A cathedral to take your breath away…

I started out early this morning with a light breakfast (McDo doesn´t do ¨typical breakfast¨  here but CAFE with pastries and neat coffees. I couldn´t consider a burger for breakfast. I walked around la Plaza Mayor.

I took the metro to the train station (with a connection, no less!) and a great 2.5 hour bus ride by bus. I arrived in Burgos at 4 and all the albergues were full even the 110 bed one! I managed to find a pension room for 20 Euros. NOTE to self  – even if this is mid May, there are many pelegrinos around this town!

I visited the Burgos Cathedral… What an incredible museum – although it is still used as a church, most of the art work, statues, doors etc are original. It is HUGE, and incredibly ornate. There is so much gold and marble, not to mention the unbelievable woodwork. I spent more than 2 hours just walking around and admiring every alcove, section and areas where many are a resting place for Bishops, kings and others.

I have to admit at first I felt rather overwhelmed at the size of the cathedral. However, I managed to find some really great little areas that seemed a bit more intimate. It felt very familiar yet at the same time quite different than what I had ever seen. The shere works of art, be it of the stained glass, the marble statues, the wooden pews, the incredible ceilings, were of such beauty.

In certain areas you can smell the history… strange to say, but churches have this ¨smell¨ that is hard to explain. As well, many of the wooden pews have worn spots where people over the centuries have sat down to pray.  the many handrails are smooth as silk from millions of hands touching them and the stairs are worn down to the bottom of some of the steps.

The outside is just as impressive as inside and I am very excited to now visit the cathedral in Compostela which is apparently even bigger and more extensive in terms of statues and relics.

It´s 8 pm and restaurants and stores are finally open for business. I did stock up on cheese, chorizo and cured ham for tomorrow´s lunch. I´m planning an early start to get a bed this time!

It´s finally hit me that this is the REAL thing! I am on the road to Santiago!!! Dreams do come true!  Hasta luego!

A culture of night owls

Last night, to adjust to the time difference I decided to try to stay awake as long as I could despite my few hours of sleep on the plane.

By 8:30 PM I couldn’t stay awake so I settled into my little hostel room for the night. I had a dream that I was at a gathering of free flowing laughter and wine and woke up to the sounds coming from the restaurant across the street. I glanced at the clock on the bedside table and was surprised to see it was close to midnight.

I was reminded of my 9 weeks in Buenos Aires when friends often extended the hospitality of a great dinner held typically around mid evening. As a morning person I never did get used to the shift in work and eating times despite my best efforts.

I often wondered how it was that north Americans whose ancestors often came from Europe didn’t keep to those hours. If we adapted to the sun up, sun down for farming reasons, Europeans had the same daylight timeframes yet dinners at night time are still the norm here.

I recognize the advent of the siesta time to avoid working in the high heat of the day likely had something to do with it, but we are but a few degrees more north from a good part of Europe. I know this because of my geocaching experience!

So as I listened to joyful sounds of chatter, clinging wine glasses and laughter I wondered how well I would adapt to the change. By default with the typical albergue “lights out by 10 PM” this would preclude very late dinners. The constant daily walking would also account for early bedtimes.

I will soon find out as I head to Burgos today to my first albergue night and the start of my walking journey tomorrow. I am very excited to start and if it requires me to become more of a night owl, I hope that I will adapt!
Hasta luego!

In Madrid

Arrived an hour ago with pack! yeah! Took the local bus to downtown and since getting to Burgos will put my arrival late, I will find an auberge here tonight and leave in the AM.

It’s beautiful here – sunny and hot. it’s great to hear Spain Spanish again! Hasta luego

And so it starts

Here I am sitting at the Ottawa airport waiting for my flight. I have to admit this past week has been pretty quiet.

I couldn’t believe how calm I have been. Even today I found myself in no rush… I suspect it is due to the many hundreds of work flights I have taken.

5 pm – this is when it all changed. Steve along with Lisa and Huck came to the airport. Standing in line to check my backpack, I couldn’t help but remember the last time I stood in this line was when we sent Lisa off to England.

What a difference two years have made. What a difference two months have made. Two months ago my retirement was just a possibility yet here I am, now in flight to my first stop – Frankfurt.

I’m also here on my own with no laptop, no rolly suitcase and no Steve. Those have been my flights for the past many years.

This now is finally settling in that this is no ordinary flight for work, or for a cruise with my Sweetie.

This is a new adventure, a new experience, a new world. One of no schedule other than leaving the albergue by 8 am or lights out by 10 pm.

Even though I wrote months ago that I would be on the Camino, I wasn’t quite sure of the timing. Here I am today mere days from setting foot on that Camino.

I am finally starting to feel the odd butterfly in my stomach. I am excited and grateful that I am able to undertake this amazing journey.
All I can say is … Bring it on !!!

A new tool

This is my first blog using my I-touch. I must admit I need practice. My fingers Just aren’t quite used to such a tiny keyboard or such sensitive keys.

At this moment, I expect that until I get more proficient with this, my logs will likely be short and sweet.

What is our purpose?

I had a great dinner with my friend Mary – who mentioned she has seen some form of a purpose statement from someone that stated, in my best recognition, “Spread joy, reduce suffering (or eliminate suffering)”. What a great statement – – Spread Joy, Reduce suffering.

Spreading Joy is easy; 

– make a lasagna for the firemen in your area

– mow the lawn of your neighbours (Sorry Kate and JM – I have no mower!)

– Drop off cookies or muffins to the elderly couple down the street

– Clean your closets and give those jeans that will NEVER fit, and those shirts that you will never wear….. someone will wear them with JOY

– Offer to walk your friends’ dogs – yes, ALL of them!

– Thanks the cashier and give him/her a $10 tip! Just because….

Reduce suffering is more of a challenge…

– Spend time with those who have no immediate family (retirement homes, hospitals, hospices)

– Call someone who needs a shoulder to cry on, or an open mind… Do it with no judgement

– Volunteer

– Donate of your time, of your knowledge, of your blood, of your skills, of your dollars…. but mostly, of YOUR HEART.

It seems my last 3 months have been a wonderfully mixed-up time! I recognize, as a Change Management contractor, that changes have a series of steps.

Immobilization, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Testing and Acceptance.

You would think that retiring is all about Joy. It is, trust me, it is. It’s a great freeing feeling to know that you can sleep in a bit more each morning, you can shop for groceries at 8:30 AM, you can run to the library at 2:25 PM, and you can stay up late.

Retirement also brings many to realize this is the last traditional chapter in our lives. There are more years behind us than before us. What do they call this? Oh yes, the Sunset years.

So we look back and think at times if we have done what we were meant to do? Have we accomplished what our personal goals were? Have we fulfilled our given mission? Do we even have a given mission?

These past 6 months, I’ve been feeling something different. At a quick glance, it seems to me it’s just the culmination of many things all wrapped up into one. Does that make sense? Who knows, but for now, I can tell you that wings are on my feet.

Yes, wings. Like those of an eagle, a goose or a chikadee. On my feet, as if to make me feel that I can go anywhere. I feel prepared, but with no set expectations.  My feet will carry me across those 500 km, but my mind will be open and ready for any experience.

I am somewhat hoping that my “purpose” will get clearer. If I already am living this purpose, well “Houray!” – and if I am to LIVE this purpose, well “Bring it on!” and if I have already lived this purpose, then “Let me live it longer.”

A New Chapter Begins…

This past Tuesday I completed the final steps for my departure from my 20 year career. I turned in my laptop, corporate card and pass as well as signed the final papers.

Do I feel any different? Not really. I expect the retirement will only really hit me when I have completed my Camino, and I am at home, on a week day and realize I do not have to attend any conference calls, conduct any training sessions or check work emails. Until then, this will feel just like a holiday…

And oh – what a holiday this will be! It’s truly the new chapter in my life. In less than 9 days, my feet will take those first few steps on the Camino, and I will start a fabulous journey of experiences. I am trying not to set expectations of this journey, yet I know without any doubt that I will be different after walking 500 km, meeting loads of new people and having hundreds of hours alone with my thoughts, memories and aspirations for the future.

I’ve stopped reading blogs and postings about the Camino as I feel that I need to have a fairly “clean slate” to begin my own journey. I’ve learned so much from the books and blogs I’ve read and from the interactions with past pilgrims. I feel prepared for the most part, understanding the challenges of the actual walking, the change of pace and the new resting places where I will welcome a night’s sleep.

The rest will unfold as it needs to unfold. And there lies my only expectation – that things will come to me in due time. I will not force anything to happen, but instead I will live each moment as it arrives. I will keep an open mind and accept what may be presented to me as a gift; be these gifts as difficult, emotional, fun, challenging, uplifting, sobering or thought-provoking.

I will do my best to update this blog as often as I can get connectivity, however I expect there will be gaps of a few days while traveling through the smaller villages.

I am ready for this journey and I look forward to sharing my thoughts and pictures with you all! The page of this new chapter is about to be turned  – – Bring it on!!