Camino de Santiago (Camino Aragonés) Etapa 3. Jaca-Sta. Cruz de la Serós (22.8 km)

I had read the warnings. Había leído todos los avisos.

I knew the day was going to be difficult, but I thought by staying in Sta. Cruz de la Serós, population 194, instead of continuing on to Sta. Cilia or Arrés, it would make it easier. Sabía que iba a ser un día duro, pero pensaba como iba a alojarme en Sta. Cruz de la Serós, población 194, en lugar de continuar hasta Sta. Cilia o Arrés, sería algo más fácil.

It wasn’t the length of the Camino, but the climb. No fue la longitude de la etapa sino la subida.

Sure, I could have either skipped San Juan de la Peña, or could have walked to Santa Cilia and gone up for there, or stayed more time in Jaca and caught an expensive taxi. Bueno, es verdad que tenía las opciones de o saltar San Juan de la Peña, o caminar hasta Santa Cilia y subir hasta los monasterios desde allí, o quedarme más tiempo en Jaca y coger un taxi muy caro.

But I thought I would be okay. And I was, but it took some effort. Pero no, pensaba que iba a estar bien. Y bueno, llegué bien, sí, pero con mucho esfuerzo.

I cannot stress this enough. If you are NOT an experienced hiker, do not attempt the hike from Jaca to San Juan de la Peña. It is VERY easy to get lost. It is VERY steep. It is VERY slippery. No puedo decirlo suficientemente. Si no tienes mucha experiencia con senderismo, NO INTENTES HACER LA RUTA DESDE JACA A SAN JUAN DE LA PEÑA. Es MUY fácil perderse. Hay MUCHO pendiente. Es MUY resbaladizo.

I woke up early and got ready for the day, leaving the Air BNB around 7:30. I ended up just having breakfast at the crowded café in the plaza next to the bus station in Jaca as there wasn’t a lot of options, then found my way to the Camino that went through town, excited for what lay ahead. It was a good pintxo de tortilla, for the record. Me desperté pronto y me preparé para el día, saliendo desde el AirBNB sobre las 7.30. Desayuné en el café de la plaza central, donde había muchas personas, a lado de la estación de autobuses porque no había mucho abierto. Luego, busqué el Camino, que me llevó por la ciudad, con mucha emoción. El pintxo de tortilla estaba bueno, por cierto.

The way out of town was confusing, and I ended up on the sidewalk near the Camino and got turned around a bit. I worried a bit I had missed the big bifurcation between the route to San Juan de la Peña and the way to Santa Cilia, but I hadn’t. A bus pulled off near the fork in the road, but they didn’t follow me. I was alone for pretty much the entire way up (and I would soon see why.) No está muy clara la salida del pueblo, y fui por el pavimiento cerca del Camino y me perdí. Luego me preocupé de haber perdido la gran bifurcación entre la ruta a San Juan de la Peña y la a Santa Cilia. Un autobús paró cerca de la bifurcación, pero iban por otra ruta. Estaba solo casi todo el día (y pronto me enteré por qué…

The ascent was difficult with several turns that weren’t clearly marked and/or were missing both yellow arrows and the GR red and white marks. Luckily, I was able to find rock cairns which, along with common sense (which often is not the best in mountains), kept me on the right path. Fortunately. The views were spectacular, but the trail was nearly vertical at times and very rocky. I was actually quite happy when I reached the road. Normally, I am not a fan of road walking, but after the climb up, I was thankful to see the pavement. El acenso fue muy duro. Había muchas bifurcaciones que no eran claras y/o no tenía ni una flecha amarilla ni una señal de rojo y blanco de GR. Por suerte, vi algunos mojones de roca, y tenía que usar mi sentido común (que no suele funcionar muy bien en el monte). Por suerte. Las vistas eran impresionantes, pero la senda era casi vertical a veces y muy rocosa. Me alegré mucho llegar a la carretera. Normalmente, no me gusta mucho caminar por carretera, pero después de esa subida tan difícil, agradecí la vista del pavimiento.

I arrived to the Real Monasterio Nuevo de San Juan de la Peña about 12:50. I went straight to the bar for a café con leche and a bocadillo de tortilla to take away. It had been a LONG 17 kilometres without any sort of services. After exploring the newer monastery, I went to the Balcón de los Pirineos and ate my bocadillo enjoying the incredible views. I explored the area and slowly made my way down to the old monastery, built into the rocks, arriving just before it reopened at 15:30. It might be the first time I experienced a place opening BEFORE opening time in Spain, as the woman arrived and started letting people in at 15:25. Llegué al Real Monasterio Nuevo de San Juan de la Peña sobre las 12.50. Fui a la cafetería para tomar un café con leche y también me compré un bocadillo de tortilla para llevar. Eran 17 kilómetros muy largos sin ningún tipo de servicio. Después de explorar el monasterio nuevo, fui al cercano Balcón de los Pirineos para comer el bocadillo y disfrutar de las vistas increíbles. Exploré la zona y fui bajando poco a poco al monasterio antiguo, construido en las rocas. Llegué justo antes de su apertura a las 15.30. Creo que era la primera vez en España que vi un sitio abrir ANTES de la hora de apertura. La dependiente empezó a dejar entrar a la gente a las 15.25.

I can’t really express in words how fascinating this place was. It once was home to the famous Holy Grail (in fact, Spain is now promoting a Ruta del Santo Grial hike/horseback ride to trace its steps. The real one, at least according to the Vatican, resides in the Catedral de València. No hay palabras para describir lo fascinante que es este sitio. Érase una vez daba refugio al Famoso Santo Grial (de hecho, Aragón está promocionando una Ruta del Santo Grial para encontrar los pasos de. El Santo Grial verdadero, según El Vaticano, reside en la Catedral de València.

I thought the worst was behind me, but the descent from the monastery was just as steep and rocky. I treaded carefully. Pensaba que ya había superado lo peor, pero también el decenso tenía bastante pendiente con muchas rocas. Bajé con mucho cuidado.

I stayed at the Hostería Santa Cruz de la Serós, which is a bit expensive (45€) for the typical pilgrim budget, but it was well worth it. I had dinner, and they left me breakfast the next morning, including a huge thermos of café con leche. The accomodations are quite nice, and the village has that Spanish medieval beauty and charm going for it. Me alojé en la Hostería Santa Cruz de la Serós, un sitio un poco más caro que el alojamiento típico de peregrino pero mereció el precio en mi opinión. Cené muy bien, y me dejaron el desayuno la próxima mañana, lo cual incluyó un termo gigante de café con leche. Es un hotel bonito en un pueblo encantador, lleno de la belleza medieval española.

I met the “Forrest Gump of Europe”, a French man who has been walking nonstop since 2009. He boasted of all the articles written about him. I also met a couple of German peregrinas who had been on the Camino Catalán who acted offended that I was still masking indoors—hey, I need to avoid Covid if possible so I’m masking until they have a cure for Long Covid. Conocí al “Forrest Gump de Europa”, un francés quien ha estado caminando desde 2009. Se jactó de todos los artículos que habían escrito sobre el. También conocí a dos peregrinas alemanas quien estaban haciendo el Camino Catalán y se ofendieron que todavía llevaba yo la mascarilla. Oye, he de evitar el Covid como posible, entonces, sí, me voy a llevar mascarilla hasta que haya una cura para el Long Covid.

I kinda lamented not staying at the hostería for another night because it was comfortable, but it is the way of the Camino. I got a good night’s sleep after all the steep hiking, and another day awaited. Lamenté no poder quedarme otra noche en la hostería porque era muy cómoda, pero es la manera del Camino. Dormí bien después de todo el caminar con mucho pendiente, y me esperaba otro día más…

A continuación…

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La boda de Rosa (2021).

What happens when your family takes advantage of you and you just need a fresh start to put yourself first? La boda de Rosa, the 2021 film from Spanish director Icíar Bolláin explores this subject. ¿Qué pasa cuando tu familia te aprovechan de ti y necesitas empezar desde cero?

The marathon at the beginning of the movie is how Rosa’s (Candela Peña) life feels—constantly on the move and running but going nowhere. She is about to turn 45, and her life is her job and helping her family. She decides to move to Benicàssim and decides to have a wedding to marry—rededicate her life—to putting herself first. El maratón al inicio de la película es una metáfora por la vida de Rosa (Candela Peña)—nunca tiene tiempo para descansar y siempre está corriendo pero no llegar a ningún sitio. Está a punto de cumplir 45 años, y su vida gira de su trabajo y ayudar a su familia. Decide mudarse a Benicàssim y luego tener una boda para rededicar a su vida a si misma.

While the film may sound a bit shallow compared to some of Bollaín’s other excellent films, it takes on a deeper meaning as the film shows how many Spanish women (and women across the planet) are forced to prioritize everyone but themselves. They have to be everything to everyone at all times and lose themselves in the process. The film also works as a gender-role reversal of a Berlanga film. Quizás la pelí no sea tan profunda en comparación a algunas de las otras pelis de Bollaín, es más profunda que parece porque muestra el problema que tiene muchas mujeres españolas (y mujeres de todos los países) tienen que priorizar a todos menos ellas mismas. Tienen que ser todos para todos todos los días y se pierden en el proceso. La peli funciona también como un cambio de roles de género de una de Berlanga. 

Another great thing about the movie is how it shows the linguistic reality of València. The majority of the film is in Spanish, but many scenes show Rosa and her family speaking in Valenciano, and her older brother Armando (Sergi López) keeps trying to use his intelligible English. Otra buena cosa del filme es que muestra la realidad lingüística de València. Aunque la mayoría está en castellano, muchas escenas muestran conversaciones entre Rosa y su familia hablan en valenciano. Además, su hermano Armando (Sergi López) siempre intenta usar su mal inglés. 

La boda de Rosa, currently on HBO Max in the United States, is a light-hearted look at a heavy topic and is a heart-warming movie in these bleak times. La boda de Rosa, actualmente disponible en HBO Max en los EE.UU., es una peli divertida sobre un tema más profunda y es buena para ver durante estos tiempos tan duros. 

Rating: B+ 

Camino de Santiago (Camino Aragonés) Etapa 2: Canfranc Pueblo-Jaca (21 Km)

It was day 2 of the Camino Aragonés, and I woke up early to give myself time to find breakfast before catching the bus at 8. Alas, most of the bares and cafeterias near the bus station were closed or packed with señoritos, and I had to walk to the edge of town to find an open one. It was overpriced, but good. This should have been a sign of things to come…Era mi segundo día en el Camino Aragonés. Me desperté pronto para darme tiempo para buscar un sitio tranquilo para desayunar antes de coger el autobús a las 8. Pero no tenía suerte. La mayoria de los bares y cafeterías cerca de la estación estaban cerradas o a tope con señoritos. Tenía que caminar hasta las afueras del pueblo para encontrar uno que estaba abierto. Era un poco caro, pero estaba bueno. Era una señal para el día…y para todo el camino.

The bus was only around 15 minutes to Canfranc Pueblo, where I had left off the day before. The town’s only bar was closed, so I walked the few metres to the Camino and started walking. I had to walk through the pueblo again, but it was worth it. El viaje tardó unos 15 minutos a Canfranc Pueblo, donde había parado el día anterior. El único bar del pueblo estaba cerrado, y caminé unos metros para volver al Camino y empezar el día. Tenía que caminar por el pueblo una vez más, pero no me importaba.

The day’s walk was a very green path through woods that reminded me of Euskadi. I arrived to Villanúa, population 560, in about an hour. Everything was closed—which taught me my first lesson of the Camino Aragonés. Even if Gronze says there is a bar, count on it being closed. I even asked someone in town if anything was open, and he said no. Aquel día, el camino iba por un sendero muy verde por el bosque que me acordé de Euskadi. Llegué a Villanúa, población 560, después de una hora. Todo estaba cerrado, lo que me enseñó la primera lección del Camino Aragonés. No importa si el Gronze dice que hay un bar, no puedes contar en encontrarlo abierto. Pregunté a alguien en el pueblo si había un bar abierto, y me dijo que no.

My search for a café con leche got me off the trail, which got me a bit confused, so I ended up on the official Camino instead of the variant that went along the river. It was still a nice walk, but I would have preferred the riverside walking. Water is so calming. Me perdí con la busqueda por un café con leche, y me encontró en el Camino oficial en lugar del variante que iba por el río. Aun así era un sendero bonito, pero siempre prefiero caminar por el río. El agua siempre me tranquiliza.

The Camino started to ascend once again. Around 11:30, I arrived to Castiello de Jaca, population 249. I had just passed a group of day hikers, so I got to the Mesón Castiello right before them, and it was actually open. Castiello was beautiful. El Camino empezó a subir otra vez. Sobre las 11.30, llegué a Castiello de Jaca, población 249. Acabé de adelantar a un grupo de senderistas y por eso, llegué justo antes de ellos al Mesón Castiello, y estaba abierto. Y Castiello era un pueblo precioso.

The last 8 kilometres to Jaca, population 13,437, flew buy. I was arriving much sooner than I thought, around 1:00. I did laundry at the Air BNB and went looking for lunch. I was surprised in a place as popular as Jaca, there weren’t a lot of options. I ended up getting a menú del día at a hotel, where I watched two dogs, a German Shepherd mix and a husky mix, play/protest as we waited for food. Fui volando durante las últimos 8 kilómetros a Jaca, población 13.437. Llegué mucho antes de lo que anticipado, sobre las 13.00. Lavé la ropa en el AirBNB y luego fui buscando un sitio para comer. Me sorprendé que en un pueblo tan popular como Jaca no había muchas opciones. Comí un menú del día en un hotel, donde vi a dos perros, un pastor aleman y un husky, jugar y protestar durante la espera de la comida.

During the afternoon, I went to the supermarket Día for food supplies and got my credentials stamped at the official albergue. The hospitalera said that most nights there were around 8 peregrinos. Por la tarde, fui al Día para comprar algo de comida y luego fui al albergue oficial para sellar las credenciales. La hospitalera me dijo que solían ser unos 8 peregrinos cada noche.

I wrote in my journal next to the Ciutadella, the town fortress, and I got to see about ten deer make their evening run around the building. It was so cool. I knew a herd of deer called it home, but it was exciting to see. Escribí en mi diario a lado de la Ciutadella, y de repente vi unos 10 ciervos dar una vuelta por el edificio. ¡Qué chulo! Sabía que había ciervos que vivían allí, pero era emocionante para verlos.

I finally got my first pintxo de tortilla of the trip for dinner that night and treated myself to dessert-helado. Por fin, me tomé mi primer pintxo de tortilla del viaje y luego un helado para postre.

I would need those extra calories the next day. If only I knew what was ahead. Iba a necesitar las calorías el día siguiente. Si supiera lo que iba a pasar…

A continuación…

Camino de Santiago (Camino Aragonés) Etapa 1: Somport-Canfranc Pueblo (11.8 km official, 14.3 Apple)

22-septiembre-2022

It was finally time to set off on the Camino, but first, I had to arrive at my starting point, the Spanish/French border. Por fin la hora ha llegado. Iba a empezar el Camino, pero primero, tenía que llegar a mi punto de partida, la frontera entre España y Francia,

I woke up too early and checked out of my hotel in Zaragoza and walked to the bus station (about 2 km or so). Everything was closed, so I had to have breakfast at the bus station Delicias. Tostada con tomate…but an expensive one. I sat in the corner to myself away from everyone. Me desperté demasiado pronto y salí del hotel en Zaragoza y fui caminando hasta la estación de autobuses de Delicias (unos 2 kilometros). Todo estaba cerrado, y por eso tenía que desayunar en la estación. Tostada con tomate…pero muy cara. Me senté en la esquina lejos de todos (viajar en el tiempo de Covid…)

I caught the bus at 8 that goes to Jaca, and I watched the Spanish film Invisibles (it was on HBO Max. It’s about three middle aged women who meet weekly to discuss their lives as they walk. I recommend it.) on the way. Cogí el autobús a Jaca a las 8, y vi la película española Invisibles (estaba en HBO Max, ahora…¿quién sabe? Trata de tres mujeres que se reunen cada semana para hablar sobre sus vidas y pasear. La recomiendo.) por el camino.

Upon arrival in Jaca, where I had previously visited in 2017 during Fallas, I checked in the AirBNB where I had stayed during that vacation, dropped off some of my stuff to have a lighter pack, had a second breakfast on a terraza (it had been four long years without my Spanish breakfast!) and caught the 12:00 bus to Somport on the French border. After stopping at the restaurant/bar/albergue at the border for my sello (“stamp”), I set off on an amazingly beautiful etapa (“stage”). Cuando llegué en Jaca, donde había visitado en 2017 durante Fallas, fui al mismo AirBNB donde había quedado durante aquel viaje, dejé algunas cosillas para hacer la mochila pesar menos, desayuné una segunda vez (cuatro largos años sin mi desayuno español) y cogí el autobús a las 12.00 a Somport en la frontera francesa. Después de parar en el bar/restaurante/alberge en la frontera para conseguir un sello, empecé una etapa maravillosa y preciosa.

Until the town of Candanchú, there were a few day hikers, but after that, I had the stunning scenery to myself. There was a bit of road walking, but not much. The kilometers went by too quickly, maybe because the hike was all downhill. Ninety minutes later, I arrived in Canfranc Estación, the small town of 599 inhabitants and home of a beautiful abandoned station that was extremely important during the Spanish Civil War and World War II as it was the check point for the Spanish and French borders. I was hoping to grab lunch, but as it was Sunday, the restaurants that were open were super crowded and super expensive, so I just snacked and continued on my way. Hasta el pueblo de Candanchú, vi a algunos senderistas, pero luego no vi a nadie y podía disfrutar el pasiaje precioso en paz. Había un poco de caminar por la carretera, pero no mucho. Los kilómetros pasaban volando, quizás porque todo estaba cuesta abajo. Noventa minutos después estaba llegando ya a Canfranc Estación, el pueblo de 599 habitantes donde hay una estación abandonada que estaba muy importante durnate la Guerra Civil y la Segunda Guerra Mundia porque habia aduanas entre España y Francia. Esperaba comer allí, pero como era un domingo, los restaurantes que estaban abiertos estaban a tope con personas y muy caros. Comí unas frutos secos y seguí caminando.

I continued on a little bit longer to the actual village of Canfranc, 3-4 kms, where I decided to stop for the day as planned. I felt strong and that I could continue on to Jaca, another 20 km away, but I knew it would be better to rest and ease into the Camino. It was only the first day! Fui hasta el pueblo de Canfranc, unos 3-4 kilómetros más, donde tenía pensado en parar por el día. Aunque me sentí fuerte y que sí, podía ir 20 km más hasta Jaca, sabía que era mejor descansar para un inicio suave al Camino Aragonés.

There was one bar open in town, and I went there for a relaxing café con leche as I waited for the bus to arrive. I went back to Jaca, rested and ended up having bravas and vino tinto for dinner, excited to be back in Spain. Había solo un bar en el pueblo, y estaba abierto, y fui allí para tomar un relaxing café con leche para hacer tiempo hasta la llegada del autobús a Jaca. Cuando llegué en Jaca, descansé un rato y cené unas bravas y un vino tinto. ¡Qué emoción estar en España de nuevo!

Gronze.Com lists the first etapa as from Somport to Jaca, 32 km, but I think it’s better to split it up because the scenery is just that spectacular. I even passed waterfalls! Gronze.com dice la primera etapa empieza en Somport y termina a Jaca, unos 32 km, pero creo que es mejor dividirla en dos porque el paisaje es tan espectacular. ¡Incluso vi unas cascadas!

The next morning would be another early one, but the bus ride would be a little bit shorter to get back to where I left off. I went to sleep, excited to finally be back on the Camino. La próxima mañana tocaba madrugar otra vez, pero por lo menos el viaje de autobús sería más corto. Solo tenía que volver hasta el punto donde dejé el Camino. Fui a la cama, emocionado estar en el Camino una vez más.

A continuación…

Camino 2022 Parte 1: La llegada/the arrival

The day had finally arrived. Por fin, el día ha llegado.

My graduation from my M.A. program present to myself had been postponed for two years because of Covid. I had recently received the new bivalent vaccine and had some new KN95 masks for the flight. Había aplazado mi regalo a mi mismo por graduar de un programa de máster por el Covid. Ya había recibido la vacuna bivalente nueva y tenía unas mascarillas (tipo KN95) para el vuelo.

I was finally going back to Spain, the place where I lived for ten years and where I yearn to return to live some day. Por fin, iba a volver a España, donde viví durante 10 años y donde aún deseo volver a vivir algún día.

My boyfriend drove me up to O’Hare and we said goodbye. I killed time until my first flight to Munich left, and it was an uneventful flight, as was my flight from Munich to Barcelona. No delays, made it through customs fine, as did my luggage. I caught the bus that went to Barcelona centro and got off at the stop nearest Barcelona Sants, where my hotel was. Mi chico me llevó al aeropuerto de Chicago O’Hare y nos despedimos. Hice tiempo hasta mi primer vuelo a Munich–fue un vuelo tranquilo, como el vuelo de Munich a Barcelona. Sin retrasos, sin problemas en las aduanas, y mi equipaje llegó. Cogí el autobus que iba al centro de Barcelona y me bajé en la parada más cerca a Sants, donde estaba mi hotel.

I checked in and went in search of food, settling on a plato combinado, knowing I’d have plenty of time for for my menú del día. I tried getting a Spanish SIM card for my mobile, but I would have to fight with ATT to get my phone unlocked (it actually was easy, but having to call from Spain was annoying). Hice check in y fui a buscar algo para comer. Al final tenía que comer un plato combinado. No pasa nada como sabía que tendría mucho tiempo para los menús del día. Intenté comprar una tarjeta SIM para mi móvil, pero tenía que llamar a ATT desde España para abrirlo.

I made my way to el Barri Gotic, where I went to Decalthon for supplies for the Camino. They had to order the zipoff hiking trousers that I wanted, which I could pick up in Girona.  Fui al Barri Gotic para ir de compras en Decalthon para algunas cosillas para el Camino. Tenían que pedir los pantalones especiales que quería de la tienda en Girona.

The next day, I woke up and went to Barceloneta for the beach and finally got a working SIM. I had breakfast at a nearby cafetería during the rain, and I savoured every bit of that first authentic tostada con tomate I’d had in four years. El día siguiente, me desperté y fui a la playa de la Barceloneta. Por fin pude comprar una tarjeta SIM. Antes, desayuné en una cafetería cerca del hotel durante la lluvia, y disfruté mucho de la primera tostada con tomate auténtica que me he tomado desde hace 4 años.

I had a 13:00 AVE (bullet train) to Girona, where I’d spend time reacclimating to the time zone and my “home” culture. I checked into the hotel, found a place for that menú del día, and roamed around the Old Town. Tenía el AVE a las 13.00 a Girona, donde iba a pasar el tiempo para aclamar a la hora pensinular y recordarme de mi cultura. Fui al hotel, encontré un restaurante con un menú del día barato, y exploré el Casco Viejo.

Thursday I went back to Besalú, population 2480, home of one of my favourite bridges (bridges would later be a theme for my Caminos) and checked out a new-to-me poble català, Castellfollit de la Roca, population 926. El jueves, volví a Besalú, población 2480, donde se encuentra uno de mis puentes favoritos (un tema recurrente de mi Camino) y también exploré un poble nuevo para mi, Castellfollit de la Roca, población 926.

Friday morning, I got in my last preparation hike for the Camino and walked to the nearby Castell de Sant Miquel. My backpack felt okay, but I lamented not bringing my new hiking poles as it was steeper than I thought. I had lunch in a nearby plaza, in a terraza protected by a roof from the sudden 10-minute deluge of rain. El viernes por la mañana, hice la última ruta de preparación antes de embarcar en el Camino, y fui al Castell de Sant Miquel, cerca a Girona capital. Mi mochila no pesaba mucho, pero lamenté no llevar los bastones nuevos porque había más pendiente que pensaba. Comí en una plaza cercana al hotel, en una terraza protegida por un techo de un diluvio que duró unos 10 minutos.

I stopped at a few bares for my café con leche, always going for a terraza to avoid Covid exposure. I’d later learn that the rates for Covid in Spain were low at the time, but I’m still glad I took precautions. Paré en algunos bares para tomar un relaxing café con leche, siempre en la terraza para evitar la exposición al Covid. Luego, me enteré que la transmisión de Covid era muy baja en aquel momento, pero más vale la prevención que la cura.

That evening, I took one last stroll through the Old Town and found a dog park, where I got to play with several dogs. Por la tarde, di un paseo por el Casco Viejo y encontré un parque de perros. Jugué con muchos perros.

The next morning, I stopped in Manresa to leave my suitcase with a friend, I ended up missing the hourly train to BCN due to long lines at the ticket office. I had to take a taxi to catch the bus and just barely made it to catch my AVE to the Aragón capital Zaragoza, where I would spend the night before making my way to Jaca, ready to get back on the Camino de Santiago and start my Camino Aragonés…La próxima mañana, paré en Manresa para dejar mi maleta con una amiga. Perdí el tren a BCN (hay uno que sale cada hora) por la culpa de las colas largas de la taquilla. Tenía que coger un taxi para llegar a coger el autobus, y llegué justo a tiempo para coger el AVE a la capital aragonesa, Zaragoza, donde pasé una noche antes de ir a Jaca, listo para volver al Camino de Santiago y empezar el Camino Aragonés…

A continuación…

Niagara Falls 2022

Last week, my boyfriend and I started what I hope is a new tradition–a between Christmas and New Year’s trip. As Christmas was such a huge deal to my mom, who passed away in 2021, I had this idea to honour her and create a new tradition. Unfortunately, the arrival of Omicron and snowy and icy forecast caused us to cancel our planned Lake Michigan circle tour in 2021. (Neither of us have had COVID, and we want to keep it that way.)

This year, the weather and COVID tried their best to deter us, but we decided to take a chance and go. (We’ve been back long enough to be able to say wearing our KN95s indoors helped us stay safe.)

On Monday, we set off on our journey. Our plan was to go to Niagara Falls, stopping in my hometown near Cleveland on the first night, spending two nights in Niagara, and coming back through southern Ontario and staying in Ann Arbor.

Well, the Buffalo blizzard caused us to change the itinerary. My friend from high school was recovering from COVID, so we didn’t even get to see her. Tuesday morning, we backtracked through Toledo to cross into Ontario at Windsor. It was my boyfriend’s first time in Canada, and I hadn’t been since 1998. 

It took about four hours to reach the falls from Detroit/Windsor, and we rested a bit before seeing the light shows at Niagara. We parked at the Casino, which is $15 Canadian at that time of night. The Falls were as beautiful as I remembered them growing up, though it was weird not doing the Maid of the Mist (closed in winter) or not seeing them from both sides of the river.

Wednesday we drove up to Toronto to see Casa Loma and check out High Park. We stopped in Hamilton on the way back, and that evening tried poutine, which was every bit as delicious as I imagined it would be.

Thursday we said goodbye to the Falls before hitting up the Floral Clock (very empty at 9 am on a winter day!), which was one of my mom’s favourite things about the falls. We then explored Fort Mississagua and Niagara-On-The-Lake before heading back.

We stayed in Ann Arbor and explored a bit of the campus. I found the Barnes and Noble, and we tried Shake Shack for the very first time. I recommend it.

We got back home on Friday. It was a good trip, and I want to explore Canada more and more. I have a goal of visiting all the provinces and territories. So far, I’ve only been to Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. That’s a good start though! 

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The future of SetMeravelles

Just a quick hit to let everyone know my plans for the blog.

I’ll be posting primarily from Post. I’ll be cross-posting, but it’s so much easier to write there than use the WordPress Block Editor. To be able to write more, I may not be translating them into Spanish, as I want to spend time on my novels. I may translate them at a later date. We’ll see.

But the Camino entries are coming…poco a poco.

Retos y esperanzas para 2023

(Crossposted with Post).

I don’t do resolutions. I do goals and hopes.

2022 was a year of resting after the constant bad news since Dec 2019 (not being accepted into the Ph.D program at my M.A. institution, the COVID pandemic, then my mom dying). So after leaving the Ph.D program at a place that wasn’t a good fit in may, 2022 was a year of recovery, some of that back in Spain on the Caminos Aragonés and de Invierno.

What’s in store for 2023?

Here are my goals for 2022, in no particular order/Mis retos para 2022, no hay orden:

  1. Repeat from 2020, 2021, 2022: Figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. Investigate transitioning to either translation or editing. Back to Spain? Teach high school Spanish? Somehow become a published writer? Go back to grad school at a different place? How can I get paid for writing, reading, travelling, hiking, and playing with dogs?Hacer una decisión sobre el resto de mi vida. Investigar como ser un traductor o un editor ¿Un regreso a España? ¿Ser profe de español en un instituto de secundaría? ¿Ser un escritor publicado? ¿Intentar otro programa del doctorado en una universidad diferente?¿Hay curro para escribir, leer, viajar, hacer senderismo y jugar con perros?Una repetitición de 2020 y 2021. 
  2. Repeat from 2022: With that end, I’m going to focus on writing. My goal is to write every day, starting after Día de los Reyes. I have three buzzing around in my head, and I need to resubmit my first one and edit the second and third. I also want to put together a Setmeravelles e-book of the Spanish provinces. I still need to write up about my Camino  Por eso, voy a enfocar en mi escritura mientras espero los resultados de los programas de doctorado. Mi reto es escribir todos los días, empezando el día después de Reyes. Tengo tres ideas flotando en la cabeza, y debo intentar otra vez mandar mi primera novela a un editorial y editar la segunda y tercera. También me gustaría hacer un e-book de Setmeravelles sobre las provincias españolas. Todavía tengo que escribir sobre el Camino. 
  3. Another repeat.Meditation is a complete loss. Continue work on a positive ascent out of the abysmal hole that depression and anxiety can take me. I started meditating in 2017, and I lost track of that in the summer. I plan to get back to it and try yoga for real. Otra repetición. Meditar es una gran perdida. Seguir en la ascensión positiva del agujero de depresión y ansiedad. Empecé a meditar en el verano de 2017, y durante el verano, lo dejé y nunca volví a hacerlo. También, voy a probar yoga de verdad.
  4. Continue exercising. (Fully completed in 2022!/Hecho por completo en 2022!) To this end, I want to walk at least 7 km a day (10,000 steps according to my iPhone) and continue with my other weight and cardio. Doing it from home is a lot easier. Seguir haciendo ejercicio y incorporar yoga. También quiero caminar al menos 7 kilómetros al día (10.000 pasos según mi iPhone) y seguir con pesas y cardio. 
  5. Learn to cook more things and start to meal plan and eat healthy. Another I say every year. También desde el año pasado. Aprender a cocinar y empezar a planificar las comidas  y comer sano. Otro que digo todos los años. 
  6. Finish all the books on my bookshelf. (Hah!) I plan on reading to completion and re-reading several series this year, including The Dark Tower by Stephen King and the Sookie Stackhouse novels that inspired True Blood and rereading The Cat Who…series by Lilian Jackson Braun. The Champaign-Urbana library system is fantastic, and I get caught up in finding new books there while the books I own sit there waiting to be read. Also, a new-to-me Dickens, Hardy, Shakespeare, and Unamuno. Terminar todos los libros que tengo. Tengo pensando completar y leer de nuevo muchas series este año, incluyendo El torre oscuro de Stephen King y las novelas de Sookie Stackhouse que inspiró la serie True Blood y leer de nuevo los misterios de The Cat Who…de Lilian Jackson Braun. Hay un sistema genial de bibliotecas en Champaign-Urbana, y siempre encuentro algo nuevo para leer mientras las libros que ya me compré hace tiempo están allí sin leer. También, un nuevo libro para mi de Dickens, Hardy, Shakespeare y Unamuno.
  7. Go through all the stuff I brought back from my mom’s house in 2021 after she passed away and get rid of more stuff. I hope to have this project finished by the end of March. Organizar todo lo que llevé de la casa de mi madre en 2021 después de su muerte y tirar lo que no necesito. Espero terminar este proyecto antes del fin de marzo. 
  8. Try kayaking. On the list since 2015. Ummm. Might as well add rock climbing here too! Probar hacer piriguismo, en la lista desde 2015. Umm, bueno, voy a añadir escalar también. 
  9. This one may finally happen this year: ADOPT A GOLDEN RETRIEVER. Puede pasar este año: ADOPTAR A UN GOLDEN RETRIEVER.
  10. Journal daily. I recently started trying to write in my old Livejournal, as writing by hand cramps it quickly. Escribir en un diario cada día. He empezado escribir en mi Livejournal antiguo, porque me duele la mano escribir por mano.
  11. A new hike at least once a month. I did make it to Spain for the Camino Aragonés and Camino de Invierno (but not Machu Picchu). Maybe 2023 will be Caminos Catalan and Vasco and Machu Picchu? I’d be lucky for one of those. Una ruta nueva al menos una vez al mes. En 2022, fui a España para hacer los Caminos Aragonés y de Invierno (pero no Machu Picchu). ¿Quizás 2023 será los Caminos Catalanes y Vascos Machu Picchu? Estaría afortunado hacer solo una de esas cosas este año. 
  12. Find a decent therapist or life coach. Encontrar un buen psicologo o life coach.
  13. Avoid Covid. Evitar Covid.

2022 in Review

(Crossposted with Post)

After 2021, 2022 had nowhere to go but up. My mom passed away on April 7th, 2021, so most of the year was spent grieving and dealing with her estate. While my mom was in the hospital, I mistakingly accepted a Ph.D offer from a school that would prove to be the wrong fit. I liked the other offer better, but I was worried my mom would have to go into assisted living and didn’t want to deal with figuring out how to get her a Canadian or UK visa so she could be near me. 

That meant 2022 was spent cleaning up the mistake of accepting that Ph.D offer. The school was in a red state, which meant they ignored white supremacist students and gaslit us about Covid. I made the decision late in Fall 2021 that I would leave after the spring semester, which I did. I loved my students and my classes (both the ones I taught and took), but the university was not a good fit. Plus, two of the professors who were specialists in what I wanted to research were retiring and being replaced with a Russian professor. And starting a Ph.D the year your mom dies was not a good idea.

I moved back to Illinois to live with my partner, and I am slowly recovering from that mistake and am about to start job hunting and working on my fiction and travel writing once again. I am considering re-applying to different Ph.D programs, but I fear my leaving the program I was in will mean automatic rejection anywhere.

This year was mostly travel, albeit travel safely (I still wear a KN95 mask inside any public space and keep up with Covid vaccine boosters.)

I stepped foot in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.

I also travelled back home to Spain, where I lived in 2003 and again from 2008-2018 (and where I hope to move back to some day soon). I finally did the Camino Aragonés and also walked the Camino del Invierno, and I visited two new countries, Croatia (overrated: too touristy, and caters to tourists over their own citizens) and Montenegro (I loved it).

I’ll have another post soon with my goals and hopes for 2023. 

Here are my “Brightsides” award winners for the year.

Best Artist: Mariah Carey

Entertainer of the Year: Cast of Shameless

Best Movie:Madres Paralelas

Best Lead Actress, Movie: Penélope Cruz, (Janis) Madres paralelas, 

Best Lead Actor, Movie: Austin Butler (Elvis Presley), Elvis

Best Supporting Actress, Movie: Milena Smit (Ana), Madres paralelas

Best Supporting Actor, Movie: Pedro Pascal (Javi Guitierrez), The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Director: Pedro Almodóvar, Madres paralelas

Best Series, Comedy: Abbott Elementary

Best Series, Drama: Cobra Kai,

Best Lead Actor, Comedy: Eugenio Derbez (Máximo Gallardo), Acapulco

Best Lead Actress, Comedy: Jean Smart (Deborah Vance) Hacks

Best Lead Actor, Drama: Carlos Cuevas (Pol Rubio), Merlí: Sapere Aude; 

Best Lead Actress, Drama: Rose Byrne (Sheila Rubin), Physical; 

Best Supporting Actor, Comedy: Deon Cole (Charlie Telphy), black-ish; 

Best Supporting Actor, Drama: Christopher Walken (Burt), Severance

Best Supporting Actress, Comedy: Sheryl Lee Ralph (Barbara Howard), Abbott Elementary; Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (Sofia), Loot (tie)

Best Supporting Actress, Drama: Simona Tabasco (Lucia), The White Lotus: 

Best Use of Adam Scott in an Apple TV Series: Severance

Best Streamer: Apple TV+, 

Best General Hospital Actor or Actress: Kristina Wagner (Felicia Scorpio)

Worst Acting: Maurice Bernard (Sonny Corinthos), General Hospital; Genie Frances (Lasha Collins), 

Best Series Finale:Claws; 

Retro Show: Shameless

Rewatch: Jane the Virgin 

Worst Artist: Kanye West

Best Female Artist: Mariah Carey

Best Male Artist: Álvaro Soler

Best Group: The Killers

Best Discovered Artist: Funambulista

Video of the Year: “Bring Back the Time” by New Kids on the Block f. En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, Rick Astley

Album of the Year: Special by Lizzo

Song of the Year: “Don’t You Worry” by Black Eyed Peas f. Shakira & David Guetta, 

Single of the Year: Big Energy Remix by Latto f. Mariah Carey; 

Lifetime Achievement Awards (One actor, actress and director from film, one actor and actress from TV, one female, male and group)

Film: Pedro Almodóvar, Carmen Maura, Ewan McGregor 
TV: Felicity Huffman, Tristian Rogers
Music: Mariah Carey, The Killers, Alex Ubago

I always do these memes, since 2003, to commemorate the end of the year. 

The first, the places I slept in 2022: Champaign, Illinois; Lincoln, Nebraska; Wall, South Dakota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Salt Lake City, Utah; Moab, Utah; Eagle, Colorado; Pierre, South Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota; Winona, Minnesota; Toledo, Ohio; Milan, Ohio; Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain; Girona, Catalunya, Spain; Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain; Jaca, Aragón, Spain; Sta. Cruz de los Ceros, Aragón, Spain; Arrés, Aragón, Spain; Ruesta, Navarra, Spain; Sangüesa, Navarra, Spain; Monreal, Navarra, Spain; Puente de la Reina, Navarra, Spain; Irún, Euskadi, Spain; Ponferrada, León, Spain; Las Médulas, León, Spain; O Barco de Valdeorras, Galicia, Spain; A Rua de Valdeorras, Galicia, Spain; A Ponte, Galicia, Spain; Monforte de Lemos, Galicia, Spain; Chantada, Galicia, Spain; Rodeiro, Galicia, Spain; Lalín, Galicia, Spain; Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain; Burgos, Castilla León, Spain; Manresa, Catalunya, Spain; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Split, Croatia; Zagreb, Croatia; Sitges, Catalunya, Spain; Peñíscola, País València, Spain; València, País València, Spain; Barcelona, Spain; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Duluth, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin; Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada; Ann Arbor, Michigan

1. What did you do in 2022 that you’d never done before?: Visit Croatia and Montenegro

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?: Some goals, most not really. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?: I don’t think so.

4. Did anyone close to you die?: My friend from uni, Gabriel. Plus Naomi Judd’s death was hard seeing how much The Judds were a part of my youth.

5. What countries did you visit?: US, Spain, Croatia, Montenegro, Canada

6. What would you like to have in 2022 that you lacked in 2021?: A golden retriever and no Covid worries. And a job and a writing career. 

7. What date from 2022 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?: Sept 12-when I went back to Spain.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?: The Caminos de Santiago walked. 

9. What was your biggest failure?: Quitting the Ph.D in May and being unemployed sense.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Depression and anxiety.

11. What was the best thing you bought?: Trip to Spain. 

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My boyfriend.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?: Donald Trump and his supporters. (keeping from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021. Scary!) Adding ALL REPUBLICANS for 2021 and 2022. At this point, if you support him, you support bigotry and everything the US stands for. If you’re a conversative who is also appalled, though, I still respect you even if I disagree with you. I do not respect Trump and his minions. Keeping from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 202, 2022. I will keep Pablo Casado, Albert Rivera, Mariano Rajoy, and all of VOX and their supporters.

14. Where did most of your money go?: Travel, café con leche, books (kept from 2015 and 2016) (and 2017) (and 2018) (and 2019, 2020…)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?: Spain

16. What song will always remind you of 2022?: Bring Back the Time by NKOTB et al. 

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier
ii. thinner or fatter? About the same.
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?: Writing, travelling.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Dealing with anxiety and depression.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?: I spent it with my boyfriend and then a trip to Niagara.

21. How will you be spending New Years? Eating grapes at 5 PM Central Standard Time, which is midnight in most of the Iberian peninsula. Then movie with the boyfriend.

22. Did you fall in love in 2022?: I continued to be in love.

24. What was your favorite TV program?: Cobra Kai, Abbott Elementary for current ones. Shameless for best new to me show.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?: Same suspects. 

26. What was the best book you read?: 

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?: Dale Bozzio

28. What did you want and get?: A return to Spain. 

29. What did you want and not get?: A golden retriever, stability.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?: It’s actually from 2021, but Madres paralelas. 

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?: 41. Went for a walk along a local lake, had carry out.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?: No Covid.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?: Preppy-casual

34. What kept you sane?: My boyfriend, Hulu, travel, and Jordi (my iPod).

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?: Not sure I even have a celeb crush at this point. 

36. What political issue stirred you the most?: The overturn of Roe v. Wade, the lack of protocols over Covid and how one party politicized a virus.

37. Who did you miss?: My mom, Fallon Fey, my golden retriever, and Spain

38. Who was the best new person you met?: I guess people on the Camino

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2022: Don’t apply to a Ph.D in a red state.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: “I missed a lot of life, but I’ll recover” Petals by Mariah Carey (1999).

The 41st Season begins!

Every year on my birthday, I post an “interview” with myself. As today is my 41st birthday, it’s time to celebrate the renewal for Season 41. 

Interviewer: ¡Hola! It’s been a while, but we did want to congratulate you on your 41st season!

Setmeravelles: Thank you, gracias, gràcies, graças, eskerrik asko, obrigado.

Interviewer: I know you’re busy, so I’ll keep this short. Congrats again on making it to 41 seasons!

Setmeravelles: Thanks again.

Interviewer: We know one of your favourite pastimes is travel, and this year took you to a lot of cool places. The Badlands, Wall Drug, Sioux Falls, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah, Fargo, the Twin Cities and Winona Minnesota, back “home” to Spain to do the Caminos Aragonés and del Invierno, Croatia, and Duluth Minnesota. Which was your favourite?

Setmeravelles: Being back in Spain, obviously. Being able to take part on the Camino once again and spending time in a rincón of Spain I didn’t know so well (Galicia). I wish every day could be a Camino day. I also loved exploring Minnesota, a state I hadn’t been to since 1989 when I was just 7 years old. 

Interviewer: I hear Croatia was a disappointment?

Setmeravelles: Unfortunately–too touristy, I have zero interest in Games of Thrones, and I couldn’t get a real feel for the culture as everything was geared toward tourists. 

Interviewer: That’s a shame. In your personal life you left a Ph.D program. Care to expand on that?

Setmeravelles: Yeah, it wasn’t a good fit. Two of the professors were retiring only to be replaced with a Russian professor, the uni (not my department) gaslit everyone about Covid while condoning white supremacy, and the location was just not my cup of tea. I have no clue what I’m going to do now. Can’t I just walk the Camino and get paid?

Interviewer: If only! Maybe you’ll luck out and you’ll become a famous writer who can live off of that!

Setmeravelles: If only! I’m hoping to get back into writing–still have to write about the Camino, plus a lot of fiction rolling around in my head. Just been dealing with depression and haven’t been able to break out of this mode to write…or job hunt.

Interviewer: We wish you the best of luck with that. Any spoilers for the 41st season?

Setmeravelles: Other than a job hunt and writing, the only travel I have planned is a trip to Niagara between Christmas and New Years, and a possible trip to Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia this summer. It depends how Covid and the job hunt goes. I haven’t had Covid (knock on wood), am vaccinated and boosted and still masking and taking precautions, but seeing how no one else is…*sigh*

Interviewer: I know, right?

Setmeravelles: another sigh

Interviewer: Any last words?

Setmeravelles: Vote Blue no matter who! Also if you know anyone needing a Spanish-English or Catalan-English translator…

Interviewer: We’ll keep that in mind. Have a fantastic 41st season!