at regular intervals. Ours had a bullet hole in it. We learned that they were originally US Navy craft. The afternoon sailings should have been canceled and our $60 pp refunded. I would then have walked around in my rain suit shooting under an umbrella. My camera, always the third person on our holidays, sulked for a day or so. I told it it hadn’t missed much. That didn’t help.

I have only now told “A” that it helped me capture the above surprise that just may be my favourite of the whole trip. Was it my imagination, or did I hear a tiny, high pitched sob of relief?

I may just treat it to its first partial eclipse of the sun on Monday. I’ll protect its face and mine with a piece of #14 welders glass I used to shoot the Venus Transit on June 8, 2004 and the solar eclipse on December 25, 2000.

AVCHD video has been a recent possibility for me. My old movie program on my PC would not accept HD video, so I’ve only been using it for about 18 months – after upgrading to an iMac desktop. AVCHD has made producing decent images of unpredictable moving subjects so much easier.

Iceland on the whole has been wonderful. The people we met (mostly associated with the tourist industry) were generous with their attention and many spoke impeccable English.

Later on our 10 day ring road circuit we had a chance meeting and delightful conversation at breakfast in the Kia Hotel in Akureyri  with two brilliant Icelanders whose names are, I’m sure, household words there. More later on that.



We visited Iceland for 10 days in July. Above are a few photos I selected to send to my granddaughter who is 3 going on 7 and intensely involved in our holiday. Did you see a volcano? A geyser? A waterfall? A glacier? Are there trolls there?

She asked her preschool teacher to show her where Iceland was on the globe. Think her mother put her up to that… My first encounter with a map happened at the front of a class of kids I didn’t know – 3rd grade in a new school… But that is to digress…


Politics is pretty depressing these days. Envy that infectious child-like innocence.

Newfoundland 2005.7 “God Guard Thee, Newfoundland”

The Arches Park, n. of Rocky Harbour
Tuesday, July 26: Englee, Arches and back to Rocky Harbour

Englee is a beautiful little community about 2 1/2 hours south of St. Anthony on the east coast. The drive from Englee to Rocky Harbour is another 4 1/2 hours. St. Anthony to Rocky Harbour is 4 1/2 hours, so our Englee visit added about 2 1/2 hours of driving to our Tuesday. If you climb up the long steps on Barr’d Island, you’ll be treated to one of the most beautiful views in the world – i.e. it was worth the extra driving.

We then drove back to Rocky Harbour, stopping at Arches Provincial Park for some more beautiful scenery. Our last, since we were flying home from Deer Lake on Wednesday at 15:15. We visited the Cemetery and the Lighthouse in Rocky Harbour before we left for Deer Lake Airport, about 55 minutes from Rocky Harbour on NL 430 South. Returning the car at the airport was very smooth. Boy, did we get our money’s worth out of that car!

Wednesday, July 27: Home to the GTA

One more heartwarming story about Newfoundland. We checked our bags at the airport. Then security noticed my Swiss Army Knife on my person. I thought, “I’ll be sorry; I’ve had it for a long time.” But they offered me the chance to put it back in my suitcase, which meant retrieving it from the storage area.

Now, a real treat for reading down to the bottom. A Newfoundland language lesson!!! With Mark Critch, Candice Walsh and Travel Yourself.

I will return there. That’s a promise. Note: I kept my promise, returning there in 2014.

God guard thee, Newfoundland!

Newfoundland 2005.6 – Vikings and Low Growing Trees

On our way to L’Anse aux Meadows
 Monday, July 25: L’Anse Aux Meadows Viking Settlement and the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve

The L’Anse Aux Meadows Viking Settlement is more than 1000 years old. The original French name for the place, found on a French nautical chart from 1862, was L’Anse à la Médée (The Médée’s Cove). There may indeed have been a ship called La Médée, since it was not uncommon to use Greek mythology when naming them. See the above link for more about its franglais roots, and for more about the Settlement. It needs no further description. Here are some photos:


I am inclined to cram a touring day really full of experiences. An ‘orrible vice, I know. I was attempting to turn a legal 45 minute drive from the Viking Settlement to the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve into an illegal 33 minute trip (wasn’t sure when the guided tour hours were) and was stopped for speeding on the way.

The officer: “Do you, perchance, know why you were stopped?”

Me: “Yes, Officer.”

Officer: “And are you aware that your speed was more than 20 kph faster than the speed limit?”

Me: “Er… no, Officer, Sir.”

Officer: “Are you from away?”

Me: “Yes.” Big trouble coming, I thought.

Officer: “Don’t let me catch you speeding again.”

He handed me a written warning instead of a ticket and let us go. Again, the delightful mercy and grace of these island people surprised and overwhelmed me.

Burnt Cape:

Burnt Cape is a hugely important botanical reserve. It contains rare plants that are not found anywhere else. Trees over a hundred years old grow out rather than up (less than a foot up!) because of the biting winds. We were taken on a superb interpretive tour. Our guide also told us of a time when she had a group out to see the rock formations near The Oven and a polar bear appeared below them that had swum from Labrador. The visitors had no clue how dangerous it was and were snapping photos.

Sound familiar? Like anyone we know?

She was preparing to abandon them, if necessary, and run for her own life but managed to persuade them to make a hasty, sensible retreat. Some photos: