More Camino Books – LGBTQ Representation Included

As part of my Camino de Santiago obsession, I devour books set on the Camino is much as I can. I prefer nonfiction travel memoir, but I also read the odd fiction book using the Camino as its setting.

A month ago, I would have said, “Yeah, representation matters. But it’s not everything. I can read non LGBTQ works too.” And, yeah…obviously I can still read non LGBTQ works. I do so often. But after reading two Camino de Santiago travel memoirs in a row that are from LGBTQ perspectives, I realize that it does matter…and more than I thought it did. It was an absolute delight to find these two books.

When we last walked the Camino back in September of 2019, we saw some signs of LGBTQ pilgrims…but we also came across intolerance at these signs. There is ALWAYS graffiti along the Camino. I seldom have a problem with graffiti overall. It can actually be quite artistic and beautiful…this is especially true along the Camino. But also…it seems like some people just carry markers as part of their pilgrim experience. They mark everything in their path from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela.

Some of the graffiti we found on the Camino the last time around was the rainbow kind. The calling card of LGBTQ+ members. At first, it was rather touching to see it. Awwww…how nice! But then…

Soon…every rainbow we came to had the words STRAIGHT PRIDE written inside of it.

I was thrilled to have found 2 LGBTQ pilgrims’ books in a row! I read them both over the course of the past couple of weeks and LOVED each of them!

First, though, let me step backward for a minute. The author of one of my FAVOURITE Camino books pointed me toward the first LGBTQ Camino memoir I read, so I’d like to shout out them first for helping me find my way to these new books.

Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago by BETH JUSINO. Still one of my ultimate favourite Camino books!

It was Beth Jusino who first mentioned TRAIL MIX to me. Beth reviewed an ARC of the book prior to its release. I was so glad to have found it! You can check out Beth’s incredible Camino memoir, Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago, by clicking on the picture above.

Now, the 2 LGBTQ Camino Memoirs…


Trail Mix: 920km on the Camino de Santiago by Jules Torti (2021, Rocky Mountain Books)

A rollicking travel memoir that invites the curious, the initiated, and even the skeptics to tag along on the ever-changing landscape of “The Way”’

For many, walking the Camino is a decision predictably triggered by death, divorce, or a career crisis. It’s not Everest and it ain’t no walk in the park, but the Camino ‘family’ continues to inexplicably grow. In 2018 alone, 327,342 pilgrims were received at the pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Pilgrims worldwide are attracted to the gilded mystery and hope of the Camino. Like the Ouija board, magic 8-ball and Ann Landers, it surreptitiously provides answers.

There is snoring. Sleep apnea. Threadbare patience. Frayed nerves. Sour socks. A lot of salami. Shifting from a walk-in closet to a walking closet of just 10 pounds, Jules and Kim decided to walk the historic Camino before their lower backs (or any other body parts) decided otherwise. Jules learned all the essential Spanish they’d need — luckily everything that was necessary ended in ‘o’: vino tinto (red wine), queso (cheese), corto (small beer), chorizo (sausage), baño (bathroom). Trail Mix is the open, frank, and funny story of one Canadian couple voted most unlikely to agree to such a daunting social experience.

This book was a delight to read. Torti’s memoir was rife with humor. I really enjoyed her quirky eye and it was amazing to see the Camino through her often comedic lens. She walked the Camino with her partner, Kim. There’s actually a proposal along the way. As with all Camino memoirs, the couple meet colorful characters along the path and get into some pretty amusing predicaments. It has some laugh out loud moments in it. Like many pilgrims, Jules & Kim walk beyond Santiago de Compostela to Muxía and Finisterre…the end of the world. It was a surprise bonus to read a Camino memoir from a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It made me wonder if there were any others out there.
CLICK HERE TO PICK UP YOUR COPY OF TRAIL MIX.


Overweight, undertrained and terrified: A Camino Diary by Connor O’Donoghue (2017, Self-Published)

This is the entertaining and sometimes inspirational story of one morbidly obese 35-year-old Irishman who decides to walk 708 kilometres across the Camino de Santiago, an ancient Christian pilgrimage in Northern Spain one summer. On the journey, he faces a variety of physical and mental obstacles. The book is written in diary format, at turns poignant and funny in a light, pacey style.

I absolutely loved this book, for many reasons. The humour, sometimes delivered in very poignant ways and sometimes off the cuff, had me in stitches. It was a page-turner, as the author had me deeply invested in the will-he-make-it narrative. I don’t know if I ever championed the goals of a hero in a novel as deeply as I hoped Connor would make it to Santiago de Compostela at the end of this book. No spoiler alerts here…if you want to find out if our hero walks into Santiago, you’ll have to pick up a copy! With a lovable and endearing narrator, this book will hold your attention all the way to the end. Also…it was refreshing to read a Camino retelling from a fellow LGBTQ perspective. I’d have no problem recommending this book to Camino enthusiasts and memoir enthusiasts alike. As a fellow Camino de Santiago pilgrim, I particularly enjoyed O’Donoghue’s gentle roasting of the God of the Camino. No, I don’t mean St. James. I’m referring to John Brierley here…the creator of the Camino’s most used guidebook. This was an excellent quick read!

CLICK HERE TO PICK UP YOUR COPY OF OVERWEIGHT, UNDERTRAINED AND TERRIFIED.

Featuring More Camino YouTube Vlogs! Lonesome Drifter and LivDeeper10x

So, every once in a while I like to recommend Camino vlogs. I’m addicted to watching them, and now and then I find one that I really enjoy. When I fall for one in particular, it’s always about the people.

Here are two more YouTube channels I recently discovered that I think are worth taking a look at.

GET LOST WITH THE LONESOME DRIFTER & LIVDEEPER 10X

I’ve been on a viewing hiatus, as I’ve been on deadline with TWO (not one, but two) upcoming novel releases. Discovered the Lonesome Drifter prior to my hiatus, but haven’t yet given his channel a plug here yet. I discovered LivDeeper just this week…taking a break between one novel and the next.

The Lonesome Drifter is a quirky likeable guy. I really enjoyed his trek across Spain, from Pamploma to Santiago de Compostela and onward to Finisterre. He did most of the Camino Frances, so his playlist will take a while to get through (over 3hrs, I believe)…but worth every minute. There is something about solo pilgrims on the journey that I find intriguing in a vlog. The drifter’s personality made it a treat to sit through his journey. Here’s his FULL CAMINO PLAYLIST.

LivDeeper is a couple. And their rapport was IMMEDIATELY endearing. They have such a great chemistry together. This one is a quick view, as it’s a 6 day journey. They cover a portion of the Portuguese Way, beginning their journey in Tui, Spain…after the crossover from Portugal to Spain on that route. At the time of this posting, their last addition to the 6 vlog playlist was 2 days ago when they arrived in Santiago de Compostela. As the playlist is entitled AROUND THE WORLD, I’m thinking they may still add to it. I see they’re off to Ireland. I also like catching vlog personalities when the Camino is just a stop on their travel adventure vlog. As much as it may seem that I believe the Camino to be the world’s only travel destination…I’m definitely open to exploring other spots. (-: Here’s their FULL CAMINO PLAYLIST.

Now, back to my deadlines! I have publisher commitments! One more novel to complete. Must. Stop. Looking. At. YouTube!

Ahead of the Cover Reveal, THE CAMINO CLUB is Listed on Amazon!

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Ahead of the cover reveal for my upcoming release, THE CAMINO CLUB (Duet Books/Interlude Press, OCT2020), I have discovered the novel is already linked (Kindle Version) on Amazon! It’s all beginning to come together! I’m getting so excited for this story to be out in the big wide open!

Here’s the link for AMAZON USA.

Here’s the link for AMAZON CANADA.

And here’s a couple photos of Michael and I actually ON the Camino this past September, and in front of the Cathedral at the end of the yellow brick road. (Like Dorothy, we discovered the journey was more important than the destination. Unlike Dorothy, we had to do more than click our heels together in order to get back home.) We walked the famous pilgrimage route in Spain from Astorga to Santiago de Compostela. Some 347,000 pilgrims walked the Camino in 2019. We were only 2 of them. We’ll be back there soon!

Stay tuned for the cover reveal of my Camino novel. It’s a GLORIOUS cover and I cannot wait to share it!

 

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

THE CAMINO CLUB – After getting in trouble with the law, six wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court-appointed counselor guides. When it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become.

Also, please consider adding THE CAMINO CLUB on GOODREADS!

The Camino Club Now on Goodreads!

This is the post where I announce that my upcoming YA novel THE CAMINO CLUB is now live on GOODREADS! It feels more real now, I swear.

Please consider adding it to a shelf on Goodreads and telling your friends and fellow readers about it. This book is so near and dear to my heart.

GOODREADS BLURB: After getting in trouble with the law, six wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court appointed counselor/guides. When it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become.

No cover as of yet, so I’ll share a pic or two from my own Camino journey to add some colour to this post…

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This is Diego’s doppelgänger. Diego is a main character. The kids found this doppelgänger on a mural in Samos.

I wrote THE CAMINO CLUB after my first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in 2014.

The church in the photo above is also found in my novel. This church is in Portomarin. The town moved it up a hill, and away from the valley they were going to flood, ONE BRICK AT A TIME and reassembled it up on the hill. The castle behind the photo of Michael and I on our September 2019 pilgrimage is found in Ponferrada. It is also the starting point in the Camino that the characters begin their own pilgrimage.

YOU CAN NOW PREORDER THE KINDLE ON AMAZON!

AMAZON CANADA PREORDER LINK

AMAZON USA PREORDER LINK

So, again, please consider adding THE CAMINO CLUB to your Goodreads shelf! Here’s the link:

CLICK HERE TO ADD THE CAMINO CLUB ON GOODREADS!

Laurie Dennett – A Hug for the Apostle – And One for Don Elías Valiña Sampedro too!

(ETA: This post has been edited to include a REGISTRATION LINK for Laurie Dennett’s SECOND TORONTO CAMINO TALK. Please see the bottom of post for the link. The event takes place at St. Thomas Church in Toronto on December 7, 2019.)

This past Saturday we attended an event at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, put on by the TORONTO CHAPTER of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. Laurie Dennett was invited to speak about her book A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE, but more especially about Don Elías Valiña Sampedro (1929-1989), the parish priest at O Cebreiro in the Galicia region of Spain, who almost single-handedly reinvigorated the Camino de Santiago in his lifetime.

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A Hug for the Apostle – Laurie Dennett

Having myself recently returned from the Camino, and being enamored with O Cebreiro from my own two quick trips through the village nestled in the mountainous region of Galicia, Laurie Dennett’s talk helped to revive my fascination with it. It is in the village of O Cebreiro where the world famous author Paulo Coelho professes to have found the courage to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a writer. In fact, in his will he has given instructions for his ashes to be interred in the village.

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Laurie Dennett giving her talk to the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims.

There is something about reaching the apex that leads to the village of O Cebreiro that makes one become a lifelong devotee to its streets. From the ‘Lady of O Cebreiro’ statue found at the entrance, to the church and the quaint buildings throughout, one immediately gets a feeling. The village stands out on the Camino, calls you back. It is poetic justice that the parish priest of O Cebreiro is the one who revived the Camino Francés. As Laurie Dennett spoke about Don Elías wandering the Camino with a pail of yellow paint and paint brush, I could visualize the happy and hopeful priest making his way through hill and dale, forest and town, painting yellow arrows all along the way…forever hopeful that the spirit of the Camino take hold for current and future generations of pilgrims.

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David Duncan, for the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, with Laurie Dennett looking on.

Whenever Don Elías was approached along the way, paintbrush in hand, either by bystanders or police, his response to their questioning as to why he was painting yellow arrows everywhere was always the same, “I am planning an invasion.” He didn’t live quite long enough to see his vision come true, but trust me when I say the invasion occurred. 308,064 pilgrims walked the Camino de Santiago in 2018. 301,036 in 2017. The numbers have been increasing yearly. Though this ‘invasion’ Don Elías spoke of was one of love, of longing, of searching, of finding. He knew that at the time. I imagine him winking at whoever he spoke to whenever he spoke of the invasion, but I don’t imagine he could have ever foreseen the sweeping magnitude of it. Pilgrims from all walks of life, from all over the world, follow his arrows every day. His legacy is powerful, and yet many of his followers do not even know the story of the parish priest from one of their favourite Camino stops along the way.

Dennett was most assuredly enamored by the priest, whom she had the good fortune to call friend and cohort. She too spreads word far and wide of the pilgrimage route held so dear to the heart of the now late priest. Perhaps, in her way, she is carrying on with the work he began as its ambassador. Perhaps all who walk the route are, in some way, ambassadors. I know that one of my wishes with my upcoming young adult novel, THE CAMINO CLUB, (October, 2020 from Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press) is that it persuades even one reader to put the Camino de Santiago on their life’s bucket-list.

Below are a few pictures Michael and I took of our extremely brief blip through O Cebreiro this past September, while we were making our way to Santiago de Compostela.

Laurie Dennett will be giving a second talk with the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims on Saturday, December 7th, 2019, this time at St. Thomas Church in downtown Toronto. If you’re in the Toronto area and have even the slightest interest in the Camino de Santiago, I suggest that you make plans to attend the event. Laurie’s first talk was mesmerizing. I thank her for bringing Don Elías Valiña Sampedro to life for me! And I am currently finding her book as mesmerizing as her talk. I look forward to hearing what else she has to say about the beloved Camino.

To learn more about the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, click on the image below:

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To learn more about A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE visit WORDSINDEED. Or, you can attend the second talk and purchase the book there and have it signed by the author.

CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO REGISTRATION FOR—LAURIE DENNETT: REFLECTIONS ON 35 YEARS OF THE CAMINO – SATURDAY DEC 7, 2019, ST. THOMAS CHURCH, TORONTO, ONTARIO

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!

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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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First 3 Days of the Camino de Santiago – We Are in Love with Spain!

Just pictures. We are on the Camino de Santiago, loving every minute! Began in Astorga this time. Mini Camino. (These next few days will be my September update…because we’re out here living!)

Astorga, before the walk!

Walking Day 1 – Astorga to Foncebadon

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Day 2 – Foncebadon to Ponferrada

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Cruz de Ferro!
Such an epic milestone on the Camino de Santiago! Cruz de Ferro…

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