Some quiet time in Loiola.


We managed to get to the Orange Tienda right at 10 am as they opened for the day. By 10:30 we were armed with gigabytes and phone minutes and ready to head off to Loiola. We picked up our backpacks from our hotel, grabbed a cab and 45 minutes later we were abeam of the Sanctuario heading to the Hotel Loiola just a few blocks further along. We were last here in January of 2015 preparing to walk the full Camino Ignaciano. This time we will only be going as far as Logroño as we then will head to Ponferrada to walk the Camino Invierno to Santiago.

Once we sorted out our room we headed back up the street to visit the Sanctuario of Loiola and get the first stamp in our pristine credentials. There is a crazy amount of traffic passing through this little town. I am not sure why that is, but it is wise to cross only at a designated crosswalk to avoid becoming a hood ornament.

As we entered the grounds of the Sanctuary we were reminded of the special sense of peace that flows from this place. Ignatius was a remarkable man and his passion is felt clearly as one visits his birth home and the basilica next to it. A special treat befell us today as we found the organist playing in the church just as we entered. The stillness of the church with its subdued lighting and the beckoning notes of the organ caused us simply to pause and offer thanks for the faith that urges us onward. Rainy and cold will be the order of the day tomorrow as we set out for Zumarraga, But for now we are tucked into the Hotel Loiola, the heat (automatico) has finally come on, a few pintxos and a couple of glasses of wine are on the table and we are at peace. Work begins in the morning.  I will post from Zumarraga at the end of day 1. Peace be with you.


The journey has begun

We encountered a few delays in leaving Portland, Oregon, heading to Amsterdam and then connecting to Bilbao (same day). But, once airborne the flight went smoothly. Both Robin and I find sleep is impossible when flying so we settle for something sleep like, an in between state of endless contortionist positions to try and bring brief relief to some part of our bodies. This mind numbing effort, that offers scant relief, only serves to dull the slow passage of time. Nonetheless we arrived in Bilbao and have found blessed comfort in an actual bed. Our night passed in fits and starts as sleep still proved elusive after a few hours of coma. Such is jet lag, but this too shall pass.

It is now just past 7am and soon we will be heading down to breakfast. Our plan for today is to stroll over to a nearby phone store and pick up some Spanish SIM cards, and then make our way to Loyola, the birthplace of St. Ignatius where our pilgrimage will begin bright and early on Wednesday morning. More on Loyola this afternoon. All is well and with one more day of rest we should be quite ready to start our journey through the Basque mountains. We are anxious to get underway. The weather locally has been dry and mild but there have been some recent serious snowfalls and sub-freezing temperatures over a wide swath of Spain. This time of year we always run the risk of encountering potentially trip interrupting weather. We will keep a weather eye out and be cautious. Signing off from Bilbao (a city Robin and I truly enjoy).

Another winter’s walk

Camino Ignaciano: Zumarraga to Arantzazu, Basque mountains

The Advent and Christmas seasons have come and gone and Robin and I have enjoyed them immensely. It is our favorite time of the year. During this period we have looked both inward and outward, and have decided it is now time to get underway once again. We have been home since this past February and are now more than ready to stretch our camino legs once again. We have settled on walking the first week of the Camino Ignaciano, Loiola to Logroño, and then continuing with the Camino Invierno, Ponferrada to Santiago. We will be leaving in early January. The Invierno is a new route for us, and we are anxious to set our feet upon it. But, in truth, the most important thing for us is just to be walking, and enjoying the solitude. We are never lonely during our off season walks. We actually are quite content to embrace the winter weather, the stillness and to marvel at the simple joys that each day provides. I must admit it is all a bit of a mystery. We simply go forward in faith armed with a belief that a journey has been set out before us and we just try to see it through as best we can.

We do share a sense of hope that regardless of what we encounter we will always be able to continue to move along the road to Santiago. It is that hope that brings us peace and joy as we lean into whatever challenges the road presents. God willing it all ends well, and it usually does.

Peace be with you during this wonderful season and may many blessings follow you into the new year.