Tag Archives: Women

Writing from Grañón – Day 9

Two maps because my watch went flat!

Isn’t it incredible how our bodies can adjust? In just 9 days we’ve walked over 200kms. Initially once arriving at our accommodation all we wanted to do was kick our shoes off, desperately! Now not only do we not need to do that but we also can walk comfortably up and down the stairs. No more DOMS.

Don’t get me wrong when we are walking during the day something can randomly begin to hurt but my body seems to be finding it’s rhythm – 30kms is still my max.

Days on the Camino – 9

Kms – Today 29 kms. Our total is now around 230kms.

Starting point today – Nájera, Spain.

End of the day – Grañón, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 19

Total funds raised so far $5,980.00. 

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 – Mum and Dad. Ria and Frank. You taught me to be adventurous, strong, resilient, creative, capable and independent. I’m not sure if that was your plan … I suspect each of you have strengths each of the above. It has served me well. I can’t help but think this Camino is something that you would have both loved for different reasons. I’m a product of both of you so I love it for what each of you would have. And so today and most days actually I walk for you two. x x

Accommodation – I think we are trying it all! We are in a small town and the option was either a donativo or private accommodation. The donativo is above the church and has a communal meal, prayers and a sacred chant. We will try one of these ‘traditional’ pilgrim style stays but after the difficult night in that dodgy albergue a few nights back we’ve sought out our own space. Tonight we have an entire casa to ourselves. Kitchen, lounge, bedroom and bathroom (€22.50) each.

Food highlight – After walking 20kms with very few places to stop … heaven was walking into a cafe that sold a homemade burger with fresh salad and a chocolate milk!

In a word(s) – Feeling stronger.

After a week on the camino you find your pace, the people that keep your pace and your preferred mode of moving through your day. Of course we’re all moving here but we do it differently. There’s no right or wrong way to do a camino, there’s just your own way. Just like life, as long as your not hurting anyone (obvs).

Today I’m tired so I’m going to leave it here with a few photos and a quick poem.

A day of friends

Around every bend

A moment in time

That is just mine

Time to delight

In all that takes flight

Buen Camino,

Fran

Xxx

Writing from Roncesvalles – Day 2

My first pilgrim meal. My first night in a dorm since … actually I don’t even remember. A sunrise reminiscent of those East Cork mornings and a day of mountain magic!

Days on the Camino – 2

Kms – 17.1 kms = total 25.1 (blister free).

Starting point today – Orrison in The Pyrenees, France.

End of the day – Roncesvalles, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 17

Total funds raised so far $5,255.00 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 husband in The Netherlands! This kind of hike with 4 school age kids is not possible without some selfless support. I am where I am because that incredible man is a dream nurturer.

Accommodation – The refuge in Roncesvalles is an old monastery. It’s €8 per night, we added breakfast €5 the one with fruit added and €10 for the 3 course pilgrim dinner. Two bunks per cubicle – I’m on the top bunk tonight ;).

Food highlight – Oh this is a hard one! The 3 course pilgrim meal last night was pretty fine – but the breaky . A bowl of coffee and two pieces of leftover baguettes from dinner toasted with jam.

In a word(s) – Bursting with amazement.

My first pilgrim meal was a three course family feeling affair in this French auberge at Orrison. At around 6 pm the tables were pulled together to form long shared dining tables … hogwarts or Henry the VIII style. I’d have to come out of the shadows and my corner table for this one. Time to join the pilgrim community ;).

After a deliciously simple 3 course dinner of soup, roast pork, beans, veggies and rice pudding we had to follow a ‘pilgrim tradition’. We had to introduce ourselves, our nationality and our purpose for walking. I actually ended up finding this more enjoyable than fearing it. Standing up in front of 30 strangers talking about myself is pretty nerve racking for me.

There are sisters walking, solo walkers, repeat walkers, mother and daughters walking, many ‘transitioners’! That’s a thing – people moving from work life to part time or retirement life.

There was also 23 year old Lucas who has just finished studying and is doing a Camino before he starts his work life. I think he’s going to be well equipped. Do you want to know something really cool? He’s doing it with his dad who having just finished his work life is seeing walking to see what’s next!

Sleeping was fine for those of you who cringed at yesterday’s post … happy to report there were no snorers in our dorm :) we got lucky. Not everyone was, the lovely British mother and daughters team shared stories of snoring woe over breakfast. They’ve checked into the hotel here tonight. If they’re lucky they’ll meet the Brilliantly inspiring Canadian lady I met the first night (the sprightly one, remember her?). She is staying there tonight I recall.

There are plenty of different ways to do a Camino friends! Plenty of ways to mix it up. I must admit I didn’t sleep the whole night, I think that will take time to ease into. Or maybe some longer hiking days.

We awoke to that sunrise I stopped overnight for! What a treat. You know it’s going to be a cracker of a day when you wake to a sunset like this … and it was. Choosing the Napoleon route to walk into Roncesvalles was the right choice for us. We hiked in sun, alongside snow, under the trees on all kinds of trails, surrounded by magnificent wonder as far as the eyes could see.

There was a point up on the mountain where we stopped for a break when Sally from the UK and Melinda from Canada approached me. At last night’s pilgrim dinner where they heard about my One Girl walk and they wanted to be a part of the change! They donated to my fundraiser and we talked girls education. I walk with spring (the season) but can I tell you this absolutely overwhelmed me. I had not expected this.

In a day many things can happen. On this day on the Camino in the vast beauty of this Pyrenean mountain leg, the hiking built strength, the community build hope, the space built the courage to be and the time with my sister built joy. Not to removed from the good things in normal life hey?!

Speaking of good things I thought I’d detox from coffee but it’s quite a simple pleasure on a Camino and in life … so I’m keeping it! Although when and how I’m drinking them is different – less habit more pleasure like.

Buen Camino from Roncesvalles.

Fran x

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

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!