Homer's Travels: Camino 2023 - Agés To Burgos ... To Santiago De Compostela ... To Home.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Camino 2023 - Agés To Burgos ... To Santiago De Compostela ... To Home.

After doing 14.8 miles (23.8 km) to Agés, we would be walking another 14.6 miles (23.5 km) to Burgos where we were going to take our first day off.

We stopped in Atapuerca for a pre-breakfast snack (namely a croissant) before we tackled the big hill of the day.  The hill was a lot longer and rockier than I remembered from my earlier Camino.  It would be a difficult start to an equally difficult day.

The sign at the top of the hill with views of Burgos in the distance.
(Photo taken by the Wife)
At the top of the hill there is a cross and a sign.  As the Wife reached the top you could tell she was struggling.  While the system of socks and shoes I'd come up with was very effective in reducing blisters, it was not ideal for the bunions the Wife had.  The tight shoe, a requirement to keep blisters from forming, irritated the bunions to no end.  Combine this with the uneven, rocky climb up the hill and the Wife was in a bad place by the time she reached the top.  Oh, and there was the ankle pain and stiffness she was experiencing that, to me, sounded a lot like the pain and stiffness I felt when I developed tendinitis on my first Camino.

The rest of the day was relatively downhill on smooth paths/roads which looked deceptively easy.  We stopped at the next town and, along with nearly every other pilgrim on the Camino, stood in line to buy some yummy breakfast sandwiches which we ate on a table outside the restaurant.

Going forward there are two ways to get to Burgos.  One takes you through a rather ugly commercial area of Burgos.  The other takes you on a longer path through a park along a river.  On my past two Caminos I'd missed the turn off to the park way.  This time everyone took the park way which appears to be the 'new' official Camino into Burgos.

After passing around the Burgos airport the Camino reached a town where we rested in the shade.  After a couple weeks of chilly weather, the temperatures were starting to warm up and we felt it as we walked along the dirt roads.

The cathedral view from our hotel suite.
(Photo taken by the Wife)
After leaving the town, and getting directions from a kind motorist, we followed the Camino through parks and trees until we joined a path following the río Arlanzón.  The path became a paved walking trail that went for miles.  By the time we reached this part of the park, crowded full of Sunday strollers, we were exhausted.  The last couple of miles felt like they would never end.

After what felt like forever and a day we reached our hotel the Crisol Mesón del Cid.  I'd stayed at this hotel on my first Camino as I recuperated from my tendonitis.  It was located on the cathedral square - an incredible location.  The room we had reserved turned out to be in an annex off the square so we paid extra for a suite so we could stay near the cathedral.  The views from our hotel bedroom were amazing.

After showering we went into historic Burgos in search of food.  We found a place inside the Plaza Mayor.  We looked at each other across our table and I asked if we wanted to stop.  We both were exhausted, the Wife's foot was bothering her, and the past two days had been very long for us.  We decided to sleep on it and make a decision the next day.

As we waited for our food to come I made the mistake of looking at the train and bus schedules.  Next thing you know we decided we'd had enough and we just wanted to go home.  A few minutes later I'd bought bus tickets to Santiago de Compostela.  So much for sleeping on it.  I was the one who pushed us to quit.  The Wife agreed, and most likely if we'd waited a day the decision would have been the same, but I feel like I was the one who quit here, not the Wife.  I still feel a little guilty and we both felt a small bit of regret as we said goodbye to pilgrims we'd met as they left Burgos the next day.


A merry-go-round in the Plaza Mayor.
(Photo taken by the Wife)
The next day we toured Burgos.  The Wife went to mass at the cathedral and we toured it afterwards.  We shopped for souvenirs and magnets.  We said goodbye to our informal pilgrim family as we met them on the street (including Le, Sa's mother who was leaving Burgos alone after her daughter went home).


Our bus left Burgos just after 4:00AM.  The bus station was only about a five minute walk from the hotel.  The bus arrived on time but left a few minutes late.  It felt weird getting on the bus.  The bus made a few stops along the eight hour ride.  Strangely enough it followed the Camino relatively closely.  We passed León, Astorga, and Ponferrada - all stops along the Camino.  This didn't make quitting any easier for me.  I was so conflicted.  I kept thinking of what the Wife would miss.  In my opinion the best of the Camino comes after Burgos.  I really didn't want to stop but I really had to stop.  I can't remember feeling so desperate to get home on either of my Caminos.

The Cathedral of Santiago from Alameda park.
We arrived in Santiago de Compostela just after noon.  The city felt very different to me.  For one, the bus and train stations had been combined at a large, newer facility (They had been in separate locations ten years ago).  I had to pull out my phone to get directions to our hotel.  Our hotel here was not my first choice but when I searched for a room in Santiago de Compostela there were only a couple rooms available - one very expensive and the other relatively cheap.  We went for the cheaper room at the Hotel Oxford Suites.  The place wasn't fancy but it was above a bar/restaurant and was only a block from the Cathedral.  It was too early to check in so we left our packs and went exploring.

Pilgrim pole shell.
We had some on and off rain while we were in Santiago de Compostela.  We watched pilgrims arriving at the cathedral square and celebrating their accomplishment - often just sitting on the ground, looking at the cathedral, lost in thought.


We went to the cathedral to book a roof tour but discovered all the tours were full for that day so we reserved one for the next day (our flight wasn't leaving until the late afternoon so we had the time).  We went to the pilgrim's mass and saw the swinging of the botafumeiro.  It appears that the botafumeiro is swung much more often now than they did ten years ago - the triumph of tourism (and the all mighty euro).

The rest of the day we explored the city, shopped the many shops, and enjoyed the food.  While I remembered a few places I had some difficulty orienting myself.  I did manage to find the best ice cream place that I discovered on my first Camino.

The Botafumeiro.
The Wife was a bit bummed that she didn't get a Compostela (a certificate of completion of the Camino).  Despite walking over 175 miles (282 km) she didn't qualify since you had to walk the last 62 miles (100 km) to get a Compostela.  Fortunately the Camino provides.  As we were visiting the Church of San Francisco a pilgrim told the Wife that the priest in the back of the church was giving out certificates for walking the Camino and visiting the church.  It wasn't a Compostela but it was something to commemorate her walk.


On our last day in Spain we got up, left our bags at the hotel after checking out, and headed to the cathedral for our roof tour.  The roof tour gives you an interesting perspective and the view of the city is interesting.  It's well worth the time to tour.  This was my second time up on the cathedral roof but the first time it was pouring rain.  It was nice to see it on a dry sunny day.

We returned to our hotel, collected our bags, and walked the forty feet to the taxi station (our hotel was in a perfect location).  A taxi pulled up soon after and we went to the airport.  Our first flight took us to Frankfurt, Germany.

We had a thirteen hour layover in Frankfurt.  I hadn't noticed the layover length until after I purchased the ticket but I think it had the shortest layover anyway.  We ate dinner then moved over to the terminal we would be leaving from which entailed going through passport control for some reason.  At the other terminal we found a lounge area with lounge chairs and we claimed a couple for the night.  While the chairs were reclined and full body length they were not at the right angle for comfortable sleep.  Looking back I should have gone to one of the empty gate areas and laid down on a row of seats.

Our friend Albert in Frankfurt.
Neither the Wife nor I really slept that night.  I walked around the terminal ... at least I walked around the warm areas since parts were really cold ... and stared at the closed store fronts and restaurants.  Sometime during the night I checked our flight to see if an actual gate number had yet been posted (the gate number changed three or four times that night) and discovered our flight out of Frankfurt was going to be delayed by three hours.  I rebooked our flights but the new ones sucked so I looked again and rebooked again (each time I searched for flights the options would change).  I essentially rebooked back onto the delayed flight and picked a later connecting flight in Chicago.  The connection in Chicago would be close but doable.

The three hour delay of our flight to Chicago turned into four hours making our layover to nearly seventeen hours.  Since we stayed on the delayed flight the plane was nearly empty.  I moved to a center row and layed down.  I slept a little bit but not much.  We arrived in Chicago, waited for our checked bag (it took way too long to get off the plane), went through passport control and customs, rechecked our bag, and hustled to our gate in another terminal.  We arrived at our gate right when they started boarding.  We just had enough time to use the bathroom before getting on the plane but that was all.

Getting home from the airport was a breeze.  We were both tired from our crappy return flights and all the time spent in Frankfurt airport but we were happy to finally be home.

Photos can be found in my 2023 Camino de Santiago (The Wife's Camino) Google Photos album.

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