“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” Unknown
This year I will turn 50, and by my birthday will have lived eighteen thousand, two hundred and sixty two days. Good days. I’ve long had a dream to drink champagne in sight of the Eiffel Tower for my fiftieth birthday. As that date is approaching I have began to think about making it a reality.
I’ve never been to Europe! I know, I know, I’m Australian… That’s what we do when we leave school… I even work in the travel industry (yes, I know…), but Europe is a place I thought I could go when I’m old, after all there are many wonderful and amazing places in this wide world, some of which I’ve actually been lucky enough to travel to. I figured at 50, I’m probably official ‘old’, well middle aged as I plan to live until 100, so time for Europe.
Paris, well it’s in France, which is near Spain. The Camino de Santiago goes through Spain. This is another of my dreams, albeit a more recent one. I think I first heard about the Camino maybe ten years ago – I recall reading about in in a book, but don’t recall the book. The author had started in France, which at that time apparently wasn’t a popular place to start. As I work as a tour leader in South East Asia, I get to meet many well travelled folk, some who have travelled the Camino. The first guests to tell me of their trip, a French and Canadian couple, enthralled me with their stories, I was hooked… I wanted to do it! Over the years (I’ve been in Asia ten years), I had more and more guests who had walked the Camino, but the clincher came last year when one mentioned that there was a town in Spain with free wine for pilgrims. I like wine.
‘Pilgrims’ or peregrino(a), in Spanish, is what people who follow el Camino de Santiago are called, as it’s a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the place said to house the remains of St James the Great (San Iago), Jesus’s mate and patron saint of Spain. Apparently a grumpy fisherman before he became a fisher of men. El Camino de Santiago translates as ‘the way of St James’, of which there are many routes, all ending at the Cathedral in Santiago. This Christian pilgrimage has been followed since Medieval times. Some do it as a religious pilgrimage, some for other spiritual reasons, some for the culture, some for sport, and some for just a nice walk.
Earlier this year I had a Spanish guest who had done part of the Camino as a teenager, who said, if you’re going to do the Camino, you must visit Finisterre, ‘the end of the world’, well at least it was, back when the world was flat. That certainly sounded a romantic notion to me, yes, that will be included on my trip!
As a trip to Paris had originally been the main agenda for the trip, I planned to fly in and out of Paris. The Camino I wanted to walk (there are many routes), is the most popular (hopefully for a reason), it’s what’s known as ‘the French Way’ or ‘Camino Frances’, however it starts in the South of France, at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Saint John at the foot of the mountain pass), not near Paris. As I always say, anywhere is walking distance, it can just take a bit longer.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really think I had ‘a bit longer’, and started to research trains, planes and ways to St Jean. My friend Steven Herrick wrote a book about cycling in France, which I read and enjoyed. It got me dreaming. I like riding bikes. I could ride a bike from Paris to St Jean, and have a nice cycling holiday in France too. So that is my plan.
Please join me on my journey on my blog.