Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 544 - Spain

Today I am in the beautiful city of Barcelona. We´ve been here for two nights and later today we will be starting our magical 11 night cruise around the Med. What a special way to end off the year!

My bags are packed - from running shoes to evening gowns, I´m prepared for all occasions! There are some really special stops on route, a pity that I wasn´t able to get a visa for the one day stop in Casablanca, Morocco. Anyway, I´m looking forward to seeing the Canary Islands, Malaga, Rome and the cherry on the cake, Funchal on New Year´s eve!

That´s it for now - hoping to post some great pics at the end of our trip and wising you all a truly special New Year´s Eve! All the very best for 2012, I can´t wait to come back to Spain in a few months time - hope you´ll come along for the adventure!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 533 - Special times

And before you could say 'year end', Christmas week has arrived. It feels as if it almost sneaked up on us this year, is it just me, or are the months flying past at the speed of light?

When I started this blog I had almost two years to go before my big walk in Spain, now there are less than six months to go! Planning has started in all earnest and as an extra bonus we have decided to add a week long barging trip in France after the walk. A couple of years ago we did a similar trip down the Canal du Midi - probably one of the best holidays we've ever had. I can't think of a more fitting way to relax after walking 800 km!

Here are a few of our memories...

Pictures courtesy of my friend Tanja Els
As you can see - this was a truly special trip and I am reminded how important it is to nurture our friendships!

As for the people joining me on the Camino in Spain - I could not have asked for a more special group of friends, even if I tried! Some will go all the way and some will join me for a part of the walk.

This week I met young Annie, daughter of my hiking buddie Eddie. She came to visit all the way from Barcelona and the little delightful canape in the picture at the beginning of this post was her creation. She joined us on our hike last week and this was her contribution to our year end barbecue in the mountains. Pretty civilised!

What a treat it would be if she could pay us a surprise visit somewhere along the route, especially as her dad will be walking with us all the way!

In the meantime - travel plans and dates are now becoming the main focus and in the next couple of weeks I'll be concentrating on flight options, starting dates and luggage options.

All I know for sure at this stage is that I'm starting the walk in St Jean Pied de Port and that I'd like to walk into the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela on the 12th of July 2012, the day of my big birthday!

In the meantime, I have a Christmas eve menu to plan. My house will be filled with family this year and I think it's time to take out the Christmas decorations...

A certain little person is now celebrating his fourth Christmas and I say again - is it just me, or is time flying by at the speed of light?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 527 - Blessings in colour!

'Tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes!'
~William Wordsworth

Can one feel anything but blessed when these are the treats put on your path at the end of a long year...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 521 - Hidden gems.

My garden was transformed into a wonderland of dewdrops this morning. Turning this picture around and looking a little deeper at what was hidden in the little drop of water made me realise how rewarding it can be to take the time to get to know more.

More about life. More about those sharing this world with us. More about why we are.

More about who we are and what we could be.

Turning things upside down might sometimes reveal something totally new, totally unexpected - the same thing, but so much more perfect when viewed from another angle!

I focused on the agapanthus flower when I composed the shot - little did I know that hidden in the little dewdrop I would later discover this amazing scene. All I had to do was to look a little closer, to turn it around a little. I had to get rid of the bigger picture to discover the beauty inside.

I'm discovering gems like this in the most unexpected places. Looking a little deeper. Really listening. People say so much between the lines. Focus on the moment, instead of the bigger picture.

I would have missed out if I chose not get my feet wet this morning...

'Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.'
~ Deuteronomy 32:2

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 517 - A small detour...

My road to Santiago took a little detour around Lion's Head today. Lion's Head is situated right next to our beautiful city and looking down on all the office buidings and busy streets from up there, I realised once again how fortunate I am. I have to admit that there was no way that you would have been able to convince me to exchange my hiking boots and backpack for an office suit today!

I'm also starting to come to grips with my little Olympus digital camera. The fact that I won't be able to take my normal (too bulky) camera with me to Spain, really bothers me as I really want to capture my journey as best I possibly can. After all, other than memories I will carry with me, a photographic record is the next most important thing that I am going to bring home with me.

The little green Olympus was purchased to go all the way up Kilimanjaro with me as the pamphlet promised that it would operate at minus 10 degrees Celsius and would survive a fall of one and a half meters. It also boasted that it would function underwater! Well, it certainly has lived up to the first promise, I'm yet to test the other two. The problem that I have with it is that I never got to read the manual before my Kili trip. My plan was to educate myself the evening before the climb. Imagine my disappointment when I realised that I did not have the correct plug with me to recharge the battery.This meant that if I played around with it, I would have no way to recharge the battery and I could not risk running out of battery power just as I was about to take that BIG picture on the very top of Africa! As it turned out, the three batteries I took with, lasted exactly as long as I needed it to.

To cut a long story short, I was too tired to study instructions and thought I'd just click away and hope for the best. Well, the pictures were ok, but not special and I felt that I had wasted my money. I just can't bear spending money on another camera though when, in fairness, this little one has still been largely unexplored. I've taken it on two of my hikes now and the above pics were taken on the automatic mode. Slowly but surely I'm going to experiment with the manual settings and see what it produces before I decide whether to stick with it or not.

If you've walked the Camino and have any advice regarding this issue, I'd love to hear from you.

As for the detour of today, it was well worth taking! A single canon shot announces midday in Cape Town every day. We had planned to be at the place where this happens today. As it turned out we didn't stick to our planned pace and instead enjoyed the view whilst enjoying our snacks and chatting away - just enjoying the company!

What a special way to spend a Thursday. I hope that life has a few dozen more of these in store for me. 

As for the Camino - if these weekly detours are indicators of things to come, I can see that 34 days in Spain is definitely not going to be enough! 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 510 - What if...

I found myself going through my old pictures recently and somehow I kept going back to this one. This was taken in my final year at school and my friends convinced me to join the cheer leading team. Our big yearly sports day was held at the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town - who would have guessed that years later soccer teams from all over the world would compete for the world cup on this very spot!

What really kept me going back to this picture though, I think, was not what the place where it was taken has become, but where I was in my own journey at this point. 

18 Years old. Starry eyed.

How I wish I knew that the Camino existed then. Who knows how much my backpack would have weighed had I taken to the road at this point... :)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 505 - A world of colour...

What a glorious time of the year it is in our part of the world. Gardens are coming alive and no matter where you look, it seems as if the world has been transformed. Dullness has disappeared and brown and beige has been replaced with every colour imaginable. I thought I'd share some of the beauty that I have experienced during the past couple of weeks with you.

'The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.' ~ Isiah 35:1

And now there's only six and a half months left before I start my Camino adventure in Spain. I had to smile when I found myself standing on this path in one of the most beautiful gardens in Elgin - a path literally covered with rose petals... I couldn't help but wonder, is this a glimpse of what lies ahead?

I choose to believe it is indeed!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 495 - Madame M.

Roses have always reminded me of old ladies. Classy, refined, elegant. Last week though, I suddenly realised that old ladies (...and remember, I'm going to be one in the not-too-distant future!), can also be feisty, bright coloured, cheeky little Poppies, just like the beautiful specimens below! Funny how these three are lined up in a row - indulge me if you wish, and I'll share a delightful encounter with you.

To put you in the picture - imagine that I am the Poppie on the left, the middle one is a shy young girl and the Poppie on the right is a petite, well groomed, confident little old lady dressed in pink.

So, now imagine that before this picture was taken, someone else stood in front of the young girl. We're waiting in line to go to the bathroom, along with a gazillion other women. We're all somewhere in romance land, as for the last hour we'd been listening to the dishy young Italian singer, Patrizio, serenading us at a live performance.

We're all minding our own business (...and all probably imagining Patrizio proposing to us somewhere under a rose covered veranda in Tuscany...), when two tiny little old ladies casually join the line. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, except, the normal order of things would have been to join from the back of the line, not discreetly sauntering in, claiming your stand almost in the front!

So, let's say Madame M barged into my life in the toilet queue.

I'm calling her Madame M because she really is quite a madame, her real name starts with the letter M and I also found her to be manipulative, mesmerising and quite a mystery, to be quite frank!

Back to the story then. Well, we just stood there for a while, looking at each other in disbelief. The cheek of these two was almost beyond comprehension! Then the murmurs started. Everyone had something to say, but no-one actually said it to them. So I cracked. This is more or less how my first interaction with Madame M went:

Me: 'Excuse me...the line starts over there, right at the back.'
Madame M: Ignores me totally.
Me: 'Hallo - you can't actually do this, we've all been standing here for a while.'
Madame M: Continues talking to her equally elegant looking little friend.
At this stage I'm getting hot under the collar. Madame M's friend gets stage fright and informs her that she's going to look for another bathroom. Madame M, who was the tiniest of the two, by the way, decides to hold her ground and remains in her spot.

You've got to love this!

She continues talking - to no one in particular and then turns to face me. The young girl in front of me tries to make herself invisible but I can see she's not missing this for the world!

Madame M: 'My dear, when you get to my age you'll realise that when you have to go, you have to go!'
Me: 'I can understand that, but then all you had to do was ask and we would have let you in with love.You can't just barge in without asking - it angers people, we've all been standing here for quite a while.'
Madame M: Gives me a look that could kill but remains quiet for a few seconds.

After contemplating the situation for a little while she turns back to me, looks me straight in the eye, holds her hand out to me in introduction as says: ' I'm M. Who are you?'

At this stage I'm warming to her as I just cannot believe what I'm busy experiencing. Note that she's still in her chosen spot in the line, which, by the way, is steadily moving forward. I think Churchill would have found her a very useful member of staff - she seemed to be a strategist of note!

Back to the conversation:
Me: 'I'm Emilene.' (In a proud, confident, don't-mess-with-me kinda way...)
Madame M: 'Do you know - I almost followed a career in ballet in Milan. Have you ever been there?'
Me: (Smiling) 'In fact, yes, I have been.'
Madame M seemed phased by that for a few seconds - maybe I didn't look like the travelling kind...or even worse, perhaps I didn't strike her as the educated type either.

So as you can imagine, it was pretty much full on war at this stage. (I know the women reading this will identify...)

At this point I decided to fight her on her own battleground, so I shifted to my best posh English accent. Well, I'm actually a very plain Afrikaans girl but I have an arsenal of accents and life experience that I can revert to if needed, and as she has such a lovely refined English accent, I thought it was time to put on the armour! (Perhaps I do have some stiff-upper-lip genes, we were a colony after all...)

So the battle continued:

Me: 'I'm sure you've charmed your way through life - you're very good at it.'
Madame M: Turns around to face me and says in her sternest voice - 'I fought my way through life...'

Something about the way she said it just told me that that probably was the first piece of her life that she shared with me that was worth believing. Don't ask me why, I just felt it.

She also said to me, whilst looking right into my soul: 'God works in mysterious ways...'

By the time we reached the end of the line I had learnt that her son had died at age 42, a young man had asked her mother for her hand in marriage but she declined the offer and ended up marrying her husband, her marriage had lasted more than 50 years, her husband had passed away, she is a Roman Catholic, but doesn't go to church because of something that happened in her life and that she wishes she was a few years younger - Patrizio is such a delectable specimen.

Well. I couldn't possibly let this woman go! So after we had freshened up, our conversation continued.

Me: 'Well M. I think you are a fascinating person and you really have made a strong impression on me, granted in the strangest of settings. I would like to hear more about your life story, that is, if you'd care to share.'
Madame M: Looking me straight in the eye - 'I don't mind sharing.We can meet.'
I noticed that now that she had achieved her goal of getting to the front of the line she seemed more in touch with reality. I felt as if I had witnessed a performance worthy of an Oscar and couldn't help wondering how many other doors have opened for her in this way.

I have to give it to her. She's good. She got to the loo way ahead of everyone else - I just hope her little friend made it to her final destination in time. If I am to believe Madame M - when little old ladies have to go, they have to go!

Madame M and I exchanged numbers and agreed to meet for lunch one day. I am planning to follow up and actually I have been thinking about where I should take her.

After much deliberation I have decided that there is only one place in Cape Town that would be fitting for such a grande dame. I'll be taking her for tea in the garden of the other very English lady in our part of the world - The Mount Nelson. I can't think of a better setting for our little get-together.

I told you she was good!

(The photographs above were taken at the open gardens in Elgin, situated close to Cape Town - more on that in a future post...)