Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Back in Granada.

Pilgrimage 1 Summary.

That was great fun. A fantastic adventure. Fabulous places, lots of good people and many interesting experiences.

Do it! If you get the chance to try it for a week, a month, a year...

I'm guessing it's going to take me a couple of weeks to complete stuff in Granada. Off to Alicante around January 12th for pilgrimage 2.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Madrid for a Day.

Absolutely shattered. I now know not to expect any sleep on a night train in Spain.

Tried selling on the streets of Santiago yesterday evening. Nada. Policia Local told me to move, so I took that as my que to head to the train station. Some sketching here if I can find a nice pedestrianised plaza. Probably not. I don't really like Madrid. First visit for about Seven years. I prefer the suburbs and contempoarary Madrid to the city center. To many roads, to many cars, to few big, wide plazas.

First ride on an underground since January 2005! First visit to any city of any great size for a few years. Despite being extremely tired, I've sort of just dropped straight back into the pace of things.

I suspect the police won't allow me to sketch by the palaces. I may venture into the modern part of town and sketch some contemporary architecture in large scale.

Night bus back to Granada and immediately to work when I get there. Already fucked. It's going to be a very stressful few days :(

But, then I can head on to Alicante and start pilgrimage number Two :)

Monday, 29 December 2008

Aaaargh!


Thank God I didn't do last night on a night train. Something I ate I think. Off shortly to see if it's safe to restore energy. Bit shattered. Very little sleep. But, I'm still planning to make a couple of sales this afternoon and get the train to Madrid for some city sketching tomorrow. Wonder if I'll get my bag nicked?

I was thinking I would have to research the Alicante to Santiago camino, but someone's written a complete step by step guide already http://www.encaminodesdealicante.org/

What's more, the guy who wrote it is hospitelrio(sp?) at the First albergue enroute :)

It's going to be much colder, much tougher and much more expensive, but I'm eager to get on with it. Possibly starting Second week of January.

---------------
Me yesterday sketching Santiago cathedral in my new Stetson engine drivers hat :)


Sunday, 28 December 2008

All Aboard the Night Train.

To Madrid. Tomorrow night, provided I make the necessary cash tomorrow. Almost there.

Interesting Drops Number 17: Three lottery tickets. "You never know" the man said. And, I guess you don't. By this time tomorrow I may be one of the World's richest pilgrims. On the other hand, I may well still be that elusive €50 away from a safe passage back to Granada and on to Alicante. We shall see.

Met some good people today. Plenty of numbers and emails exchanged for future meets. Another HUGE thank you. You know who you are. I'll be in touch some day - I'm afraid that's a promise whether you like it, or not :)

Last night here. What to do on a rainy evening in Santiago with very little spare cash? Suppose I could carry on working. Try to sell sketches under the arches. Better to pick up an extra Tenner than to spend another.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Aaaargh! More Wind and Rain.

It's back :(

Shouldn't really be moaning after a week of sunshine, but you tend to take it for granted and when it stops you're stuffed. I was planning to get an early bus tomorrow morning, but I now need good weather tomorrow and good money this evening and tomorrow.

This isn't really that easy. Fine when the weather is fine, but next to impossible if it's windy, or wet. I'm thinking new plan to take a bus to Madrid and hopefully make cash during New Year, then bus to Granada to finally complete jobs that should have been signed and sealed long ago, then onto Almeria for pilgrimage number Two. Still need a sponsor for that also.

There are plenty of dry pitches here, so with luck, I'll make enough to cover costs and pick up enough for a bus tomorrow. Currently paying €25/night for a very basic bed and shower hostal. Food and drink at about €10/day. Cigs €2.50. I need to do some washing - about another Tenner. Current outgoings are ITRO €40 a day. A single day of rain/wind/whatever to spoil income hurts!

Expensive day. Thankfully yesterday was a good day.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Chorizo, Eggs and Chips.

Fuck yeah! That hit the spot. Sausage, egg and chips Galician stylee :) Big fat juicy chorizo.



Almost time to leave Santiago, but I will surely be back. I've loved every minute here. Fantastic little city. And, I got good weather. My favourite cafe is just off the tourist trail, almost opposite Policia Nacional. Good selection of daily dishes for just €5 (with bread). Decent size servings, good food at good prices with friendly staff. It's very popular with the locals. Best to beat the rush and get there just after 2PM.

My favourite bar is now introducing it's customers to the listening pleasure of Neil Halstead. Can't remember the name. I'll come back to it in a later post because I'm sure to pop in for one final visit. Live music from the guy who runs the place (and his mates) every Wednesday. Nice place.

Tunes in my head today include 'Sitting on the Beggars Bench' - Neil Halstead and 'Dirty Old Town' - McEwan? Communist playwrite guy???

I took just Four albums with me on pilgrimage. I haven't actually played any whilst travelling, but they are there to give away, or share when opportunity arises:

1. Bunny Wailer - Blackheart Man.
2. PJ Harvey - Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.
3. Neil Halstead - Sleeping on Roads.
4. Neil Halstead - Mighty Machine.

I guess the first Three must be my all time favourite top Three. Number Four made the rucksack simply because it was new and very eagerly awaited. And, it is a beautiful collection of songs.


Another HUGE thank you. To Erva - you total angel! No doubt when I finally hit Barcelona I will be inviting you to share a good meal and a few drinks. I like your handbags :)

http://www.erva-design.com/

Hope to see you again someday, some place.


Rain forecast for tomorrow, so possibly my last day sketching here. The cathedral is an absolute monster challenge, but I'm going to do it big just one last time.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Tarta de Santiago

It's a bit like Bakewell tart, but without icing. Just a simple dusting of icing sugar over a pastry crust, stencil decorated with the cross of Saint James. Very nice.

The weather has been fantastic and the forecast still looks good, so I'm staying put for a few more days. May leave after Christmas. Cheap(ish) accomodation is available. I can save money here to get me back to Granada for a brief visit before heading to Alicante.

I have a stinking cold, but my new coat is well cosy. Think my new hat is staying with me for a few years at least. New image works well on the cash making front. Two sketches sold yesterday before I had finished them. Going to try a few small watercolours today with a panoramic 3 Meter sketch in a new pitch this afternoon. Nice square at the back of the cathedral. Few pwoplw around, but it should still be good enough to pay for bed and food today.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

If You Want To Get Ahead, Get a Hat!

My Fifth hat of pilgrimage! I seem to have developed a bit of a hat fetish. Three blew away, One is still in my pocket - a gift from a friend who is no longer with us. I'll never let that one blow away. And, now I have the most perfect Stetson Railway Network leather engine drivers cap :) Only cost me €85!!! FFS! What am I doing?

I've just completely reinvented myself on a very self-induldgement shopping binge. Spunked a load of cash on a very nice, light weight, extra warm, multi-pocketed coat for future treks across the winter plains from Alicante to Toledo. I also have a new pair of quality, light weight, multi-pocketed parachuter trousers. These are highly recommended for pilgrimaging.

I've also bought a bottle of detergent. Going to spend a Saturday night washing me togs and shaving me bonce. Hit it a bit hard last night. I need a recovery session.

Big spend, but it is almost Christmas after all and no other fucker's going to buy me anything!

Apparently Villa v West Ham is on GOL TV. I'm off to find a bar with telly before hitting the laundrette for an exciting Saturday night.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Monte do Gozo.

Monte do Gozo - the last albergue before reaching Santiago de Compostela, about 3KM from the city center. I gave it a miss walking in after what I had read. Specifically, the bit about the number of pilgrim beds available - 800! However, on arrival in Santiago I found all existing albergues closed for various reasons and the modern, purpose built albergue as listed in the guide I was reading turned out to be so contemporary that they had barely laid the foundations yet.

But, Monte do Gozo is available for Four nights at just €3/night. I'm not complaining. Good facilities. Warm. Clean. Safe. But, it's an absolute nightmare of a holiday camp come army barracks come open prison like complex. Dorm after dorm on the side of a hill with a central 'plaza' that has a 24 hour shop full of vending machines and not a lot else. Capitalism at it's worse borders with Communism possibly at it's best. It's a bit of a hard welcome back to the 21st Century after treking through forgotten villages full of friendly people. Another pilgrim, another number, another tourist, another cash laden ant. Nothing more. I'd swear this place was American owned if I didn't know it is actually state run. At the top of the hill is a modern sculpture of monumental proportions. The cheapest accommodation (pilgrims albergue) comes first. Lower down is mass holiday accommodation. Below that is some horrific hotel that really should have a golf course next to it. Perhaps it will do some day. But, €3/night. Can't grumble. And, they're pretty flexible on the lights out rule. A long walk back from the city, or a number 6 bus.

I'll take the Four nights and then book into a cheap city pension.

I can also claim Three days worth of free pilgrim meals at some swanky hotel apparently. Just have to photocopy my Compostela. I opted for the non-religious version. No doubt it's worth fuck all on ebay despite being exceptionally rare. I quick glance through the registry reveals that 90% of pilgrims took the religious version. Yet, only Two pilgrims I met told me that their walk had some meaningful religious conotation.

Anyway, still loving Santiago. It's a great little city.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

And...More Rain :(

Oh well. Forecast is good for the weekend :)

I have invested in a nice, new, shiney portfolio full of various watercolour papers. I'm going to sit in a cafe all day drawing and painting from postcards. This evening, I'm going to sit under an arch and paint a nice Navidad scene featuring the cathedral and all the sparkly Christmas lights.

Seems stupid to be buying a new digital camera at this time of year, but I really should be recording more sketches and paintings. My panoramic sketches have been going up in bars and cafes all along my route. I'll have to revisit them all some day. I'm leaving my mark everywhere.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

I'm Liking Santiago in the Sunshine :)

Really, really liking this city. Extending my plan of stay and making good money. Slight problem with Policia Local sketching in front of the cathedral, but other than that it's a very enjoyable city to sketch and paint in. Trying a few dynamic watercolours tomorrow. Pretty sure they'll make some good Christmas presents for someone.

Very similar vibe to Granada, but it has more dosh, more trendy bars (as well as plenty of cheap bars to keep me sane) and a tolerant, progressive attitude for Spain.

Plenty of sunshine today. I'm hoping it lasts. This city is a good little earner for the likes of me.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Santiago de Compostela.

Yay! Charity goal number 1 sorted :)

It's a fantastic little city. I've found a fantastic little bar with jugs of wine for pouring yourself a 40 Cent glass. But, it's still raining. Accommodation isn't to cheap. The Semanario albergue is closed for renovations until April next year. I'm determined to spend at least 10 days here though. Cash can be made even in the rain and there is loads to explore.

I like the accent in this part of Spain. A nice lazy lol to the tongue. If the rain would just fuck off for Three days, or so I would be sorted for stage Two. All good really despite the rain. I can hold my head above water until the there's a break in the weather.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Forests of Eucallyptus.

Not sure about my spelling there. I've stumbled into a tiny bar in a tiny village in the middle of a very wet forest of eucalyptus trees. There's a shed over the road with an entire family standing around Two very fat, dead pigs. Two old guys are singeing the corpses with blow torches. It would make a great photograph, but I'm all out of film :( Must sort a digital solution out when I get to Santiago. I want an all singing, all dancing, whistles and bells PDA solution with a sponsored 12 month contract. Please God. I've been a very good pilgrim (most of the time).

43KM to go!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Next Stop Santiago!

Yay! In the brief couple of hours of dry in Lugo it delivered. I'm now comfortably sorted for cash to see me to Santiago by Sunday. About 80KM to go. Big hike tomorrow to leave a 25KM stroll into town on Sunday. Where I go from there I have no idea as yet. May hang around for a week, or so until an incentive drives me forward. I've met so many people on this 'pilgrimage' and have so many ne invitations to visit people all over Spain and France. I could easily draw a map of free beds from here back to Granada :D

Very friendly police and people in Lugo when it isn't pissing it down. I will return to explore further some day.

Friday night in a small, drive through farming town in deepest darkest Galicia. Although, I'm still half convinced I'm in Wales. With my mind drifting as I hike I find myself looking up for sign posts to Newtown and Welshpool, or Knighton. Fond memories of teenage camping sessions.

Needless to say; it's raining again. Bucket loads. It will be tomorrow also. No doubt. Oh well, I'm getting use to it, but it really isn't what I moved to Spain for as beautiful as it is.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Lugo.

I'm in Lugo. Yet another beautiful little city. But, it's still raining relentlessly. Total end of the world weather. Very cool little city and there's a photography festival on. Yay! PhotoGalicia 2008 - InnerCity. My sort of photography. I can see I'm going to get stuck here if I make some cash. If I make some cash!



I'm down to my last couple of Euros. I have repairs to repair. Zips are a busting all over the shop. My umbrella is holding up well mind. It's still good for going fwapperfwapperfwapper everytime I enter a bar :)



I need €40 to see me safely through to Santiago. I also need a shave and a haircut for when I meet God's earthly topman representative to collect my reward. A lavanderia to wash all my clothes. There is a peregrinos albergue here, so that's possibly just €3 for a bed for tonight and about €6 to wash and dry my clothes. Sleeping bag could do with a wash also.



Best get to work. I need to make €30 today and another €30 tomorrow to be safe again. I've been feeling a bit vulnerable surviving day to day cashwise. My compaƱeros have been very kind, but I need a safety wad in my back pocket. Parted company this morning, hoping to meet up with them again further enroute. They're a good bunch.

Off to work in the cold, wet streets of Lugo.

Ignore My Last Post!

I was obviously more drunk than I thought I was :D

Bleeding reservoir innit. Obviously. Didn't get it until this morning. Last night I walked along the river thinking 'spooky river, 'mysterious river', looking at all the relics of a village drowned 46 years ago.

200 stupid points for me.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Portomarin.

Hey! Somebody moved the church. Very frustrating when that happens in strange cities and towns, but equally reassuring when someone moves your hotel right in front of your nose when you had given up all hope of finding it.

This church (and much of the old town) was moved brick by brick about 45 years ago. Moved up river and up hill. A 12th Century church that had stood for...well...12 Centuries untroubled. Yet, 50 years ago the town became prone to flooding big style. The church was often under water. What's that about then? Today, the church stands proud and restored about Half a Kilometer away from where it was originally built. Surrounded by very convincing 'old' buildings. The old town remains where it always was. About 500 Meters down valley.

Climate change? World change. It's always changing. If you look at most coastal towns in Spain the houses are almost always a good 50 Meters above sea level. Sea walls count for nothing.

Off to Lugo tomorrow.

Today's tune stuck in my head is: The Wind Knows My Name - Fairground Attraction.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Samos.

I'm in a very nice little public library in the very nice little village of Samos. For some reason this place barely gets a mention in many guides and it's actually off track a little. There are sweets in the ashtrays, it's warm, comfortable and it has internet - all for free. It is stunningly beautiful here even in the bleak, relentless wet weather. Samos is famous for it's very magnificent monastery. A huge building about half the size of the entire village.

http://www.galiciaguide.com/Samos.html

I have found some camino commradery. I seem to have joined a like minded bunch of walkers who have very kindly paid for my bed in last nights albergue. I'm cashless and on a dash to Sarria to make enough money to take a bus and a Two day sketching break in Lugo. The weather should be OK by Thursday. Hopefully I'll make enough to see me through to Santiago.

I'm currently sharing albergues and very nice, good value meals with a couple from Catalonia, a French woman and a bunch of guys from Majorca. All smokers and drinkers and all very relaxed, good humoured people. It's been a fun few nights even if very wet.

Villafranca went a bit strange, so I decided to head onwards. Standing by the river watching the rapids and admiring the elegant old bridge, a car suddenly crashed through the bridge railings and dropped 15 Meters, or so onto the path below. Did that really just happen? It did. The driver was obviously a bit fucked, but I think he survived. That threw me a little, so I walked on.

There is no doubting I'm now in Galicia (unless it's Wales). It is extremely beautiful, but it's also extremely wet and cold. Constantly getting soaked in rain, drizzle, sleet and snow. I've crossed the highest pass mind. It's relatively easy and straightforward from here on. I could easily be in Santiago by the weekend if I wanted to be. But, I'm hopeffuly off to explore Lugo for a couple of days tomorrow and may yet take other diversions before reaching destination One.

New plan for destination Two. I found a pilgrimage route to the sunshine of Alicante. From Santiago to Salamanca to Toledo and then directly towards the coast and Alicante. That's going to be walk number Two. I'm looking for a new sponsor. It should take about Three months. From Alicante, I'm going to take a Two week holiday in Majorca :)

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Raining Again.

More rain. Far to many things about this part of Spain remind me of north Wales and Snowdonia. Dark grey slate rooves and lots of rain mostly. Never mind, I have a portrait to complete from a photograph. That can be done in a cafe. Other commissions need outdoor space and dry weather. Hopefully tomorrow, but this rain, like in Wales, looks like it's going to hang around for days.

I'm whistling to myself again, so things can't be to bad. Today's tune; Walk a While With Me' - Ian McNabb. Links to his MySpace from the 'friends' links on my MySpace. http://www.myspace.com/thelostphotographer

The albergue here is actually the nicest and friendliest I have stayed in yet. A good bunch of people. Some of these places aren't to bad at all.

Off to the Tourist Information office to look for pictures I can sketch in a dry place. Feeling loads better after a good meal and good nights sleep, but really need to up a gear on the cash making front. I've seriously underestimated costs over the next leg.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Villafranca del Bierzo

Last night didn't quite go as expected :D

Got about 10KM in and the rain came again, so I took shelter in the porch of an empty house. Rain didn't stop and I found an small 25 Litre oil drum to make a stove and stayed the night. Relatively easy walk into Villafranca del Bierzo in the morning. Small town deep in the valleys and sheltered by mountains on all sides. Apparently referred to as 'Little Santiago'. Very pretty and very friendly. Once again I find people bending over backwards to help in this part of Spain. Sold sketches and commissions lined up for tomorrow. Hopefully, the weather will hold out.

Albergue problem seems to have gone away. I have equal rights with the professional cheating pilgrims now, but I really don't feel a part of the community thing. Having to rough it with flu has left me feeling more than a little excluded. I'm using the places for the sake of a cheap bed and nothing more now. Finding far friendlier and more welcoming people in the villages and towns I pass through. That's pretty much the way it's been since I set off.

May stay here a couple if nights if I can source a cheap bed beyond tonight.

It's been a tough week. Surely it can't get any tougher?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

A Big Bag of Goodies :)

I really like these sorts of drops. 'Thank you' to whoever you are. It's a bit like receiving a Christmas stocking. A bag full of things you wouldn't buy yourself. Ponferrada was very good in this way last time I visited.

Cash and weather is not improving. I'm off on a scary midnight hike into unknown lands. Looking to arrive at next location early morning to prepare for a big panoramic sketch. I think a break in the weather and €20, or so is the best I can hope for presently. But, that should just about see me through to the next cash making opportunity. It's been very hard for a couple of weeks now, and I don't expect it to get any easier.

Off into the darkness with trepidation :)

I Won't Stop Walking Until I Know Where I'm Going!

Yesterday's hike was a bit tough. Over mountain passes through blizzards and drifts, but I am now in Ponferrada just 200KM short of Santiago de Compostela and I'm already wondering where to go from there.

Physically and financially it's getting very difficult. Mostly due to the weather. But, I can walk 200KM in Four days if I have to. I don't want to. I want to take it very slowly and arrive on Christams day, but taking it slowly is much more expensive.

I need cash. My clothes need washing. Sleeping bag needs repairing. It's raing in Ponferrada and I really struggle to make money in the rain. Off to stroll around town to come up with a new idea. Hopefully.

I would like to continue walking around Spain until I'm ready to move forward in other ways in about a years time (possibly longer).

Perhaps I should just focus on charity goal number 1 and make sure I get to Santiago before making other plans. The home stretch could be very tough.

Had to share a dorm last night with someone who left a flashing light on all night. WTF???? These professional pilgrims and all their gadgets are really beginning to annoy me :D

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Snowed In!

I'm stuck in a small village about 25KM West of Astorga. It was very beautiful yesterday. Today the weather is a bit shit and the mountain pass is apparently unpassable :(

I have to make a move. 35KM in snow and sleet to Ponferrada.

It's getting very tough!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Time to Blow the Lid :D

Ha ha!

I have walked over 1000KM. For most (if not all of the way) I was the only person/pilgrim (I'm not really a pilgrim, but anyway...) laying footprints. In 1000KM I have only met One other pilgrim on track, yet the albergues have often been full???

Zafra was my first clue. I arrived at about 5AM. Guessing that the bus station cafe would be first to open I headed that way. It was closed, but shelter was there, so I waited until it did open at about 6.30AM. Enjoyed churros and chocolate followed by cafe con leche followed by chocolate.

Then, pilgrim number one appeared. Complete with carbon fibre rods. Ten minutes later a whole posse of German pilgrims appeared. By 8AM the bus station was full of pilgrims. Where were they all going? I watched at the ticket booth as each one bought tickets to the nearest village to the next albergue. That's how carbon fibre walking rods and skin tight latex helps you. Not knocking any of them. Enjoy it in your own way, but don't try and tell me I'm not a proper pilgrim because I'm not using the right gear!

Cheating fuckers the lot of you :D

Albergues in Astorga.

Finally sussed the good albergue (San Javier). Not where I thought I stayed last time I was here (scumbags albergue). San Javier is the place to head for. Very nice and very reasonable.

I've made plenty of good contacts via established friends in this part of Spain. I'm pretty sorted again cash wise. All sketches completed today were commissioned. Booked into the nice albergue. Good nights sleep and I'm off again tomorrow morning. Flu has subsided greatly today.

The Wrong Sort of Pilgrim - An Explanation.

OK. Once again turned away from the pilgrims albergue. Tried to shove me out of the door before I had even got in. Explained that I accepted that I couldn't stay there, but just wanted an explanation. A bit of careful questioning and and explaining to them exactly who I was and what I was doing they remained adamant that I couldn't stay.

'This albergue is for peregrinos de Santiago de CompĆ²stela'.

Yep - that's me. I'm walking to Santiago from Granada.

'No. You can't stay here'.

OK, but why not?

A quick glance at my credentials (book of albergue stamps) and they asked where I had been since Benevente on the 12th of November. I then explained that I'm walking for Two years and taking a break every two months, or working cities to make a bit of cash and generate a bit of local publicity. I went from Benevente to Ponferrada by bus. I then went into the mountains for a few days to explore forgotten pilgrimage routes and visit friends. I then came back to Astorga by car, took a bus back to Benevente, walked to Astorga once more before taking another excursion to Leon to meet a couple of journalists and sketch in the streets. Now I am back in Astorga on the Via de la Plata pilgrimage route.

'OK, that's why you can't stay here'.

Oh! No-one told me there were rules that I couldn't take a break.

Anyway, what I think he meant to say was: 'the albergue gets abused by alcoholic drifters who usually speak English'. This is where 'English' people often get a bad name in Spain. It's full of vagrants from all over the world. The common language is often English before Spanish. Naturally, local people assume they are all English whether they're German, Ducth, Scandinavian, Swiss, Israeli, or whatever.

That's pretty much the same impression I got in Leon. People tell me I don't look like a pilgrim. I don't I guess. I don't have carbon fibre rods and I'm not a bit fat german guy dressed in skin tight Lycra. My boots may well be scruffy, but they are actually custom made from specialist components. Some of the more serious hiking people recognise the labels. Other than that, I just look like a bit of an ordinary guy with a camera back pack. I'm always a artist scruff shyster and I enjoy a fair amount of red wine. So, I guess peoples perceptions are understandable. Actually, looking at myself again, I think I look a bit more like a sad hip-hop, midlife crisis comedy character. Baggy parachuter trousers and bodywarmer with designer hat. Don't really give a shit what I look like so long as I'm warm and comfortable.


Feeling a bit sparked out and drained. Stomach is still reluctant to accept anything other than straight water. Hoping to make enough here today to pay for a decent meal and bed before heading on. Very much operating on recovery mode, but definitely feel as though I am actually recovering. Nice sunny morning here today :)

I plan to get an Astorga stamp in my credentials from somewhere to try and avert any more albergue problems. Perhaps a few newspaper cuttings with pics of me in various towns en-route may help?