the real Camino

Looking for something else completely, a tiny red notebook fell out of a pile of papers. I opened it and discovered my Camino journal, from July 2012. It was only a few pages long — but I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading it. So I decided to “re-blog” it here, with a typed out, deciphered edition.

Monday 16 July —> Really First Day.

The night in Pamp(lona) was awful, 7-yr-old epileptic above me kept me awake till I moved to bench at 4am. Then got up at 7:20 (a grand ~2 hours of sleep) and walked 5km to the supermarket & back. Bus uneventful. Arrive RV (Roncesvalles) & decided to jump straight into walking as it was already 11am – 7.5h of walking to get to SJPP (St Jean Pied-de-Port). But got lost following an unmarked trail… +3km. Then decided to go back, get my sellio (stamp) at RV, try again. 2 more false starts (+1km!) then finally on my way. I had no idea how hideously steep the RV-Lepoeder section was – over 500m from 950m to 1450m, then back down to 850m at Orisson refuge where I am now – today’s kms:

5km + 7.75 + 8.09 + 4.87 + 1.09 = 26km

1:30 + 2:05 + 1:52 + 1:06 + 15min = 6:45h

I was so upset at the beginning about getting lost & adding an hour &4km to my already “tight” schedule. There may have been a couple of tears shed. But then I got my groove on and powered up that BITCH of a hill, as Camino’s slipped and slid down past me. one guy even called out “Bon Courage! C’est haut!” but fortunately I didn’t know just how high and steep it would be… Then once at the top, it was easy, had a light lunch (totes worth the 5km walk this AM, right?) and kept walking and walking… then just as the pain was getting too much to bear, around 25km, I found this refuge. No reservations no problem. So far only other people are 2 koreans, a lovely girl who has been so nice to talk to despite my predicition that I would speak to no-one. And 3 stamps today!

Tuesday 17 July

I slept a blissful 10+ hours — 9pm, out like a happy light. Must have been lots of people around but I snoozed blissfully. Woke up at 8 and didn’t start till 9am. Joyful happy jaunt to SJPP, paused for Orange/Carrefour/Sportshop/food then off again. Best feelings of being in countryside in July! Just like the Creuse when I was a kid on summer holidays. Wicked sunburn despite sunscreen and “tent” – love my Oxfam super-scarf so much! Need to apply screen every hour at least, twice in a 6-hour midday walk is pure stupidity really! Am in an “Expensive” 33 Euro hotel as no gîtes locally and my feet are very blistered. Everyone is nice. I’m so happy and tired and happy!

7.33 + 12.8 + 6.8 = 26.9km

01:45 + 2:46 + 1:38 = 6.09 h

It’s taken hours to work out the next two days of travel due to 2 different variations (4 possible routes). But I have decided to stick to my pace of 26km/day, if my legs hold out. Eating “Type A” has been ok (and economical too, helping me avoid temptation!) thus far. Supermarkets provide my staples: apples, carrots, babybel, crisps, “salades” (carrottes rapees, nicoise…), cereal bars, and a big tube of mayonnaise + any lingering veg/fruit I can find. Not sure how I am managing goodwise really, as 6h walk burns 1300 kcal (my normal daily intake!) and I’m not eating much more. Oh yes! Nuts and raisins help. Must get more tomorrow! Blister status: 1 on each little toe and 1 on the front sole of each foot. Yay. Also: Love my water bladder. I get my 2L/day easily. Thanks James.

view from my window = inspiration for his video game! [James used to play an iphone game where he would glide over rolling hills…]+ 3 stamps 🙂

Wed 18 July. The tough day…

Oh well it wasn’t ALL tough. But definitely the toughest. Started at 8:40, and had to stop a couple of times to deal with the blisters on my blisters, but covered 11km by 12pm (not great but not AWFUL). Then at Stele of Gibraltar met a lovely couple and ate lunch with them, felt really positive — I’d not taken the shortcut at Larribar and was rewarded by the view and their company. They told me to take the shortcut from Olaïby to Arone as the “LR” (long route) was wicked. Sadly I got lost due to lack of signage, and then ended up taking the long way. Tried to do a short cut, met scary dogs… no phone… had several crying huffy panicky moments – blisters were agony but had to pull my shit together and just fucking WALK. So I did for hours… got to the gîte just in time, last bed, and also cos I shamelessly hitch-hiked the last km, in time for food-shopping. Yay! The lady at the gîte was SO lovely and I gave her my Taiwanese coin, she seemed really pleased with it (best 1NT I ever spent!). Talked to some nice (if very french) people. Not sure how I want to play tomorrow, easy 20km to Navaneux or push 25km to Abbeye? I think Abbeye. Wanna push forward but also torn that am not “enjoying” where I am because of worrying where I should be… à suivre…

11.2km + 11km + 7? 8? = 29km

3:20 + 3:14 + 1:30 = 8h

Late night notes. When I was walking I thought of how this was like caring for a recalcitrant toddler — my mind is the adult and knows that this must be done, but then has to coax, push, ignore the complaints, the “but it hurts I’m tired NOOOOO” of my body. Taking care of blisters is like working with an animal — a stupid, wounded one at that. I’m TRYING to help! But the stupid things keep slipping and pinchng and biting and refusing to cooperate or even stay still. Gah. Blisters SUCK. I need a pharmacy. All of the above reminds me of the conversation we had re: Nalia [my friends’ infant daughter] crying in the car, with Juan. It’s against nature to do these things, at least my softy body thinks so, and I can’t talk to it to explain, so sadly it just has to suffer till it understands.

Thursday 18 July [actually 19] HURTY DAY

Today was easy walking but SO painful all pleasure was impossible. Just staring at the road and wincing as my feet popped and crackled. Like walking on 2 lumps of ice shitty nails. ANYWAY. Got to Nav. by 12:20 and went straight to bed, lovely 3h nap in comfy clean sheets and duvet. Showers were “rain” but I went to supermarket and cooked pasta + sauce with grilled courgette, hummous with carrots, tomatoes and a big mushroom. SO happy to have a nice big vegetarian meal with so many colours and textures! Sharing a room with a German-Kurdish dad and his sons, discovering I actually speak decent Deutsch still — I think being in Spain has unlocked my linguistic skills. 19.6km in 5h. Total so far: 101.5. Lost my Opinel [penknife], boo, so got a nice blue one to replace it. Yay!

Friday 19 July [20th July actually… I love how it doesn’t even matter] Redemption?

So today was hard work. The pain has moved from my blisters (soles are ok but toes still fucking burn) to my heel, ankle, and long-time trouble-maker, my right knee + tibia. Shin splints? So yes, the 15km from Navaneux to Sauvelade were limping, miserable hours. It rained a little, just enough to justify the dreaded poncho, for the first hour. Then I called mama and felt a bit better, but also even more stressed as I’m basically falling apart physically and she is (unintentionally) putting a lot of pressure on me. Then I called Madaca to discover there were no beds available – hence my current location in Sauvelade. It turned out to be a blessing of course, as all unexpected decisions along the Way. Firstly, I more than needed to STOP WALKING. Second, it’s peaceful and fairly comfy. Third, the people (oh so very clicheed, but the support people provide along the Way is truly touching), the people I met and spoke with gently encouraged me (by the rigourous french standards) to do as the couple a few nights ago suggested and skip the next couple of etapes. In fact, to leave with the bag carriers and go straight up to Nagaro. A few calls later and I was set up with a ride tomorrow morning, and a bed in Nagaro tomorrow night. I will rest up, then walk two short etapes on Sunday and Monday, then meet Mummy and do Montreal and Condom with her – either 15km a day, or more if we feel like it! Perfect. I only wish I could call her to tell her the news. Today I listened to my ipod for the first time, and “Just a Ride” came on and of course made me cry but also reminded me of my own fundamental beliefs. I am not a catholic pilgrim but I am having my own “Way”,

you can’t help it, so many hours of daily introspection, it’s almost like a retreat, I guess that’s the point after all… I also have had to tell my story so many times, it forces me to generalise, simplify, find a truth that can be summed up in a few lines. Something I usually hate doing but that does need to be done, at the end of the day. So I’m learning myself that I do this kind of work, live that kind of life, have these kind of hopes, dreams, plans and beliefs. That James and I are together and apart. That I am a drifter. Continental drifter…

Today’s walk…

15.04km in 3:30 hours. Total 116.5km.

Reading Dickens’ biography… la vie est belle, finalement.

Sunday 21… yes there’s a day missing…

Yesterday I went up to Aire sur l’Adour (now it’s too late you finally learn how to say it) by taxi with 2 Belgians who then gave me a lift to Nagaro. Michel and Raymond were older guys, who had been walking for a week. I had a nice convo with Michel in the taxi, but it was a 20-30min conversation with Raymond which I found really compelling and moving. He told me to be proud of being “selfish” because “Il est plus facile de se sacrifier que de se realiser” and with the added reminder that “certains se realisent dans le sacrifice”. We hugged and swapped email addresses, I really felt a strong connection with him. It’s funny how the people I meet can all bring encouragement, love and support to each other… well not all of them, but I feel like when humans are left to themselves in safe, mutually respectful space, they do genuinely care and help each other…

Anyway, after a night in Nagarro (well first an afternoon, heavy with the mistake of eating a HUGE plate of steak and fries and apple pie and ice cream and coke (WTF) that left me heavy and sleepy) where I shared a room with Martine (who talked wisely about trust and long distance relationships)… I walked 6km to Haget. It’s a bit dull, and the weather is so perfect, but I need my feet to heal so I can enjoy walking with Mummy. The people here are less mindful but nobody can be everything to everyone.

Today: 7.45km, not sure of the time, maybe 2:20? good speed thanks to my healing blisters.

Mon 23 July – total 138km,

GPS refused to start today, but it took me 3h to walk from le Haget to Eauze, which is about 15km. I got to the gîte at 11am, showered, went shopping, ate lunch and napped, all perfect. Then visited the Eauze archaeological museum which has a fantastic treasure trove on display. At the gîte a woman expressed surprise (which I am used to for a variety of reasons) because… I was wearing a dress, and she assumed I wasn’t a walker. WTF? She is def one of the retarded type [ROSIE, NOT COOL!]. I bet she snorers. But otherwise the gite and Eauze are very nice… Sadly it’s Monday, so nearly everything is shut. Am debating another Monaco [beer and grenadine and lemonade] as it’s going to be at least 2 more hours till Mummy gets here and we get dinner. Just realised time was CRAZY good compared to yesterday. Twice the distance in only 40 min more!

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After this my maman joined me on the walk so I didn’t have any introspective writing to re-discover.

Loved re-reading this. One day… I’ll be back.

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me and mr campin

When we were in Madrid, James and I went to visit the Prado. Little did I know, when I rolled my eyes at the 14 Euro entry fee, that I was about to experience something life-changing.

I mentioned briefly before that my visit to the Cloister and a glimpse of the new restoration labs above was the trigger which caused me to finally see the light: what I want, more than anything, in fact all I want, is to work in art preservation and restoration. To this point, I’m trying to get into a course in cultural materials conservation.

That wasn’t the only magical moment in store for me at the Prado though. I fell in love with a gentleman named Robert Campin. Somehow, despite studying art history for so many years, his name was unfamiliar to me — but I immediately took to his artworks.

The Annunciation
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One of the greatest pleasures I had as a child was building and furnishing dolls-houses. I had laughingly discussed with Juan and Ally the possibility of becoming a professional dolls-house designer, and whilst the career prospects are hardly inspiring, my friends were both very encouraging and I kept it at the back of my mind. When I saw these paintings by Campin, something in me immediately wanted to start reproducing them on a miniature, 3D scale. There’s a flatness in medieval painting, which Flemish masters were just beginning to evolve from, and Campin’s fantastic perspective scenes combined with their minutely furnished rooms just inspire me so much. And he has such an affinity for ladies reading on the couch…

St Barbara — this is the painting I want to reproduce
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I had this somewhat silly idea in May, but it’s now September and I am still thinking about it. Plus, I am going crazy with this job of mine and I need, need, a personal project to get me through the next few months. Doing this in Sri Lanka is probably going to be seriously challenging, but for now I am at least working on parsing the composition of this scene and identifying the individual elements that I will need to build.

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The internet is of course fabulous research tool, and I am having so much fun. But what has spurred me into writing this post is the number of coincidental references to Campin and his work that keep coming up!

First I was reading about medieval settles — the long bench upon which St Barbara is sitting. Immediately another painting by Campin pops up as a reference image:
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Then I was browsing medieval statuary on Google image, looking for something similar to the small statue above the chimney. I saw this fragment and was impressed at how similar it looked. I click through and read the text to discover it is not only contemporary to my painting, they even name-drop Campin! “The image was carved at about the time that the workshop of Robert Campin […] was producing seminal works in Tournai”.

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It took me a bit of googling to discover that the irons in the fireplace are specifically referred to as “andirons”. I then set about using the (fantastic, by the way) Met website to find some 15th century andirons. Whilst they had some decent ones, I decide to poke around elsewhere in the hopes of finding something better. A blog post entitled A Quick History of Andirons caught my attention (the kind of topic I wonder who else is drawn to) and low and behold… they use a Robert Campin painting as an illustration of medieval andirons.
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There’s something so invigorating and exciting about working on something you really, really care about, even when it’s utterly dull to everyone else in the world. I love that Campin, a stranger to me for almost 29 years, is suddenly appearing over and over (even if it is in the context of a project about him, I still feel like these are curious coincidences!). My heart beats so fast when I’m reading and researching all the elements and I can’t wait till I have time to visit the three art supplies shops in Colombo and start attempting to bring this together. The degree I’m applying for suggests that a portfolio displaying manual dexterity will be useful, and I would love to produce something I can use in that context…

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Camino day 1: Roncesvalles to Orisson

As mentioned in my “Pre-Camino” post, I hardly slept and had walked 5km before I even got on the bus from Pamplona to Roncesvalles. When the first bus of the day got there, it was already 11:20 and I had some serious concerns about covering the 27km to St Jean-Pied-de-Port (SJPP) before dark. This was a ridiculous fear, I would come to realise over the next couple of days, because it doesn’t get dark till gone 8pm, but I had been caught in mountains after sunset in Taiwan before and it’s not a happy place to be.

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Anyway, due to this fear of stumbling blindly in the mountains at night, I decided I would set off immediately. The woman at the information office told me there were two paths to SJPP and that I could take either, as I wished. Standing at the point where the two paths diverged, one showed a climb of 500m over the space of about 1.5km, I thought I would take the other path, aware that my knees would be complaining.

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There were a lot of puddles and streams and boggy bits, and after a couple of kilometres I realised I hadn’t seen a single marker. Thanks to my Hash training, I was fairly used to going offtrail and hadn’t been that fussed, but when the path disappeared, I realised I was going to have to backtrack. I’d gone wrong somewhere.

So back I went to Roncesvalles, to the original starting point. 9km already walked, it was 12pm, and I wasn’t even a kilometre closer to my destination. I got a little tearful walking back as I was really anxious about time and fatigue. Thinking about that first day, I realise just how much I learned on the Camino about letting go of such silly anxieties, and about not beating myself up when making mistakes. I started on that journey extremely anxious about planning everything ahead — I came out of it two weeks later able to let go of this anxiety which has plagued me for many years.

Anyway, there I was, Camino Take #2. I was at the bottom of a mountain trail, and now I needed to get to the top. Had I known just how hard it would be I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it, because it was so steep, like CRAZY steep, that the people walking DOWN it were freaking out. For the majority of pilgrims, it would have been their first day too, and they would have come all the way from SJPP and have been very, very tired — the temptation to just lay down and roll down this trail must have been strong. Many of them told me as I went up that it was hard, hard work — ça monte! ça grimpe dûr! they told me, and I gritted my teeth and kept climbing.
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Eventually I reached the peak — the Col de Lepoeder, alt 1410m — and could turn around and see where I had come from. What a view!
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I was pretty pleased with myself:
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I stopped here for a brief lunch, then set off again, ever aware of the minutes ticking away. It felt fantastic to be going downhill, especially as everyone else was going uphill and looked hot, sweaty and exhausted. The views were incredible, and I wished, not for the last time, that I had something better than my dodgy phone camera to take pictures.
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(I only did a couple of self-portraits and some landscape snaps on the first day and then ran out of interest in taking pictures fairly soon thereafter, so I’m putting most of what I have up for this first day)
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I think my feet started to hurt around the time I crossed the Spain-France border. I was still only about halfway to SJPP but I’d already walked those 9 extra kms before getting started so I was starting to realise I was NOT going to make it to my destination — time wasn’t a problem, it was just that my feet were really sore.
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I stopped at the Vierge d’Orisson for a minute, trying not to panic, and in fact barely giving the poor virgin a second glance.

Then I set off again, keeping my mind focused on walking and walking alone — worrying would not get me to my destination any faster, and there was nowhere else to go but straight on. Then just as I was becoming so focused on the pain in my feet that I thought I might have to lay down in the road and pray for deliverance, I rounded a corner and was met with a sight for sore eyes (and feet): L’Auberge d’Orisson.
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The Auberge is quite pricy — 32 euros a night — but the nice lady informed me that they had a cheaper hostel (15E) down the road, just one more kilometre to go.
I had stopped my RunKeeper but I restarted it for this one last stage before the much-needed repose that was so close and yet so far… I’m surprised looking at the result that it was only 13 minutes — it felt like at least half an hour!
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(I know these RK screencaps aren’t very exciting for most people, but this is also written for me, in this blog about things that I did for me… so please bear with them. Plus they are the only visual record I have after my phone’s camera went batty).

And at this shell of a hostel I stopped, showered, changed, ate, watched the sunset and then rolled into bed at 9pm (a record for me) and slept 12 solid hours till 9am. One of the best sleeps of my entire, sleep-poor life.

Total distance covered: 5km in Pamplona + 21.75km on the trail = 26.75km

pre-Camino: Pamplona

My first step on the Camino was to head to Roncesvalles, the last stopover point in Spain before the French border. Roncesvalles is hidden up in the Pyrenees, so to get there from Madrid, I would first be taking the coach to Pamplona and then another coach to Roncesvalles where I planned to spend the night in their historical albergue, rise early, and cross the Pyrenees and stop down in St Jean-Pied-de-Port.
8-hour coach trip to the starting point at Roncesvalles
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So early in the morning I kissed Madrid and Ally goodbye (Juan and Nalia were still sleeping) and made my way from Las Rosaz de Madrid to Pamplona. I found the counter for the local buses and requested a billeta to Roncesvalles in my best Spanish. The woman behind the counter shook her head and said “Mañana.*noise of needle scratching across record*

So I hauled my backpack off to look for a hostel and ended up at Jesus y Maria. I am not a big fan of religion and was a little nauseated by this whole Jesus and Maria thing but in fact it’s a fascinating hostel, converted inside a church (named… Iglesia de Jesús y María) without touching any of the outer structure.

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I dropped my gear off and headed out to explore Pamplona. The week-long famous bull-chasing celebrations of San Fermin had just finished the day before and on a Sunday afternoon, the whole town had a feeling of stunned silence after the storm.

Spot the bull!
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Nearly every shop window was dressed in honor of the festival and its white-and-red clad runners
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I decided to walk to the Yamaguchi park, as its Japanese name sounded promising. It was very small but beautiful and peaceful, and its fountains were very refreshing in the heat of the afternoon.

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I made my way back to the hostel and settled in for the only bad night of my entire Pilgrim experience — I had a very jittery 9-year-old in the bunk-bed above me and he seemed to suffer from “sleep-spasms” throughout the entire night — shaking the bed and waking me up every time I started to drop off. Some time after 4am I took my pillow and my sleeping bag and went to sleep on the floor.

I have to confess that sleep deprivation and hunger meant that I was not entirely thrilled with Pamplona, especially as I had to make a 5km round trip in order to find a supermarket open before I caught the bus to Roncesvalles. But things only improved after that… well a little after that!

Sri Lanka! and summer 2012

When things get very quiet around here, you can bet it’s because my life has been very busy. Since I left Taiwan in June, events have been escalating in fun, quantity and importance! After our time in Madrid and Lisbon, James went back to Paris to await further MSF orders, and I nipped back to Ally and Juan’s for a couple of nights before heading to Pamplona and then Roncesvalles to begin my Long Walk home to France. I crossed the Pyrenees and headed North-East through the Basque country… I hope to write at least one blog post about my wonderful two weeks hiking 200km on the Camino/Chemin du Puy/Way of St James/Santiago de Compostella trail! I have a lot of pictures for this entire summer but need to extract them from their various locations first.
Mummy joined me the last 3 days and thus we do have photographic evidence:
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Then as soon as I arrived back to Cahors, I was packing again to catch a ride early the next morning to Grenoble, where I would be reuniting with dear friends from university to celebrate the beauty of the French Alps and also my 29th birthday. 
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Grenoble is gorgeous and really blew me away with its stunning setting, nestled in the raw mountains and teeming with the kind of architectural delights and atmosphere which is so lacking in, say, Taipei or Melbourne. We had SUCH a lovely time! Again, ideally I will blog about my time separately, including splashing in a mountain lake…
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…and a hike up in the Alps with Benjamin.
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After taking in as much of Grenoble as we could cram into 4 short days, Ben and I went to Lyon for an AirBnB rental. Our flat was a lovely place belonging to a musician, located within easy walking distance from everything. Ben and I sampled traditional Lyonnaise cooking and enjoyed the sights and sunshine — definitely a great holiday destination. Fingers crossed for an illustrated Lyon blog post!

Believe it or not, James just happened to sublet a place in Paris, so then from Lyon I took the TGV to Paris and jumped into his arms for an unexpected but much-appreciated extra week together! His friend’s apartment is located in the ultra-touristy but beautiful 6th arrondissement, with a disgustingly scenic view of the Notre Dame de Paris. Unfortunately I caught a horrid cold on my way up and promptly passed it on to James, so our romantic week in Paris was mostly spent indoors feeling rotten, but we had each other for company and at least looking out the window guaranteed that we felt like we were sight-seeing…

The only snapshot I have on hand of the view — night-time gloom!
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There isn’t much to say about Paris, however I spent a lot (TOO MUCH, some would be justified in saying) of time trying to gather together the elements for a suitable “tropical working wardrobe”, after a few phone conferences to Sri Lanka and then formally accepting the job lined up for me by my friend Emy here in Colombo! More on that in a minute…

James and I needed to vacate the premises by the Friday, so we hired a car and drove 6 hours down to the Lot, to stay (for free!) in a lovely holiday house next door to my mother’s — a stroke of luck indeed! We were both feeling better by then and managed to cram lots of hiking and adventures into our time there, as well as seeing my family for some hugs and kisses before we had to drive back up to Paris (via Orleans and Chartres) for me to catch my flight to Colombo. I definitely want to blog about some of the things we saw and did in the Lot and the Pyrenees — James’ motto is after all to “Convince Rosie To Do Something Dangerous At Least Once A Day”. 

Catching my flight was non-stop-fluster as we drove into Orly, discovered my flight was at Charles de Gaulle, then the train from Orly to CDG was interrupted for works, and then the flight itself was full of minor delays and events, stopping in Dubai and in the Maldives before Colombo (with a passenger trying to “smuggle” himself into Colombo meaning all kinds of hassle!). Before I knew it I was in Sri Lanka being picked up by Emy, with a shiny new stamp in my passport. I’m delighted because Immigration squeezed the entry stamp in between 3 others on an “old” page — I’m down to 5 free pages in my 32-page passport and still have a couple of years before it expires, so I’d like to maximise space!
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The hour-or-so drive back to where I am living in Colombo was my first taste of South-East Asian traffic. Sam, our lovely driver, is highly skilled at weaving through the cars and in all fairness never hit the brakes, but it was somewhat… intense! Peering nervously through the windscreen, I felt like I was watching my brother play Grand Theft Auto on his X-Box. I’m glad to say I am now getting used to it and have already abandoned my hitherto religious attachment to safety belts, just like everyone else here. 

So that’s the summary of the last 6 weeks! I will (AGAIN) write more about Sri Lanka — I kind of jumped straight into my job and haven’t had much time to really let things sink in. Despite today being Saturday, we had a meeting today from 9:30am to 2pm and then I stumbled home (or, to be honest, had the driver take me back to the luxury flat I have been allocated) and passed out on the couch. I am actually more jet-lagged than I had expected, and these early morning starts are of course “middle-of-the-night” starts for me. But when I am not yawning I am growing already increasingly attached to Colombo and the lovely Sri Lankans I have met; the company team, our drivers, the few interactions I have had with people in shops — everyone is really kind and friendly, even though I struggle a little with the local accent!

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This morning I went with Ally to the gym and did the Body Balance class. It was great — led by a very handsome and adorable instructor, it was a mix of yoga, tai chi, ballet and I guess aerobics. I wanted to join her for the Body Jump class afterwards — cardio done bouncing on mini trampolines! — but the instructor seemed too worried about my running injuries and talked me out of it, so I did some elliptical instead. Afterwards I regretted not doing the trampoline class anyway though, as it looked really fun and low impact when I stared wistfully through the windows at Ally bouncing up and down.

After that, we wandered around Las Rozas, having a very important heart-to-heart girl talk. In the middle of some tearful and life-changing realisations about myself, I still had an eye for a bargain and picked up this ADORABLE Petit Bateau blazer for 30 euros, which is advertised on their website for A Fair Bit More. I have been wanting a navy blazer for ages so even though I stopped buying myself things a while back… I am actually quite proud of this purchase.
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And last but not least, James emailed to confirm he is coming to Madrid! So happy — when he left Taiwan a month ago I wasn’t expecting to see him again for ages. I’m looking at some very cute places on airbnb.com — wish me luck!

life and times of rosie in spain

Things I ate: a gazillion swordfish steaks. My new favourite meal when eating out. Fish and seafood are not often appealing to me, but the below converted me in seconds!
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See also my new favourite drink: café con leche con hielo. I don’t know if I can get away with ordering this anywhere else than Spain, but you get a cup of milky coffee, throw in some sugar, stir, then transfer to a glass of ice cubes, which instantly chills your coffee and ta-dah! icy refreshing beverage.

Books I read: Mr Briggs’ Hat, Miss McKenzie, Dark Night’s Work, and in nostalgia-land: Little House in the Big Woods and Little House in the Prairie (I’m re-reading the series, which was a favourite and which I must have read dozens of times. As an adult: Wow. Ma and Pa kicked ass.)

Places I visited: Segovia and Avila. Segovia was gorgeous. Avila was so-so; I’d chosen it as a destination because I’m somewhat infatuated with gothic architecture and I had read Avila and its cathedral were some of the oldest gothic architecture in Spain. But I wasn’t allowed inside the cathedral 😦 I plan on posting lots of pictures of Segovia because it was so pretty, but for now it’s not practical from my ipad.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Hikes I have fantasized about: the Camino Frances — I grew up hearing Mummy wax lyrical about how she wanted to walk/cycle the trail of Saint Jacques de Compostelle. Most of the towns I lived in or visited when growing up in France were located on the road to Santiago de Compostela and had their coquille de St Jacques discretely on display on various historic buildings, and even now my family lives very close to the Camino (apparently its English name is the Way of St James? Who knew) and you often see pilgrims around. I had the idea vaguely at the back of my mind when I came to Spain that I might walk back up to home — I’d love to run home, actually, but that just isn’t an option! Ah the things I would do if I wasn’t frustrated by my body’s physical limits.

I’ve discussed the Camino plan a little with Juan, who is very supportive of the idea. However, I’m a little dismayed to discover that its a popular ambition not just with pilgrims but with just about everyone in the world, especially in July. I wanted to be a special snowflake! Still, I’m keen on the idea of walking from Burgos back to Cazals. However, before I leave Spain, my favourite traveling companion will — providing he doesn’t get sent off somewhere in the next 48 hours — take some time off from saving the world with MSF, and meet me here next week. Huzzah for surprise catch-ups with superheroes…

In reckless anticipation (given the nature of working for MSF it might not happen), here is a photo of us from a year ago in San Sebastian. We drank a bit too much and then got very sunburnt on the beach, which made wearing our motorbike gear extremely uncomfortable.
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos