Chris has sent me so many amazing photos from the Camino Santiago that I really wanted to post them here. He started his journey in St Jean Pied de Port, France, on May 19 and finished in Santiago de Compostela, Spain on June 19. The total distance, by foot, was 770 km (480 miles). The Camino is different than the Appalachian trail kind of hiking he did in 2014- on the Camino, hikers leave a hostel or albergue in the early hours, and hike until noon or sometimes beyond (it gets quite hot in the afternoons and there isn’t a lot of shade in some stretches of the Camino). Small towns and villages are generally spaced out every 5-10 km, allowing pilgrims to effectively choose each day whether they are up for hiking a 15 km, 20 km, 25 km, or 30 km day. While some hostels offered private rooms, many are shared accommodations such as bunk rooms, and most offered a daily set price that includes dinner, a beer, a bed, a shower, and coffee with breakfast, ranging from 25 Euro to 40 Euro per night. Sights along the Camino include the beautiful Pyrenees mountains, the cities of Leon and Pamplona, beautiful old churches from the middle ages, mosaics and paths from the Romans, cairns built by pilgrims over centuries, monasteries, and lots of nature. Here’s some highlights:
We came to New York City to ride the 40 Mile 5 Boros Ride, but first we had two days of sightseeing. We started off on Friday afternoon, arriving in the city around 4 pm. We decided to tackle mid-town, heading north. Times Square first, then over to St Patrick’s Cathedral, with a stop at Rockefeller Plaza along the way. I love the small botanic garden right there. Up 5th Avenue looking at the amazing stores there and their very stylish displays- all things I could never afford! (Or maybe I could, if I didn’t spend all my money on travel!). Past Trump Tower, with the NYPD police blocking off the entrance and the two cross streets next to it, and then we found ourselves in Central Park. It was nice to get out of the traffic and walk through the park to see the “Imagine” memorial to John Lennon, and then we crossed back over the park to arrive at the Met, open late on Friday nights. They stayed open till 9 so we were able to take in a few exhibits there. Wow, that’s a lot of art! After the Met, we meandered slowly back to Times Square to see it at night, full of people and bright advertisements (it costs between $1 million and $4 million to advertise there!). Tired, thirsty, and hungry, we visited Authority Beer for a late dinner and drink, and then took the bus from Port Authority to our hotel in Union City, NJ.
The next day we decided to take the PATH train in. Like DC, they are safetracking, and since it was the weekend, it took forever. But by 11 am we had arrived at the World Financial Center, ready to explore lower Manhattan. We arrived in the middle of the crazy white mall/PATH station called The Oculus, which opened last year to a tune of $4 billion dollars. Yep, that was with a “b”. It supposedly represents a dove in flight. Hmm. Anyway, as we exited, we were at the 9/11 Memorial Center and the three existing World Trade Center buildings (a 4th will be built soon). At the 9/11 Memorial Center, two large pools of water continually drain and refill, surrounded by granite ledges with the names of the victims carved in. White roses populate the ledges in places where birthdays of the victims are commemorated each day.
From the WFC, we headed south to Wall Street to check out the “Charging Bull” statue and the “Fearless Girl”- both very popular statues. From there we continued south to the bike expo, to pick up our packets containing the bibs, bike plates, and helmet covers for our ride. Passing through the Bowery, we stopped and grabbed a bagel with lox. Heading north, we encountered The Strand Bookstore, the Flatiron Building, and finally the New York Public Library. I visited the Rose Reading Room- absolutely beautiful- and also the children’s section, where they have an exhibit featuring A.A. Milne and the actual, real stuffed animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh.
After the library, we had one more stop to make, just before dusk- the Empire State Building. We took the elevator up 86 floors and took in the aerial view of New York. Stunning.
On Sunday we took the ferry from Paulus Hook over to Manhattan and at 8:15 we were starting our 40 mile ride! It was surreal to ride our bikes through the completely empty 6th Avenue, past all the sites we had seen yesterday. Up past Times Square, through Central Park, into Harlem. Then over to the Bronx, back into Manhattan down FDR Drive, and then into Queens, then Brooklyn. Riding up the steady incline of the BQE to approach the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was the absolute worst part and I kept thinking I would have to dismount any minute and walk it up. But I actually made it to the top, where we stopped to take in the view and shake out our arms and legs. Then we coasted down the last mile onto Staten Island and arrived at the finish. All in all about four hours for us. Afterwards we took the ferry from Staten Island, passing the Statue of Liberty, and then ferried from Manhattan back to Paulus Hook, and drove home, where we warmed up (the cold front came in just as we finished the ride) and ordered a large pizza.
On Sunday we started the drive back home, stopping in Pennsylvania at the Valley Forge Historic Park. They have miles of trails and a car drive, connecting nine points of a tour you can access with your cell phone. Washington’s headquarters, a memorial chapel, examples of the barracks the soldiers created to house themselves for the winter made this encampment the 4th largest city in the colonies in 1777. If you’re into Revolutionary War history, this is a great place to visit.
Next up: a guest update from Chris as he hikes the Camino Santiago in Spain from mid-May to mid-June!
This past week for my spring break, Chris and I visited Canada. We started off in Ottawa, visiting two friends, Stuart and Malle. They gave us a nice car tour of downtown Ottawa, as well as the falls along the river, and made sure we tried the delicious Ottawan dessert of a “beaver tail”: fried dough covered with toppings ranging from maple icing to sugar and honey.
Stuart grilled an awesome dinner at home that night, and the next day they took us out into the backcountry to a sugar shack, where we saw how maple trees are tapped for syrup and had some delicious pancakes and maple syrup.
So basically we ate our way through Ottawa. Then we took a train to Montreal, where we spent a day exploring the Vieux-Montreal area, near the waterfront, with its old port and museums and French architecture.
The really lovely Basilica of Notre Dame is there- worth going into even though they charge an entrance fee- really one of the loveliest cathedrals I’ve been in. It was the first Gothic Revival church built in the Americas (1824), and has featured the funeral of Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, the wedding of Celine Dion, and a visit from Pope Jean Paul II. Happily for us, a choir was inside practicing for Easter services, so it made the visit even nicer.
The next day we hiked up to the top of Mount Royal, to see the city from above. Along the way, we meandered through the Plateau district, which largely houses students from the city’s universities, as well as the main library for the province of Quebec. I really enjoyed looking at the literary-themed murals painted on buildings near the library. The area had a fun nightlife, and we enjoyed visiting a micro-brewery there that evening.
After another round of poutine and maple donuts, we boarded a train bound for Quebec City. Checking into a super cute hotel, the Port Royal, we headed up… and up… and up for old town Quebec City. Built on a cliff, the fortress and the old city look out over the St. Lawrence River.
The most famous building in Quebec is probably the Chateau Frontenac (said to be the most photographed hotel in the world, according to Guinness Book of World Records), so we made sure to take our requisite number of snaps there. We also toured the fortress (for Chris), and visited the Morrin Center, the oldest existing learning society in Canada, now a working library and museum (for me).
On our last full day, we took a public bus out to Montmorency Falls, where there was still quite a lot of snow and ice. The Falls are actually the tallest in Canada, but obviously not as wide as Niagara. Really beautiful to look at. That night, we took a ferry across the St Lawrence River, to get a look at Quebec City lit up at night (plus we had to get a final shot of Hotel Frontenac).
At the airport we had just $20 Canadian dollars left- enough for lunch and half a dozen Tim Horton donuts to bring back with us (maple iced, of course).
Next up for us: Chris will be hiking the Camino Santiago in May, and Deah joins him in Italy in June. Check back soon!