hiking, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Transformation Through Fire – Simi Valley, California

My little break from my photo series 100 Spanish Photos (now almost to 200) continues for a few more days, it seems. Southern California afforded some great photos when my hiking friend and I visited a spot near Simi Valley that was scorched by wildfire within the last two months. Despite the charcoal smell and barren earth, beauty was present.

The golden hour faded to blue night while spindly branches reached toward the sky.

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The moon shone tiny but silver overhead.

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And an alien lifeform glowed atop a hill.

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photography, travel, Uncategorized

The Surprising Majesty of San Pedro, California

I am once again taking a little break from my photo series 100 Spanish Photos (now almost to 200) that documents my walk down the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. A good friend took me on an adventure in my back yard – Southern California. In particular, San Pedro. I’d been there a couple of times, once to visit the Battleship Iowa and a few times to take boats around the bay or to Catalina Island, but somehow I had missed these wonderful spots.

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challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Amazing Astorga, Spain – 148-158/200 Camino Photos

On April 23rd, 2015, I set out from Villaverde, Spain, on my way to Astorga. The hills, valleys, and red earth, were peaceful.

red earth

So peaceful that I decided to preserve the surroundings with shaky, dizzying video

Up I went to a squatter’s residence at the top of the hill, overlooking Astorga far below. David lives there in joy, peace, and simplicity. Here he is with my Camino friend Sarah.

Sarah and David

He maintains a little snack stand that is run off donations.

stand

On his free time, or during the slow seasons on the Camino, he makes esoteric art like this. He has made a humble home in the lean-to behind the tree on the left for six years.

swirl

Also atop a hill is one of the many crosses with mementos cluttering the base.

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In Astorga, a few Euros buys you admission to the cathedral, the museum, and the Gaudi house below.

gaudi

Inside, it is sacred, colorful, and playful. Signature Gaudi.

stained glass

inside

blue vines

The museum contained intricate, gorgeous illuminated manuscripts.

illuminated

beautiful

I could have stared at these manuscripts for hours. I had, instead, to get back to the albergue to wash my clothes and take a shower. A good night’s sleep and I continued on the Camino de Santiago.

If you’ve missed any of the photos in this series, feel free to backtrack over here.

challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, travel memories, Uncategorized

Exploring the Splendor of the Past in Leon, Spain – 131-147/200 Camino Photos

Lest you think that León, Spain, a major stop along the Camino de Santiago, has only gorgeous Gothic stained glass windows to recommend it, let me assure you there is much more. Exquisitely fashioned bronze cathedral doors …

Cathedral doors Leon, Spain

Vaults upon vaults in the claustro (cloisters)

Claustro Leon, Spain

Claustro Leon, Spain

With incredible detail everywhere you look

Claustro Leon, Spain detail

And shrines in the most unlikely places. This one sat high above a city street, in the wall of an ancient building.

Shrine in Leon, Spain

Water features like this mesmerizing sculpture adorn the plazas

Then there was a visit to the incomparable Real Colegiato de San Isidoro. I could not take photos inside the Panteon de Reyes (pantheon of kings) that were painted in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Panteon de Reyes

Panteon de Reyes

frescoes detail2

The colors are as vibrant today as they were centuries past. This same building held a gorgeous illustrated bible from the Mozarabic period (Christian/Muslim period) from the Christian Dark Ages – 960 AD.

mozabaric

More walking, afterwards, took me past the ever-vigilant storks

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to the Museo de Leon and the gorgeous Paradore (state-run luxury hotel housed in castles)

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With beautiful details

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And the image of a pilgrim looking on … or up, as it were. Notice the yellow arrow in front of it. Such arrows guided me on my journey, kilometer after kilometer.

leon

The splendor soon petered away, into city parks

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And bodegas (wine cellars built into the sides of hills, right off the streets)

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Camino 1084 (Copy)

I will leave Leon here, but my journey was not over yet. Stay tuned for more soon. If you’ve missed any of the photos in this series, feel free to backtrack over here.

challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Cathedral of Light in Leon, Spain – 108-130/200 Camino Photos

 

Little needs to be said about my visit to León, Spain as I walked the Camino de Santiago. As one of the largest cities along the French Way, it is a highlight of the trip. The cathedral in the old part of town is rather plain on the outside. But the inside! It is a marvel. I believe you will agree …

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~

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

 

challenge, hiking, history, inspiration, photography, travel, Uncategorized, writing

Discovering the Spirit of Burgos, Spain – 108-121/200 Camino Photos

The historic heart of Burgos, Spain, is chocked full of shops, tourists, clergy, and workers. Buildings are joined in a continuous wall, and the daytime is alive with motion and sound. One place is different, though. You can see part of it on the right hand side of the photo.

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Here is a better view. It is Divina Pastora, a chapel and albergue just steps away from the great Gothic cathedral in Burgos. Look closely at its design. You can see the oldest part, with light stone, and the more recent brick floor added atop.

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It is a humble, quiet place. Simple. The complete opposite of the cathedral I will detail below. The albergue occupies the upper floor. It is small, but clean and warm. Alicia (Al-ee-see-yah) staffs it. In the evenings she sings in the chapel. In the morning she serenaded us awake with gentle guitar music and her sweet voice singing “Good morning, good morning, good morning.” The sound of her voice, the beauty of it and the sweetness, makes it my favorite memory from the Camino.

There, I encountered the Italian man I met in Santo Domingo de Calzada.

“Are you going to the cathedral?” I asked.

“No, I don’t like that you have to pay admission. A church should not profit from admission.”

I had heard this sentiment before. The admission price didn’t bother me, though, because the churches and historic sites that charge it must care for their collections, and this can be costly.

“You can tell me how it is,” he said.

I had never been to a Gothic cathedral before. The outside is nothing less than spectacular.

cathedral2

The interior can be just as overwhelming

interior

Vaults, arches, marble, sculptures and more. All of it designed to draw the eye upward, to heaven, to the Light of the World

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Works of art meet the eye in all directions

pediment

 

closeup

detail

Even stairways are fantastic

stairway

But pathos lurks amidst the beauty. Note the upper right hand corner of the below shot, just above the chandelier.

stainedglass

It is known as the Flycatcher. A figure made in Germany, it rings a bell on the hour, and its mouth opens as if to catch flies. Forgive the blurry picture below.

clockguy

It is, dare I say it? Creepy. But it is not the only creepy thing in the cathedral. There are crypts, because medieval people wanted to be as close as possible to the sacred in cathedrals, hoping it would wear off on them, even after death.

crypt

That is why the bones of saints were kept and revered, like this piece of an arm

creepy

 

Still, the opulence all around can leave one flat. How many mouths would have been fed from the cost of this incredible place? It is clear that while it was created ostensibly for spiritual reasons, it was also meant to communicate worldly magnificence. Burgos was the capital of Castile and Leon.

Back at the Divina Pastora, the Italian man said, “Well, how was it?”

“Just fantastic!” I gushed. I handed him my camera so that he could look at the photos.

“What do you think?” I asked when he was done.

“I should have gone,” he said, frowning a bit.

I could not argue with him there.

~

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

 

challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, Uncategorized

The Unexpected Beauties of Burgos, Spain – 100-107/200 Camino Photos

With a restless need for travel, I have been to a number of countries in Europe. That, combined with a master’s in history, has given me the conceit that I am fairly well-educated and well-read. Why, then, had I never heard of beautiful Burgos before walking the Camino de Santiago? True, it is not a huge city – the entire metropolitan area numbers about 200,000 people. And the approach through industrial areas and barren airfields can be dismal. I was coming from the east, and pre-warned about the dull walk, I opted to take the river route. Placid streams, strolling couples, and floating waterfowl were better companions than choking smoke and the whir of machinery.

The outskirts of the city were crowded and dense, and for a while I despaired of enjoying myself in this city. But as I made my way into the old quarter, I was pleasantly surprised.

First, the view of the spectacular Gothic cathedral from the river

cathedral

Then, drawing closer, statues of El Cid, the ever-popular Spanish hero:

El Cid1

A noble medieval knight

knight

And a weary pilgrim, nearly naked. I was better clothed than he, but I could identify with his fatigue.

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Monuments stand tall

monument

Though if you look closely you can see that storks have taken them over as well.

nest

Until at last you come to this castle-like gateway, which leads to the cathedral and the old squares and gathering places.

castle

Further wonders awaited me, as did the bittersweet parting of my traveling companion. I will save these for the next post, though.

~

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

 

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Encouragement Along the Way – 98-100/100 Camino Photos

By the time you read stage 12 in the Brierley guidebook (the bible of the Camino de Santiago), many are struggling. Even the residents write messages of encouragement on their driveways. In English, this reads, “Good walk, pilgrim!”

driveway

Perhaps it is the accumulated weight of day after day of walking that causes many to despair. Perhaps it is the hills. Or the rocks. Yes, probably these. There are so many of them! But they are easy materials for an artist’s imagination as well.

heart

Not too far into my day I stopped at a little shop for a bathroom break and a cup of coffee. Sitting dejected at a table was Gisele, a young Austrian girl who had stayed at the same donativo as I in Tosantos.

“How are you?” I asked.

Her face crumpled and tears sprang to her eyes. “Not good,” she admitted. I knew that her foot had been hurting her. It had gotten worse, and she did not think she could make it through the walk today, which traveled through countryside sparse of habitation.

I suggested a bus or taxi into Burgos and she admitted that she did not want to ask her father for extra money for such an indulgence, whether or not it was necessary.

“I am sure he would not mind,” I said to her, putting myself in her father’s place.

She didn’t seem convinced. After a little more chatting she decided to pay the money for the taxi. The sadness had passed and she now had a plan to continue. It felt good to be a small part, no matter how unremarkable, of another’s Camino just when she needed it the most.

onward

Later, I saw Gisele in the cathedral in Burgos. Her demeanor had changed totally. “How I love this place!” she said. Indeed, it is a highpoint in the trip. And, since I have many more photos to share with you, I will continue this series beyond just 100 photos. Will you join me on the Way? I hope so.

~

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

 

challenge, hiking, history, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Life in All Its Manifestations – 92-97/100 Camino Photos

In the Montes de Oca along the Camino de Santiago approaching Burgos you will find nature in all its glory. That which is manipulated by humans such as these sheep

and this display of succulents

succulents

And that which is wild and unexpected, like this little denizen of the mountains

slug

A bit beautiful

colors

A bit creepy

creepy

And perhaps a bit strange. A bit of Scripture, out of context, and oddly resonant, springs to mind. “I am a brother to dragons, and companion to owls.” Job 30:29.

Soon enough, though, such musings disappear as I pass once again into a small village, and am reminded of the many kilometers ahead.

ages

~

It seems that 100 photos are just not enough. I have traveled about 300 kilometers so far – but there is much more to go. Please, then. Join me as I extend this series to 100 more Camino photos.

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