Gothic Chicken Coop
Sep30

Gothic Chicken Coop

Chicken stories are not common to me but here's one that tickled me. About a thousand years ago three German pilgrims arrived at santo Domingo de la Calzada, a young handsome man and his parents. At their inn the landlords daughter offered herself to the son but he rejected her roundly. Feeling vengeful the daughter hid a valuable cup in his bag and then proclaimed him a rotten robber. The son was taken to be hanged and his grief stricken parents went to stand at the bottom of his gallows to say goodbye only to find the local hero Santo Domingo standing beneath their son supporting him with his shoulders. The parents raced over to the judge who had presided over the whole thing : ” Our son is not dead!” ” Bah” replied the judge ” That man is as dead as the roast chickens on my dinner plate”. Well at this point the chickens revivified and flew up. The son was released and a miracle was said to have occurred. To mark the event a pair of live white chickens reside in a specially made gothic chicken coop incorporated in the cathedral, they've been there for the last thousand years – a couple of replacements are put in every 2 weeks. So we saw them today, one of the oddest things to find in a church to date. I wonder what happens to the old holy chickens? Pollo tonight?...

Read More
Suffering.
Sep27

Suffering.

By popular request. I feel like a biblical leper having to show just how much suffering we are going through. I'm sure you will agree that 30km on feet like these is pretty heroic. The Rioja does make up for it though!  

Read More
Autumn stroll.
Sep27

Autumn stroll.

We have managed 69km over the last few days. 3 days ago, traversing windmill ridge we were tempted to say it was hot, but drew the line at pretty warm. We both agree that the last 3 days have been hot, confirmed by the thermometer at 32 degrees as we walked / hobbled into Viana today. We have developed the generic pilgrims limp. It can represent any pathology but seems to result in shuffling short strides and an inelegant hobble. Even the fit young things passing through develop it, despite their strenuous efforts at denial. The only people immune seem to be the ones who are into their second thousand kilometers. Astonishingly we have met three such people in the last couple of days. Each one around 60 yrs old and each a woman. One left walking from her front door in the Bauges mid August, the other very similarly from further South at the same time and finally a very ordinary American woman who set off from Toulouse averaging 30km a day 5 weeks ago. None of them looked athletic in the slightest. I am a bit behind blogging due to tiredness and lack of time! Julie Creagh warned us about this, and I take her point. Every day you have to catch up with previous contacts and then find time to add in all the new ones. It is totally impossible to predict who you will meet again and who will disappear. Very few emails get exchanged and an open fatalistic attitude is required. Today we beat all previous records with a 7.25 am start, despite a last minute panic about a lost camera that was miraculously found at the bottom of my rucksack. We sayed in an Albergue run by evangelical Christians who were on their day off. They left the place in the charge of 3 very earnest young American voluntary workers. Nice place, good food but we were both in top bunks in a small room of 8 people all of whom snored as far as I could tell. Even getting up at 6.30 only one other was in bed, all the others were on the road in pitch black. The previous two days we have been slowly leaving the Pyrenees behind. The hills are lower, the soil drier and the air hotter. We have been slowly exiting the ancient and noble Basque speaking region of Navarre. Yesterday lunchtime we passed a sign saying how pilgrims of old had appreciated the wines of the region. A little further on we came to the wine fountain, only for pilgrims. Edwina, one of our travel mates...

Read More
Milk & Honey
Sep24

Milk & Honey

It's basically a very smart City Pamplona or Iruna as the Basques call it. We walked out of the characterful old town, grabbed an expensive pair of Teva sandals (Ellen's big toes are sore) and walked through smart blocks of flats, through the manicured University campus. Ellen even felt emboldened to walk over a roundabout and not the long way round, what a rebel she is becoming, she looked charmingly delighted at her rebelliousness. We had walked through bleak misty high Scottish moors, craggy lush Cornish valleys, but the Pyrenees had one more challenge before we hit the milder Navarra plain. One final dry hot ridge. After a rejuvenating coffee in a small village at the bottom we phoned ahead booked 2 bunks and went for it. A little warm and fewer pilgrims. The ridge was marked by a line of countless wind turbines catching the air coming off the mesita plain. This is the first time I have been so close to so many of the white monsters. I feel a comment about the noise is apposite here. I don't have great hearing and from a distance I became aware of a subliminal throb. I assumed it was from the motorway miles away. As we approached about a kilometer the throb differentiated into a distinct very low frequency sound. I think it was the sheer alienness that disturbed me. I really would not want to live nearby. We reached the summit of the edge. A great rusted memorial to us pilgrims and a ragged line of white turbines. One of those vista display objects showed the landmarks to the south west prospect. We were heading for the third village along. A little daunting but hey ho the signs said 11km, no problem. The first 2km were down a dusty steep rocky wide path. No time to look around lest we trip. As the gradient levelled we realised that the book was correct. No Pyrenean traces left. We were in a land of rolling tilled earth interspersed with vineyards. This is a land of milk and honey, this is Tuscanny or at least my romantic image of it. To cap the experience a thoughtfully positioned vineyard right next to the camino offered us it's choicest grapes. I picked two modest bunches. During the first grape we looked at other in absolute agreement. Delicious is the correct word. They were cool, honey and subtly tart all mixed into one small thirst quenching bundle. I won't bore you further. You could take your pick of the three villages. Each excellent, beautiful churches, well kept houses, an overall feeling of proud understated...

Read More

Not so little toes.

Low point: my toes. They've become a hobby. I contrast the colour and texture between the vermilion big ones and the mauve small ones, the marshy areas of blisters. This afternoon I found my safety pins- hurrah- this meant I could puncture the blisters, resulting in an extraordinary fountain of serum………the pressure was off, but my toe nails are doomed, they will fall out. Anyway, spent a bit of time sketching outside. Listening to the pilgrims shuffling by , the air is so hot there is hardly any energy left for chat. So hobble, wobble and panting is all to be heard as this file of peregrinos go by. I'm trying to make a quick drawings of them but I'm out...

Read More