- Sinin’s bar, La Torre, in a God forsaken village (Reliegos, León). A balm for my heart, cracking jokes while I iced my shin, charged my phone, and ate a delicious bocadillo de bonito while Duke Ellington blared on the speakers.
- Feeling bunches of grapes, their sensual weight, in the Rioja region.
- Speaking of the Rioja, crossing the Ebro River (the biggest river in Spain) on the old stone bridge.
- Swimming and having lunch at the refreshing public swimming pool at Zubiri.
- Lunch at the Universidad de Navarra, when I had just gone in to get my stamp.
- Freezing in Burgos.
- The Pilgrim’s Mass in Burgos.
- The smell of fig trees.
- The chapel of Nuestra Señora de Monasterio in Rabé de la Calzada.
- The crystal clear, fresh water at Hontanas.
- Dipping my tendonitis inflamed leg in the cool, clear water in the Esla river at Mansilla de las Mulas – which, by the way, totally healed my leg!
- The barn turned albergue in Boadilla del Camino.
- Catching up to Krisztina in Villamayor de Monjardín, and again in Mansilla de las Mulas.
- The Pre-Romanesque chapel of San Miguel outside of Estella.
- Meeting Virgina one of my Dissertation Director’s best UVA friends in Leon, by chance!
- Meeting a baby cow in Santibañez de Valdeiglesias.
- Vespers with the nuns of St. Claire at their Convent of Carrión de los Condes.
- Seeing the rainbow outside of Leon.
- Vespers with the nuns in Sahagun.
- The chapel at San Nicolas del Real Camino on the side of the Pisuerga River.
- The bumper cars in Nájera.
- Sitting on a bench the morning of my (forced) rest day reading the Book of Job in Carrión de los Condes and two gorgeous horses being walked down the street.
- A trailer bar set up in the middle of the parched fields a few miles before Los Arcos with the radio blasting and all sorts of refreshing goodies.
- An albergue in the middle of Palencia blasting Tchaikovsky, with geese in the garden, and native American tepees in the back yard.
- A fun, magical evening of love, drinks and tapas in Leon’s Barrio Húmedo and Barrio Romántico with my old colleague, Ana and her sister.
- Doing laundry every day.
- La Casa de los Dioses. A stop in the middle of a pine forest set up by David from Barcelona on an abandoned farm before Astorga. He had refreshing fruit, cool water from a botijo, and shade.
- The (free) wine fountain at Bodegas Irache.
- The aperitivo before Sunday mass at Viana with Marie Helene and Krisztina.
- Drinks at the Drunken Duck pub in Logroño.
- Residencia Universitaria Miguel de Unamuno, León.
- Stopping for orange juice at La Morena, possibly the hippest albergue of the Camino, but definitely the best orange juice!
- Babia, across the street from the Burgos albergue, one of the best breakfasts on the Camino.
- Angel’s shop, Amari, in Larrasoaña, blaring the Blues Brothers on vinyl.
- The chapel of San Esteban outside Pamplona where you can ring the bell (if you climb the bell tower).
- The coffee spoon at Mesón El Yugo in Valverde de la Virgen, it was s shaped so it rested vertically on the cup.
- Starting to walk in the pre-dawn darkness a few days.
- The river crabs being fished out of the Canal de Castilla near Frómista.
- Putzing around Belorado for the better part of a morning: getting coffee, buying assorted supplies, visiting the pharmacy and the post office.
- Buying cherries in Pamplona from a rude sales guy that did not enjoy washing the cherries.
- Walking by Villava, birthplace and home of Miguel Indurain, my cycling hero.
- Translating the tour of Roncesvalles from Father Vicentín to English and French.
- Watching the San Fermin bull runs on TV in the mornings getting breakfast at bars along the Camino.
- Santa María de Eunate.
- The massive medieval bridge at Hospital de Órbigo.
- Doing yoga on the lawn at Roncesvalles with James.
- A fire just outside the albergue in Cizur Menor.
- Watching the sun rise over the Pyrenees.
- The Romanesque cloister at the Cathedral of Estella.
- The chickens at the Cathedral in Santo Domingo de la Calzada.
After the first year of my doctorate program, and with a couple of weeks of distance to reflect and let it all sink in, it is time to come up with some road markers, some conclusions:
The program is everything I was expecting for and much, much more.
I have learnt so much, I have “discovered” Medieval and 18th C. Spanish Lit. – where have I been hiding for my whole life? Part of the secret to my discovery has been having Profs. Domínguez, and Gómez-Castellano as my teachers. They are the real deal: knowledgeable, patient, encouraging, understanding, I could not have wished for better role models.
My colleagues are also top, top shelf, both in the Masters and Ph.D. programs, in Spanish French and Italian: Sam, Ruben, Thomas, Anne, Emily, Miguel, Zully, Andrew, Rob, Sarah, Drew, Massi, K-N, Martina, Gloria, et cetera, et cetera.
The other side of the coin, my teaching experience has also been out of sight. I have taught three fantastic classes of Intermediate level Spanish language, 203. I have been very impressed with my students, a great, diverse, fun, brilliant mix. It has been a thrill teaching – even at 8:00 am. We had great discussions, games, learning moments, fun and end of the term breakfasts at Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe, where the students ordered their breakfasts in Spanish!
Beyond the in-house academic powerhouses, I have met people I never expected to meet: David Gies – Jedi Master of 18th Century Spanish Lit. (UVA) and Ana Rueda, the grande dame of 18th Century Spanish Lit. (UK) (who I even had the chance to pick up at the airport and have a drink before a lecture!). I also met novelist and journalist Rosa Montero and Spanish choreographer and ex-dancer Nacho Duato, not bad for a village. And speaking of dance, I saw The Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham and Marie Chouinard dance companies, the Monteverdi and Cleveland Orchestras, heard Verdi’s Aida, and over a dozen different takes on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, et cetera, et cetera.