In twenty-eighteen, I: Visited Pittsburgh for the first time ever. Traipsed around the National Parks and Monuments in the Four Corners area with my ever-patient husband, and on my own. Took a solo road trip to Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls, NY and Ontario. Walked many miles and did physical therapy on my right knee to prepare to walk the Camino de Santiago in September and October. Read 49 books out of my goal of 45, the best being On Pilgrimage, The Tie That Binds, Benediction, Eventide, The Woman Lit by Fireflies, The English Major, and Whistling Past the Graveyard. Lost an unknown number of pounds walking nearly 500 miles on the Camino Frances over 44 days, gained some of them back during 10 days in Portugal, and gained the last five back when I returned to the U.S. Began a road trip novel and started dabbling in poetry after a long hiatus. Published 132 posts on my new blog.
From January to April, I: Joined the American Pilgrims on the Camino, shared a potluck brunch with fellow pilgrims, and later walked 10 miles with them around D.C. Enjoyed movies such as The Post; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Oh Lucy!; The Insult; The Leisure Seeker; Finding Your Feet; Lean on Pete; and Beirut. Watched plays at various D.C. theaters: Everything is Illuminated, Hold These Truths, Two Trains Running, and Snow Child. Listened to Portuguese Ana Moura sing fado at The Barns of Wolf Trap. Walked all over Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in freezing cold temperatures, where we visited the University of Pittsburgh, numerous memorials to the titans of American industry, a magnificent botanical garden and conservatory, the merging of the Monongahela and the Allegheny Rivers – forming the Ohio River at Pittsburgh’s point – and some offbeat museums.. Drank dirty martinis at the Ice House with our friends Karen and Michael. Protested in “March for Our Lives,” organized by the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students were gunned down by an unhinged ex-student. Ate dinner with my daughter at Little Nickel, and later, walked the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10k in Richmond. Hiked among bluebells at Riverbend Park.
In May, I: Drove 3 days across country and visited my eldest son in Denver, Colorado, then spent 19 days on a road trip around the Four Corners area. Drove amidst immense windmills on the Kansas prairie. Hiked among Ponderosa pines smelling of vanilla and butterscotch at Mt. Sanitas near Boulder. Was involved in a 6-car accordion-style accident on a major highway at rush hour in Denver. Hiked through Red Rocks Mountain Park among evening primrose and creeping barberry. Rested in vintage American motels such as the Palomino Inn, the Mokee Motel, the Alpine Inn, and the Adventure Inn. Got my first National Parks Passport and started collecting stickers and cancellation stamps. Hiked among pinyon pines and Utah junipers on the Coke Ovens Trail at Colorado National Monument. Climbed slickrock on a strenuous hike to Delicate Arch at Arches. Was mesmerized by the scent of cliffrose all over the Colorado Plateau. Saw the confluence of the Colorado and the Green Rivers at Canyonlands. Mourned the ghosts of horses left to die at Dead Horse Point State Park. Walked through rock bridges at Natural Bridges National Monument and ancient dwellings at Hovenweep. Kicked up dust at Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley, and passed through towns like Mexican Hat and Kayenta. Found remnants of the Old Route 66 and the Wigwam Motel. Studied petroglyphs all over the Four Corners. Visited Petrified Forest National Park and the Hubbell Trading Post and learned all about the horrific Long Walk, forced upon Native Americans by white people. Found Native stories and ancient dwellings at Canyon de Chelly, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and Aztec Ruins. Climbed a house carved into a steep cliff at Mesa Verde’s Balcony House. Drove “America’s Switzerland” on the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway in Colorado. Did research on my mother’s family in a library in her hometown of Pagosa Springs. Visited my youngest son in Crestone, Colorado, and explored Great Sand Dunes National Park with him. Drove in the dark for 5 hours over a mountain pass in the middle of nowhere to Pueblo. Moseyed back across the country in three long days. Enjoyed the movies Disobedience and The Book Club.
In June, I: Listened to Alison Krauss, David Crosby and Friends at Wolf Trap. Watched the movies On Chesil Beach and The Guardians (Les Gardiennes). Voted for Jennifer Wexton for the 10th district in the Democratic primary. Walked around Richmond National Battlefield and Tredegar Iron Works with my daughter. Had dinner with our friends Karen and Michael at Red Kimono. Walked with my pilgrim friend Susan around Sugarloaf Mountain and enjoyed wine at Sugarloaf Winery after. Visited the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo, NY, on a solo road trip to Niagara Falls. Learned that the American side of the Falls is more of a natural environment, while the Canadian side has more glitz and commercialism. Entered the maelstrom at Cave of the Winds, bracing against catapulting gales and showers. Walked downriver along the White Water Walk; the unnavigable rapids here churned in confusion and disorder. Chased butterflies flitting about in the Conservatory near Niagara Falls. Drank Tempranillo out of silver espresso cups with my friend Mona Lisa and watched as a rainbow rose from the mist and stitched itself like translucent threads across a blue sky.
In July and August, I: Enjoyed a visit from my oldest son when he flew home from Denver for a week. Watched the movies Mama Mia! Here We Go Again; The Cakemaker; Leave No Trace; and Puzzle. Bid adieu to my youngest son as he took off to live the van life in Colorado. Enjoyed bottomless mimosas at Pearl Dive Oyster Bar with my California friend Leah. Did physical therapy on my right knee twice a week to prepare for walking the Camino. Had lunch with Susan at Season 52. Walked with Susan and my backpack at muddy Riverbend. Walked around Meadowlark Gardens to test my new camera. Flew to Lisbon to begin my Camino adventure.
In September to late October, I: Set out on foot from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to walk 799 km, about 500 miles, across northern Spain on the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela. Walked over the Pyrenees, encountering pigs, cows, black-faced sheep, long-haired sheep, horses, a mobile snack vehicle for pilgrims, a statue of the Virgin Mary, beech forests, a cattle grid crossing into Spain, and pilgrims speaking in exotic tongues. Walked alongside the Rio Arga, swirling and rushing over rocks and around bends. Got caught up in a parade of big-headed characters in a medieval festival in Pamplona. Topped off a day at Alto del Perdon, where wind turbines swirled on the ridge line and rusted wrought iron medieval pilgrims headed westward in a line. Sailed downhill by bicycle through hay and corn fields to the Romanesque church of Eunate near Muruzábal. Met Darina from Slovakia, who would become one of my closest friends on the Camino. Walked through vineyards and olive groves and across the hot Meseta and over mountains and past granaries. Treated myself to countless servings of cafe con leche, cerveza con limon, tinto verano, potato tortillas, bocadillos, and pilgrim meals. Enjoyed snails, pretty wildflowers, starry weeds, and building-like haystacks along the path. Drank wine from a fountain in Irache. Bought a tiny iron shell necklace from an ironsmith artist in Irache, who gave me a gift of a fresh fig, like nectar from heaven. Started walking in the dark each day, and fell in love with sunrises. Was brought to tears by a shepherd, his dogs and his flock of sheep, who obeyed his every command. Passed fences covered in twiggy crosses. Stopped in countless churches, received pilgrim blessings at Pilgrim’s masses, and read in English at a Vespers service. Soaked my feet with other pilgrims in a fountain at a municipal albergue in Azofra. Enjoyed drinks with Karen and Simon and donkeys, geese, sheep and dogs at Albergue Amanecer in Villarmentero de Campos. Swung in a hammock and soaked my feet at La Casa del Camino in Valverde de la Virgen. Laid a stone with all my worries at the base of Cruz de Ferro. Climbed up and down mountains in Galicia, through forests and cow towns, and past charming granaries. and made it to Santiago de Compostela on October 20. Wept in awe and thanksgiving as I watched the swinging of the botafumiero at the Cathedral at a German mass and then the next day at the Pilgrim’s mass. Received my Compostela for completing the pilgrimage. Got sick with bad cold as soon as the pilgrimage was complete. Took a bus to Muxia, where I stood at a rocky ridge above the surf at Sanctuario da Virxe da Barca. Took a bus to Finisterre, known in Roman times as the end of the known world. Took another bus back to Santiago.
In late October & November I: Took a bus from Santiago to Braga, Portugal where I met Mike and we traveled around Portugal for 10 days. Climbed the picturesque steps of Bom Jesus do Monte near Braga. Saw sweeping views of Braga from Nossa Senhora do Sameiro. Found Portugal’s military in full regalia, accompanied by weapons of destruction, at Guimarães. Walked across the Ponte de Dom Luis I in Porto and enjoyed fabulous views of the Ribeira district. Was charmed by colorful laundry, azulejos, street art, pastel de nata, and charming dereliction all through Portugal. Ate phallus-shaped St. Gonçalo cakes in Amarante. Walked around Aveiro, the “Venice of Portugal” in the rain and bought colorful cans of sardines. Drove in the rain around Costa Nova’s candy-striped houses. Enjoyed beers in Ibn Errik Rex in Óbidos. Took an early morning walk atop the medieval walls of Óbidos. Enjoyed a rare sunny day at the coastal beaches and cliffs of Peniche. Arrived to a dark and gloomy Sintra, where we ate at my favorite restaurant from 2013: Sopa D’Avo. Had a nightmare day of heavy fog, pouring rain, long lines and no views at Pena Palace in Sintra. Got a flat tire in our Clubman Mini-Cooper rental after taking a detour down a dirt road in Cabo da Roca. Enjoyed views of red-roofed Lisbon from Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Castelo de São Jorge. Shopped for scarves at my favorite Lisbon shop, LostIn. Marveled over my favorite ceiling at Basilica of the Martyrs. Took the hop-on hop-off bus on our last day in Lisbon, returning full circle to the Vasco da Gama neighborhood, where I began the journey to embark on my Camino. Returned home November 7 from Portugal after a convoluted and challenging travel experience, where we endured an unexpected 5-hour layover in Gander, Canada. Met Leah at Circa in Arlington for drinks and lunch. Saw my youngest son for a few days when he drove home to pick up many of his belongings and take them to his new Denver home, which he now shares with his brother. Celebrated Thanksgiving with my daughter and part of my family at my sister’s home in Salisbury, Maryland. Enjoyed the movies Wildlife and Private War.
In December, I: Met Jackie and Tim at Essentially Vintage in Lucketts and had brews at Vanish Farmwoods Brewery. Reminisced with Susan about our separate Caminos over lunch at Wild Tomato in Potomac. Drove to Richmond with my husband to have dinner with my daughter at Ale Wife. Visited my father and his wife in Yorktown. Enjoyed fried oysters at the To Do Cafe in Tappahanock, and got fresh oysters to take home. Enjoyed Mike’s delicious oyster soup. Went to my husband’s company Christmas party at the Marriott in Bethesda. Saw the Burning Man exhibit at the Renwick on Christmas Eve. Had a quiet Christmas at home with my sister-in-law and a neighbor since our adult kids had to work and couldn’t come home. Watched the movies Boy Erased and Green Book. Ate lunch at the Lincoln and visited the National Portrait Gallery.
Since I’ll be taking a basic drawing class this winter, I felt encouraged by the primitive drawings of Bill Traylor (c. 1853-1949) at the National Portrait Gallery. Born as a slave in Alabama, he witnessed the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow Segregation, the Great Migration, and the steady rise of African American urban culture in the South. After seven decades of labor, he traveled alone into the segregated city of Montgomery, Alabama, where he spent two decades. He started drawing at age 86.
Overall, we survived our second year of the Trump Presidency (barely, and with much angst, disgust and disgruntlement), and I had a great time on all my adventures. My biggest hope for 2019 is that my children will find fulfillment and happiness in their lives, and that I will have diverse adventures and learn many new things! I always love the promise of a new year, turning to a new page and reinventing my life.
Happy New Year, and may all your wishes be fulfilled in 2019! 🙂
This post is in response to Ann-Christine’s post: Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #26: Photographic Review of 2018.
Here are some of my previous years’ recap posts. I now wish I had one for every year of my life, as they serve as great reminders of my adventures, joys and tribulations in years past!
Sadly, I didn’t do one in 2015. 😦