A Love Letter to Spain

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

I first fell in love with Spain in the summer of ’85 during my study abroad in Madrid. The program that Bowling Green University ran at that time (I attended Ohio Northern, but we didn’t have a study abroad option then) included intensive classes at the University of Madrid in culture, history, geography, and language, as well as fantastic field trips to nearly every corner of Spain on the weekends. My love affair continued in my life as a Spanish teacher, as I led student trips all over Spain. When my son (also a Northern grad) student-taught at the American School of Valencia in his final semester of under-grad, we took a family trip to see him and loved every minute.

It was THIS trip to Spain, however, to walk El Camino de Santiago from León to Santiago, that crystallized for me what it is about Spain that makes me love it so much. My admiration is not only for the physical aspects of Spain, but also for the ways that Spaniards do things, how they live, and the sense of community that is imbued in all aspects of Spanish life. Some of my observations are rather superficial, while others delve deeper into the Spanish weltanschaung—their world view. Read on for all the ways that Spain hasn’t changed since I first saw her and loved her, and for the ways she speaks to me.

Broad Strokes

La tierra

Sometimes, those who haven’t been somewhere, imagine it to be all kinds of things it isn’t. The geography of Spain is one of those things. Spain is about the size of the state of

The Camino Francés, leaving the Meseta and entering the León Mts.

Texas and within its boundaries you will find nearly every kind of topography possible–mountains, coast, desert, fertile valleys, plains, broad rivers, forests. What is most surprising, perhaps, is that Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe–second only to Austria. After walking the Camino, I can attest to this firsthand!


Arte Público e Historia

Spain is chockfull of public art, monuments to history, and beautiful architecture. Because of its Catholic roots, every town is clustered around the local cathedral or church with a central plaza somewhere nearby. It seems that every locality has a legend attached to it that is not only available to read about on a placard, but also to hear about from one of the locals. Past and present are blended together in a tapestry of culture. The history of each place, rather than being forgotten or pushed to the periphery, is celebrated with both education (signage, monuments, etc) and the town festival.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Upon closer examination

So many small things make up the larger picture of the way Spaniards do things. Their eating habits—both what and how haven’t changed. The way they greet each other, the centuries-old door knockers in the shapes of ladies’ hands, the abundance of flowers around their homes, the pride in regional customs,





and how in a country that is the size of Texas, one can sense a different culture every hundred miles or so. All these things remain static in daily life in Spain; she hasn’t changed in the time I’ve known her. 


A comer…

Spain first introduced me to tapas (or pinxtos–pronounced “peenchos”–in the Northeast) all those years ago. Not only is it delicious to try a small portion of something, but it is beautiful as well. The Spanish custom of including a small bite of food with an aperitif is wonderful and smart at the same time. In the foodie capital of Madrid, grazing tapas at the Mercado San Miguel is an experience for all the senses.


In 3 weeks, we never once used plasticware of any sort. Every single restaurant, pub, or glorified concession stand on The Way used glasses. Silverware. Real plates. Cups and Saucers. Not only did this reduce waste, but it also is just more civilized. Café con leche most definitely tastes better in a real cup.

The silverware they use is also different from that found in the US. They have “normal” knives, forks, and spoons, of course, but they also have smaller spoons for coffee, smaller forks for dessert, and larger spoons for soup or other items like cereal. The smaller spoons and forks have the psychological effect on me of making me feel like I am in a more elegant era or place—and indeed, I think I was. The smaller fork surely indicated fewer calories, but also seemed to say—slow down. Savor every bite. Eat in smaller bites and enjoy it. Eating my caldo gallego with a large spoon was satisfying; this soup is hearty, nourishing, and deserves to be eaten with gusto.




The food is, generally speaking, a Mediterranean diet which I think we’re all familiar with, so I won’t go into detail on that, here. What remains the same in Spain from ’85  that is so wonderful is the lack of convenience foods. I think they exist, I just don’t think they’ve caught on. A primary example of “real” goodness is the orange juice. Every bar (and I’m using the word in the Spanish sense here—please don’t picture a place where people are getting drunk) had an orange juice machine—for squeezing FRESH orange juice. So delicious!

Café con Leche. I don’t even drink coffee in the States unless it is labelled as “mocha” and has whipped cream on top. In Spain, though, I drink it every morning and sometimes at midday. They make it strong, only fill a cup halfway, and then fill the cup with heated milk. Artificial sweeteners haven’t found their way into the Spanish diet either, so sugar is an option that I, and everyone else always take advantage of. Delicious. Starbucks has no idea.

Churros con chocolate at Madrid’s oldest churrería–San Ginés.



De compras

Another item from a more elegant era is the way that they wrap purchases individually. This isn’t at the grocery or pharmacy, but rather at shops selling any sort of specialty gift item—jewelry, glassware, trinkets, etc. They generally have wrapping paper and tape handy to wrap up every.single.item for you. It makes one feel pampered and like each parcel is a precious gift. The time taken to do this says something else about Spain—slow down. Little gestures matter. There is no one huffing and puffing behind you in line because the clerk is spending a few minutes taking care of your purchases in such an intimate way. Enjoy the ride.


Beneath the surface

National Values

How Spaniards live is vastly different from life here in the States. The most striking is the incredible sense of community that is part and parcel of Spanish life. As we walked for 200 miles across North-Central Spain, we noticed that nearly all homes are in a village or town—VERY rarely is there a home standing by itself in the countryside as it would be in the United States. I couldn’t help but wonder what this said about the core values of each country. A core American value is independence, even solitude or isolation—indicating strength and ability to us; a core Spanish value is conviviality—indicating community, togetherness, enjoyment. Therefore, Spaniards live in towns or cities almost exclusively and to this day gather on the plaza in the center of town in the late afternoon (or any of several plazas in larger cities) to stroll, have an aperitif, meet up with friends, hear the news of the day, let the children run and play. They do this all year long and at all ages—which brings me to another observation.

The Spanish have mastered the art of multi-generational living. Because they are living in population centers, their older folks are still a part of everything. Nothing stops an older Spaniard from taking his or her evening stroll. There are canes and arms to lean on, but they keep at it. BECAUSE they keep at it, there are able to keep at it. Obesity (not someone being a little plump, but true obesity) appears to be non-existent in Spain, I can only surmise from this active life-style and the diet. Octogenarians are often seen with a younger person for support to get out and do their stroll, their shopping, their visiting with the neighbors.

The abuelas(grandmothers) also haven’t changed in 34 years. I don’t know what age is the cut off for turning into an abuela, but the “look” remains the same: short hair, blouse, skirt, sweater, hose, pumps, pocketbook, necklace and earrings. I saw a very, very few who were wearing pants and being sassy, but by and large—abuelas haven’t changed! Please enjoy my album of abuelas:



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The people—and this includes hundreds of interactions over 34 years—are simply kind. They are always willing to help, to chat, to interact, to engage, to debate, to joke, to guide. They are a social society. They even have a word for sitting around the dinner table chatting after eating—la sobremesa. Wonderful.

In my previous piece, “Angels on the Camino”, I talked at length about Mercedes and José, two wonderful Spaniards with whom we enjoyed a few sobremesas. There were other, shorter, interactions that I would like to describe to give a sense of the Spanish psyche.

A philosophical taxi ride

The day before we were to begin our Camino, we had to transfer by taxi from Madrid to León. The driver, Estéban, came from a long line of taxistas and was proud to be part of his family’s company. The drive from Madrid was roughly 3.5 hours; Dan speaks no Spanish. Well, Dan can order a beer, a gin and tonic, and say that he likes “fútbol”, but that’s about it. So Estéban and I set the world to rights. Around 30 years of age, Estéban and I covered soooo many topics—including Dan as we could. The one that sticks in my mind, however, was our discussion of immigration and bigotry. Although the area of Spain we visited primarily on this trip does not have many immigrants, the coastal cities (and Madrid, of course) have changed drastically since ’85, what with Spain’s proximity to Africa. Spain, once an insular country, is dealing with what we in the States have long had to wrestle.  To welcome immigrants and refugees while keeping control of the floodgates is a delicate balance that needs attention, certainly. Further, as we delved into the racist aspects of this discussion, this young man said, very resolutely, “Para combatir la intolerancia, hay que viajar.” Yes! To combat bigotry, one MUST travel! When we SEE the plight of others, when we EXPERIENCE some of their story, when we KNOW the truth of a situation, THEN we can understand. THEN we cease to fear “the other” and realize that humanity, in all its messy glory, can work things out. If only we could work together and make the effort to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Eavesdropping can get you everywhere

On the day we arrived in Santiago, we obtained our number to get our compostela—the diploma that certified that we had completed the Camino. The pilgrim’s office serves around 1500 people a day—our numbers were 1013 and 1014. We had a bit of a wait. Luckily we could monitor the progress of the line via an app, so we did some shopping, did some eating, and eventually settled at a café along the street to the pilgrim’s office to pass the time.

At the table next to us were three friends in their 30’s, two women and a man. As I gradually tuned in to their discussion and began to shamelessly eavesdrop, I learned that they were discussing the particular usage of a phrase in English. Antonio, the chief complainant, was describing a telephone interaction he had had in English (which he speaks fluently) in which the person helping him said, “I appreciate your frustration.” This infuriated Antonio who had apparently never been on the phone with Time Warner, and wasn’t aware of this usage of the verb “to appreciate”. His learning had taught him only the cognate to “apreciar”—to enjoy. I let this go on for a bit, and then finally turned to them to interrupt and educate.

As is often the case in Spain and at outdoor cafés, they welcomed my intrusion into their conversation; what ensued was a spirited discussion of linguistics, “false friends”—those seeming cognates which have different meanings in different languages (*embarazada” does NOT mean embarrassed, for example, but rather “pregnant”), and how the guy on the phone with Antonio really wasn’t an asshole. My only regret from the whole trip was that I didn’t give Antonio my email address so that he could ask me further English questions (and I, Spanish questions to him) should the need arise. Our connection was brief but intense. I wish that I had had the foresight to extend it. 


What is the larger lesson in all of this rambling? Perhaps that there is more than one way to eat a meal, more than one way to live a life, and more than one way to view the world. As for me, my glimpses into Spanish life have made mine all the richer. ¡Hay que viajar! 

Angels on The Way: Tales of the Camino de Santiago

In September, 2019, my husband, Dan, and I walked 200 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. We began in León and finished in Santiago 15 days later (which

The magnificent cathedral in León where we officially started our journey.

 included two rest days). Walking our Camino had been a dream of mine for around 30 years; I taught about the Camino’s importance culturally in my life as a Spanish teacher. After watching “The Way” (the movie about the Camino by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen), Dan was game to walk it with me.

To give a bit of background: El Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is a pilgrimage to the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela in Northwest Spain. The first recorded pilgrims walked in the year 821, A.D. According to legend, St James, apostle of Christ, was beheaded in Jerusalem and his remains were taken by sea to Galicia where he had spread the Good News while alive. His body is buried in the cathedral in Santiago. There are many, many Caminos all over Spain and Europe, all leading to this city.

A good map of the 500 mile long Camino Francés; we started in León, 200 miles from the cathedral in Santiago.

Dan and I traveled the classic, Camino Francés, which goes from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the Pyrenees of France across Northern Spain to the region of Galicia and Santiago. The whole Camino Francés is 500 miles; we “only” did the last 200.

El Camino, which means “the way” and conveniently also means “the road” is a complete and brilliant metaphor for life. As you walk, there are many accidents—happy and otherwise—to deal with. Regardless of how you feel or what the “weather” is like, you must go on. There are people who briefly shine their light on your steps, never to be seen again. There are others who come in and out of your journey—joyously reuniting and waving adieu, only to meet up again later. Then there are the people with whom you bond on a deeper level who become part of your life. This piece is dedicated to those folks—some ephemeral, some more permanent—who made our Camino, ours.

We spent the summer training for our walk—breaking in our boots, selecting socks, learning how to grease our feet (although Dan never did this), and gradually increasing our mileage and hours of walking each week. What followed in September was at once one of the crowning achievements of our life together and one of the most intensely difficult. Luckily, we were surrounded by humanity in all of its goodness along the Way.

Mercedes and the Roasted Peppers

We began our pilgrimage on Sept 10, setting out from our hotel in León around 8:00 in the morning. It was brisk and blustery as we trekked the 3 miles to get out of town and finally entered the Meseta—that arid region in North-Central Spain with its rolling, wide open vistas. 70592422_10217488990789791_678056348264431616_nAfter a solid day of walking, we arrived at our destination in Mazarife and called our Casa Rural (a more full-service bed and breakfast) to come pick us up to take us the remaining distance to their establishment out in the country.

As we walked up to the 200-year-old mill-turned-casa rural from the car, we were greeted by Mercedes and her sister Eva who were sitting at a table in an open air workspace adjacent to a barn. They had just roasted dozens of red peppers on an open fire and were now stripping them of their seeds and stems. Sitting with a beloved female relative on such a fine day working on a project together, looked like bliss to me and I said so. Their rural idyll, the old mill, sat astride a swiftly running, clear river. We soon found out that it wasn’t a river at all, but rather the ingenious irrigation system that the Moors had built 800 years before in their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.

A view from inside the 200-year-old mill that spans the 800-year-old irrigation system contrived by the Moors.


To say that Mercedes and I chatted like our tongues were on fire would be an understatement. We learned that Emilio and Martin had stayed there during the making of “The Way” and that Eva had indeed just returned from visiting Emilio in Los Angeles. We talked about fishing in the water rushing under the mill; apparently the week before an otter had come and eaten all the trout. We enjoyed small, yellow, ripe plums from her trees and the jam that she made from them. We discussed her garden in great detail—admiring the baskets and baskets full of tomatoes. I regaled her with the fact that my dad had picked over a thousand cucumbers this year from his vines. We shared how long each had been married—us, 31 years, them—married 45 but together 50, since she was 15 years old. She said that she had only ever “had” one man! In the next life she would have 100’s! What a zest for life they had there in their little corner of the world. Heaven.

Eva, Mercedes, me and Dan before our 2nd day of walking. The Molino they lived in was an incredible site.

Félix and His Sister, the Helpful Hospitalera

Along about the third day or so, we had a REALLY tough descent from El Acebo to Molinaseca. We had started in Rabanal del Camino that morning and made the 12 mile climb and partial descent to El Acebo without incident, but we were tired. My left knee had begun to hurt a bit, but I thought I could handle it. Our hotel reservation for that night was another almost 9 miles ahead in Ponferrada, so we had to move on. After a lovely lunch and rehydration, we headed down the mountain. We were not prepared at all for what we encountered. The terrain resembled the glacial grooves of the rocks found on Kelleys Island, interspersed with great chunks of rock. It was very difficult to walk on, and each step had to be taken purposefully in order to avoid twisting an ankle or falling. Indeed, we saw folks who had fallen and had their faces all bandaged up. This descent aggravated my knee pain to the point that I felt near tears. Dan, too, was experiencing shaking in his left leg which he didn’t tell me about until later.

This type of terrain, peppered with great chunks of rocks, went on for miles. In the heat of the day, this was an ill-advised descent of 3,340 ft. My souvenir was a hurting knee and a whopper of a blister.

Somehow we managed to descend five miles of that hellish terrain amidst 90º heat to Molinaseca. Apparently, Molinaseca is a delightful, Roman town. We wouldn’t know. As soon as we arrived (at this point having walked 17 miles in roughly 8-9 hours), I poked my head into the nearest albergue (inn/accommodation). The hospitalera (pilgrim’s innkeeper) took one look at our sweaty, dust-covered selves and insisted that we sit down. I explained to her (in Spanish, of course—hardly anyone in Spain speaks English) that we had come from Rabanal del Camino and needed to get to Ponferrada for our room. She said—“I will take care of it.” Gracias a Dios! I heard her call someone and say, “Hi, it’s me. I have two absolutely exhausted pilgrims here who need to get to Ponferrada. Where are you? Can you come get them?”

The person she was calling was her brother, Félix, who drives a cab and does this kind of work daily. A word here about cabs/taxis: in Spain, taxis are without fail, clean, smoke-free, and safe. The drivers are competent, friendly, and in my experience very well-spoken and educated. They often drive taxis as part of a family business. So. Félix came to pick us up. En route to our destination, he reassured us that we had done the right thing by giving in and riding to our hotel—it wasn’t a mere 3 miles away, but more like 4. With us in the car, he was hailed by two female pilgrims on a corner. They had apparently called for a taxi as well, but theirs hadn’t shown up. Félix called 3 of his brothers in arms to get them a ride—all were busy. He said—“climb on in, I’ll take you after I deliver this couple.” I told him that I thought that was very nice and he said, very seriously, “We have to take care of the pilgrims.” It seemed to me that all the people we met that lived and worked along The Way, took that sentiment to heart. It wasn’t just for the economy, but rather because they truly see it as their calling, their service to God and their service to humanity.

Lost Among the Vines

One afternoon, as we walked through miles and miles of grapevines, laden with sweet, sweet fruit, we missed a turn of the Way—always marked with a yellow arrow and/or a yellow scallop shell, the symbol of St. James. Open bed trucks, filled to the brim with harvested grapes rumbled by periodically, regularly punctuating our view.

One of the many loads of grapes that were being harvested in Spain in mid-September. We may have sampled a few!

After taking some video of such a truck, we heard shouting back and to the left—“OYE! Camino!” I originally thought they were just waving to us as it is habitual for any and all to greet one another on the walk with a “Buen Camino”, but I was wrong. A family harvesting grapes out in the middle of the vineyard was desperately trying to get our attention. One of the women made her way over to us to point out where we had missed a turn. She directed us back, saying that we could have continued on the way we were going, but it would have been much longer. We were very grateful to her—it would have been so easy to just let us walk on. To be apathetic about another’s plight. But instead, like Félix, they took care of the pilgrims. This was a lesson in being alert and helping those that don’t realize they need it.

José, Rosy, and the Miracle of the Wounded Knee

As I mentioned, my left knee had really begun to bother me because of strain. I hadn’t done anything except overuse it on difficult terrain. Dan had K-taped me which helped, but didn’t really give the amount of support that I found I needed. A sassy, flesh-colored brace was what I was in the market for. Unfortunately, this realization came to me as either a) there wasn’t a pharmacy around and b) it was Sunday and the pharmacies were closed. Oh, and by the by, I had also developed the king of all blisters on my heel. I was hurting.

That Monday, September 16, we were slowly progressing our way to Villafranca del Bierzo, when we stopped to take a photo of some sheep, a shepherd, and his watchful canine companion. As we turned to walk on, we were hailed by a Spanish couple. The man, José, said, “I have been watching you” while pointing to his eye. “Can I help you?”

“Yes! Yes! Please help me!”, I exclaimed.

José and Rosy emigrated to Spain from Cuba 27 years ago; with José’s dual citizenship this wasn’t difficult. They make their home in Logroño.

José had some anti-inflammatory spray that he doused my knee in; this enabled me to get to the next largish town that had a pharmacy. There, I got some expert care from one of the pharmacists. A word here about pharmacies in Spain:

Pharmacists are legally able to prescribe medicine and are essentially like a physician’s assistant in the U.S. Every time I visited one (and it was several, let me tell you), they came from behind the counter, discussed my problems with me, and helped me obtain whatever medicine, bandage, therapy I needed. #didntremindmeofourmeijerzombiepharmacistsatall.

I walked out of the pharmacy with the afore-described sassy knee brace, a fresh spritz of the anti-inflammatory and was good.to.go. 

Dan, me and Rosy showing off my super sexy and sassy knee brace. Thank goodness for it, José, and his anti-inflammatory spray!

A further epiphany about the pharmacy situation in Spain—we encountered several over-the-counter type medicines that we do not have in the U.S. (probably not approved by the F.D.A.), but found them to be wonderful. Apparently there are all sorts of wonderful products readily available in Europe that one can’t find in the good ole U.S. of A. But I digress.


When we met, José was sporting an Alabama hat. ??? Of course, sports fanatic Dan spotted this right away and needed to know why a Spaniard was wearing such a hat. It turns out that José’s brother emigrated to the U.S. five years ago and now manages one of the golf courses around Birmingham. We assured the two of them that when they come to visit Alabama, we Buckeyes can certainly drive the 8-9 hour drive to meet up with them. Then, since we had already shared a café con leche and/or cerveza with José and Rosy, we decided to walk on, but not before sharing contact info.

A few days later, in Sarria, we met up with them for a meal of pulpo (Octopus—don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!) and albariño, a delicious Galician white wine.

Rosy, “adopted son” Juan from Colombia, and José. Sometimes you just gel with folks, ya know? Also pictured, pulpo, albariño, and some potatoes and a cutlet of some sort.

As we sat for hours with our friends, José said, “Marla. If you had not been injured and I weren’t daring, we never would have met.” This brought tears to my eyes. What a lesson that was. So many times in life, something really good comes out of something really bad. I was and remain profoundly thankful that I walked with such pain, because that brought Dan and me some of the most precious memories of the Camino and also a blossoming forever-friendship.

For our pulpo y vino lunch, José and Rosy had brought along a young friend that they had met in the intervening days, 30-year-old Juan from Colombia. That afternoon cemented our friendship with him and subsequently brought us 23-year-old Judit from Germany. We remain in contact with these lovely young souls and feel blessed to have walked with them from time to time over several days.

Lovely Judit from Germany–brought to us via Juan, but continued in our company because of connection. Judit is a nurse who will be on a special service trip to South Africa any moment. I felt like she was one of “my girls.”

Charo and the Case of the Lost Passport

The most amazing episode of our Camino happened the morning that we arrived in Sarria (and before our pulpo y vino with J y R). Our walk to Sarria wasn’t a long one, but the degree of difficulty was still there. Therefore, it was with glad hearts that we arrived in Sarria and looked forward to a rest day.

We crossed the bridge into town and there was an outreach group of 20-30 somethings

View from the bridge as we crossed into town.

 who worked for the Correos (postal system) in Spain.

A quick word about Correos: Along the Camino, the correos perform important tasks like mailing things home, holding packages for pilgrims, holding backpacks for the pilgrims in Santiago (as large packs aren’t allowed in the cathedral), etc. 

This particular group was promoting a “Clean Up the Camino” campaign sponsored by Correos. They had some swag to give out and you could take your picture dressed as a medieval pilgrim, etc. In short, it was light-hearted and fun. As we decided to take our pics, I set my pack on a bench and saw that while walking, the zipper had worked itself completely open. Not only that, but my WALLET was GONE! In the wallet were my passport, a credit card, and about 60 euro. Imagine my dismay as I thought I would be physically sick. The wallet could have been ANYWHERE in the last 11 miles. Going back to look for it was a physical impossibility.

Amongst the young people in the outreach group was a woman who was in more of a supervisory capacity. She was very sympathetic and was helpful in telling my shell-shocked face what I would need to do. She stopped and said, “How is your Spanish?” I replied that it was excellent, but I didn’t know where to go, what the process was, and that I was very upset and couldn’t even think. Bless her, she said, “I will take you and stay with you.” As I write this and relive this moment, I have tears in my eyes of thankfulness for Charo Calvo.

So. She and her friend who had a car drove Dan and me to the Guardia Civil (police) to file a report. As we started the process, the officers asked if I had any other documentation—so into the police car Dan and I piled (Charo stayed at the station) and we were off to the hotel with fingers crossed that our bags had arrived with my driver’s license in them. Dan decided to stay at the hotel to check us in, etc, and back to the station I went with the officers. Through all of this, the gentlemen kept reassuring me—you WILL  get your passport back, please don’t worry, this happens ALL THE TIME. They even offered me a couple of unclaimed passports in jest—I said I’d consider one of them if they were for a young, thin woman. #laughingthroughmytears.

A female officer started all the paperwork for me to take to Madrid to the embassy to get papers to be able to leave the country. Loyal Charo was busy planning for every possible outcome—if the passport gets turned in here in Sarria, could the police send it to her at Correos in Santiago? Then when I got there I could pick it up? etc, etc. About this time, the phone rang. As the officer listened into the receiver she locked eyes with me and said, “¡Tu esposo tiene tu pasaporte!” Charo, the officer and I all let out a shout of happiness and there were hugs all around!

Meanwhile…back at the hotel:

You will recall that Dan was sitting with the receptionist at the hotel “just in case.”

As they were sitting there mulling over where the zipper on my pack had possibly given up the ghost and all the other worrisome natter that folks go through when they are essentially helpless, one of the regular taxi drivers entered the vestibule with one of his deliveries of suitcases for the day. The receptionist said, “Hey, Francisco, have you heard any word of someone finding a lost passport?” According to our receptionist, Francisco always has his thumb on the pulse, ear to the ground, and Gladys to every Kravitz. Today was no exception.

His eyes got big—“Is it black? With a zipper? And a belt attached?”

The receptionist repeated this to Dan, who said, “Why yes! Yes it is!”

Francisco had apparently been driving into Sarria when he saw it laying on the sidewalk—not too far from where I discovered it missing! He picked it up and turned it in to a tourism office nearby. He started to explain to Dan (who has no Spanish) where it was and then said, “I take you!” So off they went.

Entering in to the tourism office, Francisco and Dan discovered the employees simultaneously scanning my passport and trying to find me on Facebook to see if they could locate my whereabouts. They happily returned the wallet to Dan, I happily returned to the hotel, and we both happily shook our heads in amazement at the inherent goodness of people. Angels among us, indeed.

Some will say, “That’s the Camino for you! People are always experiencing miracles on the Camino!” I will say, “That’s people for you—miracles are all around us if only we will look.” I truly believe in the goodness of my fellow humans and that there are angels among us every day.

Hasta la próxima (Until the next time)…

After a lovely farewell dinner with us, our dear José and Rosy headed elsewhere from Sarria to enjoy another week of vacation. We had lost track along the way of our Irish and Scottish ladies and two special groups of Aussies after they stopped earlier than Santiago. Our Camino ended in Santiago a few days later, capped by another small farewell party with Juan, Judit, some of their Camino family, and two other German ragamuffins, Rene and Mariano, with whom we had become friendly between Sarria and Santiago.

A 3 hour dinner served with a side of laughter–Rene and Mariano from Germany.

Our friendship with Rene and Mariano was solidified over several meals that contained more laughter than calories. We laughed so much my head hurt after. I’m still sure that if I ever get to Germany, that some words that Rene taught me are definitely NOT what he said they were! #ornery

Farewell party with Juan, Mariano, Rene, Dan, Judit, and me. There were many others there as each person forms their own “Camino Family.”


The Way = Life

Sitting here at home, I reflect on the wonderful experience that was the Camino de Santiago. In life, as on The Way, there are so many lessons, opportunities for kindness, and evidence of God’s grace. I think what makes the Camino so special to people is that they walk with their eyes wide open—open to new people, open to new experiences, and open to kindnesses—both given and received. If there is any take away from our weeks spent walking, it is this: you don’t have to abandon the way you felt on the Camino; you can live The Way every day. The Camino isn’t just a geographical place, or even an experience. It is within each of us if we just dare, as José did, to keep our eyes and hearts open to its light in others.


Buen Camino