Solitude, scenery, and seafood: The benefits and downsides of Camino del Norte

Isolated stretch of Camino del Norte trail with a view of the North Atlantic

 

There are numerous Camino routes throughout Europe, including Camino Francés, the most popular walk and the one featured in a favorite movie of ours, The Way.  So why, then, did we choose to walk one of the lesser known routes, Camino del Norte?

We had a particular vision for what we wanted in our Camino experience, and Dale did some serious homework to find the trail that most matched that vision:

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Camino del Norte guides, maps, and other resources

 

I experienced a great deal of anxiety while walking the Camino, and much of it was centered around getting lost.  A part of me feared that we would disappear into the wilderness of northern Spain, licking the peanut dust off our empty snack bags to survive.

Never mind that Camino del Norte is not that wild; I was neurotic about having the right resources during our journey.

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The Château of Versailles: The glorious gardens

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This is one post in a series of articles about our visit to Paris.


In our last post, I talked about the Palace of Versailles; today I’ll share our walk through Versailles’ gardens.  Of the two, Dale and I would agree that the gardens are a can’t-miss.  It was everything you’d hope for in a royal garden–expansive lawns, sculpted gardens with brightly-colored flowers, towering hedges, and artwork everywhere.  At the end of the post, I’ll include some general tips for visiting the palace and gardens.

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Paris, France: The (naked) sculptures of the Louvre

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This is one post in a series of articles about our visit to Paris.


When I told my mom I was writing about our time in Paris, she asked, “Are you going to talk about the naked men?”  She was referring, of course, to the collection of sculptures that we saw at the Louvre, which, yes, did include quite a few nude male subjects.

“I’ve told all of my friends that there were lots of sculptures of naked men, and they look at me like I’m crazy, so now I can show them.”

Of the many fascinating artifacts we saw at the Louvre, the thing that most stands out to mom is the naked men.

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Antibes, France: Drinking “the Green Fairy”–absinthe

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La Fée Verte (“The Green Fairy”–artwork inside La Balade absinthe bar)

 

Dale and I were intrigued by the idea of trying absinthe, an alcoholic spirit that up until recently was banned in many countries.  There’s a mystique surrounding this drink, also called “the Green Fairy,” a nickname referencing the drink’s green color (and no doubt thought up by someone who was more than a little schnockered at the time).  It supposedly had hallucinogenic–perhaps even dangerous–effects on its users, and the most famous artists and writers were drinking it, in part because of its mind-bending properties.  How could we pass up the chance to try this beguiling drink when we had the chance?

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Ja, Bier! The wonders of drinking German beer in Germany

 

What we said when we saw how cheap beer is in Germany (also the generic name brand for all kinds of goods, including, obviously, toilet paper).
“Ja!”  –What we said when we saw how inexpensive beer is in Germany (also the generic brand name for all kinds of goods, including, obviously, toilet paper)

The last two posts have been downers.  It’s true.  It took me over a week to write the article about the Holocaust, so that meant hours each day thinking about some pretty tragic stuff.  And then our last post, in which I wrote about the assassination of a President, well, that wasn’t very jolly, either.  So suffice it to say…

I need a drink.

Or at least a blog post about one.

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Berlin’s Holocaust memorials and museums

Our visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Topography of Terror Museum, and other Holocaust memorials in Berlin

 

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Looking down a row of stelae at The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Twice, Dale and I have been to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and both times it was a powerful experience. The museum strikes just the right balance between straight-up history and horror: it drenches visitors in the details of the Holocaust and in graphic photos and videos, forcing us to face exactly what genocide looks like.

And yet as meaningful as it was, visiting a Holocaust museum in the United States is one thing; visiting one in the city where the Holocaust was orchestrated was another thing entirely.  In the U.S., no matter how disturbed you are at the end of your visit, you can still shake it off and head to your next destination, like, say, the Air and Space Museum, or better yet, you can abandon the museums altogether and go out for oysters and alcoholic beverages.  In Berlin, it’s not so easy to walk away.  There are landmarks of suffering all over the place.

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Berlin: Random facts about Germany’s capital city

"Why aren't all the women in Germany dressed like this?" My mom and I at Wurstfest in New Braunfels, TX, in November 2014
“Why aren’t all the women in Germany dressed like this?” Mom (in her dirndl) and me at Wurstfest in New Braunfels, TX, in November 2014

 

Several people told us how much they loved Berlin, and a few of the travel blogs we read regularly raved about it.  “It’s special,” a Londoner that we met on the train told us.

We spent a week there in August 2015, and summing up our reaction to the city has not been easy.  It’s not simple enough to say that we liked it (which we did).  It’s just that, for many reasons, Berlin is not a city that’s easy to sum up in a few hundred words.

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Ponte de Lima and Monastery of St. John d’Arga: Paulo’s Portugal (part two)

An exploration of the Norte Region of Portugal with a local

Monastery de St. John de Arga, an 8th century monastery in the mountains outside of Viana do Castelo
The ancient Monastery of St. John d’Arga, nestled in the mountains outside of Viana do Castelo

 

In our last post, I talked about touring Viana do Castelo with Paulo.  The remainder of our visit with our friend  was spent exploring the stunning countryside around his hometown.  We went to an ancient village and then to an even older monastery tucked away in a forest.  We also drove a winding road through the mountains.  The next day, Paulo drove us from Viana do Castelo to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where we would catch a bus to Madrid for our flight back to the U.S.  On the way to Santiago, he took us on a meandering path up the Spanish coastline, showing us some of his favorite Atlantic Coast beaches.

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