Onward to Avila

On 17 May we took the bus to Avila.

Avila is a small city that has one of the most complete medieval city walls in existence.  It also has Saint Teresa’s finger.

We took a tour.

VT Camino 2018: Welcome to Madrid

On 16 May 2018—after a series of weather related airline delays—our Camino began.

We walked and walked…

And stopped to talk…

And learn:

But mainly we kept on walking to stay awake!

Ice cream break!

Only 9 of our 12 peregrines were with us at this point, but the rest would soon arrive.

So You Want to Walk the Camino… — by Shelby Canonico

Reflections by Shelby Canonico (from 28 May 2017)

So, you may be thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago. I am here to tell you that while this is a wonderful decision, it may also be the most painful decision you have ever made. While you might be a lean mean walking machine (@Cayla @Tracey), you could also be an actual human. For those of us who are unfortunate enough to feel pain the walking will inevitably begin to take its toll.

What I discovered is that I am not only a human, I am subhuman. During this trip my feet have turned into literal blisters. I have blisters on top of blisters. However, as a result of this I have had the opportunity to see just how kind people truly are. I have been offered 2 canes, 3 sets of walking polls, and received countless sympathetic comments regarding my limp. I also had multiple people personally help me with my blisters (even though they were disgusting). I believe this is testament to the truly kind nature of human beings.

Seeing so many genuine people everyday made this experience even more special. I learned through this journey that it is always best to have a positive attitude and to appreciate what is going on around you. The world looks better when you focus on the happy as opposed to the sad. What is a little pain from a few blisters in comparison with the opportunity to travel through Spain and make such wonderful friends.


“Shelly” (This nickname is against my will but I’m coming to accept it)

A Tough Day — by Coleman Vincze

Reflections by Coleman Vincze (from 23 May 2017)

Hola peregrinos! Today was a tough one. It is never tough until you can see the town or until you start walking on the pavement. The thought of knowing that you are almost there but just keep walking and not knowing when exactly you will get there is really the only hard part about the camino. All you really think about is your feet hurting and the amount of blisters you will see when you take off your socks. Anyway, we are in Astorga now.

We were walking and met this man named David at the House of God where there were hammocks and many fruits and snacks. He was a really nice man and had some delicious oranges. David also had cold water which was the first time having cold water on the Camino.

As we continued walking we got closer to the town and saw a man playing the guitar and singing. He was alright. AJ asked to play his guitar and it was way out of tune, it was pretty funny, I don’t think that man actually knew what he was doing. He also kept asking for money which isn’t unusual but he only wanted American money.

When we got to the town the first thing I did was take a steamy shower. After that, we started having fun. Since this was one of the last Roman outposts in Spain we toured some of the museums of roman bathhouses and sewers. The sewers were by far the neatest things on the tour. I had to crouch the whole time in them to get through.

Oh today is Tracey’s birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Food is the Fuel of Life  — by Tracey Meyers

Reflections by Tracey Meyers (from 29 May 2017)

Food is the fuel of life. During the Camino, we all needed a lot of food to help us climb up the rocky slopes of the Galician mountains. After three weeks, it is evident that food is a highly valued aspect of Spanish culture. It is a time to discuss what has happened throughout the day and reflect on life in general. This tradition of sit-down meals with your family is starting to lose importance among the growing generation of young Americans. Taking time to enjoy company and home-made food continues to be a tradition within my family in the US.

The local cuisine is very different in Spain than I expected. In the United States, a tortilla is a flat, round type of flour or bread. In Spain, a “tortilla de patata” is a thick omelet, almost cake-like, that is cooked with potatoes inside. (This is my favorite type of Spanish food.) Also, an empanada at a restaurant back home is a rolled flour tortilla with vegetables, beans, and meat inside. The Spanish version is almost a kind of pastry with two slices of thick bread baked with tuna, corn, beef, vegetables, etc. Although the food surprised me, it is even more delicious than I imagined.

We walked for hours during the Camino; our meals were a time to tell each other what we experienced individually and immerse ourselves in an important part of Spanish culture. When I return home, I hope to continue to sit down and remember to enjoy a nice meal with my family and friends.

A Chance Meeting — by Jill Sower

Reflections by Jill Sower (from 2 June 2017)

Today we walked~24k from Portomarín to Palas de Rei.  The terrain was a mixture of rolling hills and flat land, of mud rocky paths and of asphalt.  In the morning there was a light fog that blanketed our way, but after a few hours of walking, the fog lifted into a bright sunlight.

Most of us took it easier today than in previous days, because we knew that the next day would be our longest walk.  We didn’t arrive at our albergue “Albergue Castro” until nearly 3 o’clock. It was a relief to arrive there and to be able to relax.

In the morning, at our first second-breakfast stop, we met another Hokie walking the Camino.  His name was David, and not only had he attended Virginia Tech (class of 1974), he is a lifelong Blacksburg resident.  He is currently a practicing attorney in the NRV.  David both stayed in the same albergue as we did and ate lunch with us.  Although I didn’t have much of an opportunity to talk to him (he is a very fast walker, me not so much) he seemed to enjoy meeting and talking with our group.

Although my feet hurt and I grew more and more physically exhausted throughout the day, I still continued to enjoy the natural beauty of Spain and everything it has to offer.

Walking the Camino — by Emma Pence

Reflections by Emma Pence (from 26 May 2017)

Walking the camino provides a unique opportunity to experience Spain. Not only does the path allow you to literally walk from town to town journeying through northern Spain, but the path also provides a platform for intimate interactions. Because you are walking twenty plus kilometers a day, every day on the camino allows for countless interactions with fellow peregrinos and locals of the towns.

The culture of the camino is compelling and after a couple days, or even one day, you grow to appreciate it on a new level. Conversations with locals along the path, or store owners when stopping for second, third, or even fourth breakfast on the trail reveal meaningful aspects of the culture in Spain. You come to understand their way of life in Spain more through these small, everyday interactions than you would traveling through a country simply visiting the busy main attractions filled with tourists.

The camino showed us how many of the people in Spain value time spent in conversation with one another, especially when that time is spent indulging in cafe or tapas. The Spanish way of life is definitely one I think we can all get behind.