Daily life

Tomato jam

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The morning meal of tortilla de patatas that I favored on the Camino Francés was not so popular in the northwest corner of Spain. I'm not sure why. I had to find other options.

Here's one.

Toast a couple of hunks of bread. Smear with tomato jam (Portuguese Doce de Tomate).* Dip or sprinkle with olive oil  (note the plastic sprinkle bottle with all the table essentials: salt, pepper, and olive oil). Augment it with a couple of thin slices of pork and a cup of cafè americano.

Don't think toast and jelly. Think pizza. 

Bingo. Trail ready.

Buen caminó!


*See here for more on this Portuguese-style condiment.


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The cuisine in Israel-Palestine is Mediterranean in character but different from what I experienced in Spain and Portugal. If you are curious, why not join us for a walk across Galilee and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine? This trip is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Lean back for pan food

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You will lean back in your chair when the server brings out the Spanish paella! 

Carried directly from the fire to the table in its own special pan (paella is derived from the Latin word for pan), it comes with a warning: "Don't touch!" It is bubbly, sticky, and delicious.

Ingredients in paella include rice, olive oil, and saffron. Beyond that, common gives way to the creative. Pictured here is standard paella of rice, chicken, and beans. Other cooks add seafood, rabbit, snails, artichokes . . . well, you get the picture. 

Paella seems to have originated in Valencia, the orange capital of the world. In that setting, the ideal paella is cooked over an open flame fueled by wood from citrus trees. Pine cones are added to the fire to produce a unique flavoring smoke.

It is a regularly featured dish on the Camino Francés.

Note: You will lean back in your chair when you are finished as well. I promise.

Buen caminó!


I hope to exhibit some self control while dining aboard the luxury liner, the Celebrity Reflection. Care to join us? We'll be cruising the Mediterranean between October 11-22, 2018, eating great food, visiting famous port cities, and talking about "the Great Sea" in the New Testament period. See the link here for details. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip. Consider this your invitation!

It got my attention

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No words. I simply have no words.

You might look at this though.

Buen caminó!


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Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Join us for a walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Running with the big dogs

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Until you come nose to nose with one of these canines, it is difficult to imagine their size. The Spanish Mastiff (mastín español) is GINORMOUS. These fellas have been defending cattle and sheep against wolves and other varmints on the Iberian peninsula for a long time.

The Spanish Mastiff is one of the oldest members of the Molosser family, a heavyweight class of dog.* It is possible that they were brought to the region by Phoenician or Greek traders. They were well established by the time of Christ.

Much later, the mastiff accompanied Spanish explorers to the New World as war dogs. They terrified the native Americans. And for good reason.

Some of the big boys go over 200 pounds and stand 36 inches tall at the shoulder. They are smart, powerful and loyal.

They are also loud. When they bark you should put your fingers in your ears (notice the young man on the left in the photograph above).

I met this amiable fellow while lunching at a café/bar in Alto do Poio. I'm glad he didn't take interest in my sandwich. I'm not sure I could have said no.

Buen caminó!


*The term Molosser hails from the rugged mountains between modern Greece and Albania. It is derived from Molossus, an eponymous ancestor of an ancient tribal group located there. Molossus was the grandchild of Achilles, a famous character from the Trojan War.


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Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Join us for a walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Vineyards as far as the eye can see

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The trail into Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain, passes through some of the most stunning country on the Camino Francés. Rolling hills are draped with vineyards and distant mountains are crowned with trees.

The mountains are a part of a range known as the Sierra de los Ancares. The Ancares, while not huge, are formidable enough to have isolated the small Galician villages that dot the region. It was not until the roadbuilding of the mid-20th century that these isolated villages became more widely accessible. To this day the Ancares represent rural Spain at its best.

The Romans came to Villafranca to mine gold from the mountains. They stayed to raise grapes. Much later, in 1070, a monastery was founded to continue the agricultural art. A Frankish community gathered around it, hence the name "Frank-ville."

Buen caminó!


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We are hiking another beautiful area in 2019. Jan 8-16 will be spent walking in Galilee, Israel! You are invited to join us. The Jesus Trail passes from Nazareth to Capernaum and stops at sites like the one pictured here: Magdala. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is a bargain at only $2,588 from New York. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

The Camino's favorite food

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Bob (my son-in-law) helps himself to a hearty breakfast of tortilla de patatas (or tortilla española). It is perhaps the most iconic meal on the Camino Francés and, according to some, Spain's unofficial national dish.* Unlike the Mexican flatbread made of corn or flour, the Spanish version is made of eggs and diced potatoes. Other ingredients find their way into the pan depending on the whimsy of the cook. These include salt, onions, peppers, ham, garlic, or parsley.

Whipped, mixed, and flipped in hot olive oil, the tortilla comes out like a golden pie. It is awesome hot, but is most often served at room temperature (or warmed in a microwave) in bars or cafés. It is always delivered to the hungry with a slice of chewy bread. 

Linguistically the word tortilla is a diminutive; it is a "little cake" or torta. You get that feel when you bite into a slice. It can be an inch or two thick and is more firm than fluffy, more like a potato cake and less like an omlette. The eggs mortar the potatoes in position. 

This combination of a little protein with lots of carbohydrates makes for good trail fuel.

Buen caminó!

Sorry. This post just became "pictures of the day." I had to give you two for a better view.

Sorry. This post just became "pictures of the day." I had to give you two for a better view.

*See here for more on the tortilla española, including directions for making one in the comfort of your own kitchen (Be sure to watch the video!).


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Calling all Bible Land Explorers. Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail between Nazareth and Capernaum and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. Space is limited. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Did you hear?

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The plaza in front of the Logroño co-cathedral (Santa María de la Redonda) is a great place to eat, drink, dream, rest, or catch up on the latest. I'm guessing these young ladies are not talking about when the church behind them was founded (11th century) or why it shares its bishop's seat with the neighboring community of Calahorra or how Logroño is emerging as a destination site for "foodies" everywhere on account of its vibrant pincho scene. Nope. None of that. There is some bigger scuttlebutt going down here and inquiring minds want to know.

Buen caminó!


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Calling all Bible Land Explorers. Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail between Nazareth and Capernaum and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. Space is limited. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Practically modern

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I peer down the street in the village of Puente la Reina (Basque: Gares). It is lovely and rustic place, located near Pamplona in the Navarre region of Spain. To my right rises the large bell-tower of the Iglesia de Santiago el Mayor (Church of St James the Great). The church is a local beacon for those hiking the Camino de Santiago that runs through the center of town. Construction of the church began in the 12th century but the octagonal bell tower is late addition. Actually, at just two hundred years old the tower is practically modern.

Buen caminó!


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Calling all Bible Land Explorers. Want to start 2019 in a unique way? Walk across Galilee! Hike the Jesus Trail between Nazareth and Capernaum and do some additional sightseeing in Israel-Palestine. This trip is facilitated by the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies and is priced at $2,588 from New York. Dates are Jan 8-16, 2019. Space is limited. For more details click here or contact me at markziese@gmail.com.

Yummy tapas

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One of the wonderful things about walking the Camino Francés are the small bars/cafes that dot the path across Spain. I stopped at midmorning nearly every day for a café americano and tapas. 

The tapas, or spanish "snacks," come in many forms. Some are hot, some are cold. Some are vegetarian, some are meaty. I like the ones with ham or or chorizo (I just can't do the fish or the octopus in the morning). The tapas provide the salt and fat needed for an extra trail boost.

And the coffee is always gentle, like a roundhouse kick to the head. 

These stops provide other services for perigrinos as well, including a credencial stamp, a water-bottle fill, toilet, wifi access, and a chance to catch your breath.

Buen caminó!

An archaeologist's rig (part 9)

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Spotted this Land Rover-Santana on the road to Pereje, Spain (another shot here). Don't you love the original "green machine"? Much nicer than the white one I saw a few miles back (see here). Classic color, classic lines. Woop! Woop!

Buen caminó!


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Speaking of old classics: try Athens! Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and, of course, Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

A good way to tarta your day

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It won't get you very far down the trail, but a Tarta de Santiago and a cup of coffee with leche contributes to a good mental start. 

The cake is a traditional sweet often eaten for breakfast in the Galician region of Spain. It is dense and fruity, full of almonds, cinnamon, and citrus zest. It is baked in a circular pan and dusted with powdered sugar--except for a the symbol of Saint James that is stenciled on the top.

I eat mine sitting on a plastic chair at a plastic table. The umbrellas that protect the afternoon diners (and card players) are not yet open.  

Check out this video here if you want to make this sweet treat in the place where you are. 

Buen caminó!


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If you enjoy good food, you should consider joining Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean cruise this October. See the link here for details. Naturally, we'll be visiting sensational sites but we'll also do some fine dining. Did you know that cruisecritic.com calls our ship, the Celebrity Reflection, "a food-lovers fantasy"? That got my attention!

The Roman walls of Astorga

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The town of Astorga, Spain, has quite a history. Early remains go back to the time of Augustus Caesar. The Romans constructed a post here to guard the nearby pass through the mountains of Galicia. The post also protected their interest in the gold mines still found in the region.

I slept last night in the yellow-colored hostel just above the city walls. The walls have been built and rebuilt numerous times. At the lowest levels, thought, it is pure Roman. Coinage, solder armor, baths, etc., goes back to the first century. They have a wonderful museum of Roman remains in the city center.

Locals claim that the Apostle Paul once visited this city. Paul's visit to Spain, however, remains debated.

Buen caminó!


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Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

An archaeologist's rig (part 7)

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Found this little beauty in the town square of Carrión de los Condes, Spain. It is a world-famous SINPAR, an abbreviation for the French sans pareil or "without equal." It was in immaculate shape. I was ogling.

The SINPAR is now built by Renault.

This classic 4-wheel drive model is painted in the design of the car used in the 1980 road rally between Paris and Dakar, Senegal. The rally is an off-road endurance event, run through mud, rocks, grass, and sand. Of course, it's not really a suitable vehicle for a respectable archaeologist.

I guess I'm not that respectable.

Buen caminó!


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Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

Miles and miles of cereal

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It was a wet start as we hiked out of Grañón, but the day turned lovely by midmorning. We are nearly finished with the rolling hills of the province of La Rioja and should descend to Burgos and Spain's central plateau (and heat!) tomorrow.

This shot was taken near the village of Tosantos.

Buen caminó!


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Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

A long line of pilgrims

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Crossing this ridge of the El Perdón mountain range one encounters iron cutouts. Artist Vincente Galbete designed each figure to represent travelers from different periods of time making the Pilgrim's Way across northern Spain. Like them we are traveling on foot with our possessions on our backs. From here it is a long 437 miles to Santiago de Compestela.

Buen caminó!


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Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

Run with the bulls?

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Bob is thinking of running with the bulls. I want to find Hemingway sites. Just another day in Pamplona.

Buen caminó!


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Join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean experience in October, 2018. We'll be cruising aboard the luxurious Celebrity Reflection. See the link here for details. Onboard lectures will provide focus as we visit the ports of Malta, Rhodes, Santorini, and Athens among others. An optional add-on visit to Rome is possible on either end of the trip.

A smelly old port

The harbor at old Jaffa (Joppa or Yafo) looks and smells like every other maritime waypoint. What makes this place different is its antiquity. The hill behind the waterfront is actually a ruin-mound or tell. It suggests that this Mediterranean hub has been in use since the Middle Bronze Age, nearly 4,000 years ago

St Nicholas Street

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The summer sun plays on the limestone buildings in downtown Beit Jala. Palestine. Water and oil plays on those street pavers too. In the rainy season they can be slick. Word to the wise: take the stairs.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer YongLan Ye.


Bible Land Explorers who desire a more intimate view to the landscape featured in the gospels should consider walking across Galilee on the Jesus Trail, January 8-16, 2019. Vehicle support is provided and will return the group each night to a hotel. Contact me directly at markziese@gmail.com if interested. The trip is priced from New York at $2,588 and will be limited in size. See itinerary here.