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Archive for May 20th, 2017

Finally, and with great difficulty, I tore myself away from Pisa. Collecting my bag from the Pensione Helvetia (where quite frankly I could easily have stayed…I love it so much), I said goodbye to the cat and started my walk to the station.

pensione helvetia pisa italy

the house cat at Pensione Helvetia

It’s a mere 25-30 minutes walk and although Michel had said I should get the bus, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity for another walk through the streets of Pisa 🙂 So much to see!!

a walk through the streets of Pisa

a walk through the streets of Pisa

First I walked past the Piazza de Miracole to say my good byes to the Tower (gosh I really love that building!) and then heading south (I think) I made my way to the river and onto the station. The buildings in Pisa are so beautiful. Worn and tatty with paint peeling, shutters loose on their hinges, the plaster falling off the walls in chucks, it has the aura of an ancient Dowager, her beauty fading as she ages, the creams and lotions she applies no longer hiding the sagging lines of her skin.  But oh how pretty she is with her gaily decorated walls and flower boxes filled to the brim with brightly coloured flowers dancing in the breeze. I was truly enchanted. Perhaps I was wearing rose-tinted glasses!

pisa italy

some of the fabulous and very old buildings in Pisa

I reached the station in no time at all and since I had already bought my ticket previously I made my way to the platform and onto the train. I love those double-decker trains. I remember we first encountered them in Amsterdam. Super cool to sit on the top deck…brilliant views as you travel.

Statzione Pisa Centrale

Stazione Pisa Centrale

Florence…I’m on my way. I was really keen to visit the Ponte Vecchio and watch my first Tuscan sunset……I was not disappointed.

I finally arrived at the SMN Florence Stazione and that’s when the stress began. The host at the AirBnB had said to take the Number 33 bus and after about 10 minutes and 4 stops to get off. Well thankfully I had mapmywalk on and I was able to watch our progress in real time….it was more like 25 minutes and 10 stops!!! Urgh. Seriously. I bet he never uses the bus. Anyway we had ‘le grand tour’ of Florence, although I was way too stressed to appreciate it. Finally we reached the point where I was meant to get off but the driver didn’t stop!!! He’d forgotten about my request. Seriously dude!! Anyway, I reminded him and voila, he just stopped right where we were, and with no further ado opened the doors and I got off. hell would freeze over before a London bus driver would do that!!!

And there it was the road where I would be staying and before long I found Number 77. Oh gosh!! LOL. I wish you could have seen the lift!!! It was ancient. You could probably fit 3 people in with a hell of a squeeze, but no suitcases. Gladly I was on my own. It’s one of those lifts where you have to first open the gate that slides back and then you have to open the two interior doors, step inside and the do the reverse. Hilarious.

The apartment was terrific. My bedroom to die for. I had the most marvellous bed that proved to be so comfortable that I slept like a baby every night.

florence italy

I used AirBnB again for my stay in Florence. This bed was amazing

Huge kitchen, wide passages and then horror of horrors….a communal bathroom with only 2 basins and 2 toilets and the smallest shower I have EVER seen in my life… to accommodate up to 10 people. The apartment had 6 double bedrooms.!! And when I say the shower was small…I mean VERY small. I couldn’t even undress properly there was so little space. Oh well. Since I am preparing for the Camino…this would be good practice. Getting used to communal bathrooms and tiny showers. LOL

I hardly put my bag down, tested the bed, took the obligatory photos and then after trying to extricate myself from my AirBnB hosts most appreciated, very useful and kind, but long-winded explanation of ‘places to go and what to see’ I finally managed to get myself out the door. Finding my way back to the station was easy peasy. It was no more than a 20 minute walk and fairly direct. If only he had given me proper directions…. anyway. I was here, in Florence and on my way to explore. There was a seriously awesome fort just across the way from the station, but for some reason I just never got to visit it!!

my route to the station

my route to the station

Wow, what an amazing city. Firstly, never just plunge into the maze that are the streets of Florence. They do not go in a straight line, they twist and turn and while you may think you’re going in one direction….you’re probably wrong.

florence italy

the streets do not always go in a straight line, and even when they do…not necessarily in the direction you want to go

Well I was, I did and I got so muddled. It took ages to find the river….

But finally!!! There it was. Just as the sun was starting to sink into the horizon I reached the river.

sunset  in florence

sunset in Florence – not the Ponte Vecchio

And there, just upstream from where I was standing and finally…Ponte Vecchio. Hoorah!!! I had wanted to see this bridge for ever such a long time, it was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Florence at all.

ponte vecchio 1

Ponte Vecchio, Florence – that most famous of bridges

As I got closer I noticed that there was a massive crowd in the middle of the bridge; all waiting to watch the sun set. Apparently this is the ‘done thing’. Well, as it turned out, sometimes the dream is better than the reality. The bridge was not at all what I had expected (?) and was sadly quite a let down. The Rialto Bridge in Venice was so much more than I had expected, but I’m afraid the Ponte Vecchio did not live up to my expectations. But, hey I was there, the sun was going down and I made my way up and onto the bridge. I managed to squeeze into a tiny space at the front when some people moved off and there it was…my first Tuscan sunset. Stunning.

ponte vecchio 2

Ponte Vechhio, Florence

After that I made my way back along the river to the bridge/piazza where I had first exited the maze and this time found a more direct route back to the station. And there it was that I discovered the fabulous Santa Maria Novella Church. OhMyWord!!! I could only stand and stare. It is so beautiful. Closed by then of course, it was already after 8pm, but I determined that I would be back as soon as possible to visit it.

santa maria novella florence

The ethereal Santa Maria Novella, Florence

Walking the streets of Florence was amazing. I felt so safe and never threatened in any way, despite the lateness of the hour. Although there are a lot of North African touts around selling those ubiquitous selfie sticks and various other bits of fake tat, I just walked boldly on and with a cursory No, grazie and made no eye contact. I’m pretty good at just staring ahead and walking on. They left me alone.

And so my first experience of Florence was drawing to an end as the day turned into night. How thrilling to finally be here.

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So even though I had dreamed of Florence for years, first things first….there was the magic of Pisa to discover. I walked around for a while just loving being there, then on the recommendation of Michel I went to buy my tickets to visit the Tower, the Cathedral and the Baptistry. I’m sure my ticket included another venue, but I was so enchanted by these 3 places that I spent ages in the area. First on the list, at the suggestion of the ticket office, was the Leaning Tower. Whoaaa….I was actually going to be climbing that baby! I did and it was magic. The queue was short, thankfully (apparently they only allow 15 people in at a time, so the queue (timed entry) can get quite long.

leaning tower of pisa italy

yes, it really does lean at a most alarming angle

As I stepped down into the well and across to the steps, I experienced a most alarming spell of vertigo!!! Stumbling, I nearly fell right over. Grabbing the edge of the doorway I hung on for dear life till I regained my equilibrium. It was so weird and unexpected. But as I step up into the building I could see why…yes, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, really does lean LOL The interior is vast, The stairs are steep, and there are plenty of them – 284-296 depending on which site you read. But I was determined to see the views from the top and also to be able to say that I had climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I think my grandchildren, when they eventually come along, will be well impressed.

leaning tower of pisa

steps, steps and more steps…and just when you think you can’t walk up any more, yes, there are more steps

Well all I can say about the views from the top is just wow!!!! Built as a free-standing bell tower to accompany the cathedral and baptistery in the town of Pisa, there are eight floors within the tower, including the top floor that houses the tower’s bells, and those are impressive. I had hope to catch them being tolled, but time was marching on and I had to descend before the next tolling. The tower leans 5.5 degrees (about 15 feet [4.5 metres]) from the perpendicular and has done for over a century.

After huffing and puffing my way to the top (albeit not so bad since I’ve been walking so much), with intriguing glimpses of the city at each level I finally stepped out onto the 7th floor of the tower. Wowwww. Pisa was spread out before me, an enchanting view of red roofs, those oh so recognisable Tuscan cypress trees; the Italian Cypress, and in the distance the gentle sloping hills, oh and a very blue sky!! Enchanting. I spent ages walking around and around taking dozens of photos from every feasible angle.

leaning tower of pisa

intriguing glimpses of Pisa and the hills beyond from the different levels

Then I climbed the final steps to the bell chamber. Just stunning. After photographing the bells I took one last look before heading back down the stairs. I was interested to note how worn the steps are…the wear changes position as you go round and around the tower with the worn part starting on the left, then moving towards the middle and then to the right depending on which side you’re climbing on.

leaning tower of pisa

The bell chamber was added in 1372, built by Tommaso di Andrea Pisano. Fantastic views

Amazing edifice. I can highly recommend you pay the price, brave the stairs and be enchanted when you reach to top. The Leaning Tower of Pisa holds top spot of my absolute favourite things that I saw while in Italy…..and trust me, I saw a LOT!!!!!!! 🙂

Next on my list was the Baptistery of St. John. What a beautiful building. ‘Begun in 1153 in a Romanesque style and completed in the 1300s in the Gothic style, the Baptistery (Battistero di San Giovanni) in Pisa is the largest in Italy’ it is apparently also slightly taller than the tower!! That’s weird. You would never guess while standing there. Optical illusion.

The exterior belies the fairly plain interior which is dimly lit with very little decoration. Secluded within this simple interior is the baptistery’s great treasure; the pulpit, a masterpiece carved by Nicola Pisano between 1255-60.
As well as this amazing pulpit, there is the wonderful baptismal font, carved and inlaid in 1246 by the Gothic sculptor Guido Bigarelli da Como (active 1238-57). In the center of the font is a 20th-century statue of St. John the Baptist, to whom the baptistery is dedicated.

Baptistery of pisa

The Bapistery of St John the Baptist, Pisa

What I didn’t realise at the time of my visit is that the baptistery is renowned for its perfect acoustics. During my visit a lady stepped up to the centre and briefly sang….magical. I meandered about taking photos, admiring the fabulous pulpit and then ventured up the stairs to the 1st level where to my delight was a space where you could view the cathedral from an elevated height. Just wow!!

The Bapistery of St John the Baptist, Pisa

The Bapistery of St John the Baptist, Pisa. Fantastic view of the floor and the cathedral

From there I made my way over to the cathedral. Now listen….if there is one thing those folks back then knew how to do, it was to build cathedrals that take your breath away.

pisa cathedral

Duomo di Pisa – Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta

I saw so many cathedrals and churches during this trip and yet, each had it’s own magic. Beautiful beautiful architecture, paintings, carvings, frescoes, reliefs with soaring interiors, so high they give you a crick in the neck when you look up!

Pisa Cathedral; Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta – Duomo di Pisa, is a medieval Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, located in the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa. Absolutely exquisite.

pisa cathedral

Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta; Duomo di Pisa

Even if you are not religious, and I’m not, these buildings leave you feeling quite over-awed and somewhat breathless at their sheer magnificence. They certainly evoke many emotions. Thankfully we were allowed to take photos so once again I put my camera to good use. 😉

pisa cathedral

Pisa Cathedral; Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta – Duomo di Pisa

Walking back out into the bright sunlight left my eyes watering and I would have scurried back indoors, except……

By now my tummy was grumbling and I had to check out, so back to the hotel, packed my bag, paid my bill and put my suitcase into their storage. Directed to a delightful cafe; Dolce Pisa, just at the top of the narrow road where the Pensione was located I made my way along, enjoying the warmth of a day already heating up, shadows growing shorter by the minute. Cars, bikes and scooters whizzed by and I felt like I had landed in wonderland. Gosh, I did not realise just how much I had missed Italy. My trip to Venice in 2004 was magical and I had longed to return to Italy for ever such a long time.

Piazza Cavelotti pisa italy

Piazza Cavelotti – the lovely little square at the top of Via Don Gaetano Boschi and the Dolce Pisa cafe where I had my breakfast.

And now here I was, strolling the streets, carefree, enjoying the sights and smells and noise of my beautiful Italy. I found the cafe and ordered my pastry and cappucino, opting to sit outside and enjoy the sighs and sounds…..ahhh Italy.  After satisfying my hunger I set off to meander. Oh the joy of having no particular destination or objective in mind beyond just discovering sights and places unknown. One of my pet hates while travelling is a schedule, or a deadline, or having to be somewhere at a particular time. Obviously this has it’s drawbacks and I have sometimes missed visiting a place due to closing times…..but on the other hand, I have no need to hurry anywhere, I can just go where my curiosity and feet take me.

scenes of pisa italy

early morning wander through the streets of Pisa…what a magical city.

After carefully studying the map on the wall at the pensione I made my way towards the river Arno. Oh what a sight…the most important river of central Italy after the Tiber, it flows wide and lazy as it travels 241 kms from source on Mount Falterona in the Apennines, passing through Florence, Empoli and Pisa before emptying into the Tyrrhenian Sea to sea at the Marina di Pisa. Whilst admiring this amazing river that can apparently turn from slow and lazy to raging torrent in a matter of hours, I notice a charming little building on the opposite bank.

river arno pisa italy

scenes of the River Arno, Pisa, Tuscany

This turned out to be a tiny little church; Santa Maria della Spina (“of the thorn”); this small church on the Lungarno Gambacorti, built in the 1200s, features an ornate Gothic facade with a number of statues and a painted ceiling. The name della Spina is apparently derived from the presence of a thorn, a relic brought to the church in 1333, apparently part of the crown of thorns placed on Christ during his Passion and Crucifixion. Absolutely charming little church.

Santa Maria della Spina pisa italy

Santa Maria della Spina church in Pisa and the ‘You Will Go Somewhere Else’ exhibition by Wolfgang Laib.

I stepped inside (2 euro donation welcome) to be confronted with a most extraordinary exhibition ….an array of little boats! The exhibition called ‘You Will Go Somewhere Else’ by Wolfgang Laib, featured a selection of beeswax ships on the floor. The ships are a symbol of a voyage, not not of the material body, but of but a journey to another shore. It was beautiful; quite evocative.

Santa Maria della Spina pisa italy

You Will Go somewhere Else – Santa Maria della Spina

As I stepped out again into the bright sunlight I noticed across the river, looking upstream a wonderful red-bricked ruin…just begging to be explored….and off I went.

the beautiful River Arno in Pisa

the beautiful River Arno in Pisa and in the distance the Torre Guelfa

This turned out to be Cittadella Medicea with its Torre Guelfa (Guelph Tower): this red brick building with the high tower is all that remains of the old Republican Arsenal of Pisa originally called Tersanaia (Cittadella e Arsenale Repubblicano). A stunning and beautifully evocative ruin, it looked ready to crumble straight into the river. I made my way gingerly up onto the platform with a view of the river. You can apparently get a great view of Pisa from the top of the tower, but it was locked.

Citadel and Republican Arsenal, Pisa, Italy

Citadel and Republican Arsenal and Guelph Tower, Pisa, Italy

In the courtyard is a wonderful statue of Galileo Galilei looking up at the stars…. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) n Italian polymath: astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician was born on 15 February 1564 near Pisa, the son of a musician.

Cittadella e Arsenale Repubblicano

Cittadella e Arsenale Repubblicano – Galileo Galilei

What a thrill, I remember learning about Galileo at school about 5 decades ago!! LOL I spent some time just looking and exploring, after which I went walkabout for an hour or so

things to see in pisa itlay

Walkabout through the streets of Pisa. What a fantastic city

and then it really was time for me to think about heading to Florence, after all that was the purpose of this trip and I was already 3 hours behind my original schedule eta. I was SO reluctant to leave Pisa. It’s an enchanting city.

Pisa, Italy

Pisa, Italy

 

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Today, just a month ago, I landed in Pisa, Italy on the first stage of my #Florence2017 trip! Ever since my visit to Venice in 2004 I dreamed of visiting Florence. I’d seen photos of the red roofs, the dome of the cathedral and the Ponte Vecchio….it all looked absolutely marvellous. But the years came and went and so I dreamed on.

I love to travel to new places for my birthday which falls in spring in the northern hemisphere, and since coming to live in the UK I have had the good fortune to be able to visit some amazing places; many on my South African wish list, never dreaming that I may actually get there one day.

finding firenze

Ponte Vecchio Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church of Florence, Italy. Street Art Firenze – the city’s Coat of Arms Torre San Niccolò

Although Florence wasn’t as high on the list back in South Africa as what Venice had been, overshadowed by places like Antarctica, Austria, Switzerland and Japan, it was on the list. Now I’ve been to Florence and the other 4 are still on the list!! LOL

So when the time came to decide where to go this year, I put my travel cap on and tried to make up my mind; where to go? Originally I had planned on walking the English Way of the Camino de Santiago, especially since I had not fulfilled that plan in 2016! However, once again as the time drew nearer to make a decision I postponed…..just not yet. The Camino will let me be ready when I am ready. So instead, suddenly inspired by a photo I saw on instagram, my desire was kindled and the flame burned bright; to Florence I would go! The time was right.

The amazing medieval city of Florence, Italy

The amazing medieval city of Florence, Italy copyright @notjustagranny

Before my mind or budget had time to reconsider I looked at some dates, did some research on prices/times/locations etc then booked my ticket. I was on my way to Florence! Whew, my excitement levels knew no bounds! My main ambition was to see Ponte Vecchio, that evocative bridge I had seen in so many photos on instagram and in travel magazines….and therein lies a story of it’s own…more later!

But first it was time to do some research; ‘things to see and do in Florence’. The list grew and grew, and as I researched things to do in Florence other places popped up; Siena, Lucca, and San Gimignano…now that was one place I had wanted to visit. Now I could.

As is usual when I go to Europe for my birthday, I planned on staying in Italy for a minimum of 10 days. So as to make the most of the time I planned 3 day trips: first up of course was San Gimignano, in fact I planned to visit the city on my birthday 🙂 I love to take side trips when I visit Europe, you just never know what you might find. As in discovering the absolute gem of a town; Sirmione in 2004.

travel in europe

I dreamed of Florence, and Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano and Lucca 😉 all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites except Lucca which seems to possibly be…

Finally with a list of places to go and the top 10 things to see in Florence, I packed my bag and with passport in hand I made my way to the airport.

As mentioned in my earlier post and due to the fact that Florence doesn’t have an airport, but Pisa does, my flight landed in Pisa. Very late I might add; Easy Jet had an oil leak on one of their engines (thanks – great to hear that just before taking off, very encouraging), and after sitting on the tarmac at Gatwick for ages we were finally shepherded off that plane, bussed back to the terminal and sent over to another gate, finally to board another plane; and eventually we were off!!

travel to europe

sunset above the clouds

Eventually we took off and landed in Pisa at 11:15 pm – 2 hours late!! Whew, was I ever glad that I’d planned to stay in Pisa that night. I couldn’t imagine the stress of trying to find transport at midnight to Florence – there isn’t any besides taxis which no doubt cost a ruddy fortune. Either that or sleep in the airport – but hey!!! I had booked to stay at the Helvetia Pensione in Pisa. So my taxi only cost 15 euro instead of 100!! Yes, that was the price quoted to someone else for the trip to Florence!! Midnight robbery.

After standing in the taxi queue at the airport for 15 minutes, finally I was next in line and quickly jumping into the taxi I gave the driver my destination, and in no time at all we arrived at the Pensione. I’d had the foresight to phone ahead and advise them of the delay so they kindly stayed up till I arrived to let me in.

The host Michel was super welcoming and friendly. “No problem, no problem” when I apologised profusely for the lateness of my arrival. He checked me in, copied my passport, gave me my room key, explained the layout of the hotel and about the hours the hotel’s front door would be open/locked, we agreed I would make payment in the morning. And then, to my surprise and everlasting delight and gratitude he suggested I drop my bag off in my room and even though it was so late, I should walk over to see the Tower. It’s very safe 🙂 even at midnight! And THAT is where the magic began.

Pensione Helvetia in Pisa, Italy

the wonderful Pensione Helvetia in Pisa, Italy

And so I did. And fell in love with a leaning tower. Even now as I write I can feel my eyes misting over with the memory. It was sheer magic!!!! With just a few other late nighters about it was quiet, still and magical. I was overwhelmed, entranced, delighted, amazed and sobbed my heart out. OMG the Leaning Tower of Pisa!!! I was standing just a few yards away from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Never in all my years (and they are plenty) did I ever imagine I would actually see this place. In fact I had never really had it on my list of places to go??? Why??? I ask myself now!!!

I cannot tell you how magical the night; a gentle breeze, still warm from the heat of the day wafted by and curled around my body, the Cathedral; Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta and Baptistry of St. John appeared like ghosts in the night, seeming to float above the ground with an ethereal glow emanating from their walls; quite surreal.  Just beyond the perimeter of the Piazza dei Miracoli, the 12th century medieval walls of the city, begun in 1155, loomed high and dark, providing a protective aura – keeping the barbarians at bay. I spent ages in the area, just walking around, absorbing the magic, looking at everything and taking photos…of course 😉 The magic of Pisa!!

piazza dei miracoli unesco heritage site

Piazza dei Miracoli, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Santa Maria Assunta and Baptistry of St John in Pisa, Italy. UNESCO World Heritage Site

There were a couple of young men nearby who wanted their photo taken, so I had them take one for me too!!

Eventually I walked back to the Pensione and to my surprise, Michel was still up, waiting for me to return. Bless him!! I was so touched by his kindness. It was almost 1a.m. and they usually close up at midnight!! I gabbled away at how ‘bellisimo’ it all was…..with Michel just smiling and nodding at my very obvious joy and excitement. Saying goodnight was hard, I could barely contain my joy and gabbed away, but once I reached my bed….falling asleep was not. My eyes were closed before my head hit the pillow and I was out of it. Nevertheless I was awake early that morning, dressed and out the door by 7:30….a recommendation from Michel – to see the place before the crowds arrived. And oh my word was it ever so worth the lack of sleep.

Sheer magic. The day had dawned early, bright and warm; a bright blue sky and that gorgeous orb that I see so seldom in the UK shone brightly!! I flung back the shutters to be greeted by the vibrant colours of Italy! I love that the buildings are so brightly painted; ochre, citrus, tangerine…the colours of the sun.

Piazza dell'Arcivescovado Pisa

the sun rises over Pisa. Piazza dell’Arcivescovado – The Archbishop’s Palace today is the result of renovations under the prelate Philip de’ Medici (mid 15th century) by the architects Francione and Baccio Pontelli, who created the inner courtyard surrounded by white marble columns.

The Piazza dei Miracoli and the buildings it encompasses are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was delighted at this discovery, now I could add Pisa to Project 101.

Piazza de Miracoli, Pisa.

Piazza de Miracoli, Pisa Leaning Tower of Pisa Duomo Santa Maria Assunta Baptistry of St John and the Old City Wall

The Leaning Tower was just as extraordinary by day as it was at midnight, a mere 7.5 hours earlier. I could not believe just how beautiful the buildings look by day; just as beautiful as they had at night. I strolled around just absorbing the magic. At that moment I felt like I never wanted to leave. I had fallen in love with Pisa.

the colours of pisa italy

The colours of the sun; Pisa in the morning

I did after all actually cut my stay in Florence by a day and booked another night at the Pensione Helvetia  just so I could spend more time in Pisa before I left. I’m ever so glad I did.

But Florence was still in the future, with all her extraordinary discoveries still to be made. Meanwhile there was this magical place to explore……

The magic of Pisa……

 

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Since I booked My Camino flight a couple of months ago I have read and am still reading as many Camino blogs as possible. I’m a great ‘keeper of lists’ and these blogs are kinda like my lists, and I’m learning so much. Just this morning I found Brett’s blog on my wordpress feed and clicking from one to another of his posts I came across this one. It resonated particularly due to the encounter he had with a fellow pilgrim, which you can read about in this article. It was an eye-opening read due to my childhood encounters with alcohol and how it can affect people and adversely change their personalities. I’m learning so much and I haven’t even started yet…or have I?

Pilgrim Shelter

This story is the first of a continuing series about my adventures on the Camino de Santiago. You can read an overview of my time on the Camino here.


There is plenty to look at as one walks the Camino de Santiago. A large part of the beauty of the Camino is its diversity. Forests. Plains. Cities. Mountains. Tiny villages. Vineyards. Sunflower fields.

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Since deciding to walk The Camino, I’ve read a wide range of blogs written by the vast array of people; both men and women of all ages that walk the different Camino routes – some blogs are documentary, some short, some long, many are very personal; walking the Camino and lessons learned.

different paths; different journeys

different paths; different journeys

I have learned a lot about how some folks behave on the pilgrim routes – which honestly has come as quite a surprise.

One of the most profound stories I’ve read so far relates to sunflowers;

It started when I really considered the sunflower plant. I often leave town in the early morning darkness. That’s when the sunflower has its head bowed low awaiting that first ray of sunlight. Then it perks up and turns its face toward the sun and absorbs sunlight and energy all day. Then, at evening, it again bows low and rests for the night. After a period of time, it starts to lose the beautiful yellow crown surrounding its seedy face. It becomes more difficult to raise its head toward the sun. At last, it dies. That is, the plant dies, but the seeds live on.

Another interesting blog I read, also spoke about sunflowers:

That is, I had never considered their significance until the life cycle of a sunflower was explained to me by a German opera singer named Anja.  As she explained it, just before sunflowers die, they give up their seeds from the brown part of the flower (the seed head).  Their last act, if you will, is to give of themselves to ensure that future sunflowers will grow in that area next season.

and continued with a story about keeping the peace; relating a situation with a man called Ted – a story I found to be both interesting and shocking. It described how this man would get drunk and behaved in a manner totally unacceptable in normal society, never mind on a pilgrims route; it never entered my head that people would behave like that on the Camino!!

What I found so interesting was how they both said the same thing: I had never considered.

Another fascinating journey that I am following on instagram is Walking for Peace. It’s been so interesting to follow Mony and Alberto and see the lessons they are learning; some of which have reduced me to tears, given me goosebumps. It’s marvellous that they are so aware of what is being learned. So often in life the lessons we are meant to learn present themselves again and again before we finally accept them.

Since I started my ‘journey’ and even though I haven’t yet walked even one step on ‘The Camino’, I feel as though my journey has already begun. I’ve been walking a lot (604.89 miles since 01/01/2017), practising with my backpack, feeling my way with how much I can or cannot cope with. I have enjoyed hours and hours of travelling, walking and exploration by myself. I am becoming more observant of my surroundings, something that would please my daughter who gets very frustrated with my usual lack of observation!! My usual answer when she says “did you see that Mom?” – and I’m like “What?” But it was right in front of you!!! LOL

I find that I am slowly learning how to ‘let go’, although that is still a really difficult and annoying part of my personality; replaying over and over and over in my mind after an incident that disturbs me: ‘I should have said this’ or ‘I should have done that’, the emotions of the moment churning and churning till I want to go mad.do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace - dalai lama xiv

I am beginning to believe that this churning incidents over and over in my mind relates very much to my childhood, a long period of time when I found myself in bad situations, times when I felt completely helpless, unable to verbalise my fears, afraid of what might happen if I did speak up.

I’ve noticed a common thread among these pilgrim stories; the real Camino begins once a peregrino returns home.

And as my journey draws nearer, I do muse on what lessons The Camino will hold for me. It has certainly consumed pretty much my every waking thought in the meantime.

walking the camino and lessons learned

the many paths in life we get to choose…..

Do join me on my journey as I prepare for what is the 2nd most important journey of my life. Follow along on instagram as I travel around the country, working, walking, learning and discovering more about myself and the country I now call home.

Buen Camino.

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Closer to the edge

Walking the coastline of Britain

Short Walks & Long Paths

Wandering and exploring The Pembrokeshire & Wales Coast Paths

Port Side Travel By Jill

My travels, photos, tips/tricks and anything else I think of!

Wonderwall

My 360: wonderwalls,theatre, travel, Sheffield, books...

Robyn's Ramblings

My Thoughts. Expressed.

Graham's Long Walk

Graham King's long walks around Britain

The Lawsons on the Loose

Philip & Heather are making memories through travelling. How lucky are we?

John Wreford Photographer

Words and Pictures from the Middle East & Balkans

Roadtirement

"Traveling and Retired"