A day in the life of an Authentic Journeys pilgrim
|Walk a day with me in the life of an Authentic Journeys Pilgrim. All photography is property of EuroTravelogue.com™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Pilgrim’s Log: October 28, 2018
Like all journeys, they begin with a first step toward a dream. My dream was to go on pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. I am not alone. Actually, pilgrims have made their way along this sacred path for over a thousand years and upon their backs, they carried their worldly possessions as they marched westward. One can only imagine the hardships they suffered along the way as they traveled from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, up and over the Pyrenees, and straight on till morning so to speak, or Santiago de Compostela; a journey of more than 500 miles.
"We have the honor of witnessing the beauty and grace that so often touches a person when they put on the mantle of 'pilgrim' and set out to discover things about life, nature, and themselves." Laurie Duperier of Duperier's Authentic Journeys
|Camino Frances stretches from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or Saint John at the Foot of the Pass in France to Santiago de Compostela in the northwest corner of Spain.|
Fast forward to present day and you’ll find contemporary pilgrims from all walks of life and from every corner of the world traveling along this same storied path however, while some walk in the traditional way carrying their worldly possessions in their backpacks, bunk down in community albergues and dine from the pilgrim’s menu; there are others who opt for a more luxurious and convenient pace that includes deluxe accommodations and gourmet dining, plus the convenience of having luggage transported from place to place. And at the end of the day, the promise of a little pampering from your personal massage therapist beckons.
|Puente de Orbigo in Hospital de Orbigo was where I began my first day on the Camino.|
Such was the experience of this contemporary pilgrim when I traveled with Duperier’s Authentic Journeys (DAJ). Authentic Journeys specializes in two luxury tours of the Camino, the first from Roncesvalles to Burgos, and the second from León to Santiago, the latter being the one I chose. DAJ not only guides you along the Camino, they take care of everything as I mentioned above and your sole responsibility is to immerse yourself into your Camino surroundings. Interested? Walk a day with me and Authentic Journeys along the Camino de Santiago.
A day in the life of my pilgrimage
|Before each day's hike, we began with morning stretches to tone the muscles. Then we were off!|
Every day begins with a hearty breakfast and then we’re whisked off aboard the DAJ minibus en route to our starting point. Our intrepid pilgrim guide Juan-Carlos Duperier (JC) accompanies every tour and briefs our group of pilgrims with an outline of the day including a map of the hike and various check-in points where the bus will park at designated times offering a personal refuge to restock on water and munch on a few snacks. Once we reach the starting point, our group’s personal massage therapist leads us through our daily morning stretches to tone the muscles and then we’re off.
|It was never difficult to find our fearless coachman Javier and our bright blue bus at the various checkpoints along the way.|
Walking the WayWith each new dawn, came the promise of a new day on the Camino, a hike of 6 to 10 miles along a sacred path steeped in a thousand years of history. Of all the myriad experiences and discoveries I’ve had which included visiting holy sites of miraculous renown, filming locations I recognized from Emilio Estevez’s “The Way,” a sojourn at the oldest extant church on the Camino that dates back to the ninth century, even older monasteries, villages that have been relocated brick by brick to higher ground so that a reservoir could fill in the valley, walks alone in the Camino wilderness, praying and expressing gratitude to God above, the unexpected kindnesses from total strangers; my favorite was meeting pilgrims from around the world as I walked along or when I stopped in at one of the pilgrim stands for a quick café con leche, a snack or just to say hello. I found these brief respites just as nourishing for my soul as they were for my body because each personal exchange enriched my Camino experience tenfold.
|The ninth-century Iglesia de Santa Maria Real (Royal Saint Mary’s Church) in O'Cebreiro is the oldest extant church along the Camino and is the site of Eucharistic Miracle of O’Cebreiro.|
|The Sacred Relics (chalice and blood-stained parament) are housed inside this chapel.|
|Do you recognize this shot of O'Cebreiro from the movie, "The Way"?|
As Mark Twain would say, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” and the same holds true for the Camino—for every pilgrim who walks the Way is embraced in the camaraderie that pervades the Camino psyche and binds us all regardless of race, creed or color. We are united in this pilgrimage to Santiago.
“The Camino is just as much an inward spiritual journey as it is an outward one and striking a balance between the two will fulfill you in ways unimaginable.”
When you find yourself walking alone in the wilderness, embrace these moments of solitude and look inward, this is your chance to get to know the real you, the one who’s been mired in the daily routines of life and hasn’t seen the light of day for quite some time. Welcome them as you would a fellow pilgrim, talk to them, discover what lies deep within that’s been yearning to emerge anew. I promise you these moments and forgotten memories conjured from the depths will enrich the soul as well as your Camino experience, creating the most precious and valuable of all souvenirs that we’ll carry home.
A Pilgrim's Lunch
|Feast your eyes on these sizzling steaks we cooked at the table at O Mirador in Portomarin.|
|O Mirador in Portomarin.|
|Succulent "pulpo" or octopus drowning in buttery garlic sauce. Grab your bread!|
|Of course for dessert, we had Tarta de Santiago!|
After a satisfying lunch, it was off to our accommodations whether by foot or by transfer. I can certainly attest to the fact that you’ll hang your pilgrim’s hat in some of the finest accommodations along the Camino including 11th-century monasteries, idyllic country farmhouses nestled in rolling hills of vineyards and even an 18th-century manor house.
|My humble room at the monastery was simple in its appointments but for that one special night, I was transported back to the life of an 11th-century monk, and slept as soundly and peacefully.|
|The Royal Collegiate of Saint Isidoro Hotel second-floor interior.|
|Fervenza Casa Grande outside Palas de Rei in O Corgo Lugo is a 17th rural house that today is home to rustic accommodations and a delicious restaurant.|
|The pool area at the Fervenza Casa Grande outside Palas de Rei.|
After checking into the room and taking a much-needed shower after a day on the Camino, we usually had some free time to ourselves unless we were touring a winery or embarking on a city tour. Some opted for massages while other settled in for some reading or writing. It was during this time every day that I would catch up in my journal chronicling day’s adventures.
|Benvenidos a Palacio de Canedo—winery, hotel and restaurant nestled among the hills of vineyards near Cacabelos, Spain.|
|My rustic accommodations on the third floor of the Palacio de Canedo were sublime!|
|The 18th-century manor house of Pazo de Andeade or Casa Grande de Andeade once belonged to Galician nobility. Idyllically located in Touro - A Coruña, the manor house features an adjacent chapel and a restaurant that would satiate even the hungriest of pilgrims.|
|A pilgrim's feast was served for both breakfast and dinner.|
Camino Cultural ImmersionOne of the highlights of all Duperier's Authentic Journeys tours of the Camino de Santiago is the cultural enrichment provided by none other than its tour de force—Juan-Carlos Duperier (JC) himself, the Mayor of the Camino. As we traveled from region to region, he regaled our company of pilgrims with histories and tales of old about the regions we were passing through and even introduced us to many of his friends along the way.
|Juan-Carlos with José, one of his many friends along the Camino de Santiago. I loved this little gift shop in O'Cebreiro.|
Among the many of moments of Spanish enrichment he shared, there is one evening that stands out from the rest and it happened just before dinner at our 18th-century Galician nobility house—the Pazo de Andeade. Our group of pilgrims were gathered on the patio enjoying wine and sharing stories about the day when JC joined us with his guitar. I knew we were in for a treat! His repertoire? He performed a mini concert that included Spanish and American favorites; and for those ‘oh so familiar’ tunes, we sang along and those less familiar, we listened intently. What a joy!
Guided tours cities, wineries, monasteriesIn most of places that we called home for the evening, there was a guided tour to introduce us to our new surroundings whether it was through history, culture, or viniculture as was the case when we toured the winery and vineyards of the Palacio de Canedo.
|Santa María de la Regla, the León cathedral is also known as “The House of Light” or the “Pulchra Leonina."|
|The 19th-century Neo-Gothic Casa de Botines designed by Antoni Gaudi.|
|Gaudi’s fairy-tale whimsical Bishop’s Palace in Astorga features the "Museum of the Ways" dedicated to the pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago.|
In the evening ...
Cocktails with JCEvery night around 8 p.m., our company of pilgrims gathered for cocktails with JC for a chance to get to know our fearless leader more intimately as well as the others in our group. It’s a great time to kick back and relax with a nice glass of Spanish wine before dinner.
The dinner bellAn hour later, it was time for dinner and if that may seem late to some of you, it’s quite the cultural norm in Spain and as they say, “when in Spain …,” so we do as the Spaniards do.
|Duperier's Authentic Journeys always begins each tour with a Pilgrim's Welcome Feast!|
Of course there were multiple courses throughout the evening including seven on one occasion, our first night in Madrid when the chefs prepared the most delicious seafood paella cooked up in the largest kettle grill I have ever seen, and right there beside our table. I don’t know how DAJ finds the chefs who prepared our dinners but they certainly know how to bring the tastes of Spain to life even for the most discriminating palate.
|The most scrumptious and succulent seafood paella I have ever tasted was prepared in the largest kettle I've ever seen!|
|A fresh salad is always a delicious way to begin each meal.|
|Scallops ... of course!|
|Our pilgrim's farewell dinner in Santiago. Undoubtedly an emotional evening filled with lots of delicious Spanish food and merry making with toasts of Good Luck, Good Fortune and farewell, for now.|
Café con leche and decadent desserts always ended our evenings and rather late I might add especially with the early-morning wakeup calls for the Camino.
And so it’s sweet dreams, literally, as we fade into slumber and dream of the Camino.
What's next?It all begins with your first step and no matter how you decide to walk along the Camino de Santiago whether in the traditional way or with a few luxurious conveniences, in the end, it’s your journey, your pilgrimage, your spiritual awakening along this sacred path. It will change your life forever.
A special Pilgrim's offer from my friends at Duperier's Authentic Journeys!Save $500 off any regularly scheduled tour in 2020 when you book between November 22 and December 2, 2019. Buen Camino Peregrinos!
Buen Camino! Ultreia!
|On my way to Portomarin. Photo: Danny Bernstein.|
My heartfelt thanks and sincere gratitude to Duperier’s Authentic Journeys for inviting me on this life-changing journey and answering a pilgrim’s prayer. Of course, all opinions are my own but the memories—souvenirs I'll treasure forever.