The Royal Camino


Spain’s Royal Palace

The past few days have been hard on me.  Traveling every day and a new place to sleep at night.  I’m feeling so drained and just ready to go home. I hate these ugly clothes. I hate having only a few things to wear. I hate exposing my oily, broken out, bare face to the world with no makeup on. I’m just done with Spain. I can’t live this way!

Dad is just so enthusiastic and he’s trying hard. He wants me to enjoy myself. I’m feeling so crappy I can’t form a smile for him or even make eye contact. This isn’t right… I feel guilty. I want to enjoy myself and my time with him. I want him to see the appreciation I’m feeling. Could anything lift me up? Can he spoil me any more than he already has? I didn’t think so but the answer is “Yes!”. Daddy always know best. One place to stay. One place for the next 4 days and it’s in Madrid. A nice apartment that belongs to very welcoming hosts.

After an entire day of travel from Burgos to Madrid, I’m gross and exhausted. We arrived to a warm and homy apartment and the hosts are so friendly. My mood is instantly better. Even more so after a shower. What’s better than that? Food! Of course. I always feel better at dinner time. Dinner is my happy place because I know I can sit back, relax, eat yummy Spanish food, and then go to sleep afterwards (everyone eats so late). That’s the best feeling. So all is well but I can’t shake the homesick feeling. I just can’t go too long without my white sandy beaches and gross humid air. With my friends by my side. I miss them so much. So I’m still feeling like I’m done with Spain and I’ve seen enough. Wrong.

Dad suggest we go visit the Royal Palace. Why didn’t I think of that? That’s freaking awesome. I have dreamed about palaces since I was a little girl. This was a dream come true. I was actually excited about something again. I struggle everyday with getting excited about stuff, so this is a good thing. But, first I had to walk… Dad insisted. “Your feet have finally healed. Were walking across the entire city today.” So, we walked, and we walked… and we walked. Up and down the city streets, through a huge park that puts Central Park to shame. Art museums, lakes, flea markets. Dad didn’t take the direct route and he wouldn’t let us use our Metro passes. I was actually barefoot in the new Keen trail sandals Dad bought me the other day and not a single blister!!!

We walked over 10 kilometers before we approached the Royal Palace. I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s huge and beautiful just like I imagined. A real Royal Palace that’s still being used! There is an actual king living there! This is insane. And, it gets crazier. You can go inside! I really didn’t think you could go inside the King’s (and Queen’s) home like this. We’re waiting in line and I’m still smiling away.

I ask jokingly, “Where can I apply to be a princess?”

Dad replies, “You already are a princess. My princess.”

Okay. Mood officially changed. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world at this point. I have the best Dad in the world. The Palace is incredible, beyond words… it’s just something you have to see on your own. But can I just talk about the peacocks hanging out on the huge, stone window sills of the palace?! What the actual hell? That is the coolest thing ever. Real live peacocks living at the Royal Palace. I love it. I envy the security guards and tour guides of the palace. I want to work at this magical place. I really am considering it as a job one day. Maybe, maybe, maybe dreams do come true after all.

Oh, by the way, I feel so ashamed. Please don’t tell anybody. I stole something from the King today. I saw a little rock laying in the middle of the courtyard. It was the only one around, sitting there all by itself… it looked lonely.

Dad writes: I was so nervous about taking Makenna on the Camino. I knew how physically and emotionally draining it can be, especially for a teenager. The mountains, the weather, the time zones, the culture shock, the community sleeping areas, the community meals, the crowds. It’s a lot to take in. In preparation, I’d bought here the best gear I could find but spent too little time working with her. I’d let the salesman talk her into some expensive hiking boots. I knew better but went with the flow, I assumed he knew what he was talking about. The boots were a complete disaster and Makenna suffered because of it. She climbed hard that first day in the Pyrenees, she kept up with me very step of the way. When we stopped for lunch she took her shoes off. When I looked at her bare feet my heart sank. I could of cried right there. I knew that if I’d said, “let’s keep going”, she would have. She didn’t want to disappoint her Daddy.

We stumbled along for the next week, taking time to let her feet heal, taking buses and then trying to walk again. More blisters. We tried different socks, different inserts, different lacing techniques. More blisters. She always let me make the decision to walk on or not. I’d say “No, not today, you feet still haven’t healed.” Makenna was very disappointed and depressed. We talked to so many pilgrims along the trail and at the albergues. She made strong connections. In the morning though, they were soon lost as they moved forward and we didn’t. Then we went to a cathedral in Astorga. That’s when the journey changed. Makenna was mesmerized. She was smiling as we looked up at the ceilings towering high above us. The art work, the gold, the sculptures, the architecture. I’d seen so much of so many European cathedrals that I’d taken it for granted. Makenna didn’t. I now had a new mission. We would stay on the Camino but move backwards, visiting the greatest cathedrals in the world, in Leon and Burgos. We stayed at albergues at night, communing with the other pilgrims and lamenting about our injuries.  Every pilgrim had a story about injuries and we met a number that were stopping because of them. Makenna’s mood was remarkably improved when she realized we were not alone.

There is a tradition on the Camino. You carry a stone with you along the Way. The stone is a symbol. It represents the daily loads we bear as we travel through life. Each pilgrim gives the stone an intention, a meaning, a thought or prayer. When the highest point on the Camino is reached, there is an iron cross perched in the middle of the trail, the Cruz de Ferro. It is there that the pilgrim’s stone is released, laid amongst the hundreds of thousands that had gone before it. A lightening of the load. Makenna wasn’t carrying a stone with her on this journey, we were too distracted with the foot problems.

When Makenna spotted that stone in the middle of the square in front of the Royal Palace, I didn’t say a word. I probably couldn’t of gotten a word out if I tried. The central square was huge and immaculate and completely encircled with a tall iron and gold leafed fence.

Makenna smiled, “Look Dad! A stone! I’ve been wanting to bring one back for a friend of mine. He said he wanted a rock from Spain.”

I scanned around the square, there were no other pebbles, rocks, or pieces of litter anywhere. Just this single stone, sitting right in the middle of a vast expanse of marble and granite blocks that have paved the front area of the Palace for centuries. I smiled back at her for a while and finally said, “Let me take a picture.”

We each bring something to the Camino and we each carry something away. I’ll remember for the rest of my life what we carried away from this Camino.

Makenna's Royal Rock

Makenna’s Royal Rock


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