Friday, July 20, 2012

And I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more

Sorry I haven't posted in so long!

I finished the 500 mile hike across northern Spain in a little less than one month. It was a fabulous spiritual, religious, and cultural journey where I made lasting friendships (I hope!) and learned about myself as well. I stayed in many monestaries and convents and shared meals in churches. My favorite places were Samos, one of Europe's oldest monasteries, and Saint Nicolas, a no electricity hostel run by Italians (food was great!). There was also a free wine fountain in the La Rioja region, known for it's hot climate and fruits and vineyards.

After I arrived in Santiago and prayed to St James' remains, I set out an extra 88km to Finisterra. Finisterrra in latin means, "end of land" because it was believed this is where the earth ended. It was also the closest I'll be to Maine for a while!

I activated my Eurorail pass and took a train to Pamplona where I met up with friends for San Fermin's Festival aka Running of the Bulls!!The festival was huge- with everyone from babies to grandparents enjoying the party. I didn't run....maybe next time!

Next I took an overnight train to Paris and explored Musee d'Orsay with works of Van Gogh and Monet and more. I went to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coer and Arc de Triomph. I enjoyed the fabulous French capital and especially their crepes! I was only in Paris 12 hours but will be returning in August! That night I took an overnight train to Munich, Germany. This Bavarian city lived up to it's reputation of beer, schnitzel, ladderhosen, and did I mention beer?

After recovering from the German beer, I took a train to Vienna, Austria. Though it rained a lot while I was there, I really enjoyed the city. I visited the Hapsburg's summer palace, the Spanish Riding School which trains Lipizzner horses, ate apple strudle and weiner schnitzel. Vienna is home to Mozart and the waltz too!

I took another overnight train to Krakow, Poland last Friday night. I'm really started to enjoy the trains, especially the overnight ones; they are cheaper than a hostel and no time wasted! My grandfather's family is from Poland, so I met my distant relatives and went to a Polish wedding! It was fabulous and wild! There was lots of Polish vodka involved, TONS of food, dancing, drinking games, a flaming cake, and they even tossed the bride and groom in the air a few times!

After recovering from the vodka (seeing a trend??), we explored the beautiful historic city of Krakow. I stayed with my relatives in the town of Wronin, Poland, where there have been Marcineks for years. It's a precious town surrounded by beet fields. As expected, they are feeding me well and I am loving the Polish food! We explored a castle, and I tourned Auchswitz as well.

Next up: Budapest and back south to Italy!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

El Camino de Santiago

Friday, June 8 I started hiking the Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James. I set out from Saint Jean Pied du Port, France and began the 500 mile journey across northern Spain to Santiago de Compestela. The remains of Saint James are buried there and for centuries Catholics from all over Europe have walked there, mostly to pray and be healed. Though there is no officially starting point, most hikers, or pilgrims start just over the border in france, in Saint Jean Pied du Port. The first day is the hardest single day along the entire Camino, according to guide books.

I hiked the first half of the 17 mile day with three Spanish guys, then set off on my own. I didn't want to lug my hiking poles around Europe so I was without them on some really hilly farmland terrain full of sheep, horses and cattle. I stopped at a van and bought some goat cheese because I didn't have any food with me. It was delicious! By noon I was at my destination, roncevalles, Spain. Restaurants near the Camino usually have a pilgrim menu consisting of bread, appetizer, entree, dessert, and wine for around 10€. after dinner I went to church and all the pilgrims were blessed. I barely understood anything though with the mumbling and echoing and the fact it was in Spanish. About 180 pilgrims stayed in Roncevalles that night! There are lots of albergues and refugios along the trail that offer basic bunkbeds for 6-10€

Saturday I was hiking by 630am and hiked with a guy from Sweeden. We missed the turn coming out of a town and ended up walking the road to the next town to meet up with the trail again haha. Again I was at my destination, Zuburi before noon. I decided I need to hike longer miles or I just drink beer all afternoon!

Today I hiked by myself to Pamplona, arriving at 1045am. I explored the famous town and saw the plaza del toros where the running of the bulls finishes. Then we watched the Euro Cup soccer Spain v Italy game. The entire town stopped to watch the game it seems.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to make some big miles! We will see!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A whirlwind week around Spain and Morocco!

The past week and a half have flown by. My mom was visiting so obviously we had to make the most of every minute! It had been over 40 years since my mom had been to Europe.

Monday, May 28-Friday June 1st we were in Granada while I took Spanish classes. We ate lots of tapas, delicous paella, and the best sangria I´ve ever had! We watched Flamenco dancers two nights in a row in Sacramonte- the ancient part of the town of Granada where the Muslims first settled. It's high on a hill and the houses were built into the mountain, caves, so they stay cool. Eventually the upper class Muslims moved to the neighboring hill and built the Alhambra- walled in city of about 6,000 of the upper class. In here is where the palace was built and when Isabel and Ferdanando reconquered Granada they lived part of the year.
Flamenco dancers in a cave

Wednesday we went to the Alhambra and it was amazing. The gardens, the palace with gold on the walls and ceilings, fountains, pools, the view of the city, the tower where the soldiers kept watch for the Christians, jail cells, etc. It was awesome what the Muslims accomplished way back in the 1400´s.

                                                                          The Alhambra

Friday we set out for Morocco with my school! The big ferry rocked and people screamed and puked as the huge boat was tossed around. I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't hungover, but alas, hindsight is 20/20 and at least I didn't puke. We got to Tetouan late and had dinner at the hotel and went to bed.

Saturday our guide took us into Tetouan's "medina," the old part of the city. There were markets full of fresh fruit and also "pick your own live chicken and we will butcher and clean it for you" places. We also got to try on the funny outfits that the farm ladies who live in the hills where. Here was the opposite of the Alhambra, because the Spanish had inhabited Morocco until just 55 years ago (or so I don't remember). After we stuffed ourselves on cous cous, we headed to the industrialized city of Tanger. We checked out their medina, and instead of fruit, they sold fake Louis V bags everywhere lol. To make us feel even more touristy, we paid 1€ to ride a camel!! There were baby camels too, and a baby donkey. The boy said the donkey wasn't for sale so instead I bought a camel leather belt and a fez hat.

                                                    Tetouan and Tanger, Morocco

Sunday we went to Chechaouen, a small town in the mountains where all the houses were painted a lovely sky blue, the color for Allah. I learned to weave a rug and we bought a little one. We took the ferry back to Spain and on the way got pretty close to the Rock of Gibraltar (only place in europe with monkeys!).

                                    Chechaoen, Morocco and making a rug!

                                                 Tetouan and the Rock of Gibralter

Monday we flew to Barcelona and Tuesday we saw Gaudi´s funky but detailed architecture- including his most famous and still work in progress, the Segrada Familia. We also saw where Pablo Picasso studied art and learned some cool stories about St George and his dragon and about how Catalonians don´t want to be part of Spain.

     Gaudi´s funky architeture in Barcelona and La Sagrada Familia

Wednesday we flew to Madrid and took a high speed train to Toledo. I think it´s my favorite town so far. Surrounded by a river and set on a hill, the little town had a cozy feel. They were also celebrating Corpus Christi day which is the biggest day they have all year! It kicked off with a parade and at midnight they shot of fireworks. The square was FULL at midnight- babies to grandparents, it´s clearly a holiday celebrated by all.

Mom left back to Maine today, and I´m at the bus station in Pamplona hoping to make it to Saint Jean Pied du Port tonight to start the Camino de Santiago Saturday. If you haven't heard of the hike, rent The Way with Martin Sheen. It´s about 500 miles long and will take about a month. Piece of cake! (I hope)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Granada, EspaƱa

I made it! Last Sunday I landed in Madrid, and after a 5 hour bus ride, arrived at my home for 2 weeks- Granada. I´m taking one on one Spanish three hours per day and learning a lot! Granada is beautiful....and everything is so cheap! For a glass of wine, chips, olives, and your choice of rather large tapa, pay only 2 eeuros, less than $3. Really nice bottles of wine are about $10 at the grocery store and I bought a dress for only $12!
out for tapas with my classmates from Holland 
There is a lot of history here in Granada; it was the last place the Moors lived before finally being conquered by Queen Isabel and King Fernando. The Moors built their palace here and it still stands- the Alhambra. My mom arrives today for 10 days so we will visit it last this week. Yesterday I went on a field trip with my language school to Alpuharras- little pueblos high in the Sierra Nevada. We got a tour of a pork curing  factory enjoyed some authentic paella, and hiked up to an old castle! 
                                  Alpuharras- nestled in the Sierra Nevadas, it is the highest city in Spain

                                                                        pork curing!
                                                           Hiking to the Castle (el castillo)

                             atop El Castillo with the Sierra Nevadas in the background

 I was a little jet legged this week but I promise I will post more next week!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The next adventure

One week from today I will be on an all night flight to Spain! My first two weeks will be spent taking one on one Spanish lessons in Granada, then my mom is coming to visit! We are planning on checking out Morocco. After she leaves, I'll be spending about a month hiking the 800k on the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. It's a Catholic pilgrimage; the movie The Way is about it, so watch it and see what I'll be doing! After that, my cousin Paige is meeting me in Pamplona for Running of the Bulls. August my best friend Kelsey (she visited me on the AT too!) will be meeting me in Italy for a week with our sorority sister Jessie. Those are the only things I have planned, the rest will be going with the flow!

I'm currently home in Machias, first time in 6 months. I left St John May 2, and flew to Tucson to meet my Dad who was there for a conference. After a few days of hiking and eating Chipotle (my favorite!), we took the train to New Orleans (luckily we scored a sleeper car!). It was my first time in NOLA and the jazz music was fabulous as was the food- oysters, gumbo, beignets! Then it was back on the train and north to Maine! My island blood isn't used to the chilliness up here!

                                                                     Bourbon Street

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A year later...

Yesterday marked one year since starting the Appalachian Trail. To celebrate, I decide to embark in a solo hike to reflect about the past year and all the trials and triumphs I experienced along the trail.

I'm living in St John, USVI for the winter, and had most of the hikes on the small island but one: The Johnny Horn trail. I set out and began hitchhiking to the east side of the island where the hikes begins. Three rides later, I finally started walking. I brought only a few granola bars (yes I still enjoy Oats and Honey bars even though I ate them everyday on the AT) a camera, and lots of water (it's 80 degrees and very humid here). The trail was very different than the AT.

Below is a picture of the beginning of the trail, walking along a beach where sea turtles nest.

 A mile later the trail begins to climb to an old plantation owner's estate. This is the view from the estate looking down on Waterlemon Cay, a popular snorkeling spot, below.

I continued hiking, up up and up! Another viewpoint

The trail intersects the Brown Bay Trail so I took that back down to sea level and to Brown Bay. I spend nearly an hour exploring this large, unmaintained ruin and imagining what the different rooms were used for.

Back up and down again, and a break at another small ruin with stairs to nowhere.

Though I only saw four other hikers, there were a few animals along the trail- goats, mongoose, little lizards, birds, and termite nests in trees.

Makes me want to go for another long walk in the woods.....maybe next summer...PCT?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What I am up to now...

Hey everyone!

It's been a while, but I am back!
After the hike, I waited tables at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park until the end of October. I did a slideshow presentation about the AT at the Newport Library with a good turnout and Bangor Daily News also interviewed me and did a color piece!

Early November I went to Kentucky to visit my grandparents (Grandpa is 93!) November 11th I fly south- to the Virgin Islands! I am waitressing at a restaurant on St John called Morgan's Mango, living with friends from Bar Harbor. St John is beautiful. I've been scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, fishing, hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, boating, and just relaxing on the beach. Lots of friends have visited- which is a bit draining since I have to wake up early, do fun things, then work, then go out at night, repeat. All the locals in town are very friendly, always saying, "Good morning" not just, "Hello". That's something I intend to continue doing.

The Baths, Virgin Gorda
Using my head! on a paddleboard
Christmas and my birthday were different down here- palm trees and coconut trees were decorated! New Year's was a big celebration. Rum and other liquor are the only things down here that are affordable. Grapes are $15 per bag! Guess that's the price of living in paradise! I haven't met Kenny Chesney yet, though he has a house down here.

I'm not sure how long I will be down here. I'd like to go to Europe this summer, we will see!!
                                                    With a big Mahi Mahi! YUM