Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tomorrow I leave for Halifax

I'm leaving this Monday on the adventure of a lifetime, where I'll be walking the Camino Francés. A 5-week solo trek backpacking in southern France and in northern Spain. I've been to Spain once before during our honeymoon in 1986. Back then we visited the south of Spain, Gibraltar and Portugal over a 2-week period. This is my first posting on this new blog, so that family, friends and anyone planning to walk the Camino in the future can get a glimpse from my own perspective.

Not wanting to spend my life savings on this one trip, it's important to plan ahead, find great deals and spend wisely. Since I had enough Airmiles for my flight, I only had to pay taxes, extras and fuel surcharges. The best deal I could find was with NWA / KLM, departing from Halifax. But in order to get to my final destination I will have my passport stamped three times. It will feel like a leg on The Amazing Race just getting there. Departing from the Halifax International Airport on Monday May 25, with connecting flights in Detroit and Amsterdam before reaching Toulouse, France.

Hopefully I'll be able to catch some Zzz crossing the Atlantic. With a late morning arrival on May 26, I am planning to do a bit of sightseeing of Toulouse (France's 4th largest metropolitan city). I've reserved a hotel room near la Gare Matabiau (train station). On May 27, a five hour + train ride should bring me to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port. France has a notoriety for strikes and public demonstrations. This morning I received an e-travel Alert to advise me that Rail nationwide across France is planning a strike on May 25-26. I am crossing my fingers that service will resume on the 27th. Since my train ticket was purchased ahead of time on-line and delivered at my doorstep, I might be in luck. I also have a reservation for one night in a hostel for pilgrims in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, so this is where it starts to get tricky. Everything has to fall into place in order to stay on course and on schedule. With all of this said, I marvel that I was able to plan everything myself by surfing on the Internet, reserving rooms and flights ahead of time, and the new Google Street is amazing.

On May 27, it's from here that I will become a pilgrim and embark on The Camino Francés, a 800 km walking trek across the Pyrenees into Spain, then westbound to Santigo de Compostella. The Camino or The Way of St. James has existed for more than 1000 years, but has become more popular in recent years following the released of the books, The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho and The Camino by Shirley MacClaine.

I first heard of it about 10 years ago when my wife Suzanne mentioned that it was something that she would love to do. Since then, her dream has also became mine. Since we have a 14 year old son at home, I will be walking the Camino first. My wife and a best friend of hers will be departing in mid-September on the same route. It will become a journey of enlightenment, of will and courage, adventure, sight-seeing, discovery, introspection, contemplation, going back to the basics, meditation and prayer, revelation, without forgetting the physical what more can you ask for. In a nut-shell, a spiritual journey. I will be walking roughly 27-30 km /day over 29 days. Once in Santiago de Compostella, I will celebrate with other Pilgrims, then board a plane to Madrid for a 3 night stay to visit the city and it's prestigious art museums.

I've been taking some Spanish lessons.... at least I have the correct pronunciation, and with my French and my pocket electronic translator, I'm hoping it's enough to get by. I am not sure how often I will have access to the Internet for updates, and I don't want this blog to become a crutch and a burden either, but I will do my best. After my return and once my solo art show is up in October, I'll fill in the blanks with journal entries, do some editing and add more photos.

Hasta Luego!