Camino del Norte ~ A Weekend of Rest and Family

September 3 & 4, 2022

After enjoying pizza with my Basque cousins on Friday night, we found a laundromat to wash our clothes and then spent Saturday with my cousin Mikel and his beautiful wife Ainara, touring Gernika and then visiting a few seaside towns before heading back to Markina for more – you guessed it – pizza.

We knew that we wouldn’t be able to see the Peace Museum in Gernika when we walk there on Monday, and I really wanted to see the town and the museum. It’s a wonderful city, filled with beautiful buildings and plenty of pintxos bars.

Guernica was brutally attacked in 1937 on a peaceful day while the townspeople were at the market, going about their business. The German Condor Legion introduced saturation bombing, pummeling the town with incendiary explosives before passing a second time to strafe the fleeing townspeople. The town was destroyed and thousands were killed.

As a result of the bombing, Guernica has very few historic buildings. However, a sapling of the old oak tree survives in the park surrounding the Casa de Juntas, the seat of the Viscayan Provincial General Assembly.

Picasso’s famous mural depicting the atrocities of that day:

A historical novel, Guernica, by Dave Boling, is a good read. It provides an interesting take on life in the Basque Country during that time, as well as the details of that horrific day.  

The next day, we visited the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, and the Ermita de San Miguel de Arretxinaga in Markina-Xemein before heading to a delicious Paella feast at the cabin of my cousins Isma (y Inma) and Jon (y Loli), along with more cousins (Mikel & Ainara, Marisa, Miren, Joken, Charo & Ismael and their sons Guilllermo & Martín, Jon & Sandra, and Luken).

After appetizers and wine, we had an amazing Paella made by Loli and Inma, and a traditional Basque cheesecake and Tarta de Manzana (Apple Tart), both made by Inma. After a wonderful afternoon, we were ready for a good night’s sleep to get ready for our 5th stage on the Camino.

For reference, we started our Camino del Norte on 30-August at the border town of Irun, just west of San Sebastian. For the most part, we have walked along the Golfo de Vizcaya. We will continue our journey past Gijon toward the Cabo de Peñas on the coast before heading inland after Ribadeo (23-Sept) toward Santiago de Compostela.

Camino del Norte Day 4 ~ Deba to Markina-Xemein

Friday, September 2, 2022

Deba to Markina-Xemein: 29.3km / 18.2 miles
Sunrise 7:35
Weather 60°F / 15.5°C Light morning rain, overcast later
Start: 6:40
Arrived @14:00 in town, 15:00 at Hotel Antsotegi

Total Ascent: 3202 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 5; Waymarking 2
Scenery Rating: 4

Today we left the Cantabrian Sea behind to enter the Basque mountains and their hamlets. Luckily we started out very early! The beginning of our walk was beautiful, and we were feeling pretty good about our progress. It is one of the hardest stages since the continuous ups and downs were tough on our legs (knees especially). We quickly switched from the asphalt to dirt roads, surrounded by trees and among several hamlets so typical of this area.

While on this path 5 years ago, we missed a sign, and ended up following a very steep, very rocky path up, avoiding cow dung on the way. Then we saw lots of cows on the path. And cows leaping across the path. That should have been a hint that maybe we were no longer on the road to Santiago…. We continued up one route, decided that we took a wrong turn, back-tracked, and then took yet another path that was also wrong. Finally, we descended through the same wonderful (not wonderful) rocky path, avoiding the cow dung. At the bottom we saw the sign that we missed. By that time we’d lost an hour. This time, we paid closer attention. We knew that we had a grueling ascent ahead.

We planned to stop for a café con leche in the picturesque village of Olatz, what would have been our only opportunity to get food before we crossed from Guipuzcoa into Vizcaya, but the taverns don’t open until after 10:00, and we started out way too early that morning. So we made our way up to the tortuous “profanity hill” climb, thankful that we’d trained on Red Cloud trail in Deer Valley last month. The hill was paved since our last Camino, but the relentless switchbacks were just as hard.

With views of the Artibai valley we made it down the challenging descent, both because of the slope and because of the slippery cobblestone pavement. Our knees were screaming by the time we got to the bottom. The gentle meadow at the end of this stretch was a welcome relief.

Eventually we continued to the Urko River, which we crossed twice on our way to our destination, Markina-Xemein, considered the “university of the pelota” since many of the best Basque pelota players in the world are from there. We made it to a bar in the center of Markina, where we had a few sodas, jamon de Iberico and queso with a lovely peregrino from Alaska, Phyllis. (She was born in Milltown, NJ!)

We passed by the hermitage of San Miguel, an 18th century temple, built on top of another one at least four centuries old, is known for the three huge rocks that support each other, forming a kind of chapel. At the epicenter of this union is a figure of the Archangel Michael, protected by monoliths at least forty million years old. (I’ll post more about this later… we did go into the Ermita on Sunday.)

We stayed in Markina-Xemein for a few days to visit with cousins on my paternal grandmother’s side. Bernarda Arano Power was born in the little village of Berriatua. My father’s cousins’ children and grandchildren grew up in or near Berriatua. We first met them in 1973 when my parents, several aunts (Luisa and Bernie), my Dad’s Tio Jose, and more of my dad’s cousins (Marie, Viviana, Nieves) and their families traveled to Spain to see my dad’s Basque cousins Lucio (y Matilda), Severo (y Juli), Txomin, and Julian (y Karmele) Arano and their families. We’ve managed to stay in touch (haphazardly) for almost 50 years.

We’ve stayed at Hotel Antsotegi twice before, in 2017 on our first Camino, and again in 2018 with my mom, sister Jeni, and niece Maggie. My cousin’s son Josu told us that the pizza at the hotel bar was excellent. I can attest to the truth of his statement.

Some (23) of my Basque family arrived at 8:00pm, just in time for ensalada mixta, lots of pizza, wine, fun, and frivolity. The lady in charge happened to be from the US; Ainsley spoke English, Spanish, and Basque, and she arranged for us to have a private banquet room for our family “pizza night”. So. Much. Fun!!

From east (Deba) to west (Markina)… the uphill from Olatz and the downhill to Markina were pretty rough:

Camino del Norte Day 3 ~ Getaria to Deba

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Getaria to Deba: 19.6km / 12.2 miles
Sunrise 7:34
Weather 68°F / 20°C Cloudy, Sunny
Start: 6:50
Stopped for a café con leche at 8:30 in Zumaia
Arrived in Deba @13:20

Hotel: Pension Zumardi


We learned about Juan Sebastián Elkano, the sailor from Getaria who circumnavigated the globe for the first time. Ferdinand Magellan is given credit for being “the first”, but in fact Elkano completed the circumnavigation first.

We had a few guest peregrinos walking with us today: my cousin Ismael and his brother-in-law Vidal. I swear, Vidal is like a mountain goat. Mike was happy to have someone who could keep up with him. Ismael is a cyclist, and he’s not a fan of hiking. But I was happy to have him along for our trek today. He reminded me to walk “despacio” on the uphill climbs. A welcome reminder, since I’m usually struggling to keep up with the Big Guy.

We walked up a steep hill from our hotel, through the town of Zumaia, which has two beaches popular with geologists because of the unique “flysch” that are located there. The Zumaia beaches are home to the largest area of this unusual rock structure in the world. It stretches 5 miles and gives this section of the Basque coast an otherworldly feeling. Of note: this is one of the settings used in Game of Thrones (where some of Dany’s forces land as they make their way across Westeros). We went to Zumaia with my Mom in 2018 when we visited our family.

Most of the walk was on unpaved, rocky, muddy paths. Walking in mild, slightly overcast weather is comfortable, better than hot and sunny. And there was no rain today!!

We met Felix from Germany, who was walking alone. He lived in Canada for a few years and spoke English, which was very helpful. We also met a couple, husband who was from Malaga Spain, wife from Ukraine, who were walking with their 4-month-old and were “winging it”.

Arrived at Pension Zumardi, an apartment building, in Deba at about 1:20, checked into the Pension, and then had lunch in the Plaza with Ismael and his wife Inma, and Inma’s brother Vidal. The last downhill, from Itziar to Deba, was tough on the knees, almost 850 feet in just over 2 miles. But having Ismael and Vidal along made the walk very enjoyable.

Camino del Norte Day 2 ~ Donosti to Getaria

August 31, 2022

San Sebastián (Donosti) to Getaria: 26km / 16.7 miles, 7½ hours
Sunrise 7:30 ~ Weather 71°F / 22°C Cloudy
Start: 7:00
Arrived in Getaria at 14:30, in time for lunch!
Total Ascent: 1933 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 5; Waymarking 3
Scenery Rating: 4

San Sebastián to Getaria
Starting at La Concha beach, we headed up towards Monte Igueldo, a kick-ass uphill walk until we finally arrived at Orio, a cute village, for a café con leche, OJ, and an apple tart.

We walked the entire day in the rain, and saw about a dozen people on the Camino. The hike was grueling at some points, very rocky, very slippery. But the final stage was flat, on a paved 2.5-mile-long path that reminded me of The Strand between Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach. We were rewarded by spectacular scenery throughout the walk.

Getaria is a charming fishing village where you can enjoy fresh-caught fish right at the port, accompanied by the local white wine called txakoli. In fact, this town is renowned for its grilled turbot (rodaballo), which we’ve had 3 times since arriving in Spain. The village is wedged between two beautiful beaches, situated on the Bay of Biscay. The views surrounding Getaria are amazing. You have an old town, a mountain that is an islet, a port, beaches, the ocean, and the rolling green hills of the txakoli wine region. All of these things make Getaria one of our favorite Basque villages.

We ended the afternoon with a delicious meal of grilled turbot, a mixed salad (ensalada mixta), and a bottle of Navarra Rosé at Restaurante Txoko Getaria: I believe this is where we ate in 2017.

I completely agree with the sentiments in the article “Getaria, The World’s Most Perfect Village” I’d like to come back to explore this charming seaside village when we have more time.

Elevation Profile, walking west to east:

Hotel Itxas Gain is a small hotel (with a ”lift” – YAY!) where we stayed in 2017. Last time, we started our Camino in September. This time, just 1 week earlier, we are at the end of the tourist season, and the town was very busy until close to midnight. I don’t think we’d stay there in the future, but it was fine for these 2 tired peregrinos.

Camino del Norte, Day 1 ~ Irún to San Sebastián

Tuesday August 30, 2022

Plan:
•Irún to San Sebastián (Donostia): 26km / 16.2 miles

Actual:
• Irún to Oiartzun on the Camino Vasco del Interior
• And Pasajes San Juan to Donosti on the Camino del Norte

Sunrise 7:28
Weather 68°F / 20°C Partly Cloudy
Start: 7:00
Arrived @14:00

Staying in San Sebastián for 4 nights while acclimating to the time change was wonderful. We started our journey in Irún, which is on the west bank of the Río Bidasoa, with the French border to the east. The bridge over the river is called the Puente de Santiago, the traditional start of the Camino del Norte. However….

WE started from the Church of San Gabriel & Santa Gema. The priest there, Padre Jose, moved to Irun from Puerto Rico 4 years ago. He told us that we will go to the Santuario de Guadalupe, built in the 16th century, home to the Black Virgin who appeared to two children. Then we would eventually climb downhill to Pasajes de San Juan, then the ferry to Pasajes de San Pedro, and 1 more kilometer to the Faro (Lighthouse) de la Plata. I was looking forward to this trek because we skipped this stage in 2017.

The PLAN: Start in Irún, walk toward Hondarribia, hike along the coast, and arrive in San Sebastián on the Camino del Norte, about 16.2 miles, 8-10 hours. (Read the map from right to left ~ west to east).

We followed signs for the “Camino”, but somehow ended up walking INLAND for 8 miles on El Camino Vasco al Interior, before we decided to take a taxi back to the Camino del Norte…. we did take the ferry before we continued on our way to San Sebastián. We ended up only walking 13.6 miles, which was FINE by me!

Note the trek that we took away from the coast before we took a taxi from the little village of Oiatzun. We walked fewer miles than expected, but did a total of 2109 feet of elevation.

My feet were grateful to arrive back in San Sebastian! Next stage: San Sebastián to Getaria on August 31.

A few shots of our trek… still getting used to the process of adding photos…..

San Sebastián (Donosti)

Saturday August 27, 2022

Mike and I took different flights to Spain because I stayed in NJ for my mom’s funeral, while Mike flew back to Utah to handle a few things that needed our attention. We met up in Amsterdam and flew to Bilbao together. Because his flight landed at 8:30 and our flight to Bilbao departed at 9:15, his luggage didn’t make it. 

My cousin Ismael and his wife Inma met us in Bilbao and drove us to our hotel, stopping at a roadside for a picnic of Basque bread, Jamon de Iberica, Cheese, a traditional Potato Omelet, and a Rioja Vino Tinto Reserva. Inma whipped out a tablecloth and all the food, utensils, glasses, a very fancy lunch. 

Ismael and Inma helped us to find a store in San Sebastian that sells Apple products because somewhere along the way I managed to lose my MAC charger. We also needed to get cash and a few other necessities (shirts for Mike, water). Having family who speak the language has been a tremendous help. 

We stopped for pintxos, and Inma and I stuck our feet in the water before heading back to Hotel Londres y Inglaterra to get settled in.

In Donosti – San Sebastián, there are too many places of interest to see, particularly while we are preparing for 39 days on the Camino. We crossed the Kursaal bridge over the Urumea River, spent plenty of time in the Old Quarter, lit a candle for my mom in the Basilica de Santa Maria.

San Sebastián is the capital city of Guipúzcoa province. Guipúzcoa (ghee-pooth-co-a) is small, and the landscape is breathtaking. Fishing is a major industry there, and fish a major culinary pleasure of Guipúzcoanos. All of the Basque Country is world-renowned for fine eating, but interest in food and quality restaurants is concentrated in San Sebastián.

San Sebastián is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, placed like a string of pearls around the shell-shaped bay of La Concha. On one side of the city looms Monte Igueldo, to the other Monte Urgull. There are beautiful hotels, Michelin-rated restaurants, boutique clothing stores and shops, the beach, and the waterfront Paseo de la Concha.

The cobbled streets off the port are home to strings of animated tapas bars that feature delicious pintxos (don’t call then tapas), where we were lucky to eat Gilda pintxos, croquetas, as well as delicious dinners. 

“The Gilda is the pintxo par excellence in the Basque Country at any time of the year. It is said that its name “Gilda” began to be used in the San Sebastian bar Bar Casa Vallés, referring to the main character of the movie Gilda, very spicy for her time. I don’t know if it is true, but in any case, it is a skewer that is worth making. 

“The trick of a good Gilda is that the piparra/guindilla is not very large and has a dot of vinegar, the anchovy is thin and without beards, and the olive is of the “zanilla” type without a pit. It should be taken in one bite to enjoy all the aromas and flavors at once.”

Gilda

After 3 days in beautiful San Sebastian, we will begin our Camino del Norte on August 30.

The Way of St. James & The Scallop Shell

We laid my 90-year-old mother to rest yesterday. The celebration of her life was filled with laughter, tears, and memories. My mom was a planner, and she left us a lot of information to help us as we planned her funeral. But how could she have known that she would smooth the way for us to start our Camino del Norte on time? Mike and I had contingency plans in case we’d had to interrupt our 500-mile walk in Spain. As it is, I am at the Delta Sky Lounge, waiting for the first of 3 legs to Bilbao where we will be welcomed to El Pais Vasco by my cousins Ismael and Inma tomorrow.

Before I begin sharing our journey, I wanted to give some information about “The Way of St. James”, or the Camino de Santiago. There are numerous routes to reach the Cathedral. We are once again embarking on El Camino del Norte, the Northern Route along the Cantabrian coast. The route is the closest to my Basque family. The highlight of our last Camino was spending time with my cousins. Mike and I will feel great comfort in their loving arms after our loss.

If you’d like to follow along “the way”, please sign up to receive emails whenever I post an update.

Buen Camino ~

Scallop Shell that my Mom gave me 5 years ago when we did our first Camino

A Little about St. James the Apostle As Bible stories suggest, St. James the Apostle, along with his brother John (the Evangelist), was one of the first disciples of Jesus. They were related to Jesus by way of their mothers; Salome and Mary were believed to be sisters. James and John were disciples of John the Baptist (also a cousin), until Jesus called them to follow him. Both were highly emotional followers who were sometimes rebuked by Jesus for their sense of ‘spiritual ambition’ and for their non-peaceful ideas about how their enemies ought to be dealt with. Nicknamed ‘Sons of Thunder’ by Jesus, their anger was a character trait that had to be rectified in the course of their journey with their holy teacher. Records suggest that they were not always popular with the other disciples, as there was often jostling for positions of authority within the circle. James and John being family members were held up as being somewhat more ‘special’ by some followers outside of the close group of disciples, which didn’t go down well with the others. They also quarreled that they were entitled to sit at the side of Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven, and they subsequently learned from their Master that their place at his side had to be ordained by a higher power, and that it had to be earned through the sacrifice of the ego. Disciples were just that, they were pupils at the feet of a Master and had to humble themselves in service to others.    

After the death of Jesus, St. James took his ministry to the Iberian Peninsula, and to this day is the Patron Saint of Spain.  During the days of his ministry, it is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to St. James on the bank of the Ebro River. He beheld a vision of her upon a pillar named the Nuestra Señora del Pilar. Today, the pillar can be found in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain. He is recorded as being the first martyr amongst all the disciples of Jesus, having been put to death by beheading by Herod Agrippa in AD 44.

St. James and the Scallop Shell

Having been a fisherman in Galilea, and having taken the road that helped him discover his spirit, the Scallop Shell is the emblem of St. James. Its symbolism relates to two layers of the human condition; the physical and the spiritual. St. James was an ordinary pilgrim like the rest of us. He walked a long and difficult road with Jesus; he was imprisoned by his raging emotions, and he went through metaphoric fires to free himself and discover the vastness of his spirit. He learned how to live an authentic, peaceful life and he shared his personal lessons with others. 

Today, we make the same journey as such people as St. James. On the physical level, we pilgrims come from all walks of life, departing from different points and making different types of pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. Some of us walk slowly, others challenge ourselves by walking fast and giving ourselves goals. Some of us ride bicycles, some go on horseback. There are those of us who walk the Camino in stages, and others who walk a little and bus a little. 

On the spiritual levels, we are all undertaking our own unique journeys, governed by the lessons that we need to learn, and the people that we are evolving into. No two pilgrims are alike, and though we walk the same roads on the outside, our inner pathways wind through very different emotional landscapes. The Scallop Shell has many grooved lines that lead from the outer rim to a meeting point at the base. The shell itself represents the many different spiritual/religious/humanist pathways that lead to the same place, to the universal center of all life-forms, the spirit, the soul.

When pilgrims carry the Scallop Shell it represents our personal journey, the sacred path that we must take within. We are all on the outer rim of the spirit, struggling to find our way back to our center. The Scallop Shell reminds us why we are walking, especially at the points when the journey feels too hard and we want to give up. It reminds us to focus on our journey only, and that each person has their own story that is unfolding. It reminds us that we are all ultimately one sacred soul, and that each of our roads are leading back to each other.

Here We Go Again!

Last year on June 29, I wrote that we were training for another 500-mile trek (El Camino del Norte) IF we met certain criteria by July 7. The main concern last year was whether I’d recovered enough from my skiing accident 5 months earlier to endure the long, and sometimes grueling, daily hikes in Spain. My physical ability wasn’t the reason that we ultimately decided to postpone our Camino last year. As it had been since March 2020, COVID was the ultimate concern.

  • What if Spain “closed down” while we were there?
  • What if we couldn’t see my Basque family? 
  • What if lodging and restaurants were suddenly closed? 

The criteria this year (same as last):

  • We are able to hike for 4-5 hours (12-15 miles) a day by the first week of July
  • Our good health continues 
  • COVID is under control in Spain 
  • Spain allows Americans into their country 
  • We are able to make our travel plans without breaking the bank 
  • Our potential schedule meshes with my Basque cousins’ schedules 
  • We can find people to stay at our house and take care of the pups for 6 weeks 

We’ve decided that all criteria WILL be met! I’m a bit nervous about my ability to hike for 4-5 hours a day, but I’m sure that I’ll get there by July. And so, as our skiing friend Bill says: Here we go again!

It’s been 5 years since our last Camino. Since then, we moved from Manhattan Beach, CA (sea level) to Park City UT (7300-ft. altitude), where it snows throughout the spring (and sometimes into the summer). We have 2 Labrador Retrievers, Sterling and Willow, who require daily hikes no matter how tired we are. Our training will be tougher and more consistent, but we will be better able to handle the hills on the Camino. At least that’s the plan! 

I am encouraged by my lifelong friend Grace, who just completed her 6th Camino!

  • Camino Frances, which starts in St. Jean Pied-du-Port in France, crosses the Pyrenees, and continues westward across Spain
  • Camino Portuguese, starting in Lisbon, Portugal
  • Via Francigena, in Italy, from Aosta to Rome
  • Camino del Norte, from the border city of Irun, along the northern coast of Spain
  • Le Puy Camino in France
  • Via de la Plata (longest Camino), from Sevilla

Thank you for following along during our training, and our anticipated journey. Encouragement and tips appreciated!

Lisa & Mike 

Go / No-go Decision Criteria for El Camino del Norte

I didn’t anticipate being able to train for another 500-mile trek until July after my skiing accident. When I started hiking with Mike and the pups in May, I broached the subject of doing our next Camino THIS year if we meet a few criteria:

  • We are able to Hike for 4-5 hours (12-15 miles) a day by the first week of July
  • Our good health continues 
  • COVID is under control in Spain 
  • Spain allows Americans into their country 
  • We are able to make our travel plans without breaking the bank 
  • Our potential schedule meshes with my Basque cousins’ schedules 
  • We can find people to stay at our house and take care of the pups for 6 weeks 

All of the criteria except the first one, have been met.

On the Camino Primitivo 2017

The differences between training in Manhattan Beach in 2017 and training here in Park City are:

  • Manhattan Beach is at sea level ~ ~ ~ Park City hiking trails start at 7300 feet above sea level and go up to 9400 feet
  • We can walk about 20 miles on The Strand in 5 hours ~ ~ ~ Hiking 12-15 miles is a lot more strenuous in the mountains. 20 miles would take more than 7 hours on the trails here.
  • We didn’t have puppies in 2017 ~ ~ ~ we haven’t tried to hike for 5 hours with the puppies this year

We anticipate that our strenuous uphill treks in Spain will be a bit easier than we experienced in 2017 because we’re training on mountainous terrain, and at altitudes much higher than we will encounter on our Camino. One challenge here is the heat. We’re going to start out before 7:00 on hot days, hoping to hike for at least 3 or 4 hours before it hits 90°F (32°C). 

I twisted my ankle a few weeks ago, and I took a few days off to give it the “R.I.C.E” (Rest. Ice. Compress. Elevate) treatment:

Diagram

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

We may need to give it one extra week (Until July 7) before making the decision to start planning a 6-week trip to Europe. But we are getting closer to that “GO” decision. 

In the meantime, we’re training as if we will actually go. Encouragement and tips appreciated!

Coming out of the Dark

Coming Out of the Dark (Gloria Estefan)

It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? I’d love to hear how you survived (and thrived!) during the pandemic, and how you are feeling as the world slowly starts opening up like the beautiful peonies in our yard. Some of my disciplined friends actually managed to lose weight. I am very impressed!!

We went the comfort food and wine route until January, and then we started a “reset”, going on the Whole 30 meal program, and committing to at least 25 push-ups and 25 squats to raise money for cancer research. I created a spreadsheet with hyperlinks to plan all of our meals with recipes for each day. It was all going swimmingly until January 25th, when I had a skiing accident that landed me in the hospital for 5 days. Concussion, broken rib, “grade 4” lacerated liver….. recovery was slow, and 5 months later I have a lovely scar above my right eye, and I’m still not drinking wine in order to give my liver time to recover. All in all, I feel very fortunate, and I am very grateful to the Deer Valley Ski Patrol. I’d love to ride in a toboggan again someday, just not strapped to one while being pulled down to the lodge and the waiting ambulance.

Our 2020 plans got scuttled, just like everyone else’s. All of the ski resorts closed on March 13. Mike’s hip replacement was postponed from May to July. Our trips to Florida, New Jersey, and California to see family and friends were canceled. And our next Camino in Spain, postponed from 2019, was postponed again. We typically plan major events and trips a year in advance, and 2020-21 was no different. Our plan to get one puppy in April 2021 (after ski season) was the ONE thing that we moved up a year. Oh, and we got TWO puppies instead of just one. We love our English Labs (Sterling – a Silver Lab, and Willow – a “Champagne” Lab), and can’t imagine our lives without them.

We joined several social clubs here in Park City in January 2020:
Newcomers Club (some members have been in the club for 20+ years)
Park City Mountain Sports Club
Park City Wine Club

Not great timing… we skied a few times with the sports cub and went to a wine tasting with the Newcomers Club before March 2020, but never made it to a Wine Club event in person. The virtual wine tastings on Zoom were great fun, and we tried a lot of varietals that the club president dropped off.

Knowing that my Mom would be pretty isolated, my sisters came up with the idea of having a weekly Zoom with her. We’ve kept in touch more during this past year than at any time in our adult lives. Occasionally our nieces, nephews, cousins, and brothers-in-law join, but for the most part it’s my Mom and the 4 next-gen Power sisters. (“Next-gen”, because the original Power sisters, my Dad’s sisters, numbered EIGHT!)

I initiated an all-day “pop-in” Zoom call on Thanksgiving and invited friends and family to join as they were able. Sometimes I was cooking; sometimes we were eating Thanksgiving dinner. Our last call was while we were drinking wine on the sofa after dinner and pumpkin pie. Our friends in New Zealand even called in! So much fun to spend the holiday together while being apart.

Once we were vaccinated (Pfizer for Mike, Moderna for me) and the requisite 2-week waiting period had passed, I was on a plane to NJ for Mother’s Day and a visit with my Mom, sisters, son, nieces, nephews, and even a few good friends. It sure is nice to be able to hug loved ones again!

Our next post-pandemic adventure is a week in NJ to celebrate “Christmas in July”, an ingenious idea that my Mom had back in December. She was optimistic that we’d be able to travel and get together by this summer, and she was right. Mike and I are so looking forward to seeing all of my family in just a few weeks!

Next up: Training for our next Camino de Santiago in Spain…. hopefully later this year.