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Meanwhile, Back in the World, the Lakers Screw Up

April 14th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, Lakers, NBA

While slogging through the hills of northern Spain, it was easy to lose track of stories he or she thought were important, before.

And after.

Top of the list on the sports side, for me … is the Lakers’ ridiculous five-game winning streak that cost them a chance to have the second-best position in the NBA draft lottery.

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Our Camino: A Postscript

April 13th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Pilgrimage, Spain, tourism, Travel

We completed the five-day Camino de Santiago pilgrimage yesterday, and celebrated by having dinner twice in about five hours.

Walking 13 or 14 miles a day is enough to work up an appetite that can be acknowledged without fear of gaining weight. So there is that.

Thinking back, I failed to mention, over the past five blog posts, several concepts I found interesting, and this is where I will get around to several of them.

Like the issue of luck.

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Day 5 of Our Camino: Our Triumphal* Entry into Santiago … and the Botafumeiro

April 12th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Pilgrimage, Spain, tourism, Travel

*By “triumphal” we mean stumbling past the sign that read “Santiago”.

So, Day 5 of the Camino de Santiago, the condensed, 73-mile version of a pilgrimage that can be 10 times as long, for the minority who start walking in distant lands, and often is about six times as long when starting just north of the France-Spain border.

Actually, we hardly paid any heed to the “Santiago” sign because all it meant was we were still on the edges of a fairly big city (100,000 or so) and were still hurrying to make the “peregrino mass” scheduled for noon in the Santiago cathedral, and perhaps — perhaps — the “swinging-of-the-botafumeiro” conclusion.

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Day 4 of Our Camino: The Killer of a Pilgrim Is Sentenced

April 11th, 2017 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain, tourism, Travel

The Camino de Santiago is a public event that passes through some of the most remote parts of Spain.

The miracle is that the pilgrimage is so little touched by crime, especially given the surge in participation over the past 20 years, crossing the 275,000 mark in 2016, with women making up almost half of the peregrinos — as pilgrims are known, in Spanish.

Over the past four days we have walked along paths hidden from much of the world, even on a heavily traveled portion of the trail, and given crime nary a thought.

And then this: Word this very day on the 23-year prison sentence given to a Spanish man for murdering a 41-year-old American pilgrim in 2015  in a remote part of the popular Camino Frances.

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Day 3 of Our Camino: If It Doesn’t Hurt, You’re Not Doing It Right

April 10th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Pain. Did we mention that, the pain?

Traveling the Camino de Santiago as a pilgrim is often not a pleasurable experience, in the physical sense.

Heat, cold, rain, difficult terrain, average daily hikes of 26 kilometers (16 miles) — for the whole of a month, if you follow the popular route from the France-Spain border to the Spanish cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela, which covers nearly 480 miles.

Today, we battled through one of the more taxing legs in the final stages of the camino: From Palas de Rei to Arzua, which checks in at a daunting (for civilians) 30km — or 18.6 miles.

We needed no less than nine hours on the road to complete the trip, and one of us was close to collapse the final couple of miles.

This sort of thing happens all the time in Europe’s most famous pilgrimage. And those who wonder … “why do they do it?” … well, that is a fair question.

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Day 2 of Our Camino: Dealing with Other Pilgrims

April 9th, 2017 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain, tourism, Travel

If Day 1 of our Camino de Santiago was about getting to the other end, Day 2 was about getting comfortable among the other pilgrims.

It is a diverse group.

Statistics compiled by church officials in Santiago de Compostela, in northwest Spain, suggest half the pilgrims are not Spanish … that Germans are the biggest chunk of foreign pilgrims (at 20 percent, last month), followed by Portuguese (15 percent) Italians (9), Americans (8), the Irish (7), Koreans (4), the French (3) and the rest of the world (34).

So, it is a multicultural group trooping toward the relics of Saint James in Santiago, and you plan accordingly.

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Day 1 of Our Camino: Slow and Steady Does It

April 8th, 2017 · No Comments · Pilgrimage, Spain, tourism, Travel

(Above, clockwise from top: Admiring a huge and ancient tree; distance markers scrawled on a bench; the official markers, noting correct direction and kilometers left before Santiago; Taking a break in a farmer’s outbuilding. The sign hanging, above, invites pilgrims to rest as long as they keep the area clean and tidy.)

This may be Day 25 or 26 for the hard-core Camino de Santiago pilgrims who started back in France, but for those with less time or a more acute awareness of their physical limitations … it is Day 1.

And the most memorable thing about it?

We made it the 15.4 miles from Sarria to Portomarin. Without aid of car, bus or other wheeled conveyances.

And we are declaring victory … at least for one day, here in northwestern Spain.

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On the Eve of the Camino de Santiago

April 7th, 2017 · No Comments · Spain, tourism, Travel

Tomorrow morning, the three of us begin our walk on the Camino de Santiago — the best-known of the Christian pilgrimage trails to Santiago de Compostela, a cathedral city in northwestern Spain.

At the moment, we are in a bustling little town named Sarria, 110 kilometers (68 miles) east of Santiago.

Sarria is the handiest place to begin the abbreviated version of The Way — or El Camino.

The Roman Catholic Church, which for about 13 centuries has encouraged believers to make the pilgrimage to the site of the relics of Saint James (Santiago, in Spanish), does not recognize as a pilgrimage anything shorter than 100km on the camino.

We will get in just over the limit, though 10-11km of clearance seems like more than enough for those who find difficult walking even one mile, or even one kilometer.

We are a bit excited and curious, but also harbor various concerns about whether we can actually walk an average of 14 miles — more than half a marathon — for five consecutive days. We will be aching to find out.

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36 Hours in Madrid

April 6th, 2017 · No Comments · Spain, tourism, Travel

I can attest to the obvious: A day and a half in Madrid is not nearly enough to get any nuanced sense of Spain’s capital city.

We could have done better. I never have arrived at one of the world’s great cities having done so little preparation. Not much studying of maps or prominent sights, despite none of the three of us having been here before.

Not proud of it. Just worked out that way due to some tight scheduling.

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NHL and Dropping Out of the Olympic Movement

April 5th, 2017 · No Comments · Olympics

This week, the National Hockey League announced it will not be taking a month off next season so its players can compete for their national teams in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The first reaction from nearly everyone is … “what an awful decision”.

The NHL’s players joined the Winter Games in 1998, and the past five tournaments presented a chance for the league to be seen by those who might not normally be susceptible to its brutal/elegant charms.

But the NHL is not going along with this one for a variety of reasons, reasons that suggest this is not only about the widely unpopular commissioner Gary Bettman and the team owners.

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