The Suffering of The Pilgrim Begins on Day 1 of Travel
Some people are of the belief that to be a true pilgrim you must encounter suffering and discomfort. That aspect of pilgrimage is easy to achieve if it involves traveling from Alaska to Northern Spain.
We left Anchorage on a 6:30 am flight after a late night of last minute packing. We ended up checking 1 very large duffel bag with our trekking poles and extra clothes and toiletries for after our Camino. We arrived at the airport 1 hour prior to our flight departure time. We got automatically cleared for TSA Pre-check when I checked in online so we knew we were going to breeze through security.
The advantage of Pre-check is that you go through a special lane at security where there’s hardly anyone waiting. Then you have the added advantage of not having to take off your shoes or jackets; can leave your laptop in your bag; and only go through a metal detector. No body scanner and no pat downs. Sweet. How did we get TSA Pre-check? Well that’s a state secret. Let’s move on to something less classified.
Anchorage to Seattle was a quick trip. 3 1/2 hours that goes by fast. Especially now with the new Boeing 737-800 aircrafts. Plugs at every seat to keep your devices charged and free texting. The latter means I could use Facebook to keep me entertained. The breakfast was a hot scrambled egg tray with sausage and potatoes. Overpriced at $7 but I was starving. At least the Starbucks coffee is free 🙂
The long haul flight
The next leg was very long. 9 hours from Seattle to London-Heathrow. When I booked the British Airways flight 9 months ago, I paid extra for what are called “twin seats”. These are seats in the rear of the aircraft that instead of having a row of 3 seats, it only has 2. Which means you get a private row. Plus, they are always located right next to a bathroom. On board amenities included an entertainment system of movies and tv shows, free wine and beer, free hot 3 course dinner and a breakfast sandwich. A couple hours of sleep and next thing we knew we were landing in London.
Connecting in London
When connecting in Heathrow you have to take 3 shuttle trains to the next gate and then go throw immigration where they verify that you have the right documents to pass through as a transiting passenger. They move pretty fast and then you move along to security. When arriving in Europe you always have to clear a second security because not every passenger is arriving from places like the US that has tight security. So they rescreen you. Once again, both Billy and I were waived through and just our carry on was x-rayed. We again avoided the body scanners and sexual assault-like pat downs.
This time around our connecting flight to Madrid was on time. Unlike last year when weather had us sitting in that airport for an additional 3 hours. We flew Iberia which generally just sucks. All drinks cost money and the cabin is kept at a scorching 70 degrees. Thank goodness it was only 2 1/2 hours.
Arriving in Madrid
Madrid is my favorite European airport. Passport control is super fast and friendly and the baggage claim is very timely. Our bags were already spinning on the baggage carousel when we got there. I stopped at the RENFE office and they gave us free tickets for the commuter train since we had already purchased train tickets to Oviedo. We jumped on their version of a subway train and to the Chamartin station we went. Getting out of the local subway system and back up to the main terminal took some figuring out, though. Signage is not their strong suit. I’m greatful to be fluent in Spanish.
The final leg
We then sat for 3 hours waiting for our long distance train to depart. Spain has several types of trains. Short, medium, and long distance. Plus their bullet trains, the AVE. Unfortunately, the AVE doesn’t extend up toward rural Northern Spain. But the Alvia long distance trains are almost as comfortable and have charging ports, and snack machines. But everyone just buys sandwiches at the station just prior to leaving. Delicious hot sandwiches!
4 hours later we arrived in Oviedo. My maternal grandmother’s ancestral home, and the starting point for the Camino Primitivo. I had reserved a room at the Marriott Oviedo AC Forum hotel right above the train station so we were in out room within 20 minutes of arriving. Very classy hotel with green marble and glass bathroom.
The following morning we visited the Cathedral of San Salvador and toured the ancient church. This is the home of Sudarium. The face cloth believed to have covered the face of Jesus when he was entombed after his death.
Tomorrow we start our walk. We have a short day planned since we are jet lagged and once again not getting to bed until midnight. It’s hard to go to bed early in Spain, what can I say!