Again to south Europe – part 2

On narrow paths to Sevilla Center

And again heading south,
April till June 2022 – Part 2

Sunday, May 8th, the sky is steel blue and already early morning, the sun is shining. It will be another hot day. After breakfast (we were able to buy fresh oroweat bread yesterday) we walk to the center of Seville.
On our way to the center we cross the Plaza de Espana and first take a look here. There are already many families, walking around and sitting on the benches. They are made of mosaic tiles, each representing one of the 52 Spanish provinces. After looking around for some time we continue our walk.
Of course we walk around the impressive Cathedral. It was built over the remains of a Moorish mosque of which only the old tower remains. Then we wander through the narrow streets around the Alcazar, the old part of Seville. It is nice to walk here and we enjoy it immensely.
Unfortunately Dick doesn’t allow me to buy the beautiful painted pottery. Deep in my heart I know he is right because we neither use nor need it. It is very warm, around 90 degrees, and we have to drink. The frappucino (iced coffee) on the terrace of Starbucks tastes good.

Cathedral in Sevilla

Unfortunately, in this busy, sun-drenched and warm weekend, all the terraces are occupied and therefore we have no possibility to eat tapas somewhere, so we buy an ice cream which we eat, sitting on a bench.
Back at the Frankia we drink some soda’s, which is really necessary because after this 9.5 miles walk and a temperature of now 93 degrees, we are really thirsty. At least I know which socks fit best because, even with this heat, I don’t have any blisters. Neither does Dick, by the way, and he’s wearing old socks.
It stays warm for a long time in the evening, but with all windows wide open it is bearable inside.

In one way or another we always sleep longer when it is very warm in the motorhome and now too. We wake up at 8.30 am. After breakfast we dump, fill the tank with clean water and pay for the 2 nights we stayed on this guarded site. In Ayamonte, still on the Spanish side of the border with Portugal, we fill up our, now empty, propane tank with LGP gas. Nowhere in Europe you can directly fill a gas tank, but at this address they do, so a little later we cross the border with a full tank.
At the border we stop and I walk to the police post to ask how we should register to use the Portuguese toll road. Sometimes in Portugal you suddenly find yourself on a toll road and we could not buy a toll box in the Netherlands because we are heavier than 7716 pound and higher than 10 feet. It turns out to be very simple. A camera registers your license plate and when you simultaneously put your credit card in the payment slot, the link is made between license plate and payment method, a link that is valid for 30 days.
The ticket that is subsequently rolled out is proof of registration. I am really glad, this headache file is solved too. We immediately leave the highway and continue on narrow back roads past endless cork trees. We stop in the town of Mertola where we park the Frankia on an overheated parking lot. There is no shade anywhere. We quickly drink some water and then climb up to the center. Of course we take a look at the castle on the hill. Unfortunately that is closed, but we find a geocache on the steep hill. We climb down again and on a terrace in this deserted town we eat a sandwich and drink something. Then we climb and descend further through this hilly town.

View from the mountain in Mertola

Because Dick thinks it’s enough, it is now 94 degrees, we return to the Frankia. After a drink I climb the opposite mountain slope alone, to look for another geocache above. Once again I have a magnificent view of the entire area and see the slow flowing river deep below me, before I descend again and relax next to the Frankia with Dick. It remains warm inside until very late in the evening, despite the fact that all windows are wide open. But nevertheless we sleep like roses.

Tuesday May 10th we sleep again until 8.30 am and an hour later we drive through the interior of Portugal, again on narrow roads. In this area lynxes still live and we are regularly asked to drive carefully. I would love to meet a lynx now, but unfortunately…
Guess it’s too warm.  All the villages we pass are painted bright white, no wonder when the temperatures rise so high and after 82 miles we arrive in Evora. Dick sees a spot where the shade of trees will soon prevail and parks the Frankia there. Not much later we walk to the center. It is warm with 84 degrees but certainly not stifling hot and a good temperature to walk around. After walking through some narrow streets, we arrive at the square in front of the cathedral where one of the eight, in Portugal existing, Bone Chapels is located. Of course we take a look there.

Bone chapel in Evora

This bone chapel from the 16th century is weird to watch. The walls but also the ceiling are completely covered with human bones and skulls and there are even two fully intact skeletons lying. This all started when, in the 16th century, the 42 monastic cemeteries around Evora took up too much space. The monks then decided to exhume the dead and use the remains to decorate their chapels. The aim was to point out to the living the fragility of life and the transience of the material world. Especially when you read the accompanying text: “Nos ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos”, or: “we, whose bones you see here, are waiting for yours”, you are really confronted with the transience of life.

Roman Temple in Evora

After also visiting a huge collection of Christian nativity scenes from all over the world, which are displayed in an aisle of the building, we walk outside again, look at the remains of the Roman temple and then sit down on the terrace of “Craft BBQ” to enjoy a delicious burger. End of the afternoon we are back at the Frankia, which indeed stays for a large part in the shade of the trees. It is less hot inside. A large supermarket is  0,7 miles away and as we drink a lot, I walk to this shop and return loaded with water and soft drinks. Then we sit outside in the shade and enjoy our non-alcoholic beers.

We want to leave on Wednesday May 11th because our destination is the pilgrim town of Fatima. So we get up at 6.30 am (Portuguese time, in Spain it is an hour later). Outside it is still nice and cool at this time of day and it is also very quiet. Through a hilly landscape we drive again past many cork trees and then we see the first pilgrims, walking along the road on their way to Fatima. In Fatima there is still enough space to park, but then you must have a small motorhome because we cannot park our 26 feet long one. After inspecting all the empty park options, without result, we drive on. At the small parking in Sao Mamede all places for longer motorhomes are also occupied, so we continue our drive and again, we meet hundreds of pilgrims. They are all on their way to the festivities that will take place in Fatima tomorrow. Towards the north, we approach Sandra and Rene’s (our Dutch friends) house and we enter the coordinates. Unfortunately, after the town of Penela, those coordinates take us on a very narrow road, which narrows even more at every bend and in the end we are forced to turn around in a village. We really can’t take the sharp bends, partly due to high walls along the narrow road.

Statue of Christ on the hill in Miranda do Corvo

So again we drive on and arrive in the town of Miranda do Corvo. Here on the parking lot is still a spot available. Our walk in this town takes us (also thanks to a hidden geocache) to the statue of Christ, placed high above the town on the mountain, from where we have a beautiful view of the surroundings. Despite the fact that we couldn’t stay in Fatima, nor could we see Sandra and Rene’s house, we ended up in a nice spot.

Thursday May 12th we get up early. We hope to be able to find a free spot in Aveiro. But when we arrive all places in the large parking lot behind the train station are full, even though it is 9.30 am. Fortunately a German motorhome is just about to leave and makes room for us. After a cup of coffee we walk through the train station to the center of Aveiro. Because of the many canals that cross this town, Aveiro is called the Venice of Portugal.

 

Aveiro, Venice of Portugal

 

It’s nice to be here with Dick, and I think a lot about Auntie Ank, who was a second mother to us. In 2018 auntie Ank, Hannah and myself were in Aveiro. We loved this nice town and wandered around a lot. Not always easy for Auntie Ank, who was shaken back and forth in her wheelchair by the bumpy boulders everywhere. It turned out to be our last vacation with her, she died in februari 2019, almost on the same day as our real mother. I still miss both.

We now also wander through the streets of the town, walk along the canal, look at shops and visit the large cathedral. Here everything is arranged for the large procession at the end of the day and we eat a small snack on a terrace. Finally, at 3 pm, we are back at the Frankia. After a drink I still want to go back to the center to take a look in the North Face store and then I can also see the procession. Dick stays in the motorhome, so I walk back alone. I take my phone and of course the GPS because then I can always find my way back.

Procession in Aveiro

Because more and more people are gathering around the cathedral, I stop in front of the entrance at the edge of the street and even though I still have to wait 40 minutes, I now have a nice view. The procession finally starts under loud bells.
When everyone leaves I follow the crowd and so, at another point in town, I can see this procession again. It’s really special. In Fatima we should watch a procession but now I see it in Aveiro. After the procession has returned to the starting point, I walk to the North Face shop.
There I fit some lightweight pants. One fits good and is also discounted so I buy them and leave the store, satisfied with my purchase. Half an hour later I am back, now quite a bit tired. Because we already eat something on a terrace this afternoon, we only have meatballs and lettuce for dinner. It is more than enough and we both sleep deeply.

Friday May 13th  we leave at 8 am and as soon as we have left our spot, this is immediately taken by another motorhome. On very narrow back roads (we still haven’t used the toll roads) we head for Porto.

Terras aan de voet van Bom Jesus

 

Unfortunately, we really can’t park in the parking lot next to the tram stop to Porto. The places are too short, so we drive on to Braga. In the parking lot, at the foot of the mountain where the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus is situated, we find a nice spot between the trees.
There is a small terrace in this parking lot where we drink freshly squeezed orange juice and eat a hot dog. Both taste good on this summer day, it is 80 degrees. But then it is time to climb the mountain and visit the sanctuary. That means climbing. I don’t know how many steps we have to climb up, but there is no end to the stairs that lead up.
Fortunately, there are chapels on every corner where statues depict the Stations of the Cross. They are particularly beautiful to view. Finally we arrive at the top, were we enjoy the view of the valley below us. Of course we visit the beautiful church, light a candle and enjoy an ice cream in the park.

Endless steps to the church on the top of Bom Jesus

 

Dick doesn’t like walking back and descending the many stairs, but there is a funicular that takes you back to the parking lot where the motorhome is. So he buy a ticket and board. After waving him goodbye, I leisurely walk down. Of course I make several pictures again. Dick wait for me down the stairs. At home we can’t stop talking about this special place. It’s actually not a problem that we couldn’t find a place near Porto because looking around here is also special.
As soon as the evening falls, it becomes dead quiet. Only few motorhomes stay for the night.

Saturday May 14th we wake up at 7 am and that is not because it is noisy on this mountain slope, at the foot of the Bom Jesus sanctuary. There is no shop around, so we have breakfast with old bread and some yogurt and then drive through the Portuguese countryside to Pontevedra.
We arrive there at 11 am, but nevertheless the parking lot is packed. So we drive on to the road along the river because we saw motorhomes there too. Unfortunately, the place seem to fit here in terms of length, but not in terms of width, we protrude too much over the busy road and we decide to continue driving. But first we want to dump and fill up with water. To our surprise, when we are back up to dump, suddenly a spot opens up. So instead of maneuvering further, we turn into this vacant spot. We will dump tomorrow, before we leave. Again we have a filled laundry bag (there is a lavanderia less than 700 feet away), we walk there with two bags. The next two and a half hours we stay in a very well-maintained laundraumat. After storing away our clean clothes and making the beds, we walk back to the center of this nice town and have a delicious lunch at the restaurant of a supermarket. Because this lunch is really lavish, we have to continue walking through the town.

Special built church in Pontevedra

In the center there is a nice church from 1776. It was built in the shape of a St. James shell and is frequently visited by the passing pilgrims who get a stamp here. From Portugal they walk the Camino Portuguese to Santiago in Spain. Their faces are deep red from the heat and the exertion (it is 86 degrees). Now they seek shelter for the night. In the evening we are back. Just in time because the weather begins to change. The steel-blue sky changes into a deep black, menacing sky from which a downpour falls not much later and thunderclaps resound incessantly. Fortunately, this natural disaster does not last very long. The showers pass and the blue sky looks like it never left.
The rest of the evening we read in our books and watch the news and as always, we are in bed at 10 pm.

On Saturday May 15th comes an end to the endless blue skies. It’s gray and a strong wind is blowing. After the dump and fill up with water, it starts to rain, but we sit inside and stay dry. Unfortunately, that cannot be said of the many pilgrims we see constantly walking along the road, they get wet through and through. Not really great if you still have to walk at least 40 miles. In Santiago we decide not to park in the parking lot just outside the center, but to drive to the parking on the mountain, high above the city.

Wandering through Santiago de Compostela

This place is cheaper and also has a pool. I don’t think we will use this pool with a temperature of 56 degrees, torrential rain and strong winds. Fortunately, the rain stops after drinking a cup of coffee and so we walk a little later to the bus stop near this parking. That means waiting a while because the bus arrives around the hour and half an hour. We arrive just after the hour and the next bus arrives well after the half hour. But the rain stops and our rain jackets keep out the strong wind. Finally we arrive in the center.
Fortunately, our masks were still in the pockets of our rain jackets, otherwise we would have to walk back because in public transport you still have to wear a mask.

Although we visited Santiago de Compostela 5 years ago, then it rained too, we recognize little of this city. Nevertheless, thanks to the signposting for the pilgrims (the symbol is the Saint James shell) it is not difficult to find the cathedral.

Cathedral, final destination of the Pilgrim road in Santiago

It is the final destination of most of the pilgrims and you see them everywhere around the big square in front of the cathedral, taking pictures, joyfull that they made it till here. Of course we also take pictures and then we walk to the entrance gate that is only open in the holy year. It is a holy year when the name day of the apostle James falls on a Sunday. The last time was in 2012 and now again in 2021. But 2021 was Corona time, so the Pope extended that holy year until December 31, 2022.
The Cathedral is huge and filled with  pilgrims. Unfortunately, the Botafumeiro, the 5.4 feet high, silver-plated censer (weight is 176 pound) is not being thrown around today. We would love to see that. Normally, however, that only happens on special holidays. After looking in the crypt where the tomb of the apostle James is located we leave the cathedral and walk around some time through the streets of Santiago. The rain stopped. End of the afternoon we walk to the bus stop and after waiting 20 minutes, we can take the bus back to our parking on the mountain. In the distance, only the towers of the cathedral are visible.

The weather has not improved on Monday May 16th. Thick gray clouds hang over the city of Santiago but there is no rain and when we drive through the hilly landscape of Galicia we see now and then gray giving way to blue sky.

Finistère, the end of the world

When we reach Finistère, in the old days this was the end of the world (Finis=end; Terrae=world) Even the sun slowly comes out. I am in love when we reach the motorhome parking along the coast. The owner of this piece of land is very friendly and let us choose a nice spot, I want to stay here forever. Tomorrow is a public holiday in Galicia, the day of the Gallic language, so after parking the Frankia, we first do some shopping in the neighboring supermarket. When the fridge is filled, we decide to walk the very last part of the pilgrimage, to the lighthouse on Cabo Finisterre.
This is very important to me because it means that now, we can walk together the part of the Camino I hope to walk later on this year. So it will not come as a surprise to you that tears are streaming down my cheeks when we arrive at the cape together. Even the gray sky start to disappear and blue sky and sun appear to rejoice in our joy. We were allowed to arrive at this place together and share this experience.
While Dick waits at the cross on the rocks, with the statue of St. James, I clamber down over the large boulders, towards the sea. Softly I sing the last verse of the pilgrimsong “Ultreia”:

Et tout la bas, au bout du continent
Messire Jacques nous attend
Depuis toujours son sourire fixe
Le soleil qui meurt au Finistere

It means:

And all the way down, at the continents end
Saint James awaits us with open hand
Since forever smiling there
To the dying sun at Finisterre

This couplet really suits on this end of the world, where the sun sinks into the sea and Saint James watches from the rocks. A special place!

The Camino’s road sign at the end of the road

For centuries pilgrims left their clothes behind between the rocks and sometimes they burned them. Not really a good idea, but you still see burn marks and piles of clothing everywhere on the rocks. There really should be a cleanup here.
When I am back at the cross where Dick is waiting, we have a delicious sandwich. The sea air but also our walking tour makes us hungry and then we walk slowly back to the town of Finisterre.
Along the way we greet other hikers with “Buen Camino”. Back at the Frankia we reminisce about this special day. Although Dick believes that I am killing him (today we walked only 7.5 miles) I saw that he also shed a tear when we arrived together at the end of the world. We hope we experience this again early October.

Unfortunately it is very cloudy on Tuesday May 17th and every now and then there is some rain. The wind is blowing hard and the temperature drops to 54 degrees, so we decide to leave. We pay for our stay by depositing money in the letterbox at the office and then we set off. The landscape of Galicia is beautiful and very hilly, but after the beautiful location on the coast with a view over the ocean, the parking in the town of Bretanzos is a bit disappointing.

Concert in a rainy Bretanzos

But it’s dry and we don’t want to drive any further, so we walk into Bretanzos. You can’t really call it walking, because the road into the city is very steep and we climb more than we walk. When we approach the center, loud music is heard and when we walk around, we arrive at the large square in this town where a concert is given. Both musicians stay dry under a dome, but that cannot be said of the small audience. They look for a dry spot close to the shops. The music that is played is very nice and clearly known to the Spaniards around us, because they sing along with all their heart.
Pilgrims walk past (yes, there is also a pilgrim road here, the Camino Ingles) and look out from under their ponchos at the singing and hustling people. Despite the regularly falling rain, it is not cold outside with 62 degrees and all the terraces around the square, are full of Spaniards. Spain is truly a country of outdoor living and enjoyment. Nowhere in Europe is the density of terraces as great as here. At the end of the afternoon we are back. We have a chat with other people and John, who walked the Camino Frances with his wife in 2015, gives me some tips for the road.

City wall of Lugo

Wednesday May 18th the weather still hasn’t cleared up and the temperature of last night, 66 degrees, dropped 56 degrees. However, the wind died down and now and then there are some clear spells. Because we drive only 47 miles, we arrive early morning in Lugo, an old medieval city that is still completely walled. It is, of course, a Unesco World Heritage. It is dead quiet on the large parking lot at the foot of the city and soon we climb up to the wall within which the old center is located.
This city also has a Camino, the Camino Primitivo. At home I’ll have to find out how all these pilgrimage roads are going. One thing is certain, they all come together in Santiago de Compostela. As soon as we enter the city wall Dick sees a hairdresser and while Dick continues to look for a geocache, I step inside. My hair can be cut immediately and since I’ve been looking for a hairdresser for weeks (my wild hair has to be trimmed) I soon sit down in the chair and the hairdresser cut my hair, long locks of hair fall to the floor. What a great feeling.
Finally my hair is shorter but not so short that it won’t get Dick’s approval. Nevertheless the first thing he says, when he meet me again at another part of the city wall, is that my hair is too short.  But I don’t care, it’s a lot shorter and I feel much better about it.

Tita’s beautiful mummy sleeping bag

Slowly we find our way along the inside and outside of the city wall, look at shops, look for geocaches, eat a sandwich and at a sports store I buy a nice mummy sleeping bag that is comfortable up to 40 degrees and yet weighs only 30 ounce. An asset to my pilgrimage outfit.

We have lunch again in a restaurant of a large supermarket. The same chain we had lunch at before and again the food is good but too much. We have to walk an extra few miles to reduce the fullness of our stomachs. End of the afternoon we are back. At 8 pm we only take the small bread we got too for lunch and that’s more than enough to get through the rest of the evening.

Fortunately, on Thursday May 19th, the sun shines again and we leave Lugo. We climb higher and higher into the mountains and drive through a beautiful mountain area. At this time of year it is, thanks to the many wild flowers, even more beautiful  than when we drove here in November and regularly saw piles of snow around us. Before noon we arrive in the town of Astorga where we park between the high apartment buildings in the city center.

Astorga, city wall and cathedral

In November it was actually too cold to park here, because of the icy wind that howled between these buildings. Now it is good to stay here. It’s 76 degrees and there is a full shining sun. We walk to the center of this beloved town.
In November, last year, we had a few wonderful days here with Paul and my niece Inge. I understand very well that Hannah and Henk told us to visit this town. They loved it to be here when they arrived here on their bike pilgrimage last October. We wander through town, meet pilgrims and wish them a “buen camino” and take a seat on a terrace on the Plaza Major.
The lunch tastes good, actually it is our evening meal because it is already 4 pm.

Having lunch on Plaza Major

But in Spain, and certainly in a pilgrim town, you can still order food (especially tapas) all over the day. When we are back at the Frankia,  end of the afternoon, I walk back to town to take a look at the pilgrim outdoor shop. Unfortunately, that is not possible because this shop is closed on Thursdays, so I return home. I have to go to this shop another time.
We don’t have to make dinner after this late meal. Read in our books and of course we watch the news before going to bed.

Friday May 20thall clouds have disappeared and we only see a steel blue sky and sun. When we arrive in Burgos the thermometer already shows 86 degrees, it is then 12.30 pm.

The Camino’s road sign

On the way to Burgos we have seen that the Adagio of the Camino: “follow the backpack for you” really applies because everywhere we see people walking with backpacks. On the other hand cyclists are much fewer around. The landscape on the way to Burgos is vast and flat and in the distance we see the white peaks of the “Picos” de Europa, the highest mountain range in this part of Spain.
Because it is too hot to walk to the center of Burgos, we stroll into the cool adjacent shopping center. We wander around the shops that are all open even though the rest of the city has a fiesta which means that shops are closed from 13.30 to 17.30. Of course we replenish our food supplies by doing some shopping in the big supermarket and then I can’t resist looking for some geocaches in the area. Dick stays in the motorhome. It is warmer now, around 91 degrees, but when I walk in the shade of the trees it is bearable outside. Still, I am glad to be back after a round of 3.5 miles and we relax with a book and a glass of non-alcoholic beer.

A delicious meal in Burgos

It’s 6 pm when we walk to the restaurant in the shopping center to have dinner. A bit too late because if we arrived an hour earlier, the meal would have been 4 euros cheaper per person. But nevertheless the food tastes good and the wine that is served it is also good. With the current temperatures the alcohol in the wine directly affects us. Fortunately we are parked next to the shopping center so we don’t have to walk far. It stays warm outside and therefore also inside. We sleep with all the windows wide open.

Saturday May 21st it is already 64 degrees early in the morning, but that feels cool after the temperature we had yesterday. We have breakfast and then we leave Burgos and arrive in a rugged mountain landscape. There is still plenty place to park in Vittoria, but immediately after our arrival, a procession of motorhomes arrive. It is good that we arrived before 11 am. After parking the Frankia we get all our laundry and walk to the lavanderia, situated behind the supermarket, a walk less than 500 feet.

Laundromat in Vittoria

The next hours I’m busy washing and drying everything. Of course with the help of Dick, who visits regularly to fold everything and carry it back to the motorhome. It’s to hot to walk around and at 4 pm the thermometer even shows 92 degrees (we have no airco), and we walk to the big Eroski supermarket to buy food for tonight. It’s time to cook again. In this supermarket all the displayed goods look perfect and there is plenty of choice in fresh vegetables.

When we stored everything in the fridge (sometimes our fridge seems flexible, we can store so much) we look at the continuation of our itinerary northwards. As I want to return to Andorra, where I want to buy extra walking socks (the old socks fit well and we bought them in Andorra) we have to revise our planned route and look for alternative destinations. End of the afternoon we have a provisional route northbound that takes us through Andorra again. It remains stiflingly hot outside and it cools down very slowly so we spend another night with all our windows wide open. And the stew of cauliflower, beans and potatoes with cheese tastes good with the homemade meatballs. It’s just too much so we can eat this one more night.

Early Sunday morning the thermometer points already 68 degrees but the sun is hidden behind a thick veil of clouds. When we have dumped our gray and black water, an almost daily ritual, inextricably linked to this way of traveling, and our fresh water tank is filled, we drive to Pamplona where we first fill up with diesel. It is good to fill up in Spain because the government gives a bonus of 20 cents on every liter of fuel so we are always pleasantly surprised by the amount we have to pay. Always 12 euros less than the amount indicated on the pump. Again we drive in the high mountains and we climb higher and higher into the Pyrenees. We are still on the Camino Frances (The Pilgrims way) so we regularly see pilgrims walking by and through our open window, we wish them a “Buen Camino”.

The Monastery in Roncevalles

At 1 pm we arrive at the parking of the monastery in Roncesvalles. It is spacious and there is place to park motorhomes. I really wanted to look around here because in three months I hope to arrive here after my first day of hiking. And of course I want to know what it looks like. A few weeks ago, our friends Marjo and Wim came by and sent us pictures of this place. For me it was a great disappointment. In my mind the monastery of Roncesvalles was situated high in the mountains and remote. Fortunately, this disappointment is immediately gone now we are here. It still is a lonely place in the mountains, with next to the monastery a small hotel and a few restaurants, but otherwise it is really quite. We walk slowly past the monastery buildings, see the pilgrims arrive one by one, waiting in the courtyard to qualify for a place to sleep.
At the tourist info, yes it is here, I get information about the part of the Camino Frances that leads through Navarre. Of course we burn a candle in the church next to the monastery and pray for a good pilgrimage end of August.

490 Miles to Santiago de Compostela from Roncevalles

I feel very privileged that I will soon be able to do this pilgrimage and hope that I will also be able to walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela and on to Fisterra. Of course we also walk around in the otherwise deserted area to look for some geocaches. Soon it’s getting late and the day tourist disappears. Now it’s really quiet here, dead quiet.
At 7 pm the sky closes completely, dark clouds roll up the mountains, rain falls and thunderstorms light up the sky. As a result, it cools down quickly and because of the rising fog, our world becomes very small. Even the monastery walls are no longer visible. For the first time we sleep with a cool night temperature of 54 degrees.

Road sign for the Camino Frances

Monday May 23rd it is still cloudy in the morning, but when we have had breakfast and continue our ride up the steep narrow mountain road, every now and then we see a glimpse of blue sky at the horizon. At the top we stop for a while and then we descend to Saint Jean Pied de Port, France, at the foot of the Pyrenees.
The town is on an altitude of 538 feet so we have to descent 3937 feet, over endless hairpin bends, it never ends. As soon as the Frankia is parked in a large parking lot on the edge of this pleasant town, we walk into the center. The narrow streets lead steeply up and down and of course we first walk to the pilgrim office where I will get my first stamp on August 20th. I like it to look around here with Dick and see what is where. So when I arrive from the Netherlands by bikebus, I will somewhat familiar with this town.

Outdoor shop in St. Jean Pied de Port

Opposite the pilgrim’s office is an outdoor shop “La Boutique du Pelerin” which we naturally honor with a visit. It turns out to be a shop completely geared to pilgrims and their needs when walking the Camino. Instead of just looking around we spend the next few hours here and eventually we come out with practically my complete gear for the trip. I am so happy with this store. After returning my new backpack and all other gear to the Frankia, we again wander through the narrow streets of Saint Jean Pied de Port. What a pleasant town this is to stay. It is also pleasantly busy. We climb to the castle from where we have a beautiful view of the surroundings, inquire at the Albergue Municipal or reservations are needed end of August (no, it’s not possible to reserve, just be present at 2 pm and wait in line) and we have lunch in the narrow streets.

Lighting a candle for a safe trip

Of course we also burn a candle here in the church for good health, a safe journey and a safe reunion in Santiago. Ans after a, for me quite emotional, day, we are back at 6 pm.  I now realize how important it is for me that Dick, who is not be able to walk the Camino, sees and experiences all these places. After eaten the leftover stew, we read an hour and then I go to bed and don’t even know that my head is touching my pillow.

Tuesday May 24th it is still a bit cloudy with a vague sun but there is no rain. The exhausting heat is behind us. It’s only 60 degrees. The hakuna gives us a route to Spain that takes us over increasingly narrow roads and climbs higher and higher up. After an hour we decide to turn around. The Pyrenees passes are ahead of us and these roads are getting narrower and narrower, it doesn’t seem wise to continue. So we turn around and look for another road that also takes us over the mountain pass. The new road remains significantly wider and after a lot of climbing we arrive through a tunnel (avoiding the high mountain pass) in Somport.
We are back in Spain. From here we slowly descend further to the town of Jaca. We can park but the place doesn’t look very attractive and when we walk through the town it turns out to be less attractive because everything is closed. At 3 pm we decide to walk back, start the motorhome and drive on to Ainsa. We arrive an hour and a half later. Even if this means an extra drive of 43 miles, for Dick that’s better than looking at a whiny woman who isn’t having a good time. In Ainsa it is difficult to find a suitable spot because of the trees. The trick is to park where the gap between the trees is large but after some maneuvering we again manage to find a good spot with a view of the peaks of the Pyrenees.

A delicious Pizza in Ainsa

After paying we walk to the old center of Ainsa. Now it’s 5.30 pm and we want to eat something, so we ask if we can sit inside the pizza restaurant. Outside there is a cool breeze and it feels less pleasant on the square. Despite the fact that we are the only ones wanting to eat inside and on a time not usual for the Spanish, we can order and enjoy a delicious pizza and a nice glass of wine. When we walk back, the parking lot is more busy and everywhere are motorhomes parked, but it remains quiet and we sleep like roses at night.

Part 2 is following soon.

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