Tuesday, November 18, 2008

National Geographic Adventurer

Hey, check out December's National Geographic Adventurer! I got travel commentary published there, albeit published in the "Letters to the Editor" section. The commentary is about Spain - how did you guess? And El Camino de Santiago.

Will write for food! Pernacles, in fact...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Pilgrims, Art Walkers and Diamond Mines

Last night I swept around the streets of Flagstaff, AZ with two girlfriends. They in brightly colored southwestern ponchos and Indian blanket shawls. Me in a boring leather motorcycle jacket. Hey, it's Italian leather, bought during travel at a trendy fashion boutique in Perugia, Umbria. And no matter that I just saw in our favorite Silpada Jewelry catalogue a model wearing a similarly cut jacket, I was labeled "boring" by other art walkers. Art walkers? In the Navajo Lands we have "skin walkers" -- sorcerers of sorts, 'shaman' would be the ethnographic-sensitive term. But art walkers, what are those?

On the first Friday of the month, the art galleries and boutiques of historic downtown Flagstaff swing wide their doors offering wine and cheese, and other delectable nibbles to visitors and locals alike. So popular are the 'First Friday Art Walks' that the streets last night were filled with folks ambling, socializing and walking between Flagstaff's eclectic assortment of art galleries: art walkers.

I saw many familiar faces amongst the art walkers and was surprised at how many young people come out for the festivities. Northern Arizona University is just around the proverbial corner from downtown Flagstaff, and when I think back to my own college days, I, too, was always up for free food.

With wool hats and sweaters bundled against the mountain-town chill, walkers parade arm-in-arm up and down Old Route 66, San Francisco Street and over to Heritage Square. And then escape to mingle tightly -- old and young -- into warm galleries. I saw Ray across the crowd in one tightly packed boutique.

"Ray," I shouted. The local musician playing her amplified acoustical guitar among the racks of mod clothing (there's a metaphor hiding there somewhere) made it a little hard to hear. Ray is hard of hearing anyway. His wrinkle-grizzled face looks stately under his Indiana Jones felt hat.

"How was your pilgrimage?" he asked.
"Thanks for your prayers; I needed them," I answered. "It was a tough 180 miles. My Achilles tendons are still bothering me." I ended my pilgrimage in Northern Spain over 30 days ago and my 53-year-old body is still healing."
"I had a friend that visited South Africa many years ago," Ray explained. The quick-minded wisdom of this 80-year old sage always surprises me. "He met with the owner of a diamond mining company. The man took him into his office, opened the safe and pulled out a small bag. He emptied the contents of the bag onto his desk. There was a mere fistful of diamonds laying there. 'To unearth these diamonds, I had to move thousands of tons of rock and mud.'" Ray's eyes met mine with a piercing knowing. "'But it was all worth it,' the diamond owner said."
"Yes," I agree thoughtfully. "My Camino was like that: a huge effort, but worth every nugget."
"Well, you look good," Ray states welcomingly. "I like your jacket."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

El Camino de Santiago: Logrono Refugio

"Did you like that last bit?" asks Ian from London about the long, boring trek through Logrono's industrial section. "Fighting it every step of the way, I'd say," he says greeting another pilgrim coming into the dorm room who just completed the day's hike. This dorm has ¾ walls separating each group of pilgrims into two or three bunk beds to a 7x7 space. We are packed into a tight maze and must walk through each others bed area. But the cool thing is that you can see over the wall and talk with other pilgrims.

The sleeping arrangements in the Spanish refugios make all of us one big family. We sleep together; take our clothes off and on in the same unisex rooms. There are private shower stalls. In some refugios there maybe coed shower rooms with private stalls, which makes it very interesting if the shower stall is so tight that you must hang your towel and clothes outside the mini-stall. But most refugios have separate shower rooms for men and women. Still makes you feel like family when you are trying to hurry your shower as other women wait outside the shower stall. I like to do as much as I can outside the shower booth before I jump in because others are waiting.

This afternoon before today's shower I realized that my backpacker light-weight towel had been taken from the clothesline from the last albergue in Los Arcos. "I distinctly remember hanging my towel on the line in the garden last night with my other things. I went out this morning and took everything down from the line as I was packing, " I said to Ermigard, a pathologist from Germany. "I didn't realize until now that my towel was not hanging on the line."

"Here use my towel," she offered. "It is slightly wet, but it is better than nothing." So I use the damp towel of a woman I met only two days ago, but who now is family.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Meet Author and Innovative Church Leader Craig Groeschel

Dan was blown away by Craig Groeschel's new book, It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, and decided to offer a study at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church. We were blessed to meet Craig and his wife, Amy this past Sunday at the Mesa campus of Life Church. Dan's sister Kathy and her husband Rolf serve at the Mesa campus of Life Church.

About the Book

From the Back Cover: "When Craig Groeschel founded LifeChurch.tv, the congregation met in a borrowed two-car garage, with ratty furnishings and faulty audiovisual equipment. But people were drawn there, sensing a powerful, life-changing force Groeschel calls “It.”

"What is It, and how can you and your ministry get—and keep—It? Combining in-your-face honesty with off-the-wall humor, this book tells how any believer can obtain It, get It back, and guard It.

"One of today’s most innovative church leaders, Groeschel provides profile interviews with Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, Tim Stevens, Mark Batterson, Jud Wilhite, and Dino Rizzo.

"This lively book will challenge churches and their leaders to maintain the spiritual balance that results in experiencing It in their lives."

To see what Life Church is all about go to: http://www.lifechurch.tv/ Dan's class starts on October 23; he has an autographed copy of the book for you. Call him at 928-699-2367 for place and time.

Monday, October 06, 2008

El Camino: Stories from the Ancient Path

There are many stories from the ancient path as yet untold. So although Burgos is the "fin de" my pilgrimage, please keep coming back to this blog for the telling of those adventures. Hoping to stay in touch with my Camino friends who continue on ahead of me to Santiago de Compostela, I will keep you updated on their journeys.

Thanks to my friends, family and church family at Trinity Heights United Methodist Church in Flagstaff, AZ for your prayer support. Several times I felt especially uplifted by your prayers. Today is Sunday and I miss worshiping the Lord with you. I attended the 9 am Mass at the glorious Cathedral of Burgos. Today's Mass was in Spanish which was easier to follow than the last Mass I attended -- which was disappointingly officiated in Latin. The priest shook hands with parishioners as he left the front of the church. When he got to my pew, he shook my hand and said "Buon Camino." So even though I put on my best pilgrim clothes for church, I still look like a pelegrina (Spanish for pilgrim, feminine form.)

I looked forward to participating in Taize worship services along the Way of St. James, but the only thing close was an impromptu morning service. It was informally conducted by eight German pilgrims in an ancient monastery outside of Estella. The six Norwegian ladies were in the soaring stone sanctuary, too. We all knew a couple of the Taize songs and sang along with the Deutschers, our voices magnified by the perfect acoustics.

If you're not familiar with Taize, I recommend that you Google the religious practice. Its interesting history starts with Catholic brothers hiding Jews during WWII in Taize, France. An internationally blended form of worship, Taize uses the light of candles and the sweet harmonies of the human voice in different languages along with the guitar. It is very popular with the youth (and youthful) of Europe.

Tomorrow I travel to Madrid. The bus service is cheaper, has more frequent departures and gets me to Madrid faster than the train, so I've decided to take the bus. I haven't found a place to stay in Madrid, but I'm headed to one of the main, if not most touristy plazas, Plaza Sol. I should be able to find something there.

I spend one quick night, and then the next day, I take the Metro to the airport for my 11am flight.

Friday, October 03, 2008

El Camino - Atapuerca Friday, October 03, 2008

"Do you have a husband?" I asked the perky pilgrim who used an umbrella for a hiking stick as we walked.
"Yes, but he has a health problem that would make him uncomfortable to walk El Camino."
"My husband doesn't have the interest to walk El Camino."
"Well, it's not a thing done lightly, is it?" says Anne in a deep but sweet Scottish accent.
"You really must want to do it, to be able to do it."
The El Camino is challenging. Not only the walking and the carting of a heavy load, but also sometimes the monotony of step after step. But that monotony brings you an appreciation of the present moment. Of the little things that surround you. The proverbial "Stop and smell the roses." But it is fall and the roses are all but gone, but left behind are large and brilliant red rose hips springing like berries from human-sized bushes.
"Every once in a while I am hit with a moment of thankfulness. Like when I see the sun shining on that ancient bell tower in the village ahead of us there. You know what I mean, Stacey?" asks Anne. We have been walking since Villafranca, first up a very steep four km stretch. "I would not like to bicycle this," tsck-tscks Jacques.

The small things like not being hungry enough to eat the whole apple, but being able to share it with a fellow pilgrim. Jacques came in behind us to the small bar at San Juan de Ortega. He had stopped to layer up as we strode into the cold, fall wind. "I about froze out there," I said being thankful for the small wood stove smoking in the corner."Probably not good for the health,' said Anne, "But it smells good anyway" about the wood fire. We waved to our Camino friends Juliana and her parents from Maryland, as we wiggled up to the bar to order our café con leche.

I sat down next to a new pilgrim. "Where are you from?" I asked, breaking my El Camino rule of first asking for a name before anything else. I think I was just too tired, or maybe I am softening to my self-imposed Camino etiquette.
"Ottawa," he said.
"We have not met yet," I said sticking out my gloved hand, "I am Stacey from Arizona." "I am Andrew." I sat down and started to cut apart a huge orange with my small Swiss Army knife.
"That is the smallest knife I have ever seen," said Andrew. "They let you carry that on?" he asked meaning the Airport Security officials.
"Oh, no. This was in checked baggage," I said. "I have enough of these little ones taken from me by airport security. I forget I have them in a small backpack, but the X-ray machine always makes me remember." I gave Anne a quarter of the dripping orange and offered another to Andrew.
"No thank you," he passed, "I have already had two bananas this morning." I cut my banana into three pieces and laid one at Jacques' spot at the table.
"I have this map I printed off the Internet. It is not bad, but it is Spanish. It shows three routes from here; do you know which one is best for walking?"
I looked at his map. "I think you should ask Jacque. He did reconnaissance on this route last summer and he knows the way well. He can help you. He is a coronel in the French Army." Jacques came in with a hot chocolate.
"Café con leche is not the only thing that they make here," he stated.
"This is for you," I said pushing his quarter of orange to his banana. "Oh banana!" I have not had a banana in a long time. I used to have a banana tree in my garden in Africa."
"Garden in Africa? Where were you in Africa?" exclaimed the Canadian.
"I was in Zaire, the French Congo area for several years."
"Yes, Gabon, too. It was very beautiful there."
"I always wanted to go to Gabon but never got there. I was in Zimbabwe."
"What were you doing there?" I asked hoping for a missionary story.
"Teaching. I was teaching,"
"And what were you teaching?" I asked digging further.
"I was teaching teachers to teach." He paused, "I was teaching those who wanted to teach teach." I found it very interesting how he rephrased it into those who wanted to teach. In Africa it is better to explain exactly, and it sounded like that was what he was doing with me now. Then Anne asked me a question and the conversation about Africa spun on between the men.

Later as we walked, Jacques said, "The bad thing about having a banana tree in your garden is that there are huge snakes that look exactly like banana trees. They are very big, and very dangerous. They strike fast -- like an arrow. They are very poisonous. You are dead in one hour."
"Did you ever see one?"
"Oh, yes but they were very difficult to see because they look exacament like the tree."
"So what did you do? Did you get a big stick? Or did you send one of your servants out to get him?"
"One time there was a very loud noise on the roof. It was a mamba noire - black mamba - four meters long. They are very dangerous, too." He said. Jacque has an interesting way of avoiding the question and continuing his story from wherever it takes him. I think it is the language barrier. I think he can speak English better than he can hear it. But that could be true for his native tonung as well. Being a male creature and all.
"The very educated man, a doctor, from next door started calling, 'Coronel! Coronel! You must get your gun and come kill this snake.'
"I had a cache of weapons in my home, but it was only grenades and a machine gun. If I started shooting a machine gun, it would start all kinds of problems,
So we got many people to surround the house and make a noise to keep the snake where he was. I ran down to get a gun. I told the man, I need a rifle!" He said what for. . There was quite a ruckus.
”I came back with the rifle and climbed up the ladder to the roof. I took careful aim, like this," Jacques mimicked the gun with his hiking stick, "and killed the snake with one shot." Or maybe it was two with the way he mimed the hunting adventure.
"In the meantime the local army had been notified and they came in their riot gear. They saw the dead snake and started firing upon it for 10 minutes straight.
"The whole time my wife was inside taking pictures through the windows."


Last night, trying to fall asleep under the huge Korean, I thought of the first line of my book. 'I slept under the huge Korean tonight.' It always seems like a much better idea when you are half asleep. But as I examined the bulging springs of the bunk overhead it seemed like a good idea. I was actually afraid that the bed was going to come crashing down across my neck. I would be screaming and trying to make one last great effort to heave the bunk and the Korean tonnage from my windpipe. The German men who skoff at me carrying my computer, "Such an American!" would come running to help and be impressed as I benchlift the weight above me. "Strong Woman" would be my final words and as I began to write the newspaper headline, Arizona Pilgrim Finds Peace in Tragic Alburgue Accident, I somehow fall asleep.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

El Camino de Santiago pilgrim blessings

Tomorrow is St. Dominga de Calzada (where I am now the oldest pilgrim refugio dating back to the 11th C.) to Belorado 23 km x .6 = 13.8 miles. There is an interesting story about this place that my Walk to Emmaus friends would like. CENTURIES AGO, a boy walked to Santiago with his pilgrim parents. When they got here, they stayed in a refugio run by a family with a girl. When he rejected her advances, she hid some treasure in his bag and then reported the treasure stolen. Sounds like the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. Does the right thing and then is accused of wrong-doing by the woman scorned...

As the story goes... the boy was hung for the crime he did not commit. Miraculously he did not die at the gallows, but hug there for quite sometime. The parents went to the mayor of St Dominga de Calzada to petition that he be cut down. The mayor who was eating a succulent chicken dinner laughed. ``Only if this roast chicken jumped up off the table and crowed would I release your devilish son!´´ With that the roast galina jumped off the mayor´s dinner plate and crowed - probably three times.

The boy was released, and of course redeemed, and to this day the cathedral keeps two cackling while hens (galinas) in the sancuary. Your El Camino pilgrimage will be blessed if one crows while you are there.

It is quite interesting being in a very large pilgrimage cathedral with soaring ceilings, hearing the hushed voices of tourists and pilgrims looking at the artwork with the soft, soothing sound of classical music in the background - the cultured sounds of an art museum - and then hearing the harsh, back-to-nature sound of a chicken crowing. Almost a conundrum, makes me want to break out in song: ``De Colores son visten los campos en la primavera!´´ But then I did hear the hen crow, so my El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage has its special blessing. Maybe this cold will be slept out by tomorrow morning. Thanks for your prayers.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Blister Care on El Camino de Santiago

There is a fighting contention going on about the care of my feet here in Spain. Jacque, the coronel from the French Army who led troups in Zaire for 20 years says no `Compede´ which is a fake skin-type bandaide that stays adhered to the foot for days. `No´ because of the blood ... I have bloody blisters. But the ski dude, Michael, from Austria says, ``That´s not right!´´

Now the woman doctor, Dr. Eli, 28-ish from Pamplona looks at my out-stretched foot while I write this, and says Col. Jacque did a good job of the bandage. (French Army bandage gauze with hi-tech tape.) Great controversy on how to treat blisters. Roger from Brazil threads a needle, pierces the blister and leaves the thread in the blister to drain the liquid overnight.

Pilgrim dinner tonight. All is well except this last day´s leg was VERY draining muchas calor (very hot) and dry. I thought I was trekking in Camp Verde, AZ all day. It looks the same - cottonwood trees, pinon trees, yucca plants, buff-colored rock - only no motor noise. Buon Camino!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pamplona, Spain

Hola from Pamplona, Espana. No I am not "running with the bulls" in my white Elvis jumpsuit and red bandanna around my neck... that happens in July to celebrate St Fermin's feast day...

A 'lay-over day' in terms of the 1970s backpacking days was a day to relax at the campsite, put your feet up and let the blisters dry out. Today is my 'lay-over day' in Pamplona. However, it has been anything but relaxing. Too many tasks to complete. I scheduled the morning time for answering and responding to my business email. Unfortunately my Pamplona "office" was not as keen as my St Jean Pied du Port café.

I learned from Jane, a fellow pilgrim, that the bus station at Pamplona has WiFi and a place to have coffee, so I booked down to the bus station from the Jesus y Maria Refugio this morning. The station is tres modern: stainless steel and glass, not anything like what we would think of a smelly bus depot in the US. However, it was underground, so no sunlight for the first four hours of my day. (I should mention that the station has a fantastic green roof going in on the street level. The depth of earth material is so extraordinary that they are turning the soil with two agricultural-sized tractors. No sod yet. It promises to be lovely.)

Unfortunately my experience so far in Europe has been that it very difficult to find WiFi. (Internet cafes are common - you can use THEIR computers to access the internet. Because of my MS Outlook business email account, I need to use my own computer; therefore Wi-Fi is an important resource at least once every three days.) And so it seems that whenever I finally find Wi-Fi, there is no outlet to access electricity so I must run on battery power, Of course, my battery power does not last long, and I end up plugging into the Ladies' Room outlet or some such other out of the way spot. And Wi-Fi is impossible to access in an out of the way spot. C'est la vie… patience!

Money from Heaven

Speaking of patience, one of my tasks today was to find a place that would cash an American Express check. It seems a simple task. However, after tries at five different banks so far, I am beginning to understand that Travelers Checks are a thing of the past. Probably because of the advent of ATM machines, what 20 years ago… The travelers' checks that I am carrying are from years ago. Almost seems like 'FREE' money, they are so old. But a $100 AmX Travelers check doesn't go very far against the Euro. At the sixth banque, I got $67.00 and then charged an additional nine Euros for a service fee.

I asked the manager, "Un autre pregunta, por favor." Another question, please. Then I laid out on the bank counter 100,000 pesetas. He picked them up and examined them as if they were foreign currency. Pesetas were the Spanish currency before switching to the Euro. "Not here," he said in Spanish after finally recognizing the old bills. "Go across the street to the left to La Banque de Epana."

Across the street is the Pamplona Post Office, so I stop there first. Another chore for the day is to send back some ropa (clothing) and a small book that I am DONE with carrying in my all too heavy backpack. Did I mention patience earlier in this article? I was at the post office for over an hour… waiting in line. It is the Spanish way. Everything is slower here. I am hoping to learn the pace. They can spot me a mile a way: An American walking so fast down the sidewalk on to her next task! Got the package wrapped and mailed with the help of the nice postal workers.

Then onto el Banque de Epana. Could these old bills really be worth something? I turned left and went to the end of the block. I was SURE this is what he said. But no sign on the huge, squatty building made of ochre colored sandstone. There were two impressive flags flying above the broad doors five steps above the street level, wanted posters picturing good-looking Basque fugitives, and lots of electronic security at the entrance. This must be the place.

I walked up the steps and pressed the black button for admission. The green button lit, a buzzer sounded and the bronze and glass door opened to let me into the vestibule. The door in front of me remained locked until the door behind swung shut. I pressed the next black button, feeling like I was in an episode of Get Smart. The second green light finally lit - good thing I don't have claustrophobia - and I pushed the second heavy portal forward. The room I then entered into reminded me of photos of old time banks I'd seen at my local Flagstaff, AZ Wells Fargo. A big room surrounded with glassed-in teller windows. Of the 12-16 windows, only one was manned - by a woman.

"Eso es el Banque de Espana?" I asked. I couldn't believe it when she said, "Si/Yes." This was a blessing too good to be true! On the same street, and only ½ a block away from the post office. "Pesetas," I said. "Pesetas cela," she said pointing to the corner window where a man suddenly appeared. I had no idea that I could still exchange this old money, I brought it with me just on happen stance that I could. I was totally amazed as he filled out the paperwork after examining the bills. 65.10 Euros or $90!

It is money from heaven. Thank you, God! I probably bought these pesetas in my first trip to Spain in 1996, when I was rich. I didn't realize that I had them when I went back to Barcelona with Dan in 2000. I think we were on Euros by then… The Spanish currency went unremembered on my first El Camino journey to Santiago de Compostela in 2005. The pesetas have been a hidden treasure until now -- when I really needed them. God provides in mysterious ways.

I saw an Italian pilgrim, Francesco, with a familiar design on the back of his T-shirt. I made some excuse to stand behind him to look closer. Sure enough, in small print, it said the artwork was done by a Hopi artist. I was so excited to see Hopi on the back of an Italian in northern Spain!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

French cafe - St Jean Pied du Port

A foamy cappuccino, a buttery croissant and FREE WiFi - what more could you ask for? Today I begin my walk from St Jean Pied du Port, France over the Pyrenees. The French Canadian couple at the refugio (sleeping place for pilgrims)grimaced when they lifted my backpack. They had made a portion of the trek yesterday as a daytrip- without backpacks.

Yesterday was the EuroStar from London to Paris. Here's my writing from yesterday's Parisian experience:

Paris: Le Monde headline today: Septembre noir pour Wall Street

Last Thursday there was a huge fire in the Chunnel - the route my EuroStar train takes from London to Paris. In Paris I took the Metro from Gare Nord "North Station" where I disembarked from the EuroStar and caught a Metro to Montparnasse where I catch my connection to Bayonne, France and then a local train to Ste. Jean Pied du Port, my final rail destination in France. After spending a week with the highly efficient - if not obsessively orderly - Brits, it is quit a culture shock to arrive in Paris with the aggressive, butting in line French. The train that I was on was a combination of the 8:32 am train and the 9:40 am train. Because of a huge chemical fire in the Chunnel, there was limited service. The 8:32 train - my train was cancelled and put on the later train. However, anyone with connecting trains in Paris has to stand in a mile-long cue, to get their French tickets re-issued. I stood and stood and stood. Okay the line wasn't really a mile long, it was 1.6 km long.

My tickets have been re-issued, but I will arrive in SJPP two hours après dinner… hope the door is still open. I would email them from Paris, but no free WiFi in this central station… and where I can find a plug to charge my battery, there is no pay-for WiFi. (I could get it behind this wall at this café petite, but not at this electrical plug site. Tant pis!) I used up my battery on the EuroStar from London - no WiFi, no electric outlet on that voyage.

The train trip to York yesterday had both free WiFi and electric access, but I did not think to bring my computer. Feeling rather poorly about not thinking to bring it, and looking across the isle at Keith tapping away at his work on his computer, Harry from the British Library consoled me. "Keith brings his computer EVERYWHERE."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Champagne Reception at the British Museum

The International Association of Museum Facility Administrators kicked off their annual conference in London this week with a champagne reception in the King's Library at the British Museum. Munching delightful appetizers served on bottom-lit trays and tapping to jazz music, members renewed acquaintances with FM museum folk from all over the world.

I am here helping facilitate the facilities benchmarking workshop. For more information go to: http://www.facilityissues.com/

Not a drop of rain since we arrived. Londoners are celebrating the Arizona sunshine!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Controled burns in Flagstaff forests today

Controlled burns in Flagstaff today

After the drenching thunderstorms of the last 48 hours, the Mormon Lake Hotshots were out lighting slash piles this morning. The Mormon Lake Hotshots are an elite group of Coconino National Forest fire fighters based 10 miles east of our Munds Park home. Smokey clouds were billowing out of the Ponderosa Pine forests as Dan drove me to the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. "If the fires get out of control this morning, they'll be flooded by the monsoons later this afternoon," I said looking up at the tall, swirling white plumes.

From my 3F window seat on the small aircraft that flew me out of the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, it was a thrill to look down at the tops of those mushroom-shaped clouds of smoke dotting the forest below.

I followed my own advice from a former blog posting - "4 Tips on How to Travel Light" (see below). The US Airways reps at check-in were seemingly amazed at the (un)weight of my bags -- checked all the way to London. I was 25-pounds under the 50-pound per bag limit imposed by the airline. I packed my lightest clothes, went back and took out 20% of everything -- including my Ibuprophen tablets! Yes, I did count them out, and remove 20%. I'm a light-packing maniac!

Happy surprise at check-in: no luggage charge for two bags on international flights! (US Air charges $15/bag on domestic flights.)Checked the super-light backpack (for my El Camino pilgrimage in Spain), and a "carry-on" sized bag for the ballroom gown, business suit, etc for biz in London.

Did you know that now two airlines serve the Flagstaff Pulliam Airport? US Airways from their Phoenix hub and Horizon Air/Alaska Airlines from LAX.
Posted from the US Airways Lounge, Phoenix, AZ.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

How to travel from northern Spain to Madrid

My flight home from Spain leaves Madrid Barajas International Airport (MAD) on 11:00 am October 7. My plan is to walk east to west from St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Fromista in northern Spain. Why Fromista? I'm excited to experience Fromista's Iglesia (Church) San Martin. I've heard that it is an extraordinary example of Romanesque architecture, and it's famous for the 315 stone-sculpted figures encircling the church's exterior. But once my pilgrimage ends in Fromista, I need to hurry to Madrid for that flight.

On the map, I can see a railroad line going through Fromista - a small town. Unfortunately http://www.renfe.es/ , the official website for Spain's train system tells me there is no ticket available from Fromista to Madrid. Thanks to one of my favorite guides, Rick Steves, I read about a remarkable German website that gives exacting details of train schedules for all over Europe. This page takes you to Spanish trains: http://bahn.hafas.de/bin/query.exe/en. I can see the schedule for this leg of my trip, but unfortunately the site does not allow me to buy tickets online. Maybe that route is seasonal. None of the on-line bus (coach) companies serve the Fromista region. Pre-planning transportation out of this very remote area is becoming a frustrating knot.

Plan B

Burgos, Spain is a university town with many daily trains to Madrid. It is a three-day walk east of Fromista. That means I will have to end my pilgrimage three days earlier than I anticipated. I'm really disappointed in this outcome until I convert the kilometers into miles that I will walk from St. Jean Pied de Port to Burgos. 194.3 miles - I think that is enough! I don't need to hurry my trip to see the 315 stone-sculpted figures at the church in Fromista. But who's counting? I bet I will have seen more than enough Romanesque exteriors by the time I arrive in Burgos. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

4 Smart Tips on How to Travel Light

Last week I began my initial packing for my trip to London and Spain. The tricky business about this pack job is that after my business trip to London a la ballroom gown and business attire, I will be hoisting my backpack and trekking across Northern Spain. What to do with the high heeled-shoes and strapless accouterments to the formal evening wear?

I checked prices with UPS, DHL, FedEx and a boutique luggage handling company for shipping the biz clothes home. FedEx offers the lowest estimated price, but the actual price will be determined by the weight of my returning bag. Therefore, I need to pack as light as possible. Here are a few tips on How to Pack Light that I've learned over the years:

1.) Make a calendar of the days you'll be gone. Write down the outfit you plan to wear for the morning- for me that's work, and more formal - and then the evening, more casual. Include every item that you'll need. What color shoes? Do you need a belt? Which one? What from the first outfit can you wear two days later? Perhaps the top you wear under your suit can double for a work-out T later on. I plan to first use a piece for business when it is crisp and clean, and then use it a second or third time in a more casual venue. Once you have everything written down, you can start to edit. Do you really need black, brown and navy shoes? Re-plan your wardrobe so you only need one pair of dress shoes, and one pair of comfortable, casual shoes. What from Day 4 can you wear again on Day 6? Mix and match. Get rid of anything that you can't use at least twice. Once you've reworked your list, pack only the clothes on the list. Not one item more!

2.) Try on everything before you pack it. You may need to run it to the dry cleaner. By trying on that backless evening dress, you'll remember the special foundation that you bought to go along with it. How does it fit since the last time wore it? Take your shoes out for a 'dry run'. Will you really be able to comfortably walk around Europe - or wherever - in the shoes you are planning to bring?

3.) Pack everything in the luggage that you plan to take several days before you leave. Feel how heavy your bags are. Do you REALLY want to be schlepping this much weight around the airport, the train station or the quaint bed and breakfast that you picked out on the internet - that has no elevator? Re-open you bag and take out 20% - or more - of what you already packed.
- How do you get rid of 20% of your packed panties? Get rid of 50% by using panty liners. Day 1 use fresh underwear with pantyliner. Day 2 - throw away panty liner.
- Get rid of the extra hair products. Put cosmetics in small containers, don't bother with your pretty, but heavy, designer cosmetic bags. Ziplock bags are light and functional. Repack. NOW will you be able to lift your carry-on bag over your head to put in the overhead compartment without dropping it on the head of the person below? If not, start again from the top.

4.) Tear out the pages that you need from tour books and leave the rest at home. Books are heavy. Duct tape is much lighter to 're-bind' the book into a smaller version. Clear packing tape works well, too.

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