Saturday, December 31, 2011


Today is the last day of 2011, new years eve day or Nochevieja.
On this day I really enjoy incorporating everything I'm looking forward to focusing on in the new coming year. I find it's a great day to narrow my attention to what can realistically be done in a day and ask in a million ways, 'what do I want this year to look like?' As an example, this past year I wanted to celebrate a lot so I blew out a candle on a cup cake. My year was reflected by many celebrations that I really acknowledged and consciously celebrated.  It's not about superstition so much as giving myself a full day to really think about what I'm going to make the year about.

Although... last year I made sure that the friends around me ate The 12 grapes, which is a Spanish tradition and now here I am in Madrid where that tradition started! So maybe I'm a little superstitious.

New years superstitions I've come across over the years...
- Take a suitcase outside (I actually helped someone cary in luggage by accident in 2011)
- Wear yellow underwear for I think travel or maybe just luck in general
- Wear red underwear for luck in love ;)
- Don't sweep, because you'll sweep out the good luck
- What you do on new years determines the rest of the year
- Dancing really crazy is just good for everyone involved and will help you laugh at yourself the whole year through

My absolute favourite tradition is this questionnaire that I've been copying out in my journal for the past 5 years
Questions for the New Year   
1. This year name one person that you will make the attempt to have a stronger relationship with?
2. This year what is one risk that you promise to take?
3. This year what is one aspect of your personality that you will be willing to change to make yourself more likeable?
4. This year, what is one daily ritual that you can commit to?
5. This year, what song could you choose to represent the year you are going to have and will you
download that song after reading these words?
6. This year, who is one civil servant that you will say hello to for the entire year?
7. This year, what is one body of water that you promise yourself you will swim in?
8. This year, name one person that you will truly thank who rarely gets thanked.
9. This year, what is an artistic experience that you promise to have?
10. This year, what is one argument that you will no longer have?
11. This year, what is one thing that you will do to give back to the world or community that you live in?
12. This year, what is one thing that you will learn?
13. This year, what is one thing you will let go of knowing you don't have the power to change it?
14. This year, where will your quiet place be?
15. This year, name three people you will surprise with a random gift?
16. This year, what is one thing that you will teach someone else?
17. This year, what is one fear that you will overcome?
18. This year, what is one food that you will eat more often?
19. This year, what is something wonderful about your personality that you promise to consciously appreciate?
20. This year, what will you do that you have always known you had to do?   

I've also started putting quotes on photos I've been taking and there's a special one for new

Thursday, December 22, 2011

♩♪♫♬ Mil Euros

Today was the craziness that is the Spanish lottery and from nine till noon you could hear the voices of children singing lottery numbers and their corresponding jackpot amount. If you want to actually understand it go here for fun facts.
This is what happens when more then 1,000€ is drawn...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ten days to christmas...really?

I have grown up with the North American Christmas craze. Every store beacons you to gaze upon it's glorious gifts. Going into a store can be dangerous because it ends up being 'one gift for you, one gift for me'. Decorations for every religion are piled onto everything as the Hallowe'en decorations are being taken down. Holiday tunes blare from everywhere putting you in the spirit or making you miserable depending on the day.

This year though I'm in a small city in Spain where the decorations aren't glittering with the same gusto. There are very pretty lights in most of the main streets. There is a giant tree outside city hall made of poinsettias and a big white and blue tree in another square. The stores have hardly any signs or lights or decorations but outside most store doors are pots of poinsettias.
Here children write letters to Papa Noel who begins the holidays AND the Three Wise Men who mean it's back to school time. I know Santa has Elves to help him with all his mail but I haven't found out who is secretary to the Wise.
The public television here has no advertisements, so no holiday cheer there. Then the channels that do have ads are predominately for perfume (which make me blush), ham legs (which make me cringe) and lottery (which leaves me confused). Where is their sense of over dramatized commercialism to show your love?
The lottery is what people turn to when they're old enough to know that Santa isn't going to be giving them a gift. People here say "Happy Christmas, Prosperous New Year" in the regular tone then very animatedly say "but good luck on the lottery!" and have a five minute conversation about their numbers and where they'll be. Tickets cost 20-23Euros depending where you buy them and people wait in line for up to four hours (in Madrid, Port de Sol) for their tickets, so says the Spanish news.

In other news, I'm at the only internet cafe in Almuñecar where I asked for a coffee with chocolate and they brought me this...
It's not a Spanish morning if there aren't a few heaps of sugar.
... needless to say it was a delicious-warm-coffee-chocolate-delight

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Immaculate Conception Day, Pasapalabra & Rum

This quote attributed to Winston Chrurchill was recently shared with me...
"Nowadays we have reduced the world to a twentieth of the size it was 100 years ago. People can rush about frantically through the air. They certainly do not see the beauties of the world, and it is surely their responsibility to show that they make it better. It is a delusion to think that being able to move rapidly about from place to place makes people happier or wiser. As for the advantages of travel, they may be greatly exaggerated. In order to know anything about a country you must walk through it. You must sleep on its soil, pluck its foliage with your fingers. You must light your fires by its fiords and streams, and watch the dawn break beyond strange mountains."
It fits beautifully with the way of life I experienced on the camino and the life I would like to strive for as I travel.

The past few weeks I have been relaxing here in the south of Spain. Spending a lot of time getting pushed around my Abuela's kitchen, having Spanish verbs corrected by cousins, and dipping my feet in the Mediterranean. This week has been especially busy, what with watching as the city workers tend to the palm trees, visiting a Medieval market set up near the beach, and observing two holidays! 'Constitution Day' a civic holiday that not everyone had off work and 'Immaculate Concepcion' day where the church bells rang and fireworks bursted.
Wednesday I dropped in on an acting class where I read the part of Dorthey Simple in the Tennesse Williams play, 'The case of the crushed petunias' it was a laugh and I learned a few Spanish acting warm-up games too! (I plan to go back every Wednesday I'm still in Almuñecar)
Also to help with my Spanish self-education I've been watching a game show called 'Pasapalabra' (pass the word) where two contestants compete against each other with two celebrities at their side answering word game related trivia questions to rack up time points. Then with those time points the contestants stand on their own and race the clock answering questions in an alphabetical order, saying Pasapalabra for the words they don't know and thus hopping over the letter of their alphabet circle. It's brilliant and I learn more words every episode. It's bliss when I actually understand the announcer (who speaks faster than an auctioneer) and can shout an answer at the tv.
To add to the busy week I've had a couple day trips. Yesterday I went to Malaga to visit family. Today I went to Motril, the city of the sugar cane. There I stopped at a museum and the Ron Montero where I tried their 'Superior Taste' Awarded rum with hot chocolate. It was velvety delicious and I can't believe as a cold Canadian I haven't always been spiking my hot chocolate!
Keep warm Toronto!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

"...this is not about guilt. It is about taking responsibility for the damage we have inflicted upon others."

As a Canadian I enjoyed reading the following article on the David Suzuki Foundation blog.

Canada a moral guide to no nation
By Dale Marshall

There is a family of birds found mostly in Africa called honeyguides that will deliberately lead humans to bee colonies. After its human followers have found the hives and harvested the honey, the honeyguide will feed on the wax and grubs left behind.
A few years ago, a colleague with vast experience in international development said that historically Canada's role in international negotiations was to be the world's honeyguide. Any nations unsure of what position to take on an important multilateral issue could look to Canada to lead them—inevitably—to the moral equivalent of the honey pot. Continue Reading...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Resting my feet in Almuñecar

It's been a full week since finishing the camino. It's hard to accept that there are no more yellow arrows to follow until I pick up and do another one.
November 13th was my birthday and even though I've had over a month of it, all I wanted to do was walk. I traveled 31km, walking from one beautiful Spanish seaside town to another beautiful Spanish seaside town. While walking to my left there were many moments of fields, tall trees and water, to my right there were fields, tall trees and mountains. It drizzled off and on but that's what ponchos are for. I saw a pasture with a white donkey and a black sheep. I had to take off my shoes and socks at one point to walk through knee high water. I collected shells on the beach. It felt like an adventure. I'm happy to say I walked all the way to 'the end of the world' and then some.
I did miss family and friends by the end of the day, so it was nice to come back to a fb wall full of messages, and emails. Who would have thought I could miss Toronto so much! I've really come to love that city and all the wonderful people in it. Its been weird to see a non-cosmopolitan culture and having every restaurant and bar have very similar menus. I've learned the many differences between a Big city, a small city, a small town and a hamlet. Upon reaching Madrid I was very eager to eat Indian and Thai food. Both were easy enough to find and delicious but I still missed my cosmopolitan big safe city, Toronto.
Its been great being able to relax with family in Madrid and Granada and to be putting my feet down for a little while in Almuñecar. I used to call Almuñecar a small town but after seeing how small towns can actually get I am realizing it's a small city. I've found a few health food stores and bring home things that make my grandmother think I'm crazy. Oatmeal and green tea for breakfast has replaced hot chocolate, white toast and cookies. Spinach pasta for dinner is just loco and that I eat it at 7pm and not 10, tonto.

I have three goals while in Spain, learn how to cook from my grandmother, read and write in Spanish, write. So far I'm standing over Abuela's shoulder while she cooks until she shoos me away and reading Harry Potter in Spanish; highlighting all the words I don't know and then making new sentences for those words.

I love being so close to the beach, and even if they fuss a lot I'm glad to be close to my grandmother and aunt. I feel like I'm taking advantage of a very special opportunity. This is the first time I have enough Spanish to really understand my Abuela and the first time I've seen her retired and willing to say more than refranes, sayings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

one wonders how you're able to afford it.

I got this message from a friend on facebook just now:
"This trip of yours is awfully expensive. one wonders how you're able to afford it. you're not drug dealing are you?"
Nope, I'm not a drug dealer :P thanks for the vote of confidence that I'd be able to pull off that job! Actually one week in Paris was almost the same as four weeks on the camino. Some people do the camino on a budget of 12€ a day. Then in Madrid and the South, Costa del Sol, I'll be with family. I lived with my dad for a few months before leaving Toronto and waited tables and saved as much as I could. There were some other factors too, an old boss owed me some $, my family sent me off with some generosity. The Camino is doable on any budget really. I kept a record of my spending for the first four weeks. My cheapest day was 12€, my most expensive day was 111€. The expensive day I bought thermal long johns, a thermal top and a 16gb memory card for my camera. I thought I would be able to upload photos along the way but that wasn't the case. Those three purchases will last for a while so its more of an investment for winter and future travel than just splurging on things. The least expensive week was 144€ and the most in a week was 253€ (the week of my most expensive day) I ate really well, I slept in a Pension when I needed, I didn't hold back on my needs and it was still rare to spend more than 25€ a day.
I met one woman on the Camino who is staying in a hotel every night and having her pack sent to each hotel, and not doing very many Km a day. Her trip is costing $4000AUS. Another guy did his trip on 12€ a day. A few pilgriams do their trips on the kindness of others for reasons such as to humble themselves, learn how to ask for help, and trust in the goodness and generosity of others.

I did a lot of research before my trip, and I mean years of browsing online of how to travel on a shoestring budget. Any time I would have the opportunity to buy something I would weigh the options, 'If I'm thinking of buying X where else could I put that money? How many plane tickets out of YYZ is that purchase?' I read sites like The Professional Hobo, Matador, Mixergy. Where I read about all different types of ways to live, to make money and to travel the world. The Four Hour Workweek is one of my favorite books. I have three copies that I lend out frequently. It changed my perspective on how people can live. It shows you the extremes, but also the possibilities that are available to you. Why spend your life waiting for what you want? Why not see if you can do that now? Every day on the camino was a day where I realized I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but right where I was. How often can one really say that? Travel doesn't have to break the bank, it depends on what you want from your travel experience. People all around the world are house sitting for eachother, working on organic farms, hooking up with a multitude of programs. I have a lot of resources on my computer that I'll have access to in a few days so please feel free to ask me any questions!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Will you walk with me to the ends of the earth?

"Will you walk with me to the ends of the Earth?" I asked my new Camino friend Jenn who graciously accepted.
So for the past three days I have been walking the extra part after Santiago to Finisterre (once know as the end of the world when it was considered flat) and it couldn't have been more fun. On the third day of walking you run into a fork in the road where you have to choose to go right to Muxia or left to Finisterre. After a day of joking with Jenn we left camino mail for our Aussi friends Mike and Tom.
"Go left! It will be all right. But if you don't it's not the end of the world!" 
We had spend the whole morning making "Its not the end of the world" jokes for everything that cropped up.  (We thought it was so funny we considered turning right to Muxia just so we could keep on laughing about it.)
Walking there gave me time to think about what we know now and what is going to change over the years. If there was a time when people were so certain that the world was ending at the spot I'm about to visit what else are we wrong about now? It was two back to back 30k days so there was a lot of time to think about things. Galicia is absolutely magical and I feel blessed to have seen this part of Spain. I think this extra part of the walk was more rewarding for me than to arrive in Santiago. The sight of the ocean really made me feel like I had walked a very long way. I was saying to Jenn 'with beauty like this you could accept that there wasn't anything more' and then we saw the ocean down below and freaked out. It was such a rewarding moment. I think the angels parted the clouds just for us to catch a glimpse and write in our journals and then closed up again so we'd quit dilly'dallying and make our way down the mountain.
Jenn, Tom and I reached some part of beach to watch the sunset and soak our feet and drink a hot chocolate but we still had 6k more to meet Alex at Finisterre to celebrate the end of it all. On that walk in the dark we got a dissaproving jest from a local, shaking his head at us saying 'you're late, its night time'. This made us look to the East and catch the tiniest glimpse of light peaking over the hill. We all stood in awe as a giant full moon quickly rose above the hillside. So to the Señor who shook his head at us I'd say thanks and I think we were just in time. It was the first time I've seen a moonrise and my moon-shadow and the rest of the night celebrating was really somthing else... Now for a day of rest! (Before my 20ishK walk to Muxia tomorrow!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh Santiago

Santiago was something else. It was odd to be in such a large city but even more odd to be seeing so many people I'd met along the way, continually passing them on the street. I splurged with 23€ for a private rooom in a hotel including a buffet breakfast. I realized I haven't had a room to myself in almost 2 months. It was nice to just sit in silence. The catheral was really more extravagant than I was expecting. The certificate of completion was less extravagant than I was expecting, but the mass where I heard say 'two Canadians who started in Pamplona' was pretty neat. Santiago was a place of planning for the next week which was pretty draining. I already missed following the yellow arrows and was so happy to be on the road again the next day. I'm sure there will be a few tears to shed when I have to get on a bus to go back to Santiago on the 14th and then on a train. I've really loved this journey with its many nuggets of learning.

Paolo Coelho recently described going in to Santiago and the journey, I really loved reading this article about the camino:

Tomorrow is 11.11.11 where I will burn paper in the fires of Finestere. Some people burn clothes but I wanted to write a list of all the things I was angry about to burn away. This is what I came up with instead...
To Burn at Finistere Fires 

"When you're being pushed towards anger, HAVE MERCY (for in Latin Mercy is 'Love for the miserable')"
My anger, like high waves of the sea has risen high for many people...
but really
-When I act like a five year old having a tantrum

-When I lean to situations I really don't like for the illusion of pleasing another

-When I listen to others negativity without mercy but with judgement that their pain is less than mine

It is not with these people that I am angry but how I´ve acted towards them in these ways that my anger rises to burn me. I now wish to burn away these reactions that cause my hurtful anger.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Five weeks

Well today happens to be the last day of week five and it is with a big sigh that I write this post. Tomorrow or the day after is the day of arriving in Santiago and the end of this great Camino. I still plan on walking onwards to Finisterre but the end is here.
This past week has been lush and green. Muddy trails through great enchanting forests of trees covered compleatly in ivy and moss with ferns and some eucalyptus. There have been many animals. Fields of cows worthy of milk or chocolate commercials, lambs, hens. I fed an apple to a horse today.
The forest trial opened up to a road where a stand of coffee, fruit and sweet bread lay waiting. Each with prices posted and a box to put money in for whatever you've taken. The honor system in full effect. I took photos of a river with a bridge made of giant stepping stones and there was a nice great mist in the distance and a clear blue sky above us. I love all of my pictures and can't wait to post them.
Today I spent a lot of time thinking about all the people I've met on the Camino and where they might be. One amazing woman I met who is 70 (and traveled the world over once her kids had grown and she'd passed 50) gave me a great recommendation of drinking a little bit of Cognac to get warm on colder camino nights. Cognac here is about 1€ for two shots worth and it does a great job of warming the bones after a day in the rain.
It's been such a life shift to wake up every morning and walk somewhere new. My pace of life is so relaxed and each day I've been able to see beautiful sights. It's a comforting thought to know that no matter what, the camino will be here and if I really wanted I could come back and open an Albergue or volunteer. I think I would recommend the camino to anyone who wants to slow down their pace of life and who likes walking. It has been a great way to get in touch with the North part of Spain and really get a feel for the different regions. It's been a surprise to have so many new great friends and nice to feel so strong that the idea of walking 20k feels like no big deal.
20ish K left to Santiago!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rain Day Sun Day

Wednesday was our first RAIN DAY. A full day of walking in the rain in a stylin poncho singing "singing in the rain" and sometimes shouting "I'm melting" like the wicked witch. Then Thursday was an overcast day, cold, damp with bits of rain all day. So when we woke up Friday to a clear blue sky and warmth in the air we were quick to shed our layers and walk comfortably in t-shirts. The day was absolutely beautiful. We spent 3/4 of the day walking up a mountain with mountains and rolling hills on either side of us. Every corner we seemed to meet an even more beautiful view. "When you turn a corner you really don't know what you're going to find" Alex remarked just after we encountered a medievil bar with pumpkin soup and cheese cake. Not having a sandwich/bocadillo on the menu is always a pleasant surprise. Then we came across a great mountain of rocks that was comprised of all the small rocks pilgirams have carried from home. It was such an amazing monument to see. All these rocks from all over the world with words and prayers and quotes all piled onto eachother. Alex and I did not bring rocks from Canada but I'm kind of glad I didn't have to carry yet another thing in my pack. The next corner brought us to a hippie hut. It had signs to so many places and the distances. Manchu pichu, Mexico, Santiago is only 222km away! We just stopped in for a look as everything was by donation but we weren't keen on sleeping in a house with 12 dogs and 6 cats and the day was still too nice to dare and stop. Moments after seeing some cows and being a few meters away and continuing our climb uphill we kept hearing long moo sounds. So we finally turn back and see about 30 cows running from all over a giant pasture to near the farm house where the farmer is laying out fresh food  that looked like hay, it was quite a sight to see. After many breathtaking views we finally start to make a slow descent down the mountain never more keen on finding a kitchen as we've been carrying food to cook for well over 40km. (Alex and I have started using km as a reference, as in: "that was so 15k ago") We stop at the opening of the town in a great little tienda/store and get fresh garlic, onions, tomatos, and vino/wine for our gluten-free pasta and tofu that we've been lugging. Only to find that the hospitilara of the only albergue that has a kitchen has closed the albergue because she's sick!!! We knew that there was another option 4k away so we pick our favorite songs and continue to sing down the mountain. We got to Riego de Ambros in record time and were really taken with the beauty and charm of this little town. Finding this Albergue also closed we went to a Pension where it was 17€ each and we had the whole house to ourselves, an amazing kitchen, and a dining room in which to watch the sunset over the mountains. Our meal was excellent. We had baths and slept in real beds with sheet and heating and windows facing a great view of mountains and the city lights of Ponferrada in the distance.


I can hardly believe that it has been ten days since my last post. I feel like so much has happened. Burgos was beautiful and since then I have come across many quaint towns with great meals and nice people. It seems everywhere we go we recognize someone. My Spanish has been a great help in finding little jems along the road. Just today I asked the store clerk if she had any dark leafy greens and was directed to Dora's house, the one up the street with the garden. After going up the street and finding a great garden but no Dora I asked a passer-by if Dora did live there. He said yes, and proceeded to shout to a woman up the street. We were then taken to the back of her house where she pulled a knife out of nowhere to cut us some fresh vegetables which I'm about to eat.

Other highlihts include...

A day alone. I took a different route than Alex and ended up walking about 20km out in the middle of nowhere and for the whole day saw a total of two people, three if you include a guy in a tractor far away. It was a great day and I watched the sunset over the land and the stars come up in the sky. When I wasn't quite sure if I was on the path I turned on my book light and found an arrow made of shoes and rocks.

Albergue Jesus. It was cold at night but the walls in this Albergue were covered in art and quotes from other pilgriams. My favorite quote was something like 'When you start it is the right time. When it's over it's over. Who you meet is exactly who you are ment to meet and whatever happens was the only thing that could have happened' My camera is being finicky so I have to paraphrase.

Bikes! At one Albergue we got to use bikes and it was really fun to ride around town if only for a little while. We stopped in a shop that 100 years ago used to be a sewing shop and still has all the original drawers and wood work.

Chocolate Museum in Astorga got us a chocolate taste test for 2€. One day we were ushered into a shop and given wine and cheese just because we were pilgriams. Today a shop keeper gave us shells that smell really pretty and very tastey tapas.

We walked on the bridge in Hospital de Orbigo that faces a feild where jousting tournaments took place and each alcove of the bridge is a different size. It was drizzling and an old woman crossing wished us luck by saying 'You picked a good day, there is only rain and snow and cold ahead... good luck'

We stop a lot for coffee and chats and have met a lot of great pilgriams. One woman is in her 80's doing 4-10km a day. She was a joy to meet! Lots of animals and of course I greet all of them, Alex is surprised I haven't got fleas yet. I finally got a teeny tiny blister so I feel like a real pilgriam now, one of my socks has a hole that i've been avoiding darning but the whole two pairs of socks has worked wonders for zero blisters.

I watched a Rugby game in Leon! The All Blacks vs France. I dare say I'll be supporting the Canada Rugby team now that I know they exist and what a fun sport rugby is. That was the day after my massive long alone day walk so a few of us jumped in a taxi the 13km to make it in time for the game. We had two rest days in a row and stayed at a nunnery in Leon. I stumbled into two very random art galleries. It was nice to walk around town and not have to carry a heavy pack. Also played Spainsh scrabble with Alex at a fun coffee shop where we just threw aside the crazy tiles of LL, RR, Ñ etc.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Feeling free in Burgos

The majority of yesterday and today was spent in Burgos exploring the Cathedral, the museum of human evolution and the camping store (MEC meets COSTCO kinda place). Great destinations if you happen to be headed to Burgos.
It's been a little more difficult to access internet lately but honestly I don't really miss it. Yesterday I had a moment of walking around Burgos with no real adgenda and so many days to spare I felt quite free.

The day before yesterday was a day of solo walking through an enchanting forest then a steep uphill over very rugged terrain and meeting up at a wonderful alburgue where I spent most of the evening traslating between the Spanish and English. It happens to be my newfound job which I accept with enthusiasm. It was the nicest Albergue we have stayed in with the best dinner we've shared. There, we met two Australians who we've been pleased to walk with. Alex's map had a special detour to the city of Burgos which we've gladly shared with many other pilgriams. Apparently the walk to Burgos through industrial sprawl is the worst stretch of the whole Camino. We got to walk through a nice forested park along a popular river. I put my feet in the water and caught a mini lobster (photo proof to come). It was a great walk and a great time around Burgos.

I'm pretty tired now so that's all for today! A week of flat terrain to come!

Most exciting news: I have given myself the award of super-fast-backpack-packer along with smallest pack. I was really happy when I figured out how to fold my sleeping bag so it could fit into my pack.
Note* this is not to be confused with lightest pack, we have come to realize size does not mean weight!

Monday, October 10, 2011

How 25km became 16km...

We only made 16km today but as they say:
"You never know what you'll encounter
on the camino"
Today the temperature went past 30degrees and it was a completely cloudless sky. We encountered Milu agian today and upon mentioning a hurt toe her owner became El Doctor. Being an avid hiker he has come across many a foot injury and before we knew it Alex was whispering to me "I never thought a Spanish man would be massaging my foot in a park"

"You never know what you'll encounter
on the camino"

I was a translating expert by the end of it all and we left Milu and El Doctor (we don't actually know his name, I figured out Milu by her tag. Names aren't often exchanged on the camino, guess we're all just Pilgrims) to finish drying his clothes in the park. (Alex stubbed her toe in Paris and the walk has caused some painful inflamation but we we're assured it's normal and with tylonol and proper bandages will heal nicely)

I stopped at the Correos/PostOffice today to send my extra sleeping pad to Almuñecar along with my cribbage board. Lost almost 1 kilo! Then ate some good food in a park in Nejera. Leaving Nejera was Beautiful. We walked beside red mountain sides. There was a big group of butterflies of all colours. Then we past the butterflies and came across annoying flies and came up with the "What am I?!? A..." go back and forth listing all things flies swarm around... 1km of enjoyment and laughs. (I'm sure you can think of a few) Then we got distracted by some animal sounds. At first we couldn´t tell if they were sheep or cows or a person but deduced that it was indeed a barn. We walked up close to it and as we slowly slinked away. The large door rolled open slowly and loudly...

"You never know what you'll encounter
on the camino"

A dog and 250 sheep poured out along with a sheep herder. So after a few snaps of our camera and gawking as the inexperienced herder tried to gather his flock we quickly became sheep heardresses. For just under a kilometer I chatted with the newbie herder as we marched with his flock. They were headed to a nearby farm to eat potaoes. We were very happy with the divine timing and were pretty much beside ourselves. A lady passed us a bit later...
Lady "So, you´re not hearding sheep anymore?"
Me "No, but that was such amazing timing!!"
Lady"Well it was crap timing on my part. I had to walk and try to dodge all their sh*t"
 I could not stop laughing as she walked on past, poor lady...

The camino really is different for everyone.

Other animals we have seeon on the road:
-Giant black slugs, some with a red underbelly
-Horses and their babies (one white horse came out of nowhere and majestically came to greet us)
-Goats, kids
-Sheep (obviously)
-Cats, kittens
-Barbarians (those really loud obnoxious people who ruin my morning)
-Birds (Sparrows, Vultures, Swans, Ducks)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

DAY 7 - 125 km

I am currently in the only bar in Ventosa. It is lime green, with wood paneling, brightly lit, with five groups of four ranging from age 50-80 all giving looks to me and Alex as we use free internet on ancient computers. I´m surprised I can even type this out...

Today is Day 7 and that marks one week on the Camino.
The camino has so far been many different colours and sizes taking us over all different types of landscapes. There has been white roads, orangy red, black, grey and purple. (Yesterday was purple rocks, loved it!) Dirt trails through bits of forest and short stretches on actual road. Sometimes the path is wide enough for one car and sometimes it´s so narrow only one can pass at a time. We follow yellow arrows and shells in yellow on blue. The arrows can be stickers, spray paint or a collection of rocks pointing the way. We wake up each morning and have faith that we´ll be shown the way. The arrows can be smaller than my hand or as long as my leg. The arrows and shells can be up high, down low, painted on the side of a rock, meshed into a fence, in the stone on the ground, all types. Each province has it´s own version of the shell and guiding signs. For a laugh we usually shout out "please, I need a sign!!" and then we find one a minute later. (hehehe) What really keeps us on our toes are the albergues and bars that want you to stop at them instead of following the path and they paint yellow arrows to direct you towards them.
We´ve walked under forest cover, near brooks and streams. There have been dirt trails with gravel and rocks leading up giant hill/mountain sides with big drops bellow. We have walked by viniards and eaten the best grapes I´ve ever tasted.
Sometimes we walk with others, and always notice their packs before their gender or nationality. The common questions "What do you do?" "Where did you go to school?" and "What´s your name?"  have been replaced by:
"Where are you going?" (we´re going to Finistere)
"Where are you walking tonight?" (How many k and what town)
"Where did you start?" (Some people do the walk in chuncks over many years)

We have met many people, a bonus of having a longer time to complete and a slower pace than most.

Sometimes there are stretches where no one is around as far as the eye can see and we shout realy loudly and let our voices become food for the wind. It has been so hot and sunny and so cool and windy. And this is just the first week.

Almost forgot to mention the food!!!! Alex and I eat sooooo well. We have a great big breakfast then a bunch of snacks then a great lunch, snacks and dinner. Sometimes second dinner... Today we sat on some castle ruins to eat our spinach, chickpea, vegetable salad with envious eyes from other pilgriams. We´ve found a lot of gluten free options that we carry with us from big cities and I have been eating a lot of eggs and tuna. One night there was no kitchen available or store...

The conversation went like this:
Sam "I don´t know if I can do this"
Alex "Well do what feels right..."
Sam "Does chicken usually have veins in it"
Alex "Well, it´s not a perfectly shaped breast, yup there's a bone..."
Sam slowly takes first bite
Sam "Wow, this is so good!"

The restaurant menu was pork, chicken or beef so yes everyone... I ate chicken. It was grown in the owners friends´ backyard, so a ´happy hen´. We also got some pears from his backyard.I´ve been gearing myself up for this for a few months but no, this does not mean I´m going full on meat eater.

Tomorrow marks our first day of 25k!!

Write comments so I know I have more than 5 readers!! Please :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011


So this morning we woke up in Lorca. We made our goal of leaving the Albergue before first light. Seeing the stars and not having an intense heat on us was great. We realized though that without light we had no idea if we were on the right path. At a crossroad with no arrows visible through the darkness we just unrolled a tarp and had breakfast as we watched the sun rise over some Spanish hills. It was a beautiful way to start the day. When the sun was up high enough to see we walked back and found where we had missed a little tiny trail branching off the main one.
Later on in the day we passed a once in a lifetime spot, a free wine fountain. There´s a Spanish rhyme telling you to fill your cup and enjoy but filling up your bottle you´ll have to pay. The fountain has two taps, one for water, one for wine. Another pilgriam group happened to have two extra cups to share with us. So we filled up and made the rest of our day a little slower.

Last night´s stay at Jose Ramon´s Albergue in Lorca was our favorite so far. We had a private room with a balcony and a great sleep. He was so helpful with everything. In Lorca there were three places to choose from. As we passed by the first with a line full of people we already find annoying we found Milu!! Milu is a Shnauszer we´ve come to love. We really didn´t think we´d see her again but there she was! She´s been a great treat to see everyday. Milu was going on to the next town but we were done walking with 17k under our belts. The sign advertising the Albergue said free internet, laundry and smiles, keep your humour handy! So that´s what made the decision for us.

Our dinner yesterday was so great. We went to the local supermarket and being tired were pretty appauled that they didn´t sell vegetables but we realized on our walk back that everyone has their own personal vegetable garden. So the owners gave us a perplexed look when we asked. We did get from the shop, local (4km away) sheep cheese, eggs and wine. They ran to the back and gave us garlic from their own kitchen. We also picked up some tomatoe sauce and mushrooms that we added to the gluten free pasta made out of corn that Alex has been carrying since Pamplona. (when you cary everything on your back, even pasta matters)

no time to edit!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pamplona Albergue

A man with a flashlight at his chin lighting his face came over to our beds and said "Feliz Cumpliaños, Feliz Cupliaños, Feliz Cumpliaños" to wake up his friend in the bottom bunk. Poor Alex did not realize that ment ´Happy Birthday´ He did not seem to care that it was still shy of 6am. (I don´t think I´ve ever really heard her swear so much) Ear plugs were my saviour for a great nights sleep but they could not keep out that kind of wake up call. Alex saw them later, maybe 6:15am, dancing around and realized they were the crazy perky morning people. My sleeping bag was a great investment, I was toasty warm.

We got to Pamplona about 5pm yesterday to a very nice albergue. It´s huge, fits about 100 people. It´s nice and clean with internet and free laundry. Alex and I stumbled upon the kitchen area early and nievily thought we were the only ones who cared about it. After a great dinner alone up there we came back a few hours later for tea and were assalted by a diverse mix of cultures preparing dinners. There was an asian group at the back doing their thing, communal sharing of greens and meat. The Spanish table ready with tablecoth, wine, water in a coca cola bottle, bread basket. They didn´t find those things in the kitchen so they have to be carrying that on their backs. Then two girls about our age who looked as though this is the first meal they had to prepare on their own. We did not get a relaxing tea but found ourselves huddled in a corner sharing a spoon as different noisy people ran back and forth. 

Our Pilgrims credential passport will say we started in Pamplona but we actually started before Huarta. We initially wanted to start at St. Jean Pied de port but when I found out my cousin Maribel lived right on the camino just a few km outside of Roncesvalles we jumped on the chance to start up there. Since we are going to Finistere (the once end of the world) we will be doing over 800km even with starting a bit later on the trail.

Being at Maribel & Jose´s house was such a great way to start the trail, Jose actually grew up near Santiago and was able to share so many neat facts and beliefs about it. He said that once we finish the camino and walk under the cathedral and do our confession and take the bread, then we basically get a pass direct to heaven. Not having had my communion I´m technically not allowed to take the bread so, no pass to heaven even with all the walking... shucks.

Maribel made us a great dinner after taking us for a walk around San Sebastian (it was like summer and I got to wet my feet in the Atlantic). Then Oct 3rd Jose helped with mailing our luggage to Alumñecar. The whole 20kilos of mostly mine and some of alex´s stuff only cost us 13,90€ and my computer was less than 30€ on priority post. After dealing with Canada post I figured I was in for $100 expense.
Jose also helped with the final push out of the car, we were both eager to start the walk and only got slightly lost twice so far. Blister-free and gearing up for day two.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

On the train

So, as it turns out Paris is not so conducive to sleeping. Since I've gotten here my longest sleep has maybe been 6hrs. I'm currently over tired and on a train to Spain with Alex by my side eating 'happiness seeds' from 'Smile-inducing British snacks'
We had a great time in Paris although sadly Nuit Blanch Paris was an epic fail. The teeny tiny streets were just packed solid of people. I guess that's what happens when every hotel in Paris is booked full. (A fun fact we found out by booking the last somewhat reasonably priced room just the night before.)

Apparently it is common in french to say 'nuit blanche' meaning sleepless night

Which I feel confident to say today as Alex and I stayed up till the wee hours packing our Camino packs. WOW! I think ignorance was playing a major part in making this journey happen. Looking at the 20km broken down each day and the severity of leaving everything behind for 40days save the pack we carry on our back seems a little daunting.

- cell phone
- laptop/daily internet
- make-up
- anything more than 2/3 changes of clothes
- regular shampoo (we have an all-in-one soap for handwash, hair and the rest)
- pillow
- movies, tv, music
- social engagements
- planning
- loved ones
- distractions from ourselves
- favorite foods
- smoothies, supplements etc.
- and probably things we didn't even realize

Looking at what you are about to pack and having someone ask to make sure you need everything you're taking makes you see your insecurities and your comforts.

I'm getting a bit of tightness in my chest realizing that the journey starts tomorrow after a good nights rest tonight. We hope we like it but we acknowledge its going to be hard.

Some of the things that are not essential that I'm bringing are:
- voice recorder
- pencil crayons (mini set)
- cribbage board
- kobo book reader

I'm happy with the size of my pack but its still heavy Alex and I both weigh in at 10kilos

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

oh lala Paris

It's been amazing weather in Paris, it's better than summer with clear skies and a consistent 25-26 C

After a day of walking around and having coffee I went back to my hostel for a siesta and got invited by new roommates, Steph and Micaela to a place nearby: the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. It's truly a great view. There, you are able to see all of Paris. On the way up we saw a 'Next Top Model' van for (maybe?) Russia with a nearby photo shoot being done on the carousel. On our way back down when all was clear we took some 'model' photo's of our own.

Later that night I took the gals to a bar that was recommended to me, marlusse et lapin, at montmartre. Steph pointed out that it was in the 18th district, the exact district you're not supposed to go to as it's 'red light' but all the reviews were good and it was four of us together. (Daniela who is now in Barcelona joined us after a hostel meal of instant dinner)
It was a Super Bock time! 
With 3euro beers and a free shot, vintage sewing machine on a table, bed turned into a bench by middle partition. We had a good laugh at the sexy shops on our way back to hostel-home.

Yesterday I read a french paper with my coffee and took a wrong/right turn onto Glamour avenue where all the amazing fancy shops are. I've decided you can tell what kind of area you are in by looking at the price of shoes. Here there was an average of 5,000e for shoes and 15,000e for a purse. I didn't go inside as it was such a nice day just to window shop and really I am very accident prone and have a fear of breaking something if I try it on for fun. I wrote down shops to fill my pinterest with later and did stop into HermesA highlight of my day was being followed into a sandwich shop by a fashion student who asked how I did my hair, who then pointed me to the Colette a very cool design shop where all up-and-comers want to have displays. (For you Torontonians it's like Holts meets Urban Outfitters on Queen)
It's Fashion week in Paris and you have to be invited... so if anyone has an invite just laying around I'd be happy to take it off your hands.

Later we took Daniela up on her recommendation of wine in front of the Eiffel Tower which was a check mark on the Must do in Paris experiences. Before I blinked there was a group of twelve of us from all over the world watching the light show, enjoying good 3euro wine.

Well after midnight some of us sought after hours food and I'm happy to report theres a falafel shop just five minutes from the hostel that I sniffed out. (Complete with an after-hours bar a few doors south)

a bientot xox

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Paris Finalement

So I'm in Paris I'm just kind of shaking my head a lil and laughing.

Here's my day so far:

As I was on the metro (from Charlles du Galle to Gare du nord) a young, brown french man came into the metro car with an orange box that turned out to be a big speaker complete with a wireless mic. He sang some very popular Spanish songs that I recognize. (It took me a while to realize he was singing Spanish though, so try to imagine the accent...) With a pre-recorded track, almost a mixed karaoke back-up. It was so bad it was good. I kind of wish he had a cd. Very movie moment of a soundtrack as I watched Paris through my window.

Made it to the hostel all good and well. Staying at Le Regent Hostle Montmarte. I changed into my dress because the weather is amazing today. What do I find outside once I'm changed and all ready to go? THE FLEA MARKET! Directly in front of the hostel!
I came to Paris on a Sunday years back, with the intention of meeting up with Micheline and going to the flea market. There's something about them I just love and find charming. It didn't end up working out last time though, even though I planned and planned it just didn't work out that day. This I didn't even plan and its exactly what I would have asked for.

Best find: Black lace badminton rackets

Just took a break from the market for lunch and I happily stumbled upon a cheap sandwich and coffee shop with free wi-fi.

so far so good!

Ps. Flight was smooth sailing in the sky. I commandeered a window seat that was three free seats in a row. I had a pillow and sleeping mask courtesy of Kate and Jus (thanks!). Plus I already saw the movie 'Water for Elephants' with Derek a few months back. No distractions, slept well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"If you love the Toronto Public Library, you need to come to her defense right now!"

I just signed this petition and hope all my friends will do the same.

Having libraries around while I was growing up kept me out of trouble. It was a safe place where I could do my homework, read, and go on the internet when I wasn't able to do so at home. If it wasn't for access to the public libraries of our city, I don't know if I would have made it through high school. I spent most of my spare time in the library during my adolescence. I always find comfort and knowledge in them.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Flight Comics Vol 5

Last night I finished Flight Comics Volume Five
(click the link for a great preview)
These were a great introduction to graphic novels and I gobbled up 5 volumes right away. It also helps that most of them involve some kind of flight and I love planes and flying. I've definitely opened up to 'the graphic novel' as a genre through this collection of works. They were such cute comics, with great illustrations with such variety from story to story. The link is a great preview of everything they have to offer. I think these make a wonderful gift.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Women of HOPE

I absolutely love this powerful song.
I saw Morely a few years ago at the 'Global Health and Innovation Conference' hosted by Unite for Sight an amazing organization. There are volunteers that work in places like Ghana, Hunduras, and India with local eye doctors to gain support from the community and to help as many people as effectively as they can.
Something I never thought about before I came across Unite for Sight is the effect blindness has on a community. I did not know that there are simple eye infections caused by poor sanitation that are easily curable but go untreated and cause blindness worldwide. In a situation where one family member becomes blind, another now has to dedicate their life to the care of that person. So because of a simple problem that could have been easily cured two people are now unable to help with the growth of the community.
This whole venture was started by the amazing and inspiring Jennifer Staple. For me she's a celebrity, I got to shake her hand and say hello at the conference!

I also got to shake the hand of the beautifully spirited Morely, who was inspired to write this song by the words of Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Aung San Suu Kyi, living under house arrest, for her peaceful protest. When her people asked her for a message she said 'If you're feeling helpless, help someone'. "

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I 'heart' Dan Mangan

"Sold" was my first favourite of his songs

His website is amazing and you can listen to whole albums

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Emerging DreamHealer


This book was given to me by a very Spiritual and serendipitous person, Shane. It's been on my shelf, teasing me for when I had a bit more time.

I liked it.

What I liked most was the conviction in which it was written. This is completely Adam's life and work. He uses visualizations to help facilitate healing for people.

The visualization that is sticking with me the most is about imagining yourself on top of the whole earth. Take deep breaths into the base of your stomach and let roots grow out of your feet. With each breath the roots multiply and cover the whole earth and you fill yourself with energy.

He speaks so simply about visualization I know I'll be borrowing his words and examples. It's only 170pages and has some great picture pages so you really understand what Adam is talking about. If you've every thought you couldn't visualize or don't have a visual memory skip to chapter 7. (or if you just want to improve your visual memory)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Excerpt from Anna Karenina

"Himmlisch ist's, wenn ich bezwungen
Meine irdishe Begier;
Aber doch wenn's nicht gelungen,
Hatt'ich auch recht hubsch Plaisir!"

Heavenly it would be to conquer
My earthly lusts;
But though I've not succeeded,
I still have lots of pleasure'
-Stanza from the libretto of Die Fledermaus

I recently purchased Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky. Penguin Classics donates 50% of profits to Global Fund to help eliminate AIDS in Africa.