Frankly, I love being snowed in. We have heat, electricity, food and…time.
Some of that time I spent wandering through photos from my pilgrimage on the Camino Portugués in 2010. Among them, I came upon these of the most wonderful, little church in Pontevedra, Spain, La Iglesia de la Divina Peregrina (The Church of the Divine Pilgrim).
La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Refugio
While other depictions of the Virgen Mary as a pilgrim exist along the various Camino routes, they are few and in my opinion, this chapel in Galicia is the most beautiful. It is easy for pilgrims to find, as it sits right on the Camino Portugués in thePraza Ferreira.
As you arrive in the Plaza, the first thing you notice is the unique design of the sanctuary. It is shaped like the vieira, or scallop shell that is the universal symbol of pilgrims and pilgrimage. In the front is a large fountain, graced on either side by matching staircases that lead to the glass doors of the main entrance.
Above the balustrade, La Divina Peregrina, Santiago, San Roque
Looking up, slender twin towers – the left, a clock tower and the right, the bells – flank an allegorical representation of Faith. Just below this there are three niches. In the center, is a sculpture of Mary the Pilgrim. On either side of her are two of the most iconic figures of the Camino – Santiago (St. James) and San Roque. It reminds me very much of the sculpture of St. James on the Cathedral of Santiago, which of course if you are walking this Way, is your ultimate destination.
This is one of the most important churches in Pontevedra since Nuestra Señora del Refugio (Our Lady of Refuge) or La Divina Peregrina (The Divine Pilgrim) is the Patroness of the city. So unlike many rural churches, you will nearly always find it open.
Built specifically as a sanctuary for La Divina Peregrina, symbols of the Camino de Santiago appear everywhere! On each of the plate glass doors, a large, etched, vieira welcomes pilgrims. These are crossed by the bastón (staff) and gourd and accompanied by a pilgrim hat also bearing a shell.
Stained glass – bastón y calabasa
Just inside, a huge oyster shell forms the Holy Water Font. The elegant, stained glass windows, the doors of the confessionals and the benches also all bear the symbol of the vieira crossed with the staff and gourd.
Above the main altar is the image of the chapel’s namesake, the Divine Pilgrim. She is dressed in the style of a French pilgrim and her dark curls contrast with the vivid green dress, cape and hat. In her right hand, she holds the staff and gourd of the pilgrim, in her left, the infant Jesus. At the highest point, suspended as it were by cherubs, is a lovely relief of the flight into Egypt.
Main altar – La Divina Peregrina
Nuestra Señora del Refugio
Construction of this unique chapel began in 1778 – it was consecrated in 1794. The style is late baroque with neoclassical elements. In 2008, the church underwent a major renovation to repair the main altar, the paintings, stained glass and the clock, which originated (1896) at the Hospital of San Juan de Dios, now demolished.
Historically and artistically, the church is a designated monument. But for the pilgrim, it is a special place of great beauty and refuge. Pilgrims always ask, “Is there any place that I must see?”. When on the Camino Portugués, this is definitely one.
Do you have a “must see” place on the Camino Portugués? Tell us about it in the comments.
The National Aquarium is a focal point of any visit to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Open daily at 10 a.m., fascinating exhibits entice every member of the family to engage with creatures of the deep. And the not so deep.
jaws and teeth of a great white shark
From friendly dolphins and a variety of sharks to the newest giant sea turtle more than 20,000 animals reside within the walls of the spectacular facility. Birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and fish are all represented in a welcoming and up-close environment.
Book a “behind-the-scenes” immersion tour, become a member or contribute to conservation programs. All are part of the National Aquarium experience.
Some exhibits are as local as the Maryland seashore. Others are diverse and exotic – such as the Blacktip Reef, which replicates the Indo-Pacific reefs.
Get an up-close and personal view of sharks and rays
Aerial sculptures all to the museum effect
a pterodactyl soars ominously overhead
The National Aquarium offers multiple opportunities to support their conservation efforts. Visitors can choose a favorite animal to “adopt” and help care for!
I had never been to New York when there was no World Trade Center.
Construction on the Twin Towers began in 1966; the first tenants moved in in 1970. My first trip to Manhattan was with my college roommate in 1975. I’ll never forget the look on the face of the New York Cop when, as I climbed the stairs out of the subway, I looked up at the sky and said, (far too loudly!) “Oh my gosh, is this really Greenwich Village???” Not one of my cooler moments…
And it was much later that I learned that in New York, you never look up!
Fast forward a few years to when I was working in lower Manhattan, just a half block south of Trinity Church. I used to wander over to the World Trade Center for lunch and shopping. Working literally in the shadow of the complex, it was easy, especially on dreary winter days to spend my lunch break in what was essentially a mall in lower Manhattan.
A really “special occasion” dinner might warrant a reservation at Windows on the World, the chic restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower that afforded wondrous views not only of NewYork but New Jersey as well.
Not to be missed
Every out-of-town visitor got a trip up to the top – it was one of the best free things to do in NY. More than 200,000 visitors per year rode the speedy elevators to the 78th floor, then changed, like changing metro trains, but vertically, to continue on to the top. You could feel and hear the wind whistling through the elevator shafts, but it was all part of the awesome experience.
On September 11, 2001, it all changed.
Volumes have been written, so I won’t beleaguer it here. Suffice to say I have never gotten used to seeing the NY skyline without the twin towers. On my one visit to Ground Zero in the ensuing years, I was surprised by my very emotional reaction to being there.
So, it was with some trepidation that I planned a trip to visit the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum.
Freedom Tower – One World Trade Center
The day was stunning, not unlike that fateful day fourteen years ago. We waited in a very short queue at the group entry door and passed uneventfully through the airport-style security.
Elevator Motor – video showing floor numbers
You have the option of a guided tour but there is also an app that you can download to a smartphone. It leads and informs as you go through the museum. Numerous “routes” lead through the various exhibits of the museum.
South Tower foundation
The bulk of the museum is below street level. Escalators and ramps transport visitors down two levels where the remaining foundations are in clear view. The permanent exhibitions include the Memorial Exhibition that includes photos of the nearly 3000 victims who died there. In addition to the names and pictures on the wall, visitors can use a touchscreen to find out more about each victim.
NYC Fire Engine
The Historical Exhibition chronicles the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and includes a history of what led up to that day. It also depicts the history of post-Sept. 11 events – expressions of grief, first-person testimony, recovery, reconstruction.
Foundation Hall is an enormous space that displays the last remaining wall of the North Tower and the Last Column. The Last Column was the final piece of the structure and was removed with great ceremony from the site signifying the end of the search and recovery period. The column, covered with messages and mementos and surrounded by benches, stretches 36 feet into the air and encourages reflection.
North Tower Foundation Wall – The Last Column
The memorial is somber, but not morose. Despite its inherently sad nature, it speaks of resilience, hope, and community. The visit evoked great emotion but at the same time it is a marvelous tribute to everyone who was involved there that day. I would recommend the museum as a “must see” for anyone visiting New York.
WTC Memorial – South Tower reflecting pool
To plan a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum visit the website. It is an excellent idea to purchase tickets in advance online. https://www.911memorial.org/
What could be more fun on a gorgeous fall day than taking a ride through the idyllic countryside on an antique steam engine?
The Strasburg Railroad provides exactly that.
In the heart of Amish country
Lancaster County farmland
It was one of those amazingly clear, early autumn days. The sun was brilliant in a cloudless sky, the air crisp and fresh with just enough chill to require a light sweater. The Strasburg station is located just outside the village of Ronks, Pennsylvania. From there, the antique steam engine pulls the train for 4.5 miles, from Strasburg to Paradise, PA, where the line intersects with the Amtrak northeast corridor line. At that point, the engine detaches, passes to the other end of the train and begins the return journey to Strasburg. The entire trip takes about 45 minutes.
The steam engine advances to the rear
Bountiful local produce is available to buy
The route meanders through the fields of 27 farms many of which are Amish. Seemingly endless rows of tobacco, corn and pumpkins offer stunning views. Cows and horses idly glance in your direction as the iconic steam whistle announces the engine’s arrival at railroad crossings. All along the way, there is commentary about the history of the railroad and the local area. If you like, on the return journey, the train makes stops where passengers can hop off to visit a playground, picnic area or walking trail.
Detailed renovation and restoration
Inside, the cars gleam. Most of them have been purchased from iconic railroads of the past. The detailed wood trim shines with a high polish and the windows, which all open, are sparkling. Each of the plush seats flips back and forth so passengers can face and chat with each other. Or, if you don’t like to ride backwards, just turn the seat around!
Passenger cars with antique lights and a pot-bellied stove
Every car has it’s own pot-bellied stove. In the winter, they are used to keep the cars warm!
If you arrive early, there is time to wander through the cars, all of which are open: there are dining cars, open-air cars, game cars with tables that feature checkerboards and even a pinball car with pinball machines anchored to the floor!
plenty of room to relax and chat
Visiting Strasburg is a terrific family day out! Besides the train ride, in the station there is a gift shop with a wonderful upright player piano. For just a nickel, you can add a little ragtime the shopping experience!
The Railroad Café offers a variety of food and an assortment of drinks although none of it is allowed on the trains.
souvenirs, food and gifts available
Perfect for kids and families
The station has lots to keep kids entertained. The engineer, fireman and conductors dress in period costumes and are more than happy to pose for pictures. There are the Cranky Cars, where kids pedal-power themselves around the track, the Pint-Sized Pufferbelly, a miniature steam engine that pulls miniature cars around an equally small track, and the pump cars, where old-fashioned hand pumping makes them go.
every season has it’s special events
Nearly every weekend features a special event: Santa and the Easter Bunny make annual appearances and Tomas the Tank Engine is a regular visitor. There are wine tastings and music festivals. You can even cut a Christmas tree and have it delivered back to the station by train!
Whether it is a day trip or part of a vacation, the Strasburg Railroad is a fun and memorable day for the entire family. Be sure to include it as part of your next visit to Lancaster County, PA!
When you go:
Location: 301 Gap Rd., Ronks, PA 17572
Hours of Operation: Daily April – December
Check website for Complete Schedule and for Special Events
Whenever I see those words, they jump out at me. I’ve walked the Camino de Santiago – the 500-mile pilgrimage route in northern Spain – four times. It has and continues to play an important role in my life. Known by various names, El Camino, The Pilgrim Road, The Way of St. James – and for those who are intimately familiar with it, it is simply The Way.
In 2010, Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez heightened awareness, particularly in the United States, of the pilgrimage with their fictional, yet inspiring film by the same title.
Recently, when I was in Adare, Co. Limerick, I ducked into the cool interior of one of my favourite churches in Ireland, Holy Trinity Church. Centrally situated on the main street, it is a stunning 14th century grey stone structure with simple yet elegant lines. On this visit, I was immediately intrigued when I spotted a cone-shaped, bronze sculpture tucked into a corner at the back of the church.
On first glance it reminded me of the Sorting Hat of Harry Potter fame, so, curious as to why something pertaining to Harry Potter would be in the church, I had to appease my curiosity by getting a closer look.
It was clearly NOT a Sorting Hat.
The Camino de Santiago – near Cacabelos
However, due to the title The Way, my next assumption was to associate it somehow with the now famous Pilgrimage route. The popularity of the Camino has grown immensely in Ireland as well. Wrong again. Despite the title, the fascinating sculpture had nothing at all to do with the Camino de Santiago.
Approximately two feet high, its conical shape represents the hill of Jerusalem. There, the sculptor, John Blakely, obtained a 5 million-year-old piece of marble excavated from the city walls. It is one of only three such stones to have been taken out of Jerusalem adding to the unique nature of this bas relief. The marble stone is embedded near the top of the bronze sculpture, which is actually a representation of a staircase and path leading through the city of Jerusalem, a path which Jesus would likely have used.
So in a manner of speaking, the Camino de Santiago and the Irish Sculpture are related. Pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostela often make reference to Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. Or perhaps it is just me – I seem to find correlations to the Camino de Santiago in many strange places.
Nonetheless, this piece is one of many treasures found in Holy Trinity Church. When visiting Adare, with all there is to do and see, it is easy to overlook this beautiful church. Don’t.
I love alliteration – so I’m adding a new weekly post to my blog. I have lots of pictures that never make it to the blog- either because they don’t “make the cut” for a blog post or there just isn’t a post in the subject.
Beginning with Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac has been my favourite group since the 1070’s, but I had never been to a live concert. Two years ago, when they announced a new tour, my son got me tickets as a Christmas surprise gift. It was the best gift ever! And I loved going to the concert and seeing/hearing them live.
The name Claiborne Farm is synonymous with greatness in the Thoroughbred Racing.
That is why, on a recent driving trip from Colorado Springs back to the east, I could not pass up the chance to venture just 12 short miles off the interstate and stop in Paris, Kentucky to visit the final resting place of the incomparable Secretariat. Having had the good fortune to have seen him win the Preakness during his Triple Crown campaign, Claiborne was an obvious stop.
Most people are probably familiar with Secretariat, indisputably one of the greatest thoroughbred horses of all time. But if not, Big Red, as he was fondly called around the stable area, won racing’s illusive Triple Crown in 1973. The chestnut son of Bold Ruler out of a mare by Princequillo still holds the record in all three of the Triple Crown races: The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes.
Once Secretariat was retired from racing, he stood as a stallion at Claiborne and remained there until his death in 1989 at the ripe old age – for a racehorse – of 19.
Despite the day being showery and wet, Claiborne was beautiful. The field stone pillars gracing the entrance proudly proclaimed the name given by founder Arthur B. Hancock in the 19th century. The tree lined drive wound down to the office which gave way to miles of black board fencing and cream colored barns and outbuildings. Over 3000 acres of rolling fields and paddocks are home to more than 250 thoroughbred mares, foals, weanlings, yearlings, horses in training and, of course, the stallions.
I stepped into the office to check in for my pre-arranged tour and stopped dead in my tracks. The room was cozy and comfortable, with wing chairs and small tables strategically arranged around the stone fireplace. But what instantly caught my attention were the leather halters hanging on the walls. At first I could hardly believe they were real, but then I began reading the names: Nasrullah, Bold Ruler, Nijinsky II, Danzig, Princequillo, Swale. I touched them almost reverently, quietly breathing some of the greatest names in horse racing history. I stroked the brass nameplates imagining each one, not hanging in orderly rows on the wall, but rather gracing the noble heads of their respective owners. I felt as if I were in the presence of royalty. These were the names of great sires that I had been hearing since I was a child. Some of my earliest memories are of discussions of racing pedigrees and these names were nearly as familiar as my own.
Path leading to the stallion barns and breeding facilities
Wandering outside to await my guide, my gaze drifted out across the green meadows drinking in the tranquility. The pleasant silence was broken only by the chirping of birds and the occasional distant whinny of an unseen horse. As it turned out, the other visitors who had signed up for the tour decided to postpone due to the inclement weather. I got a private tour.
Late summer is a quiet time at Claiborne; there isn’t as much going on as during the late winter breeding season and spring foaling season. John, my guide, and I strolled and chatted beneath the shade of the sycamore trees, some of which were planted by Arthur Hancock himself. Only a few buildings are included on the tour. In the c.1860 tobacco barn turned breeding shed, we discussed the merits of artificial turf and decided that it is better suited for breeding barns than racetrack surfaces.
In one of the stallion barns, Algorithms and Orb were lying down, taking a late morning nap. Their box stalls were immense, bedded in fresh straw with screens painted the signature cream color. The barn was immaculate, the aisles and walkways paved with rubberized bricks.
Brass nameplates adorn the stalls with the most recent occupant listed first
Secretariat’s name appears just over that of his sire, Bold Ruler
Circling around to the six-stall barn, I met Blame, notorious for his defeat of Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders Cup Classic, and War Front. On each stall door was the name of the current occupant (first) and all those famous horses that had lived there previously. John carried a stash of red and white mints in his pocket and the clever horses knew to come to the door for a treat when we arrived. Blame, in particular, who licked my hand after I produced the mint, seemed to relish his sweets. Perhaps he knows that he is “equine-non–grata” in the eyes of many visitors to Claiborne. Some have never forgiven him for ending the winning streak of the great filly Zenyatta.
Blame looking for sweets
War Front refuses to pose for the camersa
We paused at each stall where John was able to tell me about pedigrees and statistics about every horse. He was a wealth of information, had some great stories about each animal and easily answered all my questions.
John pointed out the paddock where Secretariat used to be turned out and explained the need for the privacy fence that had been installed along the road. Apparently when Secretariat was retired to Claiborne Farm, there were so many people who wanted to catch a glimpse of him that they would stop along the road clogging up the traffic. If the tours were filled and they couldn’t get in, some people had even climbed the fences to get in to see him! Imagine the potential danger for people unaccustomed to thoroughbred horses – especially stallions!
The Stallion Cemetery
Our final stop on the tour was one of four thoroughbred graveyards at Claiborne – the main stallion cemetery. There are 21 stallions buried on the site located just behind the main office. It is framed by manicured hedges, and once again I found myself standing in awe of the great names. Beginning with Swale, the son of Seattle Slew who died suddenly of a heart attack just 8 days after his Belmont Stakes win, I moved silently around, stopping at each grey, moss-covered stone to pay my respects: Gallant Fox, Buckpasser, Mr. Prospector, Riva Ridge, Round Table and finally, Secretariat.
Mission accomplished. But so much more. Even for someone like me who was raised on thoroughbred farms, knows racing and understands the business, it was a wonderful day. I would highly recommend it. Claiborne Farm will not disappoint.
Continuing the legacy
Today, the fourth generation of the Hancock family has taken over the reins of Claiborne operations. There are currently 11 stallions continuing the long tradition of Classic race winners, Horses of the Year, Leading Sires and Triple Crown Winners. Visitors are invited to come for guided tours at 10 and 11 am daily. The tours are free, but it is customary to provide a gratuity to the guide.
My eyes opened wide and I burst into tears as my front tooth dropped out of my mouth and into my hand. Broken off at the gum line.
Three weeks prior in Madrid, I had cracked the tooth. Nothing special, just an aging tooth after a 30-year-old root canal. I was previewing a film for my students, mindlessly nibbling on my thumbnail. Suddenly I heard an odd noise and thought I had broken my nail. Unfortunately, the nail was just fine.
The young Spanish dentist who tended to me on an emergency basis was wonderful. He did his best to explain clearly what was happening – my Spanish is good, but the medical/ dental terminology wasn’t exactly part of daily conversation. Still and all, there was no mistaking his conclusion: “No podemos salvar este diente hoy.” “We cannot save this tooth today.” The most he could do was to try to stabilize it until I got back to the States to have it properly looked after. Read: replaced.
“Cuando vuelves a los Estados Unidos?” “When do you return to the States?” he queried. “Perhaps a week or two,” I replied, both uncertain and confused. This little episode was unexpected.
I neglected to inform the nice dentist that it was my plan to walk the Camino de Santiago, the 500-mile pilgrimage route across northern Spain – a journey that would take a minimum of 30 days.
He assured me that if I were careful with what I ate and drank, the tooth would probably stay put until I returned home. So I cut my food into tiny pieces, fastidiously chewed in the back of my mouth and carefully made sure all potentially damaging ice cubes remained firmly in the bottom of the glass.
But I noticed that each day, notwithstanding my diligent care, the tooth was bailando – dancing – a little more.
So there I was, in the tiny village of Azofra, seven days into my Camino adventure when a single strand of spaghetti al dente threatened to bring my dream to an end.
Despite my valiant efforts to cut the spaghetti into small bits and chew in the back, one brazen little piece worked its way to the front and when I bit down, the already fragile tooth gave way.
“I have to go home!” I sobbed to the other pilgrims who gathered ‘round to see why I was crying.
“Does it hurt very much?” asked one.
“No,” I snuffled through my tears, “it doesn’t hurt at all.” The errant tooth stared back at me from the palm of my hand. “But I can’t walk to Santiago with a hole in the front of my mouth!”
“Why not?” one of the women asked. “If it doesn’t hurt, then why not just keep going?”
I stared at her blankly. That was absurd. Of course I couldn’t keep walking to Santiago, a distance of at least three weeks walking time, with a gaping hole in the front of my mouth. No one walks around like that unless they are…well, unless…well.
Hang on a minute. I had to walk at least 2 days just to get to a town that had a bus station. And maybe 8 days to Burgos to catch a train back to Madrid. If I could walk that far, what, exactly was keeping me from finishing my pilgrimage? Pride? Vanity? Fear?
Yes, yes and yes.
The gathered crowd began to drift away. Nothing to see here.
Deirdre Y Ana
I wiped away my tears and tried to comfort the poor Italian woman, Ana, who had been walking with me and was so excited to make her spaghetti al dente for our dinner. She felt terrible – somehow responsible. I laughed my toothless smile as I self-consciously moved my hand to cover my mouth – a gesture that became all too familiar in the ensuing weeks.
“Vino,” I said. “We need some wine!” Everything appears better after a glass of Spanish Rioja.
For reasons that I cannot explain, I deposited the broken remnants of my tooth in a zip lock baggie and tucked it safely into my rucksack. In the morning, I strapped on the pack and headed out the door with all the other pilgrims making our way west.
There are many photos of that journey and in each and every one of them I managed to develop a calm, soft-looking, closed-mouth, half smile. When people spoke to me I had a rather unusual habit of resting my elbow on the table and placing my hand lightly across my mouth as if I were contemplating my response.
I made it all the way to Santiago de Compostela – 500 miles and none the worse for the wear.
Cruz de Hierro
And the infamous tooth? There is a place on the Camino called the Cruz de Hierro – the Iron Cross. It is a spiritual place where pilgrims often leave a stone that they have brought from home. The stone represents the burden they carry with them as they make their pilgrimage. I had forgotten to bring a stone, but as I stood in that place, I suddenly recalled the tooth, buried in my backpack. I dug it out, said my small blessing and left it there among the stones and ephemera. A very personal contribution to the Camino de Santiago.
12 hours after my flight from Spain touched down in the US, I was firmly ensconced in the dentist’s chair. Because it’s obvious that you simply cannot walk around for weeks with a gaping hole in the front of your mouth!