From the end of May through mid June, Paul, Finn and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. This is part of the recap of that trip. Find more here.
After the long day to Logroño, we were not anxious to get moving again and, in truth, it took our bodies a little while to settle in to the rhythm of walking again. We’d planned to grab a coffee as we were walking our of Logroño, but, like I mentioned, the city didn’t really cater to pilgrims since, unlike the smaller villages, it wasn’t dependent on pilgrims for income. Therefore, if felt like it took forever to reach a stop for coffee.
We ended up walking through a park where we visited a nice Japanese man who was completing his third was just so excited about everything. We were quite a bit shy of his enthusiasm, partially because we still hadn’t found any coffee!! Finally, we went through a nature area and found a cafe. Paul went to get us coffee and Finn found a few ducks to chase around. We visited with a couple of pilgrims from Germany who Finn loved and a nice couple for North Carolina.
This walk into Najera was relatively uneventful. A big hill, beautiful churches, great views but some walking along the road. It was a 29km day, like the one before, but the day when easier. We knew what our bodies could handle and took the time to stretch and break as we needed. Finn started trying to stand up and play in the backpack using the stirrups, but thankfully he couldn’t get out. He found it so fun that we got plenty of walking time out of his new games. We sang and he played with walking sticks until he either dropped them on purpose to make me pick them up a few too many times (there is only so much picking up one can do with a 30+ pound backpack on their back) or hit Paul with it too many times (one of Paul’s least favorite games of the Camino along with “choke daddy with his buff”).
At some point toward the end of the day, we were so close to Najera and Paul and I were exhausted, just ready to push on and get there. But Finn would have none of it. He wasn’t fussy and wanting to play or angry about being in the backpack as much as he just wanted to be carried by me and no one else. Both of our backpacks were pretty well fitted for their purpose, so switching wasn’t an option. We stopped, took a break, and I cuddled and held Finn. For a moment, I was so frustrated; we were close and I wanted to be there and there was no good shade for a break. But finally, I stopped. I looked around. The view was beautiful and I was sitting in the middle of a Spanish vineyard holding my child and loving on him. How can I complain about that!?
Once he got ready to play we let him run awhile before trying to get him to walk with us (unsuccessfully….toddlers don’t walk with a purpose). He was still wanting to be carried so I tried using our blanket to tie him on my backpack and use home as a sling to sit on my hip. Again, that wasn’t so successful. We just couldn’t get the blanket tight enough for me to feel comfortable. So we played some more and then FINALLY got him into the backpack. The protesting lasted less than 2 minutes and then we went on to Najera anxiously.
Najara wan’t too beautiful from the outskirts, to say the least, and I was worried that none of it would be pretty. But eventually we walked over the river bridge over the river and into the old city. We went straight to our albergue and settled into a private room…WITH A WASHER/DRYER!! Our clothes hadn’t had a really wasn’t in a long time and we were thrilled…right after the other people using it gave us a turn. : / We finally got our clothes washed right before we went to bed later, but we were getting worried!
There was plenty to see in Najera. We went to Santa Maria de la Real which was built into a cave the legend is that Don Garcia followed a falcon into a cave where he found a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and built a church around it. Finn ran and played in the cloisters and played hide and seek with Paul. The cloisters had been ruined over time, but the church was still beautiful. After, we went to the cafes by the river to have a drink while we visited Finn’s South Korean fan club, including “Cat” and Jasmine and Marcus from the West Coast. After, we went on the the grocery store to pick up jamon flavored potato chips to give the local flavors a try. Here’s a tip….don’t get them.
We also stopped by to see the cloistered Sisters of St. Claire. Their church was beautiful and we got there in time to see them behind the glass of their special chapel. They waved at Finn and he waved back. Seriously, in one day, he visited cloistered nuns, played hide and seek in a cloister, and cuddled in a vineyard. I think it was a pretty epic day.
As we looked for food for dinner, we ran into Fr. Smith and the three of us split up to find a good pilgrim menu somewhere. There was really only one place open and unfortunately they wouldn’t serve us outside. The restaurant was super tiny and narrow meaning Finn was going to have to stay seated with us. Fat chance. In fact, at some point he got mad, threw a spoon which broke a plate, and I about died of embarrassment. Paul and I took turns sitting with him in time out and when that was over, trying to give him lots of breaks. Our sweet new friends from North Carolina took him outside for a little while to give us a break. Again, pilgrims are awesome. There were so many people helping take care of Finn!! It was a whole experience of raising a child with the help of a village and I loved it.
As dinner ended, we changed diapers and hustled to mass, which was lovely. At the end, the pilgrims were invited to the front to ring a small bell three times. Apparently, pilgrims for hundreds of years have been ringing the bell as they come through. In these small moments, I felt so small. Just a little part of the long tradition of pilgrims marching through Spain to Santiago for any number of reasons. My steps were no where near the first along the trail and they wouldn’t be the last. This was the trail of saints, prisoners paying their debt, and of multitudes of ordinary people. I don’t know where my own steps belonged, but they seemed to belong in a larger historical puzzle, like I was meant to walk this path right at this time and with every step forward, every pilgrim met, and every prayer offered, I was fulfilling a duty.