Positano, Boat Trip to Nerano Bay

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5 days in Positano
Day 4
Thursday, October 12, 2017

Positano, Boat Trip to Nerano Bay

We decided to spend a few hours on the water, taking a boat trip on the Mediterranean to Nerano Bay on the hotel’s boat SantAntonio, an old, glorious, and very comfortable wooden fishing boat. The weather was perfect, sunny and probably about 75 degrees on the water. And, as luck would have it, we were the only two people that booked the trip!

Lunch at Da Tommaso Allo Scoglio in Nerano was delicious; their specialty is spaghetti with zucchini. Both the captain and first mate told us that we “must” have it, and we’re glad that we did.

On our way back we slowly circled the archipelago of three atolls called Li Galli, owned by Rudolf Nureyev owned until he died in 1992. Check it out. For a mere 55€ – 150€ per week, you can stay there… Personally, I prefer Le Sirenuse in Positano!

Mike and I can’t decide which of our days we loved the most: hiking the path of the gods, taking a cooking class at Ristorante Max, or our afternoon on the Mediterranean on Sant’Antonio. One thing I do know: we’ll be back.

Positano – Cooking with Chef Salvatore

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5 days in Positano
Day 3
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Positano, Cooking Class at Ristorante Max

We haven’t had to cook for ourselves in almost 6 weeks, so we decided to take a hands-on cooking class at the restaurant where we ate dinner on Monday night, Ristorante Max, just down the hill from our hotel. Turns out we were the only 2 people there!! The menu included some items that were unexpected:

  • Calzones and Deep-fried Pizza appetizers
  • Ricotta-and-Salami-stuffed Zucchini Flowers
  • Eggplant Parmesan
  • Pizza Pomodoro
  • Gnocchi with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes & Mozzarella
  • Foccacia
  • Tiramisu

Mike took over 350 pictures. Chef Salvatore never did invite him to help cook…. Must be an Italian thing? So Mike handled the camera while I had a fun time learning how to make some of the most amazing food I’ve ever eaten. We started cooking at 9:30, finished eating at 12:30, and promptly walked down to the beach and back up, hoping to walk off at least a little of the food that we consumed. No need for dinner! Still full 8 hours later.

The most fun: making indentations in the focaccia dough. Most frustrating: getting the technique for making the gnocchi dough “just right”. I was excited to try the zucchini flowers; that was Mike’s biggest surprise (that he liked them). He’s also not a huge fan of eggplant, but we both loved the eggplant parmesan (not breaded).

Mike says that I was “giddy”. I DO love learning to make new things, and having a private cooking lesson was really fun. It was also nice to be local, not traveling to take a tour. We’ve gotten a lot of advice to be sure to see Ravello, Amalfi, Capri, etc. We tried to take a sunset cruise, but it was fully booked… turns out that the water was too choppy, so the cruise was canceled anyway. We’ve already decided to come back here, and we’ll get to those other bucket list items next time around.

Our wish list for when we get home: a large and decent food mill (versus the used-to-be-fine potato ricer that we have), and Organic “00” Flour that I’ll order from Italy (I’m going to give it a shot). My recipe for Tiramisu is overly complicated, so I’ll make the recipe that we learned at Ristorante Max. Glad we decided to do this!!

Positano, The Path of the Gods

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5 days in Positano
Day 2
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Positano, and the Path of the gods

It is hard to describe the beauty of the Amalfi coast. The views from our hotel balcony alone are spectacular. We decided, after a 400-mile trek in Spain, to go for a half-day hike on the “path of the gods” with a guide, Franco De Simone. First we drove ~ or rather, we were driven ~ up a very long and narrow road of switchback turns for about an hour. We passed terraces of (Marisa Cuomo) vineyards along the way, and marveled at the views from the car.

Upon reaching Agerola, we began a wonderful 3-hour hike across the top of the mountain, and down toward Nocelle. Franco has guided people along this hike for 20 years, and he is very passionate and knowledgeable about the plants, history, and geology of the entire region. Thankfully Franco had trekking poles for us to use, since we had shipped ours back to the US before leaving Santiago on Sunday. The path was relatively easy, with a few parts that were very rocky. Several times, Franco said, “prepare your eyes”… which meant that we were about to see yet another unbelievably beautiful sight. The views took our breath away. The terraces reminded us of Machu Picchu. Add the ocean below us, and the cloud formations, and it really is indescribable.

After hiking for 3 hours, we had the choice of climbing down almost 2000 steps from Nocelle to Positano. Mike opted to take the steps with Franco; I took a taxi down to our hotel. My knees have pretty much recovered from our Camino, but I’m aiming for a pain-free time in Italy. Franco gave us some great advice about a restaurant that is in his village of Montepertuso, La Terra. On the La Terra web site it says: The goodness of our dishes is the result of wise culinary and gastronomic passion combined with the careful selection of ingredients, fresh and of the highest quality, at km zero.” We had a delicious salad of arugula, cherry tomatoes, and sautéed calamari; then I had branzino (a local white sea bass) and Mike had swordfish, both delicious!

During our first few days here in Italy, we have met some very religious Catholics, all passionate about their faith, but also very kind and compassionate. Franco is an example of the kind of Christian that I aspire to be. I am grateful to have met him.

Mike and I were wondering about the percentage of people who are Catholic in Spain and Italy (and because we were also talking about Machu Picchu, Peru). Here are some “fun facts” (click on the links for the information): The percentage of Catholics by Country, and a bit of a different view of Italy’s religions. Regardless of whether it’s 88% or 96%, there is no mistaking that we are in a Catholic country.

Adiós España, Ciao Italia

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Spain / Italy
5 days in Positano
October 8 – 12

Positano, Italia

After one last look at the courtyard outside of our room at the beautiful Parador in Santiago de Compostela, we arranged for some of our Camino clothing and gear to be shipped back to California, and we departed this amazing country. The first time I came to Spain I was 17 years old. I was mad at my parents for the timing of our trip, because I had to miss my friends’ High School graduation. I quickly got over it, because my month in Spain was magical; it was then that I fell in love with the country and her people.

It would be another 30 years before I made it back to Vizcaya and Spain, this time with my husband Mike for a month. He too loved the country, my Basque Family, and all of the people that we met. And here we are, 14 years later, after spending more than a month in Spain, sad to leave, but certain that we will return. Mike has promised my cousins here that we’d come back every 2 years. He also wants to do another Camino. I’m on board, but I’d make some changes now that we know what to expect. I’d pack less, approach other peregrinos more, take more pictures of the people that we meet, go into more churches and Cathedrals, allow more time in each destination to explore. We’ll do a “what we’d do again, what we’d change” list to help us to remember for next time, and to share with others who might consider doing a journey similar to ours.

We took a few pictures of Santiago from the plane, one or two more of Madrid, and finally, Italy, as we approached Naples. The ride from the airport to Positano on the Amalfi coast was lovely ~ not one that would work if you happen to suffer from motion sickness. Our driver was happy to share all of his recommendations with us, and he invited us to come to his house for dinner with his wife and 5-year-old daughter Fabiana. When we realized that he worked very long hours and that he barely spent time with his family, we thanked him for the offer, but we’d have to make it another time.

The concierge at Le Sirenuse, Leonardo, is a character, warm, always cracking jokes…. Telling us that he is arranging for us to get Visas to stay in Positano. He assumes that if we stayed in Spain for 38 days, we should stay in Positano for at least the same amount of time. When we woke up on Monday morning I thought that we were in a fairy tale. The views of Positano are spectacular. It’s hard to believe that most of the shops and restaurants will be closing in a week or so.

We hadn’t made any plans for our time here. We did a little shopping on our first day, bought hats, because…. Italy; had mani/pedi’s and massages, ate some spectacular food, and drank equally delicious wine. Mike was happy because the hotel has a gym. He worked out, determined to lose another 5 pounds after already losing quite a bit on the Camino. We made arrangements to have a guided hike on the “path of the gods” on Tuesday. That deserves a post of its own.

I believe that we will be back here in Positano. It’s easy to love.

Santiago: Cathedral, Park, Mass

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Camino de Santiago del Norte
Days 35 & 36 of our Adventure: Santiago de Compostela
Friday & Saturday October 6-7, 2017

Santiago de Compostela

We are still in awe of this beautiful city and its ever-changing occupants. We finally made it to the Pilgrims’ Mass last night. It was in Spanish, so we didn’t understand much of what was being said. But you know, the Roman Catholic Mass is the same everywhere, with just a few minor differences, so it was pretty easy to understand where we were in the service. The Mass was concelebrated by about 8 priests. Hard to say, as we were seated way in the back. Note to anyone who wants to attend Mass in Santiago: Get there an hour and a half early. One of the shopkeepers said that getting on line by 7:00 (for the 7:30 PM Mass) would be fine. We should have been there an hour earlier. The Cathedral was packed!!

Before Mass there were several announcements about photos being “forbidden” during the Mass, until after Mass is over. My photographer is normally a rule-follower; but he’s not Catholic…. So, enjoy the pictures of the amazing Botafumeiro swinging from ropes.

The Botafumeiro (‘censer’ in Galician) is one of the most famous and popular symbols of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is a large censer (filled with burning incense) that swings from the central dome of the Cathedral, from which it hangs by a system of pulleys, to the side naves. Eight men are required to move it, who are known as the tiraboleiros, as it weighs 53 kg and measures 1.50 meters; it is suspended at a height of 20 meters and can reach a high speed.

As luck would have it, we wanted to take a tour of the Cathedral today, and they were letting people in this afternoon. I thought that was odd, since the 12:00 noon Pilgrims’ Mass was in progress. We quietly walked around the outer chapels, and then we got onto a line to climb behind the altar (mind you, people were doing this during the Consecration). We eventually climbed up some stairs, hugged the huge statue of Santiago (St. James), and said a silent prayer. We happened to reach this statue during Communion. It was very emotional, and I’m glad that we were at the right place at the right time.

And THEN, we could see that the eight tiraboleiros were starting to take their places around the Botafumeiro. We were right under it as they started swinging it! Mike took pictures as I recorded a short video. Mostly I wanted to capture the beautiful hymn that was being sung during this experience of a lifetime. I’m having trouble uploading the video from my phone (too large), so look at it on Facebook. Or here (from an internet search).

Besides the spiritual lift last night and today, we also ran into one of our Camino compadres, Garrett from Ireland last night! He had reservations for dinner; we were just going to grab some tapas. So instead, we joined Garrett, and we had a really fun dinner, talking about our shared and separate experiences on our journeys. Garrett had done the Northern route before, and we talked about how arduous some of the stages were.

We went for a walk in the Alameda Park…. So beautiful!! And of course walked all around the streets and alleys of Santiago, eating tapas, drinking café con leche and wine, doing a little shopping. Some of the photos in the Plaza around the Cathedral were taken very early in the morning before the crowds arrived and before the sun prevented us from fully capturing the beauty of the buildings. We will hate to leave here tomorrow, but a new adventure awaits!!

Thank you for joining us on our Camino. We hope that you enjoyed the “Northern” Way of St. James through our eyes. Words and pictures don’t come close to capturing the experience. Maybe someday you’ll do your own Camino! Love to all of you.

Lisa & Mike

Santiago de Compostela ~ Tears of Joy

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Camino de Santiago
Day 34 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Thursday October 5, 2017

25km / 15 miles / 5 hours
Total Ascent: 1000 ft.
Total Descent: 1200 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 2; Waymarking 1
Scenery Rating: 2

O Pino to Santiago de Compostela

We’ve arrived!! We left Rúa at 7 AM, an hour and a half before dawn, hoping that we’d get to Santiago in time to get our credentials stamped and make it to the 12:00 noon Mass. HA! The walk was much longer than we expected; and we were traveling at break-neck speed ~ in spite of the hills, our empty stomachs, and no caffeine before we started.

The sight of the Cathedral, the throngs of peregrinos arriving in the Plaza, the enormity of what we accomplished, what tens of thousands of people before us had accomplished, was overwhelming. We took it all in for a few moments, and then tried to figure out what to do first. It was obvious that we were too late for the Mass, so we checked into our hotel, the Parador de Santiago de Compostela. We stayed here in 2003, but I don’t remember our room being this luxurious. I was emotional enough, and I almost wept for joy when we stepped into our room. Our accommodations for most of our trip were very comfortable, but this place… well, let’s just say that we made the right decision to stay here for 3 nights.

Once we dropped off our backpacks we asked for help to find the office of credentials. We got on a very long line that started outside and wound through the halls of the building. We heard that the wait was 2 hours. If only…. Turned out to be more than 2 and a half, but people were in happy spirits, and we befriended Peter, a very tall Hungarian man, who seemed to enjoy practicing his English. As we were leaving, a young woman asked us about our Camino, specifically what our favorite part was. I said seeing my family in El Pais Vasco, and arriving here in Santiago. And then I started to cry. (Still…..)

After we finished the “business” part of our journey, we went to grab a bite to eat and to drink a glass of wine, unpacked our suitcases, took showers, and walked around Santiago. We mistakenly thought that the evening Mass was at 5:30, but it turned out to be 7:30, and we had already made reservations for dinner at a fabulous restaurant, A Horta d’Obradoiro. We’ll go to Mass tomorrow night, now that we know what to expect (the lines for the noon service were insane… we’ll get there really early!).

Mike took pictures of his shoes next to the ones that he DIDN’T use on the Camino. These are the exact same shoe ~ one pair with almost 500 miles of wear, the other with maybe 20 miles. And then he put them outside, where they belong.

We also took a picture of our “helpers” along the Way: Honey Zingers gel and chews for instant energy, salt sticks for electrolytes and to prevent dehydration, Kinesiology tape (which was a godsend on my knees!), IsaGenix e+ energy shots and vitamins, Ibuprofen, Arbonne skin conditioning oil, a SkyRoam hotspot, and Compeed blister solutions. I had to dispose of my ankle braces because they finally fell apart; otherwise they would be in the picture as well.

On our way back from dinner we ran into some of our fellow travelers: 2 guys from southern Spain, and a young lady from Russia. We saw them almost every day on the Camino Primitivo, and I wasn’t really surprised to see them in Santiago even though they finished the day before.

Looking forward to the rest of our time here in Santiago de Compostela!!

Arzua to O Pino (Rúa)

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Camino Francés
Day 33 of our Adventure: WALK!!
Wednesday October 4, 2017

18km / 12.5 miles / 4.5 hours
Total Ascent: 984 ft.
Total Descent: 738 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 2; Waymarking 1
Scenery Rating: 2

Arzua to O Pino (Rúa)

We’ve been leaving close to the same time each morning, and it seems to be much darker than when we started our Camino on September 6. Of course, the days have been getting shorter, and we’ve also been walking westward for 4 weeks. Turns out that sunrise on Day 1 in San Sebastián was at 7:38 AM. Tomorrow, in Santiago de Compostela, sunrise will be at 8:36 AM. There is a 26-minute difference in sunrise times just by virtue of being 435 miles west of our starting point, and another 32-minute difference due to the seasonal change.

The sunrise isn’t the only difference! The sheer volume of people is astounding. A whole parade of young people passed us about an hour and a half into our walk this morning. Besides the “kids”, the numbers have increased exponentially. The first few bars that we came to were packed with people, and we decided to bypass those in favor of a quieter stop. Interesting décor they had there…. We shared the trail with cyclists, a few of whom almost ran into us. No warning bells, just these guys who zoomed past, 3 abreast. I yelled after them that they need to ring their bells.

As we continued to walk, the crowd thinned out, and when we were less than a mile from our stop for the night we passed those same kids. One was on the ground with heat exhaustion. A second group was sitting on the ground, resting, and a third was waiting for the others to catch up.

We walked through a few aromatic eucalyptus groves today. The day was warm (82°), and we appreciated the shade. We also walked past a “Wall of Wisdom”, with dozens of questions printed on sheets of paper.

We are at our final stop, Hotel O Pino, before tomorrow’s walk to Santiago. Our plan is to leave early (with headlamps) to try to get to the Cathedral in time for the Mass at noon.

I made a list before we started of various people we’d dedicate each day’s walk to. Some of them were special, private intentions. Others were more general. The dedications included:

  • My sisters, survivors of decades of family vacations
  • My U.S. Power-Arano Cousins
  • My Basque Uncles and Cousins who live in Berriatua, Ermua, and Isla
  • My Dad and his Mother, Bernardina Arano Power
  • First responders, victims, and families of the 9/11 attacks
  • A friend whose sister died recently
  • My Mom, on the day that we walked to Santillana del Mar (because she loves that town)
  • Our 3 children, Michael, Angela, and Gregg
  • Our grandson Nathan
  • My (Lithuanian) Kanzler grandparents, Ben & Alice Kanzler
  • My Godfather, Uncle Don, who walked parts of the Appalachian Trail, and my Aunt Judy
  • Various friends whose birthdays fell on our walking days
  • Specifically, Grace Garcia, who was celebrating her birthday on the Camino Portugués
  • My Power Aunts and my Dad who were afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease (on the day of the Alzheimer’s walk in Point Pleasant, NJ)
  • Tomorrow’s walk is dedicated to Margie Clifford, who fought (and recently lost) a quiet and valiant fight against cancer, and who never gave up… I thought about her tenacity as I sometimes struggled to make it up a tough hill, or to walk those final 4 km on a long day. Her birthday was 5/5/55, and we are walking into Santiago on the 5th. Margie, thanks for the inspiration.