From Royal Palace to Capital of Kings
In the summer of 2016, I walked the 500 mile Camino del Norte across the stunning northern coast of Spain. I shall never forget it. During my walk, I made several friends with whom I stay in contact. One of them is Javier Sorribes, who lives in Madrid.
Javier loves walking the Caminos of Spain. He has walked eight of them. Sadly, he has chronic fatigue syndrome, which prevents him from hiking. Each time I come to Madrid, I see Javier, who is always enthusiastic, interested to hear about my family and life and share about his own.
Javier lives on a simple government disability stipend and devotes his time to researching his family genealogy and writing books. He has written eight of them and just gave me a copy of his latest book which chronicles an ancestor who was a military general who fought against Napoleon, had a profound faith, and spent his final 52 years living in Italy.
Javier and I visited El Palacio Real in Aranjuez – a royal palace located 50 kilometers south of Madrid, which was established by King Phillip II and served as one of four seasonal residences of the Spanish government. The government set up residence in Aranjuez in the springtime, and Rascafría, El Escorial and Madrid in successive seasons.
In 1931, the palace in Aranjuez was declared an Artistic Historic Monument and opened to the public. The rooms are well worth seeing. The gardens are tranquil and enjoyable to walk. The royal collection of boats – “faluas” – are fascinating. The royals lived a luxurious life of hunting, boating, dancing, listening to music and overseeing state affairs.
The highlight of the day was speaking Spanish with Javier, who is everything one could want in a friend. He has traced his family back to the 13th century. One of his ancestors oversaw the queen’s staff of ladies in waiting for over a decade. She lived and played an important role at the Royal Palace in Aranjuez. Our trip thus had special significance for Javier.
After touring the palace and gardens, we lunched at La Rana Verde (the Green Frog), dining on “ancas” or frogs legs and rabo de toro (bull’s tail) – my favorite Spanish dish. Afterwards, Javier dropped me off at Chamartin – one of Madrid’s two major train stations.
My five-hour ride took me north to Oviedo, which ruled the Kingdom of Asturias since 720 A.D. When the Muslims conquered and ruled Spain for 700 years beginning in 711 A.D., Asturias and Cantabria were the only two (of seventeen) Spanish provinces that the Moors never conquered.
King Alfonsus II trekked from his palace in Oviedo to Santiago in 814 A.D. to see the relics of Santiago – St. James the Great in what is now Santiago de Compostela. Thus, the Camino Primitivo, which I shall start walking tomorrow, was born.
On the train ride, I devoured a copy of El Pais – Spain’s main daily newspaper. Reading a foreign newspaper is one of my favorite things to do while abroad. In a small book that he wrote about painting, Sir Winston Churchill noted that it was better to master one foreign language than to have a little knowledge of many languages. By mastering one foreign language, Churchill noted that we can see the world and our own nation and culture through different eyes. The train to Oviedo traveled through the dry, undulating, parched, landscape of Castilla y Leon to the lush, green mountains of Asturias, where the Camino Primitivo begins. I promised to say prayers on my journey for Javier, who has suffered from chronic fatigue for a decade. Wherever we go, we can carry friends and family in our heart and pray for
them, lifting them to God, like the four men who carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus. The crowd prevented them from entering the house where Jesus was teaching. So they climbed onto the roof of the house, tore off some tiles and lowered their friend in a stretcher to Jesus. Jesus saw the extent to which the man’s friends helped him and told the paralyzed man, “Because of their faith, I shall heal you.” May we do the same for our friends and family.
With love and prayers from Spain,