Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Home Sweet Home

We were happy to be at the airport and looked forward to returning home. We were greeted by a young woman before we reached the Delta counter. She asked to see our passports and asked us a few questions. She asked how we had traveled to Spain. We replied we walked from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain and then took a plane to Madrid. Perhaps she didn't like our answer ...

She took our passports to the Delta counter, returned and gave them back to us. I noticed they had a small square with a number on it stuck on the back which I thought was odd but I didn't say anything. 

We cleared the main security/baggage checkpoint area with no problem. Our bodies set off no alarms and our backpacks scanned just fine. We walked to our gate and expected to take a seat and wait to board the plane. However, the gate area was roped off. A security agent asked for our passports and informed us we had been chosen for a random security check which was mandatory. We were escorted to a side area and given a complete body pat down (my first). Then our backpacks were passed through another x-ray scan. Next the agent emptied the backpack -- taking everything out piece by piece and laying it to the side. Then the empty backpacks were run through the x-ray scanner -- incredible!

After my empty backpack was scanned, the agent began to STUFF things back into my pack haphazardly.  I said "NO" rather forcefully. He did not speak English and called over the woman agent who had done the pat down on me; she spoke English.  I told her my pack had to be arranged properly/balanced so I could carry it and I needed to repack it myself. She gave me permission. So I picked up the three bins and moved to the side and repacked. WHEW!

Somewhere in the process my Patagonia Houdini wind jacket, a favorite piece of hiking gear was lost (it was with me 400 miles on the Appalachian Trail and 480+ miles on the Camino and was in great condition). There will be no more pics of me in my bright chartreuse jacket.  Suffice it to say, we won't be in any hurry to pass through the Madrid airport again anytime soon.  A side note - it appeared that mainly Americans were chosen for the random security check at the gate. Didn't make sense to me. Americans returning home -- a threat? So, if you travel to Madrid and end up with a small number stuck on the back of your passport, prepare yourself.

As I type this entry, I am reminded of the times I have experienced a wonderful retreat or a very special church conference weekend and upon returning home, there is an immediate "welcome back to reality" that tries to take away the peaceful or other spiritual benefits of the weekend. I suppose the scrutiny at the airport was our welcome back to reality before we even boarded the plane to return home.  I must admit my patience was severely tested. 

Once on the plane, our flight home was uneventful. It was good to be home. We said a prayer of thanksgiving.


 (NOTE ABOUT TREKKING POLES):  We flew on Delta from Atlanta to Brussels and trekking poles were allowed to be taken in our backpacks. On our return flight on Delta from Madrid to Atlanta, our trekking poles were allowed to be carried onboard in our backpacks.   

On Ryanair from Charelois to Biarritz we could keep our trekking poles stowed in our backpacks and we carried them onboard.   

On completion of the hike we flew again on Ryanair from Santiago to Madrid; on this Ryanair flight our trekking poles were NOT allowed in carry-on luggage (i.e. backpacks). For no charge they wrapped our poles together with tape and they went in checked luggage. They arrived safely in Madrid and were among the first articles to come off the plane.  Same airline but different policies...go figure.

P.S. -- we have the travel bug. If you'd like to take a look at where we've been since the Camino, please click on the blogs linked below.

In 2015 we went back to Europe and hiked Tour du Mont Blanc (I'm still working on that blog and hope to finish it before the end of March).

 Space A Adventure #1 (on military planes) to Hawaii begins a new mode of travel for us. Presently we are planning a trip to Italy. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday - June 8 - Post Camino - Day 2

God sent his Singers upon earth
With songs of sadness and of mirth,
That they might touch the hearts of men,
And bring them back to heaven again.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We were accustomed to awakening early and walking; that's what we had done for the past 40 days. We had been given directions to the metro to see some of the sights in Madrid but we chose to walk. With map in hand we left the hotel.

Our first stop was breakfast. There were people seated at the outside tables from the night before and one of the guys was still drinking beer ... We ordered omelets and coffee and ate inside.  Afterwards we began our walk ..

 Approaching the Royal Palace from the back side. It is enormous to say the least.
It is the official residence of the Royal family but only used for state ceremonies. It has 1,450,000 square feet of floor space and 3,418 rooms. It is the largest palace in Europe by floor area.

We walked through some of the gardens 

 and up the stairs. A view of one of the sides.

 Plaza de Oriente - rectangular park on the east side of the palace runs the length of the palace
 Still walking down the east side
 The front of the palace - pic was taken looking through the huge gated area.
.Across the plaza is Santa María la Real de La Almudena. It was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993.

Cupola - pic copied from web

We entered on this side

 Mass was in progress and so we stood in the back
 Detail on doors
 More of the side entrance looking up from street level

Saw a sign for the Crypt and made a right hand turn and walked down the street about a half block and entered. We heard singing that reminded me of what we might hear in heaven ...

 It appeared that a choir was practicing. We looked around the beautiful crypt church and inquired about the singing. We were told this choir would sing for the upcoming Mass and then perform a concert afterwards.  Even though we had gone to the Pentecost Vigil mass on Saturday evening, I really wanted to stay for Mass on Pentecost. Stoney agreed and our next step was to inquire about a bathroom. A deacon showed us to the only bathroom and while waiting in line we talked with one of the women from the Finnish choir. We had quite a chat before it was her turn for the bathroom and we enjoyed talking with her. She told us that this church was known for its acoustics and it was an honor to be able to sing here.
A snippet of the the beautiful music during Mass. There was no sound amplification system. The acoustics in the church are incredible. If you are using an Ipad please click on this link to see the video.

After Mass was a beautiful concert by the Jyvaskyla Studio Choir from Finland. What an incredible way to celebrate the birthday of the Church on Pentecost Sunday with Mass first and then this incredible concert.

Three Masses in two days - the English speaking Mass on Saturday morning in St. James Cathedral just before our departure, Saturday evening Vigil of Pentecost and the Mass today. WOW!  The most special Pentecost celebration ever.

I plan to make a short wrap-up video of our pilgrimage on the Camino but that probably won't happen for a couple of months because I'm heading back to the Appalachian Trail. 

If you'd like to follow my journey, have a look here:  PrayerWalker on the Appalachian Trail 2014

6/3/15 -- I still have not made the video wrap up for our Camino and I apologize. 

However, we are headed on another adventure The Tour du Mont Blanc to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary. Perhaps, you'd like to arm-chair hike with us.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturday Afternoon - June 7 - Post Camino Day 1

As the days grew closer to our arrival in Santiago, we began to talk about whether we would take a bus, a train, or plane to Madrid.  I had read that some like the bus because they enjoy the scenery. We met a man who had taken the bus after one of his Caminos and he said it was difficult for him to sit for 8 hours after walking. Some prefer the overnight train to Madrid but we decided we probably wouldn't sleep much on the train.  So Ryanair won out and we flew to Madrid.  

Early Saturday afternoon we took a taxi to the airport just outside of Santiago; the flight to Madrid was a short one.  We made the best choice for us to fly rather than taking a bus or train. I found a hotel online through booking.com at a price we wanted to pay and it turned out to be a good choice. It was in a nice area of Madrid.

 After checking into the hotel we walked around the neighborhood a little. 

 We found a church for the Pentecost Vigil Mass and asked the hotel for an Italian restaurant recommendation. The man questioned us:  "you want to eat Italian while you are in Madrid?" Nick replied he was desiring pizza.

We walked to Santa Maria del Perpetua Secorro and a wedding was taking place .
It was a beautiful church. The simplicity reminded me of St. Mary's in Canton, Illinois.

To the right of the main entrance was a chapel and this is where Mass was to be held. The door to the chapel is below.

 The stained glass window above the altar was beautiful.  (Pic below taken from their website). My picture could not show the incredible beauty.

My eyes kept being drawn to the Holy Spirit. How appropriate for the Eve of Pentecost. I recalled the evening the Holy Spirit became real in my life. I know I wasn't asleep during my Confirmation in Seventh Grade and I trust that the Sacrament with all its graces was a step of growth in my life. I just tend to be a late bloomer and so it would take until 1986 for me to surrender to the Holy Spirit in a deeper way. So from that time forward Pentecost has been very special to me. 


The chapel filled with very well-dressed parishioners as time for Mass approached. I felt under dressed but we were clean and it was the best we had with us. The singing of the parishioners was beautiful and once more (even though I could not understand the words) the songs touched my spirit. At every mass we had attended on the Camino, the singing of the local people during Mass took me to a place of peacefulness and joy. At every mass I always thought about the countless numbers of people over the many centuries who had prayed in each church, walked on the hard stone floors, sat in the pew I was seated in and knelt on the kneeler. I gave thanks that I was raised in a family that believed and that I was a part of the family of God. Oftentimes I could feel the love of the Spanish woman seated next to me when she looked me or from those around me at the sign of peace when we would join hands. What a gift to belong to this family.

After mass we walked to the restaurant. We had a little difficulty finding it but when we arrived it was only 7:30 PM and it did not open until 8 PM.  We people watched. 

 We chose an Italian restaurant. I know, for those who love Spanish cuisine, you probably consider it quite a travesty. However, my gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and Nick's spaghetti alla carbonara was delicious.

Saturday Morning - June 7 - Post Camino - Day 1

 (NOTE:  I have been adding pictures and videos to the blog since returning home. I started at the beginning and work on it some each day. My neck is really stiff this evening and my feet are swollen.  I have been sitting too long ! My legs really ached today because I didn't go out for walk at all.)

It seemed odd to wake up and not get dressed to head out for another day on the Camino. Odd but good. I had a great internet connection so I worked on the blog. It would be about 90 minutes before the breakfast buffet opened at the hotel and it was wonderful to just relax, look at pictures and lay in the bed.  After a couple of hours though my legs began to ache. That sure seemed strange. Did they really want to be out walking?  I think so. 

The breakfast buffet at Hostal de los Reyes Catolicos (aka Parador) was very good and presented very well.

 Nick enjoyed having a pot of coffee on the table and I enjoyed the hot milk in the pitcher. I could control the coffee to milk ratio and poured myself a delicious cup of coffee or Nick might say it was hot milk flavored with a little coffee.
 A look at my first plate.  I went back for a second plate. Not pictured is fresh squeezed orange juice which we really enjoyed on the Camino. Today we could have had fresh squeezed kiwi juice. I was going to try it but the pitcher was empty when I went back.

 We went back to St. James Cathedral. Yesterday, we had walked by a small chapel that noted English speaking Mass would be held at 10:30 AM.

 I thought this would be a fitting end to our pilgrimage -- Mass in English inside the Cathedral. When I saw this notice yesterday and looked into the chapel, it seemed so welcoming. So when I awoke this morning and thought about this place, I knew I would go back.

Yesterday, I took this picture through the closed grill.
 Even though Stoney said he was done with churches for awhile and he didn't care to see anymore anytime soon, he went with me. 

There were just a couple of woman there when we arrived.  As usual, we were early. We knelt and prayed.  

 As we sat down after prayer, one of the women approached us and asked if we were from Ireland. I thought it was a strange question. We chuckled; with his white hair and blue eyes, Nick looks Irish. I replied Nick's ancestors had come from Ireland in the late 1800's. She asked if one of us would like to do the first reading at Mass and Nick looked at me. Of course, I would consider it an honor.  And then she handed me a small piece of paper with very small type.  Thank God for Lasik eye surgery. I can read with my right eye and see distance with my left. Nick offered me his reading glasses but I didn't need them. So I practiced the reading silently.

See the crossed trekking poles in front of the altar.

Reading 1, Acts 28:16-20, 30-31

16 On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in lodgings of his own with the soldier who guarded him.
17 After three days he called together the leading Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, 'Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.
18 They examined me and would have set me free, since they found me guilty of nothing involving the death penalty;
19 but the Jews lodged an objection, and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, though not because I had any accusation to make against my own nation.
20 That is why I have urged you to see me and have a discussion with me, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear this chain.'
30 He spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging. He welcomed all who came to visit him,
31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete fearlessness and without any hindrance from anyone.

The chapel was very small and intimate. I asked one of the Sisters the name of the chapel and she said Our Lady of Sorrows.  I could see the tears on our Lady's face, but I was perplexed with the fancy attire.  The Sister said, remember this is Spain.  The chapel filled and there were some standing. Maybe there were 50 of us total.  There was a bowl in front of the altar and we were invited to take a slip of paper and write down our prayer intentions.  I did.  

Looking towards the entrance of the chapel
The priest arrived; he introduced himself and two nuns from Ireland (one was the woman who asked me to do the reading - red shirt on seated on right side) and explained this was their first morning to volunteer as staff for this little chapel. I can't remember how long they will be there before returning to Ireland.

There was a Mass in Spanish at the main altar of the Cathedral in progress and so the sound carried over quite a bit to the little chapel.  However, it ended and that's when our Mass began. This is a small portion of the tape recorded opening song - The Magnificat. Although it was a version I was not familiar with it, it was very special.  If you are viewing this using an Ipad - the video will not show. So click on this link Opening song

During the prayers of the faithful, the Priest said there was a woman with us from Ireland whose brother had recently died while he was walking the Camino; I think he died on the third day. She was at Mass because she had come to walk the Camino in remembrance of her brother. She and her brother were two of 10 children and her brother and sister-in-law have five children. Can you imagine? After Mass I expressed my condolences and said I would remember her, her brother and his family in my prayers. Will you pray for them too?

A little snippet of the ending song from Mass.  Ipad users please click on  Closing song

I can't think of a better way to have ended our pilgrimage. Oftentimes it is hard to put into words when we feel especially close to God through the Holy Spirit. This was one of those precious times for me.

Now on to Madrid and one stop closer to home.