How to reach the Camino Trail

From Los Angeles we flew to Madrid, Spain however, perhaps I’m just starting to get ahead of myself in this story. I am currently on what one might call the training phase. Why just yesterday in the span of a few hours “us” pilgrims were blessed, briefed about our route of travel and no more. The Camino has a certain way of filling in the blanks and obviously a picture is worth a thousand words.

Once we arrived in Madrid we took a high speed rail train to Pamplona. From Pamplona we took a bus and then a taxi to St Jean, in France. Why yes, our Camino starts in France; also known as the Camino Frances.

And if you are more than interested about this adventure then here are notes to myself about getting there.

The RENFE (Spanish National Rail Company) website for timetables, routes and fares.

The train from Madrid to Pamplona takes around 3 hours and it is very comfortable and its price is around 50 euro. if you book the train online more than 15 days in advance you can get the Tarifa Web (Web Fare) with a 60% of discount or more than 7 days in advance with the Tarifa Estrella (Star Fare) with a 40% discount.

Now to get from Pamplona to the start of the camino at St Jean Pied de Port, France.

Once in Pamplona it is not so easy to reach St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. There are no train lines crossing the border line to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port (since St-Jean is a really small village) and therefore it is a common practice to take a bus from Pamplona to the little village of Roncesvalles and then share a taxi from Roncesvalles to St. Jean Pied de Port with other pilgrims.

Another option is taking a train or a bus from Madrid (or wherever you come from) to San Sebastian which is a big and extremelly beautiful city of the Basque Country very near the border with France.

Then, from San Sebastian it is very easy to reach Bayonne either by bus (that costs just around 7 euro and takes 90 min.) or by train.

Once in Bayonne, there is a direct train line that takes you to St. Jean Pied de Port. The train takes 1 hour and costs around 7 euro and the journey is very pleasant since you can see the Pyrenees.

Check the TER web site  for timetables and fares.

Amazing what one can learn when doing a little research for an adventure. And now back to my twelve mile training hike with a full pack. Just like I plan on carrying on the Camino and the great part is, all of it weighs just a mere ten pounds.

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Valentines/Dna/Morning Walk/Lucy Dog

This morning (me) thinks my ears are getting flushed or is that Lucy’s? Why, possibly on account of not hearing, “not once, but, twice I tell you don’t take Lucy out – it’s pouring rain outside”.  And so I now sit, pen these few words and slowly ponder at another fine predicament I’ve yet managed to get myself into, on a cold, wet, and rainy Valentines day morning. 

And if I knew I could only half carry a tune you know darn well these words could easily make it into a song for my Valentine Patti.

And just about an hour earlier Lucy and I started walking down the trail, she off-leash prancing, sort of giving me that grinning look of hers when she knows we’re sort of doing something we shouldn’t.  Her off the leash in a pouring downpour, periodically feeling her oats “scooby-doodog” by dragging her butt, and double timing her front paws, at the same time zig zagging around or near. 

Todays predicted downpour also fell short of trying to get any real photos or videos as I felt more in the moment walking while wet testing some wet weather hiking gear, hiking shoes and waterproof socks while listening to the likes of a mixed personalized music from YouTube music.

Enjoy your Valentines, I know we always do as we beat the crowd and celebrated two days ago – just in case Lucy didn’t listen to her momma Patti.

Here’s looking at you kid!

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Walking or Hiking is Good

Walking or hiking is good. But what’s even better is being able to just leave from the front door of your home.

Driving to a walking or hiking spot anytime of the year should not be a hassle. If it is then it tends to quickly demotivate you. Also coming back from a long walk or hike can quickly leave one questioning their next move. I like to usually go from hike to food. Once my stomach is content then move on to getting things put away, then on to cleaning myself. Now that I’m comfortable then I like to look at the days pictures and now so can you.

I took way too many pictures today mostly clouds, birds and trail. The rain has a great way of making any mundane pictures almost framable.

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Camino Training Hike

Today’s training hike to the Cleveland National forest gave me an opportunity to hike for three hours and to fully evaluate my current backpack. Since the Camino hike will not require me carrying food, cooking, tent, sleeping equipment or significant amounts of water; I am opting for a smaller pack.

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Cuba Cars, Holguin, Cuba

With the help of a local, I quickly gained an appreciation for the amount of efforts the Cuban people go through to ride public transportation.  The horse and buggy are probably the most dependable.  In the pictures below the horse and buggy is providing delivery services.  On a typical two lane road you can expect to find, on any time of the day or night; bicycles, oxen cart and driver; horse-drawn cart and driver; old cars, taxis, buses and trucks, all in the process of delivering humans or cargo.  And not once did I see any road kill or road rage or anyone needlessly honking or driving recklessly.

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The Cubano Cake & Eating It Too

via The Cubano Cake & Eating It Too

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A Visit to Bahia del Sol Restaurant, Holguin, Cuba

 

The place is historic, the

 

 

 

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The Cubano Fruit Stand

 

I wanted fresh fruit so, for around a $6 cab ride in a 50’s something American car, I was taken to a local fruit stand.  The driver couldn’t have been more laid back.  For around $10 I took back to me casa particular a pineapple, garlic, a miniature variety of bananas that tasted so sweet I thought I was eating candy.  One papaya, three mamays.  Mamey sapote is unlike anything most people have ever tasted.  Honest.  It is a species of tree native to Cuba and Central America.  What someone once said to me about mamey; the flavor is a combination of sweet potato and pumpkin.  Perhaps they are right.  Best when made into a milkshake.

 

 

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The Cubano Lechon

Subject:  The Cubano Lechon aka Pig

The Cubano lechon is a unique and grand centerpiece of any Cuban celebration.  Perhaps lamb or goat comes in second but, I’ve yet to try one.  To get it just right (the cooking part) the pork needs at least eight hours on the human turning rotisery.  And so any family visiting the Cuban farm needs to place their order well in advance as the food has to be secured for the future celebration.

Every part of the meal is cooked in a natural wood charcoal fire that needs to be just so.  A small part to the back of the farm is devoted to actually making the charcoal.  And as we learned on this trip when the pork is done it needs to be given sufficient time to hang so that the grease drips and the skin becomes crisp before it is cut up into manageable portions.  Aproveche!  Similar to “Bon Appetit”.

 

So what do you do while the lechon is cooking for at least eight hours.  In our case we visited, distributed presents, walked the farm, saw the crops and farm animals.  Once that was done out came the bottle of rum that the men passed around while the women folk continued preparing and cooking everything.  And I mean everything.  The rice for instance is not rice until human hands sift through it removing, I don’t know – rocks, bugs?  The yuca needs to be peeled like a potato.  If you have not yet tried this Cuban delicacy you are missing out.  Yucca is not cassava.  Yucca is actually part of the agave family of plants.  The outer covering is actually poisonous.  When boiled it is cooked until tender, then it is well-drained.  Then you prepare the olive oil, lots and lots of garlic, and lemon juice.  Place in a pan and when ready pour it over the yucca.  Next comes the congris.  Congris is black beans and rice however, at I noted, it is prepared a little differently from town to town.  In one town, red beans are used.  And in some Cuban households it is also known as Moros y Cristianos.  On this trip I brought several bottles of cumin to hand out as presents to the maiden of the household.  A key ingredient that without it, will not give the taste smell or flavor of congris.

 

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The Cubano Cake & Eating It Too

Subject:  The Cubano Cake & Eating It Too

In the U.S. some sort of see Mexico as perhaps being something like twenty years behind the U.S.  A visit to Cuba in 2019 left me pondering those assumptions about the Mexico most of us in Southern California know – Baja.  Perhaps Mexico or Baja should best be compared to say Cuba?  Perhaps Mexico is say about twenty years ahead of Cuba.

On a recent outing in search of a dessert cake for family and friends I quickly learned the ins and out of locating almost anything in Cuba.  Let’s start with locating a cake.  You might think, why not just go to a bakery?  Perhaps there are bakeries in the big cities but, not where we were.

The first challenge for us was finding the home of the local baker.  Then the challenge is giving him or her a deposit so the ingredients could be procured on time.  On this family visit to Holguin, Cuba locals informed us that there was now a shortage of wheat, oil and eggs.  Sort of the perfect storm of “we aren’t eating cake on this trip”.  Not to worry we are told; money in Cuba has a way of solving almost any problem that may ail the common gringo.  With nearly a week head start our cake was ordered and a week later picked up promptly at 10:00 a.m.

And if you asked for directions to this home baker it would go something like . . . . up the hill from the main street, past the vegetable kiosks, then take a right.  Now look towards the Chinese tourist bus terminal where all the buses park.  Walk through them past the oily grease pit and onto the other side until you reach a dirt road.  Go down the dirt road past a new house under construction and begin asking anyone you see where the baker lives.

And now that half the battle is won.  The other half is getting the cake back in one piece.  Note the run away oxen team as we were leaving with the cake.  This oxen team is the tractor of the farm, the farm truck, people mover etc, etc.

 

But just somehow it all seems to work.  And a more tastier wholesome cake with the best meregue topping that you will ever taste you will not easily find anywhere else.  Especially back in the U.S.

 

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