Under Construction

HI All!

I have finally broken down and have decided to build a website. One single location where I can bring together everything I love to do. It will be a place for me to showcase my art, writing, and to share my Camino adventures. I will post here when it is done and invite you over to come and play.

Yours artfully,

Heather G

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I Created a Book!

Well, I can’t believe that day is finally here when I can say my first book is finished and published! It was officially released on March 20, 2018 and now is for sale on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble in the US, and from www.bhcpress.com (for a list of other distributor/retailers around the world). It has been a very long time coming and has been a very interesting and challenging process. I must admit that during the process I learned a lot about myself and not just about writing a publishing a book. In a nutshell it is an exercise in practising patience and knowing that when the time is right that everything will fall into place. The main thing I learned is that anyone can write a book, but you really have to WANT it because it is definitely NOT easy.

my camino cover

When I returned from completing a portion of the Camino de Santiago (an 800 km spiritual journey that winds its way through France and Spain) in the fall of 2015, I decided I would write a book about my journey and use my art to illustrate it. Part way through that process I realised that I was undertaking a huge project. I was very impatient and therefore wanted to try to work on a quick project at the same time as I worked on the larger project. Laugh out loud! The seemingly smaller project ended up taking me two years to complete and it consumed my every waking (and sleeping) thought so sadly nothing really got done on the initial project. As I reflect back now, it doesn’t really matter because I now have a second book already started. I am ahead of the game.

The My Camino Journal: days in the life of a pilgrim came into being because while I travelled the Camino on my own, I devoted time to writing in my journal every day when I got settled in the place I planned to stay for the night. I wrote about who I met, what I ate, where I stayed and many other personal things that came up as I hiked. I am a firm believer in the benefits of keeping a journal and how healing it can be when people take the time out of their busy day. It made me think that it would be great if people could have a journal specifically to take with them on this 5 week, 36 day journey that would be more than just a bunch of blank pages. After all, everyone is always scared of writing on a blank page.

My intent was to provide a journaling-made-easy platform to suit those that wanted to journal but had no idea where to start. The journal offers 4 pages per day. Page 1, gives you space to log what you ate and where you stayed, who you met. Page 2, presents you with some spiritual questions to ponder as you walk, Page 3, has a quote for you to ponder about walking, and Page 4, is called the mindfulness minute that directs you to complete a task or gives you space to write about anything you want to. It is fun and quirky and provides a place to capture the journey of a lifetime that can be referred to for years to come.

If you are planning to complete the Camino, I suggest you check it out! Watch my page for upcoming book signings in Canada and the US.

Food for Thought – What’s to eat on the Camino?

I will start off by saying that it is a good thing that I am not a fussy eater.

Taking time to learn the language and research the customs and foods of a country before you visit, is a good plan, yet, they were things I did not do. Silly me!

I could say “give your head a shake, Heather!”, but what’s done is done. that was 2015, and this is now.

Most of my experience with food on the Camino was good. The food was always hearty, healthy, and made with LOVE. A word of warning though…don’t go travelling the Camino if you are in to fancy food, because unless you are staying in the most expensive hotels along “The Way”, you will not be happy.

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On the Camino food is FUEL. The food you eat is meant to provide fuel for a tired body and comfort for a battered spirit. It is time to break bread with pilgrims from all over the world. Some meals I ate like a person who had never seen food before, and I made sure to eat every spoon full with gratitude. I attempted to take pictures of all that I ate to showcase the fact that it was so different from what I would eat at home. I tried everything…well…almost everything (I never had the chance to try the octopus which I hear is very good). The most important thing for me was that I learned very quickly what my body needed to survive the daily treks and be comfortable while walking. This is the information I will share with you.

I will start with my food experiences in France LOL

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France Yikes! Better drown my sorrows with a chocolate croissant…First time having a “French” croissant in France.

Then it was on to Barcelona and my free stay in that Shi Shi poo poo (posh) hotel. The buffet was delicious for dinner and breakfast! When things are free…don’t they ALWAYS taste better?

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But…those weren’t onion rings and they weren’t calamari…so I am not sure what I actually ate. If you know, send me a message. Welcome to Spain LOL.

I arrived in Leon and had to have a crash course in what siesta meant. Trip advisor states that:

“Siesta” happens between 1:30 and 4:00, which is actually when most people slow down for lunch. A lot of stores close at this time. Such a period of sleep is a common tradition in some countries, particularly those where the weather is warm.”

I wondered why all the restaurants were closed tighter than a drum! When in Spain! Do as the Spanish do! I had a nap and waited until 6pm and then ventured out again. This meal was so good, I might have to risk being a bit edgy and say the chicken tasted better than…sex. We all have had food like that at one time or another…right? It may have been my best meal of the whole Camino even though it does not look like much at face value. You will have to rust me that it tasted fabulous.

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I am not sure what the equivalent here in Canada is to a Cafe con leche in Spain. If you know please let me know because I have not found anything that comes close. I am going to have to go back to Spain just for the coffee…wink. At the end of my trip I rated my cafe con leche and determined that I drank the best coffee just outside of Leon in a little roadside cafe. Of course the Chocolate filled bun was not too shabby either.

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Best coffee EVER!

Astorga was one of my favourite places to visit on my journey, however, I can’t undo what I ate there. Note to self…learn the language so you know if you are ordering something with big, fat, slimy, slithery, anchovies on it!!

Astorga Food
Learn the language

One of my favourite meals ended up being Tortilla Pie which is a mixture of egg, onion, potato and a sausage meat of some sort. I pretty much had it every day mid morning for lunch (you get up so early that 10 am is lunch time). I am such a creature of repetition. I will have to look in my journal because this little place was run by this fabulous woman who may have been german – not sure. She made her own voodoo homemade juice and this food was to die for. It truly was food infused with love and intention. It made my tummy happy, that’s for sure.

My Oh My Tortilla Pie
Yumma

I am going to stop this post here. Oh no! you say? Why? There are many more days and many interesting eats to share with you and I think it would be best to make a “you gotta eat here” – post #2.

You will just have to stick around or pop back to see what other culinary delights I ingested and where.

Ok see you soon!

The Stones

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It has been 49 days since I returned home from Spain..home from the Camino. If I am completely honest, I have been feeling rather lost. One of the people I spoke to before I went away, said for her it was like coming home from outer space. I now know what she means. It feels a bit as if I am drifting without a purpose.

While blogging last evening I came across a video of a young man walking the Camino on this amazing blog called clearskiescamino. There were many shots of his feet walking through different towns along the way and the challenge to the viewers is to see how many towns you can recognize along the way. Watching the video brought tears to my eyes and at first I wasn’t sure why. After pondering my emotional reaction over night I came to the realization That it was the sound of his boots crunching on the stones that I yearned for. That noise…that comforting noise.

Sometimes it is just you and the stones. They become your friends and then without warning become your enemy. Sometimes it is just you…your body…your mind…the wind and the sun…and those stones.

video by Charlie Callander

My View From the Bottom Bunk

I took pictures of all the bunk beds I slept in during my journey except for the last one. It is very strange that I did not make time or get a chance to take a picture of the last one, because I actually slept in the same bunk for five whole days!

Number one – Leon – Sunday, August 30, 2015                                                            It was a series of rooms with many bunk beds – women and men separated. I had this huge beautiful window right beside my bed which helped my laundry to dry quickly until the loudest thunderstorm I have even heard rolled in. It sounded as if the world was ending! Yikes!

Leon, Spain Santa Maria de Carbajal or Albergue del Monasterio des las Benedictinas
Leon, Spain
Santa Maria de Carbajal or Albergue del Monasterio des las Benedictinas

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Leon
Number Two – Villar de Mazarife – Monday, August 31, 2015                                I walked 15 km on the first day and almost died. I made it to the town before this town called Chozas de Abajo and gave in and took my first Taxi the last 6 kms. I could not walk one more step and there were no Albergues in this town or I would have stayed put. The room had two bunk beds in it and I had the room to myself – Very unusual! Very Lucky! Shhhh…I slept part of the night on one side and then part of the night on the other side because it was closer to the window and it was really hot.

Vilar de Mazarife Private Albergue Tio Pepe
Villar de Mazarife, Spain
Private Albergue Tio Pepe

Number 3 – Astorga – Tuesday, September 1, 2015                                                      Choosing to walk shorter distances meant that I always got where I was going early enough to usually have first choice of the bed I wanted and therefore I never had any trouble getting the bottom bunk. This Albergue had two floors and I chose the last room down the hall on the first floor. There were 12 beds in this room. I ended up staying here for two days because I strained a tendon in my left leg and sore toe. Most Albergues will not allow you to stay more than one night unless you are injured. If they do allow you to stay you must leave in the morning during the time that they come in to clean and then return after they are done.

Astorga, Spain Albergue San Javier
Astorga, Spain
Albergue San Javier
Astorga
Astorga

Number 4 – Santa Catalina de Somoza – Wed. September 2, 2015                     This was a shorter walk today because I wanted to make sure my leg was healing and I needed to take the time to build myself up to walking further and up the mountain the following day. You learn quickly when to push yourself and when to lay off. This day was definitely a…don’t push the limits day. There were only two or three other couples that stayed at this Albergue. It was virtually empty and I almost had the room to myself. September was definitely a good time to travel. Oh and a fellow trekker Dan who I met later on in Rabanel told me that bed bugs like wood beds and not metal…good to know! Never met a bed bug – Thank my lucky stars.

Santa Catalina Albergue Hospederia Sans Blas
Santa Catalina
Albergue Hospederia Sans Blas

Number 5 – Rabanal del Camino – Thurs. September 3, 2015                                This day was a brutal test of my physical abilities with much of the day spent ascending the mountain and enduring chilly mountain weather. I was happy to fall face first in to my bed on this day. I took the one at the very back of the room on the right and the Hospitalero Ramon carried my bag for me. #Grateful!

Rabanal, Spain Albergue Nuestra Señora del Pilar
Rabanal, Spain
Albergue Nuestra Señora del Pilar

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Rabanal
Number 6 – Acebo – Friday, September 4, 2015                                                          If I thought yesterday was difficult I was pushed again to my limit as I climbed to the very top of the mountain – approx. 5000 ft. above sea level to the Cruze to Ferro and then down the other side. I made it a full 10 km to Manjarin(town of one) and then I could not walk another step and opted to take my second cab ride down the rest of the mountain to Acebo. I cried as I drove past my friends. It felt as if I was cheating, however I changed my thinking to focus on what a lovely ride I was having down the mountain and focused on the overwhelming beauty of the view. It is never cheating when it is your own Camino. It is whatever you need it to be. Whatever it wants to be. You must accept it and not fight against it.

Meson El Acebo Acebo, Spain
Meson El Acebo
Acebo, Spain

Number 7 – Molinaseca – Saturday, September 5, 2015                                         I walked a short 8 km day today and landed tired and spent in Molinaseca. It appeared to be a town where natives of Spain come to vacation and was very Shi shi and posh. There was only one Municipal Albergue that did not appear to be open and all other inexpensive places were taken. With all the walking back and forth I did to find a place to stay, I could have made it the last 7 kms to Ponferrada, but I finally found the Santa Marina converted chapel as I walked to the outskirts of town. All rooms after the first one in Leon were coed. I found everyone I “spent the night with” to be respectful. The only difficulty with this place was that the bathroom was down on the second floor and the floors were hardwood and very slippery.

Molinaseca, Spain Santa Marina
Molinaseca, Spain
Santa Marina

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Molinaseca
Number 8 – Ponferrada – Sunday, September 7, 2015                                             This was my very first Municipal Donativo (by donation) Albergue and one of the noisiest for snoring that I experienced during the whole 17 days away. It was a close second to my second night in Astorga with the three Irish guys that were in my room. They told me to elbow the guy who slept next to me if he started snoring and I said “no, that would be too much like we were married”. Turns out it was the woman from Copenhagen across the room that snored the loudest! It also bugged me that people got up to start walking at 4 am. It was very disruptive and I could not get back to sleep. Ponferrada ended up being the second last bunk bed I would sleep in on my journey.

Ponferrada, Spain San Nicholas de Flue
Ponferrada, Spain
San Nicholas de Flue

Number 9 – Santiago – Monday September 8, 2015                                                  How did I get from Ponferrada to Santiago you ask? Well another one of those…it is my Camino…stories. In a nut shell…I could have walked for 4 more days to 4 more towns, but those towns were in the middle of nowhere and Ponferrada was/is a large city with a train and a bus station. Without much Spanish and knowledge of the region, I was worried that I might not make it back for my flight on September 12th. So…I jettisoned myself on the bus right to the end! I found a place to stay called Roots and Boots. When I arrived I was so exhausted and upset that I told the owners I would only be staying 1 night. It turned out to be a beautiful place and I ended up staying for 5 days. For some reason I did not take a picture with the view from my bunk bed. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to admit that I had to leave. Anyway…whatever the reason…here is a picture of one of the rooms from their website. This one is on the second floor facing the The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and mine was on the ground floor facing the garden. I said goodbye to my last bunk at 11 am on Saturday September 12, 2015 and headed off to the airport to begin my journey home to my own comfy bed.

Santiago, Spain Hostel Roots and Boots
Santiago, Spain
Singular Hostel Roots and Boots

All in all I had a great sleep in all the beds I met. After 6+ hours of walking or ??km, finding and claiming your bed is like staking claim for land during the gold rush. When you fall into it, it is like falling into a pillow top, triple layer, chocolate cake. I am lucky though because I am not one of those people who has to sleep in their own bed to get a good nights rest. This was an adventure on many levels and an adventure in sleep was just one part of the larger journey.

I hope you enjoyed the view from my bottom bunk.

Travelling is painful

“What the heck are you talking about Heather?”, you say. “How can travelling be painful?”

Well..I am very glad you asked.

Travelling first class is not painful. Checking your bags is not painful. Paying $5000.00 for a direct flight is not painful. Travelling with your family or a companion is not painful.

TRAVELLING ALONE IS PAINFUL!

  • No one ever tells you how hard it is to travel alone with all your possessions in one bag
  • No one tells you how hard it will be to lug an 18 lb/8 kilo back pack through seven airports
  • No one tells you that learning the language of the country you are travelling to is way more important than physical training prep
  • No one tells you how many times you will have to put on and take off your back pack in a 36 hour period before you even hit the trail
  • No one tells you that your back pack may get lost in transit if you do not keep it with you
  • No one tells you that it is not safe to sleep while you are waiting for a flight – your bag has to be watched at all times
  • And finally…No one tells you how hard it is to go to the wash room in an airport with a back pack in tow (can you think of any more?)

Ok…so you get it the drift now don’t you? I will tell you that I cried more tears getting to and from my destination than while I was on the actual Camino. The travelling 3 days through various airports getting there and the two days getting home, almost killed me.

Back packs actually BITE! and here is the proof.

This is what taking on and off my pack did to my hands. The strap kept scraping me.

Yeouch x 2
Yeouch!
Yeouch!
Yeouch x2!

This is what taking on and off my back pack did to my upper arms on the first few days travelling through the airports. I actually had one of the people I walked the Camino with express that they were worried that if someone saw my arms they would think that I had been beaten up. It looked like that for weeks. The problem was, it was too hot to cover up and my short sleeves were really short. Oh well, another funny Camino adventure story.

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Here is a video on how to take your pack on and off                                                  What are some thing that you learned along the way?

I’m Leav’in on a Jet Plane

I am going to start at the very beginning and work my way to the end.

It was unfortunate that I was not able to keep up the blogging while I was away due to the internet/Wi-Fi availability and the cooperation of my 3 year old phone. I chose not to upgrade it before going away which was a good call in the end. I heard many people say that they upgraded their phones only to drop them in water and on the ground rendering them useless for the whole trip. In the end I chose to post my daily progress and musings on Facebook. Now I get a chance to go back to the beginning and share the pictures that I took using my new camera.

What better place to start than the Airport. My best friend Randi and Wendy, and my son Andrew were all supposed to come to say goodbye to me when the CBC was going to film me as I left on my trip to Spain for their new show “Hello Goodbye”. It was so exciting to think that my story would be on TV. They said that I had such an inspirational story that they couldn’t wait to have me on the show. Sadly, in the end, they were not able to film me because of the coordination of flights and terminals. It was OK actually because I got to spend some quality time with Randi, her son Zeke, and my son Andrew before I had to check in. Here are some pictures of us at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

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Randi-Mae and Me!
We are always laughing and loving life. it was so nice to have her there. I think Wendy was very relieved that she didn’t have to come with us and be on TV.

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Talking to Zeke…or my water bottle
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Mommy and Andrew. He even carried my pack for me.
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Selfies
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One last hug that has to last 17 days!
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I look as cool as a cucumber don’t I? It was the first moment I thought…what the hell am I doing???? Time to check in.
I was so thankful that Randi was available to take me to the airport and then take Andrew back home. It was the best send off a gal could have. It was sad because I was wondering how I would cope without being able to talk to friends and family while I was away. It was all new…all unknown. Follow me on my journey.

No bogging allowed…lol

Hi guys and dolls!

For some reason my phone does not like the WordPress app and is giving me problems over here with posting. With one post my phone charge is sucked to zero so I will have to post all my stuff when I get home.

Spain is hauntingly beautiful. I meet at least one angel every day. I have discovered the backpack delivery service and am using it until my leg feels better. When I need a piece if info it is delivered to me moments later by someone walking by without me even asking for it. There are truly miracles happening here and it is a place where the world comes together as one. I am at peace with what I will be able to accomplish…I am at peace that I will be saying goodbye soon to my left big toe nail.

Bye for now! BUENOS TARDES

They don’t call it an adventure for nothing!

Well…I will not say I am surprised.

My life has been anything, but drama free for those of you who truly know me. Even a psychic told me that this was my “fall down life” Bonnie Porter…you would get a chuckle out of that. I guess finding out that this is my “fall down” life has made me question less when it does happen  I know just what to do…fall down…get up…brush myself off and keep on going. For me there has never been an option to lay down and give up.

First documented injury. Got to learn a better way to take off the backpack. I keep scraping my hands and now I have  matching bruises. My pack is a whopping 20 lbs and it is manageable yet brutal at the same time.

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Ok…so what happened to me yesterday?

The flight left as planned on friday and I was happily on my way to London Heathrow. I only got a tiny bit if sleep, but I did manage to catch the movie Tomorrowland (Emmanuel). I cried a tear of joy as we landed and made my way through the 800km of airport to my connecting flight. Only a few more hours and I would be checking into my first Albergue(hostel) at the convent in Leon. So damn frick’in excited.

Once in the air I was able to grab a few more zzs and finally with a sigh of relief I caught a glimpse of the landscape as we were landing. The Pilot came on the intercom and said what the weather was projected to be like for the day. High if 16 maybe some light showers…good….and….then it came….Welcome to France….wait..WHAT!???? FRANCE!!!! MERDE!

A wash of panic came over me. What do I do now??? I am supposed to be in SPAIN NOT FRANCE!

It was immediately clear that the travel agent had sent me to Lyon (leeon) instead of Leon (layon). A mistake anyone could make with such a complicated travel plan. After that i am afraid it is all a bit of a blur. Some tears were shed and some phone calls were made. Some nice police officers, baggage people, and kind information clerks all looked at me with sorry in their eyes. My friends Wendy and John tell me that when people say “sorry” it actually translates to ” I am glad I am not you”. In this case…I Bet!!! In the end my amazing friend Randi swooped into action in Durham and got things done! Thank you my friend I LOVE YOU! I honestly would have been coming straight home if it wasn’t for you! My amazing sis, daughter Megan, and Simon were there for encouraging words As well. I want to say thank you for that, as I felt so deflated and lost.

The travel agent was able to fly me to Barcelona that same night with a hotel stay and then a flight today (Sunday) at 3 pm to Leon in SPAIN. I will have lost a day on the Camino, but will have to find a way to make it up. Walk faster..longer…something.

Here is a couple of pics of the shi shi hotel!

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Can you say…LUCKY?

Only sad part of it all is that I was in france and Barcelona, but wasn’t able to see any of the beautiful sites. Means I’ll just have to come back again.

Long story long…I am in my bunk bed at the Albergue Benedictinas in Leon. That’s a whole “nother” story.