What an experience.
On route to my Camino journey, I met up with my hubby who had been working on the Euro cup football in France. We had planned to stay two nights together before he returned home and it was a great way to catch a glimpse of a city that had never been on my radar before. Perhaps that is why I was so impressed with the place as there had been no expectations other than the usual touristy attractions.
Our hotel was set in a quiet residential area a ten minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe and thanks to some lovely weather, we took our time to get there.
Whenever I get to a new place it is natural for me to try figure out the energy and I was pleasantly surprised to feel this French ‘air ‘. It seems like the local residents are calmy self assured and that gives them the freedom to be their best version of themselves, no matter if they are in work clothes on a scooter (both with seats and standing) working in a supermarket or sitting at a pavement cafe . Class, creativity, creed or age holds no limits for these beautiful specimens of the human race and they appear to effortlessly own their space in the world. While driving, smart car, sedan, bicycle or van- if you get in their way-they hoot or shout at you loudly and move on and don’t seem to dwell in their rage for long.
Many people smoke and make no apology for it but without arrogance and I think that is the crux of the energy of all locals- no arrogance. They know who they are and seem to be okay with any version of you too. On our tour bus, the ‘guide’ explained that for many years, big companies have been trying to get their brand onto the expensive retail property of Champs-Élysées , but in wisdom almost unheard of, if the brand wasn’t French then ‘noh’. I love that and as tourists it is refreshing to see the uniqueness of a culture almost undiluted by the global culture of greed. Yes of course many of the China imports filter through but there is a respect for their own kind. It doesn’t seem to be one of ‘ours is better’, it’s more of ‘yours isn’t French ‘. The Siene market stalls offered their own crafts or old French books and records and in this day and age it is hard to keep seeing original items .
Their language is soothing on my ear and everyone sounds romantic although not understood. Even the unrecognisable beggars (they don’t hold their hands out and are well dressed) and homeless people sound like they are quoting poetry.
I know that the state of utopia I am describing may not be the reality, but in feeling my way across the world, this Parisienne air was an extremely pleasant surprise in a world full of fear, arrogance and blame. I look forward to my longer return one day and exploring more of what this unusual city has to offer.
This time last week I had left South African shores and was on route to the UK. Land of my birth and now almost not part of the European Union. It has been a week of chatting, laughing, gently crying, surprises, wheezing, gifts, biscuits and many cups of tea (not a surprise).
50 years ago I showed my face to this part of the blue globe so it was kind of fitting that I was here to witness a democratic referendum. But I wasn’t here for politics, I was here to gently ease into my long walk.
I celebrated my 21st birthday in Glasgow and that too was supposed to be a launch of my gap year travels. But then I chickened out after landing bright eyed at Schiphol airport and saw that the world was very different to what I had imagined. This birthday saw my spread-out family show up unexpectedly, to show that they supported me and my journey (I think!) It was fantastic to see them all and celebrate life together.
Tomorrow I meet my husband (who has been working and missed out on all the festivities) for two days, in France which feels like a pitstop which isn’t really fair on the city. I never thought I would say that Paris would be a sideline but this time, it is. I was searching on ways to get to the hotel and I realised how little attention I gave this section of my trip. It is like the warm up band to the main attraction of the Camino Santiago.
I am both nervous and excited at the prospect ahead. I am quite different to that youthful, falsley confident, 21 year old. This time I know that it is okay to admit my fear. I know that I am no longer as shy as I once was (yes -gasp) and it is okay to ask for help. I am aware of my physical limits but now also am excited to challenge them. I am not scared of strange food but I am still a little afraid of the dark (and the abyss under the bed- blerry Hitchcock). But I now have Google and cellphones and Internet and a credit card plus I have
I’m leaving on a jet plane
It’s past midnight and I am tired of pretending to sleep. I should be enjoying my last sleep in my own bed but I toss and turn while admiring the back of my eyelids. I have checked off the mental list of last minute surges of necessary things and have moved onto the wondering part.
I wonder what the weather will be like. I wonder if I will pick up any conversational Spanish. What will the hostels be like. Will the people (including me) smell. I wonder how far I will go in a day. How early will the sun get up. Will there be mosquitoes. How will I sleep. What will the food be like. Will the masses be in Spanish or Latin. What will I do if I finish the walk before I’m due back in Paris. Why am I doing this. Will the beds be comfy. What will the buses be like. Is smoking still as rampant as it was in Madrid in 2000. Must remember my sarong. Will my towel be big enough. Will I use the music Debbie gave me and when do I think I will need it. Will there be enough power points. What food will i get on the plane. Hey I can check in……
Camino Excitement rising
I start my 50th birthday adventure in 3 days time. I am still in the surreal mode even though I was rounding up all my bits and pieces to start packing my rucksack today . I felt like I had done no preparations so I even watched a ‘YouTube ‘ video on how to pack my rucksack. I lay all my things on the spare bed and kept wandering away from doing something with them.
After weighing everything I realised that I still wasn’t quite ready to organise everything and my avoidance to pack was supported when a dear friend popped in to say goodbye. This was further supported when my sister joined on the impromptu tea party and I closed the spare room door.
As they say in Afrikaans ‘more is nog ‘n dag’