Camino del Norte day 5: Gernika

October 5, 2015
Monastery de Zenarruza to Gernika: 10 miles
Message spray painted on the side of a building in Gernika, requesting that political prisoners be returned home. We saw similar illustrations throughout our walk through the Basque Country.


Feeling fully restored after an evening at the monastery, the hike to Gernika was beautiful and relaxing.

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Camino del Norte Day 4: R&R at the monastery

October 4, 2015
Markina to Monasterio de Zenarruza: 5 miles


Instead of a good morning or how are you, I’m pretty sure that the first word out of my mouth today was, “Nope.”

Followed by: “I’m not getting out of this bed.”

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Camino del Norte day 3: Meltdown

October 3, 2015
Deba to Markina: 15 miles


It was bound to happen at some point during the hike: total meltdown.

All the PMA that I had channeled on the previous days wasn’t going to get me anywhere today.  Not meditation, not smiling, not listening to the wind flowing through the branches or the birds singing in the trees.  Uh-uh.  None of it was working.

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Camino del Norte Day 1: Here we go!

First day on the Camino del Norte in Spain


October 1, 2015
Day 1: San Sebastián to Orio: 11 miles

Today we started hiking the Camino del Norte, the northern route of the Camino de Santiago, in Spain.  This journey will take us anywhere from 4-5 weeks to complete.

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The Hague, Netherlands

Me admiring the North Sea along with this stout Dutch woman (unfortunately I have no recollection of who she is, but we both know how to appreciate the beach!)
Me admiring the North Sea alongside this sturdy Dutch woman


While based in Rotterdam in August, we spent a day sightseeing at The Hague. Neither of us was exactly sure what The Hague actually was.  We both thought it was some sort of nebulous international entity, but as it turns out it is actually a pretty large city in northern Holland.

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Rotterdam’s funky Cube Houses

At the end of World War II, Rotterdam, like many European cities, was in ruins.  But the city rebuilt itself admirably and now prides itself on its cutting-edge architecture.

One example of unique Rotterdam architecture is the Kubuswoningen, or Cube Houses (also called Tree Houses).  Built by Dutch architect Piet Blom in the 1980s, they’re meant to represent a village of trees.  There are 38 of these “tree” houses, each in the shape of a cube.  Three sides of the cube are facing up, and three are facing down.  Each house contains three floors (not including the ground-floor entrance).  The first floor has a kitchen and living room; the second floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom; and there’s an open space on the third floor that can be used for an office or another bedroom.  The walls and windows are at a 54.7 degree angle.  Each structure has around 1000 square feet of space, but about 25% of that can’t be used because of the angled walls and ceilings.

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Rotterdam’s old town: Delfshaven

Windmill De Destilleerketel (Credit: By Michielverbeek, Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike most of Rotterdam, the borough of Delfshaven survived the Rotterdam Blitz in 1940, leaving its centuries-old buildings intact.

This charming neighborhood was once an independent town before being annexed by Rotterdam in the 19th century.  Historically, it was a busy port (Delfshaven means “Port of Delf”). Its main industries were herring fishing, shipbuilding, and the distilling of gin, and it was also an important location for the East India Company, both as a port and for warehousing goods.

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Rotterdam artwork: From memorials and masterpieces to random WTH

Rotterdam is known for its modern art, and you’ll find examples throughout the city.

Some of the works, such as the sculpture Sylvette, by Pablo Picasso, are considered masterpieces.  This piece is one of many portraits that Picasso made in 1954 of Sylvette David, a 19-year-old French woman who caught Picasso’s eye in part because she wore her hair in a ponytail (which can be seen in this sculpture).


Rotterdam Picasso sculpture

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Rotterdam: Random thoughts

“Most Americans go to Amsterdam.  Why are you visiting Rotterdam?”

This question was posed to us by a nice young man, a native Rotterdammer sitting next to us on the train from London, and he had a valid point. If you’d asked us a few weeks ago what we knew about Rotterdam, we would have said, “Not much.”

I couldn’t have told you what country it was in or where it was located on a map. Based on the sound of its name, I guessed that it might be in Germany, or maybe in one of the Nordic countries. I never would’ve gotten the correct answer because, sadly, I didn’t know much about the Netherlands either.

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