I wrote before I left for Spain that I didn’t know how I’d feel when I reached Santiago, but that my first pilgrimage was actually to Bilbao – and the walk proved me true.
We reached the city about a week in. By that point we’d made some good friends, a couple in particular, and we were treasuring our final moments with them. I think we all knew the good-bye was approaching, and this allowed us to push into our rapidly expanding intimacy with a little more courage than an expanse of time allows. Tyler, walking with our Brazilian lawyer friend tested and expanded the limits of language barriers Continue reading
I have wanted to visit Bilbao since I first studied Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum there in my undergraduate Art History degree. This was the building that inspired my love of Gehry – of architecture in general, really – and I fantasized about one day visiting this fishing town in Basque country with glee as I memorized all the pertinent facts and theories for my final exams. I remember being captivated by the fact that Bilbao was not – at the time of the building’s construction – one of Spain’s more major cities. And so it was like the underdog won the competition for the fancy art collection and fancy architectural design. And I loved that piece of the story – I wanted to visit an temple of aesthetics in a place where no one really expected it to be. Indeed, while Tyler wanted to do the Northern route to be near the ocean, I wanted to do it so I could walk to Bilbao. It really was the first pilgrimage of my pilgrimage. Continue reading
The dinner table is lively with multi-lingual conversation, but I am mostly slumped in my chair in pain. Day 2 of the Camino, and it’s our first time sharing in the “Pilgrim Meal.” Pilgrim meals in Basque country (the first 1/4 of the Camino Norte) are served around 7:30, about an hour before the restaurant opens for regular dinner service (I believe so the other customers don’t have to smell us). They cost about $10, and have a couple of hearty courses, plus bread, dessert and as much wine as you can drink. They are awesome. But I’m feeling beat. I’ve done something stupid to my right shoulder. And so the scarf I brought with me so I could feel like I had one pretty thing is now wrapped as a sling holding my arm in place so that I don’t wrench my shoulder something worse. Each person who joins us at the table points at my arm with one hand while pouring themselves a mug of wine with the other, and asks me in their own language, what’s wrong? “Oh,” I say in English and begin miming (though even miming hurts), “I’ve pulled my shoulder. I’m trying to keep it still. I’m sure it will get better,” even though I’m panicking inside that it won’t. Continue reading
“Are you crazy?! You’ll kill them!” all three of the guys who were walking one way start shouting at a guy walking the other. “No, no,” replies the solo walker. “They’re young, they can handle it!” We’re a couple of hours into the first day of our Camino, and we’re standing in front of a sign that points in one direction (seemingly up into the sky via a rocky, hill/mountain thing) for “Alpine Pilgrims,” and another direction (gloriously flat and paved) for “Other Pilgrims.”** Four Spanish guys are gesticulating wildly, arguing over which path Tyler and I should take as we watch on amazed. I have no idea what is going on, but I get the sense that we don’t have much of a choice in the matter; they’re going to battle out the decision for us. Nevertheless, I also sense the significance of this battle as Tyler tries to translate for me using phrases like, “they’ll die!” and “they’ll never make it!” as he tries simultaneously to insist it’s probably not so dramatic as they’re making it sound. Continue reading