Biduedo ⛪️ Sarria

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music “I feel I’ve been hit by a truck.” were my first words of the day. I still had to get up and get moving. We started our day at daybreak and walked down the mountain from the from we slept at. We were thankful to be going down.

We started our day with a plan to walk to Tricatilla, catch a cab to Samos, and then walk to Sarria, from where we must walk. After the previous day, I wasn’t looking forward to walking all day. There was a shorter route to Sarria, but Kristin is reading a book about a Mennonite pastor who walked the Camino and took a Bindictine oath, The Way is Made by Walking.

Aware that I needed an attitude adjustment, I sang praise songs & prayers. It worked & the cows didn’t complain.

So, we decided to take another way and visit the Benedictine Monastery.

Big Tree in Triacastela On the path to Tricatilla is an 800 year old Chestnut tree. Kristin said she thinks Winnie the Pooh lives there. The whole scene looked like something out of the Hobbit. 

Naps with  Geese We opted to forgo the cab in Tricatilla & I’m so thankful we did. It was a stunning walk. Shortly after entering Samos we stopped by a grocery and purchased local cheese, bread, crackers and sodas. (There are no Pepsis in rural Spain, for those wondering.) We walked a few more meters and saw stairs leading down to a grassy area beside the river, where we could soak our soar feel and legs in icy water.  I lay my yoga towel under an apple tree. I should have noticed the 10,000 feathers on the grass. As we are, 4 geese swam by. I threw my left over crust to them & we made fast friends. After eating, Mom and I stretched out for a siesta & Kris went exploring. The ducks decided to join us for our rest, apparently I picked their home to lunch in. They nestled down and groomed & I meandered in and out of consciousness.


I fell in love with a Benedictine Monk The Monastery in Samos was founded in the 600’s AD. We wanted a tour, but they siesta until 3:30. So, Mom and I did yoga at the entrance to the church (where no one was except us), and Kristin tried to pretend like she didn’t know us. Her phrase for moments like this is, “You are STRETCHING me.” 😜

A Monk unlocked the door promptly at 3:30. We bought tickets. All the signs said The tours were in English and Spanish. They were wrong. The tour was in Spanish & we were the only ones on it. So, I was the translator, as best I could. Father Geraldo showed us the portion that was built in the 1600’s and the portion built in the 1800’s it was beautiful. Each side a large square with a plaza in the center. On one side was a huge statue. Holding up the statue were Nymphs with naked breasts (ironic in a place where men vowed to celibacy live). Kristin covered her eyes like she was embarrassed and Padre laughed. The tour was off to a good start. We decided we liked him even more when we saw the blue jeans peeking under his black robe.

We climbed a flight of marble stairs and ended up in an area covered in a mural that told about St. Benedict’s life. Because of the language barrier, this helped with the tour. I asked questions and he answered in SpEnglish. It worked! 

St. Benedict was my kind of guy. He devoted himself to studying science and medicine. He also devoted himself to disciplined prayer, as the monks continue to do to this day. He cast out demons,  healed people, listened to angels and recorded what they told him.

Padre Geraldo is my kind of guy too. He has studies at the monastery for 9 years. In June, he became the guy in charge (I cannot remember his title). He is humble and has a kind spirit. He is from the Dominican Republic (I think). I asked if he would bless is before we left. He prayed a prayer over of for protection and other things I couldn’t understand. I could feel the Holy Spirit with us in the gift shop. He then bought us each a gift. It was such a special time. The  Camino provides.

We also got to meet a couple of the other monks. One (whose name I cannot remember) came to the Camino 2 months ago. He is from Mexico. He stayed at the Alburgua attached to the Monastery and never left. He goes home next week and will return in 3 months. He is 28.

There was an 18 year old from Puerto Rico studying there as well. His English was really good, and he helped us understand some things about the monastery and St. Benedict.

The Camino provides From Samos, we could follow the yellow arrows, or we could follow a route that Mom found on an app on her phone that is a “short cut”. It was, until the last turn. As we started down our path, yet again there was a little Spanish man saying, “Mal Camino! Mal Camino!” So, we found another way back. The details of which will be discussed when I am back on US soil. 😏😉

The Camino does give opportunity for us to reflect on God’s provision. Whether it’s the sweet bites of blackberries we have picked off the vines that have made climbing the hills tolerable, the kindness of little Spanish men,  the laundry that was done for us at one of our hotels, or the conversations that happen with people from all over the globe, God provides.

Buen Camino amigos!

The Journey Begins 

Today, I am abandoning my family, and flying across the world for my own selfish endeavors. I’m not on mission, I’m not working, I’m really not even vacationing. That’s how it felt as a lay in bed before light wrapped in my husband’s arms preparing to exit the familiar sheets, and walls, and routines. 

What kind of wife leaves for two weeks, in the middle of soccer season and homework and 10 hour work days. What kind of mother leaves without having to?  This kind. The kind that knows there is something more outside of my nice American life. The kind that knows God is worthy of a couple of weeks away listening to him. The kind that no longer wants to make decisions based on fear or people pleasing, or even what is convenient. So, today begins my Camino journey. Today I become a pilgrim. 

I have packed 2 outfits, 2 pairs of shoes, moisturizer, medicine, some essentials, and my toothbrush in my backpack and hopped on a plane with two of the most adventurous women I know: My parachuting, snow skiing, piloting mother (who dreamed up this whole trip in the first place) and is traveling with her knitting & my world traveling, mother of six, college roommate.  Over the next 13 days we will hike 120 miles over the Way of St. James, to arrive in Santiago, Spain. God willing, I will blog my journey.

Villafranca to Herrías

Villafranca 

Dinner at the plaza after our long day.
We were too exhausted to explore Villafranca last night. 9 1/2 hours of travel took its toll on us physically as well as mentally. We got to walk through the the beautiful town today & it is BEAUTIFUL! Far less Graffiti than Ponferrada. We started the morning walking through the streets that took us back 100 years with cobblestone roads and stone buildings that opened up into a bridge over a meandering river surrounded by lovely gardened houses. Today, we planned to take a detour. (On purpose this time.) A small one that would have gone up a mountain. As we were walking through Villafranca we started up a hill to our path as two older gentlemen were out for their morning walks, on walkers (I’m serious).  When we stared up the harder path, the man in front started shaking his finger. “No, no, no! No Buen Camino” He continued in Spanish I cannot understand. When he figured out we don’t speak Spanish well he said, “Mal Camino, no buen Camino.”
Villafranca as we left

The Road 

So, we took the road more traveled. It was a beautiful walk gently uphill through the mountains beside a highway. It was, however, A LOT of highway and A LOT of blacktop, which makes for sore feet. It was also an opportunity. I could choose to look at the mountains and the beauty in the distance, or I could look at the cars & the road that looked like any road, except, thankfully, there was a 3′ high concrete barrier between me & the highway. To pay too much attention to the immediate surroundings, the road, the brush, the graffiti would cause one to think this was an ugly mistake. To look solely at the mountains might cause you to trip and fall or miss a very important yellow arrow. Life is like that. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and where you are, but to keep all your focus there can make you unhappy & task focused. The balance is that looking only at what is in the distance can allow you to be broadsided by a truck. The road also made me appreciate even more the beautiful travel through vineyards and farm country yesterday, a little more appreciation for our previous struggle.

VILLAGES The villages we traveled through today were a nice escape from the highway. I’m so intrigued by their gardens and irrigation. Some did feel a bit like a tourist trap, like we only walked through them to buy a Coke, but they were cute & clean. Kristin compared them to a gift shop at the end of an amusement park ride.  We stopped in one to soak our feet in the stream flowing by. That was the best decision we made all day. A few minutes of rest and ice cold water on our tired feet was just the energizing we needed to finish the day. Anna, a lovely girl from Sweden  joined us. She is delightful and walking alone for nine days.

Garden behind a chapel

Herrías We’ve only just gotten here. We are staying at Paraiso del Biertho, which is a charming hotel on the left as you enter with a view of a valley with the prettiest stream flowing through the middle. This is the view out my bedroom window.

Other Thoughts 

As we were walking today, we were discussing children and motherhood and the fact that Kristin and I don’t feel as old as we are. I stated that I don’t understand women who are able to embrace motherhood so completely. This is a struggle for me.  Kristin, however, feels she has no other identity. “I’m Mama Mitchell , in many continents.” She has traveled to Africa, Haiti, and India working with orphans as well as raising her own 6 children and many foster children over the years.  It got me thinking about this thought: I would give my life for my children.  I would kill for my children. But, do I live for my children? I don’t know that I should, but it has me thinking it is something very different to live for someone or something than it is to die or kill for someone or something. I want to live for God! Lord, help me to live for you!

Anna & I soaking our feet
Villafranca
Beginning of our hike throught the streets of Villafranca

Ponferrada to Villafranca

It’s only out of commitment that I am writing this😉. It’s been a wonderful day, but some navigational errors were made & our 15 mile journey became 20. 

I’m getting ahead of myself. Yesterday, upon arrival in Ponferrada, we napped briefly and then traveled across the street to visit the Knight’s Templar Castle. It is so impressive. I loved touring around and wondering what it would have been like in that time. There was one spot when you could look through a narrow slit in an upper window and shoot down at enemies that might come to the gate. I love the display of period clothing & especially loved the pilgrim discount, because I’m thrifty like that.

We had a lovely dinner in the plaza. It was so fun to see the local families walking around & the children running and playing. We turned in around 10:30, but the life of the city kept going late into the night.

This morning feels like days ago. Ponferrada is beautiful! The journey was stunning as we watched the terrain change from rivers and hills to beautiful vineyard covered mountains. On our accidental excursion to Monasterio de Carracedo one of us may or may not have grabbed a cluster of Concord grapes off a vine. So delicious, as were the wild blackberries growing beside the path.

We especially loved Cacabelos, and would most likely have stopped there if we hadn’t sent our bags to Villafranca (thank the Lord for that opportunity). 

We ended the trek exhausted, barely able to walk. But we stopped by Iglesias de Santiago, which holds the door of pardon. If you make it this far in the pilgrimage, your sins are forgiven. We almost didn’t stop, but I am so thankful we did.  As I was walking the last 5 kilometers, I was thinking how I came on the trip to search the heart of God, but I haven’t really noticed him yet. Upon entering the church, cool air hit your face, candles glowed, and understated beauty that is so different from the ornate decor of the cathedrals we visited, and a bench is there to rest your weary and beaten body.  The relief was overwhelming, to the point of tears. Isn’t that what forgiveness is like, isn’t that what God is like? Overwhelming us with his love, providence, and lighting our load by his presence. Buen Camino, Amigos