I think there is something magical about the days before a big life event. The mixture of excitement and nerves associated with these times have always had a certain appeal to me. In some ways I am almost more drawn to this slow clock ticking time than the actual event and I have to admit that I have a habit of making it a bit of an occasion in itself.
I approached this journey, my Camino walk, in the same way and decided early on that I needed to do something big and bold as an intro to the experience. Soon after making this decision I read an article about a recently awarded Michelin star restaurant in Nice on the French Riviera headed up by a very talented South African chef. The pull was instant and so a trip to Nice was on the cards! I was going to be in France for the Camino so to me it made sense to stop there first. Adding to the excitement was the addition of two of my closest friends making the journey to Nice with me with one aim, to send me off with a bang. Our plan was simple, we would eat, drink and relax our way to utter bliss.
Nice is absolutely beautiful with its mixture of French and Italian glamour, natural friendliness, mountains, stunning views and ginger gelato(if you haven’t tried this yet, please do). Nice would be the event of indulgence with the sole purpose of leaving me fattened up and cushioned around the edges just enough to prepare me for any rough sleeping that might follow on the Camino.
It turns out that no pre-event of any magnitude could dim the internal storm I felt brewing inside. I was doing all the things guaranteed to bring happiness, eating the food, drinking the wine, walking the hills yet I felt utterly defeated. This was not the outcome I had anticipated.
In an effort to document my journey with brutal honesty, I must admit that the appeal of the Camino was completely lost on me in these days. So completely lots that I was actively planning my escape route. All I could think about was how utterly unprepared I felt. I couldn’t stop thinking about this project, my motifs and whether it could in reality make any impact. My thoughts drifted between what the Camino might feel like and what I might do after. I had read so much about the power of the Camino and how it changes people but to me this all sounded a bit like hippie talk. All this said I didn’t have many choices ahead of me, my flights were booked, promises made, I was going on this journey no matter what.
At one indulgent Nice lunch I suddenly had a little mini breakdown which saw me shedding many tears with my friends looking at me absolutely terrified. My friend jokingly said: “Laura, just take one step at a time.” My first step was to get on a plane and fly to Biarritz. I did this, success, one down, now another two million to go.
Next step was to figure out how to get to Saint Jean Pied De Port, the starting point for the Camino. Given my lack of French and the obscure location of this town, I thought that a very expensive taxi might be my only option yet I managed to attach myself to a very reserved German couple who led me to a bus and then a train and ultimately SJPP. This train journey led me to meet Kjell who is one of the nicest people you could ever meet and at 62 years of age, I am constantly impressed by this man. He almost instantly became like family and we’ve since allowed a few more impressive characters into our safe space.
I will be writing about these days in upcoming blogs but for now I will say that there is something special about this journey. You will not hear me say all the things you will read for example how the Camino provides (actually true, I personally experienced this) but I will say this for now, it is a pretty special thing. Actually it is really amazing and the people on it are such a mix of wonderfulness and randomness that I am constantly kept on my toes.
I am happy I am celebrating my mother in this way. It makes sense. My doubts have all blown away with the laughter, sweat, food, talking and colourfulness that is so far this amazing journey!