Some Size Perspective

While I’m in the beginning stages of recapping my journey, I realized that it’s a little difficult to visualize and comprehend what it means to walk across a country; especially if you don’t have a point of reference. So here’s a short entry to help give an idea.

Here’s an overall view of the route that I walked. My friend and I started in Irun, a city close to the Spain/France border. And we made our way more or less along the green route to Santiago de Compostela. You’ll notice that the green route actually ends in Arzua, this is because technically the Camino del Norte ends/meets up with the Camino Frances in Arzua. [Map courtesy of gronze.com]Slide1

Now you’re thinking this is all well and nice, but you still don’t really have an idea of how large Spain is. Ok. Here’s an overlay of Spain (and some of its islands) onto Colorado to give you some perspective of the size of Spain.  [Courtesy of thetruesize.com]Slide2

I’ve shifted Spain a bit so that approximately where Irun would be on the northern coast,  is where it lines up with the Eastern border of Colorado. So you could say that my overall journey was a rough equivalent of walking across Colorado.  [Courtesy of thetruesize.com]Slide3

Hope these maps helped a bit. I’ll see what I can do about adding some more bells and whistles.

I suggest that you check out www.thetruesize.com. Definitely a fun website that helps you play around with the map of the world. You can drag and drop countries and US states all around the world map. It’s fun getting to rearrange the map a bit to give you an idea of the size of these countries. Like, Greenland isn’t nearly as big as you think it is, and you can fit the contiguous US, India, and China all on the continent of Africa with a little room to spare. This website would have given my grade school geography lessons way more depth and given me an understanding of the magnitude of some places in the world.

Have fun!

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San Sebastian

The distance between Pasaia and San Sebastian is fairly short, almost 8km (~5 miles, quick conversion: 1.6km=1 mile). But it seems to be all uphill and steep. We decided to have shorter stages in the beginning of our trip to ease into the rigors of walking with a pack, especially since the Northern way is known for its multiple altitude changes. Plus, a shorter stage would give us more time to enjoy San Sebastian.

Coming into San Sebastian, we took a hiking trail through some mountains. And when going through the mountains, following the waymarking and trail is fairly explanatory. I get more confused when we enter into towns and cities.  It becomes more like a scavenger hunt, trying to find the arrows.  Here’s one on a public trashcan.

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San Sebastian is known as a city of beaches. And what a view it has!  These panorama shots doesn’t do the expansive beaches justice.

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On a side note, the hospitalero and his wife in Pasaia told us that no two buildings are alike in San Sebastian. I definitely appreciate the mix of old and newer buildings in Spain. It’s a great juxtaposition of the past and the present.

Before checking into the hostel, we decided to eat some pintxos (peen-chos). Basically a version of tapas (a variety of small portioned appetizers).  Typically, you go to one place and eat 1-2 dishes, and then move on to another place and eat another 1-2 dishes.  They are generally eaten between lunch and dinner, since dinner is generally eaten around 9/9:30pm.  We stuck to eating at 2 different places since we were lugging around our stuff.

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These were yummy. Lightly salted deep-fried green peppers. Pimientos padron

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The other place we visited. If you notice, bread comes with everything.

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After being pleasantly full and using the bathroom to relieve ourselves, we went to look for the hostel. This took some time since we discovered afterwards that many places can be known/listed under multiple names. After checking into the hostel, we went and explored the city a bit. There was a pretty amazing bridge connecting the city, one side had the larger and more well-known beach, and the other side had a smaller beach that was actually longer during low tide. Sorry about the finger.

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There always seems to be a church at the end of the narrow passageways.

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This plaza was next to the beachfront, with an administrative building on one side, and a park with a carousel.

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Another peregrina we met in the hostel recommended going to see the blowholes at the end of town.

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The blowholes were constructed into the boardwalk, and as the tide comes in, air rushes through the holes in the ground (the cross-like blocks).  The tide was strong enough that we got some pretty good gusts coming out of the holes, and waves crashing on the sides.

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Later in the day, the tide was going out. You can see that the beaches were relatively flat and shallow for quite a distance.

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Being in a seaside vacationing city, we decided to splurge a little on a nice dinner. We got one serving of seafood soup to share (the portions were a little large for us to manage).

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Vegetable paella (I know, paella is a Southern Spain dish, but we were craving veggies and rice)

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And then we asked what the server recommended for dessert. This dessert did not disappoint! It’s like a Spanish version of a souffle cheesecake.

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Thus ended our day in San Sebastian.  We got some beautiful views of the beach on our way back to the hostel (which was clear on the other side of the city).

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The smaller beach was more flat and had these mountainous cliffs. It seems like they built San Sebastian up on the mountain side.

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That’s it for our time in San Sebastian. A beautiful city, a little touristy, lovely long beaches, and lots of character.

First steps

My apologies for not having kept up more regularly. At the end of the day, priorities are shower, laundry, food. Writing a blog entry, especially typing it out on a phone screen keyboard, doesn’t sound as appealing as taking off your hiking boots and elevating your feet.

In anycase, here’s a list of vocab I’ll probably be using regularly.

  • Peregrino/peregrina: pilgrim walking The Camino de Santiago
  • Albergue: low-cost hostel for peregrinos
  • Hospitalero/hospitalera: host or person in charge of the albergue

Here’s a recap of the first day. I’ll probably be posting in chunks instead of daily entries.

My friend and I left Barcelona by train and arrived in Irun (city close to the Spain-France border). We found the albergue (low-cost hostel for pilgrims/peregrinos) and then decided to look around the town.

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We ended up walking to the official starting point, which turned out to be a bridge crossing into France.

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A sign letting us know we were leaving Irun.
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Walked over to the France side.
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We ate a hearty meal of Korean ramen and leftover kimchi my friend brought from her plane ride.
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Not the healthiest of meals but it was really tasty!

The next day we were woken up by traditional Spanish folk dance music and given breakfast. In Spain, an early breakfast consists of cafe con leche (strong coffee with warmed milk), maybe toast and jam, or biscuits. People generally eat another breakfast a little later; a pastry, or small sandwich (bocadillo), or tortilla con patata (think frittata/omelette with potatoes). Then we were off!

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Well, we had to be, since most alburgues say you must leave by 8 or 9am.

So we went along the route and looked for yellow arrows along the way.

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After leaving the city with a few twists and turns, we soon became charmed by the more countryside scenery.

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Unfortunately, that also meant we took a slight detour, having missed an arrow or two. But we found our way back and proceeded to hike up the mountain.

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The Northern route is known for being more physically demanding because it goes up and down hills and mountains.

The view from one of the flatter parts while going up.

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We were also more careful to look out for arrows, having learned our lesson hours earlier. It became a game, looking for the yellow arrow. Sometimes it was on a tree, sign, or a rock.

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Occassionally we would also spot a shell with an arrow.

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Our destination was Pasajes (Pasaia), a small fishing village. As we neared, we soon had peeks of the ocean.

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When we got to Pasaia we decided to go find the alburgue first. We found out the alburgue overlooked the bay a bit, so arrows went in one direction to the alburgue, and another towards the Camino.

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The alburgue was built by a hermitage/church. So the hermitage part faced the ocean and on the other side was the alburgue.

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Such a fun idea to paint this sticking out rock as a boat.
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We found out we arrived before the alburgue opened, so we went down to find something to eat.

We passed by the local church and asked some people about a place to eat.

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We ended up going to the plaza area and ordered a menú del día to split. Basically it’s a set menu where you can choose a first and second course, and it includes a dessert and a drink.

For the first dish, we wanted to eat salad, so we bravely ordered a salad with shrimp and something else we couldn’t translate. We learned that the noodle looking things are called gulas and are something like noodles made of fish. Then we asked for the server’s recommendation and we got a whole local caught fish. Then another server recommended their cheesecake and gave us an extra large piece so that we can have energy to be strong as we walked.

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After lunch, we got back to the alburgue and settled in. We did some grocery shopping and went to the pharmacy to stock up. I ended up getting blisters on the back of my ankles, below where I had taped to prevent blisters.

The next morning, the view was pretty incredible.
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We then followed the arrows to take a very short ferry ride across the bay.
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And then proceeded to climb an inumerable amount of stone steps.

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There was even a castle like building at the top.
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Here are some other pictures along our way to San Sebastian.

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Here were our first glimpses of the beaches in San Sebastian.

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Seems like this post is getting a bit long, so I will continue on with San Sebastian in the next post. ¡Hasta Luego!

Barcelona, part 2

We went to La Sagrada Familia next and found a place to eat while we waited for our entrance time. We tried some tapas since the menu del dia (a meal of the day that provides an appetizer, entrée, drink, and dessert) wasn’t available until 1pm. I also had an orange juice, which was freshly squeezed. Forgot to take a photo before I started drinking it.

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We also tried some tapas. Calcots with romesco sauce and a type of potato salad.

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Anyway, after the yummy food we meandered back to the church.

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As you can see it’s still under construction. They’ve been building this thing for over 130 years so far.

La Sagrada Familia translates into the Sacred/Holy Family. It is a church dedicated to Joseph (father of Jesus), Mary (mother of Jesus), and Jesus. It was started in 1882 and is planned to be finished in 2026. Antoní Gaudí was hired in 1883 as the head architect after the original one, Francisco Paula de Villar, resigned. After Gaudí passed away in 1926, his remains were placed in the church.

Other general facts, there are 3 façades. The Nativity, Passion, and Glory façades. The Nativity façade was completed while Gaudí was alive, the Passion façade was finished in 1976, and the Glory façade was started in 2002 and remains unfinished. The Nativity façade faces East, the Passion façade faces West, and the Glory façade faces South.

There are 18 spires planned, as of yet there are only 8 finished. 12 for the apostles, 4 for the Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), 1 for the Virgin Mary, and the tallest for Jesus. When it’s finished this will be the tallest church in the world. However, Gaudí believed that the building shouldn’t be taller than God’s creation, so the church will be 1 meter shorter than Montjüic hill (184.8m) in Barcelona.

Going into La Sagrada Familia seemed slightly underwhelming at first because the outside was a bit monochromatic. But as the audioguide described the first facade (the Nativity facade) I was looking at, I realized that a lot of time and effort went into it.

The Nativity facade has a scene depicting the baby Jesus and his parents surrounded by shepherds, the wise men, angels and animals.

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

There is other decoration in the form of plants and other animals, to help signify life. There is a turtle/tortoise and a sea turtle at the base of the columns flanking the entrance. The turtle/tortoise on the side of the mountain, and the sea turtle on the side closest to the sea.

The next part was looking at the doors of the entrance, which were made out of bronze by a Japanese sculptor, Etsuo Sotoo. The doors are amazing works of art with different kinds of bugs and plants.

The kicker was entering the church. The ceiling escapes into a canopy. Gaudí mimicked much of his designs after nature. The columns are designed after trees.

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The East side stained glass windows have cooler colors (blues and greens) where the sun rises and the West side has warmer colors (oranges and yellows) where the sun sets.

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Barcelona

The passion façade was finished much more recently. Here you can see a lot of different details. There are different scenes depicting Jesus’ death and resurrection. The lower pillars were simulated after straining muacles and the higher lighter color pillars are after ribs. And, if you look closely at the second photo, you can see an ascended Jesus at the top.

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Barcelona

Barcelona

We also were able to go up into the tower on the Passion façade and see really how high up we were. The view was amazing, and the spiraling staircase down was at times disorienting.

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Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Here are a couple more photos.
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Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

The afternoon sun making full use of the beautiful stained glass windows.
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Barcelona

By the way, my apologies for the lack of some more detailed photos. I was too busy looking at everything to remember to take photos. I’ll get a link for my friend’s photos, since she took more photos of everything.

Also, internet connection has been spotty and slow in most areas. I will try to update more often.

Barcelona, part 1

I arrived to Barcelona quite early on Monday morning. It took me awhile to get my bearings, since everything was in another language. Four years of high school Spanish has served me well. I’m surprised how much of it I remember. Though I have found that even when you ask people to speak slowly, it doesn’t matter much, they continue speaking at the same speed.

Getting from the airport into the city was easy enough on the RENFE train. I do miss good public transit. I had some time before I could check in at the hostel, but they let me leave my backpack there until I could check in.

The hostel is situated near Plaza de Catalunya. It was plenty close to all the action of the city. There was even a building by Gaudí a block down the street.

Parts of the building remind me of sea creatures.

4/3/2017 Barcelona

4/3/2017 Barcelona

I walked around to take a look around and made my way to Bar Morrysom which I found out about from watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. The food was good, but a bit salty for me.

4/3/2017 Barcelona

4/3/2017 Barcelona

4/3/2017 Barcelona

Anyway, the next day was definitely more interesting. My friend and I visited Park Guell, La Sagrada Familia, and La Mercat de Boqueria. I’m very glad we bought our tickets online ahead of time for Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia, there were lots of people around!

Park Guell was to be an experiment for public housing by the Guell family and Gaudí. There were supposed to be many houses built, but only 2 houses were built and the plaza area where parties were held.

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

I started to become a fan of Gaudí during my visit to Park Guell. His attention to detail and mindfulness of the surrounding nature resonated with me.

Here, he preserves the original trees by making his arches in the same style.

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia deserves its own post, otherwise this one wil be too long.

Quick trip to New York

I forget that the East Coast is relatively close to Europe. What helped make this trip happen was that the round trip airfare between New York and Barcelona was relatively inexpensive (<$450). The price I paid could have easily been a roundtrip ticket within the US.

Since I would be leaving from New York, I decided to stay a couple days visiting with family and friends. And so far the Empire State has been a relatively gracious host. 

There is something about staying in a city that hustles and bustles. 

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As with all cities, there is always something happening, a new play, musical, band, sites to see, drink, or food. There is this pursuit and desire to push onward, always moving. An underwater behemoth that must continue to move, passing water over its gills in order to breathe.  The only difference is, this pursuit is not always forward. For everyone, the direction is different; forwards, backwards, sideways, outwards, inwards, etc.

It’s perhaps why people say cities, while a throbbing mass of humanity, they are almost in their own right a living entity of their own.

I have gotten to walk parts of this city, to see for myself the people, the pace, and its character. I have to say I am quite partial to the buildings here, especially the libraries. I’ll sign off with a couple of my better pictures.

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