Camino de Santiago Day Four: Larrasoana to Pamplona

4 04 2018

The rest of last night was so fun. It was our first night staying in a Casa Rural dorm and we had the chance to really connect with other pilgrims. The Korean group had also been at Encinal, then there were some Canadians, a French woman, a German man, Australians, and one from Great Britain. The group was very friendly and convivial and when Suzy broke out her travel guitar they seemed to enjoy it, we each played a few songs out on the deck waiting for dinner. We enjoyed talking to Charlotte from France who is on a very long Camino in stages. She’s already done three from Le Puy in France three separate times. This is her fourth leg and she hopes to complete the route in two more stages. It just goes to show the commitment some have to finishing the walk despite the constraints of work.

Fellow pilgrim Alistair gave me the tip that the supermarket next door would be open til 7 and that the owner Angel has a wine he will pour for you while you shop, it’s his house wine made by a small Rioja producer and was delicious. Alistair in the couple hours he was in Larrasoana had become a very good customer of Angel’s and thus got him to put Janis Joplin on the turntable at this adorable shop. The wine was really great, a crown a style but. O label for 4,35 Euro so I bought one to share with the group.

Dinner was fabulous. Since Monday was the last day of the Semana Santa holiday and the town was quite small we opted to eat the communal meal at the Albergue St. Nicolas. It was a delicious soup with white asparagus, artichokes and greens followed by breaded pork cutlets with piquillo peppers, basically the local and deliciously sweet red peppers drenched in olive oil and sweet melt in your mouth garlic. They also had a cheesecake and a bottle of wine for the six at the table, then Alistair and I opened ours and we had a little sing along. It wasn’t very long though as it was soon almost 10pm which is lights out. Good thing because check out is 8am!

The scene at this hostel was good, a sort of entry level group living experience, but I’m not really familiar with this type of travel so I think it will take getting used to it. My phone wouldn’t reach my perch in the top bunk so I was stuck up there without any light and I woke up a few times disoriented as it was so so dark. I felt a bit stranded way up there not knowing what time it was but my phone had to charge up overnight. In the morning with my contacts out and in the pitch black it was too dangerous to jump down from the bunk so once again I just lay there wondering what time it was for a few hours. There were lockers for our packs but I seemed to be a little disorganized this morning and my bag was packed off balance, luckily it wasn’t a long walk. On the good side I was so thankful for my travel towel which dried super fast. They had disposable sheets for sale but I had my handy silk sleep sack which was perfect and warm enough that my down blanket was really more like a security blanket, I was warm enough. The sleep sack was also perfect for covering my head so it didn’t need to rest on the plastic covered pillow or mattress.

We headed out on the early side going to find some breakfast coming from our corner of town towards the center and encountered two pilgrims coming from the route to find a coffee but to no avail. I even asked a local and there’s no coffee or breakfast in town unless Angel for some reason decided to get up early.

So off it was without coffee or breakfast. The walk was pretty much the same, still up through quaint villages and farmlands where the grass was the most verdant shade of green. We neared a bridge at Zuriain and like an oasis a cafe appeared. As pilgrims crossed many descended upon the cafe, almost like an apres ski scene in Tahoe without the snow…poles were perched, packs were dropped. I got a jamon (not our jam like prosciutto) sandwich and a cafe con leche. This was the first REALLY great bread I found on the trip. Super crispy crackly on the outside so much so that I was covered in breadcrumbs by the time I devoured the sandwich. I’m thinking I need to be eating more than I’m used to… we enjoyed a leisurely time watching other pilgrims roll in and out and a small striped kitten entertaining everyone by toying with the straps of all the backpacks.

Soon it was off again. While today was supposed to be “easy” it seemed we were a bit slow, which is fine. We piggybacked other pilgrims many times, I think because we had trouble with our rhythm. Suzy had to adjust her shoe due to a pebble or dried mud inside and thankfully since my pack was shifty and pulling at me from my left side. Two adjustments and it still just wasn’t perfect. We took extra time baffled by a conga line of caterpillars that we learned are a totally nuisance and very bad news if you touch them. They release their spines into your skin and cause an allergic reaction. My feet are still ok but today after the climbs we suddenly descended on pavement into the medieval town of Arre and from that point forward it was completely flat… and really the first city sidewalk since Barcelona. I never thought I’d say I preferred the steeps but the arches of my feet felt like they were collapsing. I’d worn thinner socks as a test and I really prefer my extra padded Smartwool socks that filled my boot more.

Well, be careful of your intentions out here in this land because just as I was pining for a small incline we hit the steep ascent in and past the moat and town walls of Pamplona. Luckily the hostel was very close to the walls of the city and they were super friendly. It’s the Albergue Pamplona-Iruna and is a few rows of coed bunks. Each had a curtain for privacy and it looks like what I’d think a tour bus setup would look like. Of course me being younger got the top bunk but it’s hard to get up there. They give you a disposable sheet to put on the bed and I struggled to get the thing on while sitting on it, there was no where to perch to get it on. I’m glad to have my silk liner. I need to make sure I don’t roll around as it’s not like a bunk, there’s no ledge to prevent you from rolling off if you move in your sleep.

Suzy was excited to be in a bigger city so although we were totally exhausted we headed out in search of a place to exchange dollars to Euros. Apparently on the EU they no longer do that at banks… and they don’t take American Express much in Spain either we heard… she tried two places today that said they exchange but it wasn’t true, this was the first chance she had too because we were in small towns AND it was the holiday. She went off in search of an exchange and I went to eat because I was having a serious food low and needed to eat, had some rose and Padron peppers, some boquerones (the deliciously subtly garlic and vinegar flavored Spanish sardines) and I became human again. Suzy is now trying to exchange money at a hotel nearby… we are praying. The issue is her debit and credit cards (and some cash) were pick pocketed in Barcelona so she can’t access her accounts. Super stressful, so have a backup plan just in case.

Heading back to the hostel soon, my body and brain are tired and feel fuzzy, from walking and a few glasses of wine. Today was no less intense I think because the body is confused and the mind is overstimulated and the adrenaline of the first few days has run its course leaving me on a little low. I’m not unhappy but if this blog is going to be honest then there you go. I’m tired in many ways, my nerves are frayed, the work issues I thought were tied up aren’t and I’ve found that my super comfy Crocs sandals are not compatible with the slick wet streets of Pamplona. Yes, it has started to rain and so the future is unsure but we will make it happen, and I do have to say I’m so thankful for all of you who are reading. It fulfills me and gives me extra energy. Thank you.

It means the world!

If anyone has a few extra dollars you’re wanting to throw around you can buy me a beer ;).

Camino de Santiago Day Three: Espinal to Larrasaona

3 04 2018

I expected today to be easy in comparison to yesterday but I’m learning quickly that The Camino de Santiago is never really what you’d expect. My body felt surprisingly good today, no sore spots, feet are perfect, I’m in love with them. I’m happy to report that they’re still 100% right now. Hips a bit sore where they support the pack but I was told that’s to be expected.

We headed out after a light breakfast and were immediately on an uphill slope once more! We rose above the valley once again feeling the muscles re-engage from yesterday. The day was warmer than yesterday, but with a little less direct sun. I was wearing less layers which was nice because i was warm very soon.

And so what goes up must come down so after our crazy ascent yesterday and today too it was downhill, but this was no walk in the park. There were evil stairs, scree and then the worst very slippery thick gray clay, once it was on your boots you’d slide around the next stone you stepped on. Every step needed to be measured which was mentally exhausting. You also had to be vigilant with the poles and not overextend your knees! There was even another river crossing!

I tried to distract myself with the small wildflowers.

Today we are staying at the Albergue St. Nicolas, shared rooms four per room in bunk beds, divided (at least ours, between men and women. The bathrooms/showers here are not co-ed and you have plenty of space to dress in there and it’s super clean. I seem to have lost my conditioner, shampoo and body wash but luckily Suzy brought me a bar of Argan soap which is great. Now we are hanging outside with pilgrims from Korea and Toronto. Suzy broke out the guitar and we enjoyed some beers

So thankful for my feet today, they took a beating and no blisters. I was amazed by how they moved in my shoe and took the brunt of every step clinging to the trail. Every muscle in my foot and ankles was used to keep my footing down the slopes! Tomorrow we have an easy three hour walk to Pamplona! It’s like a day off. Today according to my iPhone app was 12.3 miles, 83 floors, 30,078 steps although Suzy’s says we walked more than that… we did about 4 hours in the first leg then about 1:45 for the last part. Hasta manana!

Camino de Santiago Day Two: Valcarlos to Espinal

1 04 2018

Photo by Suzy Cameleon

I cannot believe this intense feeling of exhilaration I feel right now.  We have crossed the Pyrenees and a waterfall!

While yesterday was about variable weather today was more about incredibly variable terrain.  The weather today was just stunning, bright sun and although it started out cold, around 35, warmed up in places to the mid 50s F.  We left Valcarlos a little late, 8:50, they suggested we try to leave on he early side as there would be some Easter celebration traffic and we soon found they were right.  The first part of the route went through Valcarlos and then soon deposited us onto the highway.  The traffic got more frequent as we walked but I cannot imagine what tourist season would be like with lots of traffic because there are no sidewalks and you’re basically walking right on the highway.  At one point we saw what looked like black slugs or maybe leeches in the grass, there’s been so much rain that there are little rivers flowing down the side of the road and it’s very wet.  The road is a challenging part because you must be ever vigilant to try to be on the side of the road with the most clearance and sometimes have to cross to prevent being behind a blind curve.  For many stretches you’re literally on the white line at the edge of the lane.  Up up up!  Around lots of switchbacks.

We were relieved when this stretch ended and the guideposts pointed left and we went down to the river and past a pretty house.  Then it was up a somewhat steep grade on terrain that was basically wet fractured slate and rock with vegetation and wet leaves all over it.  Getting a foothold was challenging and I was so grateful to have my poles.  The area is also narrow and a bit scary for me at least.  I did enjoy the lush scenery, it was very serene with mossy trees and the sound of the swift rushing water was musical rather than the whizzing of cars in our ears.  Little bridges cross the river in places and it seems like gnomes and fairies are watching from the mossy tree stumps.  And it was mostly uphill!

After another short stint on the road we were again on a hill with a steep drop off, it was a drier type of vegetation with lots of spiky vines and plants that it you’re not careful can get through your pants and scratch you.  Meanwhile the path is super narrow and scary and in one place had washed away so we had to climb past some of those spiky plants to get around.  Then there were patches of slippery mud.  And still up, up, up…

After awhile we turned a corner to hit another forest with more shade and less scrub and a beautiful wide leaf strewn path, still tons of mud but less stressful to navigate.  As we kept going up up up we started to see snow on the ground and large moss-covered trees knocked over by storms.  When looking up it appeared we were getting very close to the peak which was good because our hearts were pounding and our legs were burning.  We tried to sing a few spirituals from Oh Brother Where Art Though to get us to the top of the mountain both mentally and physically (sometimes singing helps me remember to breathe).

As we got to the top of the forest I could hear cars again and as we rounded the back of a tile roofed farmhouse to our astonishment we saw that it wasn’t the top of the mountain, not even close.  Just a little bit of road walking and there was a fountain and a stone bench to sit on.

We took a little rest and caught our breath. I think both of us were wondering how much further it could be. The next leg of the path looked inviting though and so we plodded onward, and up, up, up! We were it in what seemed like a conifer forest with snow on either side of the path, then eventually slush all over the path, then full snow, about 4 inches covered the path making a distinct squish squish squish noise as we rose even further over the valley. We could now see the house by the road was way below us. We soon heard the loud rushing water and saw a waterfall in front of us with a steep ravine to our left… no bridge here just determination and secure footing could get us across, I was unsure of myself since there had been so much snow and rain and I have an intense fear of falling and the water was really rushing but I made it.

Finally we came to the top, oh wait nope another hill but the end was in sight, at the top of the stairs.

We were finally at Ibaneta, a little snowy peak where kids were sledding. After an informal prayer with our own bread and wine we began our descent. A tour group who had no idea what we’d just been through had just been dropped to make the descent into Roncevalles with us and were navigating the slick and snowy muck. I was struck by their varying levels of abilities and a tear came to my eye as I watched them struggle, thinking how my fear almost got the best of me many times today, and they were experiencing their own fear on this stretch as well. They had made a commitment to walk the Camino in whatever was they could.

It was a relief to get to Roncevalles where we got our credentials stamped and stopped for lunch and wine, the pilgrim menu was delicious at Casa Sabina 10 Euro for two courses, coffee and wine. We said hi to some ponies and took the requisite photo with the sign… 790 km to go.

It was onwards towards Espinal our stop for the night. The next leg was thankfully though very muddy and the forest was full of holly trees. We learned that the Sorginaritz forest translates into Oakwood of Witches, it was where many covens were said to congregate. It leads to the town of Burgete where nine of these witches were burned in the square to persecute them for their. Non-Christian beliefs and pagan practices.

Past Burgete is farmland with grazing horses, sheep and cattle and a view from where we came. We took it slow enjoying the flat wide farm path and the various animals.

just when we thought we were home free another hill loomed and we chanted “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” to muster our strength up the last steep incline.

And we reached Espinal and walked to our Albergues Irugoiena just in the outskirts of town. What a day. The albergue has both dorms 10, 5 we opted to get a double room for 22,5 Euros. Everything was closed as it was Easter Sunday but we had a great dinner made by Luis who does everything at the albergue 6am to 9pm for six full months every single day! Then he has six months off to enjoy hiking the snowy peaks here. We slept comfortably and happily and this morning had a nice breakfast and now it’s off on another journey!

Camino de Santiago Day One: St. Jean Pied de Port to Valcarlos 

31 03 2018

Phew, we arrived in Valcarlos after an intense hike from St. Jean Pied de Port, 3 hours and 20 minutes only stopping twice for some water. The route took us out the gate of SJPP and through lots of farmland and then forest. Most of it was backcountry roads but one short stretch was right on the muddy grassy shoulder of the main highway. When we began it was hailing and dumping rain and then it would clear up a bit before dumping on us again. We passed farms where sheep grazed and pigs made love, amazing magnolias and forsythia in bloom, wild violets and mountain peaks covered with snow.  The farms provided a soundtrack of braying cows and chattering chickens and we would get wafts of the smells of fertile soil, and the various manures of the animals, each one distinctly different, and not entirely unpleasant. Gotta say I was pretty excited to finally witness the male pig’s unique corkscrew anatomy that I’d been warned of by college roommates including Robin Hopwood and Deb Stull. As I took some racy porcine video footage Suzy, my walking companion, was worried I was at the gateway to producing animal porn, but it’s just nature folks.

 The Valcarlos route was pretty empty, no doubt because most pilgrims started early in order to make it to Roncevalles. It winds around the river and bounces back and forth along the border of France and Spain. We opted to go for a short route…  according to my iPhone approximately 8.5 miles, 56 flights of stairs.  We figured we’d rather take it easy on day one due to potential gear, weather and other  issues such as difficulty finding accommodation on Easter weekend in Roncevalles. 

 I’m glad we did, at the end of our journey we had to descend all the way to the river and then back up to the town of Valcarlos.  The slope was a ridged pavement covered in leaves.  It was incredibly slippery from the rain and wet leaves and steep! I was so grateful for my poles and even leaning all the way over into the grade found myself almost slip twice. Seconds after we reached Valcarlos and entered our apartment at Apartamentos Mendiola the ominous cloud that was behind us reached the town and from our spacious kitchenette we watched a ridiculous hailstorm. 

After it was done the sun came back now it’s outing again the fourth time in a crazy cycle. I ditched my boots and socks and put on some Crocs at the apartment and went for a bite at Ardanegia, a cafe with their own wine. I got some hot fried gambas and French fries. This place has a vibe like a Spanish Big Sur, the cute cafe is attached to a grocery store and teeming with locals and lots of tourists in Camino gear.  I was so glad we didn’t have a full breakfast this morning or stop for lunch in Arneguy, nothing looked open anyway…We would have gotten stuck, and thank goodness weren’t on the way to Roncebvales with each of the squalls rolling through it would Have been totally miserable. After a few naps helped by the patter of more rain we headed back up to Ardanegia as our host told us if a celebration that was to happen on the eve of Easter with dancing and some special food.  As we enjoyed beers and watching all the locals it became clear that the fete was cancelled due to weather but we got our Valcarlos stamps at the grocery and headed out into the town to see two men on horseback riding down the middle of the highway.  They implored us to stay for the festival the following day.  Around the comer from the church we saw the large gathering and joined in buying more beers and the local special food for the event which was a tortilla like wrap with bacon, chorizo sausage , cheese or Nutella.  Delicious and only 3 Euro or 3,5 for two items.

Back to the grocer for snacks for day two and back to our apartment with the luxury of gathering our clean clothing!

Day One in the books, and feeling strong for the next leg to Espinal since Roncevalles was booked solid.  Happy Easter!

The Beginning: The Camino de Santiago de Compostela

30 03 2018

Training walk on Nantucket

After many years of thought about it, many weeks and months of planning it is finally the eve of my first  Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

It was rough leaving Nantucket.  I had so much to do, preparation of tax documentation to leave with an accountant, piles of receipts, Airbnb preparation for the 2018 season and of course prep for the 2018 season at my snack bar, The Hungry Minnow (cleaning, preparing for the inspections, getting a sign made…), oh and also explaining to my boss (for the beverage sales job I have) that I’m not going to be around for five weeks before the kick off of the season and trying to explain why it will be fine.  Add to that last week’s special events at the Nantucket Historical Association, setup and prep for “There and Back” a visit of 120 3rd graders to the whaling museum.  I taught 60 third graders (15 at a time for four times and four modules for two days) 1. How to speak Portuguese 2. How to play ukulele 3. How to coil rope.  Oh yeah and I had to learn ukulele last week and sea shanties?!  OMG talk about stress.  And I almost forgot I was a contestant in the Nantucket’s Got Talent show, after auditioning I was selected to perform and attended rehearsal, sound check and then performed and sang my original song  “Gotta Go To Sea” on guitar to 300 people!  At the end I got super emotional and actually had a catharsis and burst out crying.  Such a good release of energy though as I was under an incredible amount of stress over the last few weeks.

Although I’d done many practice hikes I didn’t have time for as many recently due to the incredible number of nor’easters we got.  Yet I do feel somewhat prepared for the task.  The last day on the island was spent hurriedly throwing things in boxes, meeting with our tax attorney at the very last minute 7:45am the day I was set to leave, and finally coming to terms that everything I needed to get done before a 40 day journey was just NOT going to get accomplished.  Contingency plans were made and it will all be ok.

At the last minute the bag I had packed, whose contents I’d weighed and re-weighed, repacked over and over again went on its way with what was inside, I found very little lacking but also a few extra “stow-away” items (tequila horn for example) that I’d basically forgotten were placed near the bag.  But I left the island not entirely sure what was in the only thing on my back for the next few weeks. I was also so confused to not be lugging around my usual computer bag, purse, suitcase.  On the way to the ferry I ran into my friend Amy Zielinski just driving past B-ACK Yard BBQ likely on another mission but for me I felt like she was there to keep my anxiety in check.  On the ferry it was William from the talent show who gave me a warm high five and Suzanne Keating from whom I’ve taken astrology classes who gave my her homeopathic Arnica just in case of bruising.  Bith also gave me hugs and he reassurance that I’d be ok.  As Suzanne said, “Don’t freak out!”, because she could see I was!  Tears were basically streaming down my face the entire morning.  Off the ferry it was so easy to hit the road with only a pack, no waiting on luggage.  I ran into Sean who I work with at the whaling museum returning from the transportation center to catch the ferry.  Got a hug and noted his TSA had busted his backpack on his return from Iceland. The jaunt to the bus at the transportation center was so easy with just the pack and then I was on the way to Logan.

Checking in since I wasn’t checking any luggage was a breeze and I didn’t even need to  remove the liquids from all the corners of my bag.  I grabbed a crab cake at Legal Sea Food and some beers at Stephanie’s and then at the gate we were treated to blue and green frosted cupcakes.  Turns out the reason this flight was so cheap ($159 one way direct Boston to Barcelona) was because it was the inaugural flight of Iberia’s Level airline.  On board it was super bare bones.  No luggage allowed other than carry on (or else you get a hefty fee) and not even a water (be sure to bring your own water and snacks!). Luckily I was exhausted.  They did have free movies so I saw about 5 minutes of Wonder before I was out.  I slept about two hours the night before.  I didn’t think the kid looked that different anyway.  

Upon arrival my seat mate told me about the easy train transfer into the Barcelona and I was able to navigate the Metro system, just one transfer to make it to the Sagrada Familia. There I met my walking partner Suzy who had already been touring Barcelona for a few days.  Her sister Elizabeth had the foresight and generosity to book us on a guided tour of the magnificent church.  We were lucky since my seat mate on the plane had said it was sold out, it is Easter week aka Semana Santa, a huge holiday in Spain. We were outfitted with headsets not for translation but because there are so many people around and so many tours concurrently. 

Work still continues on this incredible building today based on sketches left by architect and visionary Gaudi.  They hope to have the remaining third facade done in the next 9 years.  The front facade where you enter depicts Jesus’ birth.  The natural life is featured and the entire facade is divided into three by two columns held up by stone turtles… a sea turtle on the side towards the Mediterranean and a land tortoise on the side towards the mountain. The detail is incredible. 

Upon entering the church you’re immediately struck by the incredible height and lift of the room.  Silvery and reflecting natural light the ceiling soars, an ethereal canopy supported by grand columns that narrow at the top and burst into branches at their apex.  Our guide explained that the columns are made of varying materials based on the load each bore. Sandstone for the smaller ones, then granite and finally porphyr for the four huge main columns that support the entire structure.  One you can pull yourself away from the ceiling you realize that you are bathed in the glow of a rainbow of stained glass infused light.  As you get deeper into the church you’ll also see the two main sides of the stained glass are distinct.  The side that receives the morning sun is all gradations of cool blues and greens while the opposite sunset side evokes the warmer yellow, orange and red warm hues. Rather than depict the saints visually their names are written within the panes.  Above two balconies are perched on both sides to hold 800 choir members so that their voices lift from the upper areas of the church.  The spires being created are planned to produce music that can be heard from around the cathedral.  The shapes and designs within the building seem whimsical yet evoke the intricate geometry and mathematical patterns found in nature, then each unique design element is linked to the story of Jesus, his birth, death and resurrection.  It was not lost on me how special it was to visit on Holy Week.  

We exited from the side opposite the entrance to see the side depicting Christ’s death.  Thematically and appropriately it’s distinctly somber with almost garish brutally edged figures depicting his betrayal, torture and crucifixion.  The juxtaposition is striking. 
We also visited the museum beneath and saw how Gaudi used small bags of weights and mirrors to model his architectural plans and a lab where today 3D printers print state of the art building models that accelerated greatly the speed of the project.  To think he was able to create a structure so incredible without the benefit of present day technology that uses forms found in nature in a revolutionary way speaks to the incredible vision Gaudi had.  Considering his dedication to the project towards the end of his life suggests he must have had the inspiration of the spirit to be able to relay the story of the Sagrada Famiglia in this medium.  

For a fascinating read go to
I honestly could have spent many more hours exploring after the tour, but I had my pack on and I was starving so Suzy and I walked a few blocks and found a cute cafe where a salad or first course plus a main and a drink or dessert was 7 euros.  And by drink, beer was an option!  I had a chickpea tomato tuna salad and a breaded hamburger with cheese and bacon.  Totally solid.  We went back to the apartment Suzy’s sister had gotten to clean up and relax then headed to a Carrefour supermarket to grab some premise salads, lomo and jamon Iberico and we had a “picnic” with wine and Moroccan olives and olive oil Suzy had brought from home.  Off to bed early that night. 

Early in the morning a cab zipped us to the train station where I grabbed a coffee and juice and soon we were onboard a very clean and comfortable train to Pamplona the bathroom was nicer than any airplane bathroom I’ve ever seen, I wouldn’t normally even consider a train bathroom! In Pamplona we grabbed another  cab to the bus terminal and then a long wait with a few beers for the bus to the starting point in France, St. Jean Pied de Port.  

The ride was not too long and the scenery was stunning.  Steep switchbacks up the mountain range and the sight of snow in little shady valleys near the peaks made my heart flutter a bit faster as we continued to climb, because the first part of our journey crosses these mountains, the Pyrenees, back through Pamplona.  

St. Jean Pied de Port is a charming town and luckily a little less observant of today’s Good Friday holiday.  While everything in Pamplona was shuttered, SJPP was bustling with tourists and pilgrims alike.  We went through a medieval arch and towards the left up a steep cobbled road to the Pilgrim office where we were greeted and our name and origin were logged.  For 2 Euros donation we received our pilgrim passports that we get stamped along the way.  Suzy waited midway because she had an enormous bag that happened to be filled with our provision (olives and snacks), wine and even a guitar.  She’s on a longer journey than I am, eight months of travel from home.  We arranged for a service that will take her pack in the morning to our next destination, Valcarlos. Meanwhile my pack, despite all the obsessive weighing and logging is about 21 lbs, but yesterday was sunny and warm and I wasn’t wearing the heavier items.  

We checked into our hotel, La Villa Esponda, a very nice, clean private 2 bedroom, we wanted to ease into our pilgrim lifestyle with some creature comforts being that this entire thing is somewhat out of our wheelhouse.  After a regroup it was off to explore and find me some poles, it’s been super wet and rain is in the forecast so with my heavy pack it seemed a good plan, but most of the stores were already closed. I figured I could find some sticks.  We grabbed some sanglier (wild boar) saucisson and some spiced sardines and a local cows milk cheese for another in room pilgrim “picnic” and took a jaunt up the ramparts of the town to the top Citadel.  

Surrounded by a moat it has stunning views of the countryside but as we discovered you’re not meant to enter the courtyard which is now a college (we were scolded).  As the sun started to wane we saw some clouds building and a breeze starting and headed back through the town where we noticed a store we’d walked right past upon arrival!  And there they were the poles I wanted.  I splurged for the ones that can fold to fit in my pack and are very light weight.  They help propel you forward and take a lot of strain off your body.  The shopkeeper gave me a demo and added on the mud attachments and I was set.  This store by the way is the REI of SJPP, the have a ton of great equipment that I already had and they’re open 6am to 8pm!  

As we walked through town I was slightly jealous as I saw a group of pilgrims gathering for wine and a meal in an auberge setting, they looked super comfortable with thoughtful details like old hiking boots filled with flowers hanging over the window.  Just two doors down there was a very different display, two mannequins dressed as old style pilgrims atop green AstroTurf with blinking Christmas lights.  There’s really a unique experience available no matter what you’re looking for…

We grabbed a beer and a cider at a cafe down the way from our hotel where the barkeep was also bussing and waiting tables like a champ.  It seemed busy and it’s just the start of the season, I cannot imagine the mayhem in August!  Despite being deep in the weeds, he was handling it in stride and with poise and happened  to speak many many languages.  You find that signs here are both in French and Basque and of course Spain is not far away at all, add all the tourists and it’s a cacophony of languages in this town. We bought a bottle of Irouleguy rouge since it’s from the area, only 10 minutes away!

Our in room picnic was delicious and satisfying and we laid out our clothes on expectation of a cold (40F) rainy day.  We opted to take an extra day on this leg since the weather is still unpredictable and many people tend to overdo it in the early stages.  It’s only 6.8 miles but the elevation gain is 3248 feet. The main pass to Roncevalles is closed, snow predicted today, it is prohibited so pilgrims who walk it do so at their own risk.  Seems the municipalities can no longer afford expensive pilgrim rescues from that route.  I started this blog after a luxurious hot shower and then slept a bit only to wake dying to finish it.  It’s like Christmas Eve.  I am so excited to open up the gifts I know are waiting for me.  Wish me luck, soon I’ll be officially on my Camino as I take my first steps out the gate of this town and on my Way.

Camino, Ready?

22 03 2018

IMG_3572IMG_2941My first Blog Post about the Camino de Santiago was almost to the day two months ago.  This seems like a lot of time when you plan it, but when you live it, not so much.  Real life of course gets in the way, and all the time slips through your fingers like sand.  Today is the one year anniversary that I got the ok to run my very own snack bar and gift shop on Nantucket, The Hungry Minnow!

Time through your fingers like sand?  Maybe I could (as a songwriter) think of a better metaphor BUT I DON’T HAVE TIME PEOPLE!  I leave in FIVE days basically!  To walk 500 miles by foot across Spain with a 14 lb backpack.  OMG!  I have taxes to do, things to clean, packing, things to wrap up, things to plan, things to discard and things to keep.  I am definitely overwhelmed, but knowing myself I think this is my own undoing or my own incredible intervention.  Create an issue and a deadline and get things done, or LET THEM GO.

I am suspicious that this may not be my last Camino de Santiago… (to learn more about the journey visit  That said, I am taking this journey to heart and using it to change my own paradigm.  Paradigm (Noun a worldview underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject)  When I was at Cornell although I thought myself somewhat erudite (ha! that kinda means smart…)  At first when the Hotel Ezra Cornell weekend, “Changing the Paradigm,” was revealed I was totally confused and pretended to know what it meant, but perhaps I am just not very good at this particular task.  THUS this journey is almost like a rebirth (apropos I would say) or a ripping of me out of my comfort zone.

The first time I discussed actually walking this journey I thought I could use my “adopted family” as a crutch.  With a group and with some older people then I would be able to join them in vehicles and walk a little, get our luggage moved, and relax and have some wine.  Soon I realized that was not “my” Camino.  For whatever reason I have been asked to purge. (Oh I hear you all saying there are plenty of reasons…)  Look folks I am not a purger…  I LOVE having a lot of friends, even on FB, I LOVE coming up with a craft idea and knowing that immediately (before the inspiration departs) I could try it out because I have the right glue, beads, fabric whatever…  I know this is not the normal, but it IS what I am.  I hoard ideas, so someone says something in a coffee shop line and I grab it and I hole it away and one day it becomes a song…  I know this attitude is not easy for those around me.  I understand that this is not what many people would find a comforting life, but I have to do it, I feel compelled to do it.

I was not born to have ONE job, and I wish my dad were around to talk about it, because he would totally “get me”.  My dad had at one point FOUR restaurants, but he still also (sometimes successfully, and sometimes not) tried his luck at an airline, the diamond and jewel business (that went ok actually), trying to sign a boy band (I told him they were terrible, and we kept that demo tape), he knew SO much about SO many things.  So maybe that was my inspiration to never pick ONE thing.  Yet, so funny at the end of the day, despite my declarations that I would NEVER own a restaurant, here I am, owner of The Hungry Minnow.  And in fact, despite my declarations, I could not be happier or proud to follow in his path.

So where do I sit at this moment?  Almost frozen in fear of leaving my computer, of letting all my piles of paper languish untouched, the literally thousands of UNIMPORTANT emails sitting there as if I may need them someday.  I am hoping to remove these things from my life so that the TINY snippets of conversations from coffee shops, and the little words of wisdom not oft remembered can surface once again.

This will not be an easy extraction my friends, I promise you, but I hope I can return a better, more organized, more balanced person.  I hope that by reducing the clutter in many ways that I will be able to have more insight and vision and share that with you.   Thank you for listening.  If you would like to support me or send an intention with me on my way please do.

To help support this journey

JOIN ME?  Keep up with me at

I would be more than happy to send a message to the Cathedral of Saint James whether or not you make a donation, please let me know the intention you would like to send, I will carry it with me and leave it there.    Much love.


First Shot Selfie

Second Shot by Kimberly Charles Charles Communications Asscociates

The Hungry Minnow at Children’s Beach

7 04 2017

Crazy things are happening here on Nantucket!  I have been given the opportunity to run the concession and gift shop at Children’s Beach!

I am so excited to soon share a full menu with you as well as some more about the concept.  Basically The Hungry Minnow will feature family friendly, delicious and healthful food with a little bit of a twist.  While we will have some favorite snack bar classics, we will also take a spin on some innovative items that I have come to love in my culinary journeys!  Think street tacos, fries with eyes, skinny dips (dips you can dive into!), great baked goods and more!

Although the space is cozy there will also be a retail area featuring my recycled crafts as well as some art and crafts from local Nantucket artisans.  Expect to see a few of my favorite gourmet pre-packaged foods from my talented friends in the industry and a few select gift items.  Just as the whalers of Nantucket’s past have done I have sourced ingredients, recipes and souvenirs from across the world and look forward to sharing those with you!  We will be renting beach toys and chairs and be a one stop hub for all your beachy needs!

With a lot of work to go, The Hungry Minnow is slated to open in time for Mother’s Day, or maybe sooner if the universe will cooperate.  There is a lot to do to get ready.  This all fell into my lap so quickly (sent in my bid on February 27, chosen March 1 and confirmed it was a go with the Board of Selectmen on March 22!) so to help finance things I have started a Go Fund Me account, anything helps, but honestly your positive intentions from around the globe help too!

Can’t wait to share some photos with you once I get the place spruced up!

Keep swimming,



To help fund The Hungry Minnow click here.

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Headed in the Write Direction

2 02 2016

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Hi friends and subscribers!  I am sorry I have been neglecting my blog posts, but I do want you to know I have not stopped writing.  You should be hearing a lot more here very soon.  I have been incubating ideas and trying to put them on paper, or to music, so the news that I just received is really inspiring!  It came at a time when I was really questioning my path and whether I should put down my pen and guitar.  So the news is:

“American Songwriter Magazine has announced the results of their March/April 2016 Lyric Contest awarding Nantucket based singer songwriter Rebecca Chapa an honorable mention for her song “Carpe Diem”. Winners and honorable mentions are now listed on the American Songwriter website and will be in the print copy of the March/April 2016 issue expected to be released in early March.”

I can’t wait to share the finished song with you when I have it ready, it’s in the works.  Until then you can listen to some of my other songs at ReverbNation or come see me at Open Mic either in Nantucket (Fridays at The BOX) or San Francisco (Tuesdays at Ireland’s 32).  Yep, although they made me pick one location for my town, I am still doing the bicoastal thing, and loving it.  You never know where I may be!

Read the full press release here!




1 02 2016


NANTUCKET, Mass February 2, 2016

American Songwriter Magazine has announced the results of their March/April 2016 Lyric Contest awarding Nantucket based singer songwriter Rebecca Chapa an honorable mention for her song “Carpe Diem”. Winners and honorable mentions are now listed on the American Songwriter website and will be in the print copy of the March/April 2016 issue expected to be released in early March.

Two additional Massachusetts songwriters also fared well in the contest. Christa Joy of Easthampton won second place for “You Don’t Know” and James Pimenta of Taunton an honorable mention for “I’ve Seen It All.” Perhaps they were inspired by Stoughton, Massachusetts resident Lori McKenna. McKenna with co-writers Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose won the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year and Single of the Year for Little Big Town’s recording of “Girl Crush”. The song is also up for three awards at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.

“This could not have come at a better time” Chapa says, “Many artists and writers have less traditional jobs, so there are times when we question our lofty aspirations, and consider getting a “day job”. I was hitting one of those lows and needed the inspiration to keep writing. I needed some guidance and faith and it was delivered overnight… I got the news the very next day.”

Chapa’s song itself is evocative of those themes as it laments,

“I can’t tell you where I’m going

I don’t remember where I’ve been

Storm clouds seem to be blowing

I’m walking straight into the wind.”

Chapa is currently working on an album called Road to Know Where. While this contest was based on lyrics only, Chapa does have music that accompanies Carpe Diem. “This was such a huge surprise that I haven’t recorded the song yet, but that’s what winter in Nantucket is for. We have great musicians on this island and a good deal of time on our hands.”


For more information, contact Rebecca Chapa Music at 415 378-1674 or email

Rebecca Chapa writes and sings from the heart. A mix of Folk, Americana, and Country with a just a dash of spirituality. She is also a published wine and spirits writer.  Booking: or call 415 378-1674

Twitter: @RebeccaChapa Facebook: Rebecca Chapa Music

Instagram: @RebeccaChapa You Tube: rchapa1

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25 10 2015

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