Anna’s Camino: Day 17 – Burgos

In October and November of 2015, I walked the Camino Francés, one of the traditional pilgrimage routes to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It was a deeply emotional journey, with far-reaching implications for my life, and I’m slowly but surely capturing the memories and musings here on my blog. Read the entire series at Anna’s Camino.

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One of my favorite interior details from The Cathedral of St. Mary of Burgos.

It was still dark the next morning when Natalie, Ruth, and I left the albergue to begin the day’s trek. We started the day with the routine pitiful breakfast that was the norm across the length of the Camino – toast, juice, coffee – and between the vague irritation from not enough protein, the biting cold morning, and being generally exhausted, starting the day’s walk was quite difficult. There was also the not-so-little issue that this would be my last day with Natalie for some time. I greedily soaked up every second of our walk together, endeavoring to regulate my pace so I could cling to her side for the few hours it took to walk from tiny hamlet of Cardenuela Riopico to the big city of Burgos.

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Breakfast. The ham and cheese in the background are from Natalie’s pack – bringing your own protein is absolutely essential if you want to fuel your body properly first thing.

No matter which way one enters any large city, you’ll still find yourself humping it through the ‘burbs for quite some time before reaching city center. In Burgos, it’s no different. The “industrial area” – office parks, some scrapyard areas, a place that felt like the disused back lot of a small airport – that you’d drive through in less than five minutes takes more than an hour to conquer on foot. It’s not pretty, it gets monotonous, but if pilgrimage is life in a microcosm, I don’t think I need to spell out for you why it might be helpful to endure the boring, ugly bits. That’s up to the individual, though – every pilgrim walks her own road. My lessons are not yours. I found a strange joy, even in the not-so-great stretches, something I think has its roots in a childhood spent playing on the railroad tracks and in abandoned houses. I’ve always loved the overgrown and forgotten, the underdog places. They suit my soul.

Two days before, at dinner with Natalie and Terry in Villafranca Montes de Oca, we had spent some time discussing the pros and cons of the route into Burgos. Terry had very strong views on the subject, having done it before. She’d found the route spiritually deflating on her last trip, and advised against walking there. That’s part of why she’d taken the bus from Villafranca. Natalie, who’d also walked this portion of the route before, had heard that there was an alternate way to get into Burgos that was much prettier, and had resolved to find it. I was happy to tag along on the search. As it turns out, the way was quite interesting, in turns ugly and beautiful. There were still industrial areas to slog through, but then the route took us through a beautiful natural area that turned into a city park, first with nature trails, then bike trails and foot paths.

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The park route into Burgos.

All morning long, we saw Ruth, then lost her, then saw her again. Finally, about 30 minutes before reaching city center, Natalie and I plopped down on a park bench to eat a snack, and Ruth came along just as we were finishing up. It was nice to join up and walk the final stretch together; I took the opportunity to ask Ruth about the many hiking badges on her backpack. She had at least 10 patches, maybe more, denoting the various places she’d hiked. I loved the idea, and still do.

Our path through the park followed a small river, and as we got further into town, there were more and more foot bridges crossing the river. We could have crossed a bridge and left the park at any time, but kept moving along, scanning the sky for the spires of Burgos Cathedral. Twice we stopped to ask directions, but both locals told us to keep walking, not to cross any bridges yet. The last gentleman we talked to was so emphatic that we HAD to stay in the park for awhile, so we were careful not to stray. At first it seemed like he’d been afraid we’d get lost, but once we got into town proper, we realized that he’d had a different purpose in mind. Though we could have followed the river on either side of the city, entering city center from the path we were currently on gave us an absolutely breathtaking view of the gates of the old town, the spires of the cathedral just beyond. We’d lucked into asking a proud local for directions, and he pointed us in the precise direction required to fall in love with the city the way he had. It was the first time, but not the last, that I’d find myself close to tears over the sheer beauty of a place. I don’t think that I could have had quite the same experience had I not walked so far to get there. It was a triumph unlike anything I’d yet felt on the Camino, thus in my life.

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Me and my banana, about to storm the front gate of Burgos. I’m not sure why I look so serious. The banana certainly looks to be having a lovely time of things.

We arrived early enough in the day for the other two ladies to get to tour the cathedral and grab food before leaving town. Since I was checking into a hotel, I offered my room for baggage storage, so everyone could change shoes and walk around Burgos without packs. The Meson del Cid is a fine, old hotel that fit my needs. It wasn’t the most modern or cushy, but I had my own room with a giant bed, no snoring neighbors, and a fabulous bathroom all to myself. Even better, the hotel is directly beside the cathedral, which is situated in the city’s main square, so I was right in the middle of all the action. When your feet and legs are screaming with every step, not having to walk too far is worth its weight in comfortable walking shoes. We all took a second to admire the generous accommodations, then headed out to take a peek at the town.

First stop was a walk around the cathedral and surrounding neighborhood, where we happened across the most adorable little cafe any of us had yet seen. It was a tea/cocktail shop that was decorated in a very feminine motif, pastels and floral patterns, with beautifully appointed china. Even the barista had a sweet smile and very welcoming demeanor, fitting the overall spirit of the place; the entire experience was enchanting. They also had one of the best slices of tortilla of my entire Camino, with a thin layer of ham baked in between a thick layer of egg/potato, and a thinner layer of egg/cheese.

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After a cafe con leche and a little snack, it was time to tackle the cathedral. There are no words to properly explain the awe I experienced, so I’ll just give you photos…

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I quickly lost the other two peregrinas, as I soaked in every tiny detail and read every available scrap of info that I could find. By the time I finished the self-guided tour through the church, Natalie and Ruth were long-finished and sitting, waiting for me near the exit. I could tell they were a little impatient to get back on the road again, but they were also both so forgiving and kind in their manner that I felt guilty and forgave myself in almost the same moment. We went in search of kebabs, as one of the two ladies had heard there was a really good kebab shop right around the cathedral. The one that we found was OK, but nothing to write home about. After lunch, it was time for them to walk on. It was already mid-afternoon, and they had a long walk to get out of the city. We went back to my room to get their bags and have an emotional goodbye. I promised to catch back up with Natalie in a day or two. Maybe I believed at the time that that was a possibility; I don’t know.

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That night after dark, I walked around the city center, exploring on my own for the first time. One thing that struck me about Burgos, and many of the smaller towns I walked through that had even a smidgen of night life at town center, was how families were out together en masse. In a U.S. city at night, you’ll see couples out together, or maybe groups of people if they’re headed out to eat or to a club. You might even see a family or two, or a single mom/dad with kid or kids. And the same was true here, of course – except that there were many children present, and kids were normally accompanied by both parents, or two grandparents, or parents AND grandparents. The kids were always dressed so nicely, and it was rare to see any little ones acting up (at least in public). The whole scene was completely alien to me, but heartwarming, too.

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The fountain in the square outside of the Meson del Cid.

I went looking for a place to eat dinner, but felt so out of my element without a friend. I wandered down a bustling strip and through a couple of squares, admiring various menus and shyly standing around, getting a feel for how fancy the establishments might be. Several restaurants had ads for chocolate and churros, which I craved to try. In the end, though, I was just too out of my element to force myself into dining alone in a foreign language. I walked around until I found a little grocery store that was still open, and bought a selection of junk food to eat in my hotel room. I took a long, luxurious bath, then curled up in bed and ate chips and a chocolate bar, letting the crumbs fall as they pleased with no one there to judge me.

It felt strange to be so solitary. For the first time in a long time, being alone, something that I enjoyed in my “real life” back at home, filled me with an acute sense of loneliness. Looking back on that memory brings to mind the old spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” I was hurting on the inside that night. I never did get to try chocolate and churros. I also didn’t sleep at a hotel again on my Camino, and even now, I tend to stay in hostels, where I can meet new people. Seventeen days in, and my way of encountering the world was changing.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

Spaghetti and Clams from Trattoria ai Frati

 

One of the most sumptuous and satisfying meals of my life – housemade spaghetti with clams, my own bottle of house white, crusty Italian bread, and off to the side, the remainder of a fresh octopus salad. I took this photo last June as I sat along one of the lagoons in Murano, enjoying the sound of the rain and the supreme indulgence of every single, sexy bite.

It’s meals like this that mean I will always be a woman with curves. As long as I get to keep exploring the world for new deliciousness, I’m OK with that.

Day #13: Attack of the Chocolate Croissant

OK, so no chocolate croissant yet, but I woke up with visions of the most flaky, buttery croissant, drizzled with dark chocolate and overfilled with milk chocolate creme. I made a chocolate protein shake instead, but was only able to choke down about half of it before giving up, even though I even used coconut milk for extra “decadence.” Hmmm.

Now I’m sitting at my desk at work, surrounded by small pleasures – an apple, grapefruit juice, 24 oz of unsweetened ice tea. I brought an avocado for lunch, just so I’d have something creamy and fatty to look forward to for later in the day. Still, a yummy baked good sounds so good right now. I’ll make it, but it’s going to be one of those days. I’m guessing it probably has something to do with it being that time of the month any day now, but neither my body nor my wallet can afford to go bathing in chocolate at the moment. Wow, bathing in chocolate. Mmmmm…

I weighed in at 157.4 lbs this morning, a small victory. No yoga for me tonight (and none this morning, either), but I’ll put in a 2 mile run. I’ve got trivia tonight at my neighborhood bar, which typically leads to beers and bar food. Tonight I’m going to do my best to keep it to one low-calorie beer, lots of water, and no bar food. I’m almost done with going to trivia on a weekly basis, too, so I won’t have too much longer to deal with the weekly temptation of a helping of loaded cheese fries. OK, gonna go eat an apple and stop thinking about fried and/or chocolate-laced food right now.

 

First Post Since Turkey Day

Today’s Weight: 154.8 lbs.

Today’s Mood: Ack!

Today’s To Do List: Long. Oh so long.

I’m OK with my weight, considering I’ve been avoiding the scale since Thanksgiving, thinking I was surely over 160 again. I’m back on the wagon, though – no snacks or sugary drinks, no bingeing, no more carb heavy meals, as much as I do love an excuse to add gravy to just about anything.

I’ve been eating this really yummy soy yogurt from Silk, and this morning I had a bowl of yogurt with a handful of blueberries and a drizzle of honey – mmm. Currently on the first cup of coffee for the day, but I might be moving to tea after. For lunch I’ll probably have soup and an omelet, and I don’t know about dinner yet. When my boyfriend and I went shopping over the weekend, I remembered everything on my list except for Ezekiel bread, and I’m SO craving a slice of toast right now. Might have to go out for a small grocery run tonight – I don’t know if I can do without for too much longer. Plus, a vegan grilled cheese sandwich sounds so very good now that it’s freezing in my house…

Alright, back to work. I’m finishing up on a pesky acronym assignment right now, then moving on to write the 2nd chapter of my boss’ book, and update all of our social media while I’m at it. Have a happy Tuesday!

 

25 Days

Today’s Weight: 157.4 lbs.

Plateau’d again. It’s the least I could have expected. I’m a little scared about today, since I’m supposed to go to a happy hour going-away thing this afternoon for a friend of mine, and I really don’t want to screw up today. I have too much work to do this afternoon to take time to go to the sauna or go running, so kind of thinking that I should take today as my off day, and jump back in full force tomorrow. I’ve got Zumba in the morning, anyway, so if I take it easy and don’t eat or drink too much today, then run a few miles after Zumba tomorrow, I should be relatively on track. We’ll see how I’m feeling at 5. Maybe I can fit in at least a sauna trip before heading to see my friend.

 

27 Days and Counting

Today’s Weight: 158.6 lbs.

I haven’t been measuring, but I will next Monday. I’m losing weight pretty rapidly now as a result of doing all of the things I’ve been too lazy to do since I moved to New Orleans: restrict my carbs, no snacks (but I eat 4+ meals), no cheese, no alcohol, drink lots of fresh juices, run at least 2 miles a day, go to one gym class a day, use contouring oils & creams, and sit in a 115 degree sauna every day for 20 minutes. It’s time consuming and really not that fun, but even if I’m not going to be 140 in 27 days, like hell am I going to be 160. Today the only class they’re offering at the gym is an abs workout, so I might up my run to 3 miles.

Time to get back to work.

Later Edit: OK, so I measured right after posting this, and OMG!!! I updated on the side widget, but whoo-hoo, looks like I’m doing something right. Gonna keep going…

Nighttime Rituals

 

It’s been a long day, and I’d like nothing more than to close my laptop, turn off the living room lamps, and head toward the bedroom. I worked hard today, and accomplished some great things: an important presentation and accompanying handout for my boss, 2 miles on the treadmill, another 45 minutes of spin class, and a full day of staying on track with my diet. I’m proud of myself. I’m ready to treat this tired body to a well-deserved rest period.

But first there are things to be done. There’s the requisite brushing of teeth, accompanied by a 15-minute facial peel (only on Mondays), followed by careful moisturizing. I also have to clean out the litter box while I’m in the bathroom. That completed, I also have to pour a new bowl of fresh, filtered water, not too hot and not too cold, for my eldest cat, making sure she gets the first sip. If the younger cat gets to the water bowl first, Isabel turns up her nose at it. Sometimes I pour her a glass of water and leave it on the counter for her to sip genteelly while her brother is getting his dram on the floor. Izzy’s fancy like that; Murphy – not so much.

Once the litter is cleaned, water has been delivered, and lights are out, we all go to the bedroom. I still can’t sleep, however. I have to play at least one game of Scrabble on my Kindle, and sometimes two. I play at the hardest setting, vs. the computer. The computer is aptly named AI (A-eye), but I call him Al (as in Pacino) instead. It’s more fun to mutter, “Screw you, Al!” when I lose, which is more often than not. Still, one can’t help but try.

The other day, I also picked up a free grid logic game for Kindle. I’m still not sure why it appealed to me, since I was horrible at them as a kid, and not all that great now, either. For the last few nights, I’ve been tasked with completing a grid puzzle, then moving on to Scrabble. Typically I’m dying for sleep by the end of the Scrabble game. I love my Kindle for its lack of back lighting, which makes it just as relaxing to your brain as reading a book, if only I were to read books on the thing more often.

You’d think that at this point, eyelids drooping, I’d take the hint and float off to dreamland. Not so much. Instead I must go to the bathroom one last time. Even if I don’t have to. It’s like going on road trips when you’re a kid, when your mom makes you go to the bathroom one last time “just in case.” So I pop into the bathroom again, which wakes up the cats, who until this point were settled in sweetly. Don’t let that sweet and sleepy ruse fool you, though. They’re nothing if not completely calculating and manipulative, and most of all they want TREATS. They want treats all the time, but I got into the ridiculous habit of giving them treats before bedtime, so it’s really all my fault that they demand crunchy snacks before they’ll leave me in peace. I’ve learned the hard way that if I go to bed without dispensing kitty crack, I will not actually be allowed to sleep. They wear tap shoes. Tap shoes with needle-y little spikes.

So. Treats are begrudgingly shaken out. Fights erupt and are broken up. Isabel inevitably gets a few more snacks in during the commotion, and Murphy sulks. I give him one extra when she isn’t looking. Then the water must be changed out again. Everyone purrs. Everyone drinks. I turn off the kitchen lights and race to the bedroom, jumping into bed and fumbling blindly to get the blankets arranged before Isabel arrives a few seconds later. She doesn’t like the blankets covering her, but refuses to move and complains mightily, so I have to make sure to get covered before she settles in. The blankets sorted, I snuggle down and close my eyes.

Light little footsteps at the right side of the bed, padding up toward my head. Whiskers play over my forehead as a nose snuffles in my hair. A tentative bite, fangs lightly grazing my scalp, and then a gargling sound as a mouthful of my hair is lightly shaken and pulled, then released. Done with whatever strange grooming she feels compelled to complete on her human, Isabel lightly settles for the night on my pillow.

Murphy does not arrive until a few minutes later – where does he go in those first moments? As I’m nodding off, I feel the bed shake slightly, then a heavy mass flop itself unceremoniously across my knees. Motorboat purring commences, accompanied by a g-r-a-d-u-a-l stretch and turn motion. He sleeps on his back, and always on a human heating pad. “How uncomfortable,” I think, “I should flip over and kick him off.”

Instead, like always, I fall asleep.

43 Days: Morning

Today’s Weight: 161.4 lbs (really? argh!)

Today’s Measurements: check the side bar for ‘My Stats’.  My arm is .75″ larger, and my tummy is larger too, but that’s most likely due to bloating, as it is that time of the month yet again.  Does it seem like it’s always that time of the month to anyone else out there?

Today’s victories so far: Well, I didn’t make it to the gym this morning, so that’s not a good thing.  However, I did just make myself a cup of fresh carrot/apple/ginger juice for breakfast, so I’m counting that as a triumph since all I wanted were eggs and toast.  I’m going to do juice for lunch, as well, but with beets and pineapple and whatever else I can scrounge up.

Now back to work – check in with you later.