Thursday, September 29, 2016

9/28 --- Burgos Cathedral, Next Camino Walk, Arrive in Leon

We set out west toward Burgos, and arrived at the gate to the old city. Immediately inside was the  Burgos Cathedral, the third largest in Spain. It had an amazing number of spires! Turns out it was built and added on to several times and apparently each addition needed to compete in the spire contest. I am not normally that interested in cathedrals, but Carlotta, our guide helped it be interesting. In theory, El Cid is buried here. One tale has his wife bringing him there armor and all, but we were told he was initially buried in Valencia and brought here centuries later.
The main gate to old town Burgos

Accordion player outside the gate. Very cheery
and reminded me of my Dad's accordion.

Side view of the Burgos Cathedral. What you see from the
gate. The left tower is one of the two in front.
A side entrance we used.

The top has a bunch of symbolic animals

The rose window
The main altar

Pipe organ with some horizontal pipes - a
design unique to Spain. Below is choir seating.
Better view of choir seating

A dome stained glass in the Moorish tradition

Here lies El Cid
Papamoscas means 'flycatcher. This clock
strikes 12 and with each strike it opens its
mouth (see below).

Our guide commented that most the people watching are
leaning back to see him at the top of the cathedral with their
mouths  open too, so lots of flycatchers.
An unusual statue of Mary trying to breast-
feed Jesus.
This painting  of Mary Magdalene was
originally thought to have been done by a
student of Da Vinci, but after it's cleaning,
the quality of the hands and face led to the
conclusion that master and student collaborated.

Detail from a rococo segment of the cathedral
This represents some saint trampling the Moors. In another
location, the warlike image is modified by covering the
Moors with flowers.

This image of Mary and Jesus was carved from
an elephant tusk, hence its slight  arch to the left.

Modern painting of El Cid. The Spanish see him more as
Antonio Banderas than Charlton Heston.
Model of the cathedral that provides some clue to its complexity.
After the cathedral, we were left to forage for lunch in the square after some samples of cheese and cookies. The cheese place also had chocolate and said their family had been making it for over a hundred years. Unfortunately, the smaller bars (ingots, really) were only sold in pairs -- one milk, one dark, so we enticed a travel  mate, Iwona (eh-van-ka) to split the booty with us. Instead of a fancy lunch, we found a bakery that had pizza and got a small one to split, plus some yummy looking almond cookies. Lunch was so fast, we had a half hour to explore and ended up in a jewelry shop (surprise, surprise), where I got a lovely Amazonite necklace.

Back on the bus, we headed toward our Camino walk -- this was from one end of the village of Castrojeriz to the other. Instead of rain, it was warm and sunny. Quite the contrast from yesterday. We set off on our short walk, which was a bit farther than anticipated, but nothing to challenging. We could have gotten two stamps at the end, but I had elected to leave  my purse -- with the Camino passports -- on the bus. We got one on a slip of paper, so all was not lost.
We started on the right side of the hill ans walked mostly
uphill towards the left, below the castle.

Walking thru the village was quite a change from our previous
rural walk.

Finally, we headed to Leon. The motorways here are pleasant and straight, so I enjoyed a book until we arrived in Leon shortly after 6pm. We are staying at a parador, a former monastery (in this case) or castle that has been renovated to create unique accommodations. This one will undergo a second renovation next year, and certain elements are dated, but it is quite an impressive space.
Our parador from the outside.  The hotel entrance is in the
middle. The impressive entrance on the right is a museum.

The gardens below our 5th floor window.

Our room -- comfortable, but a bit dated. The worst problem
is the key -- very old style, difficult to use. We miss the
plastic key cards!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

9/27 -- "Run' with the Bulls and Walk the Camino de Santiago

At breakfast this morning, Jim put our juice down at a table with one other cup, assuming it belonged to another person in our group. When the cup owner showed up shocked that 3 people had stolen his table, he prepared to move but I invited him to stay and join us. It turns out he is a pilgrim from Montreal, and on the second year of a multi-year trek to Santiago del Campestola, the end of the Camino. I wasn't clear where he started, but his total distance is upwards of 950 miles. He walks for about 3 weeks at a leisurely pace, covering up to 15 miles in a day.

At 8am, Nico outfitted us each with a red scarf like those used on the Run with the Bulls, and walked us through the route, highlighting a section of fence left in place for demonstrations, a sharp turn where the bulls hooves may slip on the cobbles, and the narrow entry to the bull ring. When you sign up for the run, you are not allowed to back out. If runners try to escape the route during the run, they are normally shoved back into the fray by the observers. The best place to run is along side the bull, with your hand touching its back. Everyone who runs through the first of two bull ring doors gets in for free.The door is closed promptly when the last bull enters and the slowpokes all pay if they want to see the bull fight. There are 5 days of runs and they even have a 'kiddie' run for those under 18 with bulls that are too young to have horns. We also saw a wonderful statue depicting the race.
Two sections of fence. There are covered post holes in the
street that are larger than the post so they are made secure
with huge shims at the base.

Nico, Jim, and Don getting ready to watch (or run).

There were several adorable cartoons like this on the route.

The clock is counting down to the next run

That red door in the back is the first door to the bull ring. The
metal plate to the left of Nico is a post hole, and they funnel
down to the gate.

The first of 4 photos showing the bull run sculpture.

The figure lying on the left is a self-portrait of the artist.

Warning sign

Then we stopped for coffee and tea. On the way back to the hotel, Jim wanted a pastry, so we ducked into a tiny shop and he spied the eclairs and wanted to split one. I didn't think my Spanish was so bad that they would have trouble figuring out 'una eclair' with the associated pointing, but they looked at us blankly. A lady sitting just behind us at a petite counter reading her paper and enjoying her coffee joined in with very good English and helped us out, ordering in Basque. We spoke for a bit and learned that she had spent a month with friends in Orinda, a community on the east side of the Bay Area!
Our coffee shop next to the Hemingway place

We regrouped at the hotel and headed out past Roncevalles, north near the French border, to walk a few miles on the Camino, stopping for lunch about halfway. It was supposed to be sunny and mid 60s with no chance of rain. Apparently the forecasters here are no better than the terrible ones where we live because it was more like mid 50s, misty, and breezy. Lucky for me, most of the walk was through a wooded trail which blocked both wind and misty, but my very light fleece jacket was not quite up to its task. The only solution was to walk fast to warm up.
We walked up to this marker to start.
View from the top
Sign to show the way

Church in Roncevalles with buttresses that are not the
flying kind.

We collected a stamp at a waystation in Roncevalles where lunch was, but apparently were too fast as we had 45 minutes before the  lunchroom opened. They finally took pity on us standing inside to be warm and dry and clogging up their bar, and opened the dining room and brought wine, a big basket of bread, and a plate of pancetta for each group of 4. All the portions were quite large. Next up was a salad with shrimp and what  looked like short white and black noodles -- which looked to me suspiciously like the fake baby eel delicacy I had read about. The real eels are the delicacy, angula in Basque, and look like 2 inch long skinny worms with recognizable eyes and mouth. Unfortunately, the river pollution killed most of them, and now 'gula' are more common, a fake eel made from surimi, which is any random fish and filler you can find. They are immediately identifiable because they have no eyes or mouths, tho apparently some come with 'eyes' now. They are also not nearly so tasty. I thought the salad was fine, but avoided the 'noodles' which were confirmed to be gula, as suspected. Because we had  more walking to do, and it was a big salad, I assumed that was the end. WRONG! The next course was a plate of sausages, which I tried one of. Then there was a bowl of something less soupy than a boullebase, which I skipped. I thought for sure we were done then and I was full. But no. next up was a thick pork loin, french fries, and roasted peppers. And then dessert -- an apple galette, a coffee flan, and Basque profitteroles served with a side of whipped cream drizzled with chocolate.

Adding to the enjoyment of lunch was the interaction between folks at our table and several others. A Chinese-looking man came in with a Cleveland Indians hat and posed for our Cleveland couple. We shared some of our overflow with other tables and got partial bottles of wine in return as we had finished off the 3 we were allotted. We also got some rose wine from a French pair,  who had been talking to our French guide, Nico. Several folks had vests that identified them as the hospitality group (hostel help) and one waggled a bunch of keys -- he is Dutch and volunteers along the Camino.  In all, a really warm and cheery group of diverse people.

Back on the trail, we had another 1.5km to the bus.  I was chilly so we power walked and got to the warm, dry bus first. Then it was back to Pamplona for free time til dinner.

After dinner, we went for a short walk along the old walls. Since the sun goes down at 8pm or so here, photography was a challenge, but some worked out. Tonight we pack and head to Leon.

The wheels were used to operate the drawbridge.


9/26 -- San Sebastian and Drive to Pamplona

We headed to the seaside resort of San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque --both mean the same thing), about an hour and a half away and only 20 minutes from the French border. It became famous after a Spanish queen who was ill was recommended to take the salt waters here and recovered. She would be carried down the hill from where she was staying to a fancy cabana on the beach and then carried into the water.

The Queen's Cabana
It is now a very pricey resort town. We drove along the beach and then up Mt. Igelda. At the top, there is now a tower and an amusement park, apparently closed for the season. The facility has wonderful views to the beach (named La Concha for its shell shape), the town (184,000 people), and two neighboring  mountains. Unfortunately, the view was to the east, right into the sun so our photos do not do the view  justice.

The first lighthouse in the area is here on this mountain.

Looking Northwest along the Biscay Bay coast

The semi-circular beach, La Concha

Tower at the top

Looking down at one of the little kid play areas. I really wanted
to see inside the  booth labeled 'Carrera de Tortugas' (Turtle Races)

Looking east toward France. In this photo, there is another
faint point of land in the back. Beyond that is France.

Another view of  La Concha with an island and another 'mountain'.
From there, we went back to the waterfront and walked in the area. This is the site of a big international film festival which ended yesterday, so they are still taking down some of the facilities for the festival. The old town LOOKS old -- mostly rebuilt after Wellington defeated Napoleon's troops and burned the city down in 1813. There are also a number of newer buildings, but nothing too radical. We walked to a public square that used to be an urban bull ring, and you can still see the seating location numbers above the apartment windows. Then we found a building that predated 1813 -- it was one that British officers used so they didn't burn it. Behind it was an old stone house and the remains of an old wall and stairs.
The addition of an entertainment center necessitated a new
breakwater, and the revised wave action results in the need
to replace the riprap annually.

Inside a rebuilt market, called "La Brexta" is
this clock that was used for tuna auctions years
ago. There was an English explanation above,
but it was still confusing. We tried cheese
and olives here.

The top of one of the sides of the old bull ring -- the symbol
of the city.

The bull ring. Each orange placard above a window has a
seat number -- a little more visible on the view below.

San Sebastian is deservedly proud of this
award -- in the lower left is a graphic of the
city -- the shell-shaped beach and 3 big hills.

British officers housing that was saved from the 1813 fire.

Old house

Old wall and steps next to a modern church. This was for the
lower classes. On the other side of this plaza and the officer
quarters is another church for the upper class. The color of
your clothing indicated where you fit in.

We ended up at lovely cafe, which was normally closed Mondays, but Nico talked them into opening for us. We were served several courses, starting with a gazpacho that may have had fish in it. Everything was artfully done, and the parts I liked were very tasty though perhaps more emphasis on squash than I prefer. There must have been 6 courses. We left nearly two hours later, not needing dinner at all.

Back on the bus, we headed south to Pamplona, about an hour  plus south and checked into the Pamplona Catedral Hotel, which was a former convent located next to the Cathedral. On our way to find the breakfast room, Nico showed us the former nun's rectory, now a dining room. I think it could use a bit more color.

 Then we started our walk around the old town. Like most, the streets are narrow and the buildings are tall. Nico took us to a chocolate shop for chocolate churros -- the churro batter is extruded into a circular deep fryer, hauled out in a long spring shape and then divided. The churros are different from ours because these are thinner and have no covering other than what you dip them in. It is sort of like a long skinny doughnut that never connects in a circle. It is served with a cup of 'hot chocolate' which is so thick that it is much better for dipping than drinking. Jim and I split a cup with one churro and were totally chocolated out for the day. Most of the rest who tried it finished way less of the chocolate than we did.
Another narrow, tall street in an old town.

We have not seen anything before that was so direct about
the feelings of at least some of the Basques toward Spain. The
book I read suggested that if the Spanish would just let them
control their own province and not persecute them, they would
be happy and maybe not need to separate from Spain.

This is a musical instrument of sorts, apparently only
capable of one very low note.

In the pavement, proving we are on the Camino de Santiago.

These two skinny buildings reminded me of

Very famous cafe, right next to a Hemingway haunt.