Travel: Camino Portugués

This past week we took five days to hike through a part of Spain that we were not familiar with. Our goal was to get to know the area and see how we might be able to encourage new church plants in this region. We ended up hiking about 70 miles on the Camino Portugués with the whole family, which was quite the adventure. We have put together some videos of each day of the hike, and they will be uploaded over the coming week. You can see them over here:

Here are some photos from our time.

Ring Someone’s Bell – Part 2

Sunday afternoon we took a trip with Jennifer into the countryside to the Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest road. Our first stop was The Bell Inn. A small pub in Aldworth, The Bell Inn was built 1349 to host travelers who chose the high road over the lower, often difficult terrain of England. It was named for the Bell which was located just across the street.

Because of its antiquated nature, everything is extremely short and small. I had to duck everywhere I went.

I went with Jennifer on her suggestion, “the tongue sandwiches are pretty good here!” The taste was similar to salami, but the texture left something to be desired.

We followed up our tasty (use your imagination) meal with a walk along the Ridgeway. It was our only sunny day, so we soaked in the vitamin D and chilling wind as we shuffled along.

Our final stop was at the St. Mary The Virgin parish church, where supposedly there rests ancient giants. Some of the graves inside have men who are 7 feet tall.

Outside the church there is a thousand year old tree. It looked pretty ragged to me, but at a thousand years old, it deserves to be.

Ring Someone’s Bell

Sunday morning we attended church with Martin at St. James the Less Church. In the morning they have a team of bell ringers who ring the bells for quite some time.

The service was a traditional Church of England service. This morning they also had a Baby Baptism and Communion. The child was about 2 years old and his family was all there to celebrate the occasion. Neither Crystal nor myself have ever been to a baptism like this before.
The minister tried to explain that although the child does not understand what is going on, the church promises to raise the child in this teaching. We were not quite able to draw the connection on why you would baptize someone who does not understand what is going on, nor has placed personal faith in Christ. It was a sobering learning experience for us to see what many people believe.

Following the service we met some of the church members. One lady asked where we lived and we explained that we are from Minnesota. She was surprised and explained that her husband was from Minnesota as well. We told her that we lived in Minneapolis (again the city of her husband) and she asked which part. “We live in Edina” we replied. “That is where my husband grew up!” was her answer. Weird.

Following the service, Jennifer took us for a drive out in the country side to one of the oldest roads in the world. More on this to come (and an explanation on the tongue sandwich seen below).

On the road

Queen or Queen Mother?

We have had quite a few discussions about the government and monarchy of the UK. One of our discussions has revolved around the succession of rulers. If the King dies and leaves behind a queen who is not of the royal line, what happens?
A brief answer is this, in order to keep the monarchy “pure”, only those who are a direct descendent may rule. Therefore, because the previous queen was not in the line, but her husband was, when he died she became the “Queen Mother” and her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II ruled. And, because Queen Elizabeth was in the line, and not her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, she rules and he is called The Duke not the King.

The monarch’s oldest son becomes the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cornwall. It then gets complicated.

The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows was written by Kenneth Grahame most likely as he lounged around the Thames near Pangbourne. We decided to take this route as we spent some time in the English countryside. 
Getting to the Thames involved crossing under the railway about a quarter mile from where we were staying. Normally we were running at this point desperately trying to catch the next service to London.
There are many old inns along the Thames which provide great places to stay or swing in for a bite to eat. This one, The Swan Inn, is from the 18th century and serves a pretty mean fish ‘n chips.

We greatly enjoyed our time just walking along the river, observing the river boats, ducks, and pastured animals. It is a far cry from London! I was amazed at how much of England is farm land and how little is actually city. I had always figured that if a country had been around for over two thousand years, there would be no forests or wild areas. In England there are!

That evening we enjoyed a great meal with Martin, Jennifer, and their daughter Helen. We had great fun talking about their travels (as they have been all over the world) and experiences. One of the more interesting conversations revolved around each of our favorite foods experienced in our travels. We didn’t eat Kidney Pie while in England, but I have a feeling that I could stomach it alright.

New Year’s Resolution #1 – Visit England. Check.

Because of our hectic schedule we stayed around Pangbourne today. Our relatives have lived in this village for much of their lives and they greatly love it. The word “bourne” means “river” in old English and therefore it is accordingly named, “River of Pange.”

Legend has it that the village goes back to the days of Beowulf.

We spent our morning walking around the small community of 2000 occupants. They still have their own butcher, their own cheese shop, their own milk man, and their own ancient church building.
As we walked through the graveyard behind the church we were struck with the fact that nearly 1 out of 3 tombstones made reference to the fact that this person died in WW2. In many cases, WW2 did not grow the villages because of people fleeing the bombings of London. Rather, it killed the villages. The men of the communities went off to fight the war and died in the battles.

In the afternoon we took a trip up the Thames through the countyside to the small town of Wallenford. It was an ancient market town and one of the strongholds of King Charles I during the Revolution.

We visited several antique shops and walked through the cramped streets of town. The roads here were built for Mini Coopers, not for Chevys and Fords. You really need a Mr. Bean car if you want to feel comfortable driving around the narrow, winding roads with thick hedges scraping the sides of your vehicle.
We stopped for tea at a Brazilian place – oddly enough, and talked with Jennifer about English life in these villages.

In the evening we were invited to a neighbor’s New Years party. We spent several hours eating snacks and speaking with people from all over the UK. One couple comes from near Edinburgh, Scotland. They told us of the weather, the people, the sites to see, and attitude of the culture. It was quite interesting.
We headed back to the house and relaxed with Martin (who recently had a hip surgery, so he wasn’t up for a party). We watched a humorous show on the pessimistic nature of the British people. It was funny because it was blatantly honest. The British people view Americans as overly positive, overly patriotic, eager people. (I suppose worse things could be said).
Because none of us really wanted to stay up till midnight (there is that pessimisity again!) we figured that it was the New Year in Germany, so we sang “Auld Lang Syne” which is a Scottish song. We had to look up the words to see what it was saying, but here is an extended explanation. Briefly, the title can be translated “Long Long Ago.” I guess you are supposed to sing the song while crossing your arms and grabbing hold of the persons hand next to you. This was quite comical due to the fact that we had one man sitting in a chair nursing a hip replacement, two travelers suffering from prolonged jet lag, and one cheerful lady all joining in. We managed to sing the song so the New Year actually commenced and then we slipped off to bed.
As we drifted off to sleep they began shooting fireworks over the Thames. I don’t know if it would be considered in poor taste or not, but I started to sing “and the rockets’ red glare…”