From One Passion to Another – Back to Writing…

Now that the Camino de Santiago is behind me yet again, I’ll attempt to stop talking about it on here for a while. I can’t make any promises, though (like, I could drop a pic from the Camino without warning at any given moment!).

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Galicia Morning, Unfiltered Light.

I’m moving on to my next passion for a bit. On July 12th I participated in a 3 day novel writing marathon in Huntsville, Ontario. During the 72 hours, I wrote almost 40,000 words. My goal for October is to finish the first draft of this novel. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going. I’ve been at it for 2 days so far and I’m feeling pretty good about it.

The manuscripts written at the marathon are entered into a juried competition at the end of the weekend. My novel, NO VISIBLE DAMAGE, was awarded Runner Up in the YOUNG ADULT category of the competition. I’m thrilled with that outcome. First draft, written frenetically in 72 hours? I’ll take it!

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A bookmark gifted to writers at the Muskoka Novel Marathon!

So I’m locking myself into writer mode for a bit. This may mean that I come at you with some exuberant writing advice every now and again. When I’m in that zone, it’s all I think about. Adios por ahora, mi Camino! Writing is my October jam!

One last story from my Muskoka Novel Marathon weekend prior to diving back into my manuscript. The bookmarks pictured above were given to ALL marathon participators. The back of each bookmark was blank. My fellow marathoner, Colum (who is literally the sweetest most kindhearted person) took my bookmark down to a local store in town and had the back personalized after I told him about a line that POPPED out of my manuscript. I wrote the line about a laptop that was thrown across a room in the story. During our conversation about the line in question, I told Colum it sounded like a great name for a punk band. Colum said it sounded like a perfect novel title. That’s the exact second my THE EPOQUE OF ETHAN manuscript became NO VISIBLE DAMAGE. Thanks, Colum! Both for giving me the TITLE and for getting the personalization of the bookmark done!

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Happy WRITING!

From Darkness and into the Light – Santiago de Compostela at the End of the Yellow Brick Road…

Day 12 – AKA We’re off to see the Wizard! This was the day we woke up in O Pedrouzo with our eye on Santiago de Compostela!

For the first 3 or more hours of the walk, we were in darkness. And it rained most of the time. It was, for me, an incredibly hard walk filled with anxious moments in black forests hoping we didn’t get too lost on the path.

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Just prior to daybreak, we hit the marker that announces the jurisdiction of Santiago! We were almost to the city of Santiago de Compostela and the darkness was about to brighten!

Soon after daybreak, we arrived at Monte de Gozo! The HILL OF JOY! This is the place where many pilgrims get their first glimpse of the spires in Santiago. It’s the ONE-HOUR mark, too. Soon, we would arrive!

ALL the familiar signs came into view, building on the excitement of our eventual arrival. Like the dancing star on the outskirts!

…and the Santiago de Compostela sign, which is so covered now with mementos you can just make it out…

SO close!!

Feelings of saudade! Longing, desire, sadness, joy, angst…everything wrapped up together. And excitement for Michael, who had not yet experienced his first arrival into the plaza in front of the cathedral!

THE FIRST GLIMPSES OF THE SPIRES…

That walk into the little archway just prior to walking out the other side into Praza de Obradoiro, the plaza in front of the CATHEDRAL. In the archway, the pipes…the pipes they play!

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Then, what the whole thing is for…the arrival at the Cathedral!

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And that, my friends, was OUR Camino de Santiago!

Keep your ears–and your hearts–open for the CALL. The Camino begins with a whisper. When it finds you, the whisper grows until the day you step off that plane and make your way to the path. When your feet touch down on the Camino de Santiago, your life begins…

You
Touch me
I hear the sound
Of mandolins
You
Kiss me
With your kiss
My life begins
You’re spring to me
All things
To me
Don’t you know you’re
Life itself

Three More! From Portomarin to O Pedrouzo!

I last left you in Portomarin and gave you a taste of Arzua after we discovered a great restaurant run by lovely people. But before Arzua, we had one previous stop. Palas de Rei!

As we CLIMBED out of Portomarin, after getting a shuttle car from our hostel back to the point in Portomarin we had walked to the afternoon before, we came to one of my most memorable Camino places. After leaving Portomarin, there’s a steady climb that eventually leads up an endless orange-sand hill. On my first Camino in 2014, I walked with 7 or 8 other pilgrims. We all picked up some picnic food at a supermercado prior to leaving Portomarin. Then we stopped and had a picnic at the top of that large orange hill. It was such a lovely experience…one I still cherish today.

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Connie and I at the picnic at the top of the world just outside Portomarin (May, 2014). Connie passed away not quite a year after our pilgrimage. Such a lovely person. I was so fortunate to walk with her and our wonderful group of pilgrims.

The rest of the journey to Palas de Rei was uneventful. There was an awful lot of hills this day, though. More than I remembered. It was also the first day we had a little rain. Just a little, though…nothing too unbearable.

Day 10 of walking took us from Palas de Rei to Arzua. My previous post here is about the place we found for dinner in Arzua. It was superb.

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We left Palas de Rei in the dark, but soon stopped for breakfast. Those breakfast stops may just be the ones I looked forward to the most. Zumo de naranja, cafe con leche and cruc de chocolate. Fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee with milk and a chocolate croissant! Mmmmmmmm!

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Such a great part of every morning on the Camino! The Breakfast Stop!

As the morning came into its own that day, it glowed beautiful. We soon found ourselves in Nirvana, quietly taking in its soul-healing rays…

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This was the day we broke the 50km mark, the day of Melide, and the day of walking through the vast and fragrant eucalyptus forests. It was a peaceful day filled with grace and awe. And I remember it as being much easier…or maybe we had just found a stride that day. (-:

Arzua at the end of the day was lovely. I was a little bitter, however, about the shower at our hostel. The showers in Spain were incredibly amazing. Until Arzua. The shower had no faucet, just a button you would push and the water would come out for about 30 seconds and shut off. Annoying. Like a pool shower from 1979. I was not impressed…but it was what it was. Every other shower on the Camino was spectacular.

Day 11 found us making our way to O Pedrouzo AND the very last albergue prior to arriving in Santiago!

Again, we left in the dark and again we found a lovely little cafe in which to enjoy our yummy Camino breakfast.

And we soon came across the beer bottle cafe too. I don’t recall it from my 2014 pilgrimage, but I’ve seen it all over Instagram lately…

We broke the 20km mark this day, and stayed at 23 on the 23rd! (-:

And then, just like that, we were only ONE DAY AWAY FROM SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA. The cathedral at the end of the yellow brick road. We would have one more albergue sleep in O Pedrouzo prior to waking up, dusting off and setting out on our final walk…

Food – Ultreia Café in Arzua is a MUST on the Camino de Santiago!

Ultreia was a surprise delight in Arzua on the Camino de Santiago! Don’t miss it!

We walked today from Palas de Rei to Arzua. A long exhausting uphill hike.

After showers, we walked back to the restaurants we passed on the way into town. The one we chose was absolutely incredible!

As with many Pilgrim Meal combos, Ultreia had the 10€ offering where you get to choose a starter, a main, and a dessert… With a drink. I chose cod/pepper croquettes for my starter, meat lasagna for my main and mousse with blueberry coulis for dessert. Ultreia is fine dining. Every dish was impeccable and incredible! It’s obvious they take pride in their work. The whole combo menu looked appetizing. It was so difficult narrowing down our decisions. But I’m guessing every dish is a winner! And they gave us a bottle of wine to share between the two of us.

Michael had a mushroom ravioli dish for his starter and it was the best ravioli I’ve ever tasted. So good.

If you’re on the Camino de Santiago going through ARZUA… make sure to stop for food at ULTREIA CAFÉ! You won’t be sorry.

We did not stay at the albergue, but there is an albergue attached to the Café… It would be worth checking out! If the accomodations are half as amazing as the 10€ meal, they’ll be excellent. ❤

For those looking for more typical Galician dishes, they can also be found on the menu. (-:

Here’s their website:

http://www.albergueultreia.com

Buen Camino, peregrinos!!

The Next Three! Onward to Santiago de Compostela!

We last left you in Ponferrada! Here we go!

Walking Day 3 – Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo – It was a hard day but such a beautiful one. Vineyards everywhere (-: Lovely!

Walking Day 4 – Villafranca del Bierzo to Las Herrerias – Obviously another beautiful day. They all are. The last hour of every day is the hardest.

Day 5 Las Herrerias to Fonfria!

Fonfria, Fonfria, Fonfria! I love the albergue there! Second visit! This was the day of climbing mountains! To O Cebreiro and beyond to Fonfria. The hardest day, but the others prepared us well! Plus, WE MADE IT TO GALICIA!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Marker for GALICIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

August and Everything After…

How did we get here? The month of August is quickly being eaten up and September is just around the corner. This time last year we were eagerly anticipating a September in India and Nepal. As it turns out, it was far more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

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This is the view from the Shanti Stupa, which is situated on a hilltop across from the town of Pokhara, Nepal. You can either drive to the hill, or take one of the beautiful boat rides across Lake Phewa and arrive at the foot of the hill (mountain?). I walked barefoot from lakeside to the stupa and it was a gorgeous and picturesque route…all uphill!

I feel as though I am still processing India and Nepal. I have written about some of my experiences there, but I have only just scraped the surface. It was a profound experience I’ll remember forever.

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From one of the pieces I wrote on my September 2018 experiences in India.
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The nicest surprise in India was a city I had no previous knowledge about. ORCHHA. It was a breathtaking city, filled with magical places to explore. The people were friendly and inviting. AND…some of our group went to a cooking class in the home of a local woman who runs her own cooking school. We had THE best time! I love Orchha!

India is now behind us by almost a year. I can’t even fathom that truth! It seems like yesterday.

With September 2019 comes…another adventure! I once said there were too many places to visit to go to one place more than once. HA! That was before I met the Camino de Santiago. Yes, dear reader, I’m talking about the Camino yet again. I will probably continue to talk about it UNTIL EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU HAVE HEARD AND HEEDED THE CALL OF THE CAMINO!

We are 20 days away from setting out on my 2nd and my SO’s 1st Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Michael is looking forward to it as much as I am, though he may possibly have more trepidation than I have. I remember the days leading up to my first Camino…all I could think of was the impossibility of the whole thing. I was as nervous as I was excited. NOW I know different. I already know I GOT THIS. But that’s probably something one has to come to on their own. It all seems very overwhelming when you begin to think about taking that first step. Can I do this? Is it too much?

You can. It’s not. It’s beautiful and you should.

I’m ready for the Camino de Santiago. I hope these 20 days fly by. We are ready to discover the path together. Come September 10th, we’ll fly into Madrid. By the 12th, we’ll be in Astorga…where we will begin our shortened Camino journey. On the 13th, my 53rd birthday…we’ll be on our way! The walk to Santiago de Compostela will begin!

While I have your attention and I’m talking about the Camino…just a heads up— WRITING NEWS IS FORTHCOMING! MY LIPS ARE SEALED FOR THE TIME BEING, BUT I HAVE VERY EXCITING CAMINO RELATED WRITING NEWS COMING!!!

Come on, September! BRING IT! We’re Camino ready! Buen Camino!

 

The Camino de Santiago Part II is Coming!

When we first decided that we would walk the Camino de Santiago in September of 2019, the month and year seemed so impossibly far away. The little number in the corner of today’s date on my desktop calendar tells me the divide between then and our departure date has somehow become so much smaller! Practically insignificant in comparison. The excitement grows every day. Once you walk the Camino, it scratches at your thoughts like a lost home that keeps calling you back. It’s almost as if the Camino aches for you as much as you ache for the Camino…and it keeps reminding you. “I am here. I am here. I am here.”

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This is a small clock tower that leads to a piazza in Ponferrada, Spain. I have arranged it so that Michael and I will be staying right inside that piazza during our September, 2019 Camino pilgrimage. We will need to walk through the small corridor beneath this clock in order to get to our rest stop for that particular night. (I snapped this shot during my 2014 Camino)

September 10th is when we fly to Spain. 54 days from now.

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One of the biggest thrills of my 2014 Camino was when I discovered the murals on the walls of the Monastery of San Xulián de Samos in Samos, Spain. I mean, it took my breath away. I think about it still with some kind of loving devotion that makes no sense to this heretical atheist. I can’t wait to see these murals again. The murals depict scenes from the life of St. Benedict. Shortly before SAMOS, SPAIN, there is a fork in the CAMINO ROAD. One way goes to Samos, and one way bypasses the beautiful town to save a couple miles. TAKE THE ROAD THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO THESE MURALS! It’s worth the extra miles.

We will not be doing the full Camino Frances, but that is no matter. The Camino is not about that, as much as some people who don’t fully get it would have you believe. We will be flying into Madrid, and then travelling from Madrid to Astorga. Once there, we will begin our Camino de Santiago adventure from that beautiful town…from the shadow of the gorgeous cathedral there.

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The vistas you come upon on the Camino will steal your heart and hold it captive. This shot was taken during my 2014 pilgrimage. This is a typical scene in the GALICIA REGION of SPAIN. It’s big sky and big universe country. It will stay with you forever, but it will also demand that you one day return.

I will be taking notes this time. I’ve already decided. I’m not finished writing about the Camino. It has decided to become a greater part of my story, and I have decided to keep listening, to keep reflecting, to keep projecting. So stay tuned, OR BE FOREWARNED. There will be more to come.

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I wrote a novel upon my first return from Spain. One day I hope it finds a way to the light of day. This time? I think I’m going to write about our journey. That’s the plan, anyway. But what happens on the Camino happens…there is no way to predict your journey. We shall see. I will be looking for a sign…and I hope to write about it later. I know one thing for certain. We will be putting one foot in front of the other.

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door
If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule, be the exception
A good way to start is to stand
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor

 

WorldTowning Vlog – A Must See Traveling Family…

In our preparation for the Camino de Santiago, Michael and I have been devouring every Youtube video on the Camino we can find. I honestly don’t know how WorldTowning didn’t come up sooner in the searches, but I’m so glad they finally did! WorldTowning is a family who travel the world together, exploring its various landscapes and cultures with a joie de vivre the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed. WorldTowning are Will, Jessica, Avalon, and Largo Sueiro…and they appear to be on the road to everywhere. They homeschool their children along the way…but the education they’re receiving by being fully immersed in all the various cultures of the world is far more valuable than any textbook could ever be.

We dropped in on WorldTowning for their Camino vlogs (They start at around Episode 67 of their vlog series) and then we stuck around to catch up on their past travels. And since they kept on going after the Camino de Santiago, we’re watching as they make their way through the rest of the world in their own unique and remarkable way.

That’s the thing that really blows me away. Not only did the Sueiros do the full Camino Frances pilgrimage route of the Camino, but it was only a stop along the way. AND they kept on going once they got to the ‘End of the World’ at Finisterre. They’re doing a mind-blowing world tour. And they’re not afraid of going off the beaten path and taking their viewers to unique locations that tourists don’t often see.

Watching the vlogs of their fascinating adventures, it’s easy to see that their two children (Avalon and Largo) thrive within the extraordinary atmosphere that world travel offers. They may not know just yet how lucky they are to be experiencing the different peoples of the world, but I’m sure it won’t take them to long to realize the ultimate gift their parents are bestowing upon them.

Will Sueiro does a remarkable job filming their adventures. I think I want to be a drone operator when I grow up! ALSO, nothing says dedication like carrying all that extra film gear on the 800km pilgrimage route in Spain. A regular viewer of their vlog nicknamed Will’s Camino de Santiago backpack ‘the kitchen sink’ because it appeared to be large enough to carry everything but. And I thought I carried a heavy load in 2014…until I saw the one Will lugged across Spain.

A long time ago, in another lifetime maybe, I used to attempt to hide my tears whenever something hit me hard in the feels. But I’ve come to accept that it’s okay to cry at commercials and movies and songs and books and…okay, yeah…just being in the presence of sheer beauty, even. I WANT to cry when my feelings explode so much that I can’t handle how big the joy or sorrow is. Jessica breaks down every now and then…and I think that’s wonderful. It makes her more real and authentic. It’s a gift to feel that deeply. She does tend to apologize for it occasionally. But I always say cry if you want to. To be honest, they’re seeing beautiful and remarkable things in their travels. Nothing makes me cry more than, say…the way the water laps at the side of the boat when you’re floating down the Ganges watching funeral pyres on the shore, or, say, the way the fields of poppies in Spain dance in the wind while you’re walking by making your way to Santiago. Tears are just an expression of gratitude or sorrow. We should never apologize for them. And we should never tease others for shedding them. I’m not ashamed to say I cried a few times while watching the WorldTowning vlog.

Oops. A blog post from me wouldn’t be the same without a digression. Enough about tears.

If you’re looking for a delightful travel vlog to watch, look no further than WorldTowning. Here’s a link to the WORLDTOWNING WEBSITE. Check it out to see what they have to offer YOU.

The Sueiros are also on PATREON and TWITTER and INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK.

An Evening With John Brierley and Canadian Company of Pilgrims

On my first trip to the Camino de Santiago, I walked with my friend and Camino guide, Sue Kenney. As a longtime Camino guide, Sue organizes group Caminos to take pilgrims on the last 200km or so of the pilgrimage route in Spain. (Sue is doing TWO Camino tours in May, 2019…One of which is already fully booked.) The one thing Sue always makes sure her pilgrims have with them during their Camino is what I have come to understand is the Camino Bible. It’s probably the most popular guidebook ever written for the Camino de Santiago.

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Two Tickets to Paradise, Courtesy of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims

A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago (Camino Francés): St. Jean – Roncesvalles – Santiago is the title of that guidebook. It’s so well organized, detailed and curated that it’s easy to forget that it’s the brainchild of one person. Everyone on the Camino carries it. I carried it. It is a wealth of knowledge. If you have a question regarding a town, a restaurant, an albergue, or anything else…you turn its pages and you find the answer. If you have traveled the Camino and you didn’t do it with the guidebook below, chances are you saw other peregrinos (pilgrims) carrying it and/or flipping through its pages.

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CLICK THIS PIC to go to AMAZON to order your copy.

Last night the Canadian Company of Pilgrims had an event in Toronto at the Yorkwoods Public Library Theatre. Sue Kenney and two other peregrinas–Mony Dojeiji and Ingrid Folkers–opened the event with a short panel discussion on their own experiences with the Camino. Then the man who wrote the Camino Bible pictured above was there. In person. John Brierley himself was there to enthrall a packed theatre audience with tales of the Camino de Santiago and the various routes leading to the now mythical cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela. John also brought with him a rousing message of love and connection. It turns out the man who wrote the guide walks the walk. He was as lovely as the feeling one gets from experiencing the Camino itself. He was eloquent, informative and inspiring. He talked about the Camino family that I myself have experienced and am now a part of… and he cemented in me everything I have come to believe about the Camino.

By the time John’s talk was over and he had hypnotized an entire audience of some 300 people into blowing out the tiny candle he held out to us, I was more than ready to head back out onto the sacred pilgrimage in Spain. But he also told us we were not merely blowing out the candle, but sending the flame out into the world to give light and warmth to our Camino brethren now currently walking the paths back in Spain.

And I believed it.

I imagined that flame leaving the candle and crossing the Atlantic to find the heart of every pilgrim brother and sister currently walking the various Camino pathways leading to the cathedral and beyond… to Finisterre and Muxía… to the END OF THE WORLD.

 

 

Some pics of my first Camino in May, 2014. Michael and I will be heading back in September, 2019, walking from Astorga to Santiago. I can’t stay away.

If ever you hear whispers of the Camino de Santiago, take heed. Listen up. It is both a gift and a question. And I assure you, your heart wants to know the answer. It wants the gift. With my own journey, I discovered that the Camino calls you. I heard about it in passing and it sat quietly inside me. But quietly like a river that knows a waterfall is coming in the distance. When I didn’t heed the call, it got louder… because something inside me wanted to manifest my inner journey into an outer one. When I stepped foot on the path years later, I knew that it was meant to be. The Camino won. It called, and inevitably I answered.

And I know we Camino pilgrims probably sound like members of a cult…the way we go on about the pilgrimage years after we have walked it…but it’s just that it has given us so much. It’s just a long walk, right? A walk that thousands of people have taken over thousands of years. If you listen closely while you’re out there in the wind, putting one foot in front of the other while making your way to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, you can hear their whispers… their inner thoughts. Lean in. They have left their mark on the path lit nightly by the magical Milky Way. Even the stars know the importance of the Camino, and it is their wont to show you the way to Santiago.

But if you don’t trust the stars to show you the way, if you’re afraid of relying on the Vía Láctea to bring you to the sacred cathedral at the end of the sacred path, trust John Brierley. He’ll take you there.

 

(Much thanks to the Canadian Company of Pilgrims for showing me the way to John Brierley.)