Christmas Siesta

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Candles in the Church in St Jean Pied de Port, France

** Reposting this one – enjoy! **

When I walked the Camino across Spain last year, I passed through countless towns and villages along the way.

Okay, somebody probably counted them by now so they’re surely not “countless” at all.

But there were a lot of them.

I got familiar with the Spanish custom of siesta in the afternoon – usually between the hours of 1 and 4pm.

Sometimes, I had arrived at my destination by then and was enjoying lunch and chat with other pilgrims. We could be having a coke or a glass of wine, sitting in the shade or the sun, and relishing the chance to sit and rest our tired bodies.

Other times, I was in the process of showering and washing my clothes in a sink, taking care of logistics in preparation for the next day’s walking.

Sometimes, by the time it came to 1pm, I was still out walking. It’s a hot time in the day to be on the trail but I wasn’t fast enough to walk 25km first thing in the morning, so I often walked into the early afternoon. Occasionally, I was still walking when the clock rolled around to 4pm, too. If you thought it was hot at 1pm, you’d be surprised to find it even hotter at 4pm!

Once, I felt frustrated with the awkward opening hours, hungrily waiting to buy food from the only grocery shop in a tiny village.

When it came to siesta, I often found myself doing something other than sleep.

But on a couple of occasions I happened to be indoors, with a secure bed for the night, and a relatively quiet room around me. On a few occasions, I managed to have an afternoon nap and join the rest of Spain in this glorious custom. Those naps were precious and delightful. Thinking about them even now makes me smile inside!

We all need to rest. We all need to down tools and put up our feet. In Spain, the daily siesta gave us an opportunity to go more slowly in life. The daily siesta gave us a chance to take a break from walking, or take some time to reflect. Life can’t be all “go-go-go” all the time. We are organic creatures and need recovery time.

Christmas is a flurry of activity for many of us. There’s a long list of shopping, cooking, and socialising to tend to, and sometimes that’s before the 25th even starts! For others, it tenderly reminds us of loved ones who are ill or no longer here to join us in celebration. For some of us, it’s a lonely time as we watch other people race about in excitement, but with little excitement of our own. And for some of us, it’s not really a holiday we resonate with, but we have to watch the flurry all the same.

Not everyone likes Christmas, while others would embrace it every day of the year.

It takes all sorts.

In the northern hemisphere right now, it’s winter. The days are short, the nights are dark, and our hibernating tendencies kick in as we try to stay warm, stay fed, and stay cosy. It’s a good time of the year to have a holiday, have a nap, and load up on extra calories.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, it is still a winter holiday – a time to take a break and put up your feet. Whatever your stance around religious holidays, family gatherings, boozy celebrations, or consumerist shopping sprees, this is a siesta in the middle of winter. It’s an opportunity to slow things down a little, take some time to rest, and take some time to reflect. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or involve a lot of cooking – it’s all about taking a break from the daily chaos.

Every day I walked Camino, Spain held its daily siesta in the afternoon. The break was great, but there was always more walking to be done. We couldn’t stay resting forever, however tempting it was!

So may your Christmas siesta give you the energy and strength you need to keep going, too. Whatever you choose to do with this winter holiday, I hope it fills you with peace. May the Christmas siesta be refreshing and restful, and may you return to this blog feeling hopeful and inspired for the year ahead.

I’ll be here to share more tales from my Camino journey, and I look forward to connecting with you then. 🙂

In the meantime, Happy Christmas.

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Camino Christmas Wish List

As they say, “tis the season…” so I’m re-posting this and would love to hear your thoughts on Camino-related Christmas gifts! 🙂

I’ve been thinking about things I carried in my backpack when I walked 800km across France and Spain.

What to pack is every bit as important as what shoes to wear because all going well, you’re going to spend every day with each other – maybe for several weeks. You want to make sure the pack is light enough to carry it comfortably and yet, that you have the things you need for all types of weather and terrain. It’s a bit tricky to strike the right balance.

I’m compiling a list of all the things I carried in my backpack and will post it soon. I’ll also give details about the things I removed from the pack, the new things I bought along the way, and my reflections about what I would pack differently if I were to walk Camino again. I’ve learned a few things from my last walkabout!

In the meantime, I’ve created a sort of Camino Christmas wish list, for those of you wanting to buy Camino-themed Christmas presents. Whether you’re treating yourself or someone you love, I’m hoping you’ll find something to suit your budget in my list below. For those of you who’ve already walked Camino, please feel free to add your own suggestions and wish-list items – I’d love to see your suggestions!)

(A small word about product placement and advertising: My blog isn’t sponsored by anyone so if I mention specific products below, it’s because I have personal experience of them. I promise I’m not being paid or compensated in any way for mentioning specifics.)

So, here’s my recommendations for the Camino Christmas Wish List…

€10 or Less

  • Ear plugs: A pilgrim’s best friend if they’re staying in the hostels (albergues). Splash out and buy several pairs – they won’t go to waste!
  • Antiseptic Wipes: I received these as a gift (thanks Frederique!) and used them on my very first day. They’re light to carry and really handy to have when tending to cuts, grazes, and blisters.
  • Petroleum Jelly: Very handy in preventing blisters. Buy a small tin so it’s lightweight.
  • Large, Double Zip-Lock Freezer Bags: I used these to carry my toiletries, my sunscreen, and my smart phone. I used the Glad brand and in six weeks, they didn’t split, tear, or diminish in any way. Love them!
  • Compeed Plasters: As plasters go, these aren’t cheap but apparently they are cheaper in Europe than anywhere else. Friends elsewhere in the world might have a hard time finding them but they were the best plasters I used to prevent and treat blisters. Why? The padding on them was better than anything else I tried, and the glue was also superior – so they stayed in place and didn’t move around like cheaper varieties. Worth every penny.
  • Shower Gloves: Lightweight, quick-drying, and great for scrubbing away the sweat, muck, and grime at the end of a day’s walking.
  • Universal Sink Plug: For the pilgrim that has to hand wash their clothes every day in a sink, this little gift makes the task so much easier.
  • Scallop Shell: This is the symbol of the Camino and Saint James, and pilgrims often wear them on their backpacks to signify that they are on Camino. Maybe you’ll beat the budget and find one for free on your next outing to the beach 🙂

€50 or Less

  • Movie: The Way (starring Martin Sheen): For inspiration, watch it before you go. In remembrance, watch it after you return home. Either way, it’s a beautiful piece of work.
  • John Brierley’s Maps for Camino Francés: Lighter than the full guide-book, these maps are easy to follow and still include key information about the landscape and accommodation along the way.
  • Platypus Water Pouch: People seem to either love these or hate them. Personally, I loved being able to stay hydrated without having to take off my backpack each time I wanted a drink of water. I received mine as a gift (thanks Megan & John!) and loved it all the way.
  • Movie: St Jacques… le Macque: Many people told me about this while I walked but I haven’t seen it yet. This one’s on my wish list 🙂
  • Book: I’m Off Then (by German author, Hape Kerkeling, and translated into various languages): I received this as a gift from one of my Camino friends (thanks Marco!) and loved it from beginning to end.
  • Synthetic Travel Towel: They’re quick-drying, light, and take up very little space in the backpack. They come in various sizes, prices, and colours and are a lot more practical than cotton towels.

€50 or More

  • Walking Poles: Again, people either love them or hate them, but I wouldn’t have gone for even a week without mine. They align your posture and provide balance, which does make a difference on steep or slippery ground. They vary in price so it’s a personal choice but I would encourage you to buy lightweight and sturdy ones.
  • Backpack: Picking a backpack can be like picking a pair of shoes, which I wrote about here. I don’t recommend you buy a backpack for someone unless they’ve specified exactly which one they want, but perhaps you could chip in towards the overall cost ’cause those things can be pricey. Again, I recommend lightweight and sturdy.
  • Gift Voucher: Before I left for Camino, my work colleagues clubbed together and bought me a gift voucher for an outdoor shop. With it, I purchased a new raincoat and lightweight hiking pants, and I couldn’t have been happier. If you don’t know what to buy, but you know your recipient will need a few bits and pieces, then a gift voucher for their store of choice is a great idea. And if, like me, they manage to bag a few bargains in the sale, then even better!
  • Plane or Train Tickets: Okay, so I know this might seem like a really lavish one but bear with me for a minute. Every year, thousands and thousands of people make their way from all around the world to walk the Camino across France and Spain. Getting to “the starting point” (wherever it may be) can be pricey. You might not want to buy a first-class airplane ticket all the way from Australia, but you might be able to pay for a short inter-European flight, or a train ticket within Spain. The pilgrim-to-be can tell you what their intended route is, but with many pilgrims transferring through Madrid, Paris, Dublin, and Amsterdam, there’s plenty of opportunity to contribute towards the travel costs.

So there you have it: my Camino Christmas Wish List of goodies – either for yourself or some other pilgrim.

What would you add to your Camino Christmas Wish List?

A voucher for the Parador hotels?

A Spanish phrase book?

or

Bionic legs and feet?!

Do tell – I’m all ears! 🙂

Seasonal Snoring

I watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles lately, in anticipation of the upcoming Christmas holidays. I’ve seen the movie before, of course, but John Candy and Steve Martin still make me laugh and cringe in equal measure.

This one scene in particular reminded me of all the hostels I stayed in while I walked camino. The bit around 2:10, in particular, reminds of the night I spent in Azofra, where I shared my room with just one other person….

So sit back and enjoy…and turn up the volume….this one goes out to the other pilgrims who shared small, noisy spaces, just like I did!