June 11, 2007

6/11/07 Santa Cruz de la Seros

I had planned a short day so I didn't really need to get up early, but it was kind of hard to stay in bed while everyone else was packing.

Didn't really know what to expect on the Camino as I left Arres, but the trail turned out to be wonderful. Not sure why, but I didn't pass a single pilgrim. I hope they didn't take the road instead.

A wonderful view this morning

The Camino outside of Puente la Reina de Jaca went through the woods along the River Aragon. So peaceful and quiet. I had to smile when I found what could only be described as a cairn field - hundreds of cairns.

The bridge to Puente la Reina de Jaca

This sight warmed my heart

Getting a lot closer to the mountains

My German friend Bernhard recommended a different route to Santa Cruz de Seros if I wanted to visit the Monasterio San Juan de la Pena. It meant more road walking, but was a lot easier.

There are very few places to stay, so I'm at the Hostal Santa Cruz, a nice but, to pilgrim standards, expensive place with a restaurant. The town has a touristy feel, with some new apartment construction among the old mountain homes.

The view from my balcony

One of the older homes in the village

I barely got my backpack off when I started the hour long climb up to the monastery. I don't know how far up I climbed, but it was straight up. I had originally thought to follow tis route in the morning as it follows one of the Camino routes. But I could barely negotiate the path without a backpack. They told me at the monastery that it was four kilometers, most uphill. It seemed dangerous enough that I opted to walk the road back down even though it was seven kilometers.

The climb up from the village was worth it

The monastery was amazing. It was built right into the mountain and seemed so isolated. But St Francis of Assisi did a pilgrimage to here. It felt so special walking through the complex, almost as if you could feel the monks walking besides you doing their daily chores. It's too bad it's an empty monument instead of something being used and lived in.

St Francis visited here in 1213

That's where I'm headed tomorrow

Back at the hostel, I had a quick lunch then retired to my plush room to clean up. The TV even has English-language CNN and they had American baseball on (Philly vs the Mets). I don't know, but all this is making me homesick. I'd give anything for Minsky's calzone or some good Mexican food.

I've been in Europe for 2 months now. Sometimes I feel that pull for home. The hardest lesson that the Camino still has more to teach me is that home is where I am at, not where I am not.

At dinner, there were two pilgrims speaking English. At since I seemed to be enjoying their conversation, they asked me to join them. Kristina was from Germany and Monica was a doctor from Bilbao. Kristina had already finished in Santiago like me and was doing a bit more. And Monica had walked the last three weeks through France but was finishing in Eunate. I had a wonderful time sharing our stories with them. It felt good to have pilgrim company.

Church of Santa Maria de los Seros