Camino Santiago – April 2013

Pyrenees Horses, April 26
Last photo taken in the French Pyrenees on April 26, 2013. After snapping these horses I put my camera away. We were soaking wet.

Our Camino Santiago began on April 25, 2013 in St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, French Pyrenees. The weather April 25 was beautiful. Perfect for hiking, meditating and snapping photos. We spent the  night of April 25 in the “honeymoon suite,” a tiny but private room at the Refugio Orisson, eight kilometres from, and about 800 meters higher than, our starting place in St.-Jean. Note: we did not ask for, or even have a clue about, the “suite,” the boss at reception just gave it to us.

April 26 was a mystical, but scary, experience. We set off very early and were careful to follow the well-marked trail with its yellow arrows. A mistake could have caused a sad mishap. Anita had sent her pack ahead to Roncesvalles’ public refugio; a wise decision that turned out to be…

Camino marker - French Pyrenees
Camino marker West of Orisson

Photos 3 and 4 in the set below show just the start of our walk from the Refugio Orisson across the mountains into Spain, where we had a night booked at the Hotel Roncesvalles. It was cold and very wet – a fine, persistent rain that did not let up. I put my Sony NEX-5N DSLR camera away after shooting the beautiful horses. It was already damp just from condensation when I removed it to shoot. Terrible visibility caused us to miss the Statue of the Virgin, a landmark that overlooks the valley no more than 30 metres from the trail, even though I knew when we were passing it! Continue reading “Camino Santiago – April 2013”

Sunday In Pamplona

 

Encierro (Running of the Bulls) Monument
Encierro (Running of the Bulls) Monument

This is an email I sent to friends and family a year ago April that I just re-read today. Thought it would make a good post with some photos and a little editing:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Breakfast at a cafeteria 50 m from our Pension Arrieta.

Also found the bus station (for tomorrow’s departure to Órbigo) 3 minutes walk from our door.

Viewed the mountains from the fortified lookout: El Rincón del Caballo Blanco:

Took in high mass (missa capitular) at Santa María Cathedral. Surprised that the Latin Gloria was still stored in my brain cells. Beautiful pipe organ :))) Great singing if you’re OK with all men’s voices. Unparalleled setting.

Presbytery - Pamplona Cathedral
Presbytery – Pamplona Cathedral (on Saturday

Met Jesús and Pinte outside the cathedral while looking at our map to find the beginning of the San Fermin bull run route. Jesús was dressed in black with the classic large black beret worn by Basques here. They assumed we needed serious help (we didn’t) and walked us to the Coralillos where 6 fierce and 6 less fierce bulls are corralled prior to the run. Continue reading “Sunday In Pamplona”

The Cockleshell and the Camino

Sewer cover in Arzúa sports the Cockleshell symbol of the Camino Santiago
Sewer cover in Arzúa sports the Cockleshell symbol of the Camino Santiago

Last year in Spain on our Camino Santiago my wife and I noticed that many sewer covers in towns along The Way contained motifs that showed the ancient symbol of the Camino: the cockleshell.

This shape of shell is found on the Atlantic coast beyond Santiago de Compostela. Early on in the 1000 year history of this pilgrimage, pilgrims returning home used the cockleshell as proof that they had completed The Way.

Among the blessings one, whether religious or non-theist, experiences are the reflective walk itself, the ancient architecture, the completely unspoiled countryside in some parts, researching the crazy, sacred HISTORY (omg!), the making of new, lasting friendships and, an unnecessary but wonderful bonus for us, spending tons of quality time preparing for the challenge, sharing the walk and sharing the memories – and talking about our next one!

Check out my posts in my Category, Camino Santiago. They vary from brief to very detailed with lots of photos and tips.

A Year Ago Today I Was A Geek

With backpack and MEC duds at Mount Chinguacousy
Anita with backpack and MEC clothes  at “Mount Chinguacousy” on Feb. 15, 2013

Last year I wrote this post and scheduled it to be published when we were already over in France/Spain doing our modified Camino Santiago. Somehow I messed up and it wasn’t posted, so it’s going in as an anniversary note, of sorts:

“Began real early preparing for our Camino Frances (the popular French route to Santiago de Compostela). First stage was to be through the Pyrenees. I estimated the “lowest freaky possible temperature ever” for our passage on the highest point at Col de Lepoeder (1427 metres above sea level) to be -7 degrees C on April 25 (when we expected to be doing it) My estimate was done by  checking the lowest temperature ever recorded for Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on that date and subtracting about 0.65 degrees for every 100 m increase in altitude.”

I know, I was a geek. Still am.

We actually crossed the high point on April 26, 2013. The weather was terrible, Continue reading “A Year Ago Today I Was A Geek”

Open Our Hearts – A Song

Eunate Church near Óbanos, Navarre
Eunate Church near Óbanos, Navarre

Open Our Hearts is a religious song I wrote years ago for our church’s Lenten liturgy. I’ve added photos from our recent Camino Santiago in April and May, 2013. There are more songs (not all religious) to come; I add them when the spirit moves… You will find the ones I’ve “You-Tubed” on the My Songs page. You-Tubing my music files is “hard work,” which is why they aren’t all up yet…

Perspective

Anita on our scary Day 2 crossing the Pyrenees into Spain, complete with fog, rain, ice pellets, wind and snow. Luckily, not all at the same time.
Anita on our Camino Frances’  scary Day Two crossing the Pyrenees into Spain, complete with fog, rain, ice pellets, wind and snow. Luckily, not all at the same time.

I liked this photo right away and, after thinking about why, a few reasons come to mind. The way the shapes work, for one: the mountainside divides the image into two almost equal triangles, which simplifies things so that one’s eye is drawn to the end of the road that continues on to the left. The fog creates a feeling of mystery and uncertainty of what the figure in red will encounter along the way. (As it turned out – more fog.) The small,  red figure stands out almost like an apparition against the green and grey.

Size is important symbolically here: I can’t help feeling a humility when I compare the size of the human form with the vastness of the Pyrenees. We felt isolated walking here, though the faint sound of an invisible cow-bell hinted that this lonely place was occupied by other humans who were making a simple living by farming nearby.  I was moved by the evidence that humans here were living in a great deal more harmony with the land than humans like us who live on what was once prime Ontario farms and now is mostly asphalt, brick and concrete.

The cow-bell, it turned out, was a horse-bell. Three horses eventually appeared around the bend, almost invisible to the right of our path in the mist. The photo works better when I show only two.

The last photo I took on our hike from Orisson to Roncesvalles. Too wet to use my camera safely.
The last photo I took on our hike from Orisson to Roncesvalles. Too wet to use my camera safely.

The crossing from France into Spain occurred simply without kiosks, toll-booths and guards. It was marked by a sign that said Navarre.

Independence And Interdepedence

Le Tour de l’Îsle

Our Camino Frances began in Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port in Basque Country, France. It made me think of my native province of Québec and the aspirations of many Québecois for some form of “independence.” Walking through the beautiful, often unspoiled, countryside in Basque France (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and Spain (Navarre) made me sensitive to some of the legitimate reasons why choosing a different path into the future might make some sense. Globalization in its current form doesn’t. A path that has respect for the old and the traditional ways that were more in tune with Mother Earth would hold a certain attraction.

In 1659 my ancestor, Abel Turcault, sailed from La Rochelle, France, to Québec. I trace my roots to Abel through 10 generations.

Abel was granted a farm on Îsle d’Orléans, an island in the Fleuve St-Laurent near Québec city. The parish church of Sainte-Famille is the oldest parish church in North America still standing. Abel is buried in the yard there, though his grave is, like all the other very old ones, unmarked. The island is 42 miles (quarante-deux miles) in circumference. It is a “little camino” for locals and tourists, who do “le tour de l’île” by bicycle or on foot. I have done two tours de l’île… par automobile.

My ancestor operated a windmill. His mill ground wheat into flour.  When I saw the windmills between Pamplona and Puente la Reina I was reminded that the new has taken over the old. The bread of our new world is electricity.

A canadien songwriter, Félix Leclerc, wrote a song called  Le Tour de l’Îsle for his adopted home. It is very much a love song to the ancient island, which is still very French.

The old Québecois lived in harmony with nature. The ways of the new people of Québec, French or English, are not sustainable.

Félix Leclerc’s song is, I now realize, a song about respect for tradition and interdependence, not simply about independence.