Barcelona day 1

Barcelona day 1

I had forgotten that overseas travel between destinations – as happened today flying from Santigo de Compostela to Barcelona – by definition involves the WHOLE day! One grins and bears it! Sometimes it seems that alighting from the plane, awaiting luggage and clearing the airport takes as long as the actual flight!

I am staying at Casa de Marcelo in the old city of Barcelona. I was met at the bus stop by Oliver , a friend of Marcelo. At this point I had a sense of deja vue which only Kenneth will understand as I immediately recalled the delightful “accidental ” bed and breakfast that we stumbled across in
Bendigo all those years ago! It was run by, as it turned out, two gay guys and we had a wonderful evening dinner together. I remember there was a pet squawking cockatoo that constantly walked/waddled after a rather old kelpie sheep dog, with whom it was obviously besotted! The older guy was a former airline trolley dolly (Dutch – given name “Art”- see I am not senile! ) and his young partner a “muscle mary” with his own gymnasium purpose built shed with full length mirrors around all 4 walls!

The other reason I remember the establishment is that it was called Ravenswood – the name of the castle in Lucia da Lammermoor! ( the Opera by Donizetti!)

I am sitting in a busy side street near the sea tonight and have had a serve of Spanish sausages, chips and vino blancho. Having lost about 8 kg I can afford to lapse for dinner. It’s now 10 pm and people are still turning up in droves to sit down for dinner. Marcelo tells me breakfast from 9am!!! I shall take a walk and swim before then surely!

Slept in! I am becoming Spanish! It’s quite humid in Barcelona. I am 10 mins walk to the sea. Marcelo explained that there are bad Mosquitos! This bed and breakfast is in an old 3 storey apartment block – perhaps more than a hundred years old. An ancient lift with cage like doors runs up the middle of the stairwell – one imagines a body discovered in the lift early next morning. As luck would have it Monsieur Hercules Poirot is staying in the apartment above.

No air conditioning – open an old wooden window! This window opens onto the old wooden window in the wall of the adjacent block! Spaniards are very friendly.

Barcelona – the seashore is hot, windy without natural shade and at 10am appearing rather sad and tired like St Kilda or Glenelg but worse.

City Smell: musty, humid – slight mix of sewerage and in the narrow back streets, stale urine. Then a small baker shop with that unique smell of fresh baked bread combined with a musty, smell of flour on a dusty floor. I pass another shop that smells of spices

Now I know that the iPad has a camera and some of my best friends travel with their iPad, but there is something vaguely queer, in a sort of disproportionate way seeing tourists point an abject about the same size as an A4 sheet of paper and take a picture. The same applies to holding the device up to your ear! This is an incontrovertible argument as to why the iPhone will maintain the exact same dimensions over the next 100 years! Taking pictures or listening and talking to a “brick” went out of fashion a decade ago!

The most interesting visit so far has
been the Museu Frederic Mares. As the brochure states: ” tens of thousands of familiar and unusual objects that document Spanish lifestyle from the 18 to 19 th century. Beautiful delicate fans, jewellery, smoking pipes, toys, time pieces, smelling salts bottles, lace..the list goes on !

Had a swim on the Mediterranean tonight. Water almost too warm!

20120831-074644.jpg

20120831-074714.jpg

20120831-074735.jpg

20120831-074747.jpg

Thoughts on a BMX and the Camino

BMX bikes, showers and Dickens

It’s all about the bike….
I can summarize my dislike of mountain bikes in one word: “mountain”.

Having completed the Camino on a BMX, the terms ‘Cycle-cross’ and ‘Trail Bike’, have totally new meanings. As some of you deduced, having unpacked the beast at Pamplona, the starting point, I managed to set it up with the front wheel facing BACKWARDS!

Consequently I rode the first week oblivious to the giggling and pointing young Spaniards until some kind soul, stopped me as I sweated and panted, pushing the beast on foot, up a cobbled incline in a small village and he made it abundently clear that my front wheel was in reverse!

No bloody wonder I found it impossible to ride up the mountains!

Responses from readers making predictable, gratuitous comments about arse around front wheels and my sexuality will be ignored.

Reminds me of a variation of the nursery rhyme that my mother used to quote to me: “Mary had a little bike, its’ wheels were white as snow, and everywhere the front wheel went the back wheel had to go”.

At times the bike behaved like Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, for it bucked and weaved and at times appeared to have a mind of its own. It invariably headed for the most obvious huge and sharp rock on the track even though I had the handle bars hard left, the bike went hard right! It would buck, pig-root and slide backwards then clear a stump and shave a tree! Once I almost did end up in Dead Man’s Creek!

So like Mulga Bill I have left the BMX at the bottom of the Santiago Creek and await the next cycle adventure in Ireland. I have another 3 weeks though to try cycling in Barcelona then Berlin and Stockholm. I must continue my pilgrimage across the continent.

HOTELS

All the hotels on the trail were delightful and appropriate to the tenor of the trip. 2 star or an occasional 3 star hotels that were clean and simple with basic bed and soft fluffy pillow and of course a hot shower. It would seem embarrassing if not entirely inappropriate, to turn up at the equivalent of the SAVOY hotel given that the whole sense of the journey was one of modest deprivation (without a modicum of depravity).

Breakfast varied – from the predictable hotel basic smorgasbord to sitting down at a rough wooden table and a “set menu” of OJ, a toasted bun and milk coffee. Like it or lump it!

Shower recesses were also interesting and varied. Many were a sort of Perspex cylindrical quarter circle reminiscent of the time machine out of a Dr Who TV series. There were major design flaws as the radius of the circle of the average shower in many hotels was so small that if one dropped the soap one could not bend over. Any attempt to do so would have led to, at worst serious internal injuries, third degree burns to the bum or at best a possible pleasant douche.

Again please no predictable gratuitous comments!

Have finished my book on the remarkable life of Mary Benson! My cousin has confirmed that there is a genuine genetic relationship. I wondered before if I exhibited autosomal dominant features, but on objective reflection I can only be X linked recessive.

I have been listening to a wonderful audiobook as I fall asleep on my iTouch : “The Mysterious Life of Charles Dickens” written by Peter Ackroyd specially for that fine English actor Simon Callow. It has stimulated me to return to those Dicken’s books that I read as an adolescent. With “Mary Benson” finished , it’s David Copperfield on my Kindle.

Weighed my self at the delightful new guest house in Barcelona: 68 kg ! Marcelo is the delicious owner . That is a story that awaits tomorrow!

20120829-224133.jpg

20120829-224144.jpg

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

The cathedral is quite an edifice. Built in granite, therefore rather cold and “bleak” in atmosphere.
Its’ architectural beauty and breath taking grandeur is not in the top 10. Not that in any way can I claim to pontificate! From what I can remember it is surpassed only by the Vatican in terms of human activity and mayhem. In the huge plaza Pilgrims of all ages loiter or lay about; others sit trance like, yet others, younger and hippy like, chat on their iPhones – to whom I wonder: boyfriends, girlfriends, family or local parish priest?

Why have they done this pilgrimage? Is it for the same reason that in 1960s hippies flocked across the subcontinent searching for enlightenment and hashish? In 2012 kids come to a stone edifice, in 1969 they just trekked across a continent wanting
to be”stoned”!

I toured the cathedral and descended to gaze upon St James casket. I crept into crypt, clicked and crept out. Silver gilded casket – dust to dust within I suspect ? The guide books state that the church and tomb contain “his relics”.

Each day in the cathedral there is held a Pilgrim mass at noon, church packed to the domes, choir and a veritable procession of clerics – but no smells or bells not even a cherubic alter boy! The catholic church is keeping up with technology – the service is “mic-ed” and shown on big TV screens throughout.

Practicing my little curtsy – getting better – it’s all a simple matter of bending at the knees!

Along each side of the knave are a series of confessionals each manned by a priest. There was a lot of sin along the Camino I assumed, as they were ALL constantly “occupied”. If the church can video a service, it is a minor step to Improve the confessional queue by introducing the “take a number and wait to be called” system for confessional. Although I am not clear in my own mind how this would comply with “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” edict?

I looked around me at the multitude and pondered how many actually “believed”? That included the more than a dozen priests involved in the service! Surely there must be a doubting Thomas or two amongst them?

Lots if bikes : serious BMX ( ie expensive) and tandems. Cyclists in full riding rig. One can buy Camino Knicks and top complete with a Camino trade-mark, the mussel /clam shell, tastefully printed across one’s arse.

Having commented before of the little evidence of supermarkets, they are now quite obvious but not in anyway resembling Woolies,Coles or IGA. Small and closed between 1400 and 1900 hours!

Most shops are small and individual – every second shop is a cafe/bar. Basic shops that evoke the old corner store of bygone days and bread shops that have no sense of a Baker’s Delight or Brumbys. I fear I am about to lapse, dietary wise!

Considering the world population in the 1600 years from Jesus’ birth, the sheer size and breadth of artistic creations in all it’s forms and all in the name of God, beggars belief. It is awe inspiring. I guess that in medieval times, it was subsistence and survival. In ones’ spare time, rather than poking an iPad by candle light one knocked up a stone column, a tapestry, a silver chalice, a triptych, fresco or painting.

Sadly all the cathedrals, churches, basilica, monasteries, convents and hospitals have blurred into a theological thesaurus of similar structures. I will be totally unable to differentiate upon my return.

All along the delightful quaint medieval paved streets are the inevitable tourist shops as well as cake stalls. The principle delight is a Santiago Cake- basically an almond orange cake that I make at home. It is dusted with icing sugar into which is marked a cross. Easy Peasy!

Tom Jones concert tonight in a huge plaza beside the cathedral. Starts at 11.30pm!! Yes you have read correctly!

I now admit after all these years that whilst I am sure of my orientation, I have absolutely no sense of direction. Even with a Garmin GPS or a map, I can’t find my way around easily! If I were the Prodigal Son, I would never return.

Tomorrow, Barcelona so tonight I went to a “restaurant” as opposed to a local cafe. Had seafood paella. In case you are wondering , nothing especially out of the ordinary other than it was in Spain and so psychologically should have been out of this world! Finally lobster in Spain is the same as lobster in Adelaide – $100 a serve. Next time!

20120827-224348.jpg

20120827-224358.jpg

20120827-224411.jpg

Santiago

Hallelujah

It is finished. Into thy arms I commend my bike. I am certified, it’s in Latin – incomprehensible – so much for my Latin classes at school. Sitting having vino blanco and tapas. I have another full day in Santiago before flying to Barcelona for a few days. Wish I could speak more Spanish

Set out from Melide, altitude 500m give or take a few metres and finishing up at Santiago de Compostela at 260m and 55 km away. As to the ride it was very appropriate that on this the last day, I had a revelation : There were numerous ‘minor’ ascents and descents. For every 50 m ascension there was about 75m descent. BUT each 50m up was an incline of 10%,on a rocky dirt track whilst each 75m descent was at about 2% and on bitumen.

It’s not rocket science is it?

On the first hill on the outskirts of Melide, an elderly grey haired woman offered me a pamphlet entitled “why you should trust the bible”

I reasoned that she must be a retired Nun, then I contemplated : ” do Nuns ever retire, or rather
perhaps they just give up their habits”? (forgive me father for I have just told an old joke)

Secondly to proffer such literature on the Pilgrim Trail surely must be preaching to the coverted? Although in my case, it’s akin to advising me “to trust Microsoft outside an Apple store”!

In this the last 40 km there are Increasing numbers of stalls along the trail selling fruit, trinkets and T shirts.

I passed a group of youths with apparent cerebral palsy and their carers some 30km from Santiago.

Then suddenly an apparition ahead of me: Jesus ! A billowing cloak, hood, stave, bare feet and as I drew level, a beatific young man with beard and angelic smile. I considered dropping to my knees in front of him. Was he real or was the octopus at Melide last night, off?

Another explanation suddenly presented itself to me: surely it was Joseph? Not Joseph the father but Joseph my nephew!

Tapas means “point” in Spanish ? Has to be cause that is what I do when ordering.

Today I shall explore Santiago then fly to Barcelona for a few days tomorrow.

My next blog may be called
” It’s all about the bike”. – stay tuned

20120827-081831.jpg

20120827-081854.jpg

20120827-081906.jpg

Questions and lies for a misogynist

There is no doubt in my mind that Australian men, in general, are misogynists. The simply can’t cope with a woman on top. Tony Abbott is no exception, in fact he is, along with our journalists, the archetypal misogynist.

There are 3 obvious lies made by Tony Abbott: ” I will dismantle the NBN, I will revoke the mining tax, I will revoke the carbon tax, when elected”.

Or to put it another way : ” there will be no NBN, mining tax or carbon tax under my government”

He knows these statements are untrue! Yet not one of our so called professional journalists ask him the fundamentally obvious questions ! With what will you replace the NBN? How will you make up the shortfall in finances?

Don’t accept platitudes in reply!

Penultimate day Camino

Penultimate Day

A word about Sarria, my stop over last night – compared to all the other towns and villages – a disappointment and I could have easily pedaled a few kilometres further on the day with promise of a more transcendental village and hostel.

A delightful morning ascending along country roads and tracks. Dairy farms and villages with complex smells of cow manure, hay, cheesy sweet aromas added. Like the bouquet of a complex barn-yard red wine. As it is not quite autumn, there is the seasonal smell of ripening (and often dropped, rotting) apples and pears. Small purple fruit litters the ground – looking like some type of crab-apple ( they also look like, but can’t be,the fruit of the Lilly-Pilly tree!) Mulberry trees abound and they are in season, so its a free for all!

The lasting smell is that of fire and sooty houses so that the whole olfactory experience again is evocative of my elective on Nepal and the 2 week trek I had down from Everest basecamp!

The trail is packed this morning peak hour traffic. Lots of Italian school children and for the first time I caught up with 3 nuns in virginal white habits. I could have sworn one of them was humming “Maria” . There are more Pilgrims the closer one gets to Santiago! It is accepted officially that one has ‘done’ the trail if one has walked a minimum of 100 km or 200 km on a bike! So most people will take a few weeks and start at a location that meets the minimum criteria. Hence I suspect the sudden increase in traffic as I passed the 100 km marker! ( 100km! what bludgers!)

Analysis of my Garmin over the last weeks reveals that for all the ups and downs and variations between stony dirt track, bitumen, ascending and descending, I have averaged 11.4 km / hour on most days! Of that about 20% has been walking and pushing the bike uphill. I use different muscles so that after a walk and getting back in the saddle, my gluteals, thighs and adductor group, complain.

Moreover I have looked at my Garmin for the day and the summary of my efforts documents that I ascended some 1400m although the high point was at an altitude of 665m, in other words a lot of bloody up and down- AGAIN!

Two beers tonight! The octopus was great ( soaking in olive oil, paprika and salt) not to mention the crusty bread and the vino the Spanish equivalent of a Coolibah Cask!

Golly – have just discovered that the sunburn especially from day 1, has caused me to peel on the arms! I have been applying copious sunblock from Day 2.

The closer one gets to Santiago de Compestelo, the more I am aware of pilgrims with possible chronic medicaL conditions! Added to these are those who perceived themselves as fit, but are now hobbling, sore and sorry with elastic support bandages around the knees and ankles. All along the trail in the last few days, crude painted signs nailed to trees or the side of a house, tempt Pilgrims with the word ‘TAXI’ and a mobile number!

Tomorrow I reach Santiago de Compostela!

20120825-213337.jpg

20120825-213322.jpg

20120825-213421.jpg

Leon Spain

Dirty washing

My cup runneth over, washing sorted early. Thanks to Google translate.

“… posible recoger la ropa por la noche? me voy en el Camino de la mañana. ¡gracias … ”

Loosely means, ” could you finish my laundry by this evening ? I am a Pilgrim. Thank you . ”

The friendly short statured woman behind the counter, not only guaranteed to complete it as requested but deliver it to my hotel.

As I was a pilgrim, she asked, a big favour: “would I consider giving her one of my pair of cycling knics as a memento? I tried to clarify if she would prefer them prewashed?

Humbled by this I explained that I only had 2 pairs to last 3 months and would a 1 cm square of the chamois, cut from a non vital part, suffice? She was ecstatic, fell to her knees and partially genuflected – no kisses – I did not have a ring.

As this undertaking had inspired such a totally expected response, I began to seriously consider the possibility of offering small squares of chamois along the trail. The more pieces of chamois I offered, so I would improve my chances of reaching heaven. Kind of llke a mounted Mormon?

However I quickly quashed this idea for several reasons : firstly by the end of the trail I would have a red, raw sore bum secondly it would dilute the intent if I gave out too many. One only needs to recall that in terms of catholic relics, as we know, that if ALL the pieces of Jesus’ foreskin held by individual catholic institutions were sewn together, they would cover a football pitch!

The final sign that chamois offerings may be displeasing the almighty is that a pigeon has just poo-ed on my iPhone! Now if it had been a dove, that sign may have been a bit confusing and interpreted differently.

I am sitting in glorious sunshine in the plaza outside the Leon cathedral, sipping cafe con leche and totally relaxed. ( “con” = with and you will recall that “sin” = without )

The ancient parts of Leon are awe inspiring ! I am glad the tour company suggest a rest day here. Lunch is another serve of ensalada.

20120825-211539.jpg

20120825-211609.jpg

20120825-211743.jpg