pre-Camino: Pamplona

My first step on the Camino was to head to Roncesvalles, the last stopover point in Spain before the French border. Roncesvalles is hidden up in the Pyrenees, so to get there from Madrid, I would first be taking the coach to Pamplona and then another coach to Roncesvalles where I planned to spend the night in their historical albergue, rise early, and cross the Pyrenees and stop down in St Jean-Pied-de-Port.
8-hour coach trip to the starting point at Roncesvalles
So early in the morning I kissed Madrid and Ally goodbye (Juan and Nalia were still sleeping) and made my way from Las Rosaz de Madrid to Pamplona. I found the counter for the local buses and requested a billeta to Roncesvalles in my best Spanish. The woman behind the counter shook her head and said “Mañana.*noise of needle scratching across record*

So I hauled my backpack off to look for a hostel and ended up at Jesus y Maria. I am not a big fan of religion and was a little nauseated by this whole Jesus and Maria thing but in fact it’s a fascinating hostel, converted inside a church (named… Iglesia de Jesús y María) without touching any of the outer structure.

I dropped my gear off and headed out to explore Pamplona. The week-long famous bull-chasing celebrations of San Fermin had just finished the day before and on a Sunday afternoon, the whole town had a feeling of stunned silence after the storm.

Spot the bull!
Nearly every shop window was dressed in honor of the festival and its white-and-red clad runners
I decided to walk to the Yamaguchi park, as its Japanese name sounded promising. It was very small but beautiful and peaceful, and its fountains were very refreshing in the heat of the afternoon.

I made my way back to the hostel and settled in for the only bad night of my entire Pilgrim experience — I had a very jittery 9-year-old in the bunk-bed above me and he seemed to suffer from “sleep-spasms” throughout the entire night — shaking the bed and waking me up every time I started to drop off. Some time after 4am I took my pillow and my sleeping bag and went to sleep on the floor.

I have to confess that sleep deprivation and hunger meant that I was not entirely thrilled with Pamplona, especially as I had to make a 5km round trip in order to find a supermarket open before I caught the bus to Roncesvalles. But things only improved after that… well a little after that!


ni oh, ni oh

I didn’t update at the time, but on Saturday morning I went for a run (only 12 hours after Friday’s run). It was dreadful. I had thought Friday sucked, but Saturday sucked even more! I walked at least a third of the not-quite-five kilometres. The coolness of the shade had fooled me into thinking that it wouldn’t be too hot at 10:30 am. WRONG. Comme dirait Norman, FAUX.

I thought I was going to die out there. In my haste I neglected to put on sunscreen before leaving the house (and have probably aged another 3 years as a result). I took my t-shirt off within 2 minutes, first wrapping it around my head, then wearing it like a cape, tucked into my bra, so as to protect my back from the wicked sun. Only instead of looking like a superhero, I was LoserGirl, red of face and wheezy of breath. It would have been embarassing if I had crossed paths with anyone, but here in Madrid only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun…

ANYWAY. Wisdom comes with age; today (Monday) I waited till it was almost sundown — leaving the house at 9:45pm. The hot air was still burning my lungs and the insides of my nostrils, but at least I wasn’t prey to the fierce sunshine that has been my downfall thus far, keeping me from leaving the house with its 37 degrees under ultramarine skies.

Of course, my phone decided it wasn’t going to cooperate. I might as well have run with a musical birthday card: RunKeeper didn’t find a GPS signal for 2 miles, the Maps app persisted in telling me I was sitting at home, and instead of letting me access my Steve Aoki playlist, the MP3 player insisted we listen to 你喔 by Soda Green on repeat for 40 minutes.

N o t the most upbeat of running chunes… However, it worked, I ran happily for 6km and kept a good pace (for me, under these conditions) of about 6min/km. I did walk one particularly vicious hill but considering how my lungs, throat and sinuses were absolutely parched… I’m happy! My legs feel really good, so light and loose…

Other, non-running accomplishments, to detailed in an upcoming post: I completed a cute embroidery of a duck* and began a second one; I have had several very basic, painful conversations in Spanish and one reassuring, thank-Christ-I-can-still-speak-this-language-at-least conversation in Mandarin; I iced and decorated the delicious birthday cake Ally bravely baked in this ridiculous heat.

*unless it’s a goose?

spanish things

I woke up with a disgusting cold and sore throat the morning I flew off to Madrid. I was mostly worried about passing it on to baby Nalia, but Juan stuffed me full of garlic and I was fully cured within 48 hours. So… much… garlic… luckily in Spain it’s ok to stink of garlic.
Anyway, quick recap of the last few days:

Spain is HOT. The days are long and HOT. Now I understand why they have siestas in the afternoon and don’t eat till late at night… afternoons are just too caliente to hacer very much. Plus it still feels like the afternoon till late in the evening.
The sky above us as we ate dinner on the balcony at 9pm
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
My beloved sister’s little family is as beautiful as ever, and Nalia is show-stoppingly adorable and fun:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Ally and Juan are living in a beautiful flat on the absolute outskirts of Madrid. Their street is literally the last street between “Madrid” and the mountains. This means beautiful views…
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
The local train station is very pretty and quaint…
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
…and faces nothing but brush and mountains shimmering in the heat! Can’t imagine this from a Paris RER or London train station…
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
This evening I finally felt ready to brave the heat and go for a run along the trails (photo taken the day before on a recon mission).
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
It was pretty bad. I can list a number of excuses (heat, swimming in the morning, tiredness, the dry air, lingering traces of my cold and of course my period) but the reality is, it’s been 5 days since I ran and it was going to suck no matter what. I dragged 4 pathetic kilometres out, following the trails as they appeared in front of me. Nothing very exciting but I’m determined to go back out there and do better very soon.
As you can see from the map below, there is plenty more out there to be explored — I kept reaching dead ends!
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Lastly: Sociology Course update. I am almost done with all the reading for Week 2 (up to 45 pages, from 7 pages last week, wheeeeeeee!). Even though it’s a lot longer, it’s really, really interesting, and not at all a chore to read. I am really glad I signed up for this. I needed some (dare I say it?) gratuitous intellectual stimulation. It also helps a lot to have a “project” right now, as my days could easily slip away into farniente, other than brushing up on my 15-years-old Spanish skills… there are a few other projects on the back burner but I will broach them when the time is right!