Lost in the Fog

With my new novel Lost in the Fog about to be published in early 2020, I'm embarking on a three month trip to Europe. A big part of it will be hiking the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile sojourn through Northern Spain. This blog will try to capture moments of the journey. David Lynch once said "getting lost is beautiful", and I hope my voyage will embody that definition.

Day One of the Camino de Santiago, my 500 mile pilgrimage on foot from France to the end of Spain. Yesterday it was a hike of nearly 16 miles with an incline of 4,000 feet from St. Jean Pied de Port to a descent of 1,500 into Roncesvalles. The beer I had at the end was magical.

It was arduous, but both J’Nell and I did well and perservered. I was certainly glad I had been using the hill feature on the treadmill and elliptical at the gym the last few months. The excitement of the journey also helped carry me over and down the Pyrenees Mountains, as well as my newly purchased hiking poles.

Surprising, going up was a lot easier than going down. I had read that would be the case in the guidebooks, but for me, I had always welcomed a decline over an incline. Not Day One on the Camino. Maybe if you started at that descent into Roncesvalles it wouldn’t have the same effect, but after climbing so high and being on the trail for hours and hours, it was extremely taxing.

And worth every step.

Reflecting on the day as a whole, the word ‘Wow!’ keeps coming to mind. The sheer beauty of starting in the charming Medieval village of St. Jean and then crossing France into Spain in the Pyrenees was wonderous. The sweeping vistas of the mountains, walking for miles next to horses, cows and sheep on old paths, and having long stretches of time without hearing anything but the wind or a dinging bell attached to one of those animals … I’ll never forget it.

The accomplishment of the steps, floors, and miles of the day (all huge numbers according to Fitbit) is nice, but it was so much more than that. First, you have the fact you’re taking part and honoring the Camino de Santiago, the same pilgrimage people have been walking for centuries. Then there was the whole strangeness of it all, having never climbed a mountain of that size nor having stepped foot in this place in the world. But essentially it was being in the Now the whole day, taking in and enjoying every minute of the trek even when it was physically challenging … especially when it was physically challenging.

I also want to mention the great people I’ve encountered, the locals and my fellow travelers on the Camino. My French and Spanish is weak at best, but everyone has been so accommodating as well as appreciative of my linguistic efforts. I’ve also greatly enjoyed the opportunity to converse and hear the stories of the people on the Way.

I’m excited to continue the journey!

Here are some photos of my time from St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles and hope you enjoy.

Pilgrim’s Bridge at St. Jean Pied de Port

Sunset over St. Jean

J’Nell starting off the Camino at the Spanish Gate (which is very much in France)

Sunrise on the Way

Loved seeing all the wild animals

Leaving Orrisen (a very steep path to get there) and still have a long way over the mountains.

Climbing higher and higher….

Horses high in the Pyrenees

Highest point we ascended on Day One in the Pyrenees

10 hours later….Made it to Roncesvalles in time for dinner

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“To know Paris is to know a great deal.” – Henry Miller

“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other.”  – Ernest Hemingway

While I can’t say I “know” Paris anywhere near like a local or an expat writer like Miller or Hemingway, I feel very fortunate this is my fourth visit to the city.  April 1997, June 2005, November/December 2016, and now September 2019. Everytime I come to Paris I fall more in love with the place.

This time it was 3 full days (4 nights) of admiring gorgeous architecture & charming streets, enjoying wonderful restaurants &  cafes, and lots of long, rambling walks. On my last visit to Paris less than 3 years ago, J’Nell and I had a very detailed itinerary and we covered lot of sights in 2 weeks. This time around going inside churches, museums, or major attractions were not high on our list.  

We went to one museum (to see Monet’s epic Water Lilly murals at Musée de l’Orangerie), and did make our way up to the top of the Eiffel Tower (we couldn’t not do that).  And of course we viewed many of the iconic spots in the city on our long walks as we continue to prepare for our upcoming Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage.  In 3 days (according to Fitbit) we did almost 75,000 steps and 36 miles.

I had a moment of clarity on our first night walking down from the Bastille district (we stayed at the Moxy there) through the Marais to the Seine, and it stayed with me the whole time in Paris.  There just isn’t a better city anywhere in the world.  I remember telling someone my thoughts on Paris after getting back from my 2016 visit and they wanted to know why I felt that way.  It was hard to put into words back then, and I feel the same now.

Paris is more than its stunning architecture, interesting history, and rich culture. Its the feeling it gives you not only when you’re there, but long after you’ve gone.  If you’ve never been, I hope you get to Paris soon.  And if you have, I would love for you to leave a comment about your favorite moments there.

To close out this post as we make our way to St. Jean Pied de Port (the start of the Camino), here’s some photos that hopefully show why Paris, as Hemingway famously said, is a moveable feast ….

 

 

 

The city I lived in for 8 years, the location of my novel Lost in the Fog, the place where I have wonderful memories and still so many great friends. I haven’t been a resident since 2012, but it will always feel like home. San Francisco is the perfect place to stop from Hawaii before heading off to Europe for three months.

Since arriving late Sunday evening, J’Nell and I have been very busy having fun with friends and getting in practice walks. In preparation for our 500 mile Camino de Santiago journey, we’ve been covering a lot of ground by foot and have seen much of the city.

From our home base at the Hilton Union Square we’ve walked to the Ferry Building to Fort Mason to Chrissy Field up to the Bridge and into the Richmond District. We’ve also ambled through the Tenderloin past Japantown down to the Pan Handle and then all the way through Golden Gate Park to the windmill and the ocean. Many streets in SoMa have also been traversed. In a little over 3 days we’ve logged nearly 70,000 steps.

A lot of time on our feet, but its all been sans backpack. I’ve always been someone who walks a lot, and I have no hesitation going long distances day after day. But how will it feel with 20 lbs strapped to my back?

That is the unknown factor. We did a mile wearing the pack before leaving Hawaii and it felt pretty good. But we’ll be doing 10-14 miles per day on the Camino, and until I cover that distance with all that extra weight I really won’t know how my body is going to respond.

I’m thinking positively that all will be good, and I’m very excited to start the Camino. But we still have most of tomorrow to spend in SF, and then Paris is the next stop on the journey!