challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Sacred Chickens – 72-75/100 Camino Photos

Santo Domingo de las Calzada is an ancient pilgrim town that, on the surface, looks much the same as other Camino de Santiago towns. By Stage 9 of the Brierley guidebook you have undoubtedly seen your fair share of them. But surprises await the pilgrim here. Mainly, the poultry:


How so? Well, it seems that a miracle is involved. The story is located at the town’s official website:

Legend tells of a German Pilgrim called Hugonell who was walking to Santiago with his parents, when they decided to rest at an inn in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The owner of the inn´s daughter immediately fell in love with him; however her feelings were not reciprocated, so the girl, angered, placed a silver cup into his luggage and accused the boy of theft. Thieves at that time were punished by hanging, and this was the fate of Hugonell. His parents, saddened by his death continued the pilgrimage, and upon arriving in Santiago de Compostela, began their return journey to visit the grave of their dead son. When they arrived in Santo Domingo however, they found their son still hanging in the gallows but, miraculously alive. Hugonell, excited, said to them: “Santo Domingo brought back me to life, please go to the Mayor´s house and ask him to take me down”.

Quickly, the parents arrived at the Mayor´s house and told him of the miracle. The incredulous Mayor, who was preparing to have dinner with friends, responded: “That boy is as alive as these two roast chickens we are about to eat,” and suddenly, the chickens came to life, sprouted feathers and beaks and began to crow, and so, to this day there is a saying about the town which goes: “Santo Domingo of the Way, where the roosters crow after being roasted”.

And so it is that a cock and several hens are kept to remind the town of the miracle. There is a place for them in the cathedral (which, sadly, I did not photograph) and the rest of the time they live in the above cage at the Spanish Confraternity’s albergue called Casa del Santo. The birds are shuttled back and forth from place to place, with all due recognition and care, I am certain.

The other thing of note here is the bell tower, which stands across the street from the cathedral for some mysterious but unknown reason. You can see a lovely view of the city from up there.




Back at the albergue, I found myself washing my trail clothes next to an exasperated Italian man. “How does one do this?” he asked, flinging water and soap everywhere. I directed him toward the wash brush, and together we cleaned our clothing as it began to sprinkle.

All in all, a memorable day on the Camino!

If you’ve missed any of these photos, feel free to backtrack over here.



challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Monastery of Yuso – 62-71/100 Camino Photos

It sits in this beautiful valley, a perfect counterpoint to the natural majesty all around it. The Monastery of Yuso, built between the 16th and 17th centuries as an adjunct to the small Monastery of Suso, which dates back to the 7th-11th centuries. The Augustinians have lived here since 1878. In 1997 it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.


It is both beautiful and stately, as such things should be.



And it also depicts the slaying of those who threaten Christianity (see the panel above the portal) …


It includes a beautiful reliquary containing the remains of San Millán de la Cogolla, who founded the Monastery of Suso, and who the town is named after.



The monastery is well known for its Gregorian chants. Here is the shelf where the chant books are kept.


And one of the books themselves. HUGE letters!


More info on these books.

gregorian chant into

One of the rooms, lavishly decorated.


And the altar – truly inspiring!


A worthy side trip from Stage 9 of the Camino, if you have the time and interest.

If you’ve missed any of these photos, feel free to backtrack over here.


And a couple of promotional announcements. My Camino story has been featured by the excellent new website ¿Por Qué Peregrino? And there is a new Camino blog with great information and planning materials from travel writer Laurie A. Ferris over at The Camino Provides.



Picture of the Day: Portraits in Antarctica

My latest writing project involves Antarctica. I really should be working on it now instead of Internetting …



Photograph by Lars Focke

In this portrait by Lars Focke we get a sense of the stark white landscape of Antarctica. Can anyone find the horizon line in this image?

The photo was taken at Neumayer-Station II, a former permanent German Antarctic research base on Atka Bay. It opened in 1992, replacing the old Georg-von-Neumayer-Station. On February 20, 2009, it was replaced by the new permanent research base Neumayer-Station III.

The photo was part of a series on Behance, Neumayer Station II, you can see more picture from it here.


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challenge, hiking, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Red, Red Wine – 59-61/100 Camino Photos

La Rioja is the name of a Spanish region famous for its red earth, vineyards, and delicious wines. What a tranquil, beautiful walk it is through this area!



I must confess that I have forgotten the purpose of the building below. I want to say that it is an oven, or drying hut for meat, but I am not entirely sure. Please comment if I am wrong.


If you’ve missed any of these photos, feel free to backtrack over here.

Next post? The Monastery of Yuso. Not to be confused with the Monastery of Suso.

challenge, hiking, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Monastery of Suso – 42-58/100 Camino Photos

Stage 9 in the Brierley Guide to the Camino de Santiago has you pass the lovely tourist town of Najera. Before you do so, though, take a side trip back in history to the monasteries of Suso and Yuso. They can be accessed by public bus for a few Euros, or more expensively (50 Euro) via cab from Azorfa.

Sometime back in the mid-6th century, when the Visigoths ruled Spain, San Millán came to live on the side of a hill here (looking out),


Camino 600

It was here that he dwelled in a humble cave with his followers:



During the saint’s lifetime, a small monastery was built in front of the cave. And then, in the 7th century, a porch was built to serve the pilgrims who visited. In 929, the church was rebuilt. This model shows the appearance of the church. Note that it has been built in front of the original hillside cave:


Inside, some of the old church remains, built in the Mozarabic style (refers to the Christian inhabitants of Spain during the Moslem occupation). Here there are ancient arches


A column with painted tiles that protects a holy relic (ancient wood associated with the saint).




And old, old graves




But also artwork, like paintings and carvings



And intricate flooring


And grafitti from pilgrims. It seems that the impulse to add your mark is universal.



Later, another monastery community was built nearby, which I will feature in the next post.





general wackiness, humor, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Travel Throwback Thursday – Minnesota for the Dumb


It’s a fairly innocuous travel snapshot, the above. My daughter, dog, and I, kneeling on a walkway somewhere in northern Minnesota. Right after this photo, my husband took the dog back to the truck, since the walkway was slippery and he didn’t want to risk falling. My daughter Brandy and I are of a more adventurous mindset, though, so we followed the walkway down to a quiet little lake.

And, oh, look! There’s a boat!

We hurried down to the edge of the lake to where a forest service sign read – “Use the boat and return.”

What a nice offer!

We proceeded to push the solid metal rowboat sort of like this one:

But heavier. MUCH heavier, we discovered.

Shove, grunt, shove, grunt

We moved it three inches.

Cue some more shoving and grunting.

We got it several feet past the mud and reed-covered bank. Well, good. We were getting somewhere.

“Get in!” I told Brandy.

She clambered aboard and tried to row.

“It’s heavy!” she complained.

I got in and tried to row.

There was more shoving and grunting.

Now the boat was ten feet into the lake. But it weighed 800 pounds and we couldn’t get it to go anywhere.

“Let’s take it back to shore,” I said, gasping for breath.

Brandy jumped out of the boat and assisted me. We dragged the dang thing back three feet. Sweat dripped from our limbs and obscured our vision. No musclebound lumberjack offered to help us. In fact, there was no one anywhere nearby except for the mama wolf and her cubs watching us from the woods. An owl hooted in the distance.

“I can’t do it anymore, mommy,” Brandy cried, plaintive.

She collapsed on the shore, overcome with fatigue. I sagged down next to her.

Horrific visions clouded my mind. The mama wolf and her cubs would pounce upon us at the earliest opportunity, shredding our flesh and cracking our bones. The fluffy youngsters would lick out the marrow with their plump pink tongues. Brandy and I would be able to do nothing to save ourselves, since we had both torn muscles and exhausted ourselves to the point of no return. Need a visual? Watch what happens to this guy and you’ll have a good idea:

A while later, my husband and the dog came down and found us, and dragged us to the nearest emergency room. There, nurses pumped fluids and electrolytes into our depleted forms. We eventually recovered, but not without much woe.

Well, all right. I may be exaggerating slightly. Because that sounds a lot better than what really happened.

We attempted to push the boat back to shore, and failed. The boat sank. Oh no! We tugged energetically. More sinking. Mud, flies. Ick and physical depletion. Then:

Aw, to hell with it.

“Sorry, rangers!” we called as we scampered back to the car, leaving the boat drowned near the shore.

“Time to go!” we urged Dave, who threw the truck into gear and squealed the tires as we left in a spray of pebbles.

Brandy and I shared a nervous giggle. I tried not to think about the curses that would echo around the pleasant lake when some poor federal employee had to dig out the boat.

Sorry, Minnesota. You meant well, you really did. You just didn’t gamble on two weaklings trying to use your solid metal boat …


Paella, Paella, Paella!

Janet’s take on one of the amazing albergue meals we encountered along the Camino. If you are planning a trip, you will undoubtedly find the communal meals to be a highlight, like we did.

The Far Places

paellaStella, Stella, Stella!  Oh, oops, wait, that’s from a movie. Never mind. Back to the paella. Spain is a great country for paella. If you like paella, that is. I have to confess I’m not a huge fan, especially since the ones I encountered were mostly seafood versions. And, no, I don’t like seafood…unless it’s in a Japanese restaurant in the form of sushi.

So I had high hopes for this dish, a homemade vegetarian paella, served up by our hosts at La Casa Magica in Villatuerta. While I wasn’t overwhelmed by it, the dish was certainly flavorful, the veggies fresh, and it was quite filling. I selectively dug out the rice and veggies I like most and made a meal out of that, along with the ubiquitous bread that was everywhere with every meal (or so it seemed).

The most enjoyable part of the dinner, as with most evenings, was…

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humor, inspiration, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Travel Throwback Thursday: Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada

I came across this picture while cleaning my desk just now. It was purchased some years ago on a road trip from California to Alaska when we stopped in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. I was so struck by how awesome and majestic it is. I just HAD to have it.


Then the lady manning the desk told me about the local area it was taken, a place that attracts lots of these noble and beautiful birds:

the city dump.

Oh, reality! You are so ironic sometimes, aren’t you?


Establishing and Maintaining Good Habits

Great suggestions on changing habits. Now if I can only follow them!

The Sarcastic Muse

(c) jppi (c) jppi

I once had a habit of eating two bowls of ice cream before bed time. Then I hit 30 and my clothes never forgave me. With each spoonful that I ate, immediate satisfaction came. The stress from the day disappeared. Yet, once the bowl was empty, the “happiness” that I felt while eating the ice cream melted away. A second bowl would ensue with the same outcome.

Bad habits give nothing but instant gratification. Once the experience is over, the rush is gone and we look forward to the next hit. It is a vicious cycle that is hard to break. Bad habits are easier to stay on the wagon with because the satisfaction is instantaneous, while good habits have rocky beginnings and everyone struggles to maintain them. Good habits have delayed gratification as they take hard work and endurance to make it through. However, when the goal from a good habit is reached, the happiness from…

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