sandy soil of El Bierzo

as we’re decompressing from that nightmare of a presidential campaign season, I thought I’d bring you some nice, soothing pictures of cultivation in Spain.

the soil in the Bierzo region of Castilla y Leon is very sandy — which makes it exceptionally good for growing both roses and grape vines. for several days around Molinaseca we saw incredible rose bushes in all manner of places — in gated front gardens, in the middle of an intersection, tucked next to a wall that lead to an underground garage … when we set out from Molinaseca at our slightly-later-than-usual time (7:15 a.m.) the roses in a garden a few doors down from our hotel had already gotten their morning soaking. probably a good thing considering how hot the weather got that afternoon …

on the way to Villafranca we also saw fresh cherry trees which, if I remember correctly, many farmers spray with something unpleasant to deter people from plucking ripe fruit off the tree (and cutting into their merchandise). we also got a lesson on the reason the hills between Villafranca and O’Cebriero are so good for growing grape vines when we stopped for a snack and some wine in Cacabelos.

over the course of the Camino, we listened to a lot of podcasts, as well as a couple of audiobooks. for some reason, the only day for which I can routinely recall to what I listened was this one — day 26. as we progressed along the busy main road in Camponaraya and on through a rare stand of trees I listened to episode #465 of This American Life — What Happened at Dos Erres. we stopped at a cash machine just as I got to a graphic part of the story and it was jarring to come out of such a gripping, awful narrative to a mundane if busy city street. later on, as we wended our way along the side of a quieter roadway (not entirely sure we’d managed to stay on the “alternative” Camino path), I listened to episode #212 of the Nerdist featuring Brent Spiner; recorded at a live show Phoenix it was the complete opposite of This American Life. and Andy could not understand why I kept laughing as we were struggling up another damned hill with sweat pouring out of everywhere and precious little water to slake our thirst.

he understood better why I was laughing when he got around to that episode a day or two later.

voting from Spain

… voting in the June recall election.

one upside to going on a “planning binge” in early April was that by the time we left for Spain on May 4, I had the majority of our lodging planned out. it resulted in a more inflexible schedule for distances that we had to complete every day, but came with significant benefits — at least in my opinion. while traveling open ended certainly has its benefits, I’ve always been more of a planner and take comfort in knowing where I’ll bunk up each night. I’ve had fewer bad experiences with planned lodging than with unplanned lodging, but maybe that’s a question of my inability gauge a place on sight. on this particular journey, I found it far less stressful and emotionally taxing on the days I knew I had a bed to sleep in. even if it turned out to be an uncomfortable mattress with terrible pillows and no climate control or cross-breeze.

another benefit to having places planned out — we were able to have absentee ballots for the recall election sent to us! it took us a couple of days to get postage to return them, but it was a thrill to arrive and ask the woman checking us in (in muddled Spanish) if there was any mail addressed to our attention. and there was! in the end, it looks like they might not have made it back on time to be counted (which is rather despairing) but it was exhilarating to be able to exercise our right to vote from someplace so far away in a period when the shape of our daily lives took a shape so outside the ordinary. it’s one of those times where you feel the scope of your freedom and importance of your voice.