Saturday, October 30, 2010
The cathedral is like a gigantic inverted elephant with its huge thick legs pointing up into the sky. The cathedral looked out over the city of Lyon, a truly impressive sight - red roofs for miles and miles. After the cathedral we walked over to the Roman ruins. Just such a weird sight to have their magnificently restored Roman amphitheatre and ruins right in the heart of this area.
It was still wet and cold when we came back down and started to retrace our steps back to the hotel. We passed a huge square where there was another strike protest but everything seemed relatively in control and peaceful. We ended up at another Italian pizza restaurant and then back to the hotel where we repacked and watched a Germany cooking show - just like Chopped. Couldn't understand the commentary but, hey, it's a food show and food is a universal language and all the food looked great.
As it was, we gave Julia our mefix, extra snacks, a whistle and our love and then we did put on our boots and packs at 7:30am but it was to head out and catch a bus. The potential train strike is now in fact an actuality so we needed to catch a bus. Julia walked us to the gare and we had a very tearful goodbye. She was desolate and we felt like deserters. It's amazing how well the three of us have fit together over the last eleven days. We been together pretty well 24/7 for that time. We've shared our fatigue, jokes, challenges, food, friendship, stories and sarcasm. A cutting example of the latter was when we were leaving Lauzerte and we passed Le Maison des Retraites and Julia pointed out, "Oh, Karen and Dayton, here's the gite you should have stayed at"! I thought it was a retreat but she informed me that it was a retirement home for us old folks.
As Julia headed out into the dark, we waited for the bus. We had to take a bus to Montaubon and then transfer to a train for Toulouse. Surprisingly, when we got to the train station there were conductors waving us quickly into and through the train station, across the tracks and onto the waiting train. So that part of our trip went okay. In Toulouse, it was a lot more confusing. Everyone was lining up at the ticket office to try to make arrangements to travel and no one really had any definite answers about which trains were still running or would be running the next day. I made the mistake of taking one clerk's advice and decided to wait until later in the day to see if the rapid trains were going to run. If I had just purchased tickets on the regular trains we could have gotten to Lyon via Montpelier in about three hours. As it was, by the time I purchased our tickets all those trains were completely sold out and we were lucky to get tickets for Lyon via Marseilles. The bad news was it was about eight hours on the train with a couple of hours layover in between; the good news - we would get a scenic train tour of the Mediterranean coast. Also the train travel was relatively comfortable and I had my ebook so quite content. I have to give a shout out to the ticket clerks. They kept their cool on what must have been an extremely hectic day. They helped one frantic traveller after another, fluctuating from French to English or Spanish or German and did everything they could to get people on trains to wherever they needed to go.
The strike was quite evident all around us in Toulouse. There were protests at the train station and riot police at the ready everywhere. When we got to our Hotel Victor Hugo, the concierge, a former pilgrim and kindred soul, commiserated with our train ticket woes and, almost proudly, stated that, while the French can't win a championship in football (soccer over here), they are the world champions of strikes. On our walking tour of Toulouse we passed a couple of schools, a lycee and an art school. French students are quite political and they were adding their demonstrations to the protest. The strike centers on proposed legislation which would raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 which isn't making anyone happy. Older workers resent having to work longer and students worry about the lack of jobs for the youth.
We just counted ourselves lucky that we could still get on any train and that we had a chance to get to Lyon in good time to catch our flight to return home. A few days later, we may not have been so fortunate.
By the way, I did get my McDonalds comfort fries at the Marseilles train station.
This was the morning that Valentine and I were at breakfast early and were talking about our children. She reminded me of Sainte Rita, the patron saint of hopeless and desperate causes and encouraged me to pray to Sainte Rita to ask for help for some of the things that are worrisome for me. I'm anxious that, now that my children have completed their Masters degrees, they find a viable and satisfying job and career. I'm anxious that, now that my mother has moved out of her home and into an apartment, she is able to sell her house and lessen that financial burden. Following Valentine's spiritual advice, I added a few prayerful moments to my walking meditation.
Sometimes the camino adds extra kilometres to the route just to take the walkers away from a busy auto route. Today we walked an extra two or three kilometres through a non-descript field just to avoid a half a kilometer along a main road. Not sure I needed to be spared that. We had also been warned that when you see your first sign indicating you were in Moissac you really had another three kilometres to walk. Good to know. Coming into Moissac was our first instance of commercial and city life; streets, traffic, industry and noise. As we walked the three kilometres into the centre of Moissac, I was excited to see a McDonalds sign. Now McDonalds holds no particular appeal to me at home but here it was a beacon of comfort and I was on the lookout for the promised golden arches. Never did find them. McDonalds must have been off the GR65 and I don't veer from the GR65 - not even for McDonalds.
We did find the tourist information center beside the beautiful abbey and then went on to find our chambre d'hote, Ultreia. This gite d'etape with chambres was run by an Irish couple who had walked their own pilgrimage a few years ago and opened their gite with the intention of making the experience of other pilgrims a good one. They definitely added to our camino. We were greeted immediately with the offer of food and drink and a good chat. Julia was in the gite and Dayton and I had booked a room to ourselves. Before dinner, we headed back up to the abbey to hear the nuns chant vespers. The nuns voices were so pure and beautiful. Didn't have a clue what they were singing and chanting but it was a nice sound nonetheless.There was a little boy, about 6 years old, who sat silently beside one of the nuns following the service in a huge hymn book. After the service, it was this youngster who proudly stamped our credenciales.
Back at the gite, we had a simple but hearty dinner of soup, green beans, carrots, boiled potatoes, chicken in wine sauce for the non-vegetarians and a pasta with veggies and chevre cheese for me. Dessert was ice cream with peaches and a raspberry coulis and a biscuit. And for the first time, tea and coffee were offered after dinner. Wonderful. I'm not saying we didn't eat well on our Camino Frances in Spain but we certainly did not have the variety that we have had in France and, other than potatoes and soggy white asparagus, we certainly did not have vegetables. This is good, really good.
Friday, October 29, 2010
We played leap frog with her all day. We walked for half an hour before we hit the morning's steep climb - 50 minutes up a rocky path. We took one rest and drink break and then had lunch in Limogne en Quercy. We had our picnic lunch on the patio of a pizza shop. We didn't worry about taking advantage of their patio as the restaurant was closed and the sign indicated that it was only open three nights a week; Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30pm until 11:30pm. Seriously! As I've mentioned, businesses, shops, restaurants and grocery stores all close down in the afternoon. We were fortunate enough to arrive at the tourist office in Limogne en Quercy and make reservation at the monastery in Vaylats just before they shut down for the afternoon too. We've discovered that most towns have tourist offices and that most of them are closed most of the time. That might be a slight exaggeration but not much of one.
This was another hot, sweaty, thirsty and long day. We weren't moving very quickly and our water bottles were empty. The few little villages we passed through had 'rien', nothing; no epiceries, no cafes and no potable water to be found. Our guide book said there was an nice restaurant in Bach, just three or four kilometers from our destination but that it was not open on weekends. Well, as we passed said restaurant, I saw some people sitting at tables on the patio and we were delightfully surprised to learn that it was open and the owner welcomed us up for some drinks, tonic with lemon - marvellous. Her restaurant had been featured on one of Jamie Oliver's cooking shows and she was still beaming with pride. That welcomed rest and the drinks gave us enough of a second wind to walk through the fields and laneways up to the monastery.
The monastery in Vaylats is still a very active convent of nuns. It was a huge complex of buildings. At dinner the dining hall was quite full of nuns, hospitaleros, pilgrims and visitors. It was a rather unassuming and unpromising start to the dinner. A very watery, 'maybe vegetarian' soup and large bowls of green beans with hard boiled eggs, and a marinated mystery meat salad were served to each table. Everyone was helping themselves to seconds and thirds, thinking this was the entire menu. Surprise! Large platters of pasta and bowls of a lamb stew were brought out and this course was followed by a large selections of cheeses and just when we thought we were finished, the hospitalero gave us all ice cream nutty buddies. Going to need a big morning climb to wear this one off.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
For two lovely ladies from New Caledonia, who describe themselves as 'very Catholic', this is a religious pilgrimage and their intention is to walk the Chemin Le Puy to St. Jean Pied de Port and then onto Santiago. Two months, 1800kms. Their packs are enormous, over 15 kgs each. Valentine is 70 years of age and sets out each morning before seven a.m., with her headlight on. Her friend Jocelyne starts out later and eventually they meet up later in the morning. The phone calls go back and forth quite often in between. (They obviously have a better phone plan than our Rogers plan.) When Valentine and I had a discussion about our children, I mentioned that my two have recently completed their Masters degrees and were still job searching. Valentine told me to pray to Sainte Rita, the patron saint of desperate causes. Now I don't think of my kids are desperate causes but I did pray to Sainte Rita as I walked along and every time I met up with Valentine she assured me she was praying for them too. Lo and behold, when I got home both had jobs!
The first week we walked we met many pilgrims who were on a short one or two week vacation and walking was just part of their 'holiday'. Our Norwegian couple were sandwiching it in between a week in Paris and a week in St. Tropez. Our Austrian couple were sandwiching walking the camino from Le Puy to Espalion with renting a car and touring the route in between and then finishing up walking from Leon in Spain to Santiago.In Conques we met an injured pilgrim lady from Montreal. She had wrecked her ankle on the rough path into Conques and had been hold up there, on crutches, several days by the time we met her. Vivienne had been drummed out of her job of sixteen years by two antagonist co-workers and, with the time and money awarded her from winning a court case, Vivienne was seeking some answers about what her next steps in life were to be. She had planned to walk along the Chemin Le Puy and then travel to India to find an Ashram Yogi to teach her Kundalini Yoga and hopefully she would have an epiphany of self awareness, of who she was and what she should do with her life. A lot to ask of a walk but.......you don't ask, you don't get.
Another lovely Montreal lady was doing the camino her way - with a suitcase, a backpack transfer service and a bus ticket. Brigitte took her time, took days off to rest, walked when she felt like it and took transportation when she didn't feel like walking.Vivienne wasn't the only one looking for self awareness and their place in this universe. Gudrun, a painter, perpetual student, free spirit and lost soul was still trying to find her place in this world. Beautifully prematurely grey, Gundrun couldn't tell you what she really did in life. She liked to paint but didn't have a career as an artist, had spent years of university study without ever graduating in any one area and didn't have a job or profession so she had difficulty describing herself - "maybe I'm just a woman". Where one can't find work or an occupation to suit them, others are on the route because they have been over-worked and burnt out. Ann-Marie was a social worker who, through the camino grapevine I learned, worked with delinquent, or disadvantaged (the camino gossip may not be accurate) youths and now was walking the camino with an indefinite deadline or destination and wondering about changing careers at this point. Fleme was a free spirit from Belgium. I'm not sure if he was a bon vivant, gentleman of the world or just unemployed. He had worked in the Gatineaux in Quebec canoeing, had walked in Nepal and other exotic places. He said he tried to keep himself distant from the towns and that it was much better to sleep in his tent on the hills overlooking, to walk only 10 kms a day so that he could take the time to really absorb what he was seeing and experiencing but then - he walked the 24 kms into Cahors at race speed, arrived two hours before we did and he was not sleeping on the hill overlooking the city but was sharing a room with us in the gite. Our friend Julia had undertaken her first camino last year, walking from Milan to Rome. She said she'd always been in a relationship and when she found herself unattached she decided to do something challenging with her new found independence. This year she was using the break from her psychology and medical studies to walk from Le Puy to Pamplona. I have often said how much I admire the women who do this on their own. I don't think I'd ever have the confidence let alone the competence to do this on my own - or the strength to carry ALL my own stuff. There are always quite a few retired people on the camino, people who now have the time and still the fitness to undertake and complete such a physical challenge. Whatever one's reasons, I'm convinced every person who finishes even part of this pilgrimage comes away with a major sense of peace and accomplishment.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Of course there was a steep, rocky descent into the village of Decazville - beyond brutal. We were so hot and so thirsty and then, lo and blessedly behold, there at the bottom of the hill was a grungy snack bar and it was open! We thought it was a slice of heaven. Dayton ordered a couple of cokes and Perrier and a microwaved cheeseburger and I had fries (frozen not fresh cut but now was not the time to be picky) and we were ecstatic. Then on again in the heat to Livenhac.
We couldn't find the Chambre d'hotes where we had planned to stay but it turned out that the communal gite was perfect. It was big, clean with lots of rooms so we didn't have to share and there was an epicerie and patisserie right beside it. We loaded up on cheese, tomatoes and wine. Julia showed up exhausted about two hours after us. We had thought she was in front of us but, hours earlier, she had missed an obscure sign and had taken a loop back towards Conques. Imagine how depressing to walk for hours and find yourself back near the start. There is a wonderfully experienced pelerin, Ann Marie, on the route and when she met up with Julia she set her straight. Julia has been putting her faith in Dayton's path finding skills and walking with us ever since.
We shared a good meal of bread, tomatoes, cheese and some meat and ended up sharing the room. Then headed out the next morning as the church bells rang and rang, heading out for Figeac. Another hot brutal day.
The day turned out to be gloriously warm and sunny. Julia, our young German friend, passed us early in the day breezing briskly by as she listened to her iPod. I'm not sure that even an upbeat tune on my iPod would have helped me pick up my pace. Actually, it's not that my pace is slow, it's that it's SHORT. However, we were surprised to catch up with Julia at the epicerie in Golinhac and had lunch together and then we decided to bust it out to Conques. Julia motivated us early on and we encouraged her the last 10 kms. There was a painfully long and steep descent into Conques which is really hard on the knees and toes but oh my! what an amazing sight Conques is.
Conques is just a magical city - it made me think of the old movie Brigadoon where a mythical town appears out of the mist every century or so. It looked just that surreal. We stayed at the Abbey there having booked a room with WC and shower. We were greeted by the most friendly hospitaleros and offered juice and tea. Such a welcoming treat. The Abbey is big and such a maze of stairs and corridors that it was a feat just to find our way to the dining hall to enjoy a friendly communal meal with the other pilgrims. For me the meal itself was a little sparse as their idea of vegetarian was salmon so I went a wee bit hungry but that's the daily breaks for a vegetarian here.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
We have discovered many differences on this camino too. There are more short term walkers, people who come and walk only for a week or two. Yesterday was the end of our second week and most of our new group are finished for now. Many French tend to do this camino in stages - étapes. We are also at the end of the season so it is less busy. Most places accept and advise that you make reservations which is different from the Camino Frances and also changes the way you face the day. It takes away the worry, when other pilgrims pass you, of losing a bed for the night and I feel more comfortable taking time for breaks. Yesterday we stopped in Saint Come d'Olt for lunch at a restaurant with Angela and Wolfgang and a couple of French ladies who were celebrating the end of this étape for them. We knew we had a room booked so we could afford the luxury of a leisurely lunch. The entire shape of our day is different this time. We do not usually bother to get up until 6:30am. and then have breakfast with our demi-pensionne (dinner and breakfast included). It's also darker these days so we also want to wait until daylight to walk. Another thing that is different, especially with the demi-pensionne ( almost always a private room with a bath) is the cost - way way more than last year. The difficulty of this route is also much harder than the Camino Frances. This has been steeply up and down everyday, all day! The extreme climbs and descents were never more evident than today when we were in a torrential rain, thunder and lightening storm. We came into Estaing down a steep path which was a virtual mudslide. Our new ponchos may have kept our packs dry but they didn't prevent the dampness from sweating or any protection from the lightening - that's why we quit after only 12 kms. Maybe tomorrow will be safer.
Some things are still the same though; the joy and relief when you find that first cafe or patisserie/bakery in the morning. That welcomed stop is always appreciated because what else is always the same in any camino is that is hard, really hard. A pilgrimage implies penance and an acceptance of suffering and a pilgrimage delivers as promised. And finally, wet is wet; it's always wet and Gortex is not a perfect product. Would that it were because then I would not have to go back to the gite now to stuff my boots with newspaper and wring out my socks.
Sunday Sept. 26 - Leon to Le Puy by train
1. Monday, Sept. 27 - Le Puy to St. Privat - Gite à Ms. Vachon 23.5 km FOG, SUN, TOUGH
2. Tuesday, Sept. 28 - to Saugues - Gite à la Ferme Brigitte 20 km FOG, COOL, TOUGH
3. Wednesday, Sept. 29 -to Les Faux -Hotel L'Oustal de Parent 29 km MISTY,WARM ,TOUGH
4. Thursday, Sept. 30 -to Aumont Aubrac - Les Sentiers Fleuris 20 km SUN, WARM,TOUGH
5. Friday, Oct. 1 -to Nasbinals - Gite de Mont d'Aurbral equestrian 27km FOG, SUN,TOUGH
6. Saturday, Oct. 2 - to Saint Chely - Gite Lepadou Bas 20km, SUN, TOUGH
7. Sunday, Oct. 3 - to Espalion - Hotel Moderne 24km WIND ,TOUGH
8. Monday, Oct. 4 - to Estaing - Catholique Gite Saint Jacques 12km RAIN, TOUGH
9. Tuesday, Oct 5 - to Conques- Communitie St. Jacques 37km HOT SUNNY, TOUGH
10. Wed. Oct 6 - to Livinhac le Haut - Gite d'etappe Communal 24 HOT, SUNNY, TOUGH
11. Thu. Oct 7 - to Figeac - Hotel Le Toulouse 23 km HOT, SUNNY, TOUGH
12. Fri. Oct 8 - to Cajarc - Chambre d'hotes Celine Pons 31km, HOT, SUNNY, TOUGH
13. Sat. Oct 9 - to Vaylats - Monastere des Filles de Jesus 33km, HOT, SUNNY, TOUGH
14. Sun. Oct 10 - to Cahors - Foyer de Jeune Quercy 24km, WARM, SPRITZING RAIN
15. Mon. Oct 11 - to Lascabanes - Gite d'etape Le" Nid des Anges 23 km RAIN, MUD
16. Tue. Oct 12 - to Lauzerte - Gite Chambre d'hotes Les Figuiers 24 km SUN,HOT, MUD
17. Wed. Oct 13 - to Moissac - Gite Chambre d'hotes Ultreia 28-29 km HOT, SUNNY
18. Thu. Oct 14 - to Toulouse - Hotel Victor Hugo - by bus and train - 3-4 hours
19. Fri. Oct 15 - to Lyon - Hotel Novotel Part Dieu- by trains via Marseilles - 11 hours
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I have often thought how nice it would be to share this experience with our children - some real quality time and such a special journey together. On our first day out, we saw a French mother with her two beautiful daughters, aged 25 and 26. They were all effortlessly walking along, laughing and stopping for some family Kodak moments. Ha. Today we came across the two daughters in St. Alban. Their mother had gone on walking ahead for the day and the two girls were having a smoke and waiting for a taxi. Their feet were blistered and they had had enough. Gotta love that quality family time or is that an oxymoron?
We may not be suffering enough. As I might have mentioned we are in private rooms every night with our own bathrooms, real beds and sheets and towels. Meals are plentiful and good even for a vegetarian - but no fries, and great wine.
A very moving and very personal benediction followed the Mass which the priest seemed to enjoy just as much as we did as he had us all introduce ourselves and our home country and wished us to find joy, hope and goodness on our camino.
As a side note, I'm continually amazed that the elderly can climb all those steps to get to church; every cathedral is on the top of a huge hill. I expect to see shrines along the way dedicated to those who almost made it to church. A true test of fitness and faith.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
After a very comfortable train ride, we arrived in Le Puy. We wished our Austrian couple farewell and said we'd see them at the morning Mass and headed directly to the Cathedral to get our credenciales. There is an active convent in Le Puy and the nuns in the sacristy issued us our pilgrims' passports. This being Sunday morning, we stayed for Mass especially when we realized there was a special camino service planned for the local pilgrims' group here. The highlight of the Mass was a youth choir's version of the pilgrims' song Ultreia. I have to say, with apologies to Tom Friesen, it was certainly more tuneful and melodic than our yearly Bayfield renditions. After Mass we climbed up and up (shades of trials to come) to the statue Notre Dame - with our loaded pack.
France is still a hold out to our old Sunday Blue Laws and so everything closes up at 2pm. We did manage to find one restaurant open then back to our hotel where we booked gites for the next two nights. So tomorrow it,s Mass at 7am and then "bonne route". We're off.
Friday, September 24, 2010
More leisurely than physically challenging, our bike trip took us from Ghent in Belgium to Amsterdam. We were blessed with ergonomically comfortably upright sturdy seven-gear bikes and so we were never back-breakingly hunched over the curved handlebars of an 18 or 21 speed racing bike. Our daily schedule was as punctual as it was leisurely. Tea and coffee were laid out in the barge's lounge/dining room every morning promptly at 7am; the ship's bell rang out for breakfast precisely at 8am and we were packed up and on the bikes by 9am. All our gear (extra clothing, drinks and lunches) were stowed in a heavy duty pannier that clipped onto the back rack of our bike. Each days ride took us along the canals and the idyllic country roads, and through many wonderfully picturesque medieval towns and cities. The Netherlands is a very bike friendly country. Bike paths are everywhere. In fact, some roads have a substantial bike path on either side of a single lane road and it is the cars which meet head on and have to respectfully squeeze over and give way to one another.
It is great to have an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide to navigate the route and to let us know why the 'forward leading house' in Gouda is 'forward leaning', why the statue in square in front of the ancient Guild houses in Antwerp is holding a severed hand and where to find the best cheese shop or silver shop. Loek, our guide, sets a very easy pace, so easy in fact that there is no chance that we would ever intimidate the 75 and 85 year olds who routinely and confidently breeze past us, pedalling effortless as if they'd done this all their lives. Doh! And if it isn't a senior blasting past us, it's a young mother with one child set in front between her and her handlebars and one or two children set behind her or a cyclist texting or talking on their cell phone. Meanwhile we are gripping the handlebars with clenched gloved hands and heads protected by gigantic aerodynamic bike helmets. Despite the very reasonable pace of our daily bike ride being on a bike seat for five to six hours and cycling 50 kms a day still results, at the end of the day, in a very tender tush or, as I like to think of it, numb in the Netherlands.
The neighbourhoods and homes we've passed on our bike rides have appeared to be very affluent and I've particularly noted that everyone must have the same interior designer, subscribe to the same decorating magazine or have a passion for symmetry as almost every inside window ledge has a matching pair of something in the window; two identical vases, two candlesticks, two bowls or two urns. A very clean and neat sense of feng shui.
The ride into the busy streets of Amsterdam proved not as frightening as we expected. It was not the cars which were intimidating as much as the cyclists zipping in and out and across our paths. While we were trying to stay up with Loek and were still figuring out which green light was for bicycles, half of our group had missed the light. The sheer multitude of cyclists in Amsterdam is unfathomable; thousands and thousands and thousands of bikes.
And now, as we're mentally gearing down from this week's tour, we have to change gears, re-organize and re-pack and gear up for the next three weeks. Tomorrow, a flight to Leon in France, Sunday a train ride to Le Puy and then it's off our butts and on to our Camino.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
So much of a 'camino experience' or pilgrimmage is not just where you have journeyed but it is the people you meet along the journey. So here we are in Düsseldorf, the pampered guests of Liane and Jürgen, a wonderful couple with whom we shared many good times and good meals on our Camino Frances. Our first encounter with Liane and Jürgen was in Navarette, then again in Villafranca - Montes de Oca, and again and again along the way. We especially enjoyed spending time with them in Finisterre when we were all relaxing, recapping and desperately recuperating after finishing our Camino. One particularly memorable night was when we had a fire on the beach, shared some wine and cheese (actually sharing wine and cheese is part of almost every experience, at least in our book), and watched Liane and Jürgen finish their Camino with the ritual burning of one's clothes. They may have burned only a few small items but it, nonetheless, marked the end of their journey.
Liane and Jürgen's parting words to us included an invitation, "If you ever come to Germany, the door to our alberque is always open." So for the past three days we have enjoyed their hospitality. We have toured the AltStadt, the old city, shopped (Dayton now has a new full length rain poncho), met their children and grandchildren and, of course, enjoyed some wonderful food and drink. Needless to say, the German biere, (Alt Biere is the specialty of Düsseldorf) is very, very good. Another traditional culinary treat in Düsseldorf is Eisbein. Eisbein is the thigh of a pig which is roasted on a spit until the skin is crisp and crackling and is served whole on a platter with perfectly round mounds of potato dumplings and rotkohl (red cabbage). Thankfully, Dayton opted for the Sauerbräten, braised beef.
Tomorrow we leave for Amsterdam on our way to Ghent in Belgium where we will begin our 'training program' for our Camino Le Chemin Le Puy. In truth, this training is actually a Bike and Barge trip from Ghent to Amsterdam. It may be a somewhat unorthodox method of training for a walking pilgrimage but it's all we've got so it will have to do. The one thing we are sure of is that it will involve 'food and drink'.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The zen of walking a pilgrimage is its simplicity; it is an opportunity to live an uncluttered life. Our everyday life is anything but uncluttered. We have embraced the societal norm which dictates that we acquire 'stuff'. We want our life to be easy, fast, comfortable and convenient and so we spend years accumulating stuff to achieve this.
The ridiculous result of amassing all this stuff is that then we have to spend an the inordinate amount of time trying to organize the stuff and then, when it's too much for the space we have available, we have to find a way to store the stuff. So we buy more stuff; shelving, baskets, plastic tubs, garage cabinets, portable storage units. If that isn't enough, there's an entire industry out there which, for a monthly rental fee, will store our stuff or we can resort to the tacky cottage industry of the 'garage sale'. You lay out all of your stuff on the driveway very, very early on a Saturday morning so that others can drive by, look it over and offer you one tenth of what you had priced it at and one hundredth what you paid for it originally. If you are ever lucky enough to get a handle on your own stuff (which I never have accomplished yet), then your children move back home from university with their stuff.
A camino is a perfect antidote for all this stuff. You take only what you can carry on your back. No more and certainly, in my experience, no less. And therein lies the proverbial rub. The ultimate problem is overestimating what you (and your husband) can carry 30 kms a day for weeks on end and underestimating what you can do without. Time to get back at the packing and do some realistic 're-estimating'..
Friday, September 10, 2010
We have been more than a little less obsessive about the planning and training for this second camino. I'm not sure we even 'planned' for it. It just happened. We booked into a one week Hfholiday Bike and Barge trip, biking from Ghent in Belgium to Amsterdam and then had to come up with something else to do for a couple of weeks. It just doesn't make sense to fly over to Europe for only one week. It was never our intention to hit the Camino trails in 2010, a Jubilee Year, because the number of pilgrims is overwhelming. However, throwing good sense to the wind, we decided that by heading out in late September and choosing, what we think is a less travelled route, we'd avoid the crowds. Let's hope this proves to be true. So we're going to walk three weeks in France along the Chemin Le Puy, starting in Le Puy en Velay and heading southwest towards St. Jean Pied de Port, where we started our Camino Frances last year. We will not be able to complete this entire section in just three weeks so we'll just see how far we get in the time available.
In preparation for the Camino Frances I took 18 months of Spanish lessons. For the Camino Le Puy - six French lessons total. For the Camino Frances, I walked at least 20 kms a day for months; for the Camino Le Puy - 8 kms around Springbank Park once in a while. For the Camino Frances, we went to meeting after meeting, read every book we could find from Shirley MacLaine's other-worldly mystic ramblings to Jane Christmas' witty and whiney book, 'What the Psychic told the Pilgrim'. For the Camino Le Puy, we have 'Miam, Miam, Dodo' a guide book published in France that we can't read - it's in French! I guess we will definitely embrace the concept of 'letting the camino unfold' as I sure don't feel like I have a handle on what's in store for us this time. One thing won't be any different: gites or alberques, it's still communal living, shared bathroom facilities and snorers. For the Camino Frances, I was packed months in advance, for Le Puy......well, it's now Friday, we leave on Monday....time to pack.