“Madre e hija, siempre juntos en el camino de la vida”
What was the motivation behind planning this trip?
Arden: When I was sixteen I went to the South of Spain for two weeks, which was my first time in Europe. That introduction to Spanish culture was inspiring, and has stayed with me, so exploring Spain as a wine region with ARGAUX excited me and became a priority.
The actual planning of this trip was much more spur-of the-moment: my mom emailed me a link to International Culinary Tours because they had two spots open for their Camino excursion. We had our doubts and decided at one point we best let the opportunity go. That didn’t last long.
Sherry: The motivation behind the trip was to have a mother-daughter travel adventure. A couple of years ago, we had watched the documentary, Walking the Camino, Six Ways to Santiago and thought it would be a great experience. In April, I received an email from our tennis club that there were two spots open for a trip in August and we decided it would be perfect as it was not only hiking the last 100km of the Camino, but the small group tour was also focused on wine and food.
What was the most inspirational taste moment on the hike?
Arden: We ended the trip at Casa Marcelo (review to come!), where we were seated at a community table with about 20 other people. This man comes over to my mom and I sitting at the far end of the communal table and asks us if we have any allergies (or things we don’t like). We both hesitate and look at each other. I’m thinking, Well, I don’t necessarily want liver or tongue or anymore octopus! Regardless, we tell him no and that we are open to trying anything. He nods his head and walks back into the kitchen.
Like magic, these amazing dishes begin flowing out of the kitchen, all small plates, one after the other. Each bite was packed with flavor. We put the pieces together and realize the man who ordered for us at the beginning is the head chef.
He comes out with a piece of seared tuna on top of a fig in wasabi cream. As we pick up our utensils, he tells us not to cut it (I thought he was going to slap my wrist when I picked up the knife) and to eat it all in one bite. We popped it in our mouths – I’ll never forget it. That flavor, all together, in one single bite…as much as I want to make it at home, do I dare try?
Sherry: The most inspirational taste moment for me was an incredible dining experience in Santiago de Compostela at Casa Marcelo, a Michelin star restaurant which was a fusion of Galician and Japanese cooking. We sat a communal table and our waiter chose the dishes for us. The stand out dish was seared tuna on a fig.
What new flavor did you discover on this trip?
Arden: Galician/Japanese fusion style cuisine. We went to two restaurants with Japanese influence! There is not a long history of Japanese cooking in Spain, and although I was and am still confused, it certainly works!
How do you balance wine tasting with hiking every day? How can we incorporate wine into vacation when there may be physical strain on the body? In other words, how do you find the balance?
Arden: Honestly, sometimes we just skipped lunch to get through a portion of the hike. Along the trail we would stop at a cafe or bar in what seemed like a ghost town until you stepped inside for fresh squeezed orange juice…or a beer. I did pack Cliff Bars from home in case I wanted to snack on something.
Whenever we reached our destination for the day and it came time for dinner, these were the moments I looked forward to! Your body is so exhausted and beat that everything tastes so much better and bonus-you’re in Spain! We ate like the Spaniards do. For hours! We’d sit down with no other place to be, talking, eating, and drinking. Each glass of wine made you feel a bit more relaxed. Suddenly your knee doesn’t hurt as much and you can sense a good night’s sleep in the near future.
But it’s a personal thing…how you find your balance. When eating out we always seek out the freshest flavors – I love dishes that are five ingredients or less. Simple and delicious, not necessarily decadent. I will say though, we had some ice cream on the trail once or twice!
Sherry: The balance with drinking wine and hiking 12-15 miles a day was making sure you were well nourished and well hydrated.
What dish are you wanting to recreate at home?
Arden: The gazpacho. Look for it on the blog soon. I learned on this trip that there is a foundation of classic gazpacho, and then a ton of different varieties. I’m looking forward to a day in the test kitchen experimenting with the different flavors I tasted from Madrid to Santiago.
Sherry: The dish I’d like to recreate at home would be the gazpacho at the Hotel Ritz in Madrid. It was so flavorful and I loved how they served it with small bowls of chopped cucumber, red pepper, green pepper and onion as garnish for the soup. It was a beautiful presentation and perfect with a chilled glass of rose on a hot afternoon in Madrid.
What moment will you hold on to from this trip?
Arden: There were really two moments – the first was reaching Monte do Gozo, which is the monument where the pilgrims stop for their first view of Santiago fairly cloudy day when we got there, so we weren’t really inclined to stop, but remembered our group wanted to take a photo in front.
Once the group was all together, we had a spiritual moment of silence. Pausing for that moment in silence, after 5 days of hearing your feet hit the ground one step after the next was moving. We would have marched right past it in our quest to get to where we were going. It was a memorable part of the trip because I can relate it to life. We go and go and go trying to reach our destination. Rarely do we pump the breaks to meditate on how far we’ve come and enjoy the journey.
For personal reasons, taking that final step onto the Kilometer zero mark with my mom meant a lot. It was special to experience that with her. I’ll always remember that moment and I’m glad it was with my mom.
Sherry: The moment I will hold onto from this trip would be on the last day of our hike when we arrived at the monument, Monte de Gozo, the “Hill of Joy”. It sits on a hill above the city of Santiago. It is the final stop before reaching Santiago so it was an emotional experience for our group, knowing our journey was ending. Many pilgrims bring mementos to lay at the monument. One woman in our group had recently lost her father and laid his handkerchief under the monument. As we watched her in silence, we all thought of loved ones we had lost. It was a quiet time for reflection.
Trip Fast Five:
Best thing you ate?
Arden: I have to say, that seared tuna with fig at Casa Marcelo in Santiago.
Sherry: Tomato tartare with pomegranates at Quintin in Madrid.
Most interesting person you met?
Arden: Well we met a guy on his 40th day of hiking and he was walking really fast. Like, blazing fast for day 40.
Sherry: There was not one single person that stood out to me, but I would say the pilgrims along the camino were interesting and inspirational. They were from all over the world, but yet we were all together following the same footsteps of St. James that pilgrims have been following for centuries. I felt united with these pilgrims in this common journey and wondered what their reasons were for doing this walk. Everyone was friendly, and though we didn’t speak the same language we all greeted one another with, “Buen Camino” each day.
Most uncomfortable travel moment?
Arden: The last two days my ankle really started to act up, I had to ice it at every opportunity. Any underlying ailment is bound to show up when you’re walking that much for the long. The repetitive movement is a lot. My mom and I would personify our pain points! “Really, Arden? We’re putting the shoes on again?” That’s my ankles and knees talking.
Sherry: My most uncomfortable travel moment was on the second day. We had a grueling 16 mile hike and at the end of it, as we were walking downhill into the village, I had the most terrible cramping in my hamstring. I didn’t know if I could continue, but we stopped and the cramping subsided.
Moment of highest bliss?
Arden: One night we were staying at a pazo that had a pool. I’ve never appreciated a hole in the ground filled with water so much.
Sherry: The moment of highest bliss would be when we arrived at the Cathedral of Santiago, the end of the pilgrim route and stood at the 0km marker.
Feeling you want to take home?
Arden: We had a fabulous young tour guide the day we arrive in Santiago who had lived in Santiago her whole life. Standing in Praza do Obradoiro she showed us in all directions corners the evolution of European architecture in this one square. We just do not have that in the United States – to have such a visceral representation of the people that came before you. That sense of wonder and history.
Sherry: The feeling I want to take home is that there are more similarities than differences with people from all over the world. We all have families and sons and daughters that we cherish. That’s what is really most important.