The Santiago Slog

Today we walked from Saint Jean Pied de Port France to Ronscevalles Spain covering 23km (or 42,208 steps as per Fitbit).A day of slogging it up and across the Pyrenees Mountains.

We felt every step of this day, let me tell you! But before I get into my aching feet and bones and muscles and well, aching everything – let me tell you about our awesome pilgrim hostel in Saint Jean and a bit more about our actual route and the sights!

We started with a wee breakfast at our hostel La Coquille Napoleon in Saint Jean. We were served orange juice, coffee with milk, baguette, yogurt, butter and jam. I have been off all sugar and any carbs for a while so this was like breakfast of candy for me! Yum! Buzzing! Beyond the yummy breakfast the place was great – interesting but great. When we checked in the night prior we were greeted by 3 chihuahuas, a bunch of chickens, a rooster, 2 cats, a 3 year old boy and the proprietor; a very French man who was incredibly disappointed we were not French Canadians.

Regardless of our unfortunate Canadian-ness he showed us our bunks in the coolest little build-on from their home (12 bunks in a room and only 4 of us staying) then he told us how things should be over a welcome glass of wine .. well rather how he says things will go for us as per him! He was hilariously bossy really – had an answer for everything and spoke only sparing English. He told us we were not to set an alarm he would knock at 7am, we had to walk to Roncesvalles or he would ridicule us (which he literally did to the 2 people staying that were stopping in Orisson before Roncesvalles), that it was daft to book ahead at places to stay, to never eat where you sleep it will ruin your sleep, and no more wifi after last night, etc. We found him quite funny and the place was amazing – if you could get past the cat that was eating on the table next to the chain saw also on the table or his kid trying to hit me with his toys while yelling at me like maybe a dinosaur?! Great place, comfy bed and an awesome story! Recommend!

At 8am we literally walked out his front door and we were on the Route de Napoleon – the road / trail we would be slogging on for the day. We were fresh and excited to get our Camino on!

The route quickly put us in our place! We went from less than 200m altitude to 1,550m and then back down to 950m in a long 8.5 hours. While honestly quite tough we were still so amazed at the view as we climbed higher! Check out my Instagram @brandedavison for some videos!


I was so grateful for two things – beyond the views and the amazing opportunity to be here. 1) the guide book was so bang on with the information on if the route was a road or a trail. I wore my sneakers for the first 5 hours and felt so light and nimble. Then the trail switched to off road and I switched for my boots. My feet were super comfy with the switch and moving my boots to my feet made my pack 3.6lbs lighter at the same time. Just when I needed it!

The day finished with a wretched downhill of 3.6km that was not fun at all – my feet had a pulse, my legs kept giving out but we hung in there and with maybe not smiles but at least pride waltzed into Roncesvalles dusty, sweaty and keen for showers.

We are now out for a congrats pint and then to dinner provided by our Albergue (pilgrim hostel)! It’s a super old monestary that has been refurbished as a hostel. Wow!

Cheers!

Brande

Tired Tourists in Paris

After a 9hr flight, departing Vancouver at 1:30pm and arriving in Paris at 8:50am with only 30mins (maybe) sleep in flight – we were tired, wobbly really, but of course super excited about our 24hrs in Paris!

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After a near hour wait in the customs line up, we were ready for a little excitement to wake us up. Well we got it. Just after getting our backpacks from the luggage carousel a police office started yelling to get out of the airport, leave your bags and exit there is a suspicious package. Me and Lana with our packs already on (thank goodness) joined the crowd exiting quickly from the area. People didn’t hesitate to leave – just started rushing out. You can tell the city is on alert. Lots of police around, army dudes with machine guns patrolling the airport, bags are checked anytime you enter any big store or tourist attraction (sometimes even metal detectors). Should that scare me? Maybe a little. If anything, it makes me even more aware for sure but at the same time gives me confidence that they are alert!

So with that jolt of excitement under belt we were wide awake again and read to metro in Paris proper. On route we discovered the weather was looking up! We had landed into basically thick pea soup. So much so we thought we were still in the air in thick clouds when we actually landed! You could barely see the tip of the wing. But the fog was lifting and we were hopeful the 31 degrees the ole weather app had predicted would work out.

Once into Paris proper we found our hotel and yahoo our room was ready for us although it was only noon. We dropped our bags and headed out for lunch. We found the best cafe ever – salads to die for and delicious French wine! Now this is Paris!

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Ok bellies fully and wine enjoyed, we were ready to power though our sleepy states and see what Paris had to offer. We walked from across to the Grand Palais and Petite Palais with a stroll through the Jardins to Tuileries, to the Louvre and wrapped up at Notre Dame – checking out all the amazing buildings and bridges between! Lana enjoyed the Louvre, it really is a must do for Paris. I had been before so instead spent the couple hours hunting down a SIM card and holiday data plan so we would have a phone in case of emergencies. The day was fabulous – the temp got to a very humid, melting 31!

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We wrapped up the evening with a picnic of cheese, bread, olives and white wine (drinking out of our very classy Canada tin cups) while we watched for the Eiffel Tower to light up! This is something everyone should have a chance to see. It really is pretty spectacular. Eiffel is currently sporting white light with sparkling lights going off all over every hour for 5mins. Very pretty!

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Exhausted at this point we headed back to the hotel and basically passed out! I fell asleep texting my hubby goodnight and Lana fell asleep mid sentence downloading an app on her iPad. Tired or what! We slept like the dead. No rolling over or getting comfy – both flat on our backs for the count.

Lana slept so well she was up before me and getting ready for the day while my lazy bones laid in bed – it was only a bit after 6 in the morning and our train wasn’t till 10 so I was in no rush. Love that. Well turns out we were really, really, really in no rush. Lana’s watch was messed up and it was actually only a bit after 4am. What!? And here Lana was already ready for the day. Well a quick selfie and back to sleep for 3 more hours. Geeks!

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We are now on day two, after getting up at the right time the second time, and on our all day train down to Saint Jean Pied de Port where we start our Camino tomorrow eeeeek!

Brande

Final Prep and Packing for the Camino

With just 3 sleeps left to departure for Paris then train onto St. Jean Pied de Port to start the first of 3 Camino trails things are starting to get very real – and I feel like I am taking over the house with all of the final prep bits!

My scrapbook / craft studio has become a large display case for what will go in my backpack on Friday morning and for the next 36 sleeps after live on my back day to day, kilometer after kilometer. Everything is laid in a specific order (to me). Rolled where final decision has been made and that item is for sure coming – and only folded if I am unsure if its the “one” that gets to come with me. Post-it notes where I still need to grab the stuff from drawers or the laundry room or the drying rack.

My scrapbook / craft table has become a language lesson centre with all of my language cheat sheets spread out and ready for me to add to as and when I hear a word or phase in French, Spanish or Portuguese from my playbacks I didn’t write down yet. I am starting to get the languages down pat (well good enough anyway) but my “accent” for each is sounding oddly blended. I am rolling Rs and sh’ing Sh all over the place, even when I don’t need to. I am hoping that the nice people of the countries we visit will just find me eccentric and dramatic but still understand me. (like y’all do here in Canada!)

My kitchen counter has become a language playback display case. Each day and sometimes more than once a day, I grab one of the language lesson playbacks and throw the ear plugs in and practice. My morning run today was Portuguese. I was French on the way to work and back, and am about to get some Spanish in this evening. I have to return all of these to the library on Friday morning before we depart on a jet plane – so packing in my final refreshers while I can. Muy bien!

Finally, my poor walls have also been dragged into this prep mayhem with a large (think movie poster size) packing list in red Sharpie taking up some serious real estate. What is certain is written out, and what is still up for final decision is written and circled. Thurs night (last night home) I will compare the poster list to what is on the floor and cross the items off accordingly with a black Sharpie if they are there and make the final cut for the journey. { If any of my staff are reading this this post, you now have proof that I subject myself to the sharpie and post-it poster ordeal too – it’s not just a special torture I save for you all. LOL } 

By Thursday night all of these spaces and places will be returned to normal, and the house will get one final deep clean from me … leaving my hubby with a beautiful and back to normal home while I am off putting miles on with Lana!

Weird. I couldn’t help thinking this morning that it was my last Tuesday waking up in my own bed until October. I think of all back-home comforts I will miss, the top of my list is my hubby (of course, big style) and the second is my comfy, amazing, no other pilgrims snoring or making other gaseous sounds, bed bug free, king size bed.

It’s the simple things in life, you know?

Brande

PS tres duerme

 

Documenting my Camino

While hiking and travel are for sure the hobbies I am most passionate about, scrapbooking is a very close second for me. Scrapbooking is this amazing way of creating photo albums that use various paper and embellishments (think small craft items) and lots of journaling to document the photo and its story. Check out Scrapstorian, a scrapbooking blog I have with my sister and our sister-in-scrapbooking!

Any who, a little fun digression there but let’s get back to it …

When hiking and travel and scrapbooking collide, wow! The heavens open and I can hear the angels of hobbies singing! And those angels will be singing for me when I get home and scrapbook my entire Camino trip. But now I get to satisfy this passion even while abroad. thanks to my new love for Traveler’s Notebooks (TN), a sort of on the go, in the moment journal and scrapbook. I am grooving to the beautiful singing of the hobby angels every step of the way AND during every page I make in my album when back home! Nothing like milking a single experience for every drop of greatness.

Let me tell you a little bit more about my approach with a TN and some ideas on what you might include in your travel notebook or journal or blog whatever way you document your travels in future.

To start, here is my Notebook (I am sort of squealing with excitement because I have been dying to get a notebook from MAKER THIRTY FIVE and bam, here it is – thank you for such a timely sale ladies!):

Camino Traveler's Notebook Cover

Now one of the MANY benefits of a TN is that it comes with no guts (insides). Just a number of elastics which you can use to hold any type of insert (think soft covered notebook) you want. If you like grids vs lines or dots and a calendar or blank – they have got it. You can buy up whatever type you like, or any combo that you like and just put it in your journal – find the middle of the notebook and slide it under one of the elastics until it sits in the middle. Like this:

Camino Traveler's Notebook Insert Elastic

I have thought long and hard about what to include in my TN to best serve what I want and how I want to document my Camino. I dont want to carry about something I will not use or force myself to use a solution that is not quite right for me. Here is what I have come up with and I am confident it will be magic:

JOURNALING – I prefer writing on grid paper, and the smaller the grid the better. So when I found the Chelsea Paper Co on Etsy.ca and their 3mm grid notebook I ordered up that goodness double time. So I have 5 of these, 3 currently in my Notebook to get me started (I write a lot when travelling and secretly dream of writing a book about my travels so I need to take notes like it will change my life!)

SKETCHING – I prefer sketching on blank paper, like most folks I am sure. So I have also included a notebook of blank, beautifully smooth, and super white paper from another of my favourite planner company’s The 4107 Planners.

ORGANIZING – I prefer keeping a to-do or “remember this” sort of list in a calendar type format, so I also included some weekly organization pages (includes a spot for each day of the week and a to-do list spot) that I printed for FREE from my peeps at The 1407 Planners team – thank you! On these pages I will make note of when we have to call an albergue (hostel) the day before to confirm, or when there is no grocery store for a couple days so we need to stock up on apples and chocolate.

EXTRA BITS – In the little side pockets of the Notebook I have tucked some washi tape (very thin decorated tape) that I will use to secure in bus tickets, coasters, etc. as memorabilia directly into my journal – much thinner and lighter than the usual glue stick I travel with. I have also created myself language recipe cards (albergue = hostel, cervaza = beer) in Spanish and Portuguese so I will tuck this in there as well.

I added a little flair to each of the notebooks with stickers and papers from my scrapbooking collection, some amazing bits my sister-in-scrapbooking (Cheryl) gave me and voila. I think it looks so awesome and am first day of school excited to start writing in it!

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Ok so blank canvas is ready, now what to actually write and sketch?

I am not sure exactly how it will all pan out in reality but below is a list of ideas I have about what I can include in my Camino Traveller’s Notebook – a big thanks to all the various blogs and Instagram folks and magazines I read that inspired this list:

  • Sketch cool logos, street art, streets, bridges, churches or buildings that I see (I used to love to draw houses around my neighbourhood, I am going to try and find that 10yr old me again!)
  • Sketch what is my carry on, backpack, daily outfits, funny
  • Use bullet lists to document top 10 favourite foods in Spain or Portugal, fav pilgrims, fav hostel
  • Write out all pretty and fancy quotes I find that I love or mean something
  • Quotes from fellow pilgrims or people we meet on the way that are funny, profound
  • A day by day account of my travels, the good – the bad – the ugly and in between
  • Where we eat and what, what we saw, places we visited, kms we walked in a day, etc.

I love to journal and I find I write the most when I am travelling and even more when I am hiking – funny how our happy places inspire us to do all the other stuff that makes us happy too. So while I know this might be a bit much to carry as far as weight in my backpack is concerned – I am ok with that and have managed my other pack items (their weight and how many) accordingly.

Stay tuned for updates as me and my TN take on Spain, Portugal and France

Brande

PS Just 5 sleeps now!

Found in Translation

Oh goodness me –  just had to share!

Over the past few weeks, Lana and I have been busy planning our Great Camino Mash Up Adventure. This is our catch phrase name for the 5 weeks we get to spend in France, Spain and Portugal taking part in the best parts of 3 different Camino pilgrimages. Check out Planning is Half the Fun! for way too many details on just how knee deep into planning we have been.

While bouncing about the world wide web during a recent planning weekend, Lana and I were finding ourselves quite amused. Some of the information on accommodation or travel websites in Spain and Portugal were hilarious. Either they are just darn funny people by nature (I hope so as that will make this trip even more fun) or Google Translate has wreaked some humorous havoc on their web fronts!

We had to share a few of our favourites which at 2am after hours of planning had us in stitches – of course what isn’t funny in the middle of the night with your bestie!

  • you shall see on your left hand side, a skat-park
  • chronic melting of volunteers
  • book to secure your most satisfaction
  • the soul given by each of you, to you
  • sheet low to use and throw away

Now while most made us laugh, I couple hit a bit home. These two statements that were seemingly lost in translation … may have actually been found in translation. I am hit by a much deeper meaning to these – for our lives and for this adventure.

Despite the passage is forbidden, continue

Despite the passage is forbidden, continue. This one had me thinking about all of the hardships we may run into and need to work through on our adventure. To overcome and just keep on stepping. Blisters, injuries, weather, malfunctioning gear, health issues, or whatever. Just take the next small step towards our goal. Despite it continue.

Trust in God and tether your camel.

Trust in God and tether your camel. Well this one definitely hits home for me as I am a bit of a worrier, ok sometimes more than a bit. I think this one will be a great reminder to just give it to God and know he will take care of us. Tether that anxiety or grumpiness or weariness and trust … and keep those hiking boots moving forward.

Awesome mantras for the adventure ahead!

Brande