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

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

 

Speak, Parle, Hablo, Falo!

Oh goodness me, who do I think I am and what language am I even trying to speak!

My efforts to be prepared for the upcoming Camino Adventure in French, Spain and Portugal continue – and the current prep is all around communication! Making sure what I need is understood. You know just simple things like “do you have beds available?” or”two beers please?” and “where is the bathroom?” or “have you ever seen such a blister?” and “do you have bed bugs?” Oh and learning some basic polite phrases like good morning, have a good day, please and thank you too.

My plan (in action and so far quite interesting) is to use the months of June, July and in August to learn to speak Portuguese, brush up on the Spanish I learned in University, and hopefully drum up memories of the French I learned in grade school.

I have my trusty Pimsleur playback devices rented from my local library for free (I heart libraries) in each of the three languages. My rule is I must be doing my language learning while driving to and from anywhere. No more fun podcasts, audio books or chatting with family. Languages, linguas, langues, idiomas! Only. If you see a blond in a Tuscon in Vancouver butchering French, Spanish or Portuguese as she drives – that is me! Give me a wave!

June was designated Portuguese month and it is a doozy for me to pronounce this language. Portuguese in my mind is like trying to speak Spanish but with a saucy German accent. I have to keep saying “Sprichst du Deutsch?” (Do you speak German?) in my head over and over in order to get the sound right when trying to speak Portuguese. Yes this is the only German I know and I am probably butchering it too. If I am insulting anyone here, there is no offense meant – so far this is just the only way I can get the R rolling and the SH sounds of Portuguese to work with these wee, little, skinny chicken lips I have. Portuguese is such a cool language but wow a different sound than I have ever had to make. Some of the words in Portuguese are so much cooler than their English counter part. Like Lisbon sounds cool in English sure but in Portuguese it is Lisboa (pronounced in my mind like leash-boa) and that is  so much cooler. Yes I picture a dog with wearing a leash and a feather boa everytime I say it.

July is my refresh on Spanish and French month. We are only in France for a few days on the trip so I will run through the Pimsleur playback just once (OK maybe twice). I am well versed in how to order chocolate croissants and wine in French from my last visit and that is the most important stuff covered. Ha! But for Spanish, we do have a couple weeks in Spain so I will need to take that refresh a little more seriously. Spanish is the language I have spent the most time studying and using abroad. The simple stuff has come back pretty quick in the past so hopefully I have that same luck.

August will take me back to Portuguese for a final refresh. During this month I will make a language cheat sheet for my traveler’s notebook journal. A little reference sheet for the trip that I can peek at when the words elude me. You know something that has the word for wine, cheese, bread, blister, shower, thank you, etc. in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The important stuff!

Carrying a translation dictionary for each language is just too much weight for the average size backpacks we will be lugging about. So when a language does fail me (as I am sure it will many a time), I am not afraid to resort to hand signals, speaking the English words slower and louder (seems to be a universal thing to do), and breaking into random interpretive dance.

Brande 

PS 49 sleeps to departure!

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