Tag Archives: challenge

Writing from Orrison – Day 1

Today is the REAL beginning! It’s drizzling in this charmingly historic town of St Jean Pied de Port but our spirits are not dampened. We’re in the foothills of the French Pyrenees and there’s a spring in our step.

Days on the Camino – 1

Kms – easing in, 7.7 blister free kms.

Starting point today – St Jean Pied de Port, France.

End of the day – Orrison in The Pyrenees, France.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 15

Total funds raised so far $4,755.00 If you’d like to contribute you can do so here. Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – Today I stepped for my friend in Wales. Sometimes we need to take a bit of weight for each other. I admire her willingness to share her struggles and her ability to know exactly where joy lives. A beautiful and courageous woman sharing her story.

Accommodation – The refuge in Orisson €36 per night dinner, bed and breakfast. Three bunk beds per room :)

Food highlight – Lunch. Soup of the day €5 (bean I think!) with cheese on baguette made from breaky leftovers.

In a word(s) – Happily soggy

There’s a spirit in this town that has endeared itself to me. I already know I’ll be back to share it with my husband and children. Staying at our B&B there was also a French couple who had returned to St Jean Pied de Port for a visit. They did the Camino last December over winter … that’s the kind of town it is, people fondly return. Little pieces of hearts are left here. There’s a good energy vibing from that don’t you think?

The next main stop on the Camino is generally Roncesvalles in Spain. It’s 25 kms away and one of the most strenuous legs. There are two routes. This house is the crossroad where you choose. The Napoleon route to the left or along the road around to the right. Choosing the left is weather dependent and that’s the one we chose today.

We opted to stop at Orrison, the last French refuge on the ascent up through the Pyrenees (you need to pre-book this one). I had read of this refuge in Ger’s Camino blog and decided early on that if we took this route we’d stop here. One, to ease into the Camino and two because if I’m in the Pyrenees I want to see the Pyrenean sky at night, the morning sunrise and spend a few days enjoying one of my favourite mountain ranges.

My husband who is an experienced outdoorsy type joked that navigation (especially in fog) would be my only risk. Ok maybe not joked, I tend to get lost in the walking and missing an arrow is something I could definitely do. No fear I took the advise of the pilgrim’s office – this week the Napoleon route is safe (last week it wasn’t). It’s drizzly and foggy today and it felt a lot like being on the movie set of ‘The Way’. Tomorrow, for the harder part of the trek into Roncesvalles the forecast is beautiful!

We arrived at the refuge after 2 hours of hiking up the hill – nice and soggy. It was a welcome sight and the restaurant was packed with walkers. We checked in and received our little piece of gold … that token up there, the 5 minute warm shower! We were shown to our 3 bunk dorm room. The Aussie bloke who also arrived told us he has a machine to stop him snoring :), he’s not really blokey, more gentlemanly seems like a good kind of roomie. I’m the older sister so I got the bottom bunk – not sure how long I can pull the big sister thing off ;).

A warm shower, socks and sandals and a long afternoon to write my journal. I’ve also shared some laughs with my sister. There are many pilgrims around but we’re enjoying a quiet corner. It goes in waves, it’s quieter now but I’m surrounded by people meeting and chatting and it’s quite lovely to notice but I’m happy in the shadows today. If you like company or are worried about doing this on your own – don’t. You won’t be alone on a Camino! If you like quiet corners you can find them too.

Walking one foot in front of the other today was a familiar and homely feeling for me. Wandering amongst the rustic French countryside with the beginnings of the Spring blossoms and the lush green’scape of this region, even when it’s drizzly is worth celebrating.

Everyone likes to tell me it will be hard, that there will be hard days. If there are, I’ll write about them, I promise. Today I thought about hard. It’s relative don’t you think? Last night I met an inspiring woman who is back for her second Camino. She called herself elderly, I called her young. I think she’s living more than most. Her sprightly exuberance and willingness to live without excuse and regret is something that moved me a little. The friend she was due to travel with couldn’t come – she received a serious health diagnosis. That’s hard.

A steep mountain, feeling soggy and a shared dorm … that is all part of my experience. It makes the 5 min hot shower, the toasty dry woolly socks, the fresh air, the magic and peace of the mountains and the genuine comeradery amongst this crew I’m watching even sweeter!

Day 1 and I smiled inside and out. Just as another ‘one’ girl in Africa will when she hears about her scholarship! Without an education her life is hard. I also walked for her today as the tally in my fundraiser gave her that gift – thanks to some more MASSIVE generosity.

See you tomorrow from Spain.

Writing from St Jean Pied de Port. Day minus 1

Here I am! In St Jean Piet de Port the beginning of my Camino into Santiago de Compostela. It has taken me two days to find my way here and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I’ve journeyed via Brussels and Bayonne, caught buses, trains and a plane. I’ve eaten from a French cave and dried my socks in all sorts of weird and wonderful places. My backpack has the 8kgs I’ll live with for the next 5 weeks. The simplicity of that is quite honesty one of my favourite layers of this adventure.

Days on the Camino – 0 (Tomorrow!)

Kms – 0

Starting point today – Bayonne, France

End of the day – St Jean Pied de Port

Number of girls in Africa educated – 14

Total funds raised so far $4,395.00 If you’d like to contribute you can do so here. Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – From tomorrow I’ll be dedicating each leg to someone who has or becomes a part of this journey.

Accommodation – Bed and breakfast €30 pn – traditional basque house.

Food highlight – Home-made preserved from the family ‘cave’ duck spread on French baguettes. Apéro – The French good life!

In a word(s) – Bursting with good feels

A lot of people ask about how my children feel about my adventure. They’ve sent me off adventure ready adorned with flowers from the garden, lovingly plaited wrist bands, hugs and kisses and a ‘have a good time mum’! They think I’m off to do a One Girl hike.

One Girl is a part of our family and a mum who hikes is their ‘norm’ so I like to think they feel proud. I’m proud of my mum for working hard, standing for what mattered to her and achieving her dreams.

After checking into our B&B we (my sister and I) made our way to the official pilgrim’s office to have our credential’s signed. It’s official!

The pilgrim’s office was more exciting than I anticipated. We were given a map to Roncesvalles and a list of all the towns on the way and what facilities they offered. Handy for planning food stops, cash withdrawals etc. I wanted to hug that gentleman who stamped my passport! Being on the cusp of an epic adventure is bloody euphoric.

It’s happening – it hit me there in that moment. I get to hike everyday through France to Spain and across an entire country meeting fellow hikers and travel types. I will be amongst landscapes and history my two great passions. I am lucky.

This medieval village and ancient capital of the Basque-Nevarre region is one of those delightfully charming European experiences. It serves a melting pot of nationalities and today it seemed mostly the walking types. Over dinner we chatted with an Irish couple and a Canadian lady who are here with their own stories and Camino dream.

Of course my story isn’t only about the hike it’s about One Girl. A few of my dearest have begun sharing my adventure on their SM feeds and my husband (man of few words) wrote the most beautiful call to support on his page too. I thought I could cruise now that I’d exceeded my goal of $3,000 – but where’s the challenge in that?!

In honour of this new wave of support I can’t help but want to stand a little taller for One Girl. So … I’ve come up with a new goal. It’s a 769km walk so how about $10 a km? That’s just 2 coffees right. It’s also scholarships for 25 girls, less than the average class size.

YEP! I’m dreaming larger – I’m already halfway there to $7,690 and I’m only at day one of his Camino. So spread the word – ask around see if anyone’s keen to give up a coffee or two.

Buen Camino friends I’m heading into the Pyrenees tomorrow.

F xx

Day minus 5 until Mi Camino to Santiago De Compostella. Some basics.

A few of you have asked for updates along the way and a map to visualise the route (Jolanda/Lisa/April this is for you with your morning coffee x). I will try to update daily here and a photo on my IG account if  like me hiking/travel photos and stories are your jam. It’s quite something that so many of you want to join this trek in spirit. I hope this inspires many of you to take your own camino one day ;). And if armchair travel is one of your favourite things then this is for you (dad x).

Days on the Camino – 0 (5 or so days away)

Kms – 0

Starting point today – Still in The Netherlands

End of the day – As above

Accommodation – Home

Food – Getting ready to detox from winter comfort eating and maybe coffee ???

In a word – Ready

Buen Camino – You will see this in my messages with fellow pilgrims. It’s Spanish translation is ‘Good Path’ and is shared between pilgrims to express kind wishes, good luck and happy travelling.

Ultreya – A Spanish word that comes from the Latin meaning ‘onward’ and is also shared between pilgrims. Its meaning is a bit deeper – to go further, beyond.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 12

Total funds raised so far $3,620.00 If you’d like to contribute you can do so here. Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress. 

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – I’m giving this one to … each stage I will dedicate to someone who has been or has become a part of this journey.

Above is an image of the route I’ll be taking for those of you who asked and some stats I’ll be updating. My pack is packed (7.3kgs). I won’t post a ‘what I packed’ list until after … then I’ll know what I got right and what I got wrong! On that – it’ll be breathable hikey gear mostly from my mates at Wilderness Wear. Oh, one question: What do you think of a packing light summer dress? One for when we are having a day out in one of those awful Spanish towns … you know the ones awful-ly quaint. Or should I just stick it out and be a merino clad hiker type.

My route – The Camino Frances is also know as The Way of St James and begins in the French town of St Jean Pied de Port and weaves its way across to the northwest of Spain through rugged mountains, vineyards, medieval villages and vast open meadows to its end point, Santiago de Compostela. Stories of this legendary camino pilgrimage route date back to the 8th century. It is the most popular route with the best supported infrastructure into this medieval town where the remains of St James the apostle are reputedly entombed.

There are 8 main pilgrimage routes leading into Santiago de Compostela and the number of pilgrims who receive the Compostela is growing.  There has been a 15,000% increase over the past 30 years!

Here are some 2017 stats*

  • Women 49%
  • Men 51%
  • Walkers 93%
  • Cyclists 7%
  • The 30 – 60 age group makes up 55% of pilgrims, 28% are under 30 and 17% are over 60
  • 44.01% are Spanish
  • 60.04% of pilgrims walk the Camino Francés (the one I am walking)

*Statistics, including monthly breakdowns, can be found at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago.

Year Number of pilgrims
1987 2,095
1997 25,179
2007 114,026
2017 301,036 (summer is apparently CRAY-CRAY)

Traditionally, pilgrims took the route for religious reasons and now as writer Leslie Gilmour says ‘modern Pilgrimages seem to be a lot less about religion and more about peace, finding something in life, a time to think, and for some, a challenge.’

My journey started as that of a modern pilgrim the challenge, the adventure, a way to share travel combined with humility, the chance to be a voice for what matters and to show my kids that standing for something is important. While it is still ALL that I also feel that their is a spiritual aspect of the journey and time to go a little deeper waiting for me on the trail.

The scallop shell is iconically and anciently associated with the camino and there are many myths and legends as to why this is so. You can read more here. The shell is often painted on signs with a yellow arrow and leads the way towards Santiago de Compostela.  Medieval pilgrims attached their shell to their cloaks or hats and still today modern pilgrims attach shells to their packs. My husband painted a shell on a journal for me which is how I will be honouring this ancient tradition.

My credencial (Pilgrim Record) is packed! It was easily purchased online from the pilgrim office here in The Netherlands. Along my walk this passport will be stamped in the towns I stop in overnight. Once I arrive at the Cathedral in Santiago and my credencial is authenticated I will receive my  Compostela (a certificate written in Latin confirming the completion of the pilgrimage) . Walkers need to have walked at least the last 100kms into Santiago. So I’ll be good if I walk my 769kms ;).

The only book I will be taking is John Brierley’s Pilgrim’s guide book. Whoever wants to do it after me – I’ll send it to you (keastjrI’m thinking you ;)). I don’t plan to carry other books or a kindle. I’m travelling light, in both kgs and distraction. I want to be open to the experience and use this time to practice a bit of discipline and write my own daily words (if the day allows).

As you see I am quite into honouring tradition so I will be packing a small stone to leave at the cross Cruce de Ferro. This large Iron Cross is located between the towns of Foncebadón and Manjarín  where it is tradition to throw a stone. This stone is brought from the pilgrim’s place of origin and it’s thrown with his or her back to the cross to symbolize their journey. There are of course myths and legends in regards to this tradition and you can read more here

I expect my walk to take around 30 days and each day the distance will be around 20-30 kms, some longer, some shorter. If a rest day is needed I will take it. My sister will also be on the trail. What a special experience to be able to share with her.

Mostly I expect my accommodation to be ‘refugios’, low-cost / no-cost pilgrim-style accommodations that often serve pilgrim meals. I do plan every now and then to opt for a guest house.  My food will hopefully be as seasonal, from scratch and local as available. The whole adventure is an exercise in minimalist and sustainable travel, while of course fundraising to make a difference.

I am ready!

Please let me know if there is another stat or daily tidbit you would find interesting if you’re following along! While I write mostly for myself I hope to create a meaningful record here for future pilgrims or to look back on from my armchair.

Feel free to subscribe via email (top right of the website) or bookmark if you prefer a weekly catch up.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

On the cusp of an adventure – a new painting ready to paint with its unknown hues and shades.

My camino is drawing near. It’s our greatest guarantee isn’t it – that time will tick, our lives will unfold and our dreams arrive.

I always like to have a little something brewing on the side in my life. That is how I keep my soul safe, you never know when you will need that protection. The little projects tend lead on to another little project (and the finest people) … some I finish (minimised our life) some I surrender (remember that book). But they always propel me forward, changing and expanding me for the better.

This camino has been the perfect anchor for me these past months and it comes at the perfect time. It comes at a time that I need to (am ready to) spend some time rebuilding (the beauty of spring). It has been a MASSIVE few years. Downsizing our possessions and needs, long term travel, moving continents, all the kids at school, time to think about resurrecting my career (tough one), my husband has started his own business … yeah massive!

When I started this project it was driven by my need to commit to doing something good in the world, something adventurous,  something bigger than what I had attempted before. Something beyond my front door. I could have attempted to make it bigger but I chose to keep it close, within my grasp. That gave me the freedom to not only adjust, but also to control the pace, the ability to step in and out. This in turn has given me the freedom to be present in this camino (journey) towards the camino. It is about knowing your capacity.

Capacity – I encourage you to read this article here a brilliant read. Annette gently invites us to question our ‘actual’ personal capacity. It has been one of my favourite blog posts I’ve ever read.

Presence has meant that I know exactly what I need going into this trek and it has also shown me where I need to spend time beyond this adventure. These next weeks as I put one foot in front of the other I will be rebuilding some of trust and confidence in myself and my spirit that I’ve lost in this settling in phase of our overseas adventure. I’ll be thinking about some of the habits I need to improve when I return. I already know I need to get my kitchen in order … I killed a sour dough starter this year. That is not kosher!

I’ll be letting it evolve without plans. There are no bookings (except the train to get there and the first night’s accommodation).  Distance and pace will be decided as my day and mood dictates. Walking, travelling light, eating local, taking the time to listen to pilgrim stories … slow travel.

Our recent mini trip to London over Easter had many of those moments that remind me of the sweetness of slow travel. The daffodils signalling the arrival of spring and sunshine, the realisation that while my daughter still wants to hold my hand (and equally give me eye rolls) I need to hold it tight, the conversations with my teenage son over our favourite topic, European history, the friendships my children cultivate with each other because we spend so much time as a family. There was a shift. It reminded me that I am home. Home is here wherever we live, together. It was good to feel that again.

Simple things the day brings when you’re not in a hurry and you’re not being dictated to by a schedule or when you allow yourself to be  present enough to notice and feel it all. Yes, crafting space and letting go of what is not within our control is a far kinder way to live.

I have some ideas about how I might document this trip when I return but first I must take my camino. I need to find my own way on the road to Santiago de Compostella. I will share my journey briefly here and on IG as I hike (of course I’ll be taking you, you’ve all come this far).  It’s exciting to (again) be on the cusp of an adventure – a new painting ready to paint with its unknown hues and shades.

‘When you feel it take your breath away

Just keep walking towards it anyway

Because life is a leap of faith’

~Sia lyrics from Leap of Faith

My favourite musical song ever! You need to flip to 1 min 30 sec to get to the start. It’s a beautiful song penned by Sia and one I’ve played a lot these past weeks.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/tvshowbiz/video-1094668/The-cast-Strictly-Ballroom-perform-Today-studio.html

Ahh you were waiting for my poem of the week weren’t you ;) I wrote this on the train early one  morning this week.

Grace

Grasp it with all your might
Witness all that’s in your sight

There’s kindness to be found
When eyes are free to roam around

Notice the flowers in bud and bloom
Immerse in the cozy of a room

Allow your gaze to meet
Feel moved by strangers on the street

Give time for kind words shared
For there is courage in friendliness dared

Be unrestricted in the things
That give you a life that sings

~Frances Antonia

We have educated 12 Girls through One Girl Australia! If you’d like to contribute you can do so here. Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress!

How to be accountable? What to write? Either be living your best life or get bored.

It’s something we all struggle with from time to time us bloggie types.

It’s not all this blogger struggles with. There’s discipline, routine and self doubt! Gosh it’s a wonder I ever get a blog post written.

Today my friend Annette of I give you the words wrote piece that I loved reading. On her way to 50 she’s writing a post a day. That’s a post a day till I hit the Camino. My friend Rory also wrote about the difference a year makes when you find some motivation.

I’m no stranger to how different one year to the next can look. I used to have a house full of stuff, I lived on a different continent, I’d never taken a serious photo, I owned a car, I’d never been on a public forum or had a social media account, never written anything other than essays at uni and all that was just a few years ago!

This year I’ve struggled a bit with motivating myself. I don’t have anything to declutter, my garden isn’t growing, my kitchen isn’t productive, there isn’t a scoby or a kaffir grain, heck there isn’t even a sour dough starter on my bench. Settling after long term travel, planting roots in a new country has had its challenges. I’m not good at writing about negatives so where is my fodder for inspiration? I’m not doing a great deal of little interesting things with my time (there was a difficult situation that sucked a bit, no a lot of my energy but that’s for another story).

Perhaps I’ve taken slow living too far, it certainly feels a little slow around these parts, can that be a thing? Yes, I’ve walked a load and I have this super exciting Camino for One Girl coming up but how many training hikes do you want to read about? We are all more than one dimension. You know I can’t do instructional posts. Shoes on, open door, walk. See really not my thing!

I’m not yet feeling settled in my days, in this new life and I haven’t found my groove. I am very happy and appreciate to be here of course but I need to work on that feeling home feeling. There is an upside to feeling unsettled! Boredom has served it’s purpose and here I am lining up my ducks, finding somewhere to land. Calling myself to action.

What Annette reminded me was that it matters that I write. It matters to me. I don’t need to produce anything … I don’t have to write a book and blogging will never pay me but I do have to show up. Here. Yes, I need to continue showing up here. Playing around, following what makes me curious, changing up what doesn’t work, allowing my writing about life to evolve in whatever direction the wind is blowing me at the time.

Rory reminded me to give myself permission that it’s ok to want something more. All my kids are at school now and I admit I do want something more. I’m not sure what that looks like yet but I need more … the days are long on my own. I have the space to create something. I don’t think this bloggie place will provide that opportunity. But it will provide the place to write myself into an opportunity and a more grounded daily life.

A blog or a journal is a place to lay it out. To slowly grow something through words. Something you ask. What something? In my experience a direction, a flow, a community, an investment in one’s self. Taking the time to examine and share takes guts … guts makes you stronger and from there things happen. Then the right people start turning up.

For me blogging can be a place where thinking out loud and documenting creates the foundations for something grand. A grand adventure in everyday life. A journey of sorts. An exploration from what’s in here to what’s out there. The impetus to get stuff off the ground or out of my head and into my life.

Ok Annette I’m with you. Let me combine my love of travel, nature, adventure, history, the simple life and photography with some non-exhaustive writing. Something good for me and if reflective words are your thing, also for you lot. And Rory, you’re damn right. One year is a long time. I have a year till 1-4-2019 and I want to make something and to be somewhere else professionally.

Poetry. I’m going to write us some poetry. Not to become a poet but to find my way forward.

In my life I’ve written 3 poems (the third one today, it’s published below). It’s been on my mind to dabble in it. My dad has an unexplored talent and there’s an Aunt also – they are both wanderers too. I have a suspicion that wandering, observing and reflecting lend themselves to poetry writing.

Where do I start? Who should I read? Can a rebel take on something with rules? Any blogs I should follow? Let’s see shall we.

Today’s poem, titled Daffodil was inspired by my morning walk as we mini break this Easter in London. London in Spring is spectacularly refreshing. The photos in this post all come from this morning’s wander. I even shared it on my IG because I’m not going to be afraid of putting myself in the ring. If we don’t try, nothing will ever change right? Going live keeps me accountable – now to find the discipline and routine …. something for me to play with during the long days of substitute teaching perhaps?

Did you know the Daffodil comes from the genus Narcissus. A word from Greek mythology. Narcissus quite taken with his own image leant into a pool to take a closer look at his reflection. He fell in, drowned and turned into a flower. Poor Narcissus. I also coincidentally read The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) this week speaking of tragic stories of narcissistic young men.

Eeek, I don’t want too stare to hard at my reflection … or think too long about my reflecting – I don’t want to drown. Yes, something positive must be the fruit of reflection.

It was the Romans who brought the daffodil to England. And now this delightful flower, humble in its needs is the joyous sign of the impending spring.

So here is my poem for the week. The first installment of my non-exhaustive writing challenge:

Daffodil.

Gently arriving to restore the poetry of spring to our days.

A prelude to the promise of long days and warmth from the sun’s rays.

Inviting the end to the harshness of winter’s final haze.

Magnificent daffodil inspiring more than a lingering gaze.

~ Frances Antonia.