What has been most challenging before the road begins?
Today is day 4. It has been raining all day. What has been most challenging today is traveling the local bus and train systems in Southwest France where I speak very little French. Je ne parle pas francais. I did face one of my fears today. I did not get off at the proper train stop in a foreign country where I did not know the native language. Ooops. It really wasn’t that bad. I had to pull the little French I do know to communicate with the train station to get another ticket to turn us back around on our way to St Jean Pied de Port. I will learn to be more fluent in French before I come back. I was so focused on learning Spanish and the other aspects of preparation I forgot about my French. I believe learning the language of the country you are visiting shows respect.
France has been quite a delight for me. I love the architecture, the countryside and the relaxed pace of life. You know they never collected our train or bus tickets. When was the last time that happened in America?
The other thing I have found challenging so far, is not being able to purchase the amazing local art and food due to my journey ahead. We have found amazing olive oils, jams, herbs and spices and some amazing cookware. A good excuse to come back.
What has been heart-warming?
Kali, my 21 year old daughter has blessed me by joining me for the first few days on the Camino. She loves traveling and hiking.We have enjoyed ourselves since we met in Madrid early Thursday morning. Madrid was a long day for both of us but we stayed on the town til midnight exploring the town. We started with a walking tour which I highly recommend to learn the history of Madrid. The highlight of Madrid was a food and history Tour with Devour. Margit was our tour guide from America who was the ultimate foodie and Spanish history wizard. What I really enjoyed about her tour was her ability to convey Spanish habits and tapas. She was very conscious of our vegetarian food preference and had fantastic food at each of our stops along the tour. We had some of the most delicious Spanish food ever. More about tapas later.
The next day we flew to Biarritz in the Southwest of France. The California of France. I fell in love instantly. A wonderful, seaside town with beautiful views, surfers and great local bakeries and shops. The people were once again very friendly. It would of been even better experience if I knew my French. It was the day we relaxed before our travels to St. Jean and the Camino.
The Decision that has to be made?
We have been advised by the Pilgrim office in Saint-Jean Pied-de Port not to take the main route up the mountain due to poor weather. There are two options at Stage 1; the first is Ports de Cize and the second is Valcarlos. Ports de Cize is a walk up the mountain with an ascent of 4478 ft and a descent of 1946 ft and the total distance is 19 miles. The walk is to be filled with beautiful landscape, herding animals and the most majestic birds. The second option is to walk around the mountain which we would be traveling along side of main roads and it would be a bit less elevation gain. I am praying the weather shifts and we have the blessing of the Pilgrim officials. I want to choose option 1 but I also am with my daughter Kali who I want to keep safe so I may go with the flow. Let’s see what the Camino will give us Sunday morning. Happy Mothers Day to all mothers everywhere.