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Posts Tagged ‘Cindy’s travels’

When I was planning the next stage of my Saxon Shore Way jaunt I noticed that the Isle of Sheppey was very close to the route. And so, since I’m still working on Project 101, I decided to keep this particular stage short, and visit the island while I was there.

The Isle of Sheppey

So to that end, I planned to walk from Sittingbourne to Swale then hop on the train to Queenborough Station and spend some time walking around the island and exploring.

I’m not going to write about the actual walk at this stage because I want to write up the other stages from when I started, so instead I’ll share my brief excursion to my 20th island and 66th bridge of some note.

I got a little more than I bargained for; a very hot day and a very well timed, albeit coincidental event.

I really wasn’t sure about visiting the island coz of reports I’d had from previous visitors, but an opportunity is to taken up at the time. I was pleasantly surprised.

Like most of the south east seaside towns, the spirit of the High Street has been lost and its mostly charity shops and caf茅s and adhoc shops with a few interesting independent shops interspersed. But I wasn’t here for the shopping…so onwards

Sheerness-on-Sea High Street

The clock tower is very pretty and I enjoyed a lot of the architecture.

The Clock Tower
A church
Some lovely houses
Loved these

A bonus windmill

After a short excursion through Sheerness-on-Sea, I headed for the beach planning on first cooling my feet in the sea (my daughter suggested I strip down to my underwear and go for a swim 馃ぃ馃ぃ馃ぃ馃ぃ馃お馃お Don’t want to scare the locals!! Instead I just stood with my feet in the water…bliss!

Cool water blissful

And then because I’m insane and generally like punishing myself, I decided to walk along the promenade till it ran out and then walk inland to Minster-on-Sea. Why? Seriously. I do have some daft ideas. It was 25degrees and blazing hot, but I may never visit again, so….

The coastline is absolutely gorgeous, albeit mostly stones and little beach – ouch!!

I had planned on walking to that little promontory in the distance
Getting closer
But ultimately I walked much further. Was delighted to see this
That water was ever so inviting. I could quite easily have gone for a swim
Facing out to sea, in case the Vikings decide to invade the east coast again, they’ll be welcome 馃榾
Some pretty artwork where I turned inland

The bonus surprise came just before I left the Saxon Shore Way for the train station 馃殙 to Sheppey. I was sitting on a lovely bench eating my lunch when I heard the warning signal and looked behind me. I noticed a section of the bridge being raised and then I saw the tanker making its way upstream…

The bonus

It reminded me of how Tower Bridge lifts when large vessels enter London Pool. Ever so exciting to watch these innovative feats of engineering. Lucky me.

My thoughts on the Isle of Sheppey? I loved it, and will return another day and spend more time walking, especially through the nature reserve.

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My time in Salisbury is now over, but fear not I shall return – when I start travelling with my grandson, Salisbury, Old Sarum and Avebury are on my very extensive list of ‘places to go on Granny and Jamie’s Adventures’. But I couldn’t leave without sharing what is, next to the Cathedral, the best aspect of the city…..The River Avon, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, such a beautiful space.

Synonymous with Shakespeare and Stratford Upon Avon, the Avon rises east of the town of Chipping Sodbury in South Gloucestershire, just north of the village of Acton Turville.

The river itself runs from a spring in Naseby in Northamptonshire, through Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestshire and finally to the River Severn in Gloucestershire, passing through Bath and Bristol, the last big city on its route and beneath the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The River Avon is an exceptionally meandery river with lots of small tributaries and channels breaking away, leaving hundreds of little islands in its wake enroute to the sea…I tried to follow it on Google maps but gave up 馃槃馃槃馃槃

Running a somewhat circular path, the river drains east and then south through Wiltshire. Its first main settlement is the village of Luckington, two miles (3 km) inside the Wiltshire border, and then on to Sherston.

At Malmesbury it joins up with its first major tributary, the Tetbury Avon, which rises just north of Tetbury in Gloucestershire.
This tributary is known locally as the Ingleburn, which in Old English means ‘English river’. Here, the two rivers almost meet but their path is blocked by a rocky outcrop of the Cotswolds, almost creating an island for the ancient hilltop town of Malmesbury to sit on. Upstream of this confluence the river is sometimes referred to as the ‘River Avon (Sherston Branch)’ to distinguish it from the Tetbury Branch.
Information ref wikipedia with thanks.

In Salisbury the river twists and winds within sight of the cathedral as it rushes past ancient inns, Norman churches, alongside meadows green and watery alive with wildflowers, butterflies, bees and swans, it splits into a multitude of channels and smaller tributaries around the city, with 2 distinct channels in the city rushing furiously through the millrace at the Maltings then flows fast beneath a 15th century bridge; Crane Bridge

The Maltings
Crane Bridge

Pretty much wherever you are, you are within a short walk of the river.

The chalk soils around the River Avon filter and purify the water, making the river a special place for wildlife. The Avon and its tributaries make up one of the largest chalk river systems in England, and is a source of clean drinking water.

Although I’ve been to Salisbury a few times, its always been a short visit and mostly spent in the cathedral or at Old Sarum (which is a fantastic place btw – a must visit), but I’ve never had the time to just meander and explore. Its been fantastic. I shall of course return someday in the future….

Meanwhile, here’s a short video showing scenes of the River Avon in Salisbury

I did a lot of walking during my breaks, through Churchill Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, and along the many and varied riverside walks in the city…I went as far afield as the area called Broken Bridges and had a walk along the River Nadder, blissful tranquility, a space of enchantment

Crossing the bridge towards Broken Bridges
River Nadder, so clear you can see the bottom

And that’s it ….goodbye Salisbury, hope your cathedral is open next time I visit, I’d like to see the Magna Carta again 馃槉馃槉

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Absolutely delighted to have completed the Ring of Kerry virtual challenge tonight.

After I’d updated my Conqueror app kms last night I found I only had 1.1km left to complete the challenge. So tonight after I got back from visiting the kids, I went for a short walk along the clifftop and 1.6km later, I’m done.

Challenge #5 in the bag. For someone who said she was only going to do one….馃榿馃榿馃榿馃き馃き

Total 1194.7kms

A cheap way to travel the world. 馃槈

Congratulations, you have completed Ireland’s well known scenic route the Ring of Kerry. Before you leave spend a little more time in Killarney by visiting the historical site of the 15th century Ross Castle.

Overlooking the third largest lake in Ireland, called Lough Leane, the castle was built by the local ruling clan, O’Donoghues M贸r. Ross Castle was one of the last castles in Ireland to surrender to Cromwell’s forces. Up until the 17th century the castle was surrounded by a curtain wall with towers in each corner. A portion of the curtain wall was torn down to make way for expansion whilst in use as a barracks. Today the castle is open to visitors, retaining the tower house, part of the curtain wall and two towers.

From the castle take a boat ride on the lake to Innisfallen Island, the home to the ruins Innisfallen Abbey. Founded in 640 AD by St Finian, the patron saint of the area, it was occupied for nearly a thousand years. Nothing remains from that early settlement. The current ruins are a late 12th century Augustinian Priory. Over a few hundred years the resident monks wrote the famed Annals of Innisfallen, a chronicle of Ireland’s medieval history. In the late 16th century during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the monks were dispossessed of their abbey.

An excerpt from Thomas Moore’s poem entitled Sweet Innisfallen (c1870) describes it best:

Sweet Innisfallen, fare thee well,
May calm and sunshine long be thine!
How fair thou art let other tell,
To feel how fair shall long be mine.
Sweet Innisfallen, long shall dwell
In memory’s dream that sunny smile,
Which o’er thee on that evening fell,
When first I saw thy fairy isle…

It’s so easy to get discouraged these days what with lockdown and various crazy things happening in the world, so for me this has been a fun way to keep motivated, and even when I really don’t feel like getting out, the thought of adding kms to my challenge gets me out the house.

I love the milestone postcards we get and the information that comes with them. The plant a tree initiative is fantastic and its exciting to know that my walking challenges have planted 25 trees so far

Virtually – anything is possible

If you’d like to join me on these virtual challenges, you can sign up here via my link.

https://www.theconqueror.events/r/CE1474

This is not an affiliate link and I don’t make any money from people signing up, but you get a 10% discount on any walks you sign up for and I think I get a 10% discount as well….which is a moot point really since I’ve already signed up for all the walks I want to do 馃槂馃槂馃槂, although that’s no guarantee and I’m pretty certain that if they bring out more challenges, I’ll sign up 馃ぃ馃ぃ馃ぃ

What’s next you might ask….well I’ve 477.7km to walk to complete my personal challenge of 2020kms in 2020, and next on the horizon is the Great Ocean Road, Australia and Alps to Ocean, NZ. Next year I’ll be walking the Cabot Trail, Canada and the Ring Road, Iceland.

Hope they bring out a 2021 challenge too.

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I forgot to tell you about Lewes Castle!! How remiss of me. Only one of the most amazing attractions of the town..

When I first arrived in Lewes my attention was drawn to the fantastic 14th and 15th century buildings in the high street and I didn’t even notice the castle….probably also because I was sitting on the left hand side of the taxi 馃槈 and despite what I used to tell my daughter, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, so I missed it altogether.

And unusually for me…..as with Newhaven, I didn’t do my research prior to visiting.

On my first Saturday here, during my break, I set off to explore and whoaaa, there’s a castle.

My first glimpse of Lewes Castle

But as mentioned in a previous post, I had neither mask nor money with me 馃お馃お Never mind, I’ll come back next week (the castle is only open on Saturday atm due to Covid-19). But of course next Saturday was raining. So no castle.

However this Saturday last, I had to visit regardless of the weather because I leave Lewes on Friday.

Saturday dawned rainy and windy but with an occasional blue sky sunshine, so off I went. They have a really good system set up. You’re greeted at the door by a lovely lady who takes all your test and trace details, you sanitise your hands, then she sends you off on a one-way system through the museum first, after which you can buy your ticket for a visit to the castle. Ergo, the museum is free to visit (I think).聽 And visit you must.

The museum is not large, 2 rooms downstairs and 2 rooms upstairs, but they have a most amazing set up depicting the history of the area and the many artefacts that have been found in Sussex. An intimate little museum with just enough information to read and look at without being overwhelmed. My favourite artifacts were the swords. Wowww.

I had a good read, took some photos, bought a few items from the gift shop for my grandson, paid for my entry and another lovely lady guided me across to the gate and let me in.

I love castles 馃馃 There’s a massive shortage of castles in South Africa and the only castle I’d had experience of before coming to the UK was Cape Town Castle which isn’t really, but is rather a fort with grand ideas masquerading as a castle. It also has a history as a prison and is still a symbol of European oppression. Although to be fair, I guess most castles here have the same sort of background.

Anyway, back to Lewes Castle…

Like many castles today, this too is just a shadow of its former glory, but its fabulous. I climbed innumerable stairs to the top, sadly not the very top of the towers, which is where I really wanted to go, but the remains of the Great Hall will have to suffice.

Dozens of stairs
The Great Hall

The views across the valley to the hills are absolutely stunning, especially beautiful with the autumn colours. From here as well the view looks back in time to the 1264 Battle of Lewes.

A good view too of what used to be the Tilting Ground, now a bowling green, and in the distance I could see the windmill I passed a few days ago on my walk to Kingston. Awesome.

The Tilting Ground

The wind was blowing a gale and howling in my ears, flicking leaves and branches here and there….just brilliant. It was wild. Yes, there’s a couple of trees growing out the side of the building and there’s a tree slap bang in the middle of what was the Great Hall…now that’s wild!!

Nature takes over…

As you can imagine with the unpleasant weather, there were not many people up there, so it was easy to explore, although there really wasn’t that much to explore. Shame about the towers – closed atm due to Covid-19. Geez, I just realised reading that sentence back, that I used the word ‘there’ 3 times 馃馃 English eh.

Coming back down the stairs you have fantastic views across the town and to the cliffs, and travelling from across country the castle can be seen from miles away….the position is brilliant.

Views for miles around

In the courtyard is a fantastic Russian cannon and some wooden stocks

A bit of history:

A work in progress like most castles in England, Lewes Castle, originally known as Bray Castle, follows a motte and bailey design but unusually, has two mottes and was built on and added to over a few centuries.

The first motte, known as Brack Mount was completed shortly after the 1066 Norman conquest of England.

Both of the mottes were built by聽William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey, who also, along with his wife Gundrada, built the nearby聽 Priory of St. Pancras.

The mottes would originally have been surmounted by wooden palisades.

The second motte, known as the Keep, was completed in the late 11th century.
Both of which were built by William de Warenne, 1st Earl of Surrey.

Soldiers from the King’s army, set out from the castle to engage with Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Lewes in 1264.

Towers were added to one of the shell keeps in the 13th century.

The barbican gate was added in the 14th century.

Certainly not as enormous as some of the castles I’ve visited in the last 19 years, but no less impressive, it stands guard over a gap in the South Downs overlooking the towns of Lewes and Cliffe and the River Ouse that winds it’s way between the 2 towns.

In the distance…it looks far, but it’s only about a 10 minute walk

Lewes castle has the distinction of being the 49th castle I’ve visited as part of Project 101.

I’ve compiled a short video of some of the exhibits in the museum

I can highly recommend a visit to Lewes Castle if you’re in the area. At the moment they’re only open on Saturdays, but that might change in the future.

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WordPress reminded me its notjustagranny’s 11th anniversary today…..11 years!! Can hardly believe it.

Mind you I was blogging well before that under a different url but that was a long time ago.

My blogging is mostly a hit and miss affair, and contrary to the advice of the gurus I haven’t been consistent. Mostly because I felt I had to log on via my laptop and that’s not always desirable or practical.

I did not want to blog via my phone and resisted going down that path for years. I found it time-consuming and tedious.

But technology has changed and its sooo much easier now to just get on with it.

Besides that, I recently logged off Facebook after watching the documentary Social Dilemma….voila, suddenly I have more time.

So without further ado and adon’t I’m now blogging more regularly via my phone….sorry 馃ぃ馃ぃ馃ぃ馃ぃ

It’s much easier to upload photos and videos to wordpress media but sometimes I get too enthusiastic and upload too many and then I can’t remember which I have inserted and which I haven’t.

I’m sure there are hundreds of unattached photos in my media.

Anyway here’s my achievement award from wordpress…thanks folks

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I was chatting to my daughter yesterday and remarked that I had been particularly blessed this year. Usually when you get to the end of the year you kinda feel like there is more that could/should be done before the year ends (well I do), and the last few days of December are spent cramming in just a few more activities. But this year I can truly say that I have had a year jam-packed with adventures, and for that, I am truly grateful.

inspirational quotes

Die with memories, not dreams

So to that end I decided to list my 2017 adventures, and was astounded at how much I had actually done, and how many places I have actually been to besides all my Camino 2017 practice walks that took me to some fantastic places. So this is my final blog for聽31 Days of Gratitude – Day 31 – 2017 in review.

January

New Year’s Day swim 01.01.2017 Broadstairs Beach, Isle of Thanet, Kent

New Year's Day, Broadstairs

New Year’s Day, Broadstairs

Wedding Dress shopping with my daughter

wedding dress shopping with my daughter

wedding dress shopping…so much fun

Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England

visit the isle of wight

A visit to the isle of Wight

Places I went while I was there; Nettlestone (1086 Domesday Book village),20170116_144130-01 Bembridge Windmilll, Brading Roman Villa,聽Carisbrooke Castle,聽Cowes,聽Ryde, rode on a聽Hover craft,聽The Needles and Quarr Abbey.

And Osborne House


Magic Lantern Festival – Chiswick Park, London

Canterbury, Kent

Canterbury, Kent

Canterbury, Kent

February
Oxted, Surrey – the Greenwich Meridian runs through the town

Oxted

A closer look at Oxted

Limpsfield, Surrey – a Domesday Book village

Down House – home of Charles Darwin

Down House; home of Charles Darwin and his family

Down House; home of Charles Darwin and his family

Tatsfield, Surrey – a Domesday Book village

tatsfield surrey

South East England’s highest village; Tatsfield. Ref wikipedia: “In聽Anglo-Saxon England, Tatsfield lay within聽Tandridge聽hundred. In 1086 it was held by Anschitill (Ansketel) de Ros from the聽Bishop of Bayeux. Its Domesday assets were: ? hide. It had 2聽ploughs. It rendered 60 shillings (拢3) to its聽feudal聽overlords per year.”

Tandridge & Crowhurst, Surrey

Tandridge & Crowhurst

Tandridge & Crowhurst

Dublin, Ireland

Trim Castle & Trim, Ireland

March
City of Winchester, Hampshire, England

Winchester

Winchester

Torquay, seaside resort – Devon

torquay

Torquay

April

Pisa,聽Florence,聽San Gimignano,聽Poggibonsi,聽Sienna,聽Lucca – Italy

May

Newcastle, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

Newcastle, Ireland

Newcastle, Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

Dark Hedges – Game of Thrones, N. Ireland

the dark hedges northern ireland

The Dark Hedges – scenes for Game of Thrones were shot in this area

Sevenoaks, Kent, England

June
Tonbridge, Kent, England

Ironbridge, Shropshire, England – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Lenham, Kent, England

Lenham

Lenham

July
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales route – Southwark to Canterbury

Battle of Britain Airshow, Headcorn

St Augustine’s Way – Ramsgate to Canterbury

August
Arundel, and Arundel Castle, West Sussex, England

Bromham, Houghton House with my lovely friends Lynne & Tim and Elstow (birthplace of John Bunyan) – Bedfordshire, England

Bronham, Houghton House, Elstow

Bromham, Houghton House, Elstow

Zip Line with Zip World in London with my daughter

September
Walked the Caminho Portuguese – Porto, Portugal to Santiago, Spain 240 kms – Both UNESCO World Heritage sites

Coimbra, Portugal – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

October
Montgomery Castle, Montgomery, Wales

Montgomery Castle, Montgomery, Wales

Montgomery Castle, Montgomery, Wales

November
Caernarfon Castle, Wales – site where Prince Charles was crowned Prince of Wales

Caenarfon Castle, Wales

Caenarfon Castle, Wales

Ffenistogg Railway Line Train ride; Caenarfon to Portmadogg through Snowdonia

Ffenistogg Railway line Caenarfon to Porthmadogg, Wales

Ffenistogg Railway line Caenarfon to Portmadogg, Wales

Climbed Mount Snowdon,聽Snowdonia National Park, Gwynedd – highest mountain in Wales

Mount Snowdon, Wales

Mount Snowdon, Wales

Montgomery, Powys, Wales –聽The Treaty of聽Montgomery聽was signed 29 September 1267 in聽Montgomeryshire. By this treaty King Henry III of聽England聽acknowledged Llywelyn ap Gruffudd as Prince of Wales.

Montgomery, Wales

Montgomery, Wales

December
Snow in Wales

Snow in Wales

Snow in Wales

Christmas in Broadstairs, Isle of Thanet, Kent

xmas 2017

Christmas 2017 with my delightful family

And in total, between 01.01.2017 & 31.12.2017 I have walked well over 1100 miles.

What an extraordinary year; 2017.IMG_20171231_100927_404

p.s. Days 14-30 Days of Gratitude will follow shortly….I eventually ran out of time 馃槈

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Palazzo Pitti was quite frankly just extraordinary. I think I went a little mad with my camera and photographed every inch of the walls and ceilings, the displays of treasure, those fragments of clothing from 500 years ago take your breath away. Finally after I had explored every inch I could, I left via the main entrance on Piazza Pitti and looking back quickly took a #selfie…I just couldn’t believe what I just seen and felt like I needed to record the fact that I had actually been there….it was so surreal. And I hadn’t even mentioned the Grotto!!

palazzo pitti Buontalenti grotto florence

Palazzo Pitti and the amazing Buontalenti Grotto in the Boboli Gardens, built by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593, commissioned by Francesco I de鈥 Medici

Florence truly is a city of opulent architectural gems and the centre highly deserves it’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Where to next? I didn’t think I could see anything else that was so amazing, but I was wrong!! Making my way back to the river I crossed over Ponte Vecchio again and within a couple of minutes I entered the Palazzo Vecchio. Well!!! What do you say when you are stopped in your tracks by something that is so amazing you almost have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming….what I saw in front of me was someone’s dream, and it was magical.

palazzo vecchio florence

the magnificent Palazzo Vecchio, once home to Cosimo Medici and his wife Eleanora of Toledo

On the Visit Florence website they talk about time-travel and walking through these extraordinary buildings it seriously is like stepping back in time: “Palazzo Vecchio offers Roman ruins, a Medieval fortress and amazing Renaissance chambers and paintings” Do visit their website for more information. This building, now the Florentine Town Hall is magnificent, influenced by Moorish architecture, if you blinked you could be in Morocco. I’ve seen similar crenellated buildings in Gibraltar. It’s amazing! During the mid 16th century the Medicis; Cosimo and his wife; Eleanora of Toledo (the clothing fragments in my previous post belonged to her) turned this into their residence and much of the paintings and decorations you can see today were influenced by them. Sadly I had a very strict daily budget and if I wanted to eat…so I didn’t get to visit the interior, which is such a shame since the rooms are decorated by people like Michaelangelo and Donatello. I guess I’m going to have to go back LOL

palazzo vecchio florence

the sculptures in the courtyard are stunning

The courtyard; Piazza della Signoria is equally as impressive with a towering replica of Michaelangelo’s most famous ‘David’ along with some other stunning sculptures. Ohhh so beautiful. If you’re a fan of art, then seriously Florence is a must.

palazzo vecchio Piazza della Signoria in Florence

Palazzo Vecchio overlooks Piazza della Signoria. The Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I is a bronze equestrian statue erected in 1594 in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence

After satiating my appetite for ‘amazement’ I went walkabout again, just meandering here and there, aiming for towers I could see towering above those gorgeous red roofs. Plunging into the warren of streets I slowly but surely make my way towards my goal:聽Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence’s main cathedral.

Along the way I discovered the Oratorio dei Buonomini di San Martino founded in 1441. Closed, but the history looks well impressive. Then the Museo Casa Di Dante….only Dante’s home. I mean seriously!!!聽Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265, on the site where the Museo Casa di Dante stands. Poet, politician, writer; author of The Divine Comedy, one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature, Dante is considered the father of the Italian language.聽Again I had to bypass = (bigger budget next visit I guess LOL). Discovering all these places, of people I had learned about in school was truly awe-inspiring. Never in my wildest dreams/imagination did I ever envisage actually visiting.

casa di dante and oratoria dei buonomini

amazing discoveries; Casa di Dante and Oratorio dei Buonomini di San Martino, Florence

Next discovery was聽The Bad矛a Fiorentina; an abbey and church, now home to the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem, situated on the Via del Proconsolo, was founded as a Benedictine institution in 978 by Willa, Countess of Tuscany. Dante grew up nearby and would likely have heard the monks singing the Mass and the Offices here in Latin Gregorian chant. It looked totally intriguing聽and stepping through the door you are transported to another era. Chiesa Della Badia Fiorentina; place of silence, eucharistic adoration and liturgy 聽– I couldn’t believe what I saw….at the front of the church were a number of nuns and monks kneeling on the floor in front of the altar!!! I have never in all my years of visiting churches around Europe and the UK seen such an ethereal and other-worldly scene. I sat down with a bump on one of the pews, just stunned into overwhelming amazement. It was totally surreal. I felt like all my sins were emblazoned on my forehead and that I should immediately ask for forgiveness. It didn’t of course stop me from taking as many photos as possible, although I did feel like I was intruding on a very special moment. The church is filled with wonders: the altarpiece showing the Virgin appearing to St. Bernard painted by Filippino Lippi between 1482 and 1486, the funerary monuments, and聽the magnificent聽elaborately carved wooden ceiling, made in 1631 by Felice Gamberai, looking up before I left I had noticed this extraordinary ceiling;聽solid looking and elaborately carved it聽looks way too heavy to remain in place!! Wonderful place. I love churches and visit them often, but I can honestly say this is the first time I felt so insignificant. Seeing those nuns kneeling in supplication…..wow.

church 3

Chiesa Della Badia Fiorentina; place of silence, eucharistic adoration and liturgy

Slipping quietly out the door I continued on my way. Okay so there is an abundance of churches in Florence, and I was in my element….I learned my lesson in Venice, where I mostly ignored the churches, except for St Mark’s obviously, until the last day of my visit….at which time I ran around like a chicken without a head trying to visit as many as possible….I had never realised how magnificent they are; the paintings, the treasures, the ghoulish relics venerated in their elaborate ossuaries. To be able to stand on the exact same space where the old masters had stood, transferring their extraordinary talent onto the actual walls of the building is just mind-blowing!! Not canvases painted elsewhere and hung in the church, but painted right there onto the actual wall…..so now, I never pass a church that’s open without stepping inside, especially not in Italy that must surely be the birth-place of extraordinarily magnificent art!

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

Anyway, before I wax聽too lyrical, the next church I stumbled into was the huge, massive and very imposing Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri. The size and facade of this church are overwhelming (yes, I was overwhelmed quite a lot in Florence LOL). On the website they describe the building as huge…uhm yes rather. I spent only a few minutes exploring this enormous cavern of a church; the altar is just amazing, since it was just on 6pm and they were about to close. But I saw enough to be well impressed.

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

Chiesa di San Firenze/San Fillipo Neri Florence

I continued my meanderings and passed the ever so delightful and quirky Pinocchio shop; Bartolucci!! Oh the temptation to buy something….Too cute. They’re located on聽Via della Condotta, 12, 50122 Firenze.

Pinocchio shop; Bartolucci

Pinocchio shop; Bartolucci

After wandering around some more getting closer and closer (or so I thought), photographing all the street names as I went, I found myself suddenly impatient; not wanting to delay any longer….I instead found myself back in the Piazza della Signoria, I have no idea how…seems I had walked in a circle LOL. So catching my bearings (yay for mapmywalk) I聽made my way with determination now, past Piazza della Repubblica then followed Via Roma and suddenly, as I walked around the corner into Piazza S. Giovanni, there it was….OMG!!! Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower. Writing about it now I’m in tears. I cannot explain in words the emotions that rushed over me.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

It is quite simply magnificent. Like I said to my daughter afterwards, I had seen a number of images of the cathedral viewed from the side, photos of the very recognisable dome, close up and from afar, but I had never before seen the front of the building!!! It is exquisite. From that edge of the piazza the view聽of the front entrance is blocked by the fabulous Baptistery; Battistero di San Giovanni, which in itself is very impressive, an outstanding building of glowing white marble with green inlays – but walk around the corner and ohmygosh!!!

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower. Florence, Itlay

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – the Virgin of the Flower; this most amazing facade is so beautiful I just couldn’t believe it. I have seen some beautiful cathedrals in my life and was to see many more over the next 3 days, but oh my word….this was the creme de la creme!!聽I confess that I just stood and cried. And then camera in hand I proceeded to take a photo of just about every inch of the building LOL. I couldn’t wait to see the interior. That was planned for the following Friday at which time I would also climb the dome and the tower. It’s free to visit the cathedral (which I didn’t realise at the time) but you have to pay to climb聽the Dome and Tower and visit the Museum.

The facade of this cathedral is like an explosion of fondant icing; brilliant white, delicate pink, subtle shades of green all framed by delicate lacy carvings, exquisite mosaics and astounding sculptures.聽I’ve tried putting into words how it looks…but I’m afraid words desert me. 聽I guess you’ll just have to go and see for yourself 馃槈 From the website Santa Maria del Fiore, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, is the third largest church in the world (after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London) and was the largest church in Europe when it was completed in the 15th century”. Surprisingly the facade was only completed during the 19th century, and of course followed the fashion of the time.

The bell tower right next door is equally impressive, just outstanding; white marble inlaid with green and red marble fading into pink, with elaborate designs and a few sculptures. One of the 4 principal monuments on the Piazza del Duomo, the tower, designed by Giotto di Bondone, stands 84.7 metres tall and about 15 metres in breadth; a classical example of 14th c Gothic architecture in Florence.

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Bapistery of St John, Florence, Italy

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Bapistery of St John, Florence, Italy

All I can say about these buildings is that the people who designed them had the most extraordinary imaginations! If you consider they didn’t have computers and the tools we have today, their buildings mostly leave many of our newer architectural creations in the shade…and mostly they seem to last a lot longer!! Started in 1334 by Giotto, it was completed in 1359聽by Francesco Talenti. I mean seriously 1334!!!! And it’s still standing!!!

After photographing my fill of the cathedrals facade and the tower I walked right around the whole building. I was sad to note that the east side (dome side) of the building was quite grubby and tatty but there is restoration going on. I’m guessing it costs a whole heck of a lot of money to maintain this magnificent building.

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Museum of Opera of Saint Maria Fiore is located in this area and proved to be a stunning place for art lovers to spend a few hours. I visited on Friday 28th, on the same day as the Dome, Cathedral, Baptistery and Tower. Combined ticket.

After walking right around the cathedral I took a closer look at the Baptistery; the Baptistery of St John, is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. Constructed in the Florentine Romanesque style聽around 1059, the construction of white Carrara marble with green Prato marble inlay was finished in 1128. More about this on 28th 馃槈

the Baptistery of Saint John, Florence, ItLY

the Baptistery of Saint John, Florence, ItLY

After聽I had walked around the cathedral at least 3 times, and inspected every possible angle, I popped in at the Museo del Bigallo….wow, beautiful interior. There is one other area of the museum that you can visit but they only open that at certain times of the day for a short period, so I didn’t get to go in. I finally tore myself away from the Piazza del Duomo and started to make my way back towards the station. It was already after 7pm and the sun was beginning to set. I had been walking for hours and needed some food!! But first, as I passed the open doors of the Chiesa dei Santi Michele I couldn’t resist popping in for a look. Goodness gracious. I’m sure that if the Catholic Church organisation sold all the paintings and gold and silver treasures that fill their churches they could solve world poverty at a stroke. It’s just too much! Seriously. But hey, meanwhile, I loved seeing all these beautiful places.

Chiesa dei Santi Michele

Chiesa dei Santi Michele, Florence, Italy

From there I headed towards the river…the evening was so gorgeous I wanted to see another Tuscan sunset…while standing at the bridge looking downstream I saw what looked like a group of people walking on water. After all the churches I had visited during the day, I would not have been one bit surprised!!!

River Arno Florence, Italy

River Arno Florence, Italy

But on closer inspection it turned out to be a weir that stretch across the river between the two bridges. A brilliant optical illusion.

the weir stretching across the River Arno in Florence

the weir stretching across the River Arno in Florence

Of course this needed closer observation so after walking around a bit, and crossing over to the opposite bank I finally found where I could access the lower reaches of the riverbank and the weir. As a bonus I also discovered some of the old city walls.

wall 1

City Walls in Florence

The list of Project 101 discoveries was growing!!

I walked along the river till I reached the weir and after a bit of climbing and unsteady walking, watching my step on uneven cobbles and concrete, I too was ‘walking on water’. The water level was lapping the edge and a misstep would have seen me taking a swim with the fishes. Nearby a group of gorgeous giggling girls having a celebration聽asked me to take a their photo…of course!! Then they did some for me 馃檪 Turns out it was the birthday of one of them and I took delight in telling them that it was mine the very next day!! I got to eat a slice of heavenly chocolate cake while standing on a weir in the middle of the River Arno in Florence. Isn’t life peachy!weir 3 I took loads of photos….surprise!!! I sometimes wish I could just take one photo of any one place and be satisfied. As if!! LOL

By now it was getting quite dark, the sun had slipped behind the horizon and I had some exploring to do. 聽I walked back towards the old walls I had seen earlier and left the city for the suburbs, but not for long. Just to have a look. Then following the wall I walked along just looking and enjoying the night, it was sublime. I found a convent, Chiesa e Convitto di San Francisco de Sales established in 1700, now聽a girls boarding school.

I meandered along, the light fading and the night drawing in, just loving being alone and on my own with not a soul聽in the vicinity who knows me. Marvellous. I love the anonymity of travel. By now I was HUNGRY!!! It was 8pm and I hadn’t eaten a thing since 10:30 at Caffe Dei Fossi. Right find me a trattoria. I really wanted to eat at a traditional eatery, so scanning the streets I walked and walked…..finally I found just what I was looking for……Trattoria Dante – perfect!!!

Trattoria Dante, Florence, Italy

the Convent top left, empty streets, Trattoria Dante, Florence

I, without further ado, entered, found a table and by 8:30pm I was tucking into a most delicious pizza…yum yum yum!!!

An hour later I was on the streets again and heading back to the apartment. The night was wonderful, Florence looked so pretty all lit up and I so enjoyed my walk through the now much quieter streets.

The River Arno, streets at night, my square, Chiesa Santa Maria Novella

The River Arno, streets at night, my square, Chiesa Santa Maria Novella

I was tempted to go have another look at the cathedral nut managed to resist…I had an early start on the morrow….a visit to San Gimignano for my birthday. Yayyy. Besides which, my bed was waiting – 12.5 hours after I set off in the morning it was time for sleep. Goodnight.

my bed...calling me

my bed…waiting for me

Connect with me on instagram as I continue my travels. I’ll be writing about San Gimignano in due course; come back soon.

Website links you may interested in:

Dante’s House

Badia Fiorentina

Chiesa di San Fillipo Neri

Bartolucci

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

More on the cathedral

Baptistery of St John

 

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The Spirit of The Camino and the spirits on The Camino.

When I first contemplated walking The Camino my head was filled with inspiring thoughts of happy, adventurous people all walking along; a merry band of comrades, climbing mountains and being amazing in their aspirations to reach Santiago. I had a somewhat romantic view of cosy alburgues, relaxing snoozes in the sun and the cameradie we saw in the movie ‘The Way’ (which, by the way, I must watch again before I go). 聽I had this notion of admiring locals who opened their homes and hearts to the ‘pilgrims’ who walked their way up mountains and down, along paths and through villages and towns, strolling into their chosen alburgue in the evening to find a cosy bed and a hot shower, of meals shared with laughter and fun.

And yes, this does in fact happen; the Spirit of the Camino.

I’ve read some extraordinary stories of people ‘rescued’ by kind-hearted locals who seeing their distress take said distressed person under their wing and guide them to a hostelaria/alburgue, or give them a hot meal, a lift in their car/truck/lorry to a place of safety. How pilgrims help each other out, lending money, clean clothes, toiletries, guidance and very often a shoulder to cry on. The Spirit of the Camino.

The Camino is also, by all accounts, tough!! Some people die. The spirits on the Camino.

There is also the dark side, a little of which we saw in The Way. People die on the Camino. People start walking and never reach their goal; their journey cut short by the grim reaper. The reasons are many: heart failure, complications from surgery, falling off a mountain, falling off their bikes (those who cycle) and some die from traffic accidents; knocked over by trucks or cars. Some people start the walk in the hopes that they will reach Santiago, but knowing that they likely won’t. It’s their final walk. Some people have reached the steps of the cathedral only to drop down dead right there at the last step.

And then there those that are murdered. Wow, I can tell you when I discovered that last year…. it came as one hell of a shock to me. The prospect of dying on the Camino had never entered my head!! I learned about this quite by accident last year when I first joined the Camino forum on Facebook. It literally took the wind out of my sails. Just a simple post to say that she, the person who made the update, had laid a stone on the cairn for Denise Theim, an Arizona lass who had disappeared while walking. 聽If you have the stomach for it you can read about it here.

I immediately set about investigating the story and that lead me to the reports of her disappearance, death and the eventual discovery of her body. The perpetrator as per the above article has since been captured and tried, soon to be incarcerated.

But what startled me most of all was reading the many stories of people who have died on The Camino. I often see photos on the facebook groups of memorials to people from across the world, both young and old who never left The Way; the spirits on The Camino.

I often think about these people now as I prepare for my Camino in September and of course the thought crosses my mind. Will I die while walking? Of course I have no idea, that is, as they say, and depending on which religious or spiritual belief your follow, determined by fate or the book of life…..your death predetermined before you are even born. Not sure I believe that notion, but there it is.

I have to say that it does bother me a lot. The f.e.a.r. presents itself in many ways, and I am in constant conflict with the emotions that arise from these thoughts. My daughter is getting married next year and I will be walking her down the aisle, guiding her聽to the man she loves, watching as she and he join their hands and lives in marriage and walk into a new future. I would be devastated if by dying on the Camino I caused her any pain and spoiled her special day by not being there. Although I’m sure she would kick my ass for saying that!! 馃槈 聽Mind you, she’s already advised me that she would be seriously pissed off with me if I die while walking. LOL We have discussions about this from time to time. About the reality of death.

I’ve questioned myself over and over. Am I being selfish? Am I not putting her happiness first instead of my selfish desire for adventure? Should I have waited till after the wedding…? I did contemplate that.

See what I mean? FEAR – false evidence appearing real. It manifests on a daily basis and gives me palpitations – and I haven’t even started yet!!!

But after many talks and encouragement from her I went ahead and booked my ticket. Not because we are fatalistic in any way, not because we discussed it in depth and not because I have a flippant answer “it won’t happen to me” (I don’t believe in making promises like that!), but because life is life. I could just as easily step off a pavement in my day to day life and get run over by a car or bus…. I could get knocked over on the many walks I take in my day to day life, some of which are along narrow country roads where cars whizz by at 80 kms p.h. leaving dust and a shivering wreck of a walker in their wake. Or I could contract one of hundreds of diseases that abound and die anyway.

So should I not go on this walk? Should I allow the fears to win? Or should I grasp life and go anyway. Well since I’ve already booked my ticket, obviously so far, that is what I will be doing.

But it still doesn’t stop me from thinking about the people who do die. I’m sure it must be absolutely devastating for their families. I can’t imagine what it must be like for them to receive the news. I have read聽of one Mother whose daughter died before they started their Camino. She will be taking her daughter’s ashes along with her to distribute at special places along The Way. God, I can’t even imagine how hard that would聽be.

I was doing some research this morning and found this blog https://gabrielschirm.com/2016/08/22/deaths-on-the-camino-de-santiago/

Gabriel gives a number breakdown of the more recent deaths on the Camino. It’s not a macabre list, just a matter of fact observation that yes, people do die while walking the Camino.

I also found this amazing blog; a beautifully compiled memorial to Camino pilgrims who have died on the way – some on their first day, others as they completed their walk.

http://amawalker.blogspot.ie/2016/12/memorials-to-pilgrims-who-died-on-camino.html

It makes a sobering read. The spirits on the Camino.

So again it brings me back to the age-old question! Should I or should I not? F.E.A.R. But as mentioned earlier I’ve already booked my plane ticket for this year, booked and paid for some of the accommodation, bought the backpack, the badges, the clothes and equipment, the books…..and so on. And with my daughter’s blessing, I will walk the Portuguese Coastal Route in September. 聽I certainly plan to discover the Spirit of the Camino; but I have no plans to become a spirit on the Camino.聽And yes, despite the fear, I am excited 馃檪

 

 

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“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~ Lao Tzu

This couldn’t be more true of my life right now. As mentioned in a previous blog, in January of this year I joined the #walk1000miles challenge that I saw advertised on Facebook (it has it’s uses 馃槈 ). I’ve always loved walking and in my youth (?) I could easily walk up to 8 hours in a day, just meandering here and there…wherever my feet took me.

Since I joined the challenge, I’ve reached the ‘Proclaimer’ point of 500 miles, and of course I will walk 500 more!!

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 馃檪

Prior to joining the challenge I had started training for my September Camino (the one I’ve been speaking about for the last 18 months LOL) at the beginning of 2016. Having this 1000 mile challenge to spur me on has been really useful and it certainly helps on those days when I simply do not have any desire whatsoever to get out and walk…although there are days when my bed wins the tug-o-war!! – mostly on days when I’ve had 2 or more night calls and I simply have to catch up on sleep or…….!!!聽With all the planning I have been doing, researching the route and distances between towns on the Portuguese Coastal Route, I suspect I may well reach the 1000 mile mark while on the Camino…this would be super awesome.

The last few days in Ireland have been wet and rainy, and have provided the perfect excuse to not go out! But today when I opened my emails, there to spur me on and reinvigorate my spirits was a notification to say that the Camino shells and my Camino Passport (Credential) have been despatched!

Talk about motivation to get out again LOL

Now to tackle to backpack issue. Urgh. Talk about dithering; which size to get? However today one of the ladies on a Facebook group I follow, said she is taking a 40Litre pack, so that’s me decided. I really really love the Osprey Tempest 40L Mystic Magenta (pink) yayyy. It will fit in perfectly with my colour coding – yessss, I know, colour coding should be the least of my considerations, but bear with me, I’m a woman and anyway, most of the clothes and equipment I bought in South Africa is in shades of lilac/purple…so my bag should definitely fit in with that!!! But most importantly, it weighs the least of all the bags, coming in at 1.08kgs. And since weight is one of the BIGGEST issues on the Camino; the less the better apparently, then this has to be THE one! 馃槈

From the website: Tempest 40 is built to be lightweight, comfortable, durable and exceptionally versatile. No matter the adventure, Tempest has your back.

https://www.ospreyeurope.com/shop/gb_en/tempest-40-17

the mystical, magical Osprey Tempest 40l Mystic Magenta Backpack 馃槈

Features:
– Adjustable torso length
– AirScape mesh covered accordion foam backpanel
– Base zip entry
– Designed for Women
– External hydration access
– Fixed lid with dual zippered pockets
– Internal key attachment clip
– Internal top load compression strap
– LED light attachment point
– Light weight peripheral frame
– Removable sleeping pad straps
– Removable top lid with dual compartments
– Seamless lumbar to hip-belt body wrap

– Sternum strap with emergency whistle
– Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment
– Stretch front pocket
– Stretch mesh side pockets with InsideOut compression
– Stretch pocket on harness
– Top lid access
– Twin ice axe loops
– Twin zippered hip belt pockets

Not sure I will need the ice axe loops (?) unless I’m planning on climbing frozen waterfalls, which I’m not, but I’ve no doubt the loops will come in handy for hooking wet clothes to dry on the go! Trust me, when I say I’ve done research, I have! I compiled a spreadsheet with 5 columns of information comparing features/size etc of different backpacks. In the final analysis, this is the one and so I’ve just gone ahead and ordered the bag because no doubt, the ideal bag is not out there. 聽I could give the manufacturers some suggestions on adding some of the features from other bags….but that would likely make it quite expensive and as it is, this bag is not cheap. However since I have another 10 walks waiting in the wings for planning, I have no doubt this will get good usage.

So there it is, step by step, I’m gathering my equipment, buying the right (hopefully) items, sorting through what I do and don’t need and made some interesting observations along the way….every time I click the ‘buy now’ button on my computer I get heart-palpitations LOL.

Who knew that ‘walking The Camino’ would prove to be so stressful….before I even set foot on hallowed ground!!

On the bright side, as mentioned in an earlier blog, I’ve been following Facebook Camino page updates, reading blogs etc and besides the A.MAZ.ING scenery I can expect to see,

Arcade - Portuguese Route

Arcade, a town in Galicia along the Portuguese Way

many of the other Pilgrims experience similar twinges of fear. I guess it’s just the wtf am I doing moments that pop up from time to time as the reality sinks in and the date approaches.

So, onwards counting the days; 118 days to go!!! Whewwww!! I wish I’d stop counting the days….adds to the stress.

inspirational quotes

Sometimes we have to stop being scared and just go for it. either is will work or it won’t. that’s life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the first things I did last year when I had first made serious plans for walking the Camino was to find out what equipment I needed and what I should wear. I confess I did go on a mad spending spree while in South Africa last year in May and bought a whole load of clothes and things at the duty free store LOL!!! I’m sure they saw me coming with my bushy tail, bright eyes and Rands (拢’s) to spend!! I also went a little bit mad last year when I got home and I’m sure my purchases increased the profit margin of Mountain Warehouse quite substantially. Since then I calmed down a bit and did the sensible thing: research!! I found a fab link that I downloaded immediately

Printable Packing List

a most sensible list

So, in light of all this excitement, and especially since I have now booked my plane ticket, and the journey is real, I have set up various spreadsheets and done loads of research;

Equipment – what do I need, what’s useful and what can I realistically leave behind?

2016-05-31-17-09-27-1262409555510161159_231798962

Lookie looook!!! 馃檪 Some of my #Camino2016 gear has arrived!! In keeping with the colour of my jacket and rucksack, I’ve bought as much as I can in purple…can’t help myself; colour coding LOL. So in this pile is a Summit 250 sleeping bag, an emergency foil blanket, survival bag, waterproof pouch (for carrying stuff with easy access), poncho, BPA free water bottle, IsoCool t-shirts, microfibre travel towel, travel bottle set. All of which will be useful for future walking trips and camping too.

I bought a lot of equipment/accessories while I was in South Africa, and so far the tops and pants I bought are going with. The jacket has been converted from two layers to one; the fleece will go with me, the outer rain-jacket will stay at home (too bulky). The gloves will go with, as will the woolly cap. Not sure I will actually need them, but I don’t want to spoil my experience by freezing. The khaki bush-veld sun-hat I bought, although totally unflattering 馃槈 will go with me. Trainers I bought in SA are totally not suitable and hurt my feet like blazes, so they have been traded in for a different pair, which so far, although quite comfortable, will also not be going with me…not quite right. So the search for suitable walking shoes is still on, although the sandals I bought are amazing. I foresee lots of walking along the beaches of Portugal in those!! Pants; found the ideal type, only problem is that they are men’s. Why don’t they make women’s pants with the same accessories….like leg pockets on both legs??? You have no idea how useful those pockets are for accessibility and storage. Oh well.

Clothes and accessories – again, how much do I realistically have to have.

Fortunately I have a sister and brother-in-law who do a lot of hiking and camping out, so they have given me some advice. Of course being a woman, my inclination is to take enough for every eventuality, but common sense is struggling to prevail and I am already mentally discarding this, that and the next thing. The Facebook pages I joined have been very useful as experienced Camigas have posted updates on what they took and what they discarded as the days went by and the pack got heavier (funny how that happens!!). One thing I have decided on is that I will cut my hair very short before setting out. Save on carrying shampoo and conditioner, and also for ease of wear. I tried on a monk’s outfit at Torre Abbey In Torque earlier this year! Perfect!! I’m seriously considering…..

Backpack – I have taken to accosting people at airports and train stations when I see a backpack that looks like it might fit the bill.

camino luggage

some ideas for the equipment

LOL The wearers have so far been very accommodating and happy to answer my many questions. So many aspects to consider….who knew??? But so far, the backpack I was going to borrow from my daughter last year has been found wanting, my backpack has been found wanting, and after much research and 5 columns on the spreadsheet to compare features, and the many I have seen on the Camino forums, it seems that Osprey will fit the bill – now to decide on which one. It’s a toss-up between two models: Osprey Sirrus 50 L or Osprey Tempest 40 L – urgh. Decisions, decisions.

the portuguese route to santiago

A map showing Portuguese Routes to Santiago

Distances – how far can I walk each day to accommodate my time allowance without killing myself!! My average speed/gait that I walk normally, is 4 km’s per hour. That means I can comfortably walk 24km’s in 6 hours. However, there is the backpack to consider, the heat to consider, the terrain to consider, and my durability to consider. The towns where I have decided to overnight (this is open to change) are all within 20-26 km’s apart with only 1 day being 32kms; Tui to Redondela. I am therefore staying in Valenca聽for 2 nights and a day to recover/prepare for the next stage. So far the total route is either 260 km’s or 285 km’s depending on which site you read. I’ve done a google distance calculation from town to town, added on a km to each and hoping for the best. Except for the last 100 km’s which you have to do consecutively in order to qualify for the certificate; Compostela, I can if necessary use the occasional bus or train. But I feel this would spoil it somehow so hoping to manage to walk the whole way.

Walking!!! Yes this raises all sorts of issues: care of feet, the correct shoes, types of terrain and poles!

Gosh, who knew that poles could be such a contentious issue? I posted an update just the other day to say that I had bought a paid of Nordic walking poles and had anyone on the group any comment? Yes, they did. 90% were positive but one or two were quite patronising and scathing. LOL. Anyway the concensus is that they are a good thing to have, now I just have to learn how to use them properly…there is apparently a special way of walking with them for maximum benefits. If they save my knees and ankles, then baby I am there!! Besides the training, it seems you need the rubber tips for cobbles and spikes for beach. Hmmm, who knew? I’ve also found a fab site, Camino Ways, and although I haven’t booked any tours with them, their foot care advice has been most useful.聽http://caminoways.com/footcare-when-walking

Accommodation – where to sleep each night?

sculpture of a pilgrim in dublin

I saw this truly evocative sculpture at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin

The obvious choice would be alburgues, but from what I’ve seen on the various forums, this is a bit tricky. They are cheap and highly sought after and in many instance ‘pilgrims’ jump ahead by using taxis to get to the next town early and secure the accommodation before the ‘walkers’ get there. Seems a bit ludicrous really and not at all in the spirit of the Camino. To each his own hey! So I think I shall take a mix of AirBnB, hotels and the pilgrims alburgues. The AirBnb would give me the benefit of a private room, a place to prepare a proper meal, a comfortable bed and a dedicated shower LOL. Hotels likewise except for the meals, but mostly they include a continental breakfast….the alburgues are very basic, communal facilities and bedrooms with bunks, but mostly with kitchens where meals can be prepared, so I shall balance the 3 to both enjoy the experience and stick with the pilgrim aspect. From what I’ve seen on the forums, except for the purists, this mix appears to be the norm.

Food – what to eat?

I recently spent 10 days in Italy between Pisa and Florence and as usual was so busy exploring and tramping the streets trying to see as much as possible, I didn’t get to eat much…as a result of which I have suffered terrible cramps in my feet and legs since getting back home. Obviously my body couldn’t cope with the burning up of nutrients without being topped up!!! Lesson learned. I asked on Facebook and got some useful advice that I shall follow. Meanwhile I’m beefing up on protein. Being vegetarian this is a bit tricky but research has given me some fab food groups to incorporate into my diet. Nutrition is going to be key for a healthy Camino. So lots of fruit and vegetable protein will be on the menu. I’ll have to do some research on what’s available for my very spoilt British palate. We have way too much variety and choice in this country!!

Locations – this is the best part for me. I adore history, so my research on the different locations along the route have provided hours of pleasurable reading. Oh my word! So much extraordinary history. It’s almost unbearable. I wish I had twice the time I have allocated so that I could spend 2 nights and a day in each location. But I have chosen the highlights and of course; my favourite venues – the churches and cathedrals, anything Roman and of course amazing architecture. 聽Some snippets:Portugal is a country I have wanted to visit for some years and although not top of my dream list so to speak, it’s history has intrigued me and of course there’s the stunning scenery. I’m also intrigued by the fact that they are such a small country, surrounded by sea and Spain, and have yet maintained their independence through thick and thin.

My Camino de Santiago will start in September from Porto:

Porto, a coastal city in northwest Portugal, is Portugal’s 2nd largest city and known for its stately bridges and port wine production. In the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled streets wind past merchants鈥 houses and cafes, and is also a UNESCO world heritage Site. S茫o Francisco Church is known for its lavish baroque interior with ornate gilded carvings. The palatial 19th-century Pal谩cio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors.

I cross over into Spain from Valenca and so to Tui; from there will complete my final 100 kms to qualify for the Compostela (Certificate).

The gateway through which the Portuguese Way passes into Galicia was, and continues to be, Tui.

I am currently working on a project called ‘Project 101’. Many of these locations will fulfil some of my objectives and to my delight I have discovered some聽UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some fantastic cathedrals and Roman towns on the route. I’m planning on spending 3 days in Porto before I start walking, to acclimatise and of course, most importantly to explore the city. It too is a UNESCO heritage site and last night I discovered that the town of Coimbra (which is a place I’ve wanted to visit) is only an hour by train from Porto, the University is a UNESCO World Heritage Site…so that too is now on my Project 101 list, and a must visit while I’m in Porto. Gosh will I have enough time to do it all??

So yes, time, like me, is marching on and I’m reading up on as many blogs, doing loads of research, watching videos, learning how to use my Nordic walking poles, and walking walking walking…… And exactly 4 months from today, I will have started walking…..my Camino 2017. I should have made inroads (pun intended 馃槈 ) on聽my 2nd 500聽miles by then and I hope that I might just complete the full聽1000 miles while I’m there…that would be awesome!!! #walk1000miles

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~Lao Tzu

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 馃檪

You can follow my journey on instagram

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